Today, Halo: Renegades – Kelly Gay’s sequel to her 2017 novella Halo: Smoke and Shadow – has finally released!
Let me distill the essence of everything I’m about to say into less than a dozen words…
As a quick note: if you’re new to this story, or need a refresher on Halo: Smoke and Shadow (the previous novella), you can read my interview with Kelly Gay here – it serves as a useful primer for Halo: Renegades.
I have praised 343 for the consistent quality of the comics – Rise of Atriox, Collateral Damage, and now Lone Wolf – that have been releasing since the latter end of 2017. That particular medium for Halo has had quite a bumpy ride over the years, but has really found its groove.
The books, on the other hand, are quite a different beast.
With the increased frequency of their releases, to the point where there are almost thirty books, 343 faces something of a unique challenge with how they manage the storytelling with this textual format.
I asked this of the incomparably illustrious Jeff Easterling when I interviewed him a few months ago, regarding how 343’s approach to the novels has changed as they’ve grown in number.
343’s desire is to leverage the strengths of the medium to tell amazing stories that enrich the Halo universe and to reward the investment of people who consume the franchise media with a ravenous hunger that would make the Gravemind itself blush (such as yours truly), but also to be approachable, interesting, and welcoming for those who do not.
Of late, I think this has manifested in the last few books each having a distinct ‘flavour’ to them.
Matt Forbeck’s Halo: Bad Blood was a post-Halo 5 ensemble story, featuring Buck back alongside the fan-favourite cast of Halo 3: ODST, which had a little something for everyone.
Troy Denning’s Halo: Silent Storm served as a great entry point for newcomers to the franchise and extended media. It’s a true military sci-fi story that feels like a modern take on (and successor to) Eric Nylund’s The Fall of Reach, with resonant connections to other areas of the universe.
Cassandra Clarke’s Halo: Battle Born shifts its focus to the civilian perspective, foraying into the YA genre and following a group of teenagers who are caught in the middle of the Covenant’s invasion of Meridian (and it’s fantastic!)
“Mind-boggling sometimes… how tiny we are, moving through something so vast.” [Halo: Renegades, p. 114]
Kelly Gay quickly earned her reputation in the fanbase as a writer who naturally and brilliantly draws from obscure corners of the Halo canon with Smoke and Shadow, and that is absolutely reflected in this book.
You can definitely enjoy Renegades if you’re not somebody who religiously follows the lore, but – make no mistake – this is a story where those who have been following the progress of certain character and story arcs over the last decade will get the most rewarding reading experience.
If this is a description you find yourself relating to, then Renegades might just be your new favourite Halo novel.
WARNING: HITCHHIKERS MAY BE ONI SPIES OR FORERUNNER CONSTRUCTS
Renegades picks up after the events of Smoke and Shadow, where Rion finds herself in quite a unique position.
Between Little Bit, the caretaker of Etran Harborage (the Shield World from Halo Wars), being aboard the Ace of Spades and their knowledge of the location of Etran Harborage’s debris field, Rion is sitting on the salvage of a lifetime…
…and all it cost her was Cade, her lover, who was killed by Gek ‘Lhar – a name that’ll be familiar to those who experienced Halo 4’s Spartan Ops.
To Niko and Lessa, two young adults from the impoverished colony world Aleria who are the Ace of Spades’ tech expert and pilot respectively, he was their father figure.
Revenge is a common theme in Halo, and that is what Rion and her crew find themselves having to deal with at the start of Renegades.
Revenge had a hold over her and the crew, and they weren’t going to back down until Gek ‘Lhar paid for all the lives he had taken away.
[…] Love and grief and fear made people do dangerous things. And Rion was no exception. [Halo: Renegades, p. 22]
Of course, we know that Gek will not be killed until well over six months after the events of Halo 4 by Fireteam Majestic.
For those who might worry that this is going to be a conventional revenge narrative (which Halo has struggled with in the past), fear not – this is what propels the story into action but things take a very quick and unexpected turn into an altogether different kind of story.
FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW…
Bad Blood was a story that carried some considerable baggage with it, being our first actual glimpse at the immediate events of what happened after Halo 5 with the game’s main characters as they all met on Sanghelios.
Unfortunately, that book didn’t manage to do anything particularly substantial with that because it stayed locked to Buck’s point of view. The sprawling narrative demanded a different storytelling approach.
Comparatively, Renegades feels like a more ‘complete’ story.
On this galactic road trip across Halo 4’s timeline, we see the contrasting perspectives of Rion, Lessa, and Niko, but also unexpectedly see things through the eyes of [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and most interestingly [REDACTED].
Gay lends such a distinct voice to each of her characters, it does so much to accentuate the themes and lend weight to the conflict.
There’s never a sense of things just happening, driving the plot forward when necessary. No, Gay’s investment in putting the characters first – exploring their flaws, traumas, and motivations – results in a narrative that never feels like it has to stretch its capacity to make its conflicts believable.
Extending beyond that, Renegades spends a lot of time with its characters during their downtime too, utilising the perspective shift to great effect as we see two characters thinking about a common mechanic in the Halo universe from very different angles.That’s all I can really say without going into spoilery territory… and, believe me, you want to go into this knowing as little as possible.
We will have a lot to discuss about long-standing character and story arcs.
I will definitely be doing articles on some of the things that come up in this book in the months to come because, at the close of the book, we are left not with an ending, but the exciting potential of new beginnings.
For now, I shall leave you with five little teasers to ponder…
— Gek purchases something that definitely isn’t a Precursor.
— Wait… that’s not the Spirit of Fire…
— For bookworms, all roads lead to ___ ______.
— The solution to a particular philosophy is acknowledged.
— “We even caught this one Sangheili freak trying to detonate a HAVOK nuke.”
Halo: Renegades is available… today!
It is also available on the Simon & Schuster publisher site, which contains further links to other retailers, and you’ll undoubtedly find copies to liberate from local bookstores.