The armies and factions of Warhammer 40,000 are all brutal and impressive in their own ways. As new books release, we dive into the lore presented in each, and how it shapes the fictional universe we love and make war in. In today’s review, Raf Cordero is diving into the lore presented in the new 9th edition Codex: Adepta Sororitas and how it presents one of the game’s most faithful factions.
There are no warriors more devout in their adoration for the Emperor than the Adepta Sororitas. It is through—and for—their faith that they stride into battle against anyone who would oppose the imperium. Xenos, yes, demons, yes, but also Imperial Citizens who have turned away from the Imperial Creed. The Sisters of Battle began as a small fighting force but have grown into a massive arm of the Imperium who have been seen waging war across the galaxy. Where they go, so to goes faith and fire.
Foundations of Faith
The Imperial Creed and the Ecclesiarchy currently dominate Imperial life. There is no choice but to follow the Creed and worship the Emperor via it’s prescribed rituals and laws. To defy it is to die. It did not necessarily have to be that way, however. Before the Heresy the Emperor forbid worship and religion. That did not stop humanity from turning towards worship in times of strife. What is now the Ecclesiarchy was only one of many secret sects that flourished in the years after Horus slew the Emperor.
Over 100 years this organization crushed or absorbed competing groups, accumulating power that culminated in its recognition as the official religious authority of the Imperium. While the influence of the Eccleisarchy is oppressive now, it was even more brutal then. The power of the Eccleisarch was absolute and when the infamous Goge Vandire ascended to lead the Ecclesiarchy, he worked to further consolidate power. Under his reign various religious figures were made High Lords and his reign of tyranny began.
It was during this reign that the Adepta Sororitas were founded. A small group of devout warrior women were discovered on a far-flung planet. Seeing their martial prowess and expressions of faith, Vandire visited the planet and ultimately named them his elite (and private) group of soldiers. They were used in battle to defend the faith (or his interpretation of it) and fought with exemplary discipline.
Eventually, resistance to Vandire rose. The details are unknown to any save the Emperor himself, but it came to pass that the 6 Matriarchs of the Order were visited by a Custode. After discussion, the Matriarchs were brought to see the Emperor on the thrown. Upon leaving, they spoke not a word but returned to Vandire’s side. There, Alicia declared Vandire a traitor to the emperor and cleanly removed his head.
In the wake of Vandire’s tyranny, the High Lords invoked the Decree Passive. This edict seeks to limit the Ecclesiarchy’s ability to formally control a military force. It was argued that the Adepta Sororitas are outside this Decree as they are not a military force of war but defenders of the Imperial Creed and defenders of Faith itself. It is worth noting that this Codex makes no mention of the oft-repeated line that the Decree forbid “men at arms” and thus the Sisters exist as a Lord of the Rings style loophole; I believe that element of their lore can safely be put to bed.
Released along side this new Codex was a stunning model for a new named character: Morvenn Vahl. As you might expect, the Codex dedicates a couple pages to the latest High Lord of Terra.
The Abbess Sanctorum is the position at the heart of the Sisters of Battle. This esteemed commander leads the military might and spiritual faith of the entire faction. Unfortunately for the Sisters, their previous Abbess’ ship was lost in the cataclysmic explosion of warp energy that created the Great Rift. As the Adepta Sororitas is only one part of the Ecclesiarchy, it does not fall solely to the Sisters to select their new Abess.
The process that resulted in Morvenn Vahl’s appointment began as crafty negotiation, with various elements of the Ecclesiarchy putting her forward not due to her military prowess, but due to her age. As a young Canoness, there was a belief that she would be young and naise; in other words, much easier to manipulate. What they got when she finally arrived at Terra was anything but.
Vahl immediately eschewed ceremony and pomp, choosing to immerse herself in the details of her job. She was committed to showing the Sisters of Battle—no matter where in the galaxy they were—that their Abbess was listening and invested in their battles. This extends to the battlefield itself. No Abbess Sanctorum has taken to the battle field directly as many times as Vahl. As a recently ascended High Lord of Terra, this also makes her unique among her new peers.
Like all the codexes have come before, there is a lot of lore. Codex: Adepta Sororitas gives information on the major Orders, some other fan-favorite characters like Saint Celestine, and various other troops you might field in battle. However I want to call attention to the Warzone detailed in the codex because 1) I thought it was extremely fucking cool and 2) it does a fantastic job of highlighting the elements of faith woven through this faction.
Varentia II was an important part of the Varentia system; it was a steady source of labour, soldiers, and minerals along its equatorial belt. Like most planets in the Imperium, its citzens existed to provide 1 (or more) of these three things to the war effort. Also like most implanets in the Imperium, rule by the Heptarchy was brutal. In these conditions, the seeds of heresy were planted. Protests became riots, major cities were infiltrated by unknown heretics from far corners of the planet, and discontent simmered.
Recognizing the problems, the bishops of the Cathedrum Miarbilis entreated the nearby forces of the Order of Our Martyred Lady to intervene. Unfortunately the Pantheon of Chaos worked their energies to resist the Imperium as long as possible. Battered by warp storms, the Sisters were delayed by over a year and arrived to find an equatorial belt of cities that had fallen almost completely to chaos. This is where it gets good.
Not content to merely descent to the surface and wage war, the Sisters began with a campaign of holy vengeance. Aquila Landers dove close to the surface releasing blessed holy oils that ignite on contact with the air delivering a blanket of cleansing flame. Then, other fliers flew through the planet’s cloud cover seeding the clouds with holy water so that the very atmosphere of Varentia rained holy water onto the planet sanctifying the ground. Finally, as planet wide vox systems were overtaken by the Sisters’ prayers and hymns, Saraphim Squads descended through the clouds such that the rays of light created by their descent gave the appearance of being delivered by the God Emperor himself.
I mean there’s kicking ass and then there’s kicking ass with style.
Codex: Adepta Sororitas leans hard into the zealotous faith elements of the faction. It serves to separate the Sisters from other Imperial forces, and also is used to deftly show the brutal facism of the Imperium. Yes, the Imperium is still the protagonist and the Sisters are still one if its military arms but the fiction does a good job of bringing the grimdark to the forefront.
I also appreciate how the lore hammers home how brutal the lives of sisters are. The two-page narrative spread details the aftermath of a battle and shows the physical toll war takes on Sisters. These are no space marines with advanced biologies and lab-grown body parts. The Sisters are human, and thus battle is more painful and more permanent. This supports the changes in the art and model range we’ve seen with the launch of the new line.
Ultimately this has been one of my favorite new codexes from a lore perspective. I think a big part of that is we have a big new model line pushing a new direction and we went so long without a new book. Whatever the reason, I’m into it and am more excited than ever to continue my Sisters project.
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