EDIT: Two weeks after posting this, what should turn up on the Black Library website but a brand spanking new boxed set of the first Gaunt’s Ghosts trilogy – The Founding. Called it…
A couple of days ago Black Library announced the latest in a growing line of limited edition hardback boxed sets – this time it was John French’s excellent Ahriman trilogy that got the hardback treatment, in a limited run of 500 copies. True to form (I LOVE this series) I put an order in straight away, and I also posted yesterday with my thoughts on the overall concept of releasing these hardback sets. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it would be interesting to do a bit of (completely wild) speculation on what Black Library might release next in this hardback format.
To start off with, let’s quickly recap on what we’ve seen so far in this format:
- The Eisenhorn trilogy (Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus) by Dan Abnett.
- The Night Lords trilogy (Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver and Void Stalker) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden.
- The Tome of Fire trilogy (Salamander, Firedrake and Nocturne) by Nick Kyme.
- The first three Ciaphas Cain books (For the Emperor, Caves of Ice and The Traitor’s Hand) by Sandy Mitchell.
- Blood Bowl: The Boxed Set featuring Blood Bowl, Dead Ball, Deathmatch and Rumble in the Jungle by Matt Forbeck.
- The Ahriman trilogy (Ahriman: Exile, Sorcerer and Unchanged) by John French.
So that’s four trilogies, one set of four novels, and the first three books of a series, published between 2001 and 2015. Before we start looking ahead, let’s think about what criteria these share…
First of all, five out of the six sets are all 40k novels – the sixth, Matt Forbeck’s Blood Bowl series, was conveniently released not long before the latest edition of the Blood Bowl game from Games Workshop. From this we can make two suggestions about what’s likely to be covered next – either more 40k books, or something to tie in with a future re-release of a classic game. We’ll come to tie-ins a little bit later, and Warhammer books as well, but let’s start with the 40k books and what else they might share other than a setting.
They’re much loved
There’s no doubt about it, the books that Black Library have chosen so far for these boxed sets have been some of the most popular series…for obvious reasons. The Eisenhorn and Ciaphas Cain books are absolute no-brainers considering the enduring popularity of those characters, but all three of the other trilogies are clearly extremely popular. A quick look at their ratings on Goodreads shows just how popular (out of 5):
- Eisenhorn: Xenos 4.21, Malleus 4.27, Hereticus 4.30
- Tome of Fire: Salamander 3.75, Firedrake 3.91, Nocturne 4.07
- Night Lords: Soul Hunter 4.35, Blood Reaver 4.35, Void Stalker 4.49
- Ciaphas Cain: For the Emperor 4.22, Caves of Ice 4.08, The Traitor’s Hand 4.20
- Ahriman: Exile 3.89, Sorcerer 3.99, Unchanged 4.02
So they’re ranging from 3.75 at the lowest to 4.49 at the highest – these are seriously popular books! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that popularity generally turns into positive sales…
They each form a set
Four of the six sets are trilogies, which are the perfect fit for these collections. They give anyone who buys them the whole story in one go, which is great for collectors but also for anyone who’s buying these books for the first time. You get everything in the single box. The Blood Bowl set isn’t a trilogy, but instead it manages to squeeze four books into a single box…so it’s pretty much the same thing only slightly better value.
The Ciaphas Cain set is a bit of an oddity as it’s the first three books in a wider series, and not a standalone trilogy. The assumption is that Black Library picked this series simply because it’s so popular, and just picked the first three books for the sake of convenience…although possibly also because they had previously been combined in an omnibus entitled Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium.
So based on those criteria (40k, much loved, forming a set), I’ve come up with a few possibilities, split out into degrees of likelihood. Let’s start with what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, the obvious choices.
Arguably this is the single most obvious choice, and it’s perhaps a little surprising that it hasn’t been done yet. The first three books – First and Only, Ghostmaker and Necropolis – together form an arc known as The Founding, so would perfectly suit a boxed set (they’ve had an omnibus). This seems such an obvious option that it suggests Black Library are waiting for the right moment, perhaps somewhere around the time that the next novel in the series – Warmaster – is released to put out the first books in hardback.
Goodreads rating for the omnibus of The Founding – 4.41
Another apparent no-brainer, Graham McNeill’s Ultramarines series is both enduringly popular and conveniently structured with the first three novels once again already collected into an omnibus (Nightbringer, Warriors of Ultramar and Dead Sky, Black Sun). As with the Gaunt’s Ghosts stories, it could be that Black Library are waiting for the ideal moment to release these as a boxed set – Graham has talked about the next book in the series – The Swords of Calth – and while there’s been no word on when it’s due, perhaps we’ll see a boxed set drop around the same time.
