For some, limited edition books exist purely to make the publisher money. Others enjoy the rarity and the collectible aspect of them. Whatever your opinion on the topic, there can be no doubt that a physically beautiful book is a lovely thing to own and read. Black Library have been publishing ‘exclusives’ for a while now, in various release formats, the latest being Arjac Rockfist: Anvil of Fenris. Written by Ben Counter as part of the Lords of the Space Marines series, this is a novella-length book available in two formats – the ‘deluxe limited’ edition complete with additional audio drama and ornate case, and the standard ‘limited’ edition as reviewed. Bound underneath the dust cover in grey leather-effect and embossed with Fenrisian runes, as limited editions go this is an absolute beauty. Unlike ebooks, physical books offer a wonderfully tactile experience, and this one takes things one step further in its sheer luxuriousness.
While previous books in this series have focused on famous characters from Warhammer 40,000 lore, here we get to see a little-known character first introduced in 2008. Arjac Rockfist won’t be familiar to many readers, but this helps to make the story feel fresh and new. In addtion to this, Counter has chosen to write it in the form of a norse-style saga as narrated by one of the human thralls residing in the Fang. It’s an unusual form for a Black Library book to take, but it’s perfectly in keeping with the overall feel of the Space Wolves and in fact helps the book to feel like a full-length story despite the short word count.
The main body of the story involves the titular hero acting in defence of the Fang against the tyranid menace, but the narrative saga style gives Counter the chance to incorporate important elements of Arjac’s earlier years without slowing the pace down. Because of this we get a good feel for Arjac as a character without the need for pages and pages of backstory, and he comes across as really quite an interesting character. He’s very much an atypical Space Wolf, but given the amount written about this chapter in the past it’s nice to see things from a different angle. Other characters get considerably shorter shrift in terms of backstory and actual characterisation, but given the style of the story that’s not really a problem. It is after all the saga of Arjac, so it’s in the nature of this particular style to focus predominantly on the main character with only honourable mentions really given to his contemporaries.
Some people will undoubtedly be put off by the cost of this book, as even without splashing out on the ‘deluxe limited’ edition there’s a heavy price tag attached. Others will be discouraged by the length of the story, as novellas aren’t to everyone’s tastes. If you can get over these obstacles however, what you get is a genuinely unique (for Black Library at least) book both in style and presentation, which shows a well-loved chapter in a new light and is ultimately just a really good read. For fans of the Space Wolves it’s a no-brainer, but for any Black Library fan this is a brilliant (if costly) addition to the canon.