Black Library Novella Series 1

A book review of the new NOVELLA series by Black Library.

Recently Black Library published the first ten books of a new run of novellas which span their range of worlds. From the dark and polluted ruins of the Underhive of Necromunda, to the vast magical peaks of the 8 Realms of the Age of Sigmar, these books take you on a wild series of adventures. They are a nice length for an evening read each and whilst they don’t have the length of a full novel, they still have room to develop characters and give you far more flavour of the worlds they take part in.

The Bloodied Rose by Danie Ware – Sisters of Battle (40K)
Steel Daemon by Ian St Martin – Imperial Guard (40K)
Auric Gods by Nick Kyme – Custodes (Space Marines – 40K)
Spear of Ultramar by David Annandale – Horus Heresy (prequel to Siege of Terra series)
Dreadwing by David Guymer – Horus Heresy (prequel to Siege of Terra series)
Wanted: Dead by Mike Brooks – House Escher (Necromunda)
Warqueen by Darius Hinks – Dark Oath (Age of Sigmar)
The Red Hours by Evan Dicken – Sigmarites (Age of Sigmar)
The Bone Desert by Robbie MacNiven – Gotrek Gurnisson (Age of Sigmar)
Heart of Winter by Nick Horth – Scourge Privateers (Age of Sigmar)

As you can see there’s a fair smattering of stories from the fantasy and the futuristic. Some are clearly tied to major recent publications and soon to be publications, such as Horus Heresy and Gotrek; whilst others are more free form stories set within their respective worlds. As they are shorter books I will provide a short summary review for those I’ve read below.

WARQUEEN by Darius Hinks. This is a powerful story that presents a fresh angle on worshippers of the Chaos gods and focuses on the lesser known Dark Oath factions. Brave and mighty barbarian tribes that worship the Chaos Gods. If any reading have ever read any of the Conan stories/comics or seen the various films (esp the classic with Arnald) then the Dark Oath feel lifted right out of the Hyborean age. Whilst with more trust to magic than your average Cimmerian, they are still akin to that classic warlike wild image. These are not crazed nor mindless characters and they retain a stronger sense of their humanity and emotions.

Within this story is war, betrayal and discovery. Follow a mighty warqueen as she seeks to unite her people under a single banner, to forge them into a single army that can carry them beyond the plains they have warred over for generations in the Age of Chaos. To bring them into the Age of Sigmar and make them a threat for all the world to fear. I would say of all those I’ve read thus far this is my favourite of the series.

 

HEART OF WINTER by Nick Horth. This story is cold. Not just from the frigid lands in which it takes place, where biting winds, ice slick surfaces and frostbite are around every corner; but with the characters that fill the story with their taste for blood, slavery, betrayal and revenge. Aelf pirates without equal, who are the literal scourge of the high seas. Those who have a passing understanding of the Old World (or who have been playing Warhammer Total War 2) will recognise some mighty icons from the past appear again within the Realms as a mighty Black Ark features prominently in this tale.
Of interest this story also ties strongly into the development of the Realms and the Age of Sigmar and is perhaps one of the stories that is the most “recent” in the time line. Whilst it does not focus upon those golden warriors from Sigmar, it does show how their society and the new Order is going. Giving us an idea of the rebirth, the rebuilding and the political shifts that are taking place within the Realms. It’s a view of the world generations beyond the end of the Age of Chaos; where only aged Aelves might remember the Cursed blight that was upon the land. This adds greatly to the story and makes it a fascinating read beyond the development of the background of another faction. Those who are fans of the Daughters of Khaine would also find this story of interest, for its not just scourge Aelves who inhabit the bloody pirate strongholds. Places of slavery, death, blood and fighting attract those piests and worshippers of the bloody God of Murder.

WANTED: DEAD by Mike Brooks. Necromunda lends itself well to the short story market and this tale does not disappoint in the least. We see the classic Necromunda battle between Houses Escher and Goliath, but things are not always so simple as the might appear on the surface in this dark, dank world of the Underhive. There’s also a tale of love woven into this and of loyalties which are fine additions to the lore of Necromunda, where betrayal and selfish interests can often appear to rule much of the action. It adds to the rich tapestry of the world and shows that the Underhive, for all its lack of education and structure, is possibly one of the most varied settings in the 41st millennium.
We also get a sense of how individual each gang within a Great House is, how they are almost alone as they carve out their own little corner of the Underhive and defend it to the last against any competition.

 

THE BLOODIED ROSE  by Danie Ware. Welcome to the world of the Sisters of Battle, women monks of a powerful militant order who are bound to serve the one true Emperor of Mankind and protect humanity from the threats of the heretic, the mutant, the xeno and the corrupt. The story here touches at the very foundation of the war of mankind vs the darkness of the universe and follies of the long forgotten past of mankind when they originally spread through the stars in ages past.

The religious element is woven into this story well and builds a fantastic mental picture of the churches and religious order of the Sisters. Of how they worship in battle, of how prayer and unity with their sisters armours them against the darkness of the universe and how those dark forces might see to corrupt and tempt them.

The story starts off building a fantastic sense of mystery, touched with the edge of horror. Carrying the reader forward eagerly with page after page as one seeks to uncover the truth of an abandoned settlement and the dark forces that have led to its twisted, macabre end.

