Last year, Games Workshop announced the launch of its Warhammer Adventures series. Two strands were promised, one for each of the two Warhammer universes. City of Lifestone by Tom Huddleston is set in the Age of Sigmar universe, making the book, in essence, a children’s secondary world fantasy. It features a group of children drawn together by circumstance and pits them against a shadowy enemy.
Attack of the Necron by Cavan Scott is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and is a space adventure that channels everything I loved about the genre as a child. The premise is similar to City of Lifestone in the sense that it throws together a disparate bunch of characters and puts them in a sticky situation. This time, the novel’s central character is the daughter of an archeologist, who is separated from her mother after being attacked by a force of implacable robots. Imagine an army of Terminator T-800 robots and you’re pretty much there.
Before cracking on with my five reasons to read these books, there are a couple of caveats I should mention.
Firstly, I’m not a massive fan of the Black Library (GW’s publishing imprint) novels. I haven’t found one book I’ve enjoyed. Some are better than others, but as storytellers go, the Black Library authors seem to be weighed down by the volume of lore they are meant to adhere to, and the size of the thesaurus they must have to carry around. If there’s a Black Library style guide, one imagines that at number 1, in bold, sits “Do not use two words of one syllable if you can find one much longer word instead.” These books do not conform to the typical Black Library style.
Second, there has been a concern amongst some of the Warhammer fan base that these novels represent a “dumbing down” of the world they love. For those who don’t know, the Warhammer 40,000 universe is “grimdark.” Which is a way of saying “nobody’s very nice and bad things happen all the time.” Warhammer Adventures are aimed at children and therefore very much not grimdark. They’re good quality adventure stories.
Both interpretations can coexist and it’s possible to enjoy one strand and not the other. If you compare it to the DC universe, it’s easy to understand that widening your fan base does not mean destroying things for those already enjoying your product. The comics are different from the films, the films are different from the TV programs, and Teen Titans Go! is very different from the new series of Titans. Yet they all have an audience.
Consuming one product from the universe might lead to discovering more parts of it, and most likely, the purchasing of merchandise: T-shirts, mugs, posters, Funkos, and possibly even miniatures games. That is what GW wants (it announced its Funko partnership, last week). It wants to create the next generation of Warhammer players and consumers. It wants (needs) the hobby to grow and not preserve it in aspic. This is a GOOD THING.
All of that would be irrelevant if the Warhammer Adventures books were rubbish. Fortunately, they’re great. Here are 5 Reasons why you (and your children) should read them.
1. They’re true to their source material.
There is no doubt when reading these books that you are reading something set in the Warhammer universe. For those coming to the books from that angle, it’s clear that the authors have done their homework. There are a number of Easter Egg type inclusions that will make Warhammer acolytes smile. Yes, the darker bits have been cleaned up, but there was no doubt I was reading something inspired by the games that I love. Interestingly, these books made me want to break out my figures in a way that the adult books never have.
2. It doesn’t matter if you have never heard of Warhammer.
The books may be true to their source material, but what’s really great about them is that they’re excellent stories in their own right. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Sigmar or Space Marines; Scott and Huddleston give their readers as much information as they need to understand what is going on. Whilst there is some lore present, the overriding focus of the books are the stories.
3. They’re exciting.
The most important part of writing a good kids’ book is pacing. Warhammer Adventures turns things up to 11. Just about every chapter ends with a revelation or cliff-hanger. They demand you keep reading. I expected to have to expend some effort to work my way through these books, but the pace is breakneck and the writing addictive. I consumed both of them in one sitting and was left very much looking forward to future books in the series.
4. They’re diverse.
One has to be careful when mentioning diversity in relation to Warhammer, lest you upset the gatekeepers, but these books introduce characters that have traditionally been missing from Games Workshop’s resume. The central characters in both books are female and both series contain people of color. It’s great to see more perspectives being reflected in Warhammer stories and it mirrors a gradual shift in the company’s mainstream products too.
5. They’re a gateway to gaming and reading.
My reluctant reader 9-year-old devoured the Attack of the Necron. He has a passing interest in Warhammer, instilled by osmosis, but he loved the adventures of Zelia and the other youngsters in the book. They have helped me help him understand that he does enjoy reading and that it’s a just case of finding the right type of story for him. It’s helped move him away from the starting point of “I won’t enjoy this, so why bother?”
Personally, the books reminded me of reading Fighting Fantasy books as a child. Those books switched me on to D&D and Games Workshop and turned me into the geek I am today. The Warhammer Adventures books are equally engaging and it’s easy to see that they might become to this generation, what Fighting Fantasy was to mine.
From here, it’s easy to imagine children wanting to find out more about the universe and the games the stories they’ve just read. Space Marine Adventures or Blackstone Fortress would be an ideal jumping off point, or maybe something like Shadows over Hammerhal. Beyond that, Games Workshop (or Warhammer, as they’re now called) stores run beginners sessions for youngsters wanting to try out its games.
Great stories, strong characters, and a smattering of Warhammer lore. What’s not to love?
The Warhammer Adventures books deliver great characters and strong plots filled with intrigue. They’re fresh and different from the darker themes of the Black Library novels, yet remain true to the Warhammer lore they are based on. I can honestly say they contain some of the best writing of any of the Warhammer books I’ve read. These will appeal not only to young fans of the games but to any children who enjoy fantastic stories with epic quests.
The Warhammer Adventures books will be published on the 16th February and will be available everywhere books are sold. If you fancy a little stardust with your Warhammer, check out the audiobooks, narrated by none other than David Tennant and Billie Piper.
Check back in with GeekDad for a Giveaway Competition.
Do come back to GeekDad tomorrow for the chance to win one of 5 pairs of Warhammer Adventures books in our giveaway. Also check out the @black_library_official Instagram for more information about the books.
Disclosure: I received advanced copies of the books in order to write this review.