Black Library Weekly – W/C 05/12/16

Hello and welcome to another instalment of Black Library Weekly, where I take a look at the Black Library-related news from the week just gone – announcements, pre-orders and new releases.

Advent is rolling on this week, with a full set of seven stories released one per day, although it’s not just been short stories that have seen the light of day. The weekend saw all manner of titles released or announced, including the expected refresh of the Coming Soon section on Black Library’s website, and overall it’s been another impressive week!

Instead of the usual structure, I’m going to take a look at all of the week’s Advent Calendar content first, then move on to the rest of the news and releases. So without further ado…

Advent
Seven new stories this week (two audio dramas and five short stories), covering all four of the Advent Calendar’s touchstones – Heresy, 40k, Age of Sigmar and Blood Bowl. I’m getting hold of these via the subscription (more on that later) but if you’re picking and choosing it looks like the pricing is remaining consistent across the series, with short stories retailing at £1.99 and audio dramas coming in at £2.99 – at least so far.

  • The Calculus of Battle by David Guymer – an Iron Hands audio drama that features Kardan Stronos as he is in the current timeline. A nice little one-shot before The Eye of Medusa drops and we get to see Stronos as he was back in the day.
  • Fixed by Robbie MacNiven – the first of three Blood Bowl short stories that are due over the course of the month. Daft, entertaining and full of all the expected Blood Bowl characteristics.
  • The Grey Raven by Gav Thorpe – a Horus Heresy story that follows the Raven Guard Chief Librarian after his exit in Weregeld. Not as dark as that novella is, but still not a happy story. Links in with another long-running Heresy story arc.
  • Wraithbound by JC Stearns – a 40k story featuring eldar Crimson Hunters taking on orks. The first Black Library fiction from Stearns, it’s an impressive debut and a characterful look at the eldar and their way of making war.
  • The Soul, Severed by Chris Wraight – a Horus Heresy audio drama featuring Eidolon and his Kakophoni. At once utterly over the top and deceptively thoughtful, it’s the first time we’ve heard Noise Marines in an audio. Guess how that goes…!
  • Prodigal by Josh Reynolds – another Fabius Bile story to accompany Primogenitor, it’s light on action but heavy on character, showing a side to Fabius that you might not have expected to see. Fatherly Fabius, who’d have thought it?
  • Bear Eater by David Guymer – the week’s only Age of Sigmar tale, following the Astral Templars as they attempt to warn a strangely Chaos-free city about the dangers of letting vampires through the door.

Of the seven, the two audio dramas are both fantastic examples of why audio is the right medium for certain stories. The Kakophoni just wouldn’t be as entertaining on paper, that’s for sure! Check them out if you’re a fan of audio dramas – The Soul, Severed will inevitably get a prose release eventually (won’t be as good) but you might not see that happen with Guymer’s Iron Hands story.

In terms of short stories it was a really good bunch, with a nice mixture of styles and settings. For me, any Blood Bowl story is a highlight so I really enjoyed Fixed even if I did get a touch confused once or twice in the thick of the action. Other than that they were all enjoyable, but a highlight would probably be Prodigal purely – and this is a bit of a SPOILER so skip ahead if you’d prefer to avoid it – for the depiction of Fabius deep in conversation with his half human, half daemon daughter! Yep, you read that right. Fabius’ daughter. Wow.

Check out my Advent Calendar page for links to all of the reviews and a list (in as much detail as I can get) of what’s coming up next.

New releases
On top of all the short stories, this week saw two brand new Black Library novels released, although both had been available to pre-order for a while. First up was Space Marine Legends: Azrael by Gav Thorpe, the latest in that series after Ragnar Blackmane, Cassius and Shrike. Priced as usual at £40 for the Limited Edition hardback and £14.99 for the ebook it’s not cheap, but the hardback does look like a nice package and if you can’t stretch to the price then the standard hardback should be out in a few months. That went up on general sale on Friday, continuing the trend of having some of the bigger titles released on Fridays prior to the rest of the releases at the weekend.

The second novel was Tyrant of the Hollow Worlds by Mark Clapham, the latest in the Space Marine Battles series. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Huron Blackheart in a novel (not since 2011’s The Gildar Rift) so it’s cool to see him back, and as with the last few in the series this is released as a hardback (£18) first, along with the usual ebook (£9.99).

There was just the one other Black Library release, which was the combined audio package of LJ Goulding’s The Heart of the Pharos and Anthony Reynolds’ Children of Sicarus, available as an MP3 for £9.99 or a CD for £12. Both of those were previously released as MP3s, at £6.99 and £4.99 respectively, which makes the combined MP3 a pretty good price with a saving of £1.98. They’re both really good stories too, so if you haven’t listened to them then I’d definitely suggest checking them out.

After that there were a couple more releases, but this time from Games Workshop. Following on from last week’s traitor-themed releases, this time we got the loyalist versions, starting with the Imperial Agents codex supplement in all of the formats – £25 in softback, £24.99 as an enhanced ebook, £19.99 for the standard ebook and £14.99 for the tablet edition. Secondly we got Index Imperialis: Apocyrpha, collecting together 30 years of articles about the Imperium, in just the two formats – hardback for £20 or tablet edition for £14.99.

News
The focus this week seems to have been on releases rather than wider news, what with all the Advent stories and the new books at the weekend. The main bit of news was the refresh of the Coming Soon section on Black Library’s website, which saw January’s releases go up for pre-sale and March’s releases confirmed. That means you can now get your order in for any of these:

  • Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero by Graham McNeill (Limited Edition hardback).
  • Leman Russ: The Great Wolf by Chris Wraight (standard hardback, ebook and MP3).
  • Carcharadons: Red Tithe by Robbie MacNiven.
  • Cybernetica by Rob Sanders (Heresy novella – standard hardback and MP3).
  • Virtues of the Sons/Sins of the Father by Andy Smillie (combined CD/MP3 audio).

You can also check out the covers and synopses for all of this cool stuff coming in March:

  • Mephiston: Blood of Sanguinius by Darius Hinks.
  • Dante by Guy Haley (standard and Limited Edition).
  • The Binary Succession by David Annandale (Heresy audio drama).
  • Titan by Dan Abnett (graphic novel).
  • Titanicus by Dan Abnett (Limited Edition hardback).

With three Titan-based releases you might think that there’s something else planned for March in the world of Games Workshop. Like a new game from the Specialist Games team, perhaps? Nothing’s confirmed, but keep your eyes peeled…

Warhammer TV also had a couple of newsworthy items however, beginning with their author interviews from Black Library Live! 2016. These were streamed live from the event, but have now been split out into individual videos which you can find either on YouTube or on the Warhammer Community website, and include conversations with John French, Guy Haley, Josh Reynolds, Aaron Dembski-Bowden and loads more. They also announced a brand new series of videos on Twitch, which is going to include battle reports, author interviews, hobby articles and all sorts of other goodness.

Thoughts on the week
This week has been all about the Advent Calendar for me, with seven excellent stories. Now it might just have been me, but that’s been slightly spoiled by the difficulties I’ve been having getting hold of each day’s story. The idea is that having paid for the subscription in advance you’ll see ePub, Mobi and MP3 folders in the downloads section of your account, and each day the new story will be added to the relevant folder(s) first thing in the morning, but sadly that hasn’t been the case. A couple of them have come through as planned, but right from the second day I’ve been having to wait until much later, or even subsequent days, to get hold of the files.

To be fair to Black Library their customer services team have been pretty good at getting back to me about this, but it’s been quite frustrating to be constantly falling behind because I’ve not been able to download the stories. Hopefully it’s all fixed now, as this morning I was able to download today’s and yesterday’s stories without any difficulty – fingers crossed! It would be a shame for technical difficulties to overshadow what’s turning into another really good set of short stories and audio dramas.

As far as the novels are concerned, for me personally the Space Marine Legends series is priced just a little bit too high. At £30 I’d be sorely tempted, as I’m a sucker for a Limited Edition, but £40 is a bit much for me. As such I’m not super excited about Azrael, although I suspect I’ll pick it up once it comes out in standard hardback, but it’s clearly proving reasonably popular as it’s already down to less than 400 copies out of 1000. Compare that to Cassius and Shrike, both of which saw 1,500 copies printed but are still showing as having nearly 750 copies remaining – either the Dark Angels are more popular, or Gav is!

I’m quite keen to check out Tyrant of the Hollow Worlds – I’ve not read Mark Clapham’s Iron Guard novel but I’ve enjoyed a fair few of his short stories, and the Red Corsairs are usually fun to read about. I’m not as keen on the Space Marine Battles novels coming out in hardback though – I know it’s pretty standard in publishing to go for a hardback release first, but while I’m cool with that for the Heresy, and even for some of the other smaller series, I just don’t quite have the confidence in this series to fancy forking out £18. That being said, I might succumb, just because it looks like a fun read.

Coming up…
As I mentioned earlier, the Coming Soon section on the Black Library website has been updated to include March, and it’s great to see this continuing. I talked last week about how I’m not a fan of putting books up for pre-order as I feel they lose a bit of impact, but I suspect that I’m in the minority here so overall I reckon the January pre-orders will be quite popular. I’m certainly looking forward to a few, especially Carcharadons: Red Tithe…which I have a sneaky suspicion is going to see an earlier ebook release around Christmas.

Speaking of which, you might have noticed that James Swallow’s upcoming Horus Heresy book Garro has dropped off the website – judging by the image being revealed on the Advent Calendar page, it looks like this is going to be a Christmas release as well.

That does still leave a gap between now and Christmas though, with nothing currently showing up as scheduled for next weekend. Whether that’s because there’s going to be a week without any non-Advent releases or because there’s something top-secret on the way…only time will tell.

As always, if you’ve got any thoughts on the week’s news and releases please do give me a shout to let me know!

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