Warhammer 40,000: The Lion: Son of the Forest by Mike Brooks

The Lion - Son of the Forest Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 22 April 2023)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 12 hours and 15 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars


One of the fastest rising authors of Warhammer 40,000 fiction, Mike Brooks, returns with another exceptional read, this time covering one of the most significant events in recent Warhammer fiction, the return of Lion El’Johnson with The Lion: Son of the Forest.

At this point I think that my love for all things Warhammer is pretty well established, especially after my lengthy post earlier this year detailing my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels.  I have been having a ton of fun in 2023 with this cool franchise, and I have just managed to finish off the newest Warhammer novel with The Lion: Son of the Forest.  This is the latest book from the very impressive Mike Brooks, who has been making a real name for himself in Warhammer 40,000 fiction and who seems to get better with every one of his books that I read.  His previous novel, Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom was a great read about an excellent established villain, and I had a lot of fun with his most recent book, Warboss, a highly entertaining novel about the always crazy orks.  However, I think that The Lion is probably his most ambitious and captivating novel yet as he covers the return of the Primarch of the Dark Angels, Lion El’Johnson.  This is a pretty big deal in Warhammer circles, and I was very impressed with how Brooks puts his own spin on the return to create an epic and powerful read.

At the dawn of the Imperium of Man, there was no force more deadly nor more loyal to the Emperor than the Dark Angels, the first Legion of Space Marines.  Led by their implacable and unstoppable Primarch and genefather, Lion El’Johnson, better known as the Lion, nothing was able to stop the Dark Angels as they crusaded from planet to planet dispensing the Emperor’s will.  However, following the events of the Horus Heresy and the Lion’s inability to save the Emperor, the Dark Angels imploded from within.  Treachery and years of resentment saw the Legion engage in a brutal and sudden civil war, which resulted in the destruction of the Dark Angel’s home world of Caliban, the scattering of the traitor Dark Angels throughout time and space as the Fallen, and the disappearance and apparent death of the Lion right when the galaxy needed him most.

Now in the 41st millennium, humanity is facing the greatest threat since the Horus Heresy.  The fall of Cadia spawned the Great Rift, a sprawling gap of daemon infested space that split the already crumbling Imperium in two, distributing travel, communications and coordination between humanity’s armies.  Into this darkness, the dread forces of Chaos emerge, destroying all before them, while other malign threats begin to eat away the remains of the Imperium.  The doom of all mankind seems certain, but hope is about to emerge in the most unlikely of places.

After a 10,000-year absence, the Lion awakens on the far-flung and devastated planet of Camarth, with no memory of how he got there.  Discovering one of his former sons, the Fallen Zabriel, the Lion soon discovers what has happened to the Imperium in his absence, as well as the terrible threats of the Great Rift and the forces of Chaos.  Unsure of his purpose or what has happened to him, the Lion sets out to preserve humanity from the forces trying to destroy it.  Rallying members of the Fallen from their long exile, the Lion begins a new campaign throughout the besieged systems of man, while trying to reconcile himself to everything he has lost.  But a dangerous and well-organised Chaos warband, the Ten Thousand Eyes, led by two of the Lion’s Fallen sons, are determined to destroy the returned Primarch and enact an ambitious plan with galaxy shattering consequences.  Can an isolated Lion survive the insanity of the 41st millennium, or has he returned only to face his doom?

Wow, now this was a pretty damn awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel.  Mike Brooks continues to really impress me with this cool new book, and I loved the elaborate and captivating tale contained within The Lion: Son of the Forest.  Featuring an intriguing and emotionally charged narrative that perfectly revives a key Warhammer 40,000 character, The Lion is an outstanding read and I think this is probably Brooks’ best Warhammer novel yet.

The Lion had a particularly interesting narrative that was firmly set around the return of Lion El’Johnson, and I loved the unique tale that Brooks came up.  The initial scenes of the book are quite fascinating as Brooks presents a symbol laden couple of chapters to show the Lion’s initial return, which I felt was a great way to start the story as it set up a lot of intriguing moments and gave the book quite a distinctive theme.  The introduction of two new alternate perspective characters a few chapters in helps to morph the story into a more typical Warhammer 40,000 narrative as it sees the Lion and other former members of the Dark Angels awaken in the current timeline.  The story soon sees the Lion reunite with one of his former sons and begin to reclaim a conquered Imperial planet from a notorious Chaos warband while trying to understand the new universe he’s in.  Getting back to his roots as a protector, the Lion soon is soon drawn into larger affairs, thanks a mysterious new ability he has obtained, and he sets out to do the right thing and right the wrongs of his past.  His actions not only lead him to more of his sons, ensuring that this book has a deep emotional heart to it, but it also leads him into conflict with a dangerous enemy, one that has big plans for him.

The Lion’s narrative is pretty epic in its scope and power as Brooks tells an exciting and compelling story about both the past and the present, and how one hero can make a difference.  The story features some great moments, including cool battles, emotional reunions, and dives into ancient history, as the characters come to grips with what the Lion’s return means to the greater universe.  Everything leads up to an ultra-intense finale as the Lion encounters a truly fallen son and is forced to reckon with the sins of his Legion and family.  I really enjoyed this epic narrative and Brooks sets out all the events extremely well, ensuring that readers will follow one excellent scene to the next.  While not every mystery is explained, the author does lay out some intriguing events that will grab a lot of Warhammer fans attention, and it leaves it open for more awesome books in the future.  I had an incredible time with The Lion and I managed to finish it off in a short amount of time.

This outstanding story is beautifully brought to life in Brooks’s capable hands as he deploys an excellent and captivating writing style throughout The Lion.  Brooks really had a tall order here in bringing back a key character from the Warhammer mythos and I think that he handled in an outstanding way by focusing on the emotional aspects of the character, rather than a pure action novel.  While The Lion does have some outstanding battle sequences designed to showcase just how epic a Space Marine can be, the focus is really on character development as Brooks examines three outstanding point of view figures while also telling an excellent narrative about characters trying to find their place in a strange new galaxy.

I loved how the author split the story across the three different perspectives, and I enjoyed how he made them so distinctive by using different styles and tenses for each of them.  For example, Baelor’s chapters use a third-person narration to show his struggles without going too deep into his head, the scenes shown from Zabriel’s eyes are written in a first person chronicle style as he recounts his story as if writing a journal, while the chapters focusing on the Lion are also in the third person, but feature a different, more epic style, which at times put me in mind of an older story or saga.  These different styles really fit the characters and their specific stories, and I appreciated how Brooks utilised these changes of styles to really tell a complex by subtly layering a classic Warhammer tale with pain, emotional damage, and uncertainty.

I felt that the author got the right balance of action and adventure with character growth, and you really get attached to the protagonists and their unique experiences in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  I also loved how Brooks layered the story with a ton of Arthurian symbolism, as the Lion is meant to mirror King Arthur in this book, returning during his people’s darkest hour after dying during a war with his sons.  This included an excellent take on the Green Knight tale, with a dark Warhammer 40,000 twist to it, which also leads to one of the book’s funniest moments with a Monty Python homage.  I really got drawn into this outstanding story thanks to the way that Brooks told it, and this was an excellent and captivating read.

Now, this one of those Warhammer 40,000 novels that I probably wouldn’t recommend to new Warhammer readers as the story dives into some deep canon elements of the franchise.  Due to its focus on the return of Lion El’Johnson, a particularly important character that was only recently brought back in the game as a major event, The Lion is a key book in the Warhammer 40,000 expanded universe, and I felt readers needed a good understanding of the lore to fully appreciate its story.  This is because is strongly related to the history of the Dark Angels, and indeed all the Space Marines, and while Brooks does revisit and explain these events, having a more in-depth knowledge really does make that story that much clearer and more intriguing.  For those established fans of Warhammer 40,000 fiction, you are in for a real treat as Brooks expertly expands the lore while also providing some intriguing insights into established canon.  Seeing the Lion return and interact with his Fallen brethren was so damn cool, and it really tied into some of the best bits of Dark Angel lore that has been building for years and years.

I loved how the story examined both the current state of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as well as the Horus Heresy, and it was fantastic to see characters who survived the Heresy arrive in the current universe and see what has been unleashed by the arrival of the Great Rift.  There are also a ton of jokes, references, and in-universe discussions that I had a lot of fun with, including intriguing new descriptions of events of the Horus Heresy, as well as more intriguing Dark Angels history.  I personally deeply enjoyed seeing the various ancient characters discuss the events that happened after they disappeared, and their reactions at the state of the Imperium, the deification of the Emperor to godhood, and what happened to the Dark Angels in the Lion’s absence, and this lead to some outstanding scenes.  The Lion proved to be a pretty epic piece of Warhammer 40,000 fiction and I was really impressed with how Brooks told such a unique and important story.

As I mentioned before, The Lion is a very powerful character driven novel as Brooks focuses on a cast of damaged and dispossessed figures thrust into an uncompromising future.  This is mostly clearly seen in the main character of Lion El’Johnson, the legendary Primarch of the Dark Angels and son of the Emperor, who returns after 10,000 years of mysterious disappearance.  Brooks paints quite the intriguing and complex picture around the Lion, showing him as a being out of time who, after experiencing some of the greatest losses and betrayals imaginable, awakens 10,000 years in the future with no idea of what happened to him.  The Lion is shocked at what the Imperium has become and how badly the universe has changed without him there.  Forced to reconcile with both this new future and his many failures, the older and wiser Lion heads back to the basics of his youth, protecting humans from monsters while also trying to reconnect with his lost sons, the Fallen, who he has mixed feelings about.  Brooks’s characterisation of the Lion is very different to what we’ve seen in previous novels, which I think a smart move, as the character is tired and lonely in this reality, and very much aware of the mistakes he has throughout his life.  Watching him relive some of the worst decisions he made during the Horus Heresy is very moving, and I loved how his insights into the past allowed him to move forward with his rediscovered sons and attempt to forgive them.  While there are a still a lot of questions around how the Lion returned (something I hope Brooks addresses in the future), I think that this was a pretty impressive return of such a key character, and I look forward to seeing more books focused on him.

The other major characters featured within The Lion are former Dark Angels who rebelled against their father thousands of years ago and were scattered throughout time and space following the destruction of Caliban.  Known collectively as the Fallen, these Space Marine characters have very complex feelings about Lion El’Johnson, especially as many believe he betrayed them and the Imperium, and they have all spent the intervening years being relentlessly hunted by the modern Dark Angels and their successor chapters.  This intriguing background was fertile ground for rich character development and backgrounds, and a large portion of the novel’s emotional depth relied heavily on the Lion meeting and reconciling with his lost sons.  Brooks produces several brilliant scenes that showcase the turbulent relationship between the Lion and the returning Fallen, and it was fascinating to see the Lion, a usually stubborn and proud character, admit that he was wrong and try to make amend to his sons.  I loved the intriguing group of characters that emerged in a supporting role as a result, especially as Brooks set them up as counterpoints to the Knights of the Round Table to match the Arthurian vibes around the Lion.

The most prominent of these supporting characters is Zabriel, the first Fallen that the returned Lion encounters, who serves as his guide to the new universe.  Zabriel has some amazing scenes in this book, especially as he provides the Lion with the first taste of the trauma the Fallen have experienced thanks to their father, and he makes sure the Lion knows that.  His well written chapters really capture his deep emotional conflict throughout The Lion, as he tries to reconcile the betrayals of the past with the hope that surrounds the revelation that Lion El’Johnson has returned.  His interactions with other members of the Fallen are really impressive as well, and I think he had some of the best chapters in the book.  Zabriel’s intriguing perspective is well matched by the other major point of view character, Baelor, a fellow Fallen who has chosen to continue following his former commander Seraphax, who he believes has a great plan to save the Imperium.  To achieve this goal, Seraphax has taken to wielding dark magic and is working with the followers of Chaos, forming the deadly warband, The Ten Thousand Eyes.  This forces Baelor to make a lot of compromises as he works to maintain his loyalty to Seraphax, even though they are doing terrible things.  The return of the Lion really throws Baelor for a loop, and there is a great undercurrent of denial to him as he tries to process all the implications that this has for him.  Brooks paints a brilliantly narrative of conflicted loyalty and duty around Baelor which worked wonderfully with all his chapters depicting the horrors of Chaos.  The rest of the Fallen characters in The Lion are very well written, and while some of them didn’t get a lot of focus, I loved some of the distinctive personalities that emerged.  It will be interesting to see how many of them are featured in the future, especially as there are still some secrets I wouldn’t mind knowing (who is The Red Whisper?), and I deeply appreciated how well Brooks featured them here.

To nobody’s great surprise, I checked out The Lion on audiobook, which is easily the best way to enjoy any good Warhammer novel.  Naturally, The Lion was pretty damn epic in this form, and everything about the book is greatly enhanced by the narration, as the epic story, amazing characters, and intriguing additions to the Warhammer universe, all come to life when read out.  I particularly enjoyed the voice work of Timothy Watson, who previously impressed me in last year’s Warhammer 40,000 audiobook, Krieg.  Watson has a wonderfully booming and commanding voice that worked well with all the powerful Space Marine characters in The Lion.  The narrators take on the confident and radiant tones of Lion El’Johnson was particularly awesome, and I really felt that he captured both the majesty of the character, as well as his deeper uncertainty and regret.  The other Space Marine characters are also extremely well captured, and I liked the fun range of voices that emerged, especially as they all seemed to fit that respective character and convey the key parts of their identity to the listener.  The villains are also cleverly narrated, and Watson goes out of his way to make them sound as inhuman as possible in places.  Coming in with a run time of over 12 hours, The Lion has a decent length for a Warhammer audiobook, although Watson’s fantastic narration moves the story along at a swift pace, ensuring that the listener is constantly hooked on the plot.  This entire production was just amazing, and I had an exceptional time listening to The Lion on audiobook, which is such an epic way to enjoy a Warhammer 40,000 novel.

