Black Library Live 2018

I had the pleasure of attending Black Library Live 2018 last Saturday (16th June) and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  Despite a round trip of six hours after a tough week at work, it was worth the journey.

After arriving just in the nick of time, I started at 10am with an Age of Sigmar Seminar about the War of Souls with Josh Reynolds.  My knowledge of the Age of Sigmar is limited to bits I’ve read from short stories and White Dwarf.  I’m a huge fan of the world that was and Age of Sigmar has never floated my boat, though I’m not overtly hostile to it like a few people I know.  Josh was engaging, funny and was able to talk about the subject without confusing those like myself without a huge knowledge of the subject.  Listening to him talk about the current War of Souls event and the linked literature alongside it, I’m almost convinced to delve in to the lore of Age of Sigmar a bit more.  Any tips out there for where I should start with?

Next up was the highlight of the day: The Horus Heresy: Traitors United with Dan Abnett, John French and Neil Roberts.  Essentially it was Horus Heresy catch-up session as John French’s new novel, Slaves to Darkness was out that day, and it depicts the Traitor Legions getting ready for the final assault on Terra.  Dan and John confirmed that we are at ’10 minutes to midnight’ and that the siege is imminent.  They didn’t confirm but my best guess would be late 2019 for it to kick-off.  As ever, Dan and John were engaging and managed not to give too many spoilers away.  Perhaps more interesting was Neil Roberts talking about how he creates the Horus Heresy covers.  It was interesting to hear a different creative process to that of the authors and Neil was an excellent speaker.

The lunch break was next and I decided to avoid the cues at Bugman’s and get my shopping done instead.  I bought a lot more than I meant to…but that happens every time!  I picked up the next three novels in the HH series that I haven’t yet read – The Silent War, Praetorian of Dorn and Angels of Caliban.  I also picked up War of Secrets (latest Space Marines Conquests novel), Valuts of Terra: Carrion Throne and the new Primarchs Anthology, Sons of the Emperor…and the first book the Forge World Horus Heresy Campaign Series.  That should keep my busy for a while at least!

After my shopping spree it was time for Angels of the Emperor with Phil Kelly, Darius Hinks and Neil Roberts.  This was focussed mainly on Phil and Darius’ new novels, War of Secrets and Mephiston: The Revenant Crusade respectively.  War of Secrets sounds very interesting as it is about the Dark Angels and how the chapter is dealing with the influx of primaris marines.  Phil’s enthusiasm about it was very clear and I’m looking forward to getting started with it. Mephiston is mainly unknown to me, apart from his part in the Devastation of Bhaal; when I get through my current mountain of books though I might give him a go.  Again Neil Roberts spoke very well about creating the covers for the Space Marine Conquests series, where he gets to focus on one character for each cover, rather than the epic tapestries more common for the HH covers.

I ended the day with the Coming soon from Black Library session.  They went through a lot of new titles they will release in the next 12 months but the ones I am most excited about include:

  • Horus Heresy – Titans Death by Guy Haley – due out for Christmas and will involve more titans than we’ve ever seen before in an epic battle
  • Horus Heresy – Heralds of the Siege – an anthology that should provide a nice set of prologues before the siege commences
  • Celestine: the Living Saint by Andy Clark – a main character in the current 40k storyline and I expect it will be an epic story, if slightly different from the norm
  • Emperor’s Spear by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – our first look at a fully primaris chapter and as ever with Aaron’s books, it will be a hell of a story
  • Realmslayer by David Guymer – an audio drama with none over than the returned Gotrek Gurnisson…voiced by none other than Brian Blessed.  Maybe this is the story to get me in to Age of Sigmar.

All-in-all I had an excellent day and I’m looking forward to the Weekender in November.


Book Review – Dante by Guy Haley

I was never a big fan of the Blood Angels until I read James Swallow’s excellent Horus Heresy Novel Fear to Tread.  That opened up to me how complex the Blood Angels can be, even before Sanguinius’ death.  Last year I bought The Devastation of Baal by Guy Haley; an epic novel with the largest battles I ever think I’ve read in a Black Library novel.  I wish before I’d read it that I’d read what is essentially the prequel: Dante. 


