I’m a little late, seeing as it’s already 2018 when I’m writing this, but as usual I’m hopping on board the recap-of-the-year bandwagon and taking a look back at how 2017 went here on Track of Words. For me it’s been a year chock full of great books, short stories and audio dramas – especially on the Black Library front – and it’s also been a year of real growth for the site…but more on that later. For now, let’s start off as usual with some figures.
2017 in numbers
Let’s start off with some overall stats for Track of Words, beginning with a slightly startling number:
- Total posts published: 300
Three hundred – blimey! I actually hit 299 by the morning of the 31st December, but couldn’t face leaving it on such an agonisingly odd number so posted one final review. Compared to 2016’s 197 (which I was pretty happy with) that’s a big old number, and helps me understand why I’ve felt so busy this year!
I’ll break that number down now into a few chunks:
- 183 reviews, of which:
- 95 short story reviews
- 64 book reviews
- 24 audio drama reviews, of which
- 13 full-length reviews
- 11 quick reviews of short audios
- 31 interviews, of which:
- 14 Rapid Fire interviews
- 6 Forgotten Texts interviews
- 53 Black Library Weekly posts (weirdly, 2017 had 53 Sundays)
- 28 Forgotten Texts articles (reviews and interviews, included in the previous numbers)
So that’s a whole lot of reviews (about 40 more than last year) plus loads of other articles, with interviews particularly ramping up alongside my Black Library Weekly posts and a range of Forgotten Texts articles. There’s also another stat which I’m particularly pleased with:
- Total posts viewed: 733
That’s 733 articles out of 741 in total, which is a 98.9% read rate! I don’t know who’s been going back and looking at reviews and other articles from way back in 2014, but I hope you liked them!
One final set of numbers, and that’s for growth – i.e. how the viewing figures for Track of Words have changed compared to last year. I use WordPress for the website, which gives me two main stats – visitors (i.e. the number of ‘sessions’) and page views (the total number of articles viewed).
- Visitors: increased by 92%
- Page views: increased by 122%
92% and 122%? Whoa. I talked in last year’s roundup about how much it means that so many people are reading the articles I write on here, and that’s only emphasised this year! It’s been mind-blowing to see the numbers rise so much, and I really hope that if you’ve taken the time to read one or more of my posts they’ve proved to be interesting, useful or otherwise entertaining! Thank you guys – thank you so much…
Enough with the numbers, let’s take a quick look at the most popular articles now. I’ve broken these down into various headings, and it’s really interesting to see what’s been particularly popular. There are a few surprises in there…!
- Ordo Sinister by John French
- The Assassination of Gabriel Seth by Andy Smillie (despite only being published in December!)
- Grandfather’s Gift by Guy Haley
Audio drama reviews:
- The Binary Succession by David Annandale
- Scions of Elysia by Chris Dows
- Dark Compliance by John French
- There and Back Again with Laurie Goulding
- Interview with Dan Abnett ]April 2017] (I know, imaginatively titled…)
- RAPID FIRE: Chris Wraight talks Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion
Best bits of 2017 for Track of Words
I hope you’ll excuse me a moment now to take a look back at some of the things I’m most proud of in 2017 in terms of Track of Words and my own writing achievements.
First of all, I kicked off my Forgotten Texts series of articles, taking a look back through some classic Black Library (and occasionally pre-Black Library) stories and thinking about how they stand up against modern Black Library tales. It rather tailed off as the year went on as I got busier with interviews (more on these in a moment) and other things, but I’m definitely going to be doing more of these posts this year. I hope they’ve been enjoyable to read, because I’ve had an absolute blast re-reading some of these great old stories! It’s hard to pick a highlight, but talking to authors like Chris Pramas and Jonathan Green about stories which have stuck with me since my childhood was awesome!
Moving on to March, and I was delighted to be able to switch Track of Words over to a proper domain, rather than the .wordpress.com address that I’d been using up until that point. I still can’t quite believe this has grown so far from humble origins back in 2014, but hopefully the launch of trackofwords.com will prove to be just the beginning. I can’t promise anything, but if possible I’ll look to make some more visible improvements to the site as the year goes on!
Next…I’ve mentioned interviews a couple of times already, but if I was to highlight a single element of 2017 as being noteworthy it would be the increase in interviews I’ve been able to pull off. In 2016 I took my first tentative steps into author interviews, but in 2017 I ramped that up considerably, going from 4 interviews in 2016 to 31 in 2017! I’d like to thank (again) all of the authors who have taken the time to write up answers or chat with me on Skype – I’ve had an absolute blast writing all of these interviews up, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as well! Special mention should go to Ian St. Martin, who was not only one of the first authors I ever interviewed, but who inspired the creation of my RAPID FIRE series of short interviews. Cheers, Ian!