Mike Brooks continues to rise through the ranks of Warhammer 40,000 authors with his outstanding new novel, The Lion: Son of the Forest.  The impressive and captivating read brilliantly brings back one of the most significant characters in the Warhammer canon and places him in an intense and deeply powerful tale of betrayal, forgiveness and displacement.  I had such an epic time with The Lion: Son of the Forest and this probably the best Warhammer book of 2023 so far.  I cannot wait to see what happens to this iconic character in the future, nor can wait to get my next Mike Brooks novel.  Highly recommended and required reading for all fans of Warhammer fiction.


Warhammer 40,000: Shadowsun: The Patient Hunter by Phil Kelly

Warhammer 40,000 - Shadowsun Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 1 April 2023)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 8 hours and 13 minutes

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars


Veteran Warhammer 40,000 author Phil Kelly once again dives into his favourite topic, the T’au, with this new fast-paced and intense novel focused on the intriguing figure of Commander Shadowsun, Shadowsun: The Patient Hunter.

I have been having a lot of fun with Warhammer 40,000 novels this year, and I have already had the opportunity to read some major classics.  Many of these appeared in my recent Favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels list, and I have been keen to read more Warhammer fiction as a result.  As such, I decided to dive into one of the more recent Warhammer 40,000 novels, Shadowsun: The Patient Hunter, an excellent novel focusing on the intriguing T’au faction.  Shadowsun is the latest Warhammer 40,000 novel from Phil Kelly, who is probably best known for his work as a background writer on the various codexes and campaign books released as part of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game.  However, Kelly has also produced several Warhammer 40,000 novels over his career, with a particular focus on the T’au, having written several of the more prominent novels for the alien faction, including his Farsight novels and Blades of Damocles.  This latest book sees Kelly once again focus on Commander Shadowsun as she leads the latest T’au expansion, only to encounter more horrors than she ever expected.

Commander Shas’O Shaserra, better known to her foes as Shadowsun, has long led the forces of the T’au into war against all manner of foes.  A former contemporary of the legendary Commander Farsight, Shadowsun has since earned her own substantial reputation across various theatres.  Her latest action sees her leading the T’au Empire’s Fifth Sphere Expansion on the other side of the Startide Nexus, capturing many former Imperial worlds and bringing them under the sphere of the T’au’s influence.

A calculating tactician and a master of the philosophy of war that emulates the Patient Hunter, Shadowsun has known only success during this new phase of expansion.  But the surprise appearance of a massive fleet of decaying and indestructible warships soon throws all her plans into turmoil as she faces an enemy unlike anything T’au have dealt with before, the Chaos Space Marines of the Death Guard.

Ancient and deadly warriors sworn to the Chaos God of disease and decay, Nurgle, the Death Guard are a force unlike any other in the galaxy.  Employing deadly diseases, unstoppable daemons and other deranged horrors that defy all laws of physics and sanity, the Death Guard effortlessly brush through the T’au resistance.  Unable to counter their terrible tactics, Shadowsun desperately looks for a way to strike back against the Death Guard.  But with her own body consumed with disease and rivals within the T’au seeking their own sinister objectives, can even the great Commander Shadowsun succeed against these relentless opponents?

This was a pretty fun and intense Warhammer 40,000 novel from Phil Kelly, who had a great time really showing off two very different factions from the game.  Shadowsun: The Patient Hunter was a very interesting and action-packed read that will really appeal to fans of the Warhammer 40,000 franchise.

The plot of Shadowsun follows the character of Commander Shadowsun in her most lethal adventure yet.  This is a very brutal and quick-paced narrative that wastes no time diving into the action and intrigue to grab the readers full attention.  Starting with a good introduction to the character of Shadowsun and the complex politics of the T’au, the reader is soon introduced to the gruesome threat of the Death Guard, who soon make a major impact on the plot.  This takes the form of an extended and very over-the-top battle sequence on a T’au controlled human planet which Shadowsun was visiting, and she soon must contend with the full threat of the Death Guard.  Kelly really does not hold back at this part of the book, producing a brilliant and very lengthy connected sequence in which Shadowsun encounters the full, fly-infested horrors of Nurgle, as the Death Guard unleash their terrible might.  These scenes are pretty damn intense, at times bordering on pure horror, as the characters encounter diseases, decay, daemons and plague zombies, each of which test Shadowsun and her forces in very different ways.  This major sequence takes a substantial chunk of the book, and it really served to grab the reader’s attention early on with very high plot stakes.

The second half of the book deals with the fallout of this conflict, as an infected and weakened Shadowsun finds all her strategies and plans in ruin, and must find a new way to strike back, despite being hamstrung by internal T’au politics, a growing conflict between the T’au and their alien levies, and a sinister conspiracy from her superiors.  The resolution to this is a desperate boarding action against the Death Guard flagship, with Shadowsun leading a small force on a deadly suicide mission.  While not as extensive as the previous major confrontation, this final third of the book is extremely good, as Kelly envisions another complex battle that pits T’au tech against ancient, unclean horrors.  This sequence gets a little crazy in places, especially as Kelly brings in a couple of unique aliens as backup for the protagonist, and the Death Guard ship is loaded with horrors.  The big fights that emerge are extremely deadly and well written, and you will be enthralled at the carnage that emerges and the unique encounters that occur.  At the same time, the character of Shadowsun continues to grow as a warrior and a commander, fully trusting in her new squad of aliens, while also beginning to understand there is far more going on in the universe than her superiors have let her know.  Everything comes together extremely well, with a fun conclusion that is very satisfying for readers and leaves quite a few questions open that I am sure Kelly will try to answer in the future.  I liked the more metaphysical examination of the T’au towards the end of the book, and it gave the story a really unique conclusion that I will definitely remember.

I felt that Shadowsun was an overall pretty good Warhammer 40,000 novel as Kelly produced an excellent and highly exciting narrative that makes full use of the book’s action, heavy doses of lore intriguing characters.  The various fight sequences are very well written, and the author goes out of his way to try and capture the full horror and considerations of the battlefield, especially when regular soldiers face off against something strange and terrifying.  The two lengthy battles that much of the plot of Shadowsun focuses on are true highlights of the novel, and I love how intense, captivating and devastating the author made them.  Due to Kelly’s obvious passion for the game, this is a very, very detailed novel as the author goes out of his way to highlight the various factions, their motivations, and the state of the Warhammer 40,000 universe at this point in the canon timeline.  Every scene is loaded with some fascinating description of technology, lore, politics or factional history, which is fun in its way, especially for established fans of the games and the surrounding canon.  However, this does mean that Shadowsun might be a bit of a harder book for more casual readers to enjoy, as a certain level of understanding about the T’au is needed to fully appreciate the plot.  As such, I would probably recommend this book to fans of the T’au and dedicated Warhammer 40,000 readers, although newer readers will still be able to have some fun with Shadowsun.

Due to Kelly’s familiarity with the T’au, quite a lot of the book is dedicated to showing them in all their glory, from their advanced technology, their complex society, and their reliance on allied races to help their expansion.  While I am familiar with the T’au, I haven’t read a lot of books from their perspective, having instead only read books where they’re the enemy (Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker by Steve Parker and Kill Team by Gav Thorpe).  As such, I really appreciated this highly detailed and compelling focus on the T’au, and I had a lot of fun exploring their recent history, including their expansion throughout the galaxy.  There are so many great elements to their inclusion in Shadowsun, such as getting to see their awesome advanced weapons in combat, which are so very different from the human technology that most of the other Warhammer 40,000 books feature.  I also appreciated the compelling look at several of the client species that make up the T’au auxiliary forces, such as the Kroot.  Kelly features several intriguing different alien species throughout Shadowsun, making for some unique scenes as a result, and I appreciated the examination of their thoughts about the T’au allies, especially with how it plays into their faith and how they view the rest of the galaxy.

In addition, Kelly layers this book with so many complex bits of T’au day to day life, and you must admire his dedication and attention to detail.  Every conversation or discussion between T’au characters provides you some intriguing insights into their society, and I loved seeing their perfectionist mindsets or their fascinating interactions, such as those meaning-laden hand signals.  There are also some cool examinations of the various castes, their reliance on technology (such as Shadowsun’s two drone companions), and their desire to expand and bring word of the “Greater Good” to the rest of the galaxy.  While there is some definite love for the T’au throughout Shadowsun, Kelly also makes it a point to examine the darker side of their society, including the deadly secrets of the Fourth Sphere Expansion force and the typical manipulation of the Ethereal caste.  Commander Shadowsun, who starts the story off relatively naïve about some of the darker aspects of her race, begins to get an understanding of some of the secrets being kept from her, especially when she encounters some of the forces of Chaos and the secrets of the Warp.  The attempts to shut down any discussion about daemons or what happened to the allied species when they went through the Warp gave some of the T’au focused scenes a darker and more sinister edge, and it will be interesting to see whether Shadowsun continues to blindly follow the Ethereals in the future.  I also liked how Kelly really showcased the inherent arrogance of the T’au, especially when it comes to their opinion of other races in the universe, such as humans from the Imperium.  Their haughty belief that they understand the universe is quite amusing, especially when they come face to face with something completely insane.

To balance out the T’au, Kelly also strongly features the Chaos Space Marines of the Death Guard legion in Shadowsun, who are pretty epic antagonists.  Followers of the Chaos God Nurgle, the Death Guard are dedicated to all things disease, decay and corruption, which results in some pretty horrific mutations for their plague infested bodies.  The Death Guard are always pretty gruesome when featured in fiction, but I felt that Kelly did a particularly fantastic job of capturing them in their fully festering glory.  All the Death Guard encountered in this book are covered in putrefying mutations or growths to some degree, and Kelly really goes out of his way to describe just how unsettling they are.  This includes a compelling look at a Death Guard battle cruiser, whose interior is just covered in growths, mould, various liquids that fill up entire corridors, and loaded with so many other over-the-top elements, which really pop in Kelly’s talented hands.  I also loved how the author tries to capture the Death Guard’s highly positive and benevolent natures, which are reflections of their “kindly” god, Nurgle, and which honestly makes them even more sinister.  He further disturbs the reader by showing the Death Guard unleashing their full horrors on the T’au with, diseases, plague zombies, daemons, dark magic and more used against them, totally devastating them.

Watching the T’au get overwhelmed by these weird and terrifying elements is pretty intense, and the main T’au perspective character, Commander Shadowsun, keeps getting more disturbed by their unpredictable tactics and terrible weaponry.  I loved the compelling comparisons the author makes between the Death Guard and the T’au, and the two are honestly the antithesis of each other in aesthetics, combat styles, and mindset.  This ensures that their conflicts are pretty damn epic and watching the T’au forced to come up with some new tactic while freaking out made for some thrilling reading.  I did think that to make the Death Guard see even more threatening and dangerous, Kelly did slightly nerf the T’au in places, especially during their earlier battles, which fans of the faction probably won’t love, however, the protagonist makes up for that by taking out a Great Unclean One at one point.  Kelly’s decision to feature the Death Guard as the antagonists was an outstanding choice and one that made Shadowsun standout to me even more.

As with most Warhammer 40,000 novels that I have the pleasure of enjoying, I chose to check out Shadowsun on audiobook, which was a fun decision as always.  Coming in at just over eight hours, this was a quick audiobook to power through, especially when you get to some of the more epic battle scenes.  This format served to really enhance some of the best elements of the Shadowsun book, including the cool action and the sheer horror of some of the scenes where the protagonists go up against the forces of Nurgle.  Having someone reading out all the disgusting things this foul horde contains makes the book seem even more terrifying, which I deeply appreciated.  Narrator Helen McAlpine does a very good job bringing this compelling plot to life with her great voice work, and I really appreciated her take on several of the characters and big scenes within Shadowsun.  The voice that she gives to the main character of Commander Shadowsun is highly fitting, and I felt that McAlpine managed to capture her emotions, particularly that of distress of despair, very well throughout this audiobook.  Due to this, and more, I would once again strongly recommend this Warhammer 40,000 audiobook to anyone interested in checking out Shadowsun, as it is easily the best way to enjoy any book from this franchise.

Overall, Shadowsun: The Patient Hunter is an excellent Warhammer 40,000 novel and one that I really had a fun time with.  Phil Kelly did an outstanding job featuring the T’au again and it was great to get a deeper look at one of the more fascinating alien factions in the canon.  Loaded with action, horrifying moments, and some deep lore drops, Shadowsun is an awesome read that fans of Warhammer 40,000 fiction can have a lot of fun with.


Waiting on Wednesday – 2023 Warhammer 40,000 Novels

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I return to one of my favourite franchises, the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and look at four epic upcoming tie-in novels coming out in the next few months that I am extremely eager to get my hands on.

I have been having a particularly good year for Warhammer 40,000 fiction as I dive further and further in the franchise by reading a ton of outstanding books.  There is something about this grim and entertaining franchise that deeply appeals to me, and I have had an exceptional time getting through various books from this universe that feature brilliant authors, elaborate storylines, and a fun mixture of genres and sub-genres.  2023 has been particularly Warhammer intensive for me as I spent a ton of time earlier in the year reading several great books so I could list all my absolute favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels, which turned out extremely well.  Even since then I have been diving even deeper into the franchise, with additional books from the Gaunt’s Ghosts series by Dan Abnett, such as Necropolis, Honour Guard and The Guns of Tanith, filling up my Throwback Thursday posts, while I only just published a review for the cool standalone novel Warboss by Mike Brooks.  However, 2023 is far from over as there are still several epic new Warhammer 40,000 novels set for release.  As such, I thought I would take this opportunity to dive into the four upcoming Warhammer 40,000 novels I am most excited for, all of which are from new-to-me authors and which sound pretty damn incredible.

