I had not heard of Sarah Cawkwell until I attended the Black Library Live 2012 event. I so enjoyed what she said and how she said it that I went straight to the sales table and asked to buy whatever they have by her. Just in case you couldn’t tell, Sarah Cawkwell is a female writer. Women can’t write Space Marine novels can they? Erm, if this is anything to go by then the answer is a definate yes. There is no fluffiness about this book, it is a proper hardcore 40k novel.
The immortal words “There is only war” could not be more appropriate in this instance. The whole book centres around a battle for a system called The Gildar Rift. The loyalist Silver Skulls are trying to repel the Red Corsairs and their brilliant but mad as a March Hare leader Huron Blackheart. Throughout the system an epic battle which rages in many forms including massive ship to ship engagements all the way down to squad on squad combat and the inevitable mano-a-mano between the opposing leaders. All this I expected and enjoyed, but there is a lot more to this story than the simple and elegant battle sequences. There is a subtext that runs through this story and makes you think about it in a very different way. The underlying battle for the very souls of the Silver Skulls is intriguing. Will their pride and rage lead them from the Emporer’s light? Will they remain loyal? What will the attempted forging of a symbiotic relationship between a Space Marine Aspirant and a Strike Cruiser have on the battle, and more importantly how the Silver Skulls are viewed. Is this a heresy to even conceive let alone attempt?
I enjoyed this book a lot. I found the balance between showing the Space Marines as immortal post-human demi-gods and contrasting that with the very real human frailties that are at the very core of who they once were to be just about spot on. Space battles can often seem a little dry and technical or contrived and basically two dimensional sea battles. This was neither and obviously took a lot of thought.
I will certainly be looking out for the next novel that Sarah Cawkwell releases as I think she has a bright future ahead of her. Oh and at BL Live she said “Chaos is where all the cool kids are at” which still makes me chuckle.
If you are a 40k fan, then you should go and buy this book now. If you are not a 40k fan, then this book is just what you need to be converted.