A casual’s casual look into the world of Black Library: Including a small review of The Gate of Bones

Now before I start this I want to give a little disclaimer, my knowledge of the 40k universe barely scrapes the surface, and even though everyone Ive ever chatted to from the 40k community has been awesome there’s always someone who wants to gatekeep. Gatekeeping sucks, you can be a fan and really enjoy something without needing to dedicate your life to the subject.

I believe, and I may be wrong, that Warhammer 40k still carries a lot of stigma with the general public, it’s pretty looked down on by a lot of people as one of the nerdiest of activities, but gives a damn what people think, honestly Games Workshop are a fantastic company (shoutout to my local store for being awesome people) and have done something truly great, the scope of this hobby is incredible, from the original tabletop game to video games, upcoming tv and film, board games and what we are here to talk about today, books. Now these books aren’t going to appeal to everyone, Warhammer 40k is war, it is ultimate grimdark, it is hardcore military action and its wonderful, if you’re a fan of military books, space operas and big sci-fi these are going to be a whole new untapped market of brilliance and you won’t be disappointed.

Listed on the Black Library website are 46 different authors, and that doesn’t count the contributors to the many short stories and anthologies, this isn’t just some simple world building, this is universe building, stories spanning across multiple races, millions of planets and light years of space, these authors working together to build off of each other’s work and filling out the story arc that game workshops tabletop game follows, giving it actual flesh and blood so instead of models on a table we have a universe rich with lore and adventure.

Now the size of 40k can be overly daunting, at this point we are on to the ninth edition of the tabletop and we are following the Indomitus Crusade as Gulliman the Avenging Son launches the greatest military campaign since his father, the Emperor of mankind 10000 years before. Do you need to know everything to dive in? No. Do you even need to know a lot about the current releases? No. 40k is pretty easy to get into and here’s a couple of YouTube videos I would recommend if you’re a complete beginner,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MeVxKZBOfM – The Horus Heresy in 60 seconds if you want a really brief and basic look into the Imperium

Now if you want something a little more detailed then Luetin09 is a fantastic youtuber who does excellent lore videos that you can easily end up falling into the YouTube ‘rabbit hole’.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmZcIX5PEyo – Luetin09’s What is Warhammer 40k? is an excellent 20-minute video that gives you enough information to understand the world of 40k and begin learning.

And honestly, the community have done a excellent job with their own Wikipedia, https://wh40k.lexicanum.com/ , I find myself referring to this multiple times during a read to find out more information about some battle from 1000 years before or the difference between an Imperial guard boltgun and the full sized cannons that Space Marines call a boltgun (honestly it’s scary).

So, were to begin? There isn’t a right answer, you can really start anywhere you like, so instead here’s my recommendations, and again I would like to reiterate my knowledge of 40k and Black Library as a whole barely scratches the surface, but I know books, and these books are a incredible read regardless of your desire to fully get stuck into the Universe fully.

Dan Abnett is the king of 40k literature. That’s all, no counter point. End of the post.

But seriously. Dan Abnett has not only written a few of Black Libraries best books but I think he has written some of the best books Ive ever read and really deserves to be higher ranking in the lists of authors outside of the hobbies bubble.

Gaunt’s Ghosts by Dan Abnett

Inspired by Bernard Cornwall’s Sharp Series, Gaunt’s Ghost’s follows Ibram Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only, a regiment of soldiers conscripted to fight in the Sabbat Crusade, barely escaping off planet before the forces of Chaos burn their planet, now fighting their way through the Sabbat worlds to reclaim the sector from Chaos and maybe one day find a new place to call home. The big reason this is such an astounding series is instead of following the Emperors main boys, we follow the very human Imperial Guard, regiments of men and women without the genetic modifications that turn them into walking tanks, instead they live like us and they die as easily as us and Abnett does an incredible job of writing real people, he does a great job of showing their suffering, and then the small moments of joy and comradeship that comes with being brothers in arms, Abnett claws his way into you, emotionally investing you into their stories and refusing to let go. Gaunt’s Ghosts is sixteen books long, but one of the major joys of Black Library means they like to bundle their stories into nice chunky omnibuses. Can’t recommend these books enough.

Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett

The Inquisition are the Emperor’s secret police, terrifying boys and girls with almost unlimited power to do whatever is needed to protect the Imperium from the threats of Xenos filth, Heretic Scum and Chaos Demons. These books are perfect for any beginner or veteran alike as they blend the perfect balance of action, intrigue, and character building as we follow Gregor Eisenhorn’s fight to protect humanity with whatever means necessary. These books are so popular that we are getting our first Warhammer 40k tv adaption, think Sherlock Holmes in space with Boltguns and demons. Also, if you love this, follow up with Ravenor also written by Abnett, another series following Eisenhorn’s protégé as he battles similar threats.

The Soul Drinkers Omnibus by Ben Counter

There are a lot of Space Marine books, they are the poster boys of Games Workshop and honestly they deserve the attention they get and the books that have come from that are brilliant, The Space Wolves and The Blood Angel series are both favourites of mine, however, The Soul Drinkers omnibus was one of the first Black Library books I read and spawned a love for the genre that hasn’t ceased today. It follows the Soul Drinkers chapter, space marines who have been classified as heretics by the Imperium, you read about their struggles as they continue to fight for a people that no longer want them and will kill them regardless of their attempts to redeem themselves. This series does a great job of showing the human side of Space Marines, that ever after the indoctrination and genetic modifications that make them something different from me and you, they still have those parts of them somewhere, and there’s a crazy amount of action.

Which brings me to my mini review.

The Gate of Bones by Andy Clark.

The Gate of Bones is the second book of Black Libraries newest major series “A Dawn of Fire”, this is being toted as the Indomitus Crusades version of the Horus Heresy series and I’m super excited to see what we get from a brand-new storyline that doesn’t contain as much pre-existing Lore. The first book, Avenging Son, was a fantastic entrance to the series, introducing us properly to Roberte Gulliman, which was a massive bonus for those that haven’t paid a massive amount of attention to Games Workshop newest story arc (such as myself), introducing the new Primaris Marines in all their glory, and setting the grandeur and scale for the task that was being taken by the Imperium. I would recommend reading up a little on the events that happened just before this however it isn’t fully necessary – https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Era_Indomitus.

I always find it interesting reading these mega series from Black Library because you often get a different author each time, not only taking the resources of previous books,  reintroducing old characters, and  sharing story arcs as they become canon, but you also tend to get in some cases very different writing styles.  Guy Haley and Andy Clark are both in my opinion very good at character development, both books did incredibly well at building the humanity behind the godlike figures that walk among us and delivering the absolute despair and grimdark nature of regular humans, both writing interesting POVs that don’t leave you bored when reading someone other than your favourite, and honestly that’s hard to do, especially when you look at the scope of these stories and the amount of time and space that they tend to cover. The Gate of Bones was my first story containing the Astarte Custodes,  described as the children of the Emperor in the way the Space Marines are children of their Primarch’s, they share the Emperor’s blood line, they are in all ways more Impressive than the regular Astartes and Andy did a really impressive job of showing this. He managed to really show the difference between the Custodes and the Space Marines, up till this point there had been nothing in 40k that really made me see the Space Marines as anything but the almost invincible warriors they are. If the Space Marines are the Angels of Death, what are the Custodes?  On top of these demi-gods Andy had to write characters from the side of Chaos which is always such a stark contrast from the Emperor loving Imperium forces, you get to see their hatred for the so-called Corpse God and what drives them towards their end goals. We also got a full Lance of Knights, the mini-Titans of the 40k universe, the fanatical Sisters of Battle and fantastic characters coming from the classic Imperial Guard that just bring the levelling needed so you remember the grimdark nature of 40k even with beautiful Golden Gods that stride across the fields of battle.

Andy’s writing style made this book a lot more of an interesting read for me over Avenging Son, the first book at times felt full of very unnecessary prose that just felt a little over the top, I understand it’s a hard balance because the world of 40k really does need the grandeur to properly explain it sometimes, Gulliman striding into a room demands the attention to detail that is warranted by a Primarch and Guy Haley did a fantastic job of writing Gulliman and the people surrounding him, but that isn’t maybe needed at every turn. Andy felt a lot more to the point, sparing no detail when needed but instead spending more time focusing on the plot and character development, this led to me feeling no inclination to skim over paragraphs like I did in the first book. He also did a great job of writing a tense and exciting plot, which I imagine is a struggle when your main character has full plot protection and a already summarised ending to the Era Indomitus supplied by Games Workshop codex’s, so to still write in a way that gives the reader concern’s about what might happen to Gulliman and to the crusade as a whole is something I find really impressive, and in general this is always something the Black Library authors have done so well, writing something that feels fresh and exciting when you already know the end game really shows the talents of these writers.

