Welcome to this instalment of Rapid Fire, an ongoing series of quick interviews with Black Library authors focusing in on brand new releases. These are short and sweet interviews, with the idea being that each author will answer (more or less) the same questions – by the end of each interview I hope you will have a good idea of what the new book (or audio drama) is about, what inspired it and why you might want to read it.
In this instalment I asked Chris Wraight about his new novel Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion, which is available to order now. Without further ado, over to Chris.
ToW: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion?
CW: It’s more or less there in the published extract currently on the Black Library website: ‘For the first time since the Emperor was placed on the Holy Golden Throne, the High Lords no longer govern the Imperium that preserves His memory. This is how it happened.’ It’s the story of how we got to the events of the Gathering Storm, as seen from Terra, observed through the eyes of the participants.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
CW: There are three main characters: Tieron, the chancellor of the Senatorum Imperialis, through whom we see the workings of the High Lords. Valerian is a Custodian who finds himself caught up in the changes taking place on the Throneworld, and Aleya is a Sister of Silence whose hidden convent comes under attack by the Black Legion. As things start to go pear-shaped for the Imperium, their various fates are drawn together.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
CW: It’s set during the Great Rift and immediate aftermath, and mostly on Terra and its surrounding systems.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
CW: I hope it stands alone and makes sense as a novel in its own right, but there are lots of references to things that happen in the ‘current’ 40k timeline, such as the Dark Imperium novel, the Gathering Storm books and the Wrath of Magnus storyline. If you know a bit about those events then it’ll probably be more fun reading The Emperor’s Legion. There are also some nods to Heresy-era stories featuring Custodians, particularly Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s The Master of Mankind.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
CW: I’ve come to love telling tales set on Terra! Getting a chance to really delve into the politics of the Throneworld at the very highest level was too tempting. The Custodians and the Sisters of Silence, as you’d expect, play a very big role in this story, but the scope is a bit wider than that – I wanted to show how the Imperium as a whole reacts to the momentous events that take place at the end of the 41st Millennium. After all, there’s plenty that’s currently unexplained about how the Talons of the Emperor got unleashed again – they’ve been quiet for a very long time.
ToW: How would you sum up the differences between writing Space Marines and writing Custodes and Sisters of Silence? Is there a big difference?
CW: There’s a lot of material in the book, particularly from Valerian, about what the differences are. In basic terms, Space Marines are soldiers, bred to fight as part of self-contained armies of conquest. Custodians are, among other things, bodyguards, given the specific role of protecting the Emperor. Sisters of Silence are even more specialised, being the harvesters of psykers and the most effective form of witch-hunter. At one stage we see Valerian, Aleya and the Grey Knights in combat together, and through that we can see just how different they are. All of them are, as you’d expect, utterly deadly, but that gets manifested in different ways.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it? Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
CW: Heh – I’m not sure I’ve got much real-life experience of carrying a guardian spear around and slaying daemons! I’ve tried to go for a historical novel feel for this one, and generate a sense of epochal events unfolding, as well as do what Black Library books hopefully often do – flesh out the nooks and crannies that make the setting come alive.
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
CW: Yes, quite a lot actually. I got sent a preview copy of the Rise of the Primarch book while still writing The Emperor’s Legion, and had to make a fair few changes to accommodate some of the events that take place there. That’s the peril of writing novels drawing on developing storylines – there’s always the chance you’ll need to think on your feet a bit. At times it was quite hair-raising trying to pull everything together, but hopefully everything just about corresponds to what’s been written elsewhere.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
CW: It’s a departure in the sense that it’s entirely written in the first person, albeit from three different points of view. My favourite part of the writing process was trying to generate three very different voices for each main character – hopefully they come across as unique individuals. There’s also a bit more intrigue and politics in this one than some other 40K books I’ve written, which I hope people enjoy – I’d certainly like to write more of it.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
CW: I’d love to, and I do have ideas for how we might take things forward (in conjunction with some threads in The Carrion Throne), but as ever we’ll have to see how this one does. One way or another I’m certain we’ll see more Custodians and Sisters of Silence in Black Library fiction, now that the cat’s out of the bag!
Many thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure, like me, you’re now suitably enthused about Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion – keep an eye out for a review coming soon. For more quick Rapid Fire interviews, click here.