Blog Archives

Coming Soon: Black Library June – August

As you may no doubt have noticed on the blog recently, I’ve been picking up the threads of my Black Library reading, first with the Beast Arises series and then with some other stuff the reviews for which will be going up in the coming days. Back in the day, sometime around 2014, I was very much immersed in the publisher’s output, having been a fan for eleven-plus years at that point, but then I dropped off and my reading was rather fragmentary. Now, the ride back has been pretty awesome and intense, and all the upcoming material for the next three months that we’ve been shown has gotten me excited all over again.

Check after the break to see what novels and short stories and audio dramas and more Black Library has coming up in the next few months! This is a curated list of products that I can very well see myself picking up and going through.

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Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron #1 (Comics Review)

The fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000 is extremely rich and complicated. Since its inception, this creation of Games Workshop has taken on a life of its own and has spanned a variety of media in the form of movies, comics, novels, audio-dramas, and so on. Some of the best fiction has come with the likes of the Bloodquest comics or the Horus Heresy multi-media series and so on. I’ve been a fan of this setting for almost 15 years or now, and it has certainly been a journey that has had its ups and downs. Will of Iron looks to chart a bold new path forward.

Recently, Titan Comics was granted the license to publish fresh new comics in the 40K universe, and Will of Iron #1 is the first of these new stories that brings the indomitable Space Marines and their various enemies back to comics forefront. Written by George Mann, the new series focuses on one of the most secretive and oldest factions of these space-faring warrior-monks as many of their secrets are about to be exposed and their efforts to contain the spread of such knowledge begin. The first issue is a bit predictable and dry, but it is also very promising and for that I give it a big thumps up.

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Best of 2014 Part 2a: Novels

Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.

With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2014: Day #5

The fifth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell. Published by Abaddon Books, this was Sarah’s first full-length non-Black Library work, and it proved to be even better than some of her Black Library work, which is saying something since I’ve always held her BL fiction in high regard. She was one of the first authors I started reading back when I was returning to BL fiction some years back, and she has never disappointed. An historical fiction novel about an alternate English history, mixed in with some great fantastical concepts, Uprising was one of my top books for the first half of the year.

The fifth set of comic covers I pick this year are for Batgirl #31 by Gail Simone, Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion, Blond and Dezi Sienty, with cover by Alex Garner, and Robyn Hood: Legend #1 by Pat Shand, Larry Watts, Slamet Mujiono and Jim Campbell, with the cover by Nei Ruffino. Alex Garner’s work on Batgirl has always been impresive since he stepped on to the title last year, and the one for Batgirl #31 is among my favourites, especially since it has one of my favourite Secret Six characters, Ragdoll. With Robyn Hood: Legend, I have less of a history since I only got into the whole Robyn Hood thing this year, but writer Pat Shand certainly made it a grand experience and Nei Ruffino’s cover, while a variant, is the best of all the covers commissioned for the first issue of the third Robyn Hood mini-series.

So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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Portents by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

I’ve mentioned before, repeatedly so, that Sarah Cawkwell is one of my favourite authors right now, and has been since about late 2010 or so, ever since I started reading her short stories in Black Library’s monthly magazine, Hammer & Bolter, which is sadly discontinued now. She’s one of the best examples of fans of Black Library to have come up through the ranks to become a bona fide author for the publisher and pretty much everything that she has written to date has been spectacular or close it, even her original stuff such as The Ballad of Gilrain or Uprising.

Sarah is most noted for her Silver Skulls fiction for Warhammer 40,000 where she has taken the so-named Space Marine Chapter under her umbrella and told some really fascinating stories about characters from across the Chapter’s many and varied ranks. The most recent Silver Skulls fiction is the (currently) digital-only novel Portents, released just a few weeks ago. In it, she carries forwards threads she introduced in her previous work, whether short stories or her debut novel The Gildar Rift, and it is a most satisfying read indeed. It was great to have Sergeant Gileas Ur’ten back again for another outing, a sizable one this time, and the exploration of the Chapter culture in itself was most fascinating.

