- A collection of three novellas and five short stories
- Focuses on the Sisters of Battle
- Published by Black Library in 2022
- A Grimdark story of faith
- 408 pages
The Order of the Bloody Rose are the sword of the Adepta Sororitas, cutting through heretics across the Imperium. Sister Superior Augusta of the Order leads her sisters through battle and struggle in this collection of stories . . .
Sister Augusta and her companions have appeared in short stories and novellas for a couple of years now. You can find a quick review of Wreck and Ruin and a full review of The Rose in Anger elsewhere on this blog, but this omnibus edition contains not only these novellas (and the first novella The Bloodied Rose) but also five short stories tying in to the same group of characters. As far as I’m aware, that means every Sister Augusta story to date is gathered here, making The Rose at War the best place to start with Ware’s oeuvre.
Largely due to the three novellas that make up the bulk of the book, there is a rough story arc to The Rose at War. The missions Augusta and her squad undertake in these novellas follow on from one another, and also fold in references to a short story or two. Aside from the novellas, these stories have only been available in digital form prior to this omnibus, so having them all gathered in order is a massive benefit to a completionist like myself. It allows the reader to track threads and narratives that could easily become lost when reading the short works up to a year apart. When you put the stories side by side, one common theme emerges. Unsurprisingly, it’s about faith.
The Adepta Sororitas are the militant arm of the Imperium’s state religion, so the fact that they’re a zealous bunch probably won’t shock anyone. Everything they do is done in the Emperor’s name. They go to battle with His name on their lips, and His fire in their hearts. One aspect of the church Ware handles particularly well is music. It’s one thing to know that the Sisters of Battle sing songs as they go to war, but Ware captures it better than most. There are snippets of those hymns punctuating the text in the midst of combat, while enemies are eliminated to the accompaniment of litanies against evil. Augusta and her sisters genuinely feel like characters who have been indoctrinated from an early age in the minutiae of their faith. It defines them, both in how they live, and how they expect to die.
Death is the end result of that faith. This being the grim darkness of the far future, death is a guarantee. More than that, a violent, meaningless death is likely for the vast majority. The Order of the Bloody Rose are not about delaying death, nor even bringing death to their enemies. Obviously, they do the latter, but there’s a strong emphasis on their own deaths, and making sure that those deaths have meaning. If you die alongside thousands of others, what’s the point? But if you die in a mutual takedown with an ork warboss, now there’s something worth singing about. Death, and more importantly sacrifice, permeates these stories. Those who flee from battle are to be scorned, while those who die in the line of duty are to be raised aloft as idols. Because if the only guarantee is that you will die horrible, why not at least try to make that death mean something?
This is a really strong collection, and hopefully not the last we see of Sister Superior Augusta. And if that doesn’t convince you to grab a copy, how about this final thought: This book is so grimdark that there is an ork called Grimdak. What more could you ask for?