The first book I want to highlight in this post is the outstanding new Warhammer Crime novel, The King of the Spoil by Jonathan D. Beer.  The Warhammer Crime sub-franchise of Warhammer 40,000 is a slick and cool series of crime fiction novels that make great use of the franchises background to create some amazing reads.  Set at various points in the vast, lawless city of Varangantua, the Warhammer Crime novels have been some of my favourite books in the franchise, especially as each novels use different crime fiction elements perfectly.  Some of the best examples of this include the crime thriller romps The Wraithbone Phoenix and Dredge Runners by Alec Worley, the noir-inspired Grim Repast by Marc Collins, the intriguing buddy cop read Flesh and Steel by Guy Hayley, and the more classic crime fiction novel Bloodlines by Chris Wraight.  All these Warhammer Crime books have beyond exceptional, and I have been very eager for a new entry, which is why I am particularly excited for The King of the Spoil.

The King of the Spoil Cover


The King of the Spoil, which is currently set for release on 4 July 2023, is another intriguing crime fiction read, set in a whole new area of Varangantua, known as the Spoil.  This novel will see the return of Beer’s protagonist info-broker Melita Voronova, from the short story, Service, which appeared in the Sanction & Sin anthology book, as she is forced to investigate a murder in the most lawless part of the city.

Plot Synopsis:

Delve into the lawless underbelly of the vast city of Varangantua in this fantastic Warhammer Crime novel.

Within the vast sprawl of Varangantua lies the Spoil. It is a broken crossroads, forsaken by the Lex, abandoned by the city’s uncaring masters, where the only choice is a slow death in the manufactories, or a quick one on the street.

And it is in turmoil.

Andreti Sorokin, the gangster king whose vicious rule brought order to the Spoil, is dead, slain in the most brutal fashion.

Melita Voronova, skilled info-broker and reluctant agent of the imperious Valtteri cartel, is tasked with uncovering the mystery of who killed Sorokin, and preventing his fragile alliance of thugs and narco-pushers from collapsing into chaos.

As street-blades clash and gang leaders turn against one another, Melita’s instincts tell her there is a larger conspiracy at work. Someone has created this crisis not merely to disrupt the Spoil, but to overturn the foundations of Varangantua itself.

Unsurprisingly, I love the sound of The King of the Spoil, which has an epic sounding narrative to it.  Watching a complex info-broker character attempting to find out who killed a legendary gangster king should be amazing, and I have no doubt this story will be loaded with twists, betrayals and a full-on gang war.  I have had so much fun with some of the great mysteries in the other Warhammer Crime books, and this unique scenario has so much damn potential for an outstanding story.  While I haven’t read Beer’s previous short story about Melita Voronova, these novels are pretty good at reintroducing the reader to the characters, and I am sure that I will have no problem diving into this one.  Frankly, based on my previous very positive experiences with the Warhammer Crime series, as well as the awesome sounding plot above, I am very confident that The King of the Spoil is going to be one of the more entertaining novels of 2023 and I am so damn excited for it.

The next book I want to highlight is the excellent sounding read, Cypher: Lord of the Fallen by John French which is set for release on 18 July 2023.  French is a well-established Warhammer author who has written several great books in the past, and I am very interested in seeing his take on one of the most compelling characters in the extended canon, Cypher.  Cypher is a mysterious and sinister figure strongly associated with the Fallen, former members of the Dark Angels Space Marines who turned traitor and are now zealously hunted by their former brothers.  Cypher is a figure of intense anarchy whose deeds have haunted the Dark Angels for millennia as they try to hunt him down, and there is some real mystery behind his try identity and intentions.

Cypher - Lord of the Fallen Cover


Cypher: Lord of the Fallen is a very intriguing novel that will provide readers with a personal look at this mysterious figure as he tries to make his way through the most secure location in the universe, the Imperial Palace on Holy Terra.  This is another book with an exceptional plot to it, and I have to admit that I am highly intrigued to see what French pulls off in this book.

Plot Synopsis:

Delve into a great new story featuring the enigmatic Cypher!

As the Great Rift unfolds in the night sky above Terra and daemons walk upon the birth world of mankind, the Primarch Roboute Guilliman returns, heralding a dark new age.

During the breaking storm, Cypher and his band of Fallen escape from the most secure prison in the Imperium. Now loose in the Imperial Palace, they are hunted by warriors of the Dark Angels, forces of the Adeptus Custodes and Imperial Assassins. But what are Cypher’s intentions? Can anything or anyone be trusted?

Told from Cypher’s own, unreliable point of view, this tale of truth, lies and secrets sees one of the Imperium’s most mysterious figures make war at its very heart. But what are the true motivations of the Lord of the Fallen?

This sounds like another particularly cool Warhammer 40,000 novel as it will combine a great character with a fun story in the most iconic setting in the canon.  I love the idea of Cypher causing chaos in the Imperial Palace as everyone tries to hunt him adown and kill him, and it will no doubt result in several particularly intense scenes.  I also look forward to learning more about Cypher, although it sounds like he is going to be an unreliable narrator, which isn’t too surprising when you consider the character this book is focused on.  Thanks to how great this story sounds, I also have a lot of hopes for John French’s new book, and I cannot wait to read Cypher: Lord of the Fallen.  I will probably try to read the recently released novel, The Lion: Son of the Forest by Mike Brooks before I get to Cypher: Lord of the Fallen however, as the new details around the returning Dark Angels Primarch might tie into this book as well.

Longshot Cover


The third fantastic 2023 Warhammer 40,000 novel that I want to highlight is the compelling book Longshot by Rob Young which is part of the Astra Militarum sub-series that focuses on the soldiers of the Imperium of Man.  I have often said that some of the very best Warhammer 40,000 novels are those that focus on the normal, human soldiers who are thrust into some particularly dark and weird situations.  Some of my favourite books focused on these normal humans include the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, Steel Tread by Andy Clark, Outgunned by Denny Flowers, 13th Legion by Gav Thorpe and Catachan Devil by Justin Woolley, all of which have successfully captured these human experiences and produced some exceptional reads.  This is what I am really hoping for from Longshot, which has a deeply epic plot to it.

Plot Synopsis:

Explore the life of a Cadian Sharpshooter in this great Astra Militarum novel from Black Library!

Transplant. Cadian. Sniper. Legend.

Sergeant Darya Nevic is all of these and more… but behind the stories stands a soldier haunted by the unwelcome fame her successes have brought.

During the Cadian 217th’s assault on the manufactorum world of Attruso, Darya finds herself out of her depth in a war that is fought with words as much as with weapons. As a fearsome winter closes in and her men begin to die around her, she will be forced to confront her doubts and make an impossible choice: to become the figurehead her soldiers need, or to believe the unimaginable promises of the mysterious t’au.

With the fate of her regiment in her hands, which path will she choose?

This is another exceptional sounding Warhammer 40,000 novel that I will definitely be reading when it comes out in mid-August 2023.  I love the idea of a sniper novel, especially in the dark Warhammer 40,000 universe, which will no doubt bring out the grittiness and intensity of a sniper war.  However, it sounds like Longshot is going to dive deeply into its main character as she tries to balance being a legend and hero to her comrades, while also trying to survive the nefarious propaganda of the T’au.  I think that Young is trying to replicate a Stalingrad-esque battle, à la Enemy at the Gate in this book, with the sniper battle, propaganda, and cold, cramped city warfare.  I have a feeling that this is going to be one of the more emotionally powerful Warhammer 40,000 books of the year and it is definitely pretty high on my to-read list for the second half of 2023.

Creed-Ashes of Cadia Cover

The final upcoming Warhammer 40,000 book I want to focus on this week is the pretty significant sounding read, Creed: Ashes of Cadia by Jude Reid.  Now, anyone familiar with recent Warhammer 40,000 history will know the names Creed and Cadia, both of which have played major roles in the canon.  As such, any new book that focuses on them is going to be pretty damn important and that makes it very interesting for me.  As such, Creed: Ashes of Cadia, which is set for a later 2023 release, is going to be one of my most anticipated novels of the year.

Plot Synopsis:

What does it mean to be Cadian after the Fall?

Ursula Creed has come to terms with the loss of her home world. For decades she has built a glittering career in the furthest reaches of the Imperium, far from her legendary father’s shadow. But when unexpected orders arrive from the Avening Son himself, Roboute Guilliman, the new lord castellan realises that the past may not be ready to let her go.

Dispatched into shattered remains of Cadia in search of Ursarkar E. Creed’s final battle plans, Ursula finds the planet a hellscape full of deadly secrets. What horrors claim Cadia’s corpse as their domain? What became of those left behind? What orders did Creed leave for Cadia when all was lost? And, most troubling of all, how can she succeed where her illustrious father has already failed?

Now this is a Warhammer 40,000 book that could go some places.  Not only do we get introduced to a new interesting character, one with a connection to the legendary Ursarkar Creed, but we also get to see the destroyed planet of Cadia after the catastrophic destruction of the 13th Black Crusade.  Based on this plot scenario alone, this is probably going to be one of the most important and impressive Warhammer 40,000 novels of the year and I am pretty damn excited for that.  I cannot wait to see what lies behind on Cadia and it’s going to be one of the first major views of it we’ve seen in years.  I am also very curious to see if they’ll dive into the fate of Creed senior, and it will be interesting to see why the man’s final battle plans were so important.  Like the rest of the books, I think that Creed: Ashes of Cadia has some major potential, and this one will probably have a great blend of universe building and character development.

Based on how much I have rambled on over the last few pages, I think it is clear that I am very, very keen on all these upcoming Warhammer 40,000 novels.  All four sound extremely epic and unique in their own way and I have very little doubt that I will love every single I spend with them.  Knowing me, I will probably get these novels as audiobooks, which is my preferred format for Warhammer fiction and I cannot wait to hear how each of these different tales unfolds.

Warhammer 40,000: Warboss by Mike Brooks

Warhammer 40,000 - Warboss Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 25 March 2023)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 8 hours and 48 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Prepare for the ultimate battle for control as several feuding ork bosses fight to become the new leader of the Waaagh! in this amazing and highly entertaining Warhammer 40,000 novel, Warboss by Mike Brooks.

2023 has been a big Warhammer 40,000 fiction year for me as I have been having an absolute blast reading all manner of cool novels from across the franchise (make sure to check out my recently released list about my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels).  However, while I have read a ton of Warhammer books this year, I have not had the opportunity to read any 2023 Warhammer releases.  Well, I am on my way to rectify that by looking at the recently released Warboss by awesome author Mike Brooks, who also wrote the 2022 novel Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom.  Brooks did an outstanding job with this fantastic new book, and I had so much damn fun with Warboss and its highly entertaining and hilarious story.

In the far future of the 41st millennium, there are few things are more destructive or unstoppable than an ork warband on a rampage.  One of the most effective bands currently killing its way through the galaxy is that of Warboss Gazrot Goresnappa whose Waaagh! has conquered the once mighty human fortress world of Aranua.  After several decisive and bloody victories, the Waaagh! celebrates in front of the planet’s remaining bastion, the massive Davidia Hive.  All it will take is one final assault to totally defeat the humans on Aranua so Warboss Goresnappa can strip their resources and lead his boyz to bigger and better fights out in the stars.

However, before Goresnappa can achieve his great victory, an unfortunate accident sees him very, very dead under the giant decapitated head of a Gargant war machine.  With their leader squashed, the Waaagh! now has an opening for Warboss, and several ambitious orks from across the no-longer united clans step forward to fight for the job.  However, before the usual brawl for leadership can begin, a prophecy from the clan’s resident weirdboy, Old Morgrub, reveals that the ork gods have something very special in store for the Waaagh! and its next leader.  A mysterious gate lies underneath the human city that could transport the Waaagh! to fights anywhere in the galaxy, and whichever boss finds it first will be the new Warboss.

Forced to obey the words of the gods, the bosses engage in their own elaborate plans to breach the Hive City and claim the gate.  But which boss can triumph over the others?  Will it be the brutal Goff Big Boss Mag Dedfist, the suicidally fast Speedboss of the Evil Sunz, Zagnob Thundaskuzz, the sneaky and cunning leader of the Blood Axes, Da Genrul, or could it even be the leader of the grot uprising, the self-proclaimed prophet of Gork and Mork, Snaggi Littetoof?  All four believe that they are the only ones capable of leading the Waaagh! and they will fight tooth and nail to become Warboss.  But to succeed they’ll need to not only overcome all their rivals but the human defenders of the Hive City and an Aeldari army waiting in the depths to defend their gate.  May the best ork win!

Oh dear, oh dear, what a damn funny book.  Honestly, any Warhammer 40,000 novel that focuses on the orks is bound to be comedy gold, but Warboss is one of the better ones I have had the pleasure of reading.  Author Mike Brooks does a wonderful job of telling a tight and amazingly fun story that perfectly showcases the orks in all their green skinned glory.  I had so much fun with this book and I managed to power through Warboss in very short order.

