Home > 40 K & Horus Heresy, Book Review > Book Review- Garro: Vow of Faith by James Swallow

Book Review- Garro: Vow of Faith by James Swallow

Vow of FaithI’m a huge fan of idealistic characters who stick by their vows and what they believe in even when times get tough. So I was not surprised when I reached book three, “Galaxy in Flames” by Ben Counter, of Black Library’s “Horus Heresy” series that I would meet some of my favorite characters in all of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I’m taking of course about the Space Marines who stood loyal to their vow to the Emperor when their Legions went rogue and tried to kill them on Istvaan III. Of those characters my favorite is probably former Luna Wolf (He was never a Son of Horus) Garviel Loken.

“Galaxy in Flames” also introduced my second favorite Loyalist member of the TraitorCover Vow of Faith Legions, Battle Captain Nathaniel Garro formerly of the Death Guard, but we didn’t really get to know him until James Swallow’s excellent fourth “Horus Heresy” novel “Flight of the Eisenstein,” which I loved. So I of course followed Garro to his own sort of sub-series within the “Horus Heresy” series. What was especially interesting about the Garro series is so far they’ve all been audio dramas, and they’ve all been amazing. If you haven’t listened to them do yourself a favor go and download them from Black Library’s website, or buy the boxed set of CD’s. You get Swallow’s stories, fun music and sound effects, but best of all you get Toby Longworth as a narrator. The man can make anything sound epic. I want Toby Longworth to narrate my life.

So this December I was especially intrigued when Black Library announced that the Garro series would be returning to print with a new novella titled “Garro: Vow of Faith.” You could get as an e-book, or splurge and get the deluxe limited edition signed hardcover. I had some extra money at the time so I bought the hardcover and I’m glad I did. It’s a fun book. It’s got a breathtakingly gorgeous Neil Roberts dust cover painting and the actual hardcover is made up to look like a heavily annotated copy of the Lectito Divinitatus, the holy book of Garro’s faith. The real question though was how was the story? Having just finished it I’m happy to report that “Vow of Faith” is another highly satisfying entry in the Garro series that moves the title character forward in some intriguing ways and also hints at the further development of one of my favorite Warhammer 40K institutions, the secretive Inquisition.

SwalllowWhen we catch up with Garro in “Vow of Faith” he’s experiencing a bit of a crisis of faith and identity because he’s recovering from the shocking revelation at the end of “Shield of Lies,” where he discovered that his master, Malcador the Sigilite, a shadowy and powerful Psyker, is forming his own personal army to deal with the treachery of the Warmaster Horus and the other Traitor Legions that turned to Chaos. So Malcador gives his top agent some time off and Garro uses it to seek out the woman who changed his life back during “The Flight of the Eisenstein” novel, Euphrati Keeler, a mysterious and powerful woman who is venerated as a living saint by the underground church that worships the Emperor of Mankind as a god.

What follows is a fun novel of chase and intrigue as Garro sets out across Terra to find Keeler, but he’s not the only seeking that Saint. Two of Horus’ agents have infiltrated Terra and embarked upon a quest to assassinate Keeler.

It’s always fun to visit Terra in a 40K novel because it’s not a place we often see. It’s especially fascinating during the “Horus Heresy” because we’re getting a glimpse of Earth right as it’s come together after many years of divisive and apocalyptic warfare. In “Vow of Faith” Swallow takes Garro and us readers to some of the planet’s more fascinating locales including a vast desert, an arctic wilderness, a gigantic “walking city,” and a massive industrial metropolis that hovers above the Earth.

As we visit these locales we’re given moments of action and intrigue, but more importantly we’re along with Garro as he meditates on his faith and struggles to find the right path in the morally murky morass that life during the Horus Heresy has become. It’s great because as a Space Marine Garro is a deeply noble and larger than life hero, but he’s also very vulnerable and is plagued by many of the doubts that us mere mortals would have.

Along his journey to find Keeler and protect her from the assassins at her heels Garro meets some interesting characters. We learn something intriguing about the Imperial Fist Sigismund, especially given his later history. For me though the best encounters came at the end when Garro was reunited with both Keeler and Kyril Sindermann, the iterator (lecturer and sort of teacher) from the first four “Horus Heresy” novels. It was great revisiting these characters and seeing what they’ve come to stand for since I last read about them.

So ultimately one of the most interesting aspects of “Garro: Vow of Faith” is how Swallow tackles the idea of faith and how it drives people at this point in 40K history when the Imperium is basically a secular empire. You get to see how Garro’s faith impacts the crisis he’s going through and it ultimately leads him onto a pretty interesting path. The story also deepens the mystery of what exactly is going on with Euphrati Keeler. I’m as excited to read more about her as I am to read more about Garro.

My only real complaint about “Vow of Faith” is not really Swallow’s fault and that is the fact that by reading it I may have spoiled some Horus Heresy books I have not read yet. I won’t say which ones, but ultimately that’s okay. They’re not huge spoilers and for people who have read far enough those moments that provide connective tissue to other books might be pretty cool.

So for me, “Garro: Vow of Faith” was a pretty pricy read, but it was worth it. Swallow gave us a character driven story that took Garro back to his roots and put him on an exciting path. So I look forward to the next adventure of Garro even if Toby Longworth is not narrating, but I hope he is.

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