Book three in the Realmgate Wars series, Hammers of Sigmar once again combines two novellas into a single volume, collecting together Stormcast by Darius Hinks and Scion of the Storm from CL Werner. Both are new story arcs, Hinks tackling a Stormcast chamber sent to reclaim a daemon-infested Realmgate while Werner introduces Sigmar’s greatest champion – the Celestant Prime – who’s tasked with rescuing a lost force of Stormcast and defeating a Tzeentchian champion.
In the first novella, Stormcast, we’re introduced to the Hammers of Sigmar led by Tylos Stormbound and the Lord-Relictor Boreas, brothers by blood with a backstory that’s explored a little but mostly left ambiguous. The first Age of Sigmar tale to be told in first person, there’s an enjoyable sense of immediacy and personality to it that’s often been missing elsewhere, and helps to make each of the viewpoint characters that little bit more relatable. While Tylos is the main protagonist, it’s probably Boreas’ arc which is the most effective, delving as it does into his past and broadening the scope of the story to add a fresher feel to what might have been a stale plot. We’ve seen plenty of Stormcast vs Khorne action already, but here it’s sufficiently different in style to remain interesting, and while it occasionally veers into cliche and there’s a few too many characters grabbing their honour scrolls (which just sounds weird), overall it’s a fun addition to the series.
Werner’s contribution is noticeably shorter than Hinks’, with considerably less than half the page count and a much simpler story. Dispatched on his mission as a test of his purpose, the Celestant Prime is a Bourne-esque figure filled with power but lacking in knowledge of himself, driven by an increasingly clear goal but unaware of his past or his previous identity. It’s a pretty straightforward plot, focusing more on vivid descriptions and solid, if not exceptional action scenes than much in the way of character development. There’s no real sense of peril, and it suffers for being somewhat predictable, but it’s entertaining enough as an introduction to a new character. This one definitely could have done with being a bit longer, so that Werner might have had a bit more space to let the characters breathe.
So we get the Hammers of Sigmar and the literal hammer of Sigmar, making this probably the most closely-themed of these early novels/novella collections. With the second story so much shorter than the first it feels like the pacing isn’t quite right, and you wonder whether the Celestant Prime’s introduction might not have worked better in first person as well, but there’s enough here to enjoy to make it worth reading. Taken as a whole this follows the trend of the series by not quite managing to fully satisfy, but the signs are there that the Age of Sigmar as a setting has got enough variety and depth to develop and become something really good fun in the long run.