This proved to be a pretty fast-paced and impressive story, and it’s one that I was able to have a blast listening to as it unfolded.  Primarily focusing on the various ork characters that are part of Waaagh! Goresnappa, Warboss starts off with a sudden game changer for the protagonists as the infamous Warboss Goresnappa is killed off in hilarious fashion thanks to a group of argumentative grots and the falling head of a massive war machine.  This leads several of the remaining ork bosses throwing their hats into the ring to become the Warboss, and all hell follows as a result.  Tasked with finding a hidden Aeldari gate under the human city, each of the ork bosses implements their own plans to get into the city first, whether that be through blowing down the walls, infiltrating from below, or driving around the city at high speeds, hoping for the best.  Brooks breaks the story up around the main three contenders nicely, and you soon get a good idea of their different, but very orkish strategies.  However, the story is made even more enjoyable thanks to some of the alternate perspectives that emerge.  This includes the ambitious grot Snaggi Littletoof who, after accidently killing Warboss Goresnappa, attempts his own grot uprising and tries to find the gate to gain his cause legitimacy.  Several human characters are also shown, often to add some interesting contrast to the orks, and it is fun to see their attempted counterattacks, which often leads to disaster.  This makes for an excellent first two-thirds of the book and Brooks does a great job of showcasing both the protagonists and the ork nation as a whole while also setting up a very entertaining story.

Unsurprisingly, the orks make it into the city and everyone starts arriving at the gate at the same time, often in comedic or unexpected ways.  This leads to a very fast-paced final third as everyone starts fighting everyone else to become Warboss, facing off against humans, Aeldari, and every rival faction of the Waaagh!.  Brooks showcases this final big battle in some excellent ways, and you get really drawn into the crazy carnage that follows thanks to the well-written and exciting action scenes.  The use of multiple perspectives was pretty useful here, and I liked how the author showed the same massive battle again and again, each time from the point of view of another character.  This added more detail to the brawl each time, as well as some amusing alternate opinions of events from some very different characters.  Brooks throws in some excellent twists and turns here and you are never quite certain who is going to come out on top in the battle for supremacy.  The eventual fate of every major character is pretty fantastic and really fits the storylines that have been building up throughout the book.  I personally came away from Warboss extremely satisfied and I loved all the cool developments and totally insane moments that occurred.  Overall, this was a very impressive standalone Warhammer 40,000 narrative and it is very hard not come away loving this story thanks to the awesome humour and all the fantastic, over-the-top interactions that occurred.

All fans of Warhammer fiction know that ork focused novels are some of the funniest novels out there, due to the way that they focus on the over-the-top antics of this beloved faction.  Some good examples of previous Warhammer books that strongly featured orks include Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! by Nate Crowley (one of my favourite books of 2022) and Catachan Devil by Justin Woolley, and I think that Warboss is up there with these fantastic reads.  This outstanding book really dove into the humour as you watched the crude and eternally underestimated orks battle it out amongst each other and the other factions, often coming up with insane and funny solutions to all the deadly problems they encounter.  There honestly wasn’t a single chapter where I wasn’t laughing at some of the crazy stuff that just occurred, and Brooks had a real talent for writing from the ork perspective.  There was some great consistency in the way that the ork characters acted and thought throughout Warboss and every chapter focussed on them saw the characters using similar lingo, slang and descriptions of the other races in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  As such, you get a great appreciation for the ork mindset and it was great to see the ork perspective on all the book’s over-the-top moments.

One of the things that I felt set Warboss aside from some other Warhammer 40,000 novels featuring orks is that Brooks didn’t fall into the trap of portraying them simply as funny simpletons.  Instead, Brooks shows that the orks are quite smart and complex in their way, it just that their culture, in comparison to humans or Aeldari, has more of a focus on violence and straightforwardness than the other races in the galaxy.  This is backed up by scene after scene of the orks utilising their skills, technology and cunning to win various encounters against seemingly smarter or more organised opponents, and it is always quite fun to see the orks looking down on their opponents for making mistakes that they wouldn’t do.  While this love of extreme violence is mostly played for fun, Brook’s also tries to show the darker side of it, as the orks are pretty damn brutal in how they deal with the humans and Aeldari they encountered.  I loved the great contrast between the ork and human characters that Brooks added into Warboss, as the humans were always so arrogant and condescending towards the orks’ intelligence, even when they were beating them.  This complete lack of understanding by most of the human characters really enhanced the various ork chapters, especially those that showed the orks managing to understand and outthink their human opponents, and I really appreciated this fantastic deeper dive into ork mindset and society.  I did think that Brooks might have made the orks slightly too overpowered in Warboss, as they manage to take on quite a few major enemies with relative ease, but this always added some fun to the story and it was interesting to see the full potential of the orks.

This deep dive into the orks is further cemented thanks to the several outstanding character arcs that Brooks set up throughout Warboss, particularly around the four main characters fighting for control of the Waaagh! in their own way.  The three ork characters Mag Dedfist, Zagnob Thundaskuzz and Genrul Uzbrag (Da Genrul), are in some ways quite similar, in that they have several similar racial tendencies towards violence or leadership.  However, each of them represents a different clan, and so they have different battle tendencies which really helps to highlight the different factions within ork society.  Mag Dedfist is a Goff, and so he relies more on classic violence and explosions to achieve his goals in the most direct ways possible.  Zagnob is an Evil Sun boss who has dedicated himself to the Kult of Speed and believes in riding the fastest vehicle he can find right towards the enemy.  The most entertaining of these is probably Da Genrul, a member of the Blood Axe clan who admire human martial ability and utilise their own take on tactics, discipline and stealth to achieve their goals, often outsmarting the humans they are aping.

I was also a big fan of the character of Snaggi Littletoof, a grot with ideas of grandeur who attempts to start a grot uprising against their cruel ork masters.  The grots (also known as gretchins, essentially goblins from classic fantasy), smaller cousins of the orks who are used as slave labour and cannon fodder, aren’t particularly well featured in most Warhammer 40,000 fiction, so I had fun with a whole character arc around them in Warboss.  Snaggi and his band of rebellious grots (Da GrotWaaagh!), are a very entertaining inclusion, and I liked the revolutionary storyline that Brooks set around them that provided both humour and an interesting look at typical grot life.  It was so much fun to see Snaggi inspiring his followers to go against their nature and rebel, especially as the orks had no idea what they heck they were doing.  Thanks to Brook’s use of Mag, Zagnob, Da Genrul and Snaggi, you get a great understanding of each of their specific faction and the author did a particularly good job of featuring each of them equally.  Indeed, thanks to the appearance of several different ork characters in a supporting role, you get a pretty good idea of nearly every major ork clan, faction and designation, and even those readers completely unfamiliar with orks can come away from this book knowing most of the key things you need to know about them.

These ork and grot protagonists are well backed up by several entertainingly arrogant human characters who honestly make the orks seem reasonable and likeable in comparison.  The best is easily Captain Armenisu Varrow, who is held prisoner by Da Genrul as his pet and tactical advisor.  Varrow goes through so much hell in this book, but is so deliciously haughty while he does so that you really can’t feel sorry for him.  Despite his ironclad belief in his own intelligence, Varrow is outsmarted time and time again, and it is just great to see him cower his way through events while still thinking he is the smart one.  His story arc is very entertaining and I loved how very dark it gets, especially at the end.  The rest of the humans are also great in their own ways, even if they are only featured for a short amount of time, and their ongoing false remarks about the abilities of the orks in the face of the carnage they are laying down always made me chuckle.  An overall great group of characters who help to turn this amazing story into something truly special.

I checked out Warboss on audiobook, which honestly is becoming my go-to format for all things Warhammer.  This proved to be another excellent decision as the Warboss audiobook was a ball of absolute fun that I had a brilliant time listening to.  Coming in with a runtime of under nine hours, this is a pretty easy audiobook to power through quickly and I managed it in a few, hilarious sessions.  The outstanding, comedy laden story really works well in the audiobook format and so many of the great jokes come across that much better when you listen to them.  It definitely helped that they brought in established Warhammer narrator Harry Myers to voice this book as he did a spectacular job here.  I have deeply enjoyed Myers in several recent Warhammer audiobooks, including The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley (one of my favourite audiobooks of 2022) and Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and he has another amazing performance in Warboss.  His voice is just perfect for all the alien characters featured within this novel, and the various gruff tones of the orks and high-pitched squeals of the grots are very spot on.  In addition, several of the human characters are shown in all their arrogant finery throughout the audiobook and you really appreciate just how stupid they are through this medium.  Each character is expertly showcased to the reader through Myers’ voice, and I loved every line he read out as a result.  I also deeply enjoyed how well his narration worked to convey all the fantastic jokes loaded throughout the production, including that hilarious bit involving the ork characters failing to know the chapter numbers.  This was a such a great audiobook to listen to and I cannot recommend this format enough for Warboss as you are guaranteed to have an exceptional time listening to it.

Mike Brooks continues to impress me as an outstanding author of Warhammer fiction with his amazing novel Warboss.  A comedy heavy novel that perfectly showcases the always fun orks, Warboss is pure entertainment from start to finish that both established fans of the franchise and new readers can easily enjoy.  Brooks has a clear appreciation for this faction which really shines through in his storytelling, and I loved his great take on everything orkish.  One of the funniest and enjoyable releases of 2023 so far, this is essential reading for all interest in hilarious Warhammer fiction, and I am very glad I checked it out.


The Tyrant Skies by David Annandale

The Tyrant Skies Cover

Publisher: Aconyte Books (Ebook – 2 May 2023)

Series: Marvel Untold

Length: 254 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Two of Marvel’s greatest villains square off in this highly entertaining tie-in novel from talented author David Annandale, The Tyrant Skies.

As most people familiar with this blog will know, I am a man who loves a good tie-in novel, be it related to Star Wars, Star Trek or Warhammer.  However, one genre of tie-in books that I haven’t had a great deal experience with is those based around comic books, having only read a few in recent years, such as Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee and Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Mass.  However, that looks set to change as I was recently lucky enough to receive a couple of particularly fun Marvel tie-in novels through Netgalley.  The first of these is The Tyrant Skies by David Annandale, which focuses on the always awesome supervillain, Doctor Doom.  Introduced as part of the Marvel Untold novel sub-series, The Tyrant Skies is the third Doctor Doom novel by Annandale, who previously released The Harrowing of Doom and Reign of the Devourer.  This third novel also has a great story to it as it sees Doom face off against an old rival, the Red Skull.

After defeating the deadly monsters that haunted his realm, Victor Von Doom has established peace within Latveria.  However, this peace is short-lived as a new danger begins to rise in the world, one with an unhealthy obsession with both Latveria and Doom.  The newly formed island nation of Wolkenland has just revealed itself to the world and quickly establishes itself as a playground for the rich and powerful, while also appearing to offer new lives for the world’s dispossessed.  However, Wolkenland hides a dark secret at its heart: it’s true ruler is the insane fascist Red Skull.

Still enraged by his failed invasion of Latveria and his humiliating defeat at the hands of Doom, Red Skull is determined to gain revenge on his enemies by using the influence and power of Wolkenland.  Utilising advanced technology and cosmic power, Red Skull transports Wolkenland to float above Latveria and begins a deadly invasion to capture the country and its advanced technology.

Doom’s only choice is to travel to Wolkenland and confront Red Skull directly, but even the might of Doctor Doom is unable to face the full power his enemy has amassed.  With his country threatened, his body weakened, and the only woman he ever loved held hostage on Wolkenland, Doom will need to use every bit of cunning, intelligence and manipulation in his possession to face down the Red Skull.  But even if he succeeds, the Red Skull has an ace up his sleeve that could destroy Latveria and break the entire world.

This was a pretty solid and deeply enjoyable novel from Annandale that tells a great story while also referencing some interesting elements from classic Marvel comics.  The story in The Tyrant Skies follows on a degree from Annandale’s last two novels and this time sees Doctor Doom and his country facing an insidious invasion from the Red Skull and his new island fortress.  The story advances at a pretty awesome pace, and the early highlights include Doom invading Wolkenland and unleashing his trademark havoc upon his foes.  After the necessary setback for the protagonist, the story evolves into an intriguing phase with a de-powered Doom leading a slave rebellion against Red Skull, while down in Latveria several of the series’ supporting characters fight off the invasion using tools featured in the prior books.  The action and intrigue were pretty non-stop the entire way through, and Annandale keeps the reader hooked to the book with some amazing and elaborate sequences.  I personally loved some of the twists that developed, especially as Annandale brings in a couple of foes that haven’t been seen in comics for a very long time, and it was great to see how Doom faced off against them.  The story does get pretty big and explosive at times, and I liked some of the great underlying examinations of tolerance, fascism and the vices of the mega-rich, all of which were used to great effect to make Doom, the brutal and deadly tyrant, actually seem like the good guy.  The author ends everyone on a pretty compelling note, and I ended up coming away from The Tyrant Skies fairly happy with the cool action-filled and entertaining story that Annandale served up.

As I mentioned before, The Tyrant Skies serves as the third book in an intriguing trilogy from Annandale that dives into Doom’s connection to his country as well as his own dark ambitions and adversaries.  I felt that The Tyrant Skies continued this story thread extremely well, and it was interesting to see how several of the recurring characters and their storylines developed as a result.  However, Annandale also makes The Tyrant Skies quite accessible to new readers as well, and if this your first Marvel novel you can dive into it with very little prior knowledge about the series.  While substantial comic or Fantastic Four knowledge isn’t needed to enjoy this book, Annandale does fill the story with several compelling references to previous comics, some of which were published a very long time ago.  Not only does the origin of Doom and Red Skull’s feud emerge from the pages of these older comics, but there are references to Doom’s dark relationship with Valeria, especially her death in the main comics, as well as other previous adventures.  Annandale also pulls one particularly intriguing feature out of a very old, obscure comic by Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Stan Lee, which I had honestly never heard about.  The author’s fun description about this somewhat absurd comic will get a chuckle out of aficionados of classic comics who will appreciate the intriguing references.  Annandale’s love for all things comic related really shines through with his writing, and I loved how he was able to effectively describe and bring to life several scenes that would usually need a full comic spread to appreciate.  I personally thought this was an outstanding and very clever tie-in to the larger Marvel universe and The Tyrant Skies is a great book to check out no matter how connected you are to source material.

