Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 3 March 2020)
Series: Warhammer Horror
Length: 7 hours and 9 minutes
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
My obsession with Warhammer continues as I check out the grisly Warhammer Horror book, Sepulturum by Nick Kyme.
Over the last couple of years, I have had a lot of fun diving down into the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe. This universe features so many epic and unique stories and characters, and I love all the fantastic tales that can be told across the genres. One sub-genre of Warhammer fiction I’ve only had a little experience with so far is the Warhammer Horror books which, as the name suggest, blend gruesome horror elements with the already grim Warhammer universe. I have so far enjoyed one Warhammer Horror book, the creepy and clever The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin Hill, which was brilliantly written and showcased. I have been meaning to check out some other horror related Warhammer books, and when I saw that there was a zombie-centric Warhammer book, I knew it was something I would have to read. This book is Sepulturum, a compelling read written by new-to-me author Nick Kyme. Kyme is a veteran Warhammer writer, and I’ve got a couple of his other books sitting on my shelf already waiting for my attention. However, my first experience of him was through Sepulturum, which proved to be a really fun and interesting adventure.
Something dark and deadly, something which hungers for blood and flesh, is stirring in the low-hive of Blackgheist. The only person who can stop it is Inquisitor Morgravia Sanctus of the Ordo Sepulturum, whose investigation in Blackgheist revealed a terrible presence. However, before she could act, something happened that destroyed her memories and left her scarred, broken and hunted. Now with only one acolyte left, Morgravia attempts to find a psyker capable of restoring her mind to let her figure out what is chasing her and what their plans are.
Meeting with a broker from the criminal underworld, Morgravia believes that she has finally found the solution to her problems. However, before she can proceed, a terrible attack is launched across Blackgheist which no one is prepared for. The people of the hive have been turned into something violent, no-longer alive, and desperate to devour everything they come across. These creatures are soon swarming across Blackgheist, destroying all before them and leading to untold chaos and destruction.
Soon, only small bands of survivors are left who hope to escape from the horrors surrounding them. But as Morgravia leads one such group to safety, she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems. Other deadly monsters are hunting throughout Blackgheist, while deranged cultists take the opportunity to seize power for themselves. The truth behind the terrible events unfolding lies only within Morgravia’s mind, but is she truly prepared for the horrific secrets that are about to be unleashed?
Sepulturum was a fantastic and dark read that proved to be an outstanding addition to the Warhammer Horror range. Kyme has produced a fast-paced and gruesome zombie story in an amazing novel that combines a clever story with some excellent horror elements. The story itself is a fun zombie narrative as several characters attempt to survive a sudden onslaught of deranged and hungry former humans overrunning the city. The story primarily focuses on the damaged Inquisitor Morgravia and a couple of her companions as they attempt to escape the horrors unleashed upon them and find its cause, although a second storyline revolves around a normal labourer, Cristo, as he tries to get his daughter to safety. Both groups first encounter the zombie creatures in some pretty horrifying situations that leave them badly shaken and alone, and they are forced to navigate through the rest of the chaos in a daze. Their subsequent attempts to evade the zombie creatures lead them further into danger, especially as there are other dark forces out in the city that provide additional awesome complications and conflicts, and there are betrayals, insanities and the feeling that the zombies are only a small part of the larger picture. Everything leads up to some pretty disturbing final sequences that are loaded with brutal twists and major confrontations, especially as nobody is who they seem, and there is high need of some bloody self-sacrifice. Readers will come away pretty satisfied with how the story ends, with horror fans no doubt liking the high body count, and the potential hint of a continuation in the future.
I loved how Kyme set out the story in Sepulturum, and it proves to be an outstanding read about survival and desperation in a Warhammer city. The main setting for Sepulturum is already pretty gritty and unsavoury before the zombies, but everything only gets worse as the story unfolds. The slow reveal of the zombie creatures is handled well, and I loved the slow-burn panic that sweeps the city. The blend of character perspectives works well throughout the story, and while Morgravia and Cristo prove to be the main narrators, several other supporting cast members, often in Morgravia’s party, give an excellent alternative edge to the narrative while adding some fun moments to it. Cristo’s separate storyline also works well in concert with the main narrative surrounding Morgravia and her survivors, and it was interesting to see their two stories play out simultaneously without the groups ever meeting. Kyme has a lot of fun setting out some excellent elements of the story, and I particularly loved the attention to detail when it came to some of the fight scenes and the horror creatures the protagonists have to deal with. There are also several great twists and reveals towards the end of the book, and while some are well foreshadowed, there is also one genuine surprise that I thought was pretty damn brilliant. I did think the big conclusion ended up being a little to over-the-top metaphysical for its own good, but it was most a good ending with a fun last-minute inclusion from a whole other faction. This ended up being a pretty good self-contained, standalone read within the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe, and not too much pre-knowledge of the Warhammer universe is needed to fully appreciate it, especially with the zombies there. However, fans of the franchise will have the best time with it, and I felt this was a great inclusion into the wider Warhammer universe.
Naturally the real highlight of Sepulturum is the zombies, and it is always fun to see how Warhammer stories turn out when combined with genres like horror, especially as this universe already has some terrifying and shocking elements to it. The zombies in Sepulturum are interesting inclusions to the story, especially as Kyme does a good job of brutally introducing them and then unleashing them upon a wider world. While some members of the Warhammer 40,000 universe do have some concepts of what a zombie is, the vast majority do not, so the inherent panic and horror at what the creatures are is pretty crazy, and you have to love the reactions of the people who don’t know what they are dealing with. All the zombie scenes are pretty ferocious, and the unstoppable horde coming at you is always pretty freaky to deal with. I did quite like how the zombies themselves weren’t exactly what you thought they were from a Warhammer 40,000 lore perspective, and their presence heralds another threat, with some creepy alternate creatures.
In addition, Kyme also enhances other dark elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and uses that to increase the horror feel of the book. The author affects a brooding and repressive tone across the entire book, and all the characters are caught up in intense feelings of despair and horror at what they are experiencing and the creatures they are encountering. Kyme also introduces some gruesome body modification elements that work well with the zombies to create a terrifying read. Body horror, including some of the more shocking elements around servitors, argumentation and other body modifications, is always close to the surface of any Warhammer story, but it was particularly bad here, especially as some characters are dissected or have elements contained within their bodies that Kyme showcases in distressing detail. A lot of the horror is also derived from the craziness within people’s minds, as many of the characters break down in different ways after the initial zombie attack. Watching characters go insane in various ways, whether through suicidal thoughts or with bloody religious fervour, really adds to the overall horror elements of the book, and I felt that Kyme had the right balance between outer and inner horror throughout this book. The combination of the darker tone, zombies and other cool horror elements, really fits into the Warhammer universe well and I enjoyed the dark tale that Kyme told around it.
As is my usual practice, I ended up listening to Sepulturum on audiobook rather than seeking out a physical copy. As always, it proved to be pretty epic. I always love how well the audiobook format works to enhance the fantastic stories in the Warhammer universe. This was especially good with Sepulturum, as the audiobook version helped to bring out some darker elements of the story and make Sepulturum feel even spookier. Narrated by veteran audiobook narrator Antonia Beamish, who has worked on several Warhammer Horror books previously, the audiobook ensured that the darker tone and desperation of the characters really came through. You really get a sense of the characters’ panic and despair through Beamish’s great narration, and I deeply appreciated how gruesome and ghastly all the horror details sounded when she described them. The additional voices she used for several of the characters were pretty good as well, and you end up getting a good sense of each character’s personality, especially during the terrible encounters they go through. Beamish’s voice work really helps to bring this entire audiobook together, and this ended up being an outstanding way to enjoy Sepulturum. With a run time of just over seven hours, you can power through this audiobook quickly, and I deeply enjoyed listening to this gory book in this format.
The Warhammer universe offers further treasures as Nick Kyme has some zombie fun in Sepulturum. A fantastic addition to the Warhammer Horror subseries, Sepulturum takes some great characters on a particularly dark and shocking adventure loaded with all manner of horror. It’s an excellent and exciting read for fans of both Warhammer and horror fiction. I deeply enjoyed this book and can’t wait to try out more awesome Warhammer Horror in the future.