–spoilers for Wreck & Ruin–
Publisher: Black Library
Series: Novella Series 3 (#1)
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2020
Left reeling by recent events, Sister Augusta of the Adeptus Sororitas is tasked with returning to the one world she hoped never to revisit. This could well be her final mission, and the stakes have never been higher . . .
As near as I can tell, Warhammer 40,000’s Sisters of Battle have some pretty sexist origins. For a hobby aimed largely at teen boys, the models inevitably had a sexualised quality about them. Slender space marines with breasts isn’t too far off the mark, and in the lore of the setting, some groups such as the Sisters Repentia have an undeniably BDSM elelment to their design. Thankfully, the Sisters of Battle soon rose above these less than ideal origins to become one of the more intricate factions in the game. Recent years have seen Black Library giving them a fair deal of attention, kicking off with James Swallow’s duology, and continuing in both novel and audio since. In the past few years, we’ve seen more female authors breaking into Black Library’s ranks, and with both Rachel Harrison and Danie Ware writing for them, we’re getting more and more excellent Sisters of Battle content.
Black Libary’s new novella ranges are proving to be fertile ground for smaller-scale stories set in the sprawling grimdark future, and Ware gets a lot of mileage out of the limited page count on offer here. It helps that she has already had two previous novellas (and a host of short stories) to establish her protagonists, but these are by no means essential reading. I’ve only read Wreck & Ruin before, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything too important, though you can bet I’ll be picking up those missing volumes if I get a chance. Ware’s characters are her greatest strength, and Augusta’s squad are a diverse and compelling group to read about, finding time to breathe amid all the action the forty-first millennium throws at them. There’s enough material in their interactions to support at least a novel, if not a series, and if this is (as it appears to be) the last time we see them, then at least that time wasn’t wasted.
As you’d expect from a novella, the plot here is pretty simple. A case of ‘go here and kill these enemies.’ In that, it’s standard fare for any number of Warhammer stories. But here we get a full showcase of the armaments of the Sisters of Battle, from ground troopers to tanks to those in the air. The narrative scope never strays far from the main characters, but there is a hint of the epic about the events contained herein. Ware’s prose is clear and precise, with only the occasional embellishment, and anyone who has seen any of Games Workshop’s miniatures will be able to picture the battles as vividly as if they were truly there.
A fitting conclusion to Augusta’s scattered arc, The Rose in Anger is a strong first entry for the third novella group, and a thrilling outing for any Sisters of Battle fan.