BOOK REVIEW: Sabbat War, edited by Dan Abnett

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Contributors: Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, Robert Rath, Marc Collins, Matthew Farrer,  Justin D. Hill, Eduardo Albert, John French, Rachel Harrison

Publisher: Black Library

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 398

Publication Date: 19/06/2021

Verdict: 3.5/5

 

The Sabbat Crusade is one of the Galaxy’s most brutal conflicts. Here in the Sabbat Worlds, the forces of the Imperium clash with the Chaos-worshipping Archenemy. There are no heroes, only soldiers and those about to die . . .

I have a mixed history with Black Library’s anthologies. There are a lot of great short stories out there, but a lot of them tend to follow similar themes. Black Library generally gathers the stories by faction, or by common qualities, which hasn’t exactly helped the matter. To my mind, a good anthology should have diverse stories. Real blends of character, plot, and execution. Sabbat War falls somewhere in the middle of these anthologies. There’s no set theme, with the stories instead all taking place in the Sabbat Worlds. This allows for a range of stories, though some of the content is common across all of them. This is also a fairly unique anthology for Black Library, in that the editor is credited on the cover. Of course, this editor is Dan Abnett, and it would be odd to see a Sabbat Worlds story that didn’t reflect his involvement.

As an editor, Abnett provides one of my favourite parts of anthologies – introductions to each story. Short and sweet, they generally give some context as to where the story fits in the larger scale of the Sabbat Crusade, while also saying something about the author and their involvement in the anthology. But Abnett doesn’t just gather other’s stories here. He has contributed two original stories of his own. Both of these stories take place in the aftermath of Anarch, and show the lasting effects of those traumatic events. Not just on the Tanith First and Only, but on the world of Urdesh as a whole.

Abnett aside, Sabbat War gathers a mix of old and new faces. Graham McNeill brings in a solid entry, Matthew Farrer adds a murder mystery to the book, and John French fires on all cylinders with a horror-tinged tale of shipboard action. Justin D. Hill brings new life to Chaos, and leaves me eagerly anticipating the novels of his I have in my TBR tower.. These authors may be old hands, but they are still writing great material.

With regards to the newer authors, Eduardo Albert’s ‘Deep’ is a claustrophobic and brutal story of war in the trenches. Robert Rath and Marc Collins both write entries that leave me wanting more, and Rachel Harrison brings aerial action with ‘Indomitable Spirit.’ If you needed proof that the future of Black Library is in good hands, look no further than these four.

‘Deep’ and ‘Indomitable Spirit’ aside, the stories in this anthology are good rather than remarkable. As a book, Sabbat War is fine, but it represents something important: The opening up of Abnett’s corner of the universe to more stories. Yes, there have been two anthologies before this, but now we have novels coming by people who are not Dan Abnett. Farrer’s The Serpent and the Saint sits in my TBR, and Nick Kyme’s Volpone Glory is at most a few months away. Sabbat War proves that new authors can play in the sandbox without diluting the unique flavour Abnett has built up over the past two decades. Not that Abnett is going anywhere. A Gaunt’s Ghosts prequel had a limited release last month, and in this volume he confirms that he is working on a sequel to Double Eagle, as well as post-Anarch books featuring Gaunt and his men.

Sabbat War is a strong collection, delivering some wonderfully grim stories, and teasing more on the horizon.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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