The poor reputation generally enjoyed (or perhaps ‘endured’) by tie-in fiction has been largely counteracted within the Black Library itself, boasting an array of heavyweight, must-read titles (Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn, Ravenor and Gaunt’s Ghosts series, Kim Newman’s early ‘Jack Yeovil’ titles, Ben Counter’s Souldrinkers titles, and Graham McNeill’s Ultramarines series, to name a few) that expand on this rich background to tickle the curiosity of even potential readers who can’t pass a Games Workshop without smirking in mockery at the brood of imagined cliches they assume lurk within.
Feeling uncannily like a role-playing adventure module with all the stat-lines and rules accidentally left out, Faith & Fire is doing little to contribute to that renaissance in licensed creativity. A predictable plot with monotone protagonists challenging each other to markedly greater feats of TV-movie heroics, the whole thing climaxes with a typical narrative one-two where all moral ambiguity is expunged for the benefit of the hard of thinking, and sheer force of will overcomes ill-definied god-like powers – the latter of which you can get from the Dawn Of War II opening cinematic in three minutes, as opposed to 400 dreary pages.
As with many of the more forgettable Black Library efforts, there’s a marked unwillingness to deviate from the roped off area that is Citadel Miniatures catalogue and you never escape the feeling that whatever you’ve just had described to you is available in in a blister pack for £19.99 plus P&P with a few mouse clicks, giving the whole narrative the same sort of vibe as a bout action figure theatre on a wet Sunday afternoon. This whole sorry business reaches a head in the book’s first big battle sequence (of two), which consists largely of ticking off of every possible troop type and vehicle in the Sisters Of Battle army list, complete with an internal monologue of a piece of legendary wargear.
Fittingly for one of the rare books to explore the world of the Adeptus Sororitas (the brilliantly atmospheric Daemonifuge graphic novel, incidentally, is available on Print On Demand and is a far superior depiction of this dense and baroque order), the Sisters Of Battle and martial arm of the intolerant Imperial church, James Swallow’s Faith & Fire seems reluctant to deviate from canon, both the intimidating canon of the Warhammer 40,000 wargaming universe, and the turgid canon of the tie-in novel.