Goodreads rating for The Ultramarines Omnibus – 3.96
Path of the Eldar
It’s slightly less of an obvious choice, but in the light of the Eldar’s involvement in the upcoming Gathering Storm story arc for 40k I can see Gav Thorpe’s trilogy (Path of the Warrior/Seer/Outcast) getting the hardback treatment. These books are pretty well respected and often mentioned in discussions about the Eldar, so now could be a good time to see if there’s demand for them in hardback.
Goodreads rating for the Path of the Eldar Omnibus – 3.93
A few other possibilities might be Gav’s Legacy of Caliban trilogy (Dark Angels; the omnibus rates 3.88 on Goodreads), Graham’s Lords of Mars trilogy (Adeptus Mechanicus, Priests of… – 4.03, Lords of… – 3.92 and Gods of… – 3.93), Dan’s Ravenor trilogy (the omnibus rates 4.39) or the next few Ciaphas Cain books (the second omnibus rates 4.40).
Next up let’s take a quick look at a few more suggestions which I’d include in the maybe category, in other words series that are either a little less popular or a little older and less in vogue.
James Swallow’s Blood Angels books are available in two omnibuses, rated at 3.83 and 4.07 respectively on Goodreads. They’re maybe a little off centre compared to what people expect these days in terms of characterisation for the Blood Angels, but they’re historically popular enough to be a possibility. Also, just think how cool a Blood Angels boxed set could look…with the right design, it could be very tempting…
Ben Counter has written a couple of ‘classic’ series, but while the Grey Knights books are pretty outdated in terms of canon, his Soul Drinkers series is still fairly relevant. The first omnibus (featuring Soul Drinker, The Bleeding Chalice and Crimson Tears) rates at 3.77 on Goodreads, and those books are genuine classics. I’m not sure how much demand there would be for an expensive boxed set of these books, but once again they could go to town with the design and it might just appeal to the old school fans.
Lord Solar Macharius
William King’s The Macharian Crusade trilogy never really seemed to reach the heady heights of some of the other big series, but it nonetheless covers a pretty massive story arc in terms of 40k and the Imperial Guard. The three novels – Angel of Fire, Fist of Demetrius and Fall of Macharius rate at 3.91, 3.79 and 3.74 respectively…which is pretty good. Again it’s a bit of a left field choice, but it’s a maybe.
Lastly let’s think about a few wild cards, the sort of series that old-school fans would love to get hold of but are pretty unlikely to actually see the light of day.
Okay, William King’s Space Wolves books might not be that much of a long shot actually. The first omnibus (which contains Space Wolf, Ragnar’s Claw and Grey Hunter) is rated at 4.17 on Goodreads and has legions of fans, many of whom were introduced to 40k via these books. They’re not really of the same standard as things like Chris Wraight’s depiction of the Wolves, but a lot of people (myself included) can forgive them for that, even if just for the sake of nostalgia. I’m not sure how interested Black Library would be in producing a boxed set of these, but I reckon it would sell!
The Inquisition War
Ian Watson wrote a few books WAY back in the depths of time (i.e. the early 90s) which really defined 40k at that time – Space Marine is a bona fide classic, if a bit of a weird one, but his Inquisition War trilogy was mind-blowing. These days it’s really not in keeping with the overall 40k aesthetic, but if you can put that to one side they’re still genuinely great books. The omnibus only rates at 3.61 on Goodreads, and the individual books (Inquisitor, or Draco as it was later published as; Harlequin; and Chaos Child) rate even lower, but still…I just wonder if there might not be enough fans who would fancy this if it got a nice hardback set…
We’re not going back quite so far this time, only to the early 2000s, but Gav’s Last Chancers books (13th Legion, Kill Team and Annihilation Squad) are still pretty old school. Featuring Colonel Schaeffer’s ‘Last Chancers’ penal legion these are great slabs of classic 40k, and they still rate surprisingly highly – the omnibus is at 3.94 on Goodreads. Would enough people be interested in paying £50 for a hardback set…I’m not sure. It would be cool, though.
So there you have it – a few suggestions for 40k series that might make great hardback boxed sets. I’ve probably only scraped the surface here…and chances are I’m way off what’s actually going to come out. Only time will tell, though!
I can hear people’s comments already – “why just 40k? What about Warhammer?”
Well…fair comment actually. As of yet these boxed sets have been pretty 40k-heavy, but then that’s hardly surprising. If they had been introduced two or three years ago I’d have expected a fairly even mix of 40k and Warhammer books, but in today’s Age of Sigmar era I’m not really surprised that we haven’t seen any Warhammer boxed sets.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there would be a MASSIVE appetite for some of the classic Warhammer stories if they were re-released in any format, hardback or otherwise. I’m just not sure how keen Black Library (by which I really mean Games Workshop) are going to be about the idea. They’re obviously going to want to push the Age of Sigmar fiction as strongly as possible, so would it be a bit of a mixed message to celebrate classic Warhammer stories in hardback?
