Review: Architect of Fate: Space Marine Battles / Authors: Sarah Cawkwell, Ben Counter, Darius Hinks, John French / Format: Paperback / Release date: 7th May
The world of Warhammer 40,000 does allow for some distinctive science-fantasy stories. It’s a far future setting where mankind’s vast interstellar empire constantly stands on the edge of extinction. It is a world that blends fantasy tropes such as brave knights fighting impossible monsters with the mind-blowing sense of scale unique to sci-fi. Architect of Fate is a nice show case for this franchise, as not only does it explore one of the odder conceits of the setting, it is also composed of 4 novellas, each story showing off the talents of novelists who regularly write these sort of adventures. For those who are familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 novels, Architect of Fate is Space Marine Battles novel, which means it features the iconic Adeptus Astartes, enhanced super-soldiers tasked with defending the fading glory of humanity.
The first mini-novel, Sarah Cawkwell’s Accursed Eternity is a classic haunted ship story, with some interesting twists. Cawkwell tells a tight, claustrophobic tale filled with crawling terror, betrayal, heroism and suspense. Uneasy allies are sent to solve the mystery of the ill-omened Accursed Eternity, a demonically possessed starship which brings misery and suffering everywhere it visits. It’s a wonderfully unpredictable tale and a strong opener and sets the tone for the rest of book; each story links into each other through the concept of a god-like alien sentience manipulating the fates of the characters in each story
Next up is Sanctus by Darius Hinks, an action-adventure tale of betrayal, secrets, lies and pride. A small squad of elite warriors are sent to the surface of a planet to recover sacred artefacts before they fall into enemy hands. At the same time, a fleet waits in orbit, preparing to destroy the world below with devastating weapons. As the warriors race against time, the fleet has its own problems. It’s a nice little thriller, and what it lacks in smoothness it makes up in pace.
Ben Counter’s Endeavour of Will continues the theme with an action packed tale of a star-fortress under siege. Counter likes to pack as many interesting ideas into as small a space as possible, and though this adds to the feeling of desperate struggle, it also slows the story down. Despite this, it’s an enjoyable romp, filled with wild tactics and even wilder counter-tactics. It’s also the most distinctive of the four stories in the collection, and though it slots in nicely to the over-arching tale, it doesn’t really add to it.
The anthology ends with John French’s Fateweaver, a finely crafted mystery adventure story that drips with gritty darkness and gothic style. It does its best to keep the reader guessing till the very end and brings the over-arching story to a very satisfying (if strange) conclusion. Architect of Fate will appeal to fans of the Warhammer 40,000 world, and is a great place to start for those with a passing familiarity of the setting.