Emily here, with a confession…

How many of you have heard of the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000?

Ok, so it’s a little more popular than that question implies, but I guess I don’t know how many of you reading my blog know what it is. This game has become a big deal in my life, meaning my husband plays it and I hear talk of it all the time. It involves making models, painting them, creating an army to play other people, yadda yadda yadda.

[Leo (the husband) Edit: Warhammer 40,000 is a table top miniatures game set in the 41st millennium.  Known for being exceptionally “Grim Dark”, it has it’s roots in being a over -the-top satire of the worst characteristics of humanity.  The video below will give some context.]

Basically, it’s really not my thing.

But then I heard there were books…

There are so many books by so many authors. Good books, and not so good books. My husband has gotten really into reading them because the plot to each story is crazy and they help him build some background to the game he is playing. He obviously knows that I enjoy reading, so he has started to recommend certain authors and storylines to follow. At first, I rolled my eyes. I mean, do I really want to get into Warhammer in the slightest? Nope. Keeping my distance sounded pretty nice. But he kept pushing it. He started making deals with me, like “you read this Warhammer book and I’ll read another one of your favorite books.” Finally…I caved. I can only listen to him bother me about it for so long. This was obviously for the benefit of our marriage. Who knows what would happen if I kept ignoring him for so long.

So I read his first choice book for me, and then I read another…

Yep, you guessed it…I like reading Warhammer books.  [Leo Edit: It’s almost like I know you…]

Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes, and those who don’t know me well are probably confused. As a game, Warhammer is interesting, but not something I want to be involved in. I love that it challenges people to be creative and gets people to physically leave their house to game with other people, but I don’t like that it’s an incredibly expensive hobby [Leo Edit: Cost is relative. I could be into fishing, motorcycles, vintage airplane collecting…] that many tend to obsess over. I tend to get a negative taste in my mouth for any hobby turned obsession, but I have seen it happen a lot with Warhammer.

So, why read the books if you aren’t super into the game? I’ll tell you why:

  • SPACE OPERA: Sci-fi is tricky for me. I feel like sci-fi gets too bogged down by details or overly cheesy. Space operas have been the only way for me to get into sci-fi. They are easier for me to follow, and the cheesiness bothers me less. The Warhammer books that I have read fit right in there. Sure, sometimes they get cheesy or bogged down by details, but the few that I have read have been simple for me to navigate through. They have fit into my ideal space opera so far, and I love it.
  • CHARACTERS: There are so many characters from different backgrounds. I love that there is some element of diversity within the universe, and I think the wide range of characters gives the story a level of interest that not a lot of space operas pull off. Also, can we talk about how gender is like a non-issue for the most part? Men and women can both be badass and it doesn’t matter if they are a man or a woman. I absolutely love that.
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Commissar Severina Raine, from the book Honourbound
  • ACTION: The books that I have read have been filled to the brim with action. The action is exciting and keeps me invested in the story. We aren’t talking the random fights that sometimes feel like they come because the author needed more, they are important fights. They are multiple, big, plot enhancing fights throughout the entire story. These fights have kept me actively engaged in the world, and have made it so easy to get totally lost in the story and dying to know what comes next.
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[Leo Edit: This is from the trailer for Death of Hope, a fan film made by ONE GUY.]
  • A STORY YOU CAN PUT DOWN AND COME BACK TO LATER. I love that I can put the series down for a little bit and come back weeks or even months later. It’s not always an overly complicated story, and it’s something that I have felt is not difficult to pick right back up. It helps that with any questions I have I can ask my husband, but the internet is also an excellent source when it comes to these books. The Warhammer community is rather large, which is cool but also kind of scary.

The book series is written by a variety of authors, which is great because then you get a wide range of perspectives. However, this doesn’t mean that each book is the same. Some authors, as my husband has found out, are more difficult to read through than others. Not to say that all the stories are terrible, but we all know sometimes certain works are more difficult for us to read through than others. My husband knows me well and has been good about recommending what to read. Thankfully he was around to add some of his own thoughts to help anyone wanting to get into this world…

Thoughts from Leo

Since I got my wife into it she asked if I would also add my thoughts.  If you’re looking at where to start it may be a little overwhelming…

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Horus Heresy Tree

… but I recommend starting (roughly) at the beginning, 10,000 years before the setting of the game.  Horus Rising by Dan Abnett (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who, and so much more), False Gods by Graham McNeill (one of the best authors for Black Library, if he wrote it it’s good), and Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter (can’t say much of him; this book is good, but I hated the next book he writes) are the introductory trilogy to the Horus Heresy.  Read these and you will know if you will enjoy yourself.  Following the trilogy the series splinters. Flight of the Eisenstein directly continues the story, Fulgrim takes place during the first three books but is from other characters’ perspective, and the following books begin to introduce new characters and settings.  There are a few good recommended reading orders online, and I will add my recommendations, but for the most part don’t stress it.  Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe the books are related, but you don’t necessarily need to read every one to understand what is happening.

So anyway, what do I like?

Descent of Angels introduces the Dark Angels and Lion El’Johnson. Young boys join a knightly order to rid their haunted world of terrible beasts, falling into a web of secrets along the way.

A Thousand Sons begins the tragic tale of Magnus the Red and his legion.  Maybe magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, maybe the pursuit of knowledge and doing what you think is right is all that matters.  Should be followed up with Prospero Burns.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden, my favorite Black Library author, writes the prologue book The First Heretic I’ve never read an author that does a better job of writing from the antagonist’s perspective than he does.

My portion is getting long, but there are a couple more things I want to add.  While I’ve recommended starting with the three books that begin the Horus Heresy, there’s no reason to limit yourself to that period.  In the 40k setting you can read about the dying race known as Aeldari in the Path of the Eldar, get your Firefly fix with the Rogue Trader Omnibus, or find out what these badasses are all about in Sisters of Battle Omnibus-d6pa2y1-3e475b58-4db3-4b90-9f17-27c675e1c8d6

Two more things and I am done, I swear.  Despite what my wife says the hobby itself is amazing.  Building and painting has been a great stress relief for me, and though 40k may be a little “much” for you (or maybe not, if you’re an awesome person like me!) if you enjoy table top stuff Games Workshop does have games like Necromunda, Kill Team, or Blackstone Fortress.  Lastly (I hate that I feel like have to, but people can be assholes) a disclaimer.  Warhammer 40k is the pinnacle of nerdom, and because of that socially malformed neck beards do come with the territory.  If you come across rude content or behavior online understand it is not representative of the community.  Overall we are very inclusive (and admittedly at times socially awkward) group of people.

A few more words from Emily:

This has been kind of fun to get into. It has given me a way to get interested in his hobby without having to be fully into the gaming aspect. I am not one to sit and paint models, plan out how I want things to go, etc. I like that we have this connection. I also like that I am able to enjoy these books. I will say, I highly recommend getting the audiobooks if you are able. The narration is great and has helped me get even more invested in the story.

JUST A HEADS UP: This series does get a graphic and dark. There is some violence against others, there are incredibly dark and evil acts, and there is gore. If you are at all sensitive to any of that I would recommend you not read the series.

So, I gotta ask…who else has read these books or gotten into the Warhammer 40,000 world somehow?

emily [and Leo, the husband]

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