Of course, one of the major parts of The Tyrant Skies is Annandale’s excellent portrayal of Victor von Doom, who steals any scene he is in.  Doom is probably one of the best villains (or anti-heroes, depending at how you look at him) in the entire Marvel canon, so anything featuring him is bound to be good (excluding a few Fantastic Four movies).  Annandale’s use of Doom in The Tyrant Skies is pretty spot on, and he shows the protagonist at his full power and intelligence.  I love the sheer arrogance and pride that dominates much of Doom’s character, and every scene shown from Doom’s point of view works to highlight this.  Annandale also looks deep into the powers and abilities of Doom, puling out some interesting elements of his abilities over the years.  Not only do you get to appreciate the technological prowess of Doom, but Annandale also makes sure to fully feature his magical skills, something which the mainstream media usually avoids, and even his old-school abilities to hypnotise people.  However, the best part of Doom is his sheer intelligence as he manages to outsmart anyone he goes up against, even when disadvantaged in other ways.  There are some great scenes when a de-powered and vulnerable Doom manages to secretly organise and inspire a slave revolt and lead his new followers on a deadly rampage against a superior foe.  Watching him succeed in controlling everyone just with his sheer force of personality while tactically outthinking his opponents was pretty damn epic and it really captures just how impressive Doom can be as a character.

Aside from Doom, there are several other great characters featured throughout The Tyrant Skies that add a lot to the story.  This includes the infamous villain of the story, the Red Skull, who serves as a great foil to Doom in this book.  Few villains can make Doom look like a sane, noble and reasonable figure, but the Red Skull is one of them, especially in Annandale’s hands.  The author seeks to make Red Skull as evil and diabolical as possible, causing chaos and initiating world-ending plots for petty reasons and prior defeats.  I loved seeing the rivalry between Doom and Red Skull that formed the basis for much of the novel, and the author did a great job capturing the hatred they both have for the other.  It was interesting to see Red Skull’s methods against Doom in this book, and he proves to be a very dangerous opponent, able to outsmart Doom at several turns, which works to make the novel pretty compelling and fun.  As such, Red Skull is a very impressive villain for this book and it was really something to see these two iconic figures square off once again.

I felt that the rest of the cast, which includes a combination of some over-the-top second-tier villains and several recurring figures from Annandale’s existing novels, were worked into the plot well, and there are some great scenes, especially with the characters of Doctor Elsa Orloff and Captain Kariana Verlak, who have become heroic figures within Latveria during the last two books.  I also deeply appreciated the inclusion of Valeria, Doom’s long-lost love, who is a key part of his origin story.  The powerful reunion the two have in this novel is quite impressive, especially as it is clear that Doom still has feelings for Valeria, despite her reluctance to trust him and his nature.  This was a very interesting inclusion, especially considering how their story spun out in the comics, and I am glad that the author attempted to dive into this older character element of Doom.  Throw in some craven, evil and incompetent members of the uber-wealthy, many of whom are parodies of certain business owners, and The Tyrant Skies proved to be a very rich novel in terms of character, and I liked the wider story elements that emerged thanks to this cool alternate focus.

Overall, The Tyrant Skies is an outstanding and highly entertaining novel that perfectly ties into the larger Marvel universe.  I deeply enjoyed how David Annandale set two of the genre’s best villains against each other in this novel, and I had a ton of fun with the thrilling encounters that emerged.  Featuring a great blend of story development, references to classic comics, and amazing portrayals of Doctor Doom and the Red Skull, The Tyrant Skies has something for all comic book fans, and you are guaranteed to have a fantastic time getting through this amazing novel.


Throwback Thursday – Warhammer 40,000: The Guns of Tanith by Dan Abnett

The Guns of Tanith Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 25 April 2002)

Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts – Book Five

Length: 10 hours and 10 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  After having such a great time reviewing the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts novel, Honour Guard, in my last Throwback Thursday, I immediately read the fifth fantastic entry in the series, The Guns of Tanith, which proved to be just as awesome and exciting.

As I mentioned last week, I have been really getting into the works of Dan Abnett over the last year, and I now consider several of his books to be amongst the best Warhammer 40,000 novels I have had the pleasure of reading.  Not only did I deeply enjoy his epic Eisenhorn trilogy (made up of Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus) but I have also been powering through his Gaunt’s Ghosts books.  The Gaunt’s Ghosts books are some of the more iconic novels in the Warhammer 40,000 franchise and are often considered essential reading by fans of the franchise due to the captivating way they capture the gruelling experiences of ordinary human soldiers in this grim, futuristic setting.  The first four novels in the series, First and Only, Ghostmaker, Necropolis and Honour Guard, as well as the prequel novel The Vincula Insurgency, are all excellent and exciting in their own way, and I have had a ton of fun seeing the impressive war narratives set around the men of the Tanith First-and-Only, informally known as Gaunt’s Ghosts.  As I was still in the mood for some awesome action at the end of last week, I just had to keep going with these books and I quickly picked up the fifth entry, The Guns of Tanith.

As the massive Sabbat Worlds Crusade continues to pit the forces of the Imperium of Man against the foul forces of Chaos, the battlelines extend across multiple planets and systems, drawing in millions of soldiers.  The latest phase of the crusade has severely stretched the supply lines of the Imperial assault and the Chaos foes are quick to take advantage, threatening to cut off and surround the main Imperial force.  To stave off disaster, Warmaster Macaroth, needs the Tanith First-and-Only to recapture the vital promethium producing planet of Phantine so the crusade can be resupplied and continue.

Led by the heroic Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, the Tanith First-and-Only engage in a deadly airborne assault on several of the planet’s domed cities.  Relying on their unique skills of navigation and infiltration, the Ghosts prove to be vital to the operation and soon take the key city of Cirenholm.  However, holding the city proves to be harder than expected.  While preparing for the next assault, the vile murder of a freed Cirenholm civilian places a Ghost on trial and opens up the festering cultural divides within the regiment.

As Gaunt attempts to get to the bottom of the crime and ensure that the innocent are left alive, the Ghosts are given a vital mission to undertake.  A dangerous Chaos warlord has taken command of the final occupied city, Ouranberg, and his lethal command threatens to devastate an attack by the Imperials.  To ensure a successful invasion of this Chaos stronghold, a specialised team of Ghosts is tasked with infiltrating the city and assassinating the enemy leader in advance of the main assault force.  Featuring some of the best the Ghosts have to offer, the assassination squad will be forced to walk through hell to achieve their objective and not everyone will be coming back.

In this fifth entry in this amazing series, Abnett continues to impress with another powerful and captivating character-driven read that takes the Ghosts through a gruelling round of battles, tragedy and growth that proves near impossible to put down.  The Guns of Tanith was a pretty strong entry in the series, expanding on some of the interesting storylines from the first novel while also introducing a new dark scenario for the characters to deal with.

The Guns of Tanith features a fantastic narrative from Abnett that contains his usual blend of high-intensity action, character growth, and intriguing examinations of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, that make all the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels such a treat to read.  Following on from the events of the previous books in the series The Guns of Tanith is told in Abnett’s typical style, with a ton of unique character perspectives, mostly those of the Ghosts, which presents the reader with a rich and vibrant view of the events, as well as the unique, character-driven storylines that emerge.  While this fifth Gaunt’s Ghosts novel can be read as a standalone book, The Guns of Tanith does see several ongoing, character focused storylines come to a head or get even more complicated. As such, readers should really consider checking out the previous novels first so they can get the full emotional weight of the revelations and twists that emerge.

The main narrative of The Guns of Tanith is bookended by major extended battle sequences that see the Ghosts and their allies engage in elaborate fights across two separate cities.  The first of these battles, in Cirenhom, sees all the Ghosts forced to engage in a particularly bloody battle with limited ammunition against a dangerous and determined foe that has set up some elaborate traps.  This extended sequence is both epic and useful as it provides the reader with a ton of intense action to draw them into the novel while Abnett introduces the characters and storylines that this latest novel is focused on.  You also get a good overview to the new setting of Phantine, a polluted planet with a toxic atmosphere that requires multiple forms of airship to traverse.  This unique location adds some great spice to the overall story, especially as it requires the characters to learn some unique aerial skills, while also allowing Abnett to have fun featuring several impressive dogfights.  There are some great moments during this first extended battle sequence, and it sets the rest of the book up nicely.

The middle of the book is where the reader gets into the real meat of the story, especially as it lowers the intensity levels down from the action-packed introduction and allows the reader to breathe and absorb all the intriguing story elements to come.  At first, I wasn’t too keen on a quieter middle section to this novel, especially as I thought it would make The Guns of Tanith more of a bridging novel in the series, rather than a book that could stand on its own.  However, Abnett soon proved me wrong as this intriguing central storyline contained a lot of major character moments and intriguing plot lines, while also expertly setting up the final third of the book.  The main storyline explored in the centre involves a murder investigation when one of the Ghosts is accused of killing an innocent civilian.  Abnett does a great job with this murder storyline, especially as it brings in compelling mystery and legal thriller elements to it, while also driving the characters in some excellent directions.  However, the real joy of this part of the book is the focus on the camaraderie and factions within the Ghosts, and the fracturing coherence in places leads to some memorable moments later on.

The final section of the book focuses on the assault of the Phantine city, Ouranberg, and the special Ghosts mission to assassinate the Chaos warlord.  Following several supporting members of the cast, this final third of The Guns of Tanith takes these characters on a particularly dark mission through a Chaos stronghold, and Abnett throttles up the tension and brutality to the maximum, ensuring that the readers are strongly hooked on everything unfolding.  Watching the separated teams attempt to navigate through enemy territory leads to some dark and bloody sequences, and everything comes together in a brutal confrontation where all the characters get a moment to shine.  The invasion in the aftermath of this assault brings the entirety of The Guns of Tanith together in an outstanding way, as several major storylines are expertly and impressively resolved, often in ways that leave the characters even more damaged than when they started.  This is also a particularly shocking death of a major character that is guaranteed to move long-term readers of the series.  Abnett does a masterful job of setting this death up, including by showcasing several misleading near-misses, so you really don’t know who is going to live or die right up to the end.  His eventual choice is one designed to wound his readers, and you will have to come back to see how it impacts the rest of this series.  Overall, this was an extremely solid and impressive Gaunt’s Ghosts narrative, and I deeply enjoyed how Abnett continued and finalised some of the great character storylines from the previous books, while also providing the reader with more action and intrigue than they can handle.

As with most of the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, The Guns of Tanith is an open read to all those unfamiliar with the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon.  Abnett goes out of his way to make his books accessible for new readers, and he always provides enough detail and background so that anyone can catch up and enjoy the subsequent story.  However, for those fans more familiar with the Warhammer universe, there are always a ton of great elements or unique world building details that they will find particularly fascinating.  The new locations in The Guns of Tanith are pretty damn spiffing, and I had a lot of fun with the polluted planet, especially as it requires multiple arial sequences.  This is turn leads to the introduction of the Phantine XX Fighter Corps, who Abnett will go on to feature in his spin-off novel, Double Eagle, and it was fun to see how they get their start here.  For me, though, the best part of the universe expansion was Abnett’s in-depth look at the day-to-day life of the common soldier in the Imperial Guard.  While Abnett has always done a masterful job of capturing the footslogger experience in his novels, I felt that The Guns of Tanith was one of his best attempts to dive into the core of his beloved regiment.  Not only is there are lot of story focus on the various members and factions of the regiment, but Abnett also spent some time trying to explore the downtime and personal lives of the characters, and it was pretty intriguing to see the accompanying civilian baggage train of the regiment, which includes their families and other vital services.  I also personally loved the scenes that examined the problems associated with the Imperial bureaucracy as the Ghosts come up against their greatest enemy: bad paperwork.  Certain mistakes ensure that the Ghosts are left with minimal ammunition as the Departmento Munitorum orders the wrong power packs for their lasguns.  The following extended sequence which saw the regiment unable to fight effectively because their ammunition couldn’t fit their guns was an impressive part of the book and it definitely raised the stakes during the book’s introduction.

As usual, one of the major highlights of The Guns of Tanith is the amazing characters that the story focuses on, as Abnett once again fits a huge number of character-driven storylines into the book.  At this point in the series, Abnett has introduced a pretty substantial cast of characters, many of whom have ongoing storylines, and it is intriguing to see them unfold even further in The Guns of Tanith, especially as Abnett does a great job featuring most of them equally and then combining them into the larger narrative.  Many of the more intriguing character arcs in this book carry over from the previous novels and there are some great conclusions and expansions to them here that helps to improve the already great narrative of The Guns of Tanith.  At the same time, several new characters are introduced here or finally given prominence, and it was interesting to see how they fit into the already established character dynamics that Abnett has been building up.  The cohesiveness of the Ghosts as a regiment ends up becoming a huge fixture of this book as the Tanith-Verghastite divide is explored in greater detail by many of the characters.  It was fascinating to see how Abnett handled these character storylines in The Guns of Tanith, and several of them ended up being some of the best parts of the book.

