Cover Image: Mark of Faith

Mark of Faith

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Member Reviews

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is the second novel by Rachel Harrison I have read published by Black Library, following Honorbound. Besides the common Warhammer 40,000 setting there are no links between that and this, at least that I picked up on, as the focus moves from the Antari Rifles - baseline human soldiers of the Imperial Guard - to the Sisters of Battle, elite warrior-nuns.

I struggled to make it though Mark of Faith, as neither of our perspective characters really clicked with me. The first is Evangeline, a sister of battle who is one of few survivors of her order following a terrible battle, who is physically marked out her by scars as under the special favour and protection of the Emperor. Evangeline struggles to understand why she has survived when her sisters have fallen, and privately wishes she had achieved a martyr's death alongside them. She is given new purpose -and further insecurity - by a quest for a holy MacGuffin, in which she is accompanied by our second perspective character.

Inquisitor Ravara is a member of the most feared institution in the Imperium, the Inquisition. Secret police with near-unlimited authority, in previous depicitions an Inquisitor's competence has only been exceeded by their ruthlessness. Ravara is neither competent nor ruthless. Broken by the loss of her subordinate and lover in a recent failed venture, Ravara is accompanying the Sisters' warship in search of the MacGuffin in the hopes that it will return her love to her. Why anyone listens to her I am sure I don't know, as she comes across as a rather pathetic character, following the directions of prophetic dreams that seem to lead her and her associates into disaster after disaster.

Evangeline has the beginnings of an interesting arc in her insecurities, but unfortunately it is not paid off in a satisfying way. [When she becomes a shining avatar of the Emperor's will in the final battle, it doesn't seem to result from her renewed faith in herself, nor is it clearly a result of other people's faith in her. The question Evangeline has been asking is, "Why me?" and unfortunately it is not clearly answered. The Emperor needed Evangeline particularly to get to this location to defeat this enemy... because? (hide spoiler)] Ravara, meanwhile, fails her way through the story and never suffers more than a stern word of rebuke in response. I noted in my Honorbound review that I would have liked the author to be more ruthless with her characters and that feeling continues here.

The antagonist of the piece is also unsatisfying, as they do not arrive until the third act and are not previously foreshadowed. They have no known relationship with our protagonists, and it feels rather as though a hand reached into a hat marked "Enemies of the Imperium" to pull out a villain for the climax. [The MacGuffin was a lie, as well! So what was the point of any of this? (hide spoiler)]

I enjoyed Honorbound and the Sisters of Battle & Inqusition are potentially very interesting subjects for fiction, so I am disappointed not to have had a better time with this book. Unfortunately Mark of Faith is merely staid bolter porn. For an excellent book featuring Sisters of Battle, may I recommend Peter Fehervari's Requiem Infernal.
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Sister Evangeline survives battle in Ophelia VII. This is a battle where she loses her mentor and most of her battle sisters. She is gravely wounded. She is also marked on her face with marks others take as divine favor from the Emperor. She is seen as chosen by the Emperor, so when the opportunity to find and bring back a valuable relic arises, naturally the Ecclesiarchy believes she is the one to lead the expedition. So does the Inquisition, and Inquisitor Ravara, seeking the artifact for reasons of her own, is going along as well. 

This is a story of quests. It is Sister Evangeline's quest to prove herself worthy and to maintain her humility despite events thrusting leadership and attention on her. It is Inquisitor Ravara's quest to make right the wrongs of her past as well as follow her father's voice, the voice of a dead man. The novel alternates between Evangeline's view and Ravara's view. This works pretty well as it emphasizes it is their story. However, we also see some of the supporting characters through the two main characters' eyes. 

The author starts in the midst of battle, so we get into some action right away. After that and Evangeline's recuperation, the author builds up the story. Gradually the quest comes together, and soon the stakes increase as they travel, a voyage that costs lives but that may be nothing compared to the foe they find when they get there. Much of the tale's intrigue is trying to find out what motivates Ravara. Why is this quest so important to her?

