• An anthology of 14 short stories
  • Focuses on the Imperium
  • Published by Black Library in November 2022
  • Grimdark SF
  • 384 pages

The Astra Militarum are the backbone of the Imperium, but some battles are beyond the abilities of the average human. For these situations, the God-Emperor calls on his finest servants . . .

Whereas the first Inferno! Presents anthology was dedicated to a single Imperial faction in the form of the Inquisition, this second volume casts it net a little wider. We’re still firmly in Imperial territory, but we’re dealing with a slightly more varied cast. Front and centre come the stories of the Space Marines, after whom the anthology is titled. As is often the case, these stories are universally proficient and entertaining, but don’t do anything to thrill me in particular. There’s a slight element of ‘this is how our universe works’ to the collection, and none of the Space Marine stories strains the mould too far.

Much more to my liking are stories from Victoria Hayward and J C Stearns. Hayward’s ‘Wings of Faith’ is an aeronautical adventure that serves as the latest in a long line of exhibits proving just how badly science fiction needs more dogfighting and fighter pilots. Meanwhile, Stearns’ ‘Blood Legacy’ is a quick and brutal tale of Imperial Knights. These mecha-suit wearing warriors are a part of the universe that I only became aware of recently, and the mix of gladiatorial combat and political backstabbing on display in this story has made me hungry for a lot more of the same.

Of course, no decent anthology is complete without a few new names arriving on the scene. Especially with Black Library, these anthologies are a testing ground for new authors, and there are four here that really caught my eye. J S Collyer’s ‘In the Name of Victory’ features Space Marines prominently, but does something I love. It shows the effect they have on the mortals who serve them. there’s some great worldbuilding around the idea of names too, but what really makes it stand out is how effectively it shows the human experience of working alongside a warrior angel.

Amanda Bridgeman’s ‘Reconsecration’ is a little more traditional in its accounting of an encounter between Sisters of Battle and a heretic horde, whose dark gods aren’t quite what you’d expect. There is a lot packed into this short story, but Bridgeman pulls it all together marvellously. In ‘Song of the Mother,’ Boman Modine weaves a mystery surrounding a beaten-down Rogue Trader, and a mission that leads into peril. It’s short, bittersweet, and very effective. Capping off these great new authors is Breanna Teintze with ‘Knife’s Edge’ which shines a dark light on the state-sponsored assassins who hold the Imperium together by striking from the shadows. Each of these three stories alone is strong, but together they show the diversity of methods the Imperium employs to remain in control of its myriad worlds and populations, which really is the theme of the anthology as a whole.

Though most of the big name authors here are writing stories that never really grabbed me, the strength of the next generation is more than enough to compensate. The grim dark future is here, and I look forward to seeing what these new names come up with next.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

More Warhammer 40,000 Anthologies
Inferno! Presents: The Inquisition
Servants of the Machine-God
Only War: Stories from the 41st Millennium

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