Dante tells the story of the Blood Angels Chapter Master through the early part of his life but interspersed with Dante’s battles to slow down Hive Fleet Leviathan in the Cryptus System.  Flashbacks (or whatever the opposite is) don’t always work, but Haley has managed it impressively, showing Dante’s character at the two opposite ends of his very long life.

Dante is both a complex character, as would be expected from 1,500 years of life, but even as a child he comes across as thoughtful and a little bit different from the others.  His vitality and excitement at the beginning of his life are juxtaposed with his weariness in the fight against Leviathan.  The constant though, is his sense of duty and purpose; that never wavers throughout his life and keeps him going.

One of the highlights for me was reading in great detail the initiation and training of a Blood Angel.  I don’t think I’ve ever read such a detailed story for any other chapter and it was really interesting to see how the Blood Angels choose their candidates and whittle them down to the best of the best.  For me seeing Dante’s early life made him a much easier character to understand and I’d love to see something similar for some other famous Space Marines; the early life and times of Marneus Calgar anyone?

As a stand-alone book or as a duo with The Devastation of Baal, this is an excellent read.  I think Guy Haley is one of the Black Library’s best authors at the moment and I look forward to his next novel.

Ashes of Prospero by Gav Thrope – Review

Ashes of Prospero by 40k stalwart Gav Thorpe, is the second in the Space Marine Conquests series.  The series is a successor to the Space Marine Battles series and is focusing on the events that make up the new 40k universe post the great rift opening.

Unsurprisingly Ashes of Prospero involves old sparring partners the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons.  I’ve read A Thousands Sons, Prospero Burns and the War of the Fang, so I’m pretty au fait with the emnity between the two and it was interesting to read a new story in this long saga.

The story centres upon Njal Stormcaller, the pre-eminent Rune Priest in the Space Wolves.  A mistake leads to a Thousands Sons sorcerer from the heresy era enter his mind, leading Njal to mount an expedition to Prospero.  The expedition is in the hope of finding the remnants of the 13th company and maybe even hope for a sign of Russ himself.

Image result for ashes of prospero

For me, the story was one of two halves.  The first half was the set-up and focussed on Njal and his mistake.  I enjoyed his interaction with the great Logan Grimnar but I also found myself struggling through it a bit, I think because very little actually happens.  I usually enjoy the non-action parts more than the action parts, but in this book it was definitely the other way around.

The second half is excellent and as good as some of my favourite other Black Library novels.  The action starts as soon as they hit Propsero and the battles through the portal maze are excellently described and very exciting.  The suspicion Njal is held in by Arjac is also very well done.

Overall it is a good book but you have to persevere through the first half.  I think Bjorn and Lukas are criminally under-used, though Lukas at the end is very entertainingly portrayed.  The revelations of the book should make future Space Wolf novels interesting, as well as opening up possibilities for other chapters…or should I say legions?


Thoughts on…The Magos by Dan Abnett

As anyone who has read this blog before will know, I am a huge fan of Dan Abnett’s Black Library novels.  I’ve read all of the Eisenhorn, Ravenor, Gaunt’s Ghosts and Horus Heresy novels, and a few of his other stand-alone books as well.  Without exception, I’ve enjoyed every one of them.  Imagine then my excitement when his new Eisenhorn novel was announced!

I’ve just finished the novel, which includes all of Eisenhorn’s short stories (and some Ravenor as well) plus the new novel, The Magos.  It was an excellent read all-round, with the short stories building perfectly and linking in to to the new novel.  The book also includes a suggested reading order for the entire series and next time around, I’m going to try and follow it and see if that improves the overall experience.

In summary, the book contains the following stories:

  • Pestilence – the story of an outbreak of a disease and a journey to find a cure for it
  • Master Imus’ Transgression – a story originally available as an audio and concerning the far of poor Master Imus, who has come across a problem he has flagged to the inquisition
  • Regia Occulta – also originally available in audio and one of my favourites, concerning an early case of an Eisenhorn in a backwater town – his only encounter with an Ork I think
  • Missing in Action – Eisenhorn’s loses a hand…a sad tale of former misguided veterans
  • Backcloth for a Crown Additional – Eisenhorn and the carnival. A very different story that reminds of something from Midsomer Murders (though in a good way)
  • The Strange Demise of Titus Endor – also the sad demise of Titus Endor. Broken and confused, this is the story of Eisenhorn’s old friend and his final days
  • The Curiosity – our first encounter with the excellent Magos Drusher and his crazy adventures.
  • Playing Patience – How Patience Kys came to be part of Ravenor’s group
  • Thorn Wishes Talon – Ravenor meets his old mentor who warns him of future events
  • Gardens of Tycho – Drusher returns with Macks with another curiosity to solves
  • The Keeler Image – Eisenhorn’s hunt for the Cognitae takes a bad turn. The link back to the Horus Heresy is excellent
  • Perihelion – Ravenor and Eisenhorn meet again under very different circumstances
  • The Magos – Eisenhorn investigates the Cognitae again and finds himself needing the help of Drusher and Macks.  It’s an excellent story and explains a lot about Eisenhorn, with Drusher as a catalyst for maybe making Eisenhorn think about who he really should be.  I won’t say much more but it is one of my favourite stories already, with the cast of characters possibly the best of any of Abnett’s Black Library novels.

I won’t spoil the links between the stories but they are very rewarding when you notice them.

If you’ve read Pariah I strongly recommend that you read this volume first, I think everything will make a lot more sense and make for a more rewarding experience.


40k – Black Library’s Novels about Imperial Institutions

Most books about 40k produced by the Black Library understandably focus on Space Marines, Astra Militarum and big battles, or any combination of the three.  There are though plenty of good books out there taking a different look at the 40k universe through Imperial Institutions.  I’ll gloss over the Inquisition as this is a whole genre to itself; instead I’ll focus on those that have had less written about them.


The Enforcer Series by Matthew Farrer

As I understand it, these are the only novels focusing on the Adeptus Arbites, the Imperium’s galactic police force.  The trilogy of books does look at the Arbites through the eyes of the officer Shira Calpurnia, but each novel then diverges investigating other institutions; I think a great way to look at the other side of the 40k universe.  They are worth a read for this insight and I personally think Shira is an excellent character.  The series consists of:

Crossfire – investigating assassinations in dockyards/navy

Legacy – where Shira has to deal with the legacy of a dead Rogue Trader

Blind – investigating the Adeptus Astra Telepathica


Rogue Trader by Andy Hoare

The new omnibus edition contains the whole trilogy and a couple of short stories, charting the adventures of the Rogue Trader Lucian Gerrit. I’ve only just stated reading it so I can’t say too much but I am really enjoying it.  It is a nice change of pace from normal 40k fare and the universe seems as grim and as dark as ever.


Assassinorum: Execution Force by Joe Parrino

There a plenty of stories involving assassins and even some with them as the lead, think Nemesis in the HH series.  This is one of my favorites though, with the four main assassin types hunting down a Chaos Sorcerer Lord.  An excellent insight in to the different types of assassins and their interaction (or lack of) together.


Forges of Mars by Graham McNeill

The Mechanicum does actually get a lot of attention but it feels a world away from the Space Marines and Imperial Guard.  This is the definitive book for anyone wanting to get a better insight in to the Mechanicum and read an excellent story at the same time.  This is the omnibus edition containing all of the saga of a Mechanicum Explorator fleet going out to the edge of space and finding all sorts of interesting things on the way.  As ever McNeill has crafted an epic story and it is one of the best short series for 40k, let alone the Mechanicum.

The best Warhammer Old World Novels & Series – Part II

With the enduring popularity of the Total War: Warhammer series, I though it was time to revisit the ‘World that was’ and look at some of the other best novels and series that the setting has.


Gilead by Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent

This author pairing appeared on my first list with the excellent Hammers of Ulric.  Gilead is a different beast altogether and across two novels and a short story they chart the riveting tales of the High Elf Shadowfast warrior.  It is a great exploration of the old world, particularly through the viewpoint of a relative stranger to it.  Highly recommended as a good starting point to the Old World.  The series includes:

Gilead’s Blood – the starting point.  A collection of short stories

Gilead’s Curse – the follow up with a single novel.  Lots of Skaven!

Gilead’s Craft – a very short story but a great insight in to the lead character


Archaon by Rob Sanders

A two novel series from one of my favourite BL authors, who I think is rather underrated.  The series fills a very important gap in the history of the Old World, looking at the origins of the Lord of the End Times.  I think Sanders has done a great job with a potentially difficult subject, giving the read a real insight in to how Archaon became who he is.  If you know how the world ends, the Archaon duology is a must read before you delve in to the end times.  The series includes:

Everchosen – from Sigmarite Warrior to follow of Chaos

Lord of Chaos – becoming the Lord of the End Times

The Ambassador Chronicles by Graham McNeill

In my eyes the second best Black Library author (after Dan Abnett) has written one of the best short series set in the Old World.  First of all it is manly set in Kislev, where only really Gotrek & Felix have explored.  Secondly the character isn’t a traditional warrior or adventurer, he is an Ambassador (!). This turns the focus to politics and intrigue, well away from the normal world of Warhammer that we are all used to.  Admittedly the second book does revert more to adventure and battle but still, it is a unique take on the world that was and I highly recommend for anyone wanting something a little bit different.  The series includes:

The Ambassador – Politics and Intrigue in Kislev

Ursun’s Teeth – Battle looms versus a Chaos horde

The Black Plague by C.L. Werner

This omnibus covers all of C.L. Werner’s excellent Black Plague novels, covering a period of history approximately 1500 years before the End Times.  The Skaven have unleashed the black plague, the dead are rising in Sylvania and there is zero leadership in the Empire to combat this.  Only in the final book of the trilogy does the tide truly turn and a hero rise to save the day.  It is a rip-roaring read but also very dark in places, a combination that Werner often manages excellently.  If you like your Old World history and an eventual victory against the odds, then this is for you.


The Doom of Dragonback by Gav Thorpe

Dwarfs are by far my favourite race in the Old World but their story is one of almost constant tragedy.  This Time of Legends novel looks at the mine of Ekrund in the western Badlands during a time where the Dwarfs are constantly embattled and losing strongholds.  The tale shows the Dwarfs at their best, being stubborn and fighting against the odds.  I think this is a great way to show the Dwarfs during their time of struggle and gives a great insight in to their psyche.  Highly recommended reading and make sure you take back Ekrund if you are playing TW:W or Mortal Empires!

The Best Warhammer Undead & Tomb King Novels

With the imminent release of the Tomb Kings DLC for Total War: Warhammer II, it is worth exploring the excellent novels that the Black Library have produced for the undead legions.  If you really want to immerse yourself with the DLC and understand the main protagonists a bit more, these novels are the best introduction to do so.

The Rise of Nagash Omnibus by Mike Lee

It is dark, brutal and occasionally horrifying; Mike Lee’s trilogy shows the rise of Nagash and how the land of Khemri became a wasteland populated by nothing more than skeletal legions.  It is also shows the beginning of the vampires and their various lines.  At times it feels like it is nothing to do with the Warhammer world, just simply an epic story of greed and power set in a quasi-ancient Egypt type land.  This is where it all begins for the undead and I highly recommend reading it as a starting point.

Vampire Wars: The von Carstein Trilogy by Steven Savile

Another classic covering a lot of old world history.  I think I can safely say it is one of the darkest Warhammer series I’ve ever read, but it is expertly done by Steven Savile who is a horror writer by trade.  The trilogy covers each of the famous von Carstein brood – Vlad, Konrad and Manfred – and their various exploits and reigns of terror throughout history.  It is dark and it is very brutal but to get a proper sense of the Vampire Counts, this is the perfect read.

The Red Duke by C.L Werner

You might not be able to conventionally play as Mousillon in TW:W2 but you can with a faction unlock mod and they are an annoying faction to play against if you are Bretonnia.  Leading Mousillon is the infamous Red Duke, a Blood Dragon Knight who has terrorised Bretonnian lands throughout old world history.  This story tells of his resurrection and the bloodthirsty events that transpire as a result – it isn’t for the faint of heart!

Ulrika by Nathan Long

Ulrika plays a huge part in the early Gotrek & Felix novels, as both the love interest of Felix and a formidable character in her own right.  At the end of Vampireslayer (spoiler alert) Ulrika has been turned in to a Vampire and Nathan Long took up the challenge of writing a series for her.  He did an excellent job and the series shows a conflicted soul who doesn’t want to be a vampire but is trying to deal with the situation as best as she can.  It isn’t as gory or brutal as the other stories on the list, and it doesn’t have the epic scale or legendary characters either, but I do think it is the best written series in the Warhammer world regarding the undead.

