Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 15 March 2022)
Series: Warhammer 40,000
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Prepare to read one of the most amusing and downright entertaining recent additions to the Warhammer 40,000 canon with the hilarious and brilliant Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! by outstanding author Nate Crowley.
I have been having an immense amount of fun really diving into the massive wealth of tie-in fiction surrounding the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game this year. Books like Steel Tread by Andy Clarke, Krieg by Steve Lyons, The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin D. Hill and Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky, have really highlighted just how diverse and intense this extended universe can be. However, the latest tie-in novel I checked out may prove to be one of my absolute favourites, as I got to learn all about one of the most iconic ork characters in this universe with Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!
Orks are the most notorious and dangerous creatures that roam the galaxy of the 41st millennium. Billions upon billions of the powerful, war-loving creatures can be found throughout every sector of space, fighting anyone and anything they can find, especially each other. However, out of all these monsters, none are more feared, respected or hated than the warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, chosen of the ork gods Gork and Mork and proclaimed prophet of the Waaagh!
Throughout his legendary life, Ghazghkull has done what no other ork has been able to achieve. Bringing together innumerable warbands into one massive horde of green, Ghazghkull has warred with every faction in the cosmos, while his infamous invasions of the Imperial planet of Armageddon are the stuff of bloody legend. Everyone knows of his epic and rivalry with his indomitable foe, Commissar Yarrick, which turned Armageddon into a perpetual warzone, but does anyone know the true story of Ghazghkull and the events that made him?
Rogue Lord Inquisitor Tytonida Falx has long attempted to discover what lurks in the minds of the xenos her order faces. When an opportunity to find out more about Ghazghkull presents itself, she eagerly jumps at the opportunity, bringing a unique prisoner aboard her heretical ship, Ghazghkull’s banner bearer, the grot Makari. Interrogating him, Inquisitor Falx and her team soon discover that Makari might just be the only being in the universe who knows the full truth about who, or what, Ghazghkull is, and what he plans to do next. But, as she listens to Makari’s tale, the Inquisitor soon discovers that the shadow of Ghazghkull’s rage and desire for violence far eclipses anything that the Imperium has ever believed.
Wow, now that was a really fun and captivating read. I knew going into Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! that I was going to have a great time, especially after enjoying author Nate Crowley’s The Twice-Dead King novels, Ruin and Reign, but I was blown away by how awesome Ghazghkull Thraka was. Featuring a clever and wildly entertaining story, perfectly told through various unique eyes, as well as some deeply enjoyable characters, I quickly became absorbed in the impressive story and powered through it in a couple of days. Not only was this my favourite book from Crowley but it also probably overtakes Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty as the most amusing Warhammer novel I have ever read.
I had an absolute blast with the incredible story that Crowley whipped up for Ghazghkull Thraka, as it ended up being an inventive and entertaining way to showcase an iconic Warhammer figure. Due to his prominence within the game and the extended fiction, Ghazghkull is probably one of the most utilised non-human characters in the canon, with many different novels, game books and comics already diving into his life. As such, Crowley needed to come up with a completely new way to examine this great character that didn’t tread on any prior works. I think his solution to this problem was exceedingly clever, as he chose to tell the story through the eyes of the most unlikely narrator and chronicler, the grot Makari, whose unique insights and worldview turned this already known backstory into something truly special.
The story starts off in the current timeline of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and shows Inquisitor Falx obtaining Makari and interrogating him about Ghazghkull. This causes the book to dive back into the early days of Ghazghkull as Makari chronicle his master’s existence as he saw it. As such, you get a very specific examination of Ghazghkull’s life, with a focus on his early trials, some of his pivotal moments, and more specifically his interactions with Makari. At the same time, the story keeps jumping back to the present, with the Inquisitor and her followers interrupting to ask specific questions and discussing whether there is any truth in what he says. The book keeps jumping between these different perspectives, and you end up with two distinctive storylines as Makari’s presence brings some big woes for the Inquisitor in the present day. The chronicle storyline goes at a brisk pace, especially as Makari’s interrogators get him to skip or shorten specific sections, but there is a clever and impressive logic into what parts of Ghazghkull’s life are featured or ignored. Not only are the past and present storylines exceedingly intriguing and entertaining in their own rights, but they also come together perfectly as well, with Makari’s insights into Ghazghkull and himself impacting the actions of Falx. While the ending was slightly too metaphysical, it served as a brilliant and powerful conclusion to this great story, and I loved seeing the entire tale come full circle in some hilarious ways.
I deeply appreciated the way that Crowley put Ghazghkull Thraka’s story together, as its distinctive and clever style really helped to enhance the chronicle contained within. The plot device of an interrogation of an alien prisoner works extremely well to set up the main narrative, and the constant interruptions, debates and revelations that occur whenever it snaps back to the present adds to the sense of mystery and mysticism surrounding the titular figure. While Crowley takes the story in some interesting and complex directions at times, the entire novel is paced beautifully, and there is never a single boring or slow moment within the entire thing. I particularly liked the near constant humour that was injected into the story, a fantastic side-effect of basing the book around the funny ork species, and I laughed out loud several times as I powered through this impressively amusing read. Like many Warhammer novels, Ghazghkull Thraka can be enjoyed as a standalone read, and the author makes sure that it features a great self-contained narrative that anyone can enjoy, even those unfamiliar with the universe and the canon. Indeed, this would be a decent introduction to the Warhammer 40,000 canon and associated extended universe, especially as it perfectly presents one of the key factions of the universe. Most of the unique universe elements and wider history are explained sufficiently for new readers to follow along without any issues, although some could potentially get confused by the deliberate exclusion of events previously covered in other books. Still, Ghazghkull Thraka should turn out to be an easy and entertaining read for any science fiction fan, and I thought that this Warhammer 40,000 novel was very well written and extremely clever.
One of the things I love the most about Nate Crowley’s Warhammer novels is his brilliant ability to dive into the unique alien races of the universe and then perfectly showcase their culture and mindsets. This was the case again in Ghazghkull Thraka, where Crowley expertly dives into the heads of the various ork and grot characters. No matter whose perspective is shown, every scene of this book features some excellent and often highly amusing depiction of greenskin culture, as Makari attempts to explain the ork perspective as well as his place in the society as a grot. As such, you get some incredibly detailed and compelling insights into this crude and warlike race, including their brutal hierarchy, need for violence, insane technology, and very unique worldview, which generally results in most of the book’s fantastic humour. However, rather than the dumb, brutal and one-note figures that most authors depict, Crowley really goes out his way to show that there is a lot more to orks than you realise. Not only do you get some excellent insights into their various clans and organisations but the various ork characters are shown to be complex beings with unique needs and the ability to formulate some very cunning plans. There is a particularly intriguing look at the ork religion that follows the gods Gork and Mork, and this novel ends up with a spiritual edge, especially as Crowley shows the orks being extremely successful because they choose to strongly believe in themselves. As such, you see quite a unique and compelling side to the ork race in this book, and I loved how incredibly Crowley portrayed them.
Naturally, a big part of this examination of ork culture comes from the in-depth look at the life of Ghazghkull himself. As I mentioned before, Ghazghkull is one of the best-known characters in the entire Warhammer 40,000 canon, so most veteran readers would already be quite familiar with him and his actions. However, Crowley does an excellent job of examining a completely new side to this character, and mostly ignores his wars at Armageddon and his intense rivalry with Commissar Yarrick, both of which have been done to death in other books. While certain parts of his history are revisited in this novel, Crowley completely changes their implications and causes, instead focusing on Ghazghkull’s unique orkish mindset and his role as the prophet of his gods. This new take on Ghazghkull proves to be quite unique and very captivating, as he is shown to be an overburdened being, constantly pressured by his own visions and the influence of the gods to succeed and be a uniting force for his people. While he still retains the casual violence of his race, you really see Ghazghkull as a deep thinker, and it is fascinating to see his inner ork face off against his grand ambitions and desires. Crowley also adds some compelling supernatural elements to his character, as Ghazghkull, as seen by Makari, bears a direct connection to the gods which he can use to alter his fellows and himself. While this isn’t too overpowered or strange, it adds a great extra layer of menace to the character, especially for the humans, and I loved seeing the Inquisitors trying to wrap their heads around the strange occurrences. I had a lot of fun seeing this other side of Ghazghkull, and this novel ended up being a great analysis of who they are and what they represent to their race.
I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Makari as one of the central characters, and his use as the main witness to Ghazghkull’s life worked incredibly well. While Makari has always been associated with the character of Ghazghkull, accompanying him in his battles and waving his banner as a source of luck, Crowley really changes him in this novel and paints him as an essential part of Ghazghkull’s success and relationship with the gods. Shown to be there the moment that Ghazghkull became the prophet, Makari follows Ghazghkull through some of his big moments and it is hilarious to see his snide view on the subject, especially as, like most grots, he a massive coward who doesn’t want to be there. A lot of this novel’s humour is derived from Makari’s observations and responses, and I loved some of the jokes set up around it. Crowley does an awful lot with this character, and I particularly liked how the story explained certain aspects of his previous portrayals, such as the apparent multiple versions and his surprising luck. These are worked into the story extremely well, but it’s the relationship with Ghazghkull that becomes the most fascinating. Just like with Ghazghkull, there is a major spiritual edge to Makari, who appears to be just as chosen and important to the plan as his master. Makari’s mystical and religious bond enables him to have a far bigger insight into Ghazghkull’s actions than anybody else, and this really enhanced the analysis of the titular character. However, it is in Makari’s attempts to serve and help his master achieve his destiny that we see the best Makari scenes, especially when faced with Ghazghkull’s apparent depression, the manipulation of his other followers, and his own stubbornness. While Ghazghkull does have the inherent ork reluctance to rely on a grot, and indeed he is extremely likely to kill Makari if he starts giving advice, the moments where Makari get through to him are powerful, and I really appreciated the character work surrounding them. There are some rocky moments between them, especially when Ghazghkull becomes dismissive of his lucky grot, and Makari’s subsequent reactions is very funny and incredibly over the top, which was so very cool. Overall, this ended up being an excellent and surprisingly compelling portrayal of Makari, and I am exceedingly glad that Crowley featured him in this novel the way he did.
Aside from the greenskin characters, a large amount of plot revolves around the team interrogating Makari. Crowley really went out his way to create a particularly unique group of Imperial agents who bear surprising insights into the mind of the xenos. This team is led by Inquistor Falx, a rogue Inquisitor who bears a dangerous obsession with the alien creatures. Falx is desperate to learn everything she can about the aliens attacking the Imperium to help defeat them and finds herself stymied by the Imperium’s controlling and non-progressive government and religion. As such, she takes some major risks in this book to understand Makari and Ghazghkull and has some unique and dangerous methods for achieving her goals that borders on the insane/heretical. I quite liked Falx, despite her obsessive qualities, and she proved to be a great central figure for half the novels plot, especially as her frustrations, concerns and thoughts about the evils of the Imperium, are extremely understandable.
Falx also employs a unique team of interrogators to help her with Makari, including Brother Hendriksen, a Space Wolves rune priest assigned to Deathwatch who has also fallen out of favour with the Imperium thanks to his work with Falx. Hendriksen serves as a beastly and powerful presence on Falx’s team, and he often provides a great counterpoint to the inquisitor in both technique and common sense, often despairing at her more dangerous choices. Crowley’s diverse cast gets even larger with the truly unique character of Cassia, a female ogryn psyker who has grown as smart as a human. This was a fantastic and extremely distinctive addition to the cast, and her surprisingly calm demeanour, which contrasts beautifully with her immense ogryn strength, works perfectly against Hendriksen’s impatience and anger. The final member of the team is probably the most enjoyable, with the ork character, Biter (Bites-Faces-Of-The-Face-Biter-Before-It-Can-Bite). Biter is a member of a Blood Axes mercenary band who have dealings with Falx and who sell Makari to her, remaining behind to interpret Makari’s testimony to the humans. Due to being a member of the Blood Axes, a group who idolise human military culture, Biter is a very distinctive figure, wearing an approximation of a military uniform and appreciating complex tactics and strategy. However, Biter is even more intelligent and cunning than most Blood Axes, and his near human tendencies really stand out, as it is pretty unexpected from an orc. His fantastic reactions, comedic impressions of human behaviour, and determination to antagonise the Inquisitor really make him stand out, and he was an absolute joy to behold. These four interrogators play off each other perfectly during the present-day scenes, and their arguments, discussions and interpretations of Makari’s story give it added depth, humour and impact, especially once they start realising just how valuable their prisoner is. This entire cast was put together extremely well, and I had an incredible time with this unique and enjoyable collection of characters.
Like most Warhammer novels I check out, I chose to grab the audiobook version of Ghazghkull Thraka, which turned out to be such a wonderful and incredible listening experience. Not only did the story absolutely fly by in this format, allowing me to get through its seven and a half hour runtime extremely quickly, but I found that the narrative and descriptions of ork life really popped when read out. However, the best part about the Ghazghkull Thraka audiobook is the outstanding use of narrators. This audiobook has three separate narrators, Kelly Hotten, Paul Putner and Jon Rand, each of whom have some experience narrating other Warhammer audio productions. Not only are each of these narrators quite talented but the way they were featured in this audiobook is extremely clever, with the voice actor changing depending on who is witnessing or telling the events of the book. For example, Kelly Hotten serves as the narrator for the various scenes and interludes where Inquisitor Falx is witnessing Makari’s interrogation, and Hotten does a brilliant job capturing the various players of these scenes, including the Inquisitor, her unique companions, and their orkish interpreter. Paul Putner narrates the various scenes shown directly from Makari’s perspective, and he has a lot of fun in this role, not only capturing the cowardly and sneaky mannerisms of the grot protagonist, but also providing some amusing and deep voices for the ork characters. Finally, Jon Rand has a memorable sequence voicing Brother Hendriksen when he psychically jumps into Makari’s mind and views some of the events occurring, and he gives the character a notable accent and internal growl that fit him extremely well. The jumps between the voice actors were done perfectly and I really loved how it changed up depending on the perspective. All three voice actors did an amazing job with their narration, and their work, plus some fun sound effects here and there, helped to turn this into such an impressive production. Easily the best way to enjoy Ghazghkull Thraka, you will have an incredible time listening to this audiobook.
Nate Crowley continues to shine with another entry in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, with the unbelievably entertaining Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! Featuring a unique and deeply amusing story that re-examines on of the canon’s most iconic alien characters, Ghazghkull Thraka has a tight and cleverly written story, loaded with action, great characters and whole mess of outstanding humour. Not only that, but this is without a doubt one of the best portrayals of the Warhammer 40,000 orks I have seen as Crowley obviously had a ton of fun bringing them to life. Easily one of the best (and definitely the funniest) Warhammer 40,000 novels I have been lucky enough to enjoy, Ghazghkull Thraka comes extremely highly recommended, especially in its audiobook format, and is a must read for all fans of this wonderful fandom.