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 it’s mostly been about the continuing Advent Calendar, with a couple of cool new releases at the weekend. I’m going to go straight into the Advent section this week, as we didn’t get a separate Digital Monday story…
A full week of Advent stories this week, covering 40k, Age of Sigmar and the Horus Heresy by way of two audio dramas and five short stories. What stories they’ve been, as well – you’d be hard pushed to say too many of them have been fun…but from a quality perspective it’s been an outstanding week. Let’s take a quick look at each one (you can find my reviews of these in the list towards the bottom of the article):
Duty Waits by Guy Haley – short story (£1.99)
Ever wondered what it was like for the Imperial Fists manning the walls of the Imperial Palace, just waiting…and waiting…and waiting for Horus to arrive? How about what a Space Marine spends his time thinking about when he’s a bit bored? This is pretty dark, but fascinating, stuff from Guy Haley.
Ahriman: Key of Infinity by John French – audio drama (£3.99)
It’s been a while since we last saw an Ahriman story from John French; this time around it’s a small-scale, fascinating audio full of timey-wimey strangeness that tantalisingly hints at how great it would be to see Ahriman, Ignis and co. again in novel form.
Gods’ Gift by David Guymer – short story (£1.99)
The third Hamilcar Bear-Eater short story, it’s another chance for Guymer to have some fun with a character quite unlike any other in Black Library fiction at the moment. If your only experience of Stormcast Eternals has been of dour, duty-bound characters, maybe give this a chance to see a different side to this faction.
Magisterium by Chris Wraight – short story (£1.99)
If you haven’t read The Master of Mankind then this is going to be remarkably spoilerific; assuming you have, it’s a natural follow-on story, although with added flashbacks to Prospero. There’s some really interesting stuff going on here, but don’t expect much in the way of good cheer…this is a really bleak story.
The Assassination of Gabriel Seth – audio drama (£3.99)
Part of Andy Smillie’s slowly-developing body of Flesh Tearers work, not only does this have the best title I’ve seen in a long time, it’s also a powerful story propelled by some fantastic voice acting. Come for the fight between Seth and an Eversor assassin…stay for a really smart look at how Seth is changing over time.
Now Peals Midnight by John French – short story (£1.99)
If Duty Waits shows what the endless waiting was like for the defenders of the Imperial Palace, this one goes a step further…and shows the final moments before all that waiting is over, and the Siege of Terra begins. There’s literally no action, but it does contain a brief look at three Primarchs together, and a powerful sense of tension and anticipation.
The Witch Takers by CL Werner – short story (£1.99)
Werner’s got history writing witch hunters (anyone remember Matthias Thulmann?) so it’s cool to see him take a look at how this particular type of character might work in the Mortal Realms. There are some clear familiarities to classic Old World stories, but with plenty of Age of Sigmar openness to boot.
It’s a weekend of releases that I’ve been looking forward to for some time, with two brand new titles, not to mention another, older title available in paperback. If you’ve followed Track of Words for any time you’ll probably know that I’m a huge fan of Josh Reynolds’ Fabius Bile stories – from the first audio drama and the various short stories to the fantastic Primogenitor. About a year after that novel’s release, book two is now available to buy – Fabius Bile: Clonelord, available in hardback (£18), ebook (£9.99) and MP3 (£29.99) formats. You can read my review of it here (I picked up an early copy at the Weekender) or check out a quick interview with Josh in this instalment of RAPID FIRE.
If you’re reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about Fabius, good news! The original novel, Fabius Bile: Primogenitor, is now available in paperback (£8.99) as well as the previous hardback (£18), ebook (£9.99) and MP3 (£29.99) formats. It’s great to see it available in the widest number of formats – if you haven’t read it, I really…REALLY…can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’ve read the Ahriman and Abaddon books and fancy something which does a similar (albeit uniquely Reynolds) thing with another classic Chaos character.
The final release of the weekend was Renegades of Elysia by Chris Dows, the second in his three-part Elysian Drop Troops audio drama series. Just like the first part Scions of Elysia, you can pick this up in CD (£12) or MP3 (£9.99) formats, and I would definitely recommend you do – although it really does require you to have listened to Scions…first. Chris Dows has gradually been building up some fantastic Elysians stories, which I hope we’ll see more of in future. As with Clonelord, you can read my review of this here, or check out Chris’ thoughts on it in another RAPID FIRE interview.
Thoughts on the week
It’s certainly been a week focused, for the most part, on Advent, with very little else happening until the weekend. If you follow the Warhammer Community site then you’ll probably have seen that they published a roundup of March’s upcoming titles, strangely a week after they were originally confirmed on the Black Library website – that was about the only other bit of news I spotted during the week.
That’s not a problem, however, when it’s a week filled with seven cracking Advent Calendar stories, like this week was. Even compared to last year’s resurgent Advent Calendar, with which Black Library seemed to be making a statement compared to the slightly lacklustre 2015 edition, the quality of this week’s stories (not to mention the previous three) has been phenomenal. So far there’s been variety, in terms of both setting and format, we’ve had surprises, and the quality of writing has just been fantastic. Big credit to Black Library for pulling out the stops, so far!
As for the weekend’s releases, while I know I’m already quite the advocate for both Reynolds and Dows, I think it’s hard to argue about the quality of releases. About the only criticism I can find around Clonelord is the lack of a limited edition hardback, after the impressive (albeit grisly) flayed skin-style edition that Primogenitor received. I’ve seen a fair few people commenting on this, clearly disappointed, and if I’m honest I think I’d agree.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that Black Library are a business, and they (rightfully) make data-led decisions – like not commissioning a limited edition for the second book in a series if the first one didn’t sell out. That being said, if you look at this along with books like David Annandale’s Castellan, which is another second book that doesn’t look to be getting a limited edition…it’s beginning to look like buying these expensive books is becoming a little riskier.
Let’s face it, the reason most of us buy limited editions is because we’re collectors, who love owning beautiful objects – in this case hardbacks that look great on the shelf. When you buy the first book in a series, you tend to do so on the assumption that there will be a second…likewise when you buy book one in limited edition hardback, you certainly hope that subsequent books will receive the same treatment, so they look great on the shelf together. If there’s a risk of that not happening…well, I know that I’m starting to think more carefully about whether I buy a limited edition or not.
As usual, here’s a quick roundup of the posts I’ve published so far this week:
- QUICK REVIEW: Duty Waits by Guy Haley
- QUICK REVIEW: Ahriman: Key of Infinity by John French
- QUICK REVIEW: Gods’ Gift by David Guymer
- QUICK REVIEW: Magisterium by Chris Wraight
- RAPID FIRE: Josh Reynolds Talks Fabius Bile: Clonelord
- RAPID FIRE: Chris Dows Talks Renegades of Elysia
- QUICK REVIEW: The Assassination of Gabriel Seth by Andy Smillie
- Renegades of Elysia by Chris Dows
- Fabius Bile: Clonelord by Josh Reynolds
- QUICK REVIEW: Now Peals Midnight by John French
Other than the next seven Advent Calendar stories, for which the titles aren’t announced but the setting and format are…I’ve no idea what’s coming next week. I can’t see anything listed now until the 30th December, so next week’s releases, whatever they are, will be a surprise! Anyone else got any suggestions?