As with most of the novels in the series, quite a lot of character focus goes towards the main protagonist, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, whose experiences as the commander of this unique regiment continue to trouble him in various ways.  In The Guns of Tanith, this takes the form of his apparent unconscious bias towards the Tanith elements of his regiment over the Verghastite recruits, which is showcased by his differing reactions during two court cases.  This results in several intense interactions between Gaunt and members of his team, which helped to showcase the protagonist’s idealism and a certain degree of naiveté when it comes to Imperial politics, both of which will cause him trouble in the future.  This is also an intriguing look at the issues caused by Gaunt holding the dual rank of Colonel and Commissar, which make him simultaneously a command officer and a political officer in charge of discipline.  This is the first time the duality of his roles has caused some major problems for him, and it was interesting to see several characters question him about it.  Watching Gaunt try to balance his various hats while also maintaining the respect of his men and his superiors makes this a rather compelling novel for Gaunt and I will be intrigued to see how this affects the character in the future.

While there is always a lot of focus on Gaunt, many of the other characters have big moments here, and it is always interesting to see which characters Abnett will focus on in each particular novel.  Firstly, this is one of the Gaunt’s Ghosts books where the major characters of Colm Corbec and Elim Rawne do not get a lot of focus, as Abnett sets them aside to make room for others.  Corbec is once again wounded early on in the plot to keeps him out of the action, while Rawne, after getting a good needling into Gaunt, is showcased as the senior commander, but that’s about it.  Instead, a lot of the focus goes towards some of the newer members of the cast, such as Gol Kolea, whose attempts to balance his complex family concerns leads only to tragedy and despair for him and the reader.  Cuu continues to be a menace, while surgeon Ana Curth acts as several character’s consciences throughout the book.  The previously overlooked but surprisingly lucky Bonin finally got some prominence in this novel, and I loved finding out how he survived Necropolis.  The newer characters of Commissar Hark and Captain Ban Daur also proved to be essential parts of the plot, and I am really glad that Abnett continued to utilise them, as they helped Gaunt see the errors of several decisions while simultaneously taking on some of Gaunt’s more unorthodox methods.  Members of the original Ghosts, such as Brin Milo, Larkin, Bragg and Mkoll all had good roles in The Guns of Tanith as well, and their balanced scenes showcased different triumphs and tragedies.  Finally, I was glad that Abnett decided to keep featuring the mysterious preacher, Ayatani Zweil, after his fun introduction in Honour Guard.  Zweil is an always entertaining yet serious figure, and it was great to see him knock some sense into several characters when they needed it.  I’m honestly only scratching the surface here, as a ton of other characters were well featured throughout The Guns of Tanith as Abnett continues to build and bring together his final cast of major characters.  Each of these amazing protagonists had some superb impacts on narrative of this novel, and I cannot wait to see how Abnett continues to develop them in the later books of the series.  I am assuming it is only a matter of time until more of the characters start to die, and I am sure that will break my heart just as much as the big death in The Guns of Tanith did.

Due to my love of the format, I of course listened to The Guns of Tanith on audiobook, which is easily the best way to enjoy any Warhammer book.  I have gone on a lot about the fantastic Gaunt’s Ghosts audiobooks in recent reviews, and The Guns of Tanith has all the same advantages, as one of my favourite audiobook narrators, Toby Longworth, brings the reader right into the heart of the action with his great voice work.  Every scene is masterfully showcased by his narration, and all the characters are brought to life thanks to the great voices he utilises for them.  Longworth really stretched himself when it came to accents in this latest novel, and he features a ton of great new voices, as well as the existing tones from the previous audiobooks, to bring this entire audiobook together.  With the standard runtime of just over 10 hours, The Guns of Tanith audiobook is a real snap to power through, and I honestly finished it off in only a few days.

Unsurprisingly, I absolutely loved the fifth entry in Dan Abnett’s exceptional Gaunt’s Ghosts books, The Guns of Tanith, which proved to be another powerful and enjoyable Warhammer 40,000 novel.  Filled with Abnett’s usual impressive battles, The Guns of Tanith also had a brilliant focus on characters-driven storylines that dominated most of the plot and kept the readers hooked the entire time.  An intense, addictive, and deeply personal Gaunt’s Ghosts books, The Guns of Tanith was pretty damn outstanding and I loved every second of it.


Quick Review – Warhammer 40,000: Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom by Mike Brooks

Huron Blackheart Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 7 May 2022)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 6 hours and 23 minutes

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars


I am really in love with the Warhammer 40,000 universe at the moment as they are producing some incredible books.  While many feature huge casts or examine vast conflicts, some of the very best Warhammer 40,000 novels provide greater context and insight into the game’s legendary characters.  These major character driven novels often result in some intriguing and powerful reads, and I love the complex stories that they tell.  One of the more interesting ones recently was the epic Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom by rising Warhammer 40,000 fiction author Mike Brooks.  This was a great and exciting read from last year, which I unfortunately never got the chance to properly review.  However, as I have just started listening to one of Brooks’s more recent novels, Warboss, I thought it would be beneficial to do a quick review of Huron Blackheart.

Plot Synopsis:

Huron Blackheart is the lord of the Red Corsairs, master of the lawless Maelstrom and its piratical denizens – but oathbreakers and renegades can seldom rely on the loyalty of their followers. With the galaxy thrown into turmoil by the return of Roboute Guilliman, the former Tyrant of Badab faces a renewed Imperium and fresh challengers emerging within his own ranks.

Huron must call on every trick he knows to stay in control – and alive. Yet even a warrior as ferocious and opportunistic as the Blood Reaver must be wary, for although there are many bargains he can strike, all power comes at a price…

Brooks has produced a very awesome and enjoyable read with Huron Blackheart which drags you in with its intense and entertaining story.  As the name suggests, the book primarily focuses on one of the more interesting characters from the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon, Huron Blackheart.  Huron Blackheart is a particularly cool character with a well-established background as a former loyal space marine who turned traitor and become a notorious pirate lord, haunting vast swathes of the Imperium.  Rather than diving into the full history of the character, Brooks instead tells a more contemporary narrative that shows the current actions of Huron Blackheart in the aftermath of the return of Roboute Guilliman.

The story sees Huron planning his next great offensive against the hated Imperium when one of his subordinates suddenly becomes a threat when he arrives with a mighty war prize, a legendary Ultramarines battle cruiser and Roboute Guilliman’s personal flagship, which the canny underling had managed to capture.  Now faced with a potential rival, Huron is further blindsided when several of his underlings ensure that a powerful daemonic relic falls out of his hands, further weakening his hold on his minions.  Forced into a corner, Huron soon finds himself caught between his murderous minions and the dark powers that surround him, and he’ll need to make a deadly decision that could change his existence and the remnants of his soul forever.

This is a pretty enjoyable and compelling overall narrative, and it is always quite a lot of fun to see events unfold from a villain’s perspective.  The author did a good job of balancing out some of the elements of the story, and the reader is treated to a great mix of Chaos politics, intense action, and a focus on the always awesome figure of Huron Blackheart.  Brooks makes good use of a multi-character perspective throughout Huron Blackheart, which is mostly effective in telling the fun and enjoyable narrative.  The main one of course is from Huron itself, which gives you some very interesting views into his mind, but several other characters are also well featured, including a captured Tech Priest who is forcibly recruited into Huron’s ranks at the start of the novel.  She provides a great outsider perspective to the entire story, and, when combined with Huron’s own cynical observances, you get a great view of the book’s events, especially all the backstabbing, politicking and carnage that emerges.  Not every character is given this great treatment however, as several of the supporting cast end up being a bit one-dimensional in places, which make their subsequent perspective shots a bit hard to care about.  Still, Brooks’s great use of perspective does capture the novel’s slightly darker and more bloody tone that some of the other Warhammer 40,000 novels out there as Brooks attempts to capture the villainous edge to every character.  I particularly enjoyed several of the scenes that showed the entire elaborate nature of Huron’s corsair organisation, and it was a lot of fun to see all the different factions, as well as several different groups of Chaos Space Marines, working together for piratical purposes.  I did think that the story itself was a little basic in places, especially when it came to its direction, and several of the twists or reveals were well telegraphed.  Still, I was pretty entertained the entire way through Huron Blackheart, and readers are guaranteed a pretty good time with the story.

Naturally for a book titled Huron Blackheart, a lot of the story is built around the exploration of who Huron is and what role he fills in the galaxy.  I must admit that this was one of those established Warhammer characters that I wasn’t particularly familiar with, so I was quite keen to see how the author would feature them.  Unsurprisingly, Brooks does a good job of setting Huron up as a particularly intense and ghastly central character for the novel, and you soon get a good idea of his motivations and the rage burning within him.  While Brooks was a little light on Huron’s full character history, readers fully understand his hatred, as well as other intriguing aspects of his character, such as his pragmatism, his deep-seated rage, and an actual understanding of the powers he has bound himself to.  I loved seeing the world through Huron’s eyes in parts of the book, especially as you see all his canny and cynical insights into the motivations of his minions and the key players of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Watching Huron attempt to manipulate every situation to his advantage is a ton of fun, and he cuts quite a distinctive figure in this book, even when on the losing end of a potential scheme.  Despite some of the setbacks he suffers in this novel, Huron comes away as a particularly strong and intelligent character, and it was fun to follow a Chaos leader that can control so many naturally treacherous beings.  Brooks also does a good job of tying Huron’s story into the wider current canon of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and it was fascinating to see what role Huron envisions his raiders having in the current wars of the galaxy.  There are some great references to other recent books and events, particularly when it comes the events around the captured Ultramarines ships, and I felt that this entire novel slid in nicely into this wider canon.

I ended up listening to Huron Blackheart on audiobook, which is always my preferred medium for Warhammer stories.  The Huron Blackheart audiobook ended up being a pretty awesome listen, especially with the impressive narration of Andrew Wincott.  Wincott captured every dark and bloody setting perfectly with his narration, and you got a real sense of the scale and menace of every scene, especially those focused on Huron himself.  Wincott made sure to also feature some great voices which really showed the full range of crazed figures that made up the supporting cast.  However, the best voice work was saved for Huron Blackheart himself, as Wincott wanted to inject some intensity into him.  Wincott gives him a deep, loud, and croaky voice, that perfectly captures his inhuman nature and helps readers to envision his mutilated flesh.  As such, the Huron Blackheart audiobook is an outstanding way to the enjoy the story, and with a run time of just under six and a half hours, it is one that you can power through pretty quickly.

Overall, Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom was a great Warhammer 40,000 book and I am glad that I got the chance to listen to it last year.  Mike Brooks had a lot of fun bringing the intriguing central protagonist to life in this new book, and his subsequent story of treachery and survival was interesting and easy to get through.  This was a particularly solid entry in the Warhammer canon, and all established fans of the franchise will have an excellent time with Huron Blackheart, especially in its audiobook format.


Throwback Thursday – Warhammer 40,000: Honour Guard by Dan Abnett

Warhammer 40,000 - Honour Guard Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – July 2001)

Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts – Book Four

Length: 10 hours and 12 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For this week’s Throwback Thursday I’m still in a Warhammer 40,000 mood, so I decided to dive even further into Dan Abnett’s classic Gaunt’s Ghosts series with the fourth book, Honour Guard.

Readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed a fair increase in the number of Warhammer 40,000 novels I’ve highlighted this year, as this entire grim expanded universe has quite an addictive quality to it.  Foremost amongst these books have been the compelling works of veteran author Dan Abnett, who has written so many impressive and key parts of the Warhammer canon over the years.  I deeply enjoyed his Eisenhorn trilogy (Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus), all three of which were given pride of place in my recent post listing my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels.  However, his best-known works are his Gaunt’s Ghosts series of books, which catalogue the adventures of the Tanith First and Only regiment of Imperial Guard, better known as Gaunt’s Ghosts.  I have had a wonderful time with the first three novels, First and Only, Ghostmaker and Necropolis, as well as the prequel novel The Vincula Insurgency, which showcased the bloody lives of the common soldier in this war-torn universe.  I have really gotten attached to this series and when I wanted a quick read, there was nothing I would rather turn to then the next Gaunt’s Ghosts book, Honour Guard.

Throughout the extended, system-spanning Sabbat World crusades, the men of the Tanith First and Only have fought against the dark forces of Chaos in every way imaginable.  Led by their heroic commander, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, the Tanith soldiers, known colloquially as Gaunt’s Ghosts, have had many victories, but few failures.  So, when fighting on the holy Shrine World of Hagia, the Ghosts are devastated when they trigger a disastrous enemy trap that destroys a holy city and creates a psyker beacon that will draw a massive Chaos fleet down on their position.

Troubled by his failures to protect one of the most important planets in the Sabbat Worlds and made a scapegoat by his commander, Gaunt is left a broken man.  His one chance to save his career and his regiment is to lead the Tanith and an armoured company as an honour guard to a sacred shrine to recover the holy relics of Saint Sabbat.  If he can recover the relics and evacuate them from the planet before the Chaos fleet arrives, he may be able to keep the Ghosts under his command.

Beginning the arduous pilgrimage, Gaunt and his men soon discover that the road to the shrine isn’t as clear as their intelligence indicated.  A vast enemy army lies in wait for them, and the Ghosts will have to fight every step of the way to secure their objective and make their escape.  However, there are far more mysterious forces at work behind the scenes as Gaunt and some of his men soon find themselves being driven on by religious visions of Saint Sabbat herself.  Is the holy saint talking to them, or is something more sinister manipulating them?