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The Death of Antagonis by David Annandale (Book Review)

David Annandale debuted on the Black Library back in early 2012 and since then he has turned out one quality work after another, whether that be for novels or novellas or even audio dramas. He has written in all the different formats that Black Library publishes, and I would even say that he has emerged as one of its strongest writers in the novella format. Last year his Black Dragons novel The Death of Antagonis was released and it proved to be a great read indeed. The Black Dragons are one of the most colourful of all the Space Marine Chapters, being a part of the fabled Cursed Founding, and to see them get some spotlight is great indeed.

In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so enjoy away!

The original review can be found here.

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Born To Us by Dan Abnett (Short Story Review)

Black Library started its trend of micro-shorts back in 2012 and it is something that has really caught on since. With a word-length ranging from 1,000-2,000 words, these shorts are great teasers for various characters and events within Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Dan Abnett kicked off the 2012 Black Library Advent Calendar with his Inquisition short story Born To Us, which I loved since it satisfied my desire to read more Eisenhorn, a character I love dearly.

In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so enjoy away!

The original review can be found here.

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Pariah by Dan Abnett (Book Review)

Coming in at the end of 2012, Dan Abnett’s Pariah was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The start of a new Inquisition trilogy, dubbed Eisenhorn vs Ravenor, the novel promised much in its premise, which is why I was so excited for it. But unfortunately the reality didn’t pan out, not at all. Now, Pariah has the unfortunate distinction of one of the worst novels from Black Library I’ve read to date. It just didn’t work for me, not on any level, and I was sorely disappointed with it. As it turned out, my review also turned out to be one of the most contentious I’ve ever written and my opinion on it seems to be among a very, very small minority of the fans.

In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so read on!

The original review can be found here.

Note: This review contains major spoilers.

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Thorn and Talon by Dan Abnett (Audio Review)

Among the very first Black Library audios that I listened to was Dan Abnett’s masterpiece Thorn and Talon. Containing three audios set across the timeline of Dan’s Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies, it was a pretty damn good audio, one that set a very high bar for others that followed. Even now, almost three years after it was first published, it still remains as one of Black Library’s finest audios, due in no small part to the excellent voice-acting. The audio made my “Best of 2012 Part 1” list as well so it is highly recommended!

In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so enjoy away!

The original review can be found here.

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Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

When I started getting back into the Warhammer universes back in 2010, one of the authors that I was following at the time was Sarah Cawkwell, a relatively recent addition to the ranks of Black Library authors who had written quite a few short stories around the time and who then went on to write two fantastic novels as well, one of which was her debut even! In all this time, Sarah has definitely emerged as one of my favourite authors and this is why I was really excited late last year when I found out that she was having her first full-length original novel published very soon. As someone transferring over from her Warhammer work, I was really anticipating the novel.

And it turns out that Uprising, the first novel of the Heirs of the Demon King series, is almost what I expected it to be (one of my 41 Most Anticipated Titles of 2014). Instead of the war-torn far future or the eternal war of the “old world”, this time Sarah tackles historical fiction and the series is built upon the premise that when Richard the Lionheart returned from his victories in the Holy Land, he brought back magic to England, and changed the course of history forever. The novel then follows some of Richard’s descendants and several magi as they clash over the best way to save the world from the evil designs of a most cunning villain, someone who intends to drown the world in blood and war.

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Home Stretch

And I am now in the home stretch phase.

The pitch is complete – 1,000 word sample, single paragraph summary and a 600+ synopsis of the short story. I am rather proud of the effort and the result both. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this has been a great learning experience. The critiques on the sample helped me perfect the technicalities of the background. Not to mention the immense help in perfecting the sample as a whole so it doesn’t come across as a juvenile effort.

I still have my first attempt at the BL submissions window from 2 or 3 years back saved on the laptop. It was a Guard against Chaos Marines story. Wrote about six (edit: six hundred) words. Dreadful attempt because I had no idea what the heck I was doing or how to go about it even. The files makes me cringe every time I read it. It has been slightly amusing over the years though.