I don’t know, to be honest. I’d really like to think they will put out some of these old books again, but I’m just not sure. That being said, it’s still fun to speculate – so on the assumption that Black Library DO turn their attention to Warhammer…here are a few suggestions.
Gotrek and Felix
Possibly even more than the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, you’ve got to think that there would be a huge demand for Gotrek and Felix in hardback. Even only taking the classic William King books you’ve got seven brilliant, much-loved novels to play with…then add in five from Nathan Long, two from Josh Reynolds and three from David Guymer…and you’ve got A LOT of books. You could certainly take the first three books – Trollslayer, Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer and package them up into a fantastic boxed set – slap some old-school dwarf design work on there, and that would be a boxed set I could see selling out in minutes, never mind hours!
In case you were wondering, the first omnibus rates at 4.18 on Goodreads, while the individual novels seem to range from 3.77 to 4.33. Yep, pretty popular still.
Time of Legends
By my count there were seven Time of Legends series by the time the Old World bit the dust, and while some of them covered lesser-known characters or events, a bunch of them dealt with seriously big goings-on. Certainly The Sundering (Gav Thorpe), The Rise of Nagash (Mike Lee) and The Legend of Sigmar (Graham McNeill) are all epic stories and have omnibuses which ll rate over 4 on Goodreads (Nagash 4.06, Sigmar 4.15 and The Sundering 4.26). Any one of these would make a cool boxed set, and once again if the design work was done well they could look amazing!
Dan Abnett and Mike Lee collaborated on five Darkblade novels between 2005 and 2007, while CL Werner gave him a final hurrah before the End Times in 2015. These were dark stories even for Warhammer, but Malus gathered something of a cult following as a character and the books have remained popular – yep, you guessed it, they’re still rated pretty highly on Goodreads – the first omnibus rates at 4.22 and the second at 4.34. It’s maybe a bit less likely to be popular than some of the other Warhammer series, but I could still see it working.
There are SO MANY more Warhammer series that could make great boxed sets, so many in fact that I could write a few thousand more words on them. But I won’t. I’m just going to very quickly pick three wild cards that I’d love to see released in hardback.
Brunner the Bounty Hunter
CL Werner’s stories of brutal, dark-hearted Brunner were published back in 2003-2004 and are awesome. So much so, Josh Reynolds brought the Bounty Hunter back for the last ever Old World novel The Lord of the End Times, and even pitted him against Archaon himself. Ok, it didn’t end well for Brunner…but it was brilliant! The omnibus rates at 4.20 on Goodreads.
The Vampire Genevieve
You’ve read these books, right? Drachenfels, Genevieve Undead and Beasts in Velvet were first published by GW Books back in the late 80s/early 90s, with Silver Nails following in 2002 – these are proper old school! The omnibus rates at 3.84 on Goodreads, and can you imagine how cool a vampire-themed set could look? I’m thinking Black Library could bring in whoever designed the Fabius Bile: Primogenitor limited edition…
The Konrad Saga
The first Warhammer books I ever read, and first published in the early 90s, these are seriously old school as well. They’re probably not very commercial these days, but for nostalgic purposes alone I’d be tempted to buy a boxed set!
I briefly mentioned tie-ins before, in light of the Blood Bowl novels getting their own boxed set. Is it likely that we’ll see something similar if the Specialist Games studio put out things like Necromunda or Battlefleet Gothic? Well…I’m not sure, really. The Necromunda books are all quite old school and not necessarily as well linked as the Blood Bowl series was, but I could maybe see something like a Kal Jericho boxed set? That would certainly be fun.
As for Battlefleet Gothic…anyone fancy re-reading Gordon Rennie’s legendary Gothic War novels? Gordon only ever wrote two (Execution Hour and Shadow Point), but imagine if he could be persuaded to write a third…? Now I would DEFINITELY buy that.
Anyway, enough speculation. I’ve rambled on for long enough as it is!
Those are my thoughts on what we might see coming up, assuming that Black Library decide to carry on re-releasing books in these lovely (albeit expensive) hardback boxed sets. If I was a betting man, the only stone-cold surefire release would be a Gaunt’s Ghosts boxed set, although I’m pretty sure that a Gotrek and Felix one would sell like proverbial hot cakes. Black Library, if you’re reading this – put me down for one of each if you release those two sets!
Got any comments or suggestions for series you’d love to see in hardback? Let me know…!