Honour Guard was another epic science fiction military adventure that I powered through in no time at all.  Skilfully continuing the intriguing Gaunt’s Ghost story, Abnett has produced a thoughtful and intense read that throws the protagonists into a captivating action-packed scenario that really showcases the gritty nature of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Honour Guard has a somewhat typical Gaunt’s Ghosts story to it, and if you’ve read the series before then you know that means great characters, intense fights with big set-piece battles, and a compelling look at the common soldier in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  This fourth book follows on from the events of Necropolis, and Abnett quickly and ably shows the changes to the regiment that the previous adventures have wrought, especially with all the new Verghastite recruits.  Abnett starts things off with an epic series of battles as the Ghosts attempt to take a Chaos controlled city.  This opening sprawl of fights is not only intense but it expertly introduces the new setting, sets up several key story points, and lets the reader know who the main characters of Honour Guard are going to be.  From there, the characters, especially the main protagonist, Gaunt, face a major setback as the city is destroyed, their allies are killed, and a massive Chaos fleet has been summoned to destroy the holy planet they are on.  There are some great moments in this early bit of the book, especially as Abnett really dives into the impacts of the failure on Gaunt.  It also sets up the intriguing story element that Gaunt is likely to lose his command and the Ghosts will be broken up as a result.

With that set up, Abnett then drives into the meat of the story, with Gaunt leading the Ghosts and an armoured regiment as an honour guard to retrieve the sacred relics of one of the Imperium’s most important saints before the enemy fleet arrives.  Framed as an easy mission to give Gaunt an honourable send off, the mission naturally goes to hell when the Ghosts discover a vast enemy army between them and their goal.  This results in several major battles on the road, and Abnett has a lot of fun combining infantry fighting with tank warfare to make the conflicts even more impressive.  Each battle is extremely fun in its own regard, and fans of action and military combat really won’t be disappointed by Honour Guard as a result.  At the same time, there is a real focus on the characters, as several of the protagonists are going through different personal struggles, especially Gaunt.  Abnett also introduces an intriguing and moving side storyline that sees several long-running Gaunt’s Ghosts characters, who were wounded and left behind, attempt to make their own way to the conflict, guided by religious visions.  Everything leads up to a final battle sequence at the objective as the honour guard are trapped with a massive enemy force coming towards them.  Abnett naturally spends pages detailing all the bloody fighting, which serves as a great backdrop to the main story elements.  While I did think that the big finale of the book was too sudden and coincidental, it did fit into the general theme of faith and miracles that were covered in a lot of the plot.  Overall, this was another great, action-heavy narrative that I was able to sit back and enjoy.

As with all Abnett’s work, Honour Guard is extremely well written, and readers who have enjoyed any of the author’s previous books will be aware of what they are in for with this fantastic novel.  The author features a great blend of action, universe building and character development throughout his novel, and readers are ensured of constant excitement or intense, character-driven moments.  The entire story is told from multiple character perspectives, as the entire cast is well represented.  Not only does this allow the reader to get interesting updates from all the intriguing characters, many of whom have been built up in previous books, but it also ensures that you get a wide view of events featured throughout the novel, including several different perspectives of each battle.  I do think that the book was lacking a good antagonist perspective (or honestly a real antagonist character), and if Abnett would have included that, the entire story would have felt a bit more complete.  Still, the sheer number of perspectives and supporting characters ensures that the reader sees every angle of the action.  That is really great, as the battle scenes are some of the best parts of the book.  Abnett never holds back when it comes to the carnage, and every massive fight, armoured vehicle engagement and or infantry push is covered in high detail.  The author really tries to highlight the brutality and trauma of war, as well as the hell each of the soldier characters goes through, and you ended up riveted to the plot as a result, especially as no side character is safe.  I am glad that Abnett keeps up his outstanding writing throughout the Gaunt’s Ghosts series and I ended up getting really caught up in Honour Guard as a result.

This proved to be another interesting addition to both the Gaunt’s Ghosts series and the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe, and fans of both are going to have a pretty great time with this new novel.  As with most of the books in the series, Honour Guard can be read as a standalone novel, although starting with the earlier books does give the reader more insight into the characters.  Abnett really tries to make each of his novels as accessible as possible, and readers new to the series or Warhammer fiction in general can easily dive in here and have a fun time with all the military action.  However, Abnett also has a lot of fun expanding out the canon in Honour Guard, especially as you get to see more regiments of the Imperial Guard in action against the forces of Chaos.  One of the most intriguing lore aspects of Honour Guard is the examination of key elements of the Sabbat Worlds, which have been the overarching focus of this series.  In particular, there is a focus on the legendary figure of Saint Sabbat, who is a personal hero of many of the characters.  This sends the story down an interesting spiral of faith and devotion in the Imperial Cult, as many have their religious beliefs tested due to the earlier events of the story.  As such, there are some great examinations of the Imperial religion, and it is fascinating to see the potential spiritual ramifications of several events throughout the novel.  I also quite enjoyed the main setting of the planet of Hagia, which is only really featured in this novel.  Abnett sets the entire world up very quickly and you soon find yourself caught up in the fight for this religious planet which is completely dedicated to worship of the Emperor and his saints.  Abnett works several religious elements of the planet into the story extremely well, and it proves to be quite fascinating backdrop for this awesome novel.

One of the best things about Abnett’s writing is his ability to construct multiple complex and intriguing characters who all go through some great development.  This is particularly true in the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, as he has constructed a pretty massive cast of characters throughout the first three books in the series who all come into play in Honour Guard.  I really enjoyed all the amazing characters in this fourth novel, especially as there is a very interesting change of dynamics due to the Verghastite recruits joining at the end of the previous novel, Necropolis.  Not only does that mean that some of the best new characters from the previous book are once again featured here, but it builds some fantastic rivalries between the soldiers as the new Ghosts attempt to gain acceptance from the men of Tanith.  Honour Guard ended up being a fantastic litmus test for Abnett’s expanded cast, especially as it introduces some compelling cultural and gender divides to the regiment, while also ensuring that all the fantastic characters the author utilised in Necropolis don’t go to waste.

Many of these great characters really stood out to me in Honour Guard, but of course most of the focus was once again on the central protagonist of Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt.  This was a pretty significant novel for Gaunt, as readers get to see him at his very lowest point after he suffers a devastating defeat.  This pushes him into a depressive spiral, which is very surprising after how controlled and confident he has been in the previous novels.  Abnett really does a great job of showcasing Gaunt’s lost confidence and internal anger, and watching him overcome it becomes an intense part of the book.  The author really dives down deep into Gaunt’s motivations throughout Honour Guard, and you come away feeling a lot closer to the character as a result.  It isn’t always easy for an author to show their main protagonist dealing with defeat and loss, but Abnett did a wonderful job of it in Honour Guard, and I think it makes Gaunt a much stronger figure as a result.

Aside from Gaunt, a lot of the other characters are really well utilised throughout Honour Guard, with some great side storylines and adventures.  Colonel Corbec’s adventure with long-running Gaunt’s Ghosts characters Dorden, Brin Milo and Bragg, had some excellent moments to it, especially as many of them are still dealing with the loss of loved ones or their planet.  Abnett also makes great use of several notable characters introduced in Necropolis like Gol Kolea, Captain Ban Daur and Ana Curth in Honour Guard.  It was great to see the author spending time developing storylines around them which will continue to build throughout the series, and I enjoyed seeing them attempting to integrate into the Tanith regiment.  Even new characters like Viktor Hark, the regiments new Commissar, the slippery and entertaining killer Cuu, and troubled Trooper Vamberfeld, all added some awesome elements to the overall story.  I liked how Hark proved to be a compelling reflection of Gaunt, while Vamberfeld showcased the traumas war can have on a soldier’s mind, while also placing him right in the middle of key events.  However, some of the best character work in Honour Guard occurred around the always entertaining Major Rawne.  Rawne, who has sworn multiple times to kill Gaunt, bears witness to his commander’s fall from grace after his defeat.  However, rather than revelling in it, Rawne ends up having a big confrontation with Gaunt towards the end of the book to snap some sense in him.  Watching this cynical character be the voice of reason to Gaunt was just brilliant, and the resulting exchange added some fantastic layers to Rawne that I deeply enjoyed.  While I really would have loved some more named antagonists, the characters overall in Honour Guard were pretty exceptional, and I really loved how Abnett worked their unique personal narratives into the wider plot.

I doubt anyone is going to be too surprised that I checked out Honour Guard on audiobook, as that has been my preferred format for all Abnett’s books.  This is mainly because the action, characters, and grim setting are always translated across so effortlessly on the audiobook, and you can really appreciate all the cool detail that Abnett includes as a result.  Coming in a just over 10 hours, the Honour Guard audiobook has a pretty typical length for a Warhammer book, and I was able to quickly power through it.  As usual, I need to highlight the amazing narration of Toby Longworth, who has lent his voice to all of Abnett’s previous books.  Longworth has an outstanding voice that really captures the tone of the story and ensures that the reader can envision every single battle taking place.  His real talent is his ability to dive into every single character Abnett comes up with and give them a fitting voice that captures their personality and emotions.  There is some impressive continuation from the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts audiobooks as Longworth brings back all the voices he previously featured there, which I deeply appreciated.  He also employs an intriguing range of accents, which help to emphasise the different planets of origin for the various characters and regiments featured in the book.  This attention to detail and impressive voice work helps to make Honour Guard, and indeed all the Gaunt’s Ghosts audiobooks really stand out, and I had a wonderful time listening to the book in this format.  Easily the best way to enjoy this fantastic novel.

Honestly, there was no question about me enjoying Honour Guard, considering how much fun I have been having with the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts books.  This fourth entry has a great story and some brilliant writing by Abnett, and readers are in for an exceptional experience of bullets, blood and explosions in some the best military fiction in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  This was an outstanding read, and I can give no higher compliment than to say that the moment I finished off Honour Guard, I started listening to the next novel in the series, The Guns of Tanith.  I honestly cannot get enough of this incredible Warhammer 40,000 series and it will be very interesting to see what unique storylines Abnett cooks up next.


Guest Review – Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours! by Joseph Frink and Jeffrey Cranor

This week as part of my Throwback Thursday articles I let my eternally awesome editor/wife, Alex, reveal what weirdness she has been reading lately with a guest review of two very fun, if odd, books.  Fans of this blog may remember that Alex has previously provided some insightful guest reviews for The Power (soon to be a television series), The Testaments, The Fowl Twins, Pan’s Labyrinth and the latest audiobook versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  For this latest guest review, Alex dives into the audiobook versions of the tie-in novels associated with the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, written by Joseph Frink and Jeffrey Cranor.  Now, I have to admit that despite Alex’s love of Welcome to Night Vale, I honestly do not know much about it, and I was intrigued to see what stories these books featured.  If her review of the first two books are anything to go by, I am missing out on some crazy, crazy things by not listening to this podcast.

Welcome to Nightvale Cover

Alex’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Welcome to Night Vale is a long-running sci-fi podcast that publishes new episodes twice a month. Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have been writing the show together for just over 10 years now, and have so far published three books in the canon. I recently found myself in need of some audio entertainment to accompany some long drives, and I decided the soothing baritone of Cecil Baldwin was just the thing I needed, so I started with the first two books, Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours!

Regular listeners of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast will know exactly what to expect from these books. New fans will need to strap in for some weirdness, ranging from the merely strange, like invisible pie and the Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL), to the truly terrifying, like throat spiders and librarians. Time doesn’t work in Night Vale. Angels are real, but it is illegal to acknowledge them (and certainly don’t lend them any spare change when they ask for it). Mountains are real, but not everyone believes in them. There is a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home, but she’s not usually violent. The best advice I can give is to simply accept everything the narrative tells you, as any law-abiding Night Vale citizen would do.

The Welcome to Night Vale book chiefly follows the adventures of three such Night Vale citizens. Josh Crayton is able to change his form at will, sometimes appearing as an insect or a sentient patch of haze, sometimes sporting huge antlers or the legs of an octopus. Like all teenagers, he’s just trying to learn how to feel comfortable in his body and figure out who he is—and who his father is. His mother, Diane Crayton, is just trying to protect and connect with her son; it’s not easy being a mother in a town so strange and dangerous. But she also finds herself transfixed by the mystery of a newcomer to town, a strange man in a tan jacket, whose name and face you forget as soon as you look away. The man in the tan jacket has also caught the attention of Jackie Fierro, the pawn shop owner, who has been 19 years old for as long as she or anyone can remember—decades or perhaps even centuries. When things are strange enough even for Night Vale locals to take note, you know that very strange things indeed are afoot.

It Devours! introduces Nilanjana, a scientist who is investigating a series of terrible, massive sinkholes which have started appearing all over town. Nilanjana is a newcomer to Night Vale, and unsurprisingly she hasn’t found it easy to join the community. The other major character, Darryl, is a member of the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, a cult-like religion mostly made up of expats from the nearby town of Desert Bluffs. This pair encapsulate the themes of belonging that are so prevalent in this book—the need to belong to a community, even one as strange as Night Vale or as sinister as the Joyous Congregation—as well as the friction between science and religion.

I found that the real treat of these books is that they give you an insight into the internal lives of Night Vale citizens. Since the podcast is almost exclusively presented from the perspective of journalist and community radio host Cecil, a sometimes unreliable narrator, the audience gets only second-hand knowledge of other characters. But since the books take on a more traditional, omniscient style of storytelling, we are treated to a much fuller view of the day-to-day lives and struggles of the people living in this strange town. As such, they very much operate as a character study (especially Welcome to Night Vale, since its protagonists are all pre-existing characters) but there’s also plenty of action to keep the stories moving.