Blood of Nagash by Josh Reynolds

This is a two book series looking at two progenitors of the Vampire Bloodlines.  The first, Neferata, follows the former Queen and first ever Vampire (read the Rise of Nagash for more details) as she searches for a new purpose in (un)life.  There also an interesting dynamic with the Ushoran, the progenitor of the Strigoi Vampires.  The second book, Master of Death, follows W’soran, the progenitor of the Necrarch Vampires.  Again Ushoran plays a big role with a civil war in the undead kingdom of Mourkain.  Both books are good sequels to the Rise of Nagash and give a good insight in to how the various bloodlines of Vampires came to be as they are.

Top 5 Ultramarines Books

The Ultramarines, the archetypal Space Marine; loyal, tactically astute and tougher than old boots.  The don’t have the flair or mystery of other chapters, such as the Dark Angels and Space Wolves, but they (and their successors) are the most dependable Space Marines in the 40k universe.  It means they aren’t the most popular chapter amongst the fans but I’ve always had a soft spot for them and I’m delighted with the decision for Guilliman to return.

There have been a lot of novels with the Ultramarines as the leads and here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

Note: This does not include any Horus Heresy novels.


The Ultramarines Series by Graham McNeill

For anyone wanting to read about Ultramarines, this is the place to start.  Graham McNeill’s excellent Ultramarines Series charts the career of Uriel Ventris across six novels and a number of short stories.  Although it focuses on Ventris, the series shows what it is to be an Ultramarines, as well as what it takes to not be an Ultramarine.

Best place to start with the Volume One Omnibus.


Calgar’s Siege by Paul Kearney

This is one of my favourite 40k books of all time, showing the Ultramarines Chapter Master Marneus Calgar facing overwhelming odds (almost) single-handed.  It has great supporting characters (humans and space marines), an excellent plot and a surprising ending.  From a purely Ultramarines interest point of view, the perspective on what it means to be the Chapter Master is particularly interesting.

Damnos by Nick Kyme

Unless you count some of the Horus Heresy novels, seeing the Ultramarines being outclassed and outmanoeuvred is an unusual read.  Damnos shows this though, where the Ultramarines meet their match with the Necrons.  It may be a defeat but the Ultramarines are able to turn it in to a glorious one.  It contains some great famous characters, including Chief Librarian Tigurius and Captain Sicarius.  The book contains both the novel The Fall of Damnos and the novella Spear of Macragge.

Cassius by Ben Counter

So above we’ve already seen some famous Ultramarines faces, this novel (unsurprisingly) focuses on their famous chaplain Cassius.  It was nice to see a proper Ultramarines vs Tyranids battle in this, particularly with the two sides history.  It’s in my top 5 due to the ingredients of overwhelming odds, a complex character in Cassius that was handled really well by the author and some excellent battle scenes.

Dark Imperium by Guy Haley

Now to the most famous Ultramarine of them all – Roboute Guilliman.  Dark Imperium brings the Ultramarines up-to-date with the new events in the 40k world and most importantly, their Primarch’s resurrection.  The fighting isn’t particularly important or interesting in this book, it is all about learning about the returned Guilliman and how he is coping in a galaxy 10,000 years removed from what he knew.  This is a must read for Ultramarine fans and for anyone wanting to get up-to-date in the new 40k galaxy.

Top 5 Dan Abnett 40k and Horus Heresy Books

Dan Abnett is in my opinion the best of the authors that the Black Library is lucky enough to have on its books.  He wrote their first novel all the way back in 1998 (happy to be corrected on that) and is still going strong, despite a short absence of his writing in the 40k and 30k universes.   Picking a top 5 has been tricky but here goes:



5. Double Eagle

40k meets the battle of Britain in an excellent fighter pilot action novel set in the Sabbat Worlds, with a few familiar faces from the Gaunt’s Ghost Novel The Guns of Tanith.  It is an easily readable stand-alone book with well-rounded characters, epic action sequences and a good plot; all Dan Abnett hallmarks.  The good news is that a squeal may appear in the medium-term future Interceptor City; as Abnett himself said at the Black Library Weekender 2017, the idea would be for dogfights to actually happen inside a hive city structure!


