We all love a baddie, right? Fans of Black Library probably do more than most, given the proliferation of great bad guys (and girls) in the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. If that’s you, if you’re a fan of the dark(er) side, then Renegades of the Dark Millennium is for you. Unsurprisingly given the title, this is a celebration of all things dark, twisted and evil in the 40k universe, and is very much a Space Marines release.
Published to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Black Library Live (a short piece on which can be found here), Black Library generously included this 120-page anthology in the ticket price for this year’s event. Containing nine short stories and two excerpts from forthcoming novels, it’s a deliciously grim collection showcasing the exploits of some of the less well-intentioned of the Space Marines. These are proper baddies – there’s no heroism here.
At 4-10 pages each these are genuinely short stories, so it’s difficult to go into detail without risking spoilers. Suffice to say with nine different authors we get a wide range of approaches, from Nick Kyme’s typically psychological tale of Marines Malevolent to a mystical, ethereal Thousand Sons piece from John French and two different takes on the Night Lords by Ben Counter and Rob Sanders. It should be pointed out that these are stories about ‘renegade’ Space Marines, so they’re not necessarily all Chaos-aligned.
In true Black Library style we don’t get anything in the way of happy endings here, instead we get satisfyingly dark and often unexpected endings, and tantalising hints at what might be coming in future releases. The two excerpts (from Talon of Horus by Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Ahriman: Sorcerer by John French) are wonderfully tempting, and suggest that those two novels are going to be truly spectacular, while two or three of the stories lay strong clues regarding which chapters may just be getting their moments in the spotlight soon. Oh, and a certain Iron Warrior shows up in Graham McNeill’s contribution, reminding us just how much fun bad guys can have.
The thread which ties all of these tales together is the desperately bleak nature of life in the 41st millennium; as a whole the collection stands as a microcosm of the 40k universe. More and more of Black Library’s releases are moving away from traditional impressions of good versus evil towards explorations of all the varying shades of grey that can exist in a galaxy permanently at war, and despite the low word counts these stories carry on this trend and provide a great snapshot of just how grim life can be in the far future.