Gary is a small town Irishman with a love for all things historical and fantastical. He works as an English and History teacher at post-primary where he endeavours to instil and nurture a love for reading and writing in students. Tea is his weakness. Reading is his passion. His one goal in life is to buy a castle when he retires.

Dredge Runners (Warhammer Crime) by Alec Worley 21, Aug

A lighthearted tale of friendship in the grim darkness of the far future.

Alec Worley's Dredge Runners is the first audio drama in Black Library's brand new Warhammer Crime franchise. Set in the crime-ridden city of Varangantua, it follows the odd pair of ex-soldiers, Baggit and Clodde, on a series of heists to escape the slums of the Dredge while dealing with themes of friendship and morality. 

Mark of Faith (Warhammer 40k) by Rachel Harrison 07, Aug

Inventi sumus in fide. In faith, we are found. 

Mark of Faith by Rachel Harrison is a tightly-focused dual narrative that puts the Sisters of Battle centre stage. Set during the Dark Imperium timeline of the Warhammer 40k setting, it follows the characters of Sister Evangeline and Inquisitor Ravara on their perilous quest to retrieve a powerful ancient artefact beyond the galaxy-spanning Great Rift. 

I picked up this book for two reasons. The first is that there is very little in terms of reading when it comes to the Sisters of Battle, especially when compared to the endless shelves of books about the conquests of the Space Marines and clandestine operations of the Inquisition. Even though the Inquisition does feature significantly here, this is very much a Sisters of Battle novel. The other reason is that I wanted to read a full-length novel from Rachel Harrison after listening to her incredible audio drama, A Way Out, from the Warhammer Horror range. 

Mark of Faith is an extremely character driven story based around the themes of faith, family and love. Both Evangeline and Ravara have their faith and bonds with those closest to them constantly tested. Evangeline is forced to take up the mantle of leadership and must come to terms with the responsibility of such and the impact it has on her relationships with her sisters. Ravara seeks to right a terrible wrong that she blames herself for, even though doing so hurts the very people she is trying to save. Both are haunted by dreams that have them second-guessing themselves at every turn. Throughout the course of the novel, Harrison offers us a deep insight into the doubts and motivations that drive these two women and ensures that we truly understand and appreciate the personal depths they must overcome. 

Evangeline and Ravara are accompanied by a handful of characters. Although we get to meet each of Evangeline's squad, I did find most of them forgettable, except for Ashava and Qi-Oh. It is through Evangeline's relationship with these two battle-sisters that Harrison richly explores the bonds of sisterhood. I would go so far as to say that it feels almost more natural than the brotherhood you see among the Space Marines. They are not genetically-enhanced super soldiers like their brethren, and they are more in tune (or out of depending on how you look at it) with their emotions and are subject to all the rawness that comes with them. Ravara's circle is smaller than Evangeline's but her relationships with them more complicated. It is here Harrison does something I have not seen many other Black Library authors do, and that is to explore the romantic relationship between characters. It is Ravara's love for a particular character is what drives her. I would love to see this happen more often in the grim darkness of the far future. I do agree romance has no place in some of its stories but the galaxy is vast, so why not.   

As much as Mark of Faith focuses on the inner conflict that afflicts its characters, there is plenty of external conflict too. Harrison does not shy away from the action and delivers readers some truly awesome battle sequences, including a running battle through the warp that makes up a third of the book. We get to see the Sisters of Battle go full purge mode while chanting their praises to the God-Emperor (in their eyes). One thing I came to realise while reading this book is just how fanatical the Adepta Sororitas actually are. Every decision they make, every action they carry out, how they even conduct themselves, is all fuelled by their faith. Ironically, they are as much cultists as the enemies they face. I am glad this is not the 42nd millennium because such words would have me condemned a heretic and burnt at the stake, but not before being subjected to interrogation by the Inquisition. Speaking of enemies, I really liked who the main antagonists turn out to be. For those unfamiliar with the Horus Heresy, Harrison still manages to make you feel sympathetic to their cause, even if for a moment. For those who are familiar with the 30k series, it is far more tragic. 

All in all, this is a solid read. It is accessible to newcomers but I believe established fans will get a lot more enjoyment out of it. Rachel Harrison may be a relatively new name from the Black Library but she has already made her mark. I trust we will get more books from her about the Sisters of Battle and I hope she continues to tell more stories about Evangeline and Ravara. Like the Sisters would say, Inventi sumus in fide. In faith, we are found. 

Ash and Bones (City of Sacrifice #2) by Michael R. Fletcher 30, Jul

With double the dose of narcotic-fueled madness, Ash and Bones is a fantastic sequel and solid entry in the City of Sacrifice series. 

Mother Death has returned to Bastion after her millennia-long exile beyond its walls in the endless Bloody Desert. Her coming heralds the end of days as the soul-thirsting pantheon of gods that rule over humanity's last city now fight for sole control of its inhabitants. With violent riots led by Mother Death's worshipers, the Loa, engulfing the outer ring, Nuru, the instrument of her return, flees inwards, hunted by the vengeful and fanatical sorcerer, Akachi, who will do anything to save Bastion, no matter the cost.