Getting Started with Black Library – Warhammer 40,000

EDITED 24th June 2017 with the inclusion of 40k 8th Edition

Someone asked me on Twitter recently if I’d written anything about where to get started with reading Black Library books, for someone just getting into Warhammer 40,000. That’s actually a really interesting question which I thought deserved more of an answer than I could give on Twitter, so here I’m going to have a go at answering it in a bit more detail.
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Angels of Darkness – Gav Thorpe

One of the classic Warhammer 40,000 novels, Gav Thorpe’s Angels of Darkness was probably the first Black Library novel to really look at the Dark Angels in detail. The story of Interrogator Chaplain Boreas and Fallen Dark Angel Astelan, it cuts to the heart of this most secretive of chapters and shows how their ongoing hunt for the Fallen has come to consume them. Told across two strands, one sees Astelan captured and interrogated by Boreas in a clash of ironclad wills, while the other sees Boreas on the hunt for further Fallen in and around the Piscina system.

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Perturabo: Hammer of Olympia – Guy Haley

Guy Haley’s first contribution to Black Library’s The Horus Heresy Primarchs series is Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia, appropriately the fourth book in the series for the IVth Legion. For the first time in the series we get an origin story, with the narrative split between Perturabo’s early years on Olympia and the ongoing difficulties his sons face during a campaign against the time-manipulating hrud. With the additional viewpoints of Warsmith Dantioch and Fortreidon, a newly-inducted legionary, it’s a layered depiction of Perturabo, the events which moulded his character and that of his legion, and their inevitable fate.

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QUICK REVIEW: Soulfuel – Rob Sanders

Intriguingly subtitled ‘A Black Ships Story’, Rob Sanders’ short story Soulfuel sees palatine Adrianna Verletz and her Battle Sisters of the Order of the Ebon Chalice hunting down a rogue psyker on an Imperial shrine world. Possessed of a fearsome psychic banshee wail, Xenobia Nox is destined to be soulfuel for the Emperor of Mankind, and Verletz is determined to see her prize safely to Terra. Even once safely aboard the Black Ship Divine Imperative, however, Nox proves to be a particularly troublesome charge for Verletz and her warriors.

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Black Library Weekly – W/C 17/07/17

Hello and welcome to another instalment of Black Library Weekly, my regular look at what’s been happening in the world of Black Library (I feel like I really need a new intro to these articles…#brokenrecord). The weeks in the middle of each month can sometimes feel a little less exciting than those at the start, but this week has broken that mold with some great new releases and exciting news. Lots to talk about, so I’ll jump straight in as usual…

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John French Talks The Horusian Wars

Author of the (in my opinion) wonderful Ahriman trilogy, as well as a few stories in something you might have heard of called the Horus Heresy, John French is back with the first novel of a brand new series – the Horusian Wars. You might have come across a few of the accompanying short stories already; we’re still pretty early days but it looks like there’s a lot of content coming out for this series. You can find my review of the first novel below, along with a link to a page with details of everything that’s been released so far.

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The Horusian Wars: Resurrection – John French

The character of Inquisitor Covenant was introduced in 2001’s Inquisitor rulebook; fast forward to 2017 and he’s the focus of The Horusian Wars: Resurrection by John French. The first novel in a new series that has already seen a few introductory short stories, it joins Covenant and his acolytes partway through their hunt for a fellow inquisitor, a radical named Talicto. A rare gathering of his peers provides Covenant with an opportunity to confront Talicto, but with so many inquisitors gathered in one place, events inevitably don’t go quite to plan. And so begins a story of conflicting ideologies and murky loyalties, of hidden conflicts taking place while the galaxy burns.

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The Realmgate Wars: Fury of Gork – Josh Reynolds

After two earlier novellas, The Fury of Gork is Josh Reynolds’ first novel in Black Library’s Realmgate Wars series, and the seventh book in the series overall. In the wilds of the Ghurlands amidst the bones of ancient gargants, armies converge on the Howling Labyrinth, each with their own purpose. Zephacleas Beast-bane’s Astral Templars, tasked with finding the orruk god Gorkamorka, fight alongside Gaius Greel’s Sons of Mallus, who hunt the Tzeentchian sorceress Sharizad. While she searches for what lies within the Howling Labyrinth, Gordrakk – the Fist of Gork – leads his Ironjawz in search of the biggest battle they can find.

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Forgotten Texts: Space Marine by Ian Watson

“What shelter could there be from an insanity which existed only a membrane away from the ordinary world?”