It is all set to roll on forwards with the actual submissions process itself. BL will start accepting people’s pitches for consideration from the 1st of May till the 31st of July. Ample time for a lot of people, especially some really prolific boltholers, to finish their mountains of pitches 🙂

Once I got this pitch out of the way, it has become a really slow day. I am actually rather bored at the moment, undecided on what to do. I’ve got the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood soundtrack playing in the background and the effects are as interesting and varied as a ride on a roller-coaster.

Contemplating whether or not to start a second pitch. I have the beginnings of a couple of ideas, one of which has been inspired by the just-passed RiaR competition over at the Bolthole. Then I am considering how best to move forwards with the Hesperon Crusade group story I’ve been working on as well. We finally have the beginnings of some superb Inquisitorial involvement featuring the Ordo Xenos and the Deathwatch and its going to be amazing I have no doubt.

Another thing is that I have finally decided what the new chapter name will be for the Sons of Corax. I am sad to let go of this highly imaginative title but alas, sacrifices must be made so that my short story can reach that faint light at the end of the tunnel. 12 Word-doc pages of backstory. A small manuscript book half filled with more technical backstory. 7-8 months of work which was often mind-numbing. Two months of some really dedicated work.

On another note, I have started a competition thread on the Bolthole, ‘In all of Creation!’ Looking forward to an interesting time with this.

What’s in a name?

This is a question that has been bothering me for the last week quite a bit. Mostly in relation to what the chapter name Sons of Corax really means. Ages ago on warseer when someone was posting their own DIY chapter they had some sort of similar name for a different legion successor. One of the posters said it was quite presumptuous of the chapter to name itself after the primarch, somehow indicating that the particular chapter was more favored by the primarch.

Is that necessarily true?

We already have the Sons of Guilliman, Sons of Dorn, Hammers of Dorn, Angels Sanguine, Disciples of Caliban, Heralds of Ultramar, Emperor’s XYZ, Imperial ABC, Knights of the Raven, other Sons of PQR etc etc. What are the significances of these names? The Heralds of Ultramar aren’t even based anywhere in Ultramar! The Sons of Orar aren’t even Orar’s sons in the sense that the Sons of Guilliman are literally sons of Guilliman! Did Dorn ever really carry a thunderhammer (how does the Fist of Dorn fit in here when the Imperial Fists are the ones using it)? Or the Emperor’s XYZ (loyalist) chapters who have been created after the Emperor ascended the Golden Throne and isn’t even aware of them? Are the Imperial ABC chapters really favoured by the Imperium?

Where does the favoritism being and where does it end? Is there really a question of these chapters being favored as indicated by the names of these chapters?

Two other aspects of the question are A, what is the power of these names and B, what is the real significance of these names? Let’s take it one by one.

A, The Power of Names – Fiction is quite literally littered with references and cases to/of the idea that names have power. These are reminiscent of some of the oldest religions on our planet. Knowing the name of a daemon gives you power over him is a concept particularly emphasised in both Warhammer worlds and in 40K we have the new background stating that the names of Grey Knights are parts of the true names of daemons! It is all the same as knowing the true identity of a spy, which allows you to exert power over him/her.

Why else do Inquisitors in 40k operate in subterfuge, particular examples being Eisenhorn and Ravenor. They don’t think twice about falsifying identities.

In Frank Herbert’s Dune series, the name Muad’Dib is a name of power, a killing name that the Fremen soldiers can use to literally kill their enemies with the aid of their sonic weapons.

Perhaps the Alpha Legion, at least pre-Heresy, exemplified this best of all. All Alpha Legionnaires are Alpharius when questioned in the book Legion. The identity of the primarch is hidden from anyone not of the Twentieth Legion and there is even a bigger secret being kept here.

What is the power of a name in Warhammer 40,000 in your opinion?

B, The Real Significance of Names – If names have power, then they also have a significance, a deeper meaning perhaps.

What does the name Blood Angels mean for that chapter? The chapter often has angelic names for its battle-brothers. The space marines were/are the Emperor’s Angels of Death. Sanguinius was raised in the Baalite tribe ‘Blood’. Post-heresy the Blood Angels and their successors have been cursed with a vampiric heritage and the Red Thirst.

