Thursday, April 2, 2020

Mengel Miniatures AoS Reading List

I've always been a huge fan of the Age of Sigmar novel line and it's done an amazing job of fleshing out the world more, especially in the early days. While I've definitely enjoyed the line as a whole, their are some real gems that stand out more than others. With everyone stuck inside, now seemed like a perfect time to share my top picks for an AoS reading list.

To start with, I just want to mention the Realmgate Wars series. These were the very first set of books released for AoS and really did a ton of the leg work establishing the setting as a living, breathing thing. I really enjoyed some of the books in it too, like Fist of Gork, the Mortarch of Night audio dramas, and Bladestorm, amongst others. Having said that though, they definitely feel like early AoS, which may be a bit of a weird thing with where the setting is at now. Considering all of these books are now collected into two omnibuses you get some real value for your money too! I definitely recommend giving them a read if you want, but just be prepared for everything to be a little more "loosely" defined compared to later books. For this article I decided I wanted to focus on what I consider the "second wave" of novels, or those that have come out since the Realmgate Wars and the introduction to the Mortal Realms ended.

The Hallowed Knights Series by Josh Reynolds

I know, I know, I started this list of books off with two book instead of just one. They're both part of the same series though and I really do recommend both of them. The Hallowed Knights series by Josh Reynolds follows the exploits of Gardus and the Steelsouls and is absolutely one of the best series and renditions of Stormcast out there. It's also pretty cool to see Gardus, a major character from the Realmgate Wars, have his story continue, while others haven't. Having touched upon this, I would really like to see something focusing on Vandus Hammerhand. Come on guys, he was your main character at one point and we haven't really seen much from him since.

While Gardus is the main character, his entire warrior chamber is really the main character, with Reynolds getting to flex his creative muscles and give them all unique personalities. He was really one of the first to start making them seem more human, which is what I think makes them more interesting than Space Marines, which they are often compared to. Stormcast were plucked from their normal lives and forged into super human warriors. They haven't been indoctrinated nearly as much as Marines, and many of them had full lives beforehand, even though their memories of it may be a bit hazy. This is also where we start seeing female Stormcast for the first time, which is a very welcome addition.

Plague Garden focuses on the Hallowed Knights fighting their way through the Garden of Nurgle to save one of their own. If you like Nurgle then you'll enjoy this book. The Order of the Fly, another one of Josh's creations, feature prominently, as well as the idea of redemption and who's worthy of it. Tergus, the redeemed Lord of Plagues, who's now a Knight-Venator, is another major player. Black Pyramid follows up on this with the Steelsouls now part of an expedition into Shyish in efforts to reclaim a lost city. This is also a semi-sequel to the Mortarch of Night storyline, following up on the story of Ramus and his quest to find his lost Lord-Celestant. Here we get to see just what lengths a Stormcast would go to to do what they see as being right. I really love this series and am eagerly awaiting the next installment in it. Hammerhall is another story that features the Steelsouls and is a great, quick read.

Plague Garden Review
Black Pyramid Review

The Callis and Toll Series by Nick Horth

Originally I was just going to do The Silver Shard, but City of Secrets is also great, plus essential reading to understand Silver Shard. This series by Nick Horth follows two agents of the Order of Azyr, a witchunter and a former Freeguild officer, plus a number of other operatives and adventurers who join them throughout the series. I would describe this as being reminiscent of a cross between Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and classic Inquisitor stories from 40k. The number one word I would attribute to it is "fun." This series is just plain fun, with plenty of action, great story hooks, relatable and likable characters and fantastic world building. So far, the story has stayed mostly centered around the city of Excelsis in Ghur, with excursions elsewhere. It's also focused on purely human characters. While Stormcast are in them occasionally, they're never the focus. This makes it a bit more relatable.

There have been a few spinoff novellas focusing on supporting characters from the series, such as a Scourge Privateer captain and a treasure hunting aelf who was partially raised by humans. Both of these are great reads as well. You really become invested in the characters. Out of all of the book series just starting in AoS I think this is the one to watch. If there was ever going to be a show or movie based on AoS like the newly announced Eisenhorn series for 40k, I think it would be based on Callis and Toll.

City of Secrets Review
Silver Shard Review

Gloomspite by Andy Clark

Gloomspite focuses on a mercenary warband of Sigmar that finds itself involved in some strange going ons in a city of Sigmar in Aqshy. While it's not shy about saying the main antagonists are the Gloomspite Gits, I mean it's right there in the title, the build up to their reveal is immense. Pretty much the whole first half of the book is just a slowly ratcheting up of tensions as creepier and creepier stuff keeps happening within the city until finally the Bad Moon rises and all hell breaks loose. Your expectations really get turned on their head here once stuff starts going. All of the characters here are very relatable and you'll definitely get attached to a few of them. You'll also want to yell at the pages as some of the city officials do their utmost to play everything off as not a big deal so daily life can keep going on as normal. While not part of the horror series from Black Library, I think Gloomspite would be perfectly at home within it. It's part horror and part adventure, but I think I would actually describe it more as an AoS disaster story. It's just a force of nature tearing life apart as everyone does what they can to come out the other end.