This book really had everything needed to meet the demand of the Black Library standard, tons of incredible action but also plenty of really strong character development that never felt boring or like you were being pulled away from the excitement. I can’t wait for the next story in this saga and will continue to follow the Dawn of Fire series eagerly.

Give Black Library a chance, regardless for your interest in the tabletop game the stories themselves are so good that they deserve the attention, and I can almost promise you will not be disappointed. Also, if it makes it helps, as far as I’m aware there are zero love triangles in any of the 40k books and if that isn’t a reason to read it I don’t know what is.

My most anticipated reads of 2021.

I know Ive missed a ton of what will be amazing reads for this year, this is just my list for what Im excited for. In no particular order…

Thank you for reading.

John Gwynne – Shadow of the Gods


“After the gods warred and drove themselves to extinction, the cataclysm of their fall shattered the land of Vigrid.

Now a new world is rising, where power-hungry jarls feud and monsters stalk the woods and mountains. A world where the bones of the dead gods still hold great power for those brave – or desperate – enough to seek them out.

As whispers of war echo across the mountains and fjords, fate follows in the footsteps of three people: a huntress on a dangerous quest, a noblewoman who has rejected privilege in pursuit of battle fame, and a thrall who seeks vengeance among the famed mercenaries known as the Bloodsworn.

All three will shape the fate of the world as it once more falls under the shadow of the gods . . .”

John Gwynne is a truly incredible author and is constantly at war for my number one spot. His two  series so far have both been amazing, seven books and not one boring, or really any flaws to speak of. I feel Gwynne’s writing excels really in all areas, his world building is fantastic, he really knows how to write a world that feels new and unique which I find incredibly hard to do in Fantasy, now branching out from the Banished Lands we all love so,  I really can’t wait for his take on Nord Culture and how he makes this new world feel as compelling and interesting as before. His ability to write entertaining and interesting characters is another major strength, I’ve yet to come across someone in these books I’ve wanted to skip over, and Gwynne writes people you fall in love with, the lack of Corban from this first series to his next stopped me reading it for maybe three years?

This could be the fantasy book of 2021. (I mean he has to go against a Joe Abercrombie finale? 2021 is a good year)

The Pariah – Ryan Anthony


“Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?”

How damn amazing is that cover? Fuck.

Ryan Anthony is a writer that just keeps on getting better, I’ve been a big fan since finding Blood Song on the shelves of Waterstones and since then have eagerly brought every book on release day. Vaelin Al Sorna is one of my favourite characters to this day. His first series has some very opinionated viewpoints and is easy to see why, The Blood Song was an incredible book focusing completely on Al Sorna and his journey from child to adult, his following books tried to expand their scope and world and there are some plot holes and dips in writing, but anyone who says to not read them is crazy. His Draconis Memoria series was a shining return to his former writing and showcased some incredible world building, a new take of Dragons which is definitely hard. Anthony then returned to the world of Vaelin and really showed us how much he wanted to redeem himself with an incredible story.

One thing Anthony’s never struggled with is his ability to write swordplay, action and war in his books are always tense and completely absorbing. If you love books with a good amount of bloodshed then this will be one for you, this book sounds action packed and that’s enough to make me hit that preorder button. I can’t wait to see what Anthony does with a brand-new world.

Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff


“It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.”

Vampires have been ruined since the days of Sparkly boys and love triangles involving werewolves, but if anyone can make me want to read a Vampire book its going to be Jay Kristoff. I see some mixed reviews of his books and to be honest I’ve only read The Nevernight Chronicles but holy shit they are good, and I disagree with anyone that says otherwise. There’s one sentence I like to use to describe Kristoff’s writing and its this.

“Cock is just another word for ‘fool.’ But you call someone a cunt, well…” The girl smiled. “You’re implying a sense of malice there. An intent. Malevolent and self-aware. Don’t think I name Consul Scaeva a cunt to gift him insult. Cunts have brains, Don Tric. Cunts have teeth. Someone calls you a cunt, you take it as a compliment. As a sign that folks believe you’re not to be lightly fucked with.”

NeverNight – Jay Kristoff

The premise for this book sounds fantastic, maybe it’s just because I hide away from anything containing a Vampire, but this sounds new and refreshing, Kristoff writes fantastic characters and fantastic action and I reckon this will be one of his best books yet.

