Okay, I don’t know where to begin on this because once I started this little novella yesterday, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a short story but easily a memorable one with a straightforward plot.
Centered around Rtas ‘Vadum; the Half-Jaw Sangheili Shipmaster of the Covenant Assault Carrier, of the same name as the book’s title, I was sure for certain something was going to prevent him from getting the well-deserved rest after the battle for Earth.
Rtas Vadum has been one of my favourite characters in the Halo universe since I was 17 or 18, that I have already engrossed myself in his backstory; from his birth, all the way up to the end of the war in 2553 on Halopedia. But I wanted more! I really did, and Joe delivers it quite well.
The classic idea of the San Shyuum (spoilers!) Prelate wanting revenge, for Rtas supposedly being responsible for killing his family when the Flood spread throughout High Charity, sets out to lure our lovable Half-Jaw into a trap. Who’s ever heard of a female Sangheili Scion and a Forerunner facility with a replica of the real Halo Rings with the same firepower? Well now you know!
At first I didn’t like the Prelate, but then I began to have some sympathy, once I read about his frequent nightmares of the Great Schism, and spreading of the Flood. That caused his desire for revenge, when his wife was killed and infected in front of him, and he barely managed to save his child before losing him. Tragic, honestly, completely tragic. It makes you look at the civil war and invasion of the Flood in a whole different way. So it’s no surprise he attacks Sangheili colonized worlds to get Rtas’s attention, then eventually try to steal his ship, and hopes to kill him.
Well, at first I thought his intention was to have revenge on the rest of the Sangheili race, until I learned later on that he only thought his wife and child were killed, as he was told by the Minister of Preparation, so the Prelate blamed it on Rtas but never thought of causing a genocide. The truth was discovered upon the Minister’s betrayal when he revealed that he wishes to use a miniature Halo ring in a facility to exterminate the Sangheili race completely. From there, my possible hatred became sympathy.
When Rtas floated through space and fought his way through the bunker to stop the Minister, that just had me on the edge of the bed while reading. Also same feeling applies to when Tul ‘Juran tries to stop the Prelate before he can advance to Shadow of Intent’s command deck. I had been wondering where she had gone as we had not seen her since Rtas recruited her. I was about to rant cons about how I seemingly thought she didn’t get enough pages in this book, until she made an appearance right on time, and her role intensified before I could even complain.
But when the Prelate breached Shadow of Intent, honestly I was sitting tight on the bed hoping and praying that he dies and Rtas survives. This was obviously before I looked back on his nightmare and the Minister of Preparation decided he (The Prelate) was no longer needed.
A powerful Prelate outwitted, captured and then betrayed by his partner in crime and sacrifices himself to save the Sangheili race. After those events, I have more respect for that long necked guy now. I take back everything negative I thought about him from the beginning, until he was betrayed, and I realized how tormented he had become.
It was truly a tense moment to see Rtas enter the Prelate’s cell and try to find out why he (the Prelate) was seeking vengeance. Rtas isn’t usually one to settle things the diplomatic way. My heart gave a little squeeze of fangirlism when he sang, and my brain desperately tried to imagine what his voice sounded like in that moment.
Despite Rtas choosing to remain on his ship to deal with any other San Shyuum wanting blood, it’s not something unexpected. Thel Vadam makes an appearance as well, only through hologram, but that’s a bonus.
These are the type of stories we need from Halo, more alien focused to show how vast its universe really is, how it is more than just humanity and the UNSC like the games portray it as. We have the Forerunner Saga (one of my all-time favourite sci-fi series now in case you didn’t know), Broken Circle, and perhaps it’s safe to say Hunters in the Dark falls into that category though.
I loved this book, I loved its story, I loved its continuous shift of third person perspective between Rtas ‘Vadum and the Prelate. Tul ‘Juran our female Sangheili, (who in the end is accepted on to Rtas’s crew, defying gender roles in the species) she kicks butt alongside of Rtas and any Sangheili she is paired with as a partner. The Sangheili are what got me in to Halo in the first place and I had waited months for this novella’s release because I was like YES! FINALLY WE GET TO READ ABOUT RTAS ‘VADUM! Was it worth the wait? Aya it certainly was.
Spartan fanboys please exit stage left if all you want to do is kill Sangheili in your minds and in the games.
Alright, I’m ready for Broken Circle next once I’ve tackled my currently reading list. Wort!