4. Legion (Horus Heresy)

The best of the early Horus Heresy novels sees Abnett write about the enigmatic and elusive Alpha Legion.  The events are essentially divorced from the wider crusade/heresy, meaning it can be read on its own, though events and characters from it play out in future novels in the series.  The Alpha Legion come across as possibly the most intelligent (and coolest) of the legions, with their style of warfare refreshingly different from the others.  The novel also introduces the perpetuals that have ended up being one of my favourite story-lines in the series.


3. Necropolis (Gaunt’s Ghosts)

My heart would put this at number one as it is one of my favourite books from my teenage years.  It is the final book in the founding trilogy for the ghosts and it sees them at their best against the odds.  It is essentially one long siege and it focuses on the whole battle, not just what the ghosts are involved in; it also focuses a lot on Gaunt itself.  It is a good read on its own but I think you really need to read the first two books before getting to this, and they are worth reading (as excellent as they are) just to get to Necropolis.


2. Know No Fear (Horus Heresy)

This is all about the infamous betrayal at Calth; one of the most famous and until this novel, one of the most confusing events in the Heresy.  This puts the record straight and show the Word Bearers at their evil worst and the Ultramarines at their indomitable best.  It has everything, with the most devastating pre-emptive strike ever, against the odds heroics and Guilliman going psychotic.  It is one of those books I struggled to put down and one I would happily read again and again.


1. The Eisenhorn Trilogy

Not only is this Dan Abnett’s best black library work, it is the best in the Black Library overall.  Eisenhorn is a very compelling character and his struggles with his morals and choosing the right course are what makes the trilogy so excellent.  It is also interesting to see the Imperium (and beyond) outside of the confines of war; you get to see the more ‘normal’ parts of the universe, although through the eyes of a most un-normal character.  It isn’t just the character elements of it, there are also some amazing set-pieces and fantastical worlds portrayed.  I am delighted another Eisenhorn novel is on the way in early 2018 and long may his adventures continue.

Top 3 Black Library Books – 2017

2017 has been a pretty good year for the Black Library, with some consistently good releases.  It is also probably the first year in a while where I have purchased so many of their books.  Below is my top 3 for 2017 – note that they may not have been released last year, but they are all at least newish and I’ve actually read them this year.

The Devastation of Bhaal by Guy Haley

Beyond the Horus Heresy, I’ve never read anything about the Blood Angels or anything involving Tyranids, but after hearing Guy Haley talk about this book at the Black Library Weekender 2017, I was moved to purchase it.  I was not disappointed and I ended up reading it in only a couple of days, despite it being approximately 500 pages long.  Quite simply it is an epic page-turner, with fleet actions, an against-odds siege and supremely satisfying ending.  I wish I had read Dante by Guy Haley first as I believe I’m missing a fair bit of backstory, but nonetheless I really enjoyed it.  If you buy only one Black Library novel at the moment, buy this one.


Shrike by George Mann

As with the Blood Angels, I’m not a huge fan of the Raven Guard; I find Corax far too cold in the Horus Heresy (although in fairness he has good reasons).  I did though find Shrike a very good book, with George Mann doing an excellent job of getting behind Shrike’s personality.  The thread that is woven throughout each of the three individual stories really worked and showed Shrike’s qualities, but also his flaws.  On a practical level, Raven Guard versus Orks is always entertaining, with the hit and run tactics of the Raven Guard contrasting with the brute force of the orks.  If you like your super-human warriors with a bit of personality and/or love a good Ork fight, then this is for you.


Calgar’s Siege by Paul Kearney

Ultramarines were my introduction to 40k and I’ve always had a soft spot for them, and I’m very pleased that Roboute Guilliman has returned.  Marneus Calgar should not be forgotten about though, and this space marine battles book shows him at this best; with the novel filling in a legendary story mentioned in the codexes about Calgar holding a a gate single-handedly against a horde of orks.  Calgar finds himself stranded on a planet under Ork invasion and he only has a handful of space marines with him.  He takes charge of the defence and what follows is an epic siege battle.  The characters are excellently written; the dreamer planetary governor and the ageing rogue trader being prime examples.  Overall it is an excellent read and one I will definitely go back to.


Quick thoughts on 2018

I might be wrong, but I think my best of 2018 might include: