Black Library Weekly – W/C 21/08/17

Hello and welcome to another instalment of Black Library Weekly, my regular look at what’s been happening in the world of Black Library. This week, instead of the usual Digital Monday short story we’ve had the 2017 Summer of Reading campaign, so I’ll go through that first before moving on to the other points of interest for the week.

Summer of Reading
If you haven’t come across the idea this year, or in a previous year, the Summer of Reading campaign is a series of seven digital-only Black Library short stories released one per day over the course of the week. You’ve got two options for how to get hold of these stories – individually, for £2.49 each, or as a subscription bundle (only available via Black Library directly) which gives you all seven for £12.45, which works out as 7 for the price of 5. The idea behind the subscription is that you pay for it upfront and then each day the new story is added to your account on the Black Library website for you to download.

If you’ve been following Track of Words for a while now, you might remember me not looking too fondly on previous Black Library subscriptions, as a result of considerable irritation in the past over files not being available to download at the right times. Once again I gave the subscription a go – it’s the best value for money – and I was pleasantly surprised to see no problems with it whatsoever. Good work Black Library, that was a nice, easy experience to get hold of those stories. I do still think it would be better to just add all seven to the My Downloads section, but with each one only available to download on the relevant day – instead of having to download a zip file each day with all of the content up to that point. Seems a bit daft to have to download the first story seven times, for example! But that’s by the by…

Anyway, enough wittering about how to get hold of the stories – I’ve read and reviewed all seven, and you can find links to them, along with a very quick summary, below.

Day One – Grandfather’s Gift by Guy Haley: the first ever Primarchs series short story, featuring Mortarion in the Garden of Nurgle.

Day Two – The Hardest Word by David Guymer: an Age of Sigmar story in which Hamilcar Bear-Eater defends his territory against the skaven.

Day Three – Shadows of Heaven by Gav Thorpe: a 40k eldar story following the main character from Path of the Outcast.

Day Four – Death Warrant by Robbie MacNiven: a Carcharadons story complete with a Rogue Trader and angry necrons.

Day Five – Auction of Blood by Josh Reynolds: an Age of Sigmar story featuring an unusually dangerous bookseller.

Day Six – Pride and Fall by Ian St. Martin: a Lucius the Eternal story looking at one of his earlier, more unusual rebirths.

Day Seven – Restorer by Chris Wraight: a White Scars Horus Heresy story that’s massively spoilerific if you haven’t read The Path of Heaven.

Click the links above to read my review of each story, but suffice to say this year’s Summer of Reading campaign was an excellent collection of short stories. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that each one ties in nicely with either a (relatively) recently-released title or an upcoming title (including an as-yet untitled Hamilcar novel), although they should all work just as well if you haven’t yet read the related novel, or don’t yet know anything about the upcoming one.

If you’re a particular fan of certain factions then by all means go ahead and choose only the stories you’re especially interested, but if – like me – you enjoy reading stories from across the breadth of the settings, I’d wholeheartedly recommend picking up the subscription. It’s good value compared to buying the stories individually, even if you could argue that £12.45 is a bit steep for somewhere in the region of 40-50,000 words – that’s about half a normal novel length, or a The Beast Arises-length novel.

Midweek
What with a short story being released every day this week it felt like there was plenty going on during the midweek period, but as always I was looking out for anything else taking place. You might remember that last week saw the Black Library Reader’s Choice, which gave us the chance to vote for two out of print books – one 40k and one old-school Warhammer – to be reprinted in early 2018. Well, that was open for one week, so Wednesday saw conformation of which books had been chosen – for 40k we’re getting Brothers of the Snake by Dan Abnett, and for Warhammer we’re getting Drachenfels by Jack Yeovil.

It’s been interesting to see the response to this, as I’ve seen a fair few people online, and spoken to others, who seem a bit disappointed that Brothers of the Snake was chosen. Personally I think it’s a really good book, one that while I haven’t read it for a while I clearly remember enjoying, and one which I can see a new generation of 40k fans being interested in. It’s not your normal Space Marines novel, that’s for sure, but in my book there’s room for plenty of different depictions of them in Black Library fiction.

Drachenfels, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have provoked any major concerns from what I’ve been able to see. Once again it’s a book I haven’t read in some time, but I remember enjoying back when I did last read it. Fun fact: Jack Yeovil is actually a pen name for Kim Newman, who you might know as author of a whole range of horror and horror-influenced novels including the Anno Dracula series.

