Friday 26 February 2010

Warhammer books, where to start?

A bunch of us were chatting on vent last night about Warhammer novels. Amongst it’s player base WAR has a lot of people that have played the tabletop games, read the books and know the whole Gamesworkshop empire very well. However since not everyone playing WAR has been exposed to such uber geekery and should they fancy reading some ripping yarns about psychotic hirsute gingers of diminutive stature, they won’t know what’s worth a look.
Quite a few Warhammer books are to be honest a bit crap and best avoided. They basically go like this:
A brief moment of tiresome and unrealistic dialogue.
A brief moment of tiresome and unrealistic dialogue.
Problem for me with those books is they do nothing much to give you a feel for the world they’re set in. It’s just a dubious story being used as a platform for lots of fighting. There are others though that actually have, you know, proper plots… That said, they are all very violent and feature a lot of scrapping, treachery and gothic darkness; it is Warhammer after all. Also there are some that follow the above pattern, but swap the crap dialogue with some decent and often humorous writing.
So to help out the Warhammer newbies out there, I figured I’d post now and again with some suggested reading. I’ll list books from both the Fantasy world that WAR is set in and the futuristic Warhammer 40,000 setting. There are some great fantasy books, but to be honest the best Gamesworkshop books are the 40,000 ones.
First off, an author recommendation: Dan Abnett. He is the best author currently writing for the Black Library (Gamesworkshop’s publishing house/thing) by a country mile and is the only one I know of that people who have zero interest in Warhammer still really like reading. Everything he has written has been thoroughly enjoyable, but there are of course highlights. The first of which would be…
The Eisenhorn trilogy
(Xenos, Malleus, Hereticus – also available in omnibusformat which includes extra short stories)
Setting: 40,000

Generally recognised as the best Warhammer books ever, this classic trilogy follows the career of Gregor Eisenhorn a member of the most dreaded organisation in the galaxy; the Inquisition. The Inquisition hunts down the heretics, traitors, aliens and chaos worshiper lurking amongst every day society. Essentially it’s a tale of morale dilemmas and asking if the ends justify the means, but wrapped up in a kind of spy thriller. Of all the Warhammer books out there, its this series that really gives you an insight into what it would actually be like to live in the dark future of the year 40,000.
The Gotrek and Felix ever growing series
(Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Dragonslayer, Vampireslayer… oh you get the idea. The link above is to the first compilation with about 3 of the books in)
Setting: Fantasy

The Gotrek series by William King are absolute Warhammer classics. These books do conform to the Warhammer talk/fight/talk/fight format, but are nicely written and most importantly are funny.
Gotrek is a dwarf that has committed some terrible crime (by dwarf standards…) and as a result has taken the Slayer oath. This oath entails shaving all your hair into a ginger mohican and going off (in just your pants) to find the most spectacular way to die in battle. Gotrek, alas, is probably the world’s most unsuccessful Slayer. I say unsuccessful because he’s hard as bloody nails and keeps killing everything he meets, which is a problem when seeking a honourable death. He’s also very grumpy, prejudiced, psychotic and an all round mentalist… Felix on the other hand is a human who stupidly got drunk with Gotrek and then while out of his head on beer, he promised to follow Gotrek and record his tale. Now that Felix has sobered up, he’s kind of regretting that promise.
Oh and you’ll meet a character called Snorri, who totally rules. Snorri is a slayer, but has even bigger problems, in dwarf terms. Baldness! This means he can’t grow the required haircut, but Snorri is even more insane than Gotrek and solved the problem by hammering a line of rusty nails across his head.
Both of these books will be well know to the veteran gamer, but for those new to Warhammer, they’re probably the best place to start reading.


  1. Heho,

    had 8 month ago an interview with steven savile, who wrote the great vampire-triology:



  2. I really liked Heldenhammer. Great intro into why people follow Sigmar.....cause dude was a badass =D

  3. Yitu - thanks for the link, I'll check that out later when I get home from work. Not actually read all of those vampire books, strangely enough I was looking at them on my lunch break today but I bought Rynn's world instead.

    Slurms - hah yes indeed, Sigmar is like Mr T on roids.

  4. The older books are the best so Beasts in Velvet, Drachenfels, Ignorant Armies, Wolf Riders etc.

  5. Totally agree with you on the subject Bootae.

    The best introductory book for Warhammer Fantasy to me has to be "Tales of the Old World". It is a superb compilation of short stories from different authors including Dan Abnett, CL Werner, William King, Graham McNeill, Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe and many more. Nearly 800 pages of tales that are divided by:

    -Tales of Honour and Heroism
    -Tales of Adventure and Mystery
    -Tales of Revenge and Betrayal
    -Tales of Deceipt and Obsession
    -Tales of Tragedy and Darkness
    -Tales of Death and Corruption
    -Tales of Madness and Ruin

    You can find it here:

  6. I just finished Horus Rising and I thought it was a very good book, not just a good warhammer book. That was written by Abnett. He writes more about fighting but there is some depth to the characters and plot as well.


    twitter: rpthomps

  7. Gaunt's Ghosts. Also written by the God Emperor Abnett, and honestly, one of the best series I've ever written. I'd get the first compilation (The Founding), and if you like it, the second. Oh, forjador, I totally agree with you on Tales of the Old World. Its one of the best omnibuses I've read. I'd also recommend "Let the Galaxy Burn," lots of burning, dying, and the like. Perfect for any chosen.

  8. Aaron, Gaunt's Ghosts is my favourite WH40k series of novels. In fact the first Warhammer 40k book I read was First and Only. If there ever is a WH40k MMO my first character will be an Imperial Guard.

    Ryan, Horus Heresy is a good series of novels as well, though some books are far superior than others. My favourite so far is Legion by herr Abnett.

    For people that is into Chaos, Liber Chaotica (2009) is a beautiful book:

  9. I really enjoyed reading the Mathias Thulmann Chronicles. :)

  10. i'm more into the traditional warhammer books rather than the 40k (though there are alot more of those), posted my books on my site :)

  11. Thanks. I wanted to try out the Warhammer books but had the problem that you described about knowing where to start. I just picked up the Eisenhorn trilogy. Looking forward to reading it. Thanks!

  12. I read the vampire series and. . . much of a mehness. Flat characters, some action, not very well written or interesting.

    I also just read Xenos (The first Eisenhorn book) and it was a great deal of fun. The mystery-thriller plot structure kept my attention through a bumpy plane flight, and _setting_ of the last action sequence made me think a bit. Not often you can say that about a pulp mass market paperback. Hoping to find something as good for the fantasy setting.


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