The novel combines action with some suspense and intrigue. We get a bit of Ecclesiarchy politics, especially early in the novel. The novel also has pretty good pacing, and it keeps the reader engaged. This is one I wanted to keep on reading to see how it would turn out. I will note I wished Evangeline had chosen a different path for herself at the end (don't worry, she does remain faithful), but otherwise this was a pretty good tale. Fans of the Adepta Sororitas will likely enjoy this, but they may also want more.
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Mark of Faith is one of the latest additions to the lore of Warhammer 40,000. Written by Rachel Harrison, this piece of work focuses specifically on the Adepta Sororitas and a new legend being born.

Sister Evangeline was there the day Ophelia VII was attacked. She watched her sisters, her mentors fall, that day. But she kept standing. Now she's about to embark on a journey like she never expected. One she never wanted.

The Shield of Saint Katherine has been missing for years until the path was illuminated to Sister Evangeline. Thus, she and her sisters are going to be sent through the Rift to find and retrieve it. No matter the cost.

“Before me, Ophelia VII burns. The grand, gothic buildings of the Convent Sanctorum and its surrounding city-state are fractured and aflame.”

Mark of Faith is such a chilling and beautiful read. The Adepta Sororitas are, to put it simply, to amazingly intense. Their quotes alone are enough to send chills down spines. That being said, this tale is arguably one of the most powerful and moving yet.

Sister Evangeline's story is...beautiful. It's also deeply sad. She lost everything on Ophelia VII, including the opportunity to become a martyr alongside her sisters. One can imagine how much that would hurt her heart. How it would leave her scarred, a perfect match to the wings now placed on her face.

This was a heavy tale, of that there is no doubt. But it was also a story of infinite complexity. There were multiple layers to what was actually happening here, and it took a while to work through it all. I love that added depth. It does justice to the Adepta Sororitas, and to Sister Evangeline herself.

“'Fight,' she says. 'Suffer. Strand, until you cannot.'”

Honestly, I really, truly loved every single part of this story. The plot, the characters, the action, the conflict. It was all there, and it was amazing. This is a story that made me fall in love with the Adepta Sororitas all over again. But really, can you blame me?

I'll confess that I have not been reading enough about the Adepta Sororitas as I should. I need to add all of their novels and novellas to my TBR list, because frankly, I've loved every single one of them. I also need to add Rachel Harrison to my watchlist as well, because I was supremely impressed with her writing style here. I cannot wait to see more.
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As usual, Black Library has done a fantastic job finding authors who are able to weave fantastic stories within the WH40k universe.  Rachel Harrison's Mark of Faith is a great novel, exploring the ideas and understanding of faith and devotion through the explorations and mission of the Adeptas Sororitas and the Inquisition.  Her characters feel authentic, flawed and true to their beliefs, and fit amazingly well within the feel of the Adeptas Sororitas mythos.  As good as I've come to expect from Black Library, I look forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.
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I loved the fantasy of it. Also the artwork on the cover I will admit I didn't complete the whole book as I found it a struggle. I think maybe if I had knowledge of Warhammer it may have helped but I may give it another go at another time. 5 stars.
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Too difficult

I am new to the Warhammer 40000 world, having read only a book of short stories previously. A heavy investment is required to understand this book and place it within the mythos. I don't have the wherewithal to manage. The story is written from two POV in more or less alternating chapters, which is a style I don't particularly like. The pace is ponderous, at least at the beginning. I found the book too difficult.
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Rachel Harrison is an outstanding writer of books that make me live in the imperium of man in the 40k universe, now when you consider what an absolute nightmare that universe is and how my life expectancy would be counted in minutes let career prospects you can understand (hopefully) how immersive she makes her books and actually gives the reader hope.... I loved this book and went and bought it on Audible straight after I had read it enhance my enjoyment
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