The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]

#6 - The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell (reviewed by Lord of the Night)

Bane of Kings reviews The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell, her first novel,  published by Black Library.

 “A well-crafted debut that is clearly one of the better novels in the Space Marine Battles Series.” ~The Founding Fields

 Note: This is an advanced review for Black Library. The Gildar Rift will be released to the public in December 2011.


I’ve been waiting to read this one ever since it was first announced, despite the mixed feelings that I’ve had with previous Space Marine Battles novels. Rynn’s World and The Purging of Kadillus were not so good, Hunt for Voldorious was okay and Fall of Damnos and Helsreach were excellent. So, where does The Gildar Rift fit in all of this?

Well, let’s find out. Taking an already established battle from the Space Marine Codex (A minor one, mind you), and flushing it out is going to have some flaws, chief among which is that you know who’s going to win. Although The Gildar Rift is a lesser known battle, it’s still there, and if you’ve read the Space Marine Codex thoroughly then you’ll know the outcome of it. Sarah Cawkwell does her best to make it unpredictable, but you’ll know the outcome. This is what all of the Space Marine Battles Novels suffer from, although with Rob Sander’s upcoming Legion of the Damned, we may see a change.

The Gildar Rift is perhaps the one novel in the Space Marine Battles series that goes into detail with space-combat. Indeed, the action scenes in this novel are really divided into two parts, space-combat, and ground-combat.

The Silver Skulls 4th Company, under command of Captain Arrun, the Master of the Fleet, locate The Wolf of Fenris, an ancient warship that belonged to the Space Wolves before its disappearance. However, the followers of the Emperor learn that what seems at first to be a rescue mission, to see if any Space Wolves are still alive, soon turns into a fight for survival against Red Corsairs operating under Huron Blackheart himself, where only one force can emerge victorious.

Right from the start you have problems with predictability. You know what’s going to happen (or rather, what’s not going to happen) to Huron Blackheart, who is simply too big and too established in the 40k ‘canon’ to be killed off.

If long-term fans have any worries about the portrayal of Huron though, then rest assured, you’re in safe hands with Sarah Cawkwell. Like the appearance of the Tyrant of Badab in Dembski-Bowden’s Blood Reaver, both novels have portrayed him successfully. Now, all we need is a full-blown novel about the Red Corsairs. (For those interested in more Huron action, you will find him in the short story Skull Harvest by Graham McNeill, and I’m pretty sure there are several others out there as well.)

Despite the problems with slight predictability, The Gildar Rift is enjoyable and there are even twists thrown in for good measure, and in my opinion any fans of Space Marines or their Chaos counterparts will like this book. After all, how could you not?

There are some great scenes in this novel; the action is well-varied although aside from one particular scene involving a long train and several Bikers, nothing stands out as too memorable.

The writing style shows how Space Marines should be represented, for the characters act and talk like they are huge, gigantic superhuman killing machines, and the author has managed to get across an accurate portrayal of them compared to some author’s works that I’ve seen.

I don’t think I spotted any typos, which is nice as these days I rarely read an advanced black library review product without at least one typo. Maybe I wasn’t looking close enough, but if there was one it wasn’t very important as I don’t particularly remember it.

It’s only logical that I should talk about the ending at the end of the review, and there are a few questions that are left unanswered (such as the future of Sergeant Porteus, to name one example), leaving me eagerly anticipating the next Silver Skulls novel, as I hope we see a return to this chapter.

I’d also like to point out that Sarah Cawkwell is also Black Library’s first female author who has written a full novel, and I can say that she is most likely here to stay. Bring on Valkia the Bloody, her upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Novel.

Verdict: 3.5/5

 More Sarah Cawkwell: The Gildar Rift (Lord of the Night’s Review), Primary Instinct (Short Story), Action & Consequence (Short Story), Cause & Effect (Short Story), Bitter End (Short Story), Accursed Eternity (Novella), Bloodraven (Short Story, Jan. 2012 release), Valkia the Bloody (July 2012).


More Space Marine Battles: Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Hunt for Voldorious by Andy Hoare, The Purging of Kadillus by Gav Thorpe, Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme, Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight, The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell (January 2012), Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders (April 2012), Architect of Fate by Various Authors (May 2012)


More Sarah Cawkwell on TFF: Guest Post, Interview 

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and a prolific reviewer who can be found on many places on the internet usually under the same username – when he’s not trying to catch up on the many seasons of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


  • abhinavjain87 Abhinav Jain

    Bitter End also has Huron does it not? And also explains one of Huron’s accoutrements from TGR IIRC from something Sarah posted on the Bolthole a while back.

    • Anonymous

      I believe Bitter End contains Huron, I haven’t read the short myself though.

  • Kodanshi 〇rlandο Gοdhand〇

    To me it actually felt the other way around when it came to the Space Marines: they did NOT feel like Astartes, but simply like giant humans. They had the same emotional characteristics and reactions that an ordinary person would. I thought they brainwashed trainees who were on the way to becoming Space Marines?

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