The last two points are a little tangential, and even more self-indulgent, but I’m really proud that 2017 saw both my first review for the British Fantasy Society, and my first article (on BL audio) on the Warhammer Community site. Only time will tell whether we see more of those, but I’ve got my fingers crossed! Once again, thanks to everyone who’s read one of my Track of Words articles, as without you guys reading these and motivating me to write more, I don’t suppose I’d have ever managed either of those two achievements. Thanks guys!
Right, now that we’ve looked through all the numbers, the most popular articles and my self-indulgent best bits, I thought I would pick out a few highlights from 2017’s reading. I’ve focused this mostly on Black Library titles, but I’ve also added a few non-BL bits in at the end as well.
It’s been a great year for fans of the Inquisition, with two full-length (and fantastic) novels released featuring different inquisitors, as well as a small horde of short stories and audio dramas (and even a few audiobooks). John French’s The Horusian Wars series hit its stride with Resurrection and the audio drama Blood and Lies, while Chris Wraight gave us Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne, and Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn and Ravenor series continued to be released in audiobook format. I also particularly enjoyed Gav Thorpe’s audio drama Eye of Night – if you’ve not listened to that yet, I would urge you to check it out!
Age of Sigmar
I’m still a bit behind with my Age of Sigmar reading, but I made a concerted effort to catch up on it, especially with the Realmgate Wars series. I had previously read the first three books in the series, but in 2017 I read through books four to nine, as well as a standalone novel (Skaven Pestilens). I’m not going to suggest that I enjoyed all of them equally, but I did enjoy them all to at least some extent, and with books like Warbeast, Fury of Gork and Bladestorm, not to mention short stories like Heartwood, I was delighted to find some genuinely great stories set in the Mortal Realms. On the topic of Warbeast you can read about Gav’s thoughts on these topics in this interview, congratulations once again to Gav for a much-deserved Gemmell Award win, and also for his 20th anniversary as a Black Library author! .
It’s only been a six year wait, but the latest Gaunt’s Ghosts novel – The Warmaster – finally arrived in 2017! I figured I wanted to reread at least some of the series before tackling the new novel, so I revisited the first four novels before jumping forward to reread the last two – Blood Pact and Salvation’s Reach. I felt that this nicely set me up for The Warmaster, although I think I’m probably going to have to go back and reread the ones that I skipped! Suffice to say it was a pleasure to go back and spend time with these characters once again (I would absolutely recommend a reread, if you’re on the fence), and while The Warmaster left me desperate to find out what happens next, it was just a joy to read a new Gaunt novel.
I guess I have to talk about the Heresy as well – doesn’t seem right otherwise. I probably wouldn’t say that 2017 was a vintage year for the Heresy, but with plenty of new numbered series books, the Primarchs series really kicking off, and a bunch of really great Advent stories and audios…there’s been plenty to enjoy. In fact, while I maybe wouldn’t put any of the new main-line books up there with my favourites, I would say that Lorgar: Bearer of the Word was definitely one of my best books of the year, while a fair few of the short stories and audio dramas (including the Advent ones) are similarly among my favourites. I’ll do a few ‘top 3’ lists below…let’s see how many Heresy stories are on them!
I’ve already mentioned that I wrote a Warhammer Community post about Black Library audio – that was inspired by how much I enjoyed the audio content that came out in 2017. From classic novels turned (at last) into audiobooks, to audio dramas of varying lengths, the standard was remarkably high – in both storytelling and the quality of production. For me I think audio has been one of those things where over the course of the year it’s all just come together perfectly – I’ve listened to more, the standard has continued to rise, and I’ve had the chance to do things like listen to Toby Longworth talk about his process, and watch a live audio drama performance! Have a look below for my favourite audios of the year, but I’ve had to miss so many out – so special mention should go to the fascinating narration-free short audios Heart of Decay and The Autumn Prince in the Advent series, to Blackshields: The False War by Josh and to Daedalus by Laurie. All fantastic audios, and very much worth checking out!
In fact, with loads of BL audios up on Audible now is as good a time as any to start checking them out – you can follow this link to everything BL-related (at the moment) on Audible (in the UK, at least). If you buy anything after clicking that link, or even take out a free trial, you’ll be supporting Track of Words…so I’ll be very grateful and you’ll have cool audio content to listen to!
I can’t finish this section off without talking about the Black Library Weekender, which was back after a three year hiatus. I’ve written loads about this already, but it’s worth mentioning again just how fantastic this event was – I really do think it was probably my favourite Weekender yet! Highlights of the event? Guy Haley’s Ork in the live-action audio drama (and, in fact, his reading from Wolfsbane as well), listening to Toby Longworth (so good I’ve mentioned it twice), hearing confirmation that Sandy Mitchell is writing more Ciaphas Cain (PRAISE BE!), listening to Dan and Chris talk about Terra and the Inquisition, and getting to meet so many great BL authors, editors and staff members. You’re all amazing!
