Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hammer and Anvil - Book Review

Hammer and Anvil by James Swallow
The Sisters of Battle are the Emperor’s most devout worshippers, fierce warriors preaching the purity of the Imperium and scourging their enemies with bolter and flamer. On a distant world, the Ecclesiarchy outpost of Sanctuary 101, was wiped out by an implacable foe - the fearless, soulless necrons. Now, a mission of the Sisterhood has returned to reconsecrate the site - but the metallic nightmares still lurk in the darkness, guarding a secret that has lain dormant for millennia. A vicious battle will be fought - one that can only end in the total destruction of the unrelenting xenos, or the annihilation of the proud Sororitas.
This is the second Sisters of Battle title from James Swallow (third if you count the audio book) and one that keeps the reader attached to the members of the sisterhood that we first met back in 2006. Whilst this novel is set in a similar time to the previous, it does show that when an author takes a break from the characters it can often be quite hard to reacquire, let alone acquaint, themselves with them in quite the same manner. In this case this sadly leads to a book that leaves the reader wondering if they’d been short changed as the characters were completely different. In the case of this title, i think however luckily that hasn’t been an issue which, for me, was a huge relief as this book works well as a standalone rather then a sequel.

As a brief overview it has taken ten years for the Sisterhood to be able to return to Sanctuary 101 and reconsecrate the site. But as a result of politics, the Sisters are accompanied by Tegas of the Adeptus Mechanicus for some purpose of his own. And Canoness Sepherenia has some deeper purpose of her own, beyond the reconsecration of their convent and memorialising their fallen sisters. Strangely, the bodies of the sisters previously slain by the necron ten years before had previously been claimed by the Ordos Xenos. Things become that much murkier when the sisters find a strange, single metallic head. An alien artifact? The necron. To tell more would be a spoiler but suffice to say we get some fantastic action and some intriguing looks in to the Necron world.

As usual with James’ writing its crisp, to the point, no added frills and like the sisters, battle hardened to keep the blood and glory brigade happy. Add to this a battle with the Necrons, as well as facing off against the double dealing machinations of other parties and it’s a title that really does keep you glued from the first page to the last. I look forward to sharing more of the sisters exploits in future titles. My only real gripe with the whole book is that it was clearly written as a Necron codec release piece and in some cases takes showcasing the new range/models (albeit in a story form) more seriously then the action. Still for me as its a Sisters of Battle book its redeemed and gets a respectable three and a half out of five.

Available from:
Hammer and Anvil by James Swallow
Softback • ISBN 9781849700658

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