The Wisdom of Crowds – Joe Abercrombie


Sadly there currently isnt a cover released for The Wisdom of Crowds

“Chaos. Fury. Destruction.

The Great Change is upon us…

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: The Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies… while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.

The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together…”

Oh Joe Abercrombie, King of Grimdark, why do you play with my feelings so? The Wisdom of Crowds is book three of Abercrombie’s newest series, The Age of Madness and the series name really didn’t fuck about, these books have been astounding so far and one you can’t put down once you’ve picked up. We were given a new but familiar feeling set of characters and chucked into the deep end, this has the same wonderous feeling as every Abercrombie book and so far, he’s managed to stun me with every single one, I’m normally good at guessing the plot twists but not this time.

The first book I picked up from Joe was The Heroes, a standalone story which Is a roughly 600-page story of one, three-day battle between the forces of the Union and the North. It was beautiful, it was action packed and I was hooked into Joes world from that point. Logan Nine Fingers continues to be one of my favourite characters to this very day and I don’t think he’s being removed from the top list any time soon, I’m sad he’s been allowed to take a backseat and rest a little, but I really really hope we get to see him again one day.

Action, intrigue, politics, murder, action, and more action. I can’t wait for the final instalment in this series.

The Girl and the Mountain – Mark Lawrence


“On Abeth there is only the ice. And the Black Rock.

For generations the priests of the Black Rock have reached out from their mountain to steer the ice tribes’ fate. With their Hidden God, their magic and their iron, the priests’ rule has never been challenged.
But nobody has ever escaped the Pit of the Missing before.

Yaz has lost her friends and found her enemies. She has a mountain to climb and even if she can break the Hidden God’s power her dream of a green world lies impossibly far to the south across a vast emptiness of ice. Before the journey can even start she must find out what happened to the ones she loves and save those that can be saved.

Abeth holds its secrets close, but the stars shine brighter for Yaz and she means to unlock the truth.

To touch the sky, be prepared to climb”

The Girl and the Stars is only just now my current read, why you ask? Because I was dumb and let it sit on my bookshelf too long, and it’s not a small amount of dumb, it’s a large amount of dumb, because this book has been incredible. I won’t be writing anymore because my next review will be on the first book and I couldn’t be happier that the next book is so close to being released.

Lawrence is a writer who I think just keeps managing to outdo himself. The Broken Empire was my first series and it is good, it wasnt something that really stood out to me but was an entertaining read with good world building and good plot progression. Book of the Ancestor, his last series just exploded to the top of my list out of nowhere. We have some great world building in this series, Lawrence’s classic mix of technology and fantasy have made something unique and special with a shit ton of intrigue and excitement.  Then we have excellent storytelling and character writing, Lawrence doesn’t let up, just throwing event after event, never letting you relax or slow down at any point in the story. The Girl and the Stars is set in the same world as Book of the Ancestor and seems to be another step up in writing, taking the incredible world and chucking some new incredible characters and just continuing to build upon what was already so well done. I can’t wait to see how this story carries on.

I could go on all day but Im not going to, so heres my notable mentions…

The Doors of Stone – Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t know if there any point in listing this honestly, it will be done when its done and I doubt that’s 2021 but a boy can dream hey? I love you forever Rothfuss regardless how long we must wait.

She Who Became the Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan

Shelley’s debut novel is being described as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles and really that should be enough to make you want to buy it then go read the good reads page, people are hyped for this book.

The Thorn of Emberlain – Scott Lynch

Lynch has been dealing with a lot these past years and due to this book four of The Gentleman Bastards has been delayed, but never forgotten. If you’ve never read it The Lies of Locke Lamora is an amazing book and go enjoy it, start now and hopefully book four wont feel to far away.

The Winds of Winter – George RR Martin

Book Six please.

The Black Coast – Mike Brooks

Mike Brooks is unknown to me however his new book sounds like it will be a fantastically enjoyable read, the blurb sounds so exciting and Brooks being a Black Library author should be an excellent author of grimdark action.

Blood of the Chosen – Django Wexler

Ashes of the Sun was one of my big surprises for 2020, I’ve read a couple of Wexler’s books in the past but never been passively gripped till now, the only reason this book isn’t higher on my list is because I’m not certain of the release date. Read Ashes of the Sun if you haven’t.

Furious Heaven – Kate Elliot

The Unconquerable Sun was the same as above, another complete surprise for me, I very rarely pick up sci-fi and this managed to start a domino effect which had me buying and blasting through Jack Campbells Lost Fleet series and authors like John Scalzi. This is expected towards the end of 2021 and if so colour me excited.

