Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: Hammer & Anvil

(Image from Goodreads)
Sometimes all it takes is a few scenes to turn a good book into a great book.

That's the case with Hammer & Anvil, the sequel to Faith & Fire and the subject of my previous book review.

In this story, Miriya and Verity are looking for peace and closure after the events of their initial adventure.  Instead, they find anything but.  Both wind up on the barren rock known as Sanctuary_101, ten years after the massacre at an Adepta Sororitas fortress-convent, in effort to reconsecrate the site.

Or so they're told.

As with all things Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K):  Factions within the Imperium of Man, in this case the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus, have their own hidden agendas.   Even Canoness Sepherina isn't completely forthcoming about full scope of their mission.

The book starts off as something of a mystery, and on page 55 of this 410 page book, the Sisters of Battle learn it was Necrons who were the mysterious attackers that wiped out their original convent (WH40K's "robot zombies").

(Image by Nicholas Kay)
The mystery continues to unfold, and by page 194 they learned the extent of the Necron threat to the Imperium. Although for WH40K fans who've already read the Fluff, this reveal isn't so revealing. What is finally disclosed on page 259 is the item Canoness Sepharina has been searching for:  An artifact known as the Hammer and Anvil, believed to have been lost in the initial Necron attack. Which makes Hammer & Anvil something of a MacGuffinTitled book.

Even as the Second Battle of Sanctuary-101 got underway, I was about to give Hammer & Anvil a 3-star rating, like it's predecessor.  However, the story took off with a "Hell Yes!" Moment on page 334, where--spoiler alert--a tormented survivor of the original massacre exorcises her personal demon while fighting a Deathmark (an assassin android).

A few more "Hell Yes!" scenes followed close on the heels of the Deathmark's death:  There is something of a "Men of Harlech" scene as the Necrons silently closed-in on the beleaguered Battle Sisters; when the treacherous Techpriest Tegas finds the Hammer and Anvil, hoping it's an ultimate weapon, but turns out to be merely a Memento MacGuffin; and finally the often-overlooked Verity helps bring down the Nemesor leading the current assault.

Among these high points of the last 76 pages are split action scenes of Verity assisting in battle at the fortress-convent, first as a healer, then as a combatant; and Miriya with a commando team infiltrating the Necron lair in Sanctuary-101's moon.

What I also found amusing was how the machine logic of both the Necrons and the techpriests were constantly confounded--and ultimately thwarted--by human illogical behavior and raw emotions.

All this was enough to bump Hammer & Anvil to a 4-star read.  Average reviews on both Amazon.com and Goodreads are almost as good with 3.80 and 3.79-stars, respectively.

While Ciaphas Cain is still my favorite WH40K character, (because he's Harry FlashmanIN SPACE!), Miriya and Verity come in at #2 and #3 for me.

Sisters of Battle Omnibus is due to hit the shelves next month.  This tome will contain "... Faith & Fire and Hammer & Anvil, along with the prose version of the audio drama Red & Black and a new short story 'Heart & Soul', available in print for the first time." 

(Image from Amazon.com)