If you read last week’s Black Library Weekly then you may remember that neither of the chosen books were the ones I voted for myself, but nonetheless I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new reprints when they arrive next year. It’s going to be interesting to see if they get the luxurious limited edition treatment, although I’m not sure how much appetite there will be from the fanbase overall for £40 versions of these older titles. Time will tell!

Weekend
While the Summer of Reading campaign continued all the way through to Sunday, that didn’t stop Black Library from releasing some new titles as usual on Saturday. Well, once again by ‘new’ I mean new paperback editions – one of a recent Space Marine Battles novel, one of a classic Inquisition novel, and one of a swanky new old-school Warhammer omnibus.

Before I talk about those, however, I’d just like to point out that – to tie in with the hardback of Lucius: The Faultless Blade hitting the shelves – I published a quick interview on Saturday with Ian St. Martin – you can find that here. I’m hoping this is going to be the first in a series of short interviews with authors about their upcoming releases, which in typical fashion I originally named Ten Minute Interviews but then changed my mind…so from the next instalment onwards the series will instead be called Rapid Fire. Much more appropriate, right? Keep your eyes peeled…

First up the Space Marine Battles novel – The Eye of Ezekiel by CZ Dunn, which you can now pick up for the princely sum of £9.99. Presumably one of the final books in the series before it morphs into Space Marine Conquests, this takes a look at one of the big Dark Angels special characters – Grand Master Ezekiel. It wasn’t that long ago that this came out in hardback (about April this year) so it’s been a slightly quicker turnaround than sometimes happens for the paperback. Although it’s the same price for all of this series’ paperbacks, a tenner does feel a touch pricey for it, however…In comparison, Ravenor Rogue by Dan Abnett – the third novel in the trilogy – comes in at a slightly cheaper £8.99, which feels a bit more appropriate. Pricing notwithstanding, it’s great to see the final Ravenor novel not just back in print but also with a rather nice, understated design that feels a bit more modern than the older cover. While this series perhaps doesn’t match the longevity and mass appeal of Dan’s Eisenhorn series, it’s still absolutely worth checking out if you haven’t yet read it!

Lastly, an interesting one in the form of The Legend of Sigmar by Graham McNeill, which comes in at £15, or (as usual) a penny cheaper in ebook. For that price you get all three of the Sigmar novels from the old Time of Legends series, collected into a single volume. If you haven’t read them before, this is as good a way as any to get hold of them. What’s particularly interesting here is that this is part of the Warhammer Chronicles series, which from what I can tell is a brand new way Black Library have of referring to pre-Age of Sigmar Warhammer stories.

At the moment it’s the only book officially in the series (by which I mean with that series name printed on the cover), but if you take a look at the relevant page on the Black Library website – subtitled Tales from the World That Was – you’ll see all of the old Warhammer titles listed. Whether or not everything’s going to be reprinted and rebranded in this way remains to be seen, but a quick scan of Amazon suggests that there are a few more omnibuses coming up, collecting together other Time of Legends series.

Thoughts on the week
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite a fan of the Black Library short story, so I always enjoy the Advent Calendars and other campaigns or series which provide multiple shorts over a period of time. This week has followed on in much the same vein as 2016’s Advent Calendar with interesting, well-written and entertaining stories which – crucially – feel like they’re contributing to other things going on. I don’t want to talk too much about them, as I’ve already said plenty in this article and my reviews, but suffice to say I’ve been very pleased with the standard of stories this week.

As for the weekend’s releases, I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again – new paperbacks are always welcome! I think it can be hard sometimes for people like me, who tend to pick most titles up as soon as they come out, to remember that plenty of others prefer to wait until paperback editions arrive. If that’s you, I imagine any weekend which brings it a new paperback is something to celebrate! It’s also great to see Black Library doing a bit more marketing for these titles, both on the Warhammer Community site and in their weekly emails.

Overall, it’s been a great week. If you’re not a short story fan then you may disagree, but in terms of not just new content but interesting links to stories past and future, I think there’s been lots to like this week. Speaking of future stories leads me nicely onto…

Coming up…
Next week’s main release is going to be particularly interesting, I feel. Eight Lamentations: Spear of Shadows is the next Age of Sigmar novel from Josh Reynolds, and – perhaps most excitingly – looks to be the sort of book which steers clear of Stormcast Eternals and the big battlefields to tell a smaller, but broader, story. If you haven’t already read Auction of Blood from this week’s Summer of Reading campaign and The Road of Blades from the 2016 Advent Calendar, then I strongly suggest you do, simply to get a feel for what this novel’s going to be like. I have a feeling it might be the book that encourages a few more people to give Age of Sigmar fiction a try.

As always, if you’ve got any thoughts or comments on the week’s news and releases please do get in touch via the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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