Hello 40k fans! Chris Morgan, Chief Librarian of the Forge the Narrative Podcast, is here again with the next weekly segment of Tomes of the Librarius. Also, check the Tactics Corner for more great articles!
Just as a reminder, in this series we will explore facets of the history and legends of the Grimdark. This is meant to be an easy summary and introduction geared towards new players or people unfamiliar with the setting, but should still be an interesting read or fun refresher for those already familiar. There’s so much detail in this lore that a bare summary seems so inadequate, but for new people this should be the right portion to get a feel for the history of the universe we enjoy our games in.
Last week we got into five books that are some of my favorites in the 40k universe and some of the best that 40k has to offer. This week I wanted to touch on a few stories and books that help introduce factions from the game into the wider lore and narrative. Specifically, these are books that I think provide the requisite snapshot into the character and culture of the different factions that exist in the universe. I’m just going to warn you right now, if you end up wanting to buy any of these factions after reading this, I am not accepting any receipts or responsibility for angry spouses. With that in mind, here are my picks for five great books for introducing a faction in 40k.
Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion by Chris Wraight
When the Adeptus Custodes became a faction in 40k, there were a lot of waves. All of the sudden, this faction that only really had a background role in 40k (and the subject of memes and parody videos) was put back into the spotlight. Originally we thought it might be a fad for 40k just to allow some crossover with the Custodian Guard in the Horus Heresy game. The same thing goes for the Sisters of Silence. Then, GW went ahead and doubled down on the resurgence of these factions not only with a 40k 8th edition codex, but also with novels like this one. If you have ever asked yourself where these factions have been and what got them back into the picture, then this book has the answers for you. The timeline of this book spans the time just before and just after the return of Guilliman, and chronicles not only the return of the Adeptus Custodes and Sisters of Silence, but also the Khornate assault on the Imperial Palace on Terra. Both factions here are introduced through the lens of one member, but Chris does a great job of encapsulating what sets these groups apart not only from each other, but from the Imperium as a whole. A great read, and the type of thing that makes you want to buy one of these factions.
Path of the Eldar Series by Gav Thorpe
Far be it from me to exclude the xenos from this list (though there is admittedly a dearth of xenos-centric novels in the Black Library catalog). The path of the Eldar series is great for those interested in the craftworld Eldar prior to the fracture of Biel-Tan. Eldar culture is enigmatic, and credit is due to Gav for trying to take an alien culture and parse it into a way that we can understand as readers. The Eldar follow different paths – or focuses – at different periods of their lives. This focus and dedication is part of how they steel themselves against the behaviors that led to Slaanesh’s rise, but what does that mean and what is that like? This series is all about that as we follow someone changing paths, and gives an intimate look at what life is like for the Aeldari race.
Blood of Asaheim by Chris Wraight
With all the crap I get about “team Jacob vs. team Edward” due to the travesty that was the Twilight series, you could imagine how hesitant I was to dive into the Space Wolves as a faction. Truly it was reading the codex that got me started with interest (I have a side-hobby reading the Poetic Eddas and the Norse Sagas), it was this book that made me say ‘Hey, Space Wolves are actually pretty cool.” Following the Gyrfalcon, a warrior who was seconded to the Deathwatch and now returns to his chapter. After years working with other chapters under the purview of the Inquisition, he has to rediscover what it means to be a son of Russ while prosecuting a campaign against the Death Guard. Its a great snapshot into the culture of the Space Wolf chapter, and puts it right alongside factions like the Adepta Sororitas to show how their differences can be put aside for the Imperium.
The Night Lords Omnibus by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
There are people who like Chaos because they love to be the bad guys, and they love to justify it in all sorts of ways. They are – of course – vile heretics who deserve to be purged. I am a die-hard Imperial player and loyalist, so if I am tempted to read a book about traitors as the protagonists, I usually approach it from a ‘know your enemy’ perspective and rarely get excited about it. That said, I could not put this series down. What sells this more than anything is the characters, who are brilliantly written and fleