Inquisitor Astor Sabbathiel is dead and lost to the warp. A century later, she is resurrected by the Inquisition. Her mission: to uncover corruption within the Inquisition itself . . .


George Mann has written tie-in novels for a whole bunch of franchises. In addition to his original steampunk novels, he’s written for Doctor Who in both prose and graphic novels. He’s penned works for Star Wars, most recently the audio drama The Battle for Jedha. He also has an extensive back catalogue for Black Library, including the audio drama Labyrinth of Sorrows and a multiple comic books. Some of those comics introduced readers to the character of Astor Sabbathiel, who makes her novel debut in Awakenings.

Multimedia projects are always a tough one for me. I’ve large balked on Star Wars: The High Republic as the threshold for entry raises with each entry. Adult novels, YA novels, audio dramas, comics. There’s too much to keep track off. I don’t mind not getting the whole story in every book I read, and am more than willing to read books outside of series order, but having to read a comic book to understand a short story, or vice versa, is just too much to ask. Thanks to Black Library’s marketing, I knew that Awakenings was not the start of a story, but that marketing undersold just how much the core of the novel relies on the assumption that the reader is familiar with Mann’s prior work in the franchise.

On a plot level, Awakenings is a strong outing for Mann. Sabbathiel find herself at the heart of a conspiracy that involves corrupt inquisitors, navigator houses, and even the custodes. The supporting cast of characters Sabbathiel surrounds herself with are an eclectic bunch who could easily support more novels with or without their patron. There’s a fair bit going on in this novel, once again showing just how much you can pack into a few hundred pages, and the unravelling of the conspiracy is immensely satisfying. The end goal of the conspiracy also raises a fair few philosophical questions, which is always nice to see.

However, the central theme of Sabbathiel being a hundred years out of date falls flat without the knowledge of what happened in her past. Her every action and belief is rooted in tragedies that you’ll only get by reading comic books. There’s a palpable feeling that the hints we get are more to encourage you to purchase those stories than to help you understand this one. These weak roots are further undermined by the incredibly shaky start to Awakenings splitting the timeline between two post-resurrection arcs does the narrative no favours. All it does is add to the confusion as to where and when things are taking place.

Awakenings has its moments, but overall it’s too weighed down by its own origins to work as a standalone novel. Get rid of the baggage, and it would have been a much stronger story.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Deeper Dive: Time Jumps & Legacy Characters

One of the major innovations of recent Warhammer 40,000 was shifting the narrative forward, as seen with the destruction of Cadia. We now have stories set over a century beyond what we saw in the past. Clearly, this poses a problem for long-running characters. Yarrick exists in a Schroedinger’s box of life and death until Games Workshop decide how to proceed. I’m pretty sure Ghazghkull has died, yet is still alive. The powers of the Warp are strange indeed.

Plenty of characters in the grim dark future are incredibly long-lived. Necrons are functionally immortal. Space Marines can live for centuries. Even the average human can in theory have rejuvenating therapy. Black Library has some immensely popular characters after all. It would be a shame to lose them to something as trivial as the passage of time.

Book Stats

  • A Standalone Novel
  • Focuses on the Inquisition
  • Published in 2022
  • Published by Black Library
  • Grimdark SF
  • 313 Pages

One response to “BOOK REVIEW: Awakenings, by George Mann”

  1. MONTHLY ROUNDUP: May 2023 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Book: Awakening, by George Mann […]


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