Warhammer World Goes Online

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So, on the same day that GW close down (how temporarily is yet to be determined) their social feeds, Warhammer World steps up to tempt us with a brand new website: http://warhammerworld.games-workshop.com (well, nearly) and an indication that all GW websites going forward will use the sub-domain format. I suspect we can expect forgeworld.games-workshop.com, blacklibrary.games-workshop.com and so forth.

Alongside the new website, Warhammer World is clearly planning to expand its facilities and generally become even more awesome as the planning application shows.

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Lots going on in GW-land at the moment. I’m off to the Forgeworld Open Day on Sunday and I wonder how forthcoming they will be with further details! I’ll have to see if I can trap someone in a corner…

 

Games Workshop Social Media Blackout

Readers with good memories may remember that I did a guest post here at the Shell Case following last year’s Spots the Space Marine firestorm, in which Games Workshop unceremoniously killed its central Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Sadly, I am here (now as a staff writer) to share similar news. It seems that Forgeworld, Black Library, Digital Editions, and the Warhammer World social media accounts have all up and disappeared. Individual store’s Facebook accounts, however, remain.

First they took away their @VoxCaster account on Twitter, then their Facebook page, but now Forgeworld!? Sirs, you have gone too far. I want to ogle your very lovely plastic crack (especially Horus) and you’ve now taken away two of my three main places to see your new releases.

You must be mad.

I’m a busy woman, I rely heavily on my newsfeeds to give me all my miniature-related news (and, let’s be honest, my “real” news, too). Who’s going to feverishly check your website for updates? Very few people. Word will still spread (across social media!) about new releases, but not as fast or as far as it does when people get it directly from your social media outlets.

I simply refuse to believe that a company as large as Games Workshop, as profit-motivated, doesn’t know how stupid this is. Every company under the sun is trying to leverage social media to reach more people and make more money.

What made Games Workshop choose to disengage from what is essentially free advertising and publicity? There must be some reasoning behind it. Even if it’s as simple as a sad attempt to avoid further ire from the community.

I honestly, naively hope that this is just a temporary move while they reshuffle their website (or websites). But my doe-eyed optimism has been crushed by Games Workshop before. As this was all done without a word or hint of happening, it seems a permanent maneuver to me.

Path of the Renegade – A Review

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A twisted alternative to the Path of The Eldar series, Path of the Renegade provides enough insight into Dark Eldar society to avoid it being left in it’s cousin’s shadow. I love Gav Thorpe’s ‘Path‘ series and not just because he’s a fellow writer on the site, focusing on the Craftworld Eldar, it provided the closest view of how they thought and functioned – albeit tough going at times.

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Path of the Renegade, in contrast, is a far more accessible and entertaining (if shallower) blast through the home of the Dark Eldar. Still, it manages to provide enough thoughts and insights into the Dark Kin to make it more than fast food in book form. The book stars a number of characters* all of whom are cruel, selfish, manipulative and vain – which makes them perfect for a book set in Commorragh! The main plot of the book takes it’s starting point from the Codex, namely to become ruler of Commorragh, Aserbul Vect had to topple a lot of Noble Eldar families, many of which still remain plotting their revenge. The head of one such noble family and orchestrator of one such scheme is Yllithian, who has survived as long as he has by scrupulously hunting down and killing any relative that may potentially be a threat to his position. Path of the Renegade follows his perspective for most of the book, as he manipulates, bullies and coerces others into helping him with his plan, to unite the houses of old under the leadership of a legendary leader. The only challenge is avoiding Vect becoming suspicious…

Andy Chambers weaves the multiple narratives and perspectives together well throughout the book, each chapter building the tension slowly. Parts of the book seem to be constructed to bring to mind the Italian Canto, which is perfect considering POTR’s melodrama and range of characters who act out the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. You can certainly see he had a lot of fun writing such characters, whose actions are so despicable but over the top it becomes rather funny. Yet Chambers’ pulls off a delicate balancing act, weaving titbits of Dark Eldar life and society into the proceedings, which help explain just how a society of sociopaths functions so efficiently without consuming itself within a matter of decades. It’s touches like this which raise the standard of the book and banish the old internet meme of the Dark Eldar being ‘Hell Raiser knockoffs’. I have heard that the book is the first of a planned trilogy like its Eldar Path cousin and there was clearly some thought put into this, with events being set up that won’t pay off until at least the next installment, including a cliffhanger so good I screamed out loud in frustration, so annoyed I was at where Chambers had left the plot. That the book affected me that much though shows how, despite initial impressions, Chambers’ own Path series has sunk its claws into . Just as well the next book is written, or I may have started petitioning Black Library to hurry up and launch it!

