Top critical review
Better than "Last Light"...but still not great.
Reviewed in the United States on October 28, 2019
Essentially a direct sequel to his previous “Halo” novel “Last Light,” Troy Denning’s “Retribution” is, by most accounts, a superior follow-up – the plot is faster paced and the writing feels more confident. Alas, for all the ways that it improves upon its predecessor, “Retribution” neglects to provide readers with the same exact thing “Last Light” did: characters to glom onto.
Much like “The Cole Protocol” and “Contact Harvest,” both “Last Light” and especially “Retribution” feel hollow, less fully fleshed stories than narrative exercises – a lot technically “happens” in both books, but without characters that we care about to anchor the proceedings around, the end result is a lot of noise and chaos, ultimately signifying, if not nothing, then…well, not much more than nothing. What makes the experience of reading Denning’s novels even more frustrating is that they’re both LOADED with cool allusions and tie-ins to the broader “Halo” universe – there are a lot of exciting ideas here, begging for a better story to flesh it all out. Unfortunately, most of it is buried under a mountain of “who cares?”-ness.
Looking ahead, it appears that Denning has written two more “Halo” novels, both set in the midst of the Human-Covenant War. That’s an intriguing story decision; here’s hoping we finally get some solid character work to go along with them.