You should read these books (If you want to).

You should read these books (If you want to).

I have always hated “Ten books you need to read before you die”, and I dislike elitism in literature. Read what you want, enjoy what you want, do what you want. You can read a book a year or a book a week, but whatever you do just pick ones that you enjoy reading.

I’m currently writing my first review, ever? However, in the meantime I am going to write a quick list of the Fantasy series I would recommend to everyone and anyone. Why? Because they are fucking brilliant. I have a nature of preferring books that include lots of battles, swords, magic and huge set pieces. Be prepared for most of these books to be a little bias towards these.

There are so many more books I want to write about, Ive stuck to well-known series here and I guess that’s not the best, but these are some of my most loved for a reason. I will have to write a part two.

Also for some strange reason I havent included Brandon Sanderson in this post, this is a travesty. But he deserves a more practised writer and his own post…

John Gwynne – Malice, The Faithful and the Fallen

If I had to make a top five, It would be a struggle every day not to put this at the top. So much swordplay, so much action, this is an incredibly entertaining book to read. Gwynne manages to do something that I normally struggle to read, he writes an epic fantasy spanning multiple characters where I do not want to skip a single chapter to get back to the ones with the characters I’m fully absorbed in. Every character in this book is so well written, has so much depth and every chapter is so exciting read. However, what did happen is Gwynne gave us the heroes, our BrightStar Corban and our main good boy, Storm, and I was so emotionally attached to these characters that when this series ended, I couldn’t bring myself to read his next series just because I couldn’t bare reading about a world that didn’t have these people in.  

However, I would like to point out this was dumb because when I finally managed to pick it up it was every part the first series equal.

Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice, Farseer Trilogy

I think Hobb managed to write possibly one of my favourite characters ever with this series. It has been a long time since I’ve read these so I’m not going to go in depth about this, but I’ve never felt so emotionally attached to towards an imaginary friend. Every time his life seems to be getting just a little bit better someone else comes to mess shit up. Hobb manages to write an incredible world, with unique magic and characters that really draw you in. These books are beautiful and tragic and exciting, and they should be read.

Pierce Brown – Red Rising, Red Rising Saga

(This is technically Sci-Fi, shoot me) Urgh. I’ve read and reread, and I adore. This is the book I used to get my mother to stop reading only non-fiction. These books inspired my first tattoo, I patiently wait for the final instalment of the current series. Roman Space Hunger games on steroids. Action, blood, slingblades, gorydamn. Brown has mastered the technique of cliff-hangers and an author has never made me shout at the ending of a book till this man (Its fine for wheoever is reading this because you don’t have to deal with the gorydamn year long wait for the next book). Try the first book and I can almost promise you won’t regret it, Pierce Brown you beautiful man.

Brian McClellan – Promise of Bloody, The Powder Mage Trilogy

When I walk into waterstones and I pick up books from the new hardback section in my favourite little corner, I must make a choice. I read the blurb, I put some books back and I take some to the tills and I remember thinking how easy it was to not put this back down.

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets?

Powder mages! what more could you want from a book? All out war, betrayal, battles, magic, and gods. Wonderful.  

Evan Winter – Rage of Dragons, The Burning

Winters was the best debut author of 2017, easily, this book took off, the second in the series was just as incredible and I can’t wait for the final part. This book draws you into the rage and pain that our boy Tau feels, this is a story of revenge but ends up so much more. A struggle to break the chains of a broken system, a fight against an old evil that won’t stop till it wipes out his race. The kind of book you don’t put down till the entire thing has been finished. My favourite book of 2017 and its sequel Fires of Vengeance was my favourite book of 2020.

Brent Weeks – The Black Prism, The Lightbringer Series

Epic fantasy at its best, Weeks talent really lies in the world he builds, the uniqueness of what he has written is so special and this five-book series ended with what is now one of my favourite books of all time. I really like action, Fantasy is action for me, I read for the set pieces, I read for the swordplay, I read for mages throwing everything at each other. Weeks final book in the series was massive, close to a thousand pages, and almost seven hundred of those were the final showdown. I really hate sometimes when you read this massive series and then everything finishes in fifty pages and it’s over, it can feel so sudden and almost hurts to read. Weeks did the complete opposite and just had you tense for the whole damn book which honestly was incredible.