Warhammer Adventures – The Beginner Black Library
Back at the UK Games Expo in June, there was something that really surprised me. Among the board games and the miniature games, between the shops and stalls promoting every kind of cardboard delight, there was one stall that stood out as being a little bit different. All it had was a standee, two banners, and a set of beanbags besides low tables. On the tables were colouring pens, and presiding over it was one of the most upbeat people I have ever met.
What was even more surprising was the name attached to the stall – Warhammer. It was a Games Workshop stand – or, to be more precise, it was a Black Library stand, the literary arm of Warhammer and the Games Workshop machine. What went beyond surprising was that it was promoting kids books.
Yes, Games Workshop (or “Warhammer” as they have rebranded to) have released a set of children’s books, aimed at pre-teens, set in the Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40k universes. In the books, you follow the adventures of three children as they try and thrive in the war torn universes of Games Workshop miniatures.
At the UK Games Expo this year I spent a fair amount of time talking to the incredibly enthusiastic Warhammer employee about this foray into the universes of AoS and 40k. Today, at the time of writing (16.07.19), the first book in the Warhammer 40k series – Attack of the Necron was the Audible Daily Deal. What this meant is that for the past two and a half hours I have been listening to David Tennant narrate a book that is, by all accounts, around 18 years too young for me – and you know what?
I kind of enjoyed it.
What are the Warhammer Adventures books like?
So, what are the books like? Well, obviously I can only talk about the one I have listened to, but I can say that it surprised me. As someone who hasn’t really played 40k in the last 12 years (I used to have a Tau army), and as someone who traditionally prefers fantasy to sci-fi (I used to have a Night Goblin army, Demons of Tzeentch warband, Empire army, and Nurgle army back in the day) this book actually ignited my interest again in the hobby. It reads like a kids book – as you would expect – however, interspersed there are these interesting moments where the Underhive is explored or the Ultramarines come in to save the day or the Necrons attack.
It is well done – imagine the Chronicles of Narnia with bolters and chain swords and you’re half way there.
What actually surprised me, as an adult reading this, is that I expected the war aspect of the book to be toned down more than it actually is. Where it is definitely toned back, and there is distinctly less gore than you would expect from a Black Library book, it is not completely held back. There are a couple of epic moments where combat is a prevalent part of the book. It forms a backdrop to the universe and creates a canvas for the books to be written across; however, the focus is always on the three main characters.
If you are a regular Black Library reader then a book like Attack of the Necron is not really designed for you – obviously so because it is a book for a much younger audience. Due to the nature of the style won’t get the complexity of the Horus Heresy, or the character development of the Konrad series. You also won’t get the blood or gore. That being said, the Warhammer Adventures first book in the 40k series, Attack of the Necron, didn’t sugar coat the universe. Instead, it simply told it from a different perspective and for a different audience.
To be completely honest, when reading the book (or listening to it even) it is easy to forget that this is something that could upsell to a younger audience. Instead, it became possible to get carried along by the epic moments in the story.
A couple of years ago, my girlfriend and I went to see the Lego Batman Movie. Having enjoyed The Lego Movie we thought that the Lego Batman Movie was the natural progression, so we were sure we would enjoy it.
Instead, we both came out of it thinking it was poor. The whole movie had felt like it was a promotional plug for the toys – and where there was an aspect of that in The Lego Movie, it wasn’t quite so overt. There was still a movie there underneath it all that was worth watching.
Where is this going? Well…Attack of the Necron has more in common with The Lego Movie than it does the Lego Batman Movie. It uses the world and the universe – it mentions some of the lore and the products (such as Ultramarines and Necrons) but it doesn’t try to sell. It doesn’t try to promote the products any more than a novel set in the same universe naturally would. As such, we have to respect how it was written and it opens the door to seeing the series as something with a lot of potential.
What that does is moves us past cynicism and to admiration. One of the things that the Warhammer Adventures series of books does is something that authors like JK Rowling can be attributed with as well – and that is promoting reading to a younger audience. For this, we are not only talking about those who are new to the world of Warhammer, but also those who have played Warhammer or Warhammer 40k. These are the books that, when growing up and building my Tau army for the first time, I wish I had read.
For a fair number of people (no matter their age) The Black Library can sometimes come across as a fairly high barrier to entry series of books. I remember that I read the Konrad series fairly young – however, the 40k universe didn’t really have any relatable points in it, making it difficult to break into. Now, with a series like Warhammer Adventures those relatable points are there. The characters are human (mostly) and they are around the same age as the core audience of the series.
So…Where Does This Leave Us?
So…as the title above says, where does this leave us? Well, I can’t say what it is like for the target audience to read Attack of the Necron. I honestly don’t know, as I am beyond that age now. That being said, I can comment on it as a fairly nerdy adult.
As such, I can say that the books feel representative of the Warhammer universe, or at least Attack of the Necron did, and that ticks the thematic box. I can say that 8 year old me would have adored the whole series. I can also say that it helped reignite an interest in the Warhammer 40k literature, and makes me want to turn to read more of The Black Library as a result.
The true victory of the Warhammer Adventures concept though is that it works as a gentle introduction into the Warhammer universe and even into whatever the scifi equivalent of high fantasy is – and I mean that even as an adult. I want to go off now and continue reading about Necrons to learn more. I have even considered buying the Necron codex today to read more about them.
And on that note, dear reader, with me reading a Warhammer 40k wiki to learn more, I’ll draw this opinion piece to a close and turn it over to you. What are your immediate thoughts about Warhammer Adventures? Let me know in the comments below.