What this means is; the book comes highly recommended from me. If you’re a fan of the Eldar at all, upgrade that to ‘buy it now’.

Path of the Renegade is available from the Black Library in e-book and physical formats.

*I hesitate to call the characters of the book protagonists, because that would imply they have redeeming qualities.

Horus Heresy: Warmaster – A Review

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Jumping into the Horus Heresy can be pretty daunting. It is, after all, a galactic civil war that makes the one in Star Wars look like school yard fisticuffs, and Black Library don’t always make it easy on us. Between the books not always following on from one another – and even when they do they’re usually at a different place and time – and the sheer volume of general release titles coupled with the explosion of short stories, audio dramas, event exclusives or limited editions, its all a bit tricky to figure out what’s essential to read and what’s not. That’s before you even try to navigate the Black Library site, the organization of which would make the labyrinthine Imperial Administratum proud.

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John French’s short audio finds Warmaster Horus in a reflective mood as he muses on the state of the rebellion against the Emperor that is raging in his name, and his fortunes thus far. It’s a thoughtful piece, Horus is well aware of just how flawed the legions on his side are and what a volatile mix that is, yet has no choice but to rely on his brothers and their wayward legions to get the work done. Each has their own agenda, their own vendettas, and mutual mistrust and loathing. Horus thoughts also, inevitably, turn to the conclusion of the war.

As he reviews the many theatres of war across the galaxy, he wonders why the Emperor created him and teases us with the notion that perhaps he was designed specifically to be the ruination of empires – to tear down all his father’s work, to start anew just as he’d done countless times before. The unasked question being was his father just another despot to be overthrown all along, just not yet?

It’s a good short if somewhat incidental. It’s a character piece that gives Horus a momentary return to the complex character we were introduced to in the early novels all those years ago. As the Heresy saga wears on Horus becomes increasingly vague, one minute a feckless killer, the next a cackling schemer content for his generals to fight amongst themselves as if the enemy. Neither portray much dimension as Horus is no longer meant to be relatable as a character. He’s too far gone. Essentially, at this point in the tale he’s as much an ideal as the Emperor is, albeit a dark reflection.

Warmaster gives us some of Horus’ (for want of a better turn) humanity back. It’s a brief lifting of the veil to get the merest glimpse of the great man that once unified the galaxy. Not to mention the crucial insight into Horus’ strategy which could challenge the myth surrounding the attack on the Emperor’s palace.

At £2.50 it’s not brilliant value. Not when you consider you can get a full audio drama, over an hour long, for £10. That’s not to say it’s not worth the money. If you’re a die hard Horus Heresy fan or just want to understand the arch heretic that little better then you may as well – it’s hardly big money. Fans of a  more nuanced 40k (or is that 30k) universe won’t be disappointed.

You can buy the audioshort from The Black Library priced £2.50.

Opening lines… By Nick Kyme

Imagine a magnesium bright desert. There is nothing as far as your eye can see, and the horizon and the landscape are so indistinct from one another that they merge into a single formless, toneless mass.

Welcome to the first page of your novel. Surprise, surprise – it’s blank. Better take on lots of water and figure out your route, it’s going to be a long road.

It gets better, though. Having a road map helps. You build it. You build the landscape too (though that can be capricious and surprising – it should be). It’s your world, remember?

Make no bones about it (there are many in the blank page desert, slowly bleaching in the sun), writing a novel is tough. It takes time, and isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are faint of heart, try some shorter at first. If that gives you concern too then I’d suggest getting the heck out of the desert at the first opportunity before you expire. This trek is not for you, sir/madam.

Perhaps toughest is coming up with that opening line. Thing is, once you’ve got your landscape up and running (your characters and the story they drive and inhabit), it becomes a little more self-perpetuating. Before that happens, there’s just the desert and all the compass directions laid before you.

See, the thing about opening lines is, there’s never just one. You might think there is, but that’s not true. There are lots, and therein lies the rub. So many places where you could begin, so many choices, directionless and amorphous.

It can be paralysing.

Terrifying.

Some advice?

Write more than one. Don’t be afraid to throw out what you’ve spent the entire morning agonising over. No words are that important that you can’t jettison them in favour of better or more appropriate ones.

Recycle and redraft. In the blank desert landscape, this isn’t only environmentally friendly, it’s economically sound too. I’ve dumped loads of failed opening lines, only to find them in my mental scrap and ready to be deployed elsewhere. Throw nothing out. Not completely anyway. With a little care and attention, it can be put to use again.

But I’m digressing.

I equate writing a novel to running a long race. Think of it as a journey. I remember an interesting quote about this very subject (apologies if I don’t remember this accurately): Writing a novel is like driving down a dark road with your lights on. You know where you’ve been, and you can see just what is in front of you, but no further ahead than that. The only way you know what is around the next bend is to reach it and have a look.

Think about your route. Have a route. We are back in the blank page desert again, but if you have a route you are much more likely not to get lost, especially when you start to establish some of the landmarks along the way.

Going back to the idea of a long race, the opening line is you on the starting line. It’s your preparation and thought process up to this point. You just need to put one foot in front of the other.

Endurance is the key. You have to have e physical and mental chops to stay the course. Break up the miles. It’s hot in the desert, but you’ll be all right if you just take it steady and try not to think about the journey in its entirety. That is the way to madness. You’ll end up (or rather the idea of your novel will) as one of those bleached skulls on the side of the road, the ruins of your story putrefying in the heat.

When I’m writing a novel, I prepare. Mind and body. I research and plan. I think. Then when I’m ready, I act. I consider the variant possibilities of my opening line, that first scene and simply pick one.

I take it step by step, mile and mile. It’s tough at first, and takes some adjustment. All long races are, I think. I find a novel doesn’t start to attain its own gravity (and thus pulling me along into its orbit) until I reach about 20 to 30k words. I know I’m in a long race then, not a sprint. I reconcile the fact it’s going to take some time. I double check my route map. Do it more than once, to remind yourself where you are going. I do the miles, I work at that everyday even if I’m only chipping away at them.

Write. Read. Repeat.

There is no cheat or trick. That’s it.

Opening lines, they are scary but think of all the possibilities and what might come of it all when the finish line is in sight and you get to cross it…

A Galaxy Far Far Away

Next to my bed is a bedside unit. It’s a bit tired and one of the draw handles is busted and basically the whole thing needs replacing. Atop the unit, along with a lamp, the baby monitor cradle, loose change and my Salute ticket (I know, I know), is Horus Heresy: Mark of Calth. It is unread. It is unopened. And now slightly dusty. Despite me thoroughly enjoying Know No Fear, and the books that followed it, I’ve been struggling to find the desire to read it or any of the other Black Library novel. It seems, for the time being, I’ve had my fill of Bolter Porn. It took over a decade but it had to happen sooner or later. It’s not to say that I won’t go back – if nothing else I need to read Vulkan Lives by friend of The Shell Case, Nick Kyme.

A recent decision of mine, coupled with my bolter apathy got me to thinking; I’ve experienced this saturation point before…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away Mat & I have started playing the X-Wing Miniatures Game. Whilst researching the timeline for the pre & post game narrative (because I just can’t help myself) I started to realise two things. 1. How long it had been since I’d indulged in this rich and fascinating Universe and 2. How much had changed, how far the story had moved on and how out of touch I’d become.

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I started reading the Star Wars novels at the tender age of 13, with X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A Stackpole being the first (thanks to my brother convincing me to pick it up). It was this book, and the others in the X-Wing series that were to follow, that kick started my love of reading and, I suspect, licensed fiction. I even took a stab at writing some myself. The file is still tucked away in a folder, unopened for half my life on the hard drive of the laptop I type on. Having migrated from 4 previous computers. Tisk tisk.

Looking back, I realise that the gulf I found growing between me and that Galaxy far far away was down to the prequel trilogy not living up to my – I think – pretty modest expectations and the New Jedi Order series (which came out around the same time) introducing far too much change for me to cope with. I’d found my stride with Star Was. I’d gotten to know all the characters, and some I outright admired. So when they started killing them off and blowing up planets I took it quite personally. My hormonal teenage mind could only take so much disappointment and my late teens had quite a bit in it already.

Back there and back then I thought it was easier to walk away and halt the story halfway through the third New Jedi Order novel, happy to focus on the era of the timeline I liked the best. I realise now how very…GW that was of me. As the years ticked by – 13 of them as it goes – I started to hear things that piqued my interest, plot developments that were radical, beloved characters being killed and brave plot twists that would incense the die-hard fans. But I ignored them, determined to keep my distance, determined to do nothing to threaten the happy little bubble within which the Rebels overthrow the Empire, they form the New Republic and they all live happily ever after. Until now.

As my excitement around the X-Wing Miniatures Game grows ever higher – which has nothing to do with Mat and I texting each other slightly more than is healthy about next purchases – I found my eye wandering increasingly to those novels that first introduced me to the Universe I loved so dearly and that I once again find myself calling home.

So as I put Mark of Calth back on the shelf with a pat on the spine knowing that I’ll be seeing it again soon, I turn to pick up X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. The book responsible for my love of Star Wars and the book responsible for all the other books in my life. Today is a good day to be me.

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Atlas Infernal- A review

Whats the point of reviewing a book that’s two years old at this point? This irregular review series recognises excellence – and Atlas Infernal is most certainly excellent.

To a lot of newer readers, the name Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak won’t mean much. But those of us who have been playing through the 90′s and early 2000′s Czevak was an enigmatic character.

Always in the background somewhere (even if it was just the a quote here and there) he seemed to be everywhere, yet nowhere all at once. Add in mysterious background like him being allowed to visit the Eldar Black Library and being pursued all over the galaxy by Ahriman for the knowledge he possessed and he was pretty cool dude all round.

Rob Sanders’ book takes us through the somewhat potted history we have of the character, whilst fleshing out his other adventures in the Eye of Terror as he attempts to escape the grasp of Ahriman, who wishes to use the knowledge in Czevak’s head to ascend to godhood.

Perhaps it was an unconscious thing, but in between the unreliable sense of time and the way a lot of the story seems to separated up into short adventures, I got a very Doctor Who feeling from the book. This was actually playing through my head a lot whilst I read, especially in the sections based on the plague planet.

At the same time, it’s certainly not a PG version of the 40k universe. Instead, Sanders uses Czevak’s unusual methods to highlight the weird crazy parts of the 40k universe we rarely get to hear about.

Pariahs, a Techpriest from the Relictors chapter (who reminded me very much of Brian Blessed for some reason), an Imperial Saint, a virus that makes one compulsively hunt for knowledge all make regular appearances and the final confrontation very aptly takes place in the mind more than on the battlefield.

There are a few problems with the book: mainly that towards the middle narration and sense of time starts getting confused and jumbled up, which was jarring at first. Before I read on I even thought it was a massive error that the editors had failed to notice.

When it becomes apparent what is happening though, it rewards repeated readings, which were far more rewarding than most books I’ve read in the Black Library range.

Impossible to categorise and a real page turner, Atlas Infernal is much like the titular Inquisitor himself. I really look forward to reading what trouble Czevak gets into next.

Atlas Infernal is available from The Black Library and all good high street bookstores. You can also purchase a few short stories featuring Inquisitor Czevak on the Black Library site. They really are worth your time.

#warmonger of the Year 2013

A year or so ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided I’d find out who the #warmongers community thought had contributed the most to our merry band and reward them for their efforts. After a lot of votes and some very worthy nominees @docbungle was the deserving winner.

So popular was the ‘award’ that I simply had to run it again. Voting went on right up until midday yesterday and there were more votes than last year, with even more nominees. However there can be only one winner and the person to have earned the respect and admiration of their peers is none other than @NigelSBartlett.

Having got to know Nigel via the Twittersphere I’m delighted to announce him as the winner. Aside from being a top hobbyist, he’s always on hand to offer up tips and helpful hints to his fellow #warmongers.

So a massive congratulations to Nigel. He’ll be receiving some lovely toys from Avatars of War and a signed copy of Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight…and anything else I can organise between now and the new year.

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A Thousand Sons – Review

Cast your mind back. It’s 2002 and Games Workshop are preparing for the Eye of Terror campaign. A fledgling Black Library released Storm of Iron, a book by Graham McNeill, who at the time was perhaps best known for his work on the Games Workshop Design Team. It was good. Like, really good. The community’s reaction was pretty positive. Yet since then, it feels like that same community seems to have soured on him, if only for the crime of liking Ultramarines. [Fuckers! - Ed.]

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For my own part, I’ve not always enjoyed everything Graham has written, but he’s one of the few writers that seems to be experimenting and testing his limits with each new book he writes. His books often don’t quite work for me, but his ability to mix of 40k battles and more nuanced exploration of the universe wins me over more often than not.

My pre ramble is important, because if there was a way of describing my gut feeling of A Thousand Sons, it’s “Mostly works, if not quite as much as it should”. It’s going to take the rest of this review to explain why.

Now, how go best go about it? If you are familiar with the history of the 40k universe at all, you will know the Fall of Prospero is one of the defining moments of the Horus Heresy. A Thousand Sons starts sometime before that and allows us to get to know the legion, as it explores the galaxy trying to increase mankind’s knowledge, which they see as the real purpose of the Great Crusade.  Censured at the Council of Nikaea for treading a dangerous path, events soon spiral out of control and the Imperium will never be the same again.

The main drive and focus of the book is secrets. Everyone has them, from our humble Remembrancers, the human element of the book, to Magnus, Primarch of the Thousand Sons himself. Even the Space Wolves, usually portrayed as being as subtle as an axe to the face, are keeping back something, which suits a book about a Legion that one day will become the servants of the trickster god Tzeentch.

The novel is certainly very effective at allowing you to empathise with the 15th Legion, as by allowing you to see their triumphs through to their lows, you gain a real sense of the tragedy of the situation, as two Primarchs refuse to back down from one another until it’s too late. Getting to see the glorious paradise of Prospero and how the Space Wolves appear as alien invaders allows for a great contrast to A Thousand Sons sister book Prospero Burns. It really makes you root for a legion that could otherwise come off as more arrogant and monstrous than the Emperor’s Children.

McNeill is good at penning an action scene and the description of the fall of Prospero as one continuous piece in the latter half of the book manages to capture both a personal scale of Magnus’ folly and the larger more epic of the war around him, that an event like the Horus Heresy demands. The only real failing of the book is its human characters. Whilst fairly prominent at the start of the novel, the Remembrancers seem to be lost and forgotten by the second half, until suddenly they become prominent characters at a time that is disruptive to the more interesting narrative of Magnus and his son’s discovery of Horus’ plans. By the time of the invasion the characters have any further involvement cut off, in a sentence that seems to hint they make it back to Prospero, without any follow-up. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but it’s an odd ending to characters that have been written to make us care about them, only to have them dropped as any hint of a future absent once the big fighting scenes kick in. [I think the point was that fate can call upon even the lowliest soul to change the galaxy, but be just as quick to discard them. But that's just me. -Ed.]

All in all, apart from the odd bit of clunky dialogue, I really have no actual complaints about the book. It flows well, and Graham manages his usual trick of making each battle about more than just cool explosions and bolter porn. A real blast from start to finish and a nice counterpart to Dan Annett’s  Prospero Burns. It’s probably the best work I’ve read of Graham’s yet and I look forward to reading his further contributions to both the 30k and 40k universe.

A Thousand Sons is available via The Black Library as an E-book or physical copy, or is available from all good high street booksellers. And Waterstones.

Legion A Review

Hi everyone. As my last book review went down so well I figured I will make a bit of a habit of these things. I’ve read quite a bit of 40k fiction in my time so at least I can make posts on a semi regular basis. They will also help keep my mind ticking over whilst I work on bigger topics (which are coming soon).

So, for a while I’m going to focus on the Horus Heresy series, with occasional breaks for regular 40k books (probably when I get round to reading something that catches my eye). No rules as such other than they must be worth reading because they add to the 40k universe in some way. Be it a different style, new expansions of the background or just a refinement of elements that work. I just don’t want to highlight mediocrity. After all, we all only have a finite time on this earth, so we don’t want to be stumbling across the next C.S. Goto and I certainly don’t want to be reading that kind of drek either. So no frigging bolter porn, unless it’s really, really good bolter porn.

HH wise, even though I’m reading the books as fast as I can I’m still about 2/3 years behind the publishing schedule. But thats ok. The first actually decent HH novel doesn’t start until about 7 books in anyway* [Thems fighting words. - Ed.]. The book in question? Legion by Dan Abnett.

The story itself concerns regular army grunts of the Imperial Army undergoing a rather unsuccessful Compliance Action on a planet called Nurth, where the occupants are using magic to aid their fight. Caught up in the machinations of the Alpha Legion, are Hurtado Bronzi, Peto Soneka and Rukhsana Saiid, who amidst all the devastation and betrayals are trying to find out just what exactly why the Alpha Legion are really on Nurth.

In turn, the Alpha Legion have been drawn to the planet by the enigmatic John Grammaticus, a being who has lived long enough to remember meeting the Emperor himself, and the Cabal, a shadowy network of races all conspiring to destroy the ‘Primordial Annihilator’ (Chaos is a much more catchy name don’t you think?) using humanity as its tool to do that.

It sounds very confusing and on my first read through it was. Subsequent readings have made given me a bit more clarity, but as benefits the shadowy 20th Legion, the truth of what is going on behind the scenes is only ever really inferred and is covered in many half-truths.

As is the case with a lot of the early Horus Heresy books, the action is mostly contextualized from the view of humans in the Imperial Army rather than from the view-point of the Astartes. Whilst I would normally complain about this, I think its fitting considering the legion being examined. It’s obvious a lot of thought has been put into this and that Abnett is trying to keep to the spirit of the universe, so even as we are reading the truth of what is now legend in the 41st millennium, the reader is finding there are still many unexplained mysteries and hidden depths to explore.

I did find most of the third act on Eolith a little redundant (beyond the reveal) and found myself a little puzzled as to why the Alpha Legion took an entire Imperial fleet with them other than the mechanical story element of needing access to certain characters later. But my quibbles are more with Abnett’s style of writing, which always seems quite detached and cold to me.

Still, those are minor quibbles. Legion explores the Horus Heresy and the Imperium from the perspective of outsiders to it, or else those who are starting to realise the Emperor’s claims about the universe aren’t quite as true as he may want them to think they are.

Dan Abnett as always delivers a solid, if not exactly gripping, tale with enough twists and reveals to keep you guessing until the next book on the Alpha Legion. In John Grammaticus I found a very likeable character, his world weary visage slowly peeling back to reveal someone, who, whilst not necessarily on our side, is still recognizably human and very relatable.

As a bonus, for those of us who want glimpses of the Rouge Trader and 2nd edition 40K background to appear again, John’s descriptions of the Emperor will bring welcome tidings indeed.

It’s a recommended read from me.

Legion is available from The Black Library, Amazon and most highstreet booksellers

*I’m going to pop back to Fulgrim one day as it has a kernel of a good idea about Slannesh, but I’ve heard it gets squandered later on in the series by sending Slannesh back to being the domain of just ‘naughty bum sex’, so I shall give it a pass until I can read those stories and decide for myself.