Blacktalon: First Mark by Andy Clark

While we're talking about Andy Clark novels let's touch upon Blacktalon: First Mark. This novel, which is set up as the start of a series, follows the titular character, Neave Blacktalon. A Knight-Zephyros of the Hammers of Sigmar, Neave is the best at what she does. She is Sigmar's preeminent hunter and well respected amongst all of the Stormcast. While she battles her way across the realms we do get to see her fight the forces of Nurgle, though the main enemy she needs to overcome here is her past. It's a really interesting take on the Stormcast and one I'm glad to see tackled. Most of the Stormcast have either limited or even no memory of their past as it's been overwritten by the reforging. When a thread from her past starts tugging at her, Neave goes rogue in order to find out the truth. Along the way she encounters a young mortal women who reminds her a lot of herself before her transformation, and helps put into perspective why they're fighting at all. Their partnership is what makes the second half of the novel and is a great team up. Seeing a Stormcast question what right Sigmar had to rip them away from their lives without their consent at all is super interesting topic to tackle. Often it would be something we would overlook, but for each Stormcast, especially those who had families or loved ones, it's deeply personal. Again, this is a refreshing change from Marines being tempted by Chaos, as instead we're seeing Stormcast deal with the ramifications of a choice they had no say in.

Read full review

Hamilcar: Champion of the Gods by David Guymer

This book is amazing and a ton of fun. It's definitely the most unique AoS book out there at the moment. The whole thing is told first person from Hamilcar himself, an Astral Templar's Lord-Castellant. He was first introduced in the Mortarch of Night storyline and has made a few appearances in short stories since then, but this is his first solo novel. He's an extremely loud, confident, and boisterous Stormcast who thinks he's the best around, so as well as being extremely entertaining, it also makes you question everything you're told a bit, since it's definitely his take on how things went down and how other's perceive him. In this story we see him killed during a battle with some Skaven and potentially has his soul infected by Chaos taint, which would normally see him destroyed during the reforging just to be safe. Instead, he is given a new suit of armor and christened a Knight Questor and set off into the Mortal Realms to prove he's free of taint. All of this is kind of done on the down low, so he's kind of a rogue agent. During his adventures we see him interact with Stormcast from another warrior chamber, who are less than thrilled about him, as well as his old chamber, who now have a new commander. The whole thing is exciting, funny, and like I said, really, really unique. I think it would be fair to compare this to the Ciaphas Cain series from 40k for those who are familiar with that.

The Red Feast by Gav Thorpe

This is another really unique take on the AoS setting. The first in a series showing the rise of the Khul, the tribe of the original antagonist of the Realmgate Wars, Red Feast takes place at the very end of the Age of Myth, right before Chaos got its first foothold in the Mortal Realms. It's almost like historical fiction set within the Mortal Realms. Everything is much more mundane and ordinary since it hasn't gone wonky yet. The Khul are also just a nomadic tribe within Aqshy, so while there are vast empires built on magic and such, they live a much simpler life. Over the course of the novel we see what events can turn a very noble, family oriented man into a bloodthirsty maniac. It's a fairly tragic story of compromise and the dark paths you can go down when you're willing to sacrifice anything to protect those you love. I feel the next book in the series will have a fairly different tone from this one as the Chaotic nature starts to take hold more, but I'm pretty excited to see the complete fall.

Eight Lamentation: Spear of Shadows by Josh Reynolds

Think of this as the AoS version of Gotrek and Felix. It follows the adventures of an Ironweld Engineer who is tasked with finding one of the Eight Lamentations, powerful artifacts, by non-other than the Duardin god Grungni himself. Along the way he teams up with several companions such as a Soulblight Blood Knight, a Demigryph Knight from Ghyran, and other as they explore the realms. We get to see some truly fantastical locations, which is one of Reynold's specialties, such as a Fyreslayer hold within a giant petrified tree. This book really is one of the top AoS novels out there, yet sadly it seems that for the moment this series is on indefinite hold, and now with the return of Gotrek to the setting, I don't know if we'll see another one. It's still definitely worth the read though!

Read full review

Those are my top picks for AoS novels at the moment. I'd also like to give honorable mentions to a few:

The Red Hours by Evan Dicken

This is actually a novella, but still a cracking read. It follows a Freeguild officer who is exiled to a keep in the middle of nowhere in Chamon. This keep is manned by a motley selection of individuals who range from human, to duardin, to aelf. What unfolds over the rest of the book is a highly intense, somewhat horror laden, murder mystery as they try and figure out who the culprit is. Cut off from any help, its up to them to figure out who the killer is before they all end up dead.

The Measure of Iron by Jamie Crisalli

Another novella, this is probably the best Warcry story I've read yet. We follow a warband of Iron Golems who have ventured into the Bloodwind Spoil at the behest of their Dominar, who's following a vision to build Archaon the perfect weapon. What I really like about this is how much it delves into the individual characters and the Iron Golems as a whole. You get a much better sense of their culture and how they live day to day, while also growing attached to some of the characters. They're still horrible people, but you definitely end up rooting for them near the end. Having a bit of time between the release of the game and when this came out, I feel this story avoids some of the issues of earlier stories where what was written didn't quite match up with how the models looked or what's described in the main rulebook. Everything here meshes perfectly with what we see in the lore and it feels very Warcry without being repetitive or boring.

I hope this list helped you. While you may not be able to order these books from Black Library at the moment, you can still probably order some of them from other booksellers online, as well as still being able to get the eBook versions from Black Library. This list is only my "so far" list as well, as I'm not 100% caught up on the AoS books yet. In fact, I have Court of the Blind King on my bookshelf right now waiting to be read next.

What are some of your favorite AoS novels?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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