Ultramarines, is it significant only in that Guilliman’s space marines come from Ultramar, or is the significance related to the colour of their name or is it a clever pun on both?

Space Wolves, are they really wolves in space because they have larger canines than is the norm among other marines, or is it a reference to Leman Russ’ upbringing, or is it related to the Wulfen curse, or is it another clever twist on all of them?

Alpha Legion, the last legion to be formed and yet designated in an old dead (in-universe) language as the first. Alpharius, the last primarch to be found yet his name has one (of course there are multiple meanings) meaning of the first. His twin’s name, Omegon, in that same dead language is the last letter of the alphabet.

Among the Raven Guard, a lot of their captains are named after birds, just as Corax is. And they are plays on similar words. Korvydae of the Tenth, Kayvaan Shrike of the Third, Corvane Valar of the Fifth. Go to wikipedia and do a search for the word Corax and see the results that come up.

Perhaps the most telling and important from an in-universe aspect is Horus, primarch of the most accomplished legion during the Heresy, the Warmaster of the Imperium, the Emperor’s most favored son, foremost among all the primarchs. And the one who plunged the entire galaxy into never-ending war. Horus, in egyptian mythology, is one of the oldest and most significant gods. What came to be known during the Heresy as the Eye of Horus, and was previously the Eye of Terra, is an ancient egyptian symbol for protection, royal power and good health. What Horus the primarch did during the Heresy is known to everyone.

Where does this all end?

All of this is something that I’ve been thinking about in this last week. I was quite surprised when I found out that the Corvus Mellori is a species of the crow/raven family Corvidae about two weeks back. The protagonist of my short story is Valerius Mellor. I had accidentally come up with a name that tied my character to the primarch and legion his chapter is descended from. And yes, it was quite unintentional.

All this comes down to the collective fact that Black Library does not want its writers, particularly ones who are aiming to get published through them the first time (established writers might be getting some leeway), to invent new chapters. I can see where they are coming from because there is such a large number of canon chapters we known nothing about. Some of them exist as nothing but names, they have no livery, heraldry, home or any kind of backstory.

This put me in a real bind because even though Sons of Corax was a stopgap measure to name the Raven Guard successor, I have become quite attached to it. And now I have to change it. Mostly because using my own chapter name is quite a bit of risk and could potentially work against my pitch for the upcoming submissions window. And I really want to not have any negative points against the pitch, especially ones that are easily controllable by me.

So I am now changing the name of the chapter. I have a short list of 4 chapters from Lexicanum’s list of canon chapters. I am very undecided at the moment because each of them represent some aspect of the backstory I have created for the Sons of Corax and I am reluctant to just abandon any of it. I tried to roll for these 4 names (about 50 times mind you to get a nice average) but I was still unhappy.

You see, the name of the chapter matters a lot. It ties it to the primarch, to the original legion. The Sons of Corax have a rich history of having collaborated with the Raven Guard over the years and they have kept some legion practices alive in their original form. They are also quite close to Corax in a spiritual way from what I have envisioned. And the name should reflect the traditions they have inherited from the legion, even though they are Third Founding, and an aspect(s) of the primarch that they think is the most appropriate for the direction they want to go in.

Perhaps all of this is a little too much for just one short story that may not even get picked up. But I think that that is where the difference lies. The difference between a writer who is aiming for quality and one who is just doing it because he/she wants to do it. I am not the best writer out there by any means. And the quality of the fanfic I regularly see on the good old Bolthole reminds me of that everyday and pushes me to perfect my own work that much more.

Its all about the effort you want to put in. And I believe that the more you can show that in the pitch, the better your (and my) chances of getting that foot in the door.

I have had three great critiques on my sample. They all attacked it in very different ways. Some did it from a background perspective. Some based on their own ideas on how things work in-universe. Some based on the technical aspects of the writing process. Some based on just pure logic from their own experiences. Combined, their review has resulted in quite a few changes to the sample in ways I had ignored because I wasn’t aware of the significance. Much thanks to Phalanx, Raziel and Narry for their help on this. Particularly Narry for his help with the names. And all the other Boltholers who helped in the entire process as well.