Imagine a grim and dark universe that only has one thing on it’s mind: war. Not a very bright thing to look forward to is it? But it has been the setting for decades for a tabletop game called Warhammer 40.000. In that game players battle each other with fictional armies of painted miniatures. Taking place in the 41st Millenium (talk about a time jump), it is one of the most detailed science fiction universes ever created. With literally thousands of novels and sourcebooks that tell the tales of the men, women and aliens that are living in there, it can be very overwhelming for people that are not familiar with it. In this far future, mankind has taken to the stars and have created an Imperium that consists of thousands of planets. Humanity is led by The Emperor that was mortally wounded in a great war called the Horus Heresy. He now permanently resides on Terra where he is kept alive on The Golden Throne. In his name vast armies of Space Marines take the fight to enemies ranking from aliens to horrifying demons.
I myself have never played the game, but I really love the stories that are written for this universe. I have a pretty big collection of books in this range, and most of these tell the accounts of the soldiers of the Imperium, the superhuman Space Marines. That’s why it was very refreshing to find a novel that does something entirely different. It brings girlpower to this male dominated universe! The Sisters of Battle Omnibus features four stories that focus on the women soldiers also known as the Adepta Sororitas. Fanatically loyal to the Emperor, these women are not supersoldiers or enhanced in any way. But what they may lack in strength, they more than make up for with their courage and faith. In this omnibus we get introduced to Sister Miriya, who has become one of my favorite Warhammer 40.000 characters. Raven haired, headstrong but courageous to a fault she is an absolute delight and a true heroine.
The second main character of this book is Sister Verity, who is not a soldier but a medic and almost the complete opposite of Miriya. Where the former is of the type to shoot first and ask questions later, Verity always tries to reason through everything and is an incredibly kind soul that always sees the best in people. This unlikely pair soon become vast friends, and are going to have to face some true challenges. The four stories that make up this omnibus are all good, but my two favorites have got to be the two novella length ones. In Faith and Fire the two Sisters are going after a rogue psyker that has killed Verity’s real sister, and is responsible for the death of countless other humans. But soon it becomes clear that there is something far more sinister going on. In Hammer and Anvil Miriya and Verity land on a planet that contains an outpost from the Adepta Sororitas that has been silent for years. No one really knows what transpired there, but the truth is more horrifying than both could ever have imagined.
James Swallow, the author of all four stories, has really outdone himself. This collection comes running out of the gates, and never once becomes boring in any way. There are some great battlescenes, terrific characters (both heroes and enemies) but there is also enough time amidst all the carnage to tell some great tales. If you have never before experienced the Warhammer 40.000 universe this omnibus certainly is a great way to enter it. As it features a branch of The Imperium that hasn’t been featured in many other novels yet, you need no real other knowledge to enjoy this book. If you love military science fiction, that has fast paced action and interesting characters I highly recommend checking this one out. It really was a great read from start to finish, and one of the best novels that I have read all year. And really, who can resist an awesome cover like that!
I give Sisters of Battle a 9 out of 10 score.