I'm just gonna come out and say it, I love the SoB, I think they are awesome, and James Swallow has done a brilliant job of presenting them in his two novels featuring the SoB. Oh, and I also love Hammer and Anvil, it is now my favourite BL book. Don't worry, this isn't a 10/10 review that just has me constantly gushing praise, but it is pretty close.
Hammer and Anvil is the sort of sequel to Faith and Fire, set on the sanctuary world of Sanctuary 101 (aptly named, that...) and was released last year alongside the mini-codex that appeared in last year's white dwarf at around June/July, sometime like that. Hammer and Anvil has some of the same characters as Faith and Fire, but a new cast as well including Canoness Sepherina and Celestian Imogen. These new characters are well realised and have a real personality to them, especially Imogen, who dislikes our returning character Miriya. Miriya, Verity, Isabel and Cassandra are back, plus a whole host of other Sisters and some other very nice characters including necrons (It's not a spoiler, it says on the blurb there's necrons involved
). All the Sisters are as deep and faithful as they were before, and you can tell Swallow has seriously thought out his characters' personalities and emotions. Miriya and Verity's internal conflicts are good as well, and while I'm still not sure which is the 'main' character, my personal favourite is the badass Miriya who doesn't give a damn and would survive pretty much anything the galaxy could throw at her (A female Sharpe perhaps?). Another new addition to the cast is the mysterious Watched, a very cool character, but I'll say no more.
The plot of Hammer and Anvil is basically that the SoB have returned to this world to reconsecrate it after it was attacked over a decade earlier. However, the necrons, the ones who killed the original contingent of Sisters stationed there, aren't gone. The necrons almost steal the show in this novel, and these are apparently 'not the soulless necrons of third edition', and I agree. The necrons are presented not just as wholly alien beings that want to destroy humanity, but as characters with a little depth to them as well. Also, pretty much the entire necron codex (the new one) was showcased and described at some point, from Triarch Praetorians to Ghost Arks and crypteks. It was nice to read it after the codex had come out because I knew what Swallow was on about and I could envision these characters, having already seen models of them. However, I think that if you read this before the codex came out, they would just be names on a page.
The pacing of the novel is excellent, and it never seemed to drag on, the constant switch between characters was refreshing and it was good to see what was happening to other characters whilst the tension built.
To be honest I can't really find the words to express my feelings for Hammer and Anvil, other than it was very good, and I definitely enjoyed it. The plot was solid, the characters great, the pacing good, what more can you say. Honestly, if you want a damned decent read featuring the Sisters of Battle and the (new!) necrons, this is brilliant for you, like it was for me. I would give Hammer and Anvil a 9/10, and I sincerely hope that at some point there is a sequel. I think Miriya is a great character and her and Verity have a good chemistry that is presented brilliantly by James Swallow.
Up next will be Island of Blood and Assault on Black Reach reviews, but I won't put them up too soon, it has occurred to me I'm clogging up the reviews a bit, so I'll wait a while. Suffice to say, one's alright, and the other is damned good.