Oh, and also the amazing number of people who made a point of finding me and saying hi – I was very surprised, but really touched. Thanks so much guys!
Ok, so let’s finish off the Highlights section with a few lists – everyone loves lists, right? In a few weeks I’ll probably have changed my mind, but here are my top 3s as they stand this minute. These are in no order, other than being my favourite three for each:
- Dante by Guy Haley
- Lorgar: Bearer of the Word by Gav Thorpe
- Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne by Chris Wraight
- The Binary Succession by David Annandale
- Agent of the Throne: Blood and Lies by John French
- Malcador: First Lord of the Imperium by LJ Goulding
And a few favourite non-Black Library tiles. If you haven’t come across these, I’d urge you to have a read of the reviews and then check them out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…
- Viking Fire by Justin Hill
- Judge Anderson: Year One by Alec Worley
- Exile by James Swallow
- A Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch
Seeing as I’ve done a Highlights section I figure I ought to do a Lowlights one too, but really it’s been a year where I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read or listened to. There have been a few minor disappointments, but nothing that I really want to flag up specifically…which is a good sign, I’d say. I hope 2018 is similarly under-represented in the Lowlights category!
Rather than ending with lowlights, let’s take a look at some great moments from this year’s Black Library books. I’ve just highlighted some of my favourite scenes, set-pieces or elements of stories
Andy Clark is all about the fun
Both of Andy’s 2017 novels – Kingsblade and Shroud of Night were full to the brim with genuinely fun moments, from Imperial Knights launching in Drop Keeps (literally drop pod castles) to a fantastic set-piece in which Alpha Legionnaires battle through a speeding train…snakes on a train! Great stuff.
Gordrakk and Zephacleas
If anyone ever says Orks/Orcs/Orruks don’t make good viewpoint characters, point them in Josh Reynolds’ direction. Throughout Fury of Gork Gordrakk consistently stole the show, and when he came together in a head-on collision with the brash, bold Zephacleas…well, it was just wonderful. So much fun to read – I REALLY hope we get to see more of both of those characters.
Emma Gregory’s Greyfax
If you thought the miniature of inquisitor Greyfax was cool, wait until you listen to Gav’s Eye of Night, in which Emma Gregory delivers a genuinely spine-tingling performance bringing her to life. When she cries “Throne of Terra! Smite them!”…wow. It’s just perfect.
Scene one: Resurrection
John French’s novel The Horusian Wars: Resurrection is excellent, but I’d like to just pick out the first scene…which in case stretches for about a third of the novel. It’s just so vividly drawn, full of amazing characters and utterly captivating; it’s an inquisitorial tour de force. Go check it out, now!
Guilliman vs Fulgrim
Dark Imperium is notable for so many things, not least for being an excellent novel, but the opening scene in which we get to see the fateful battle between Guilliman and Fulgrim has really stuck with me. It’s the perfect introduction to the book, and also a fantastically written scene, which works brilliantly in context of the story Guy was telling…while also just being super cool!
I haven’t actually reviewed Josh Reynolds’ four Age of Sigmar audio dramas, as I’ve covered the novel they’re bound up into instead – Mortarch of Night – but while I wasn’t 100% sold on the novel, the audios are worth listening to if nothing else for the incredible monologues from Nagash at the beginning of each one. It’s incredible stuff, combining really evocative writing from Josh with an amazing performance (from Ramon Tikaram, I think…please do correct me if I’m wrong) and some great SFX. Now I can’t help but hear that whenever I read a scene where Nagash speaks!
The gribbliest tyranids yet
Ok, so I probably made up the word ‘gribbliest’, but you get the idea. You might expect the Blood Angels to stand out in Guy Haley’s The Devastation of Baal, and don’t get me wrong…they do. For me, however, Guy’s depiction of the tyranids was just so, so good – I’ve genuinely never been as interested in…or grossed out by…tyranids before. Especially when a carnifex gets its head smashed in…only for the brain in its bio-weapon to take over! Whaaaat?! Gross…but awesome.
I’ve no doubt that I’ll have missed SO MANY awesome stories, and fantastic moments, but if I keep going then this article is going to get ridiculously long. Nobody needs that, so I’ll leave it there.
Suffice to say I had a blast in 2017 reading and listening to tons of awesome stories, and I still can’t quite believe how much you guys invest in reading my rambling reviews and articles, and chatting away on Facebook, Twitter and in person. Massive thanks to Black Library for a year’s worth of brilliant content, and to everyone who’s read even a single one of my posts. You’re all great in my book! Roll on 2018…