Originally published in 1993, before Black Library even existed as a publishing house, Ian Watson’s Space Marine was his second 40k novel and went on to be something of a seminal work, influencing countless stories to follow. These days it’s really not ‘canon’ (more on this later) but there’s no doubt about its story credentials. The tale of three Necromundan youths raised to become Imperial Fists from wildly differing backgrounds, it follows Biff, Lexandro and Yeremi as they progress through the trials required to become a Space Marine, and then various missions as first Scouts and then full battle brothers.

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The Realmgate Wars: Warbeast – Gav Thorpe

***On the 15th July 2017, Warbeast won the Legend Award at the Gemmell Awards – a much deserved accolade!***

Book six in Black Library’s ten-strong Realmgate Wars series, Warbeast by Gav Thorpe is the first what you might call ‘full-length’ novel in the series, and Gav’s first Age of Sigmar novel. Taking place in Ghur, the Realm of Beasts, it sees two Chambers of Stormcast Eternals – the Warbeasts of the Celestial Vindicators and the Silverhands of the Knights Excelsior – battling against vast numbers of skaven and Chaos-corrupted tribes to secure a vital realmgate. For Lord-Celestant Arkas Warbeast it’s a very personal mission, as he returns to the lands of his birth, lands he failed to protect as a mortal.

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The Horusian Wars series by John French

If you’ve been keeping an eye on recent releases, it won’t have escaped your notice that John French is working on a new series for Black Library – the Horusian Wars. I’m a massive fan of John’s writing, so I’ve been really looking forward to learning more about this series, and what it’s going to involve. I thought it might be useful for anyone else who’s interested in this series if I gathered together all of the information that’s available into a single place – so that’s what this article is for.

Background

Back in August 2016 I did a bit of research and came up with some early speculation regarding the series, including snippets of background text from the Inquisitor rulebook and a couple of the Dark Heresy roleplaying books. Here’s a link to that article, but bear in mind it was written WAY before a lot of the subsequent information came to light:

Speculation on the Horusian Wars

For something a bit more official, try this great post from John’s own blog where he talks a little about what the series is, and what it will be:

What are the Horusian Wars?

You might also check out this post on the Warhammer Community site:

How far would you go to save mankind?

Lastly, here’s an interview I did with John about this series, his inspirations, how it compares to/is influenced by his Ahriman series, and lots more:

John French Talks The Horusian Wars

Reviews

Here’s a list of everything in the series that’s been published or confirmed so far, in publication order, along with links to my reviews where appropriate and either a snippet of each review, or a little bit of the blurb:

The Purity of Ignorance

The Purity of Ignorance (short story)
“Leading his warband in an airborne insertion, Covenant is joined by Lieutenant Ianthe of the Agathian Sky Sharks, seconded to Inquisitorial duty.”

The Maiden of the Dream (short story)
“Mylasa is a powerful psyker who, as one of Inquisitor Covenant’s acolytes, uses her gifts to interrogate prisoners of the Inquisition and purge their memories.”

The Absolution of Swords (short story)
“…continues to build familiarisation with Covenant’s warband, introducing new characters and particularly focusing on the Rogue Trader Cleander, but this time it also sets the narrative up for the novel, Resurrection.”

The Horusian Wars: Resurrection
“Complex and uncompromising, this isn’t your usual easy Black Library read, although it nails the fundamental tone and vibe of 40k in a way that few others do.”

The Blessing of Saints (short story – included in the limited edition of Resurrection)
TBC – I’ll let you know once I’ve got hold of the limited edition and checked this out…

Agent of the Throne: Blood and Lies (audio drama)
“A former Imperial Guardswoman’s first mission for the Inquisition pits her against shadowy foes, not to mention the local Enforcers, as she investigates a cult…” (From the blurb on the Black Library website)

Reading Order

I asked John if there was a recommended reading/listening order for the stories so far, but it looks like things are a little more complicated than just a simple linear order, with John describing things as “a patchwork, or lattice”. Certain stories feed into each other but aren’t necessarily directly linked to others, while characters crop up in multiple stories even if they’re not the main protagonists…

For example, while The Absolution of Swords is a pretty direct prequel to the novel Resurrection, The Purity of Ignorance relates more to Agent of the Throne: Blood and Lies.

That being said, while there’s no problem reading/listening to these stories in ‘any order’, here’s what John suggested if you want something a bit more concrete:

  • The Absolution of Swords
  • The Horusian Wars: Resurrection
  • The Blessing of Saints
  • The Maiden of the Dream
  • The Purity of Ignorance
  • Agent of the Throne: Blood and Lies

***

That’s everything so far, but there’s definitely going to be more to this series. As soon as anything is announced I’ll add it to this page, and I will of course review everything that’s released. Drop me a line if I’ve missed anything!

If you’ve got any questions or comments, do let me know.