 

If you are interested in reading these stories and others in the series, then they are up for sale now. At £3 each for print or digital, or if you get them direct from the Black Library website there’s a £3 discount if you get the whole series of 10 in one go (digital or print). The price is well worth it and this series makes the fantastic in-fill whilst you’re waiting for that next reprint of Inferno Classic or the upcoming New Inferno issue 2

Print Collection

Digital Collection

Inferno – the Classic Era

A review of the reprints of INFERNO by Black Library

Last month Games Workshop started doing print on order of the first run of 5 issues of their classic Inferno series magazine. This was run biomonthly from 1997 to 2004 and features short stories from all the worlds of Games Workshop of the time – Warhammer Classic, Warhammer 40K, Necromunda and others – as well as comics, artwork, cutways, maps and other similar content.

As such they are a fantastic eye into the grim dark worlds that Games Workshop has created, giving you a touch of flavour and adventure as well as a bit more background.

These are high quality reprints made identically to their original versions, even down to the page of advertisements, addresses, prices and even the questionnaire on the last page of the first edition. It’s all here 100% authentic in beautiful black and white (within the pages) as it was when it was first hot off the printers all those years ago.

I was originally on the fence and found it hard to find much info on these and the stories they contain, however as GW was selling them at £5 each and £25 for the set I figured I’d take a leap and give them a try, esp since searching around Ebay showed that the original copies were selling for around those prices anyway. The first series of 5 has now finished its order run (sorry I didn’t get mine till the last days so couldn’t write this any sooner); however they are planning to return to print the entire series from start to finish. Each coming as a set of 5 for a month on print on demand (which is typically pretty fast turn around).

I couldn’t be more pleased with these, high quality printing and some great material and background to really immerse yourself in the lore and settings. The stories are well written and fun adventures. Note that some do appear in later collected editions (eg the Necromunda Story “The Demon Bottle” Also features in Status Deadzone collection), however others are fully stand alone and have not been reprinted by the Black Library. The comics, cutaways and other content have also, again, mostly never been reprinted outside of Inferno.

The stories are well written and have all that punch and wild fun that one would expect from adventure stories set within grim dark settings. From tales of Space Marines against Monstrous first generation Tyranids (the classic Screamer Killer and the old “Alien movie” style hormagaunts); to demonic incursions into the Underhive of Necromunda through to swords and spells as adventurers quest for ancient magical artifacts in dark caves (who also features a barbarian who sounds like he’s right out of the 80s Arnold Schwarzenegger era of films – accent and all). Some of these one off stories stand alone, others are the very early days and adventures of some heroes who later became big names in their own right, such as the mighty Gotrek and Felix!
The authors are wide ranging, some who have come and gone others who have remained with Games Workshop and Black Library for decades – Andy Jones, Jonathan Green, Gav Thorpe and so many more.

The comics vary in their styles of the artist and in what they are conveying, from short one offs to longer running series such as Obvious Tactics. Again another great way to look into the dark world of the 41st Millennium or the deep gothic mystical world of Fantasy.

 

If you were on the fence before I’d encourage you  to take the leap and get into this series if you can, even if you only pick up a few direct from Games Workshop. Quite a few are still lurking around on ebay and other secondhand book stores – so if you’ve missed the start its not too late. Meanwhile anyone who already has a collection with a few gaps this is a perfect situation to pick up those issues that you missed out on.

Skaven Pestilens

A book review of SKAVEN PESTILENS by Josh Reynolds

This is a special book for me as it was not only my first foray into the blighted world of the Skaven, not just my  first look at the proper lore and world of Age of Sigmar, but my  first ever full Black Library book that I read. Having spent many years as a Tyranid fan and a fringe fan of many other armies (ergo not fully invested), I’d never really delved deep into the lore of 40K nor the Old World of Fantasy Warhammer.

So from the get go I should say that I really recommend this title!

Within you discover the filth infested, back stabbing world of the Skaven of two Pestliens Clans as they fight over their conquest of a city that crumbles as their rotting blighted powers and war engines tear it to bits. The very ground beneath this vast city being burrowed into by the skaven as they feast on the flesh of the vast living wyrm that forms the foundations. Yes this is a war on the move and the mental images and descriptions that Josh creates are as epic as Age of Sigmar can aspire to be. Vast cities built atop even greater wyrms that wander a vast open plain, the various cities warring with each other and the twisted blights of Chaos that have crept into the world during the Age of Chaos.

Into this we have the Skaven as they seek something a relic from the Old World that was, but they are not alone. For into this destroyed city march the shining beacons of the Stormcast, come to cleanse the great beast and free the peoples of the city and awaken the great Realm Gate nestled in a temple built atop its head. However even their might is not enough to overcome the thick smoke and plagues of the Skaven, allies have to be found not just from the released captives of the city, but also from other races. From an old and ancient race that comes not just to fight the blight of Skaven and Chaos, but with their own motivations and ideals as well.

This is a book filled with magic and battles and Josh expertly balances the forces involved and the heroes that arise within each army. We see and get a fantastic flavour for the races involved and see the personal aspirations of characters as they seek to achieve their various objectives.

The only real criticism I have after reading is that I wish it were longer. I would have loved to have read the beginning of the war when the city was first under siege and the Skaven arose to fight the peoples of the wyrm; and I would love to read more of the story after the events in the book. I really hope that Josh gets to return to the world of the Skaven as he’s got a good talent for writing about these dark, twisted, slightly (if not totally) mad rats.

As I said at the start this is one book that I’d strongly recommend reading, though as noted just below in the links, I’d also recommend that you grab a copy of the Legends of the Age of Sigmar since you can then also tip into the worlds of two other major races as they awaken and throw off the shackles of Chaos invasion; leaving behind the Age of Chaos and bathing in the blood and light of the Age of Sigmar.

I recommend getting this book as part of the Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Omnibus 1 as for the same price as the book on its own, you get a selection of other great novels focusing on the Fyreslayers and the Sylvaneth.

Also available on Amazon and other good book stores.