It Devours Cover

Alex’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Fink and Cranor take care to liberally sprinkle in cameos and references to delight podcast listeners whilst also giving new readers (and those of us who haven’t caught up on the podcast in a while) enough information to go on. At one point in Welcome to Night Vale Carlos the scientist makes an offhand comment about his extensive experience of other worlds, but that he doesn’t like to talk about it. New fans can enjoy this throwaway line as yet another deadpan non-sequitur, but regular listeners will know this refers to a long-running, heartbreaking arc in which Carlos spent a year trapped and isolated in a desert otherworld. It can be hard to tell which elements are simply weird worldbuilding and which are important clues that will assist the characters in their investigations, so the books are full of surprises. The books are also very suspenseful, with the characters facing some kind of peril—physical or psychological—on a regular basis. At one point while listening on a drive, I sat in the carpark for an extra 10 minutes after reaching my destination just to make sure Jackie and Diane made it out of the library alive.

On a similar note, another upshot of the novel format is that the payoff comes much quicker than podcast listeners may be accustomed to. With episodes only released every few weeks, it’s not unusual to have to wait months or even years for some elements to reach a resolution. Here we get a much tighter narrative that arises and resolves itself in a few hundred pages. I would say that It Devours! is the far stronger of the two books, as Fink and Cranor seem to have gotten a better handle on adapting their usual style to the novel format.

Of course the only appropriate narrator for these audiobooks is Cecil Baldwin, who in the podcast portrays Cecil Palmer, the presenter of the community radio show which is the format of most episodes. The books are written in a more traditional novel format but still with the usual Night Vale cadence; when I read the paperback editions when they were first published, I found myself “hearing” Cecil’s voice as I read, so it was a real treat to listen to the audiobooks properly. I also appreciated the use of Disparition’s eerie background music during the chapter interludes, making them feel like they’d been lifted right out of an episode of the podcast.

Overall I really enjoyed the first two Night Vale books, especially It Devours!, but I definitely had the advantage of a fair bit of familiarity with the Night Vale world already. I’m now especially looking forward to finally catching up on the third book, The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, narrated by my childhood idol Mara Wilson.

Throwback Thursday – Warhammer 40,000: Necropolis by Dan Abnett

Warhammer 40,000 - Necropolis Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – January 2001)

Series; Gaunt’s Ghosts – Book Three

Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars


Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For my latest Throwback Thursday, I continue to dive into the mud and blood of the 41st century with the awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel, Necropolis by Dan Abnett.

A few weeks ago I published a Top Ten Tuesday that listed my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels, where I featured several great and impressive authors.  However, out all these authors, the one I seemed to mention the most was the extremely talented Dan Abnett.  Abnett, a veteran contributor to Warhammer lore, is one of the major pillars of the Warhammer 40,000 canon, having written several exceedingly iconic series or novels.  I have really enjoyed some of Abnett’s books including his legendary Eisenhorn trilogy (made up of Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus) which I eagerly absorbed earlier this year.

However, one of Abnett’s most compelling series is his long-running Gaunt’s Ghosts series of books.  This great series follows the tragic and deadly members of the Tanith First and Only, an Imperial Guard regiment let by legendary Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt.  Known informally as Gaunt’s Ghosts, due to their position of the being the only survivors of the destroyed planet of Tanith, the Ghosts fight for vengeance and the hope of winning a new planet.  The Gaunt’s Ghost series follows their adventures during the Sabbat World Crusades, a series of deadly campaigns in a Chaos controlled sector.  I have deeply enjoyed this cool series, mainly because it shows a particularly accurate view of the life of the common soldier in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  The first two books, First and Only and Ghostmaker, as well as the prequel novel, The Vincula Insurgency, have served as excellent introductions to the characters and their mission, and I have been keen to continue this series.  The third book in the series, Necropolis, features a brilliant new story that throws the Ghosts deep into the absolute hell of war.

On the planet of Verghast, deep in the Sabbat Worlds, the Hive City of Verunhive has long stood as a beacon of productivity and economic success, producing vast quantities of materials for the crusading Imperial armies.  Their dominion on Verghast seems absolute, until a shocking and deadly surprise attack from the neighbouring rival city of Ferrozoica, leaves everyone in shock.  Amassing an army of millions, Ferrozoica launches a continued and brutal attack on Verunhive and its holdings, determined to bring it to its knees, and not even the hastily assembled forces of Verunhive or the fortified walls of the hive seem capable of stopping them.

To maintain the manufacturing capabilities of Verunhive, Warmaster Macaroth dispatches several regiments of Imperial Guard to Verghast to unite the people of Verunhive and help put an end to the invasion Ferrozoica.  Amongst the Imperial reinforcements are the Tanith First and Only, better known as Gaunt’s Ghosts, who are now hardened veterans after years of fighting under Colonel-Commissar Gaunt.  Arriving in Verunhive, the Ghosts discover a desperate hive, fortified by inexperienced soldiers and untested leadership, who are ill-prepared for the horrors of war that are about to be unleashed upon them.

As the Ghosts and their new allies begin a desperate fight for survival, Gaunt soon discovers that the Hive is divided, with political intrigue, ambitious officers, and old rivals, all vying to control the war.  As this division hampers the war effort, an even more dangerous discovery is made: the forces of Ferrozoica aren’t just rebelling, they are under the fell control of Chaos.  Faced with a relentless horde of enemies that won’t stop their attack for anything, can the Tanith and the defenders of Verunhive rally to hold off the enemy are will the Ghosts finally meet their match in the ruins of the corrupt Hive City?

Abnett continues to show why he is one of the very best Warhammer 40,000 authors out there with this exceptional third entry in his Gaunt’s Ghosts series.  Necropolis is a brutal and intense read that features a brilliant group of characters caught up in a desperate and deadly siege.  Action-packed and exceedingly powerful, Necropolis was an incredible addition to the series that I powered through in no time at all.

Necropolis has an outstanding and exceptional story that places the Tanith regiment in the middle of a no-win scenario.  I had heard that Necropolis had one of the best stories out of all the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, and it lives up to all the hype.  One of the reasons for this is that, in contrast to the episodic nature of the first two books, Necropolis has one consistent and continuous story that is completely focused on the battle for Verunhive.  The other major reason for me is that this book is a siege novel, which is something I particularly enjoy, and the subsequent extended war to control Verunhive was pretty damn epic as a result.

The book starts without the Ghosts even present, and instead Abnett takes the time to completely explore the start of the siege, showcasing the setting and introducing many of the new supporting characters and their unique storylines.  This works to set the scene beautifully and you really go into the book fully understanding just how chaotic the ensuing war is going to be.  Gaunt and the Ghosts are introduced a few chapters into Necropolis, and they are swiftly and expertly inserted into the story.  Most of the returning characters are split up around the city and given their own distinctive storylines which often merge with those of the Verunhive citizens introduced in the opening scenes.  At the same time, Gaunt finds himself involved in the political intrigue that is dominating the commanders of the city, which forces him to work with and against rival commanders, commissars and politicians.

The story moves at a pretty swift pace, and soon the reader is gifted with a series of brutal and powerful battles that drag in every major character in the book.  All these battle scenes are pretty intense and deadly, with the protagonists significantly outnumbered by the forces of Chaos.  Abnett really communicates the resulting desperation and fear that many of the characters feel, especially as the enemy starts to make further progress and the losses mount.  These impressive war scenes mesh well with the instances of political intrigue and personal conflicts that several of the characters, particularly Gaunt, are experiencing during the war, and it becomes apparent that ambition, greed and corruption are going to cause just as many problems as the war outside.  I loved the brilliant combination of character driven storylines that emerged, and all of them come together to present a comprehensive and compelling picture of the wider siege before them.

Naturally, things start going to absolute hell in the lead-up to the final act, and Gaunt and his soldiers face a huge variety of threats from both inside and outside of Verunhive.  There are some great scenes of carnage, valour and bitter personal fights during this part of the book as each of the characters attempt to survive in their own way.  Abnett really doesn’t hold back when it comes to the brutal war and readers should really not get attached to any of the characters, as the death toll is pretty significant.  Everything leads up to a final, desperate battle, and I felt that the author handled it extremely well, pitting all the key characters into some outstanding fight sequences.  I did think that the conclusion of one major fight was slightly cliched (as well as significantly underpowering the strength of a bolt pistol), but it was an overall excellent way to end the book.  All the storylines that Abnett opens in Necropolis are closed in a satisfactory way, and many of the characters leave both hopeful and a little forlorn at what they have experienced.  Abnett also leaves behind some hints of future storylines, especially around the personal lives of the Ghosts, and it looks like there is going to be a lot of changes in the next novel of the series.

Featuring a massive multi-perspective cast, Abnett tells a complex and expansive siege narrative that is guaranteed to draw the reader.  As I mentioned before, I love a good siege book, and this probably one of the better ones that I have had the pleasure of reading (I will be adding it to the next version of my Top Ten Tuesday list on the subject).  Abnett really captures the intensity and complexity of the siege of this massive Hive City, and this shines through in every major battle scene he produces.  The reader is effortlessly drawn into every gritty and lethal fight that occurs, and I love how he shows all the perils associated with war, from morale, logistics and even the insanity of the Chaos invaders.  The grim scale of the war and the massive city this book is set in are on full display as well, and you must love seeing the mechanics behind attacking this city, as well as the inherent tragedy such an invasion is having on millions.  Accompanied by an amazing amount of complex, personal stories, and some outstanding, futuristic political intrigue, and you end up with a particularly gripping and well-written tale, and its one I could listen to again and again.

One of the things that I love about Abnett’s books is the way that he so easily and cleverly works the wider Warhammer 40,000 setting into his story.  He does such a good job of including and subtly explaining every bit of relevant lore, technology or faction throughout the book and in such a way that even readers unfamiliar with the franchise can dive in here with Necropolis without any major issues.  This accessibility to new readers is further helped by the way that most of the story focuses on the battles of the common Imperial soldier, and seeing their gritty perspectives and opinions of the book’s events really makes it easier to read.  Necropolis also serves as quite a key entry in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, and fans who enjoyed the first two books will love to see the Ghosts return to another brutal war.  While Abnett does ensure that Necropolis is accessible to people unfamiliar with the series, readers are better served going back and reading First and Only and Ghostmaker first.  This is mainly because these two books were so heavily focused on character development and introductions, and seeing this characterisation continue in Necropolis makes for a more enjoyable experience.  However, readers can still jump into Necropolis without too many issues, and anyone is guaranteed an epic time if they do.

Abnett is always particularly skilled when it comes to characters, and Necropolis is no different as it features an amazing and large cast.  This not only includes the recurring characters from the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts books, but also a series of new characters originating in Verunhive.  Abnett does a wonderful job of introducing all these new characters while also simultaneously re-establishing all the previous protagonists and their particular character arcs.  The reader ends up following a huge range of character storylines in Necropolis as a result, and it was fascinating to see all the different protagonists, both Ghost and Verunhive local, and their experiences in the war.  However, I do think that Abnett might have gone a little overboard when it came to characters in Necropolis, as it became hard to follow so many distinctive personalities at times.  I also found that some of the best characters from the first two books, such as Colm Corbec and Major Rawne, were a bit underutilised as a result.  However, you still get a lot of Gaunt, and his excellent chapters perfectly capture the insanity behind the war as Abnett once again showcases him as the noble hero, although even he is not prepared for some of the complex figures waiting for him.  I loved the contrast between Gaunt and his rival, Commissar Kowle, who is a lot more self-serving, and it was great to see more hostile interactions between Gaunt and the Royal Volpone commander General Sturm.  This ended up being a great book for characters, and I look forward to seeing how some of the supporting cast introduced in Necropolis will go in future books, especially after so many join the Ghosts at the end of the book.

As with pretty much everything else from Abnett that I have enjoyed, I chose to grab Necropolis on audiobook, which was exceptional.  Generally, all the Warhammer 40,000 novels are pretty amazing in their own way, but I have had a great time with the ones written by Abnett.  I find the format fits his epic and powerful narratives extremely well, and the intense action, world building and characters, are all highlighted perfectly in the audiobooks.  One of the main reasons for this is due to the impressive work of narrator Toby Longworth, who lends his voice to all of Abnett’s main works.  Longworth is such a great narrator and I love how he brings the intense story to life, revelling in every action, shot and bit of carnage that Abnett imagines.  His main skill is his ability to come up with a huge range of fitting and memorable voices for every major cast member, and his take on each of Abnett’s characters is always spot on.  All the characters who appeared in the previous Gaunt’s Ghosts books return with the same voices that Longworth utilised then, and I loved both the consistency with the prior audiobooks and the unique way he gets into each of the recurring characters.  The accent that he gifts all the native members of the Tanith First and Only is amazing, and it is really cool how he uses it to acknowledge their rugged history.  Longworth’s talent for accents is pushed to the limit in Necropolis, as the plot features characters from several different planets.  However, he succeeds in giving unique accents for all the different off-worlders, which included a pretty accurate Australian-esque accent, which gets my approval.  This voice work, as well as the way the format generally enhances the cool story, ensures that the Necropolis audiobook is a fantastic way to enjoy this awesome book.  With a run time of just under 10 and a half hours, listeners can easily power through this book in a few days, especially once they get caught up in the addictive narrative.

My love of the classic Gaunt’s Ghosts series keeps getting stronger and stronger as the third book, Necropolis was a particularly epic Warhammer 40,000 read.  The legendary Dan Abnett provides readers with a powerful and captivating siege story that makes full use of its dark setting and comprehensive cast of characters.  An exceptional read from start to finish, Necropolis comes highly recommended, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the next Gaunt’s Ghosts book.