In this week’s post of ‘things I read before I cared enough to review’ I’m taking a look back at my favourite fantasy setting of any book universe ever. The universe of ‘The Olde World’ way back before the Black Library killed it off and replaced it with the painfully average ‘Age of Sigmar’. Seeing as how they’re actually bringing back a load of the books and I actually heard talk of the Old World returning in some fashion, it looks like they might have listened to the fans … who’d have thought giving the people what they want could be a good business idea?
The books in this post are some of my all time favourites from way back when the Olde World was alive and kicking. If you read and loved the old Warhammer Fantasy, and haven’t had a chance to try any of these, you should seriously give them a go. I know Warhammer fiction isn’t for everyone, but it was a huge part of my life growing up and, of all the posts in this series I have written, this is the one that made me smile the most with fond memories.
My previous posts in this series can be found here:
The Burning Shore by Robert Earl
Forced to escape his life of debt and debauchery, Bretonnian nobleman Florin d’Artaud tricks his way onto a flotilla headed to the fabled lands of Lustria. Once they arrive in Lustria’s jungles, the mercenaries find far more than they bargained for and a simple treasure hunt turns into a sinister expedition for forgotten lore.
This was one of my favourite books from the Olde World setting. What could be more enjoyable than a rascal of a nobleman fleeing aboard a ship destined for the stinking jungles of Lustria in search of treasure, only to find a murderous tribe of Lizardmen?
The lizardfolk are the Warhammer world’s answer to the Mayan’s. Their jungle cities and their ways reflect this. This book was what sparked my love affair with the lizardmen in general and, as of a few months a go, I finished my own fantasy novel with a lizard person race as the antagonists. I’d been trying to work them into every genre I wrote for years, and they just stumbled into this recent one as the main villain. Happy times.
So yea, one of the most enjoyable books I’d read turned out to heavily influence my writing.
The Blackhearts Omnibus by Nathan Long
Under threat of death for their crimes, Reiner and his companions are forced to carry out the most desperate and suicidal secret missions, all for the good of the Empire. Chaos cultists, ratmen, dark elves, rogue army commanders and more – time and again the Blackhearts are pitted against impossible odds and survive – yet what they most want is their freedom.
Before the Suicide Squad was cool … are they cool? They used to be cool, then they made the movie and now it’s a bit of a hot debate … nevertheless, The Blackhearts WERE cool. I remember getting this for Christmas one year; my parents knowing I liked Warhammer and not wanting to ask me what book I wanted as it would spoil the surprise. I had never heard of this series and didn’t pick it up for a while. When I did, it fast became on of my favourite Warhammer series ever. I’d say this is, quite possibly, the most underrated book ever produced by the Black Library. It’s pure brilliance and never really got the huge fanfare it deserved.
From his work on Gotrek and Felix, I knew Nathan Long was a wonderful writer and that shined through in this. The tale of criminals destined to die, yet given one chance at freedom by undertaking suicide missions for the Empire, was a plot device that hooked me and never let go. It had everything from great storylines, to using a wide array of the races that populate the world, so it felt like a good entry point into the fantasy universe. The thing I looked forward to the most was hearing what the new recruits were being punished for each book. Their crimes always interested me and, even though I loved the characters that these new recruits were replacing, the new ones were always wonderful and helped ease the whole ‘character mourning’ process. It was also fun to try and figure out who would live and who would die.
Omnibus edition of CL Werner’s three classic witch hunter novels: Witch Hunter, Witch Finder and Witch Killer.
The blurb wasn’t the most inspiring of things, so I’ll try to flesh it out a tad more. Thulman exists to route out any who he feels is tainted by chaos. He is essentially the fantasy genre’s answer to the Inquisition in Warhammer 40k and very close to the idea most people have of a Witch Hunter from days gone by. He has with him his associate, Streng, his trusty torturer (what self-respecting hunter of witches would not have their own torturer?)
Thulman isn’t as bad as those half-wits back when real witch hunters were alive. In his world, witches are very real. More often than not people with such powers are very evil and their bodies are corrupt. His adventures are pure adrenaline-filled page turners pitting good against evil in exciting, gritty and dark ways. The cover for this (not the content) inspired a character I created in the novel I had published … so, Black Library books have done wonders for my creative juices.
Gotrek and Felix The First Omnibus by William King
The truth perhaps lies somewhere inbetween, and depends entirely on who you ask…
Relive the early adventures of the Slayer and his human companion. From the haunted forests of the Empire to the darkness beneath the Worlds Edge Mountains, Gotrek and Felix face demented cultists, sinister goblins and a monstrous troll. In the city of Nuln, they get involved in an invasion by the sewer-dwelling skaven. And in the frozen north, an expedition to the lost dwarf hold of Karag Dum brings Gotrek and Felix face-to-face with a dread Bloodthirster of Chaos…
I mentioned how Blackhearts is a good starting point in Warhammer fantasy, well Gotrek and Felix is THE starting point. This series is to the Olde World what your ABCs are to starting out with literature. Gotrek is a Slayer, a dwarf that, due to some great shame has shaved his head and swore to die a grand death in order to atone for his past disgrace. His hunt for death takes both he, and his friend Felix, a poet who swore to recount the great tale that was Gotrek’s search for death, into a wide array of deadly encounters across the length and breadth of the Olde World.
It’s the best starting point as, at some point or another, the duo face nearly every race/faction in the Olde World, they traverse nearly every square inch of the map and, as a reader, you learn so much about the setting along the way. William King started the series but Nathan Long took over after a few books. The quality of storytelling does not drop in the slightest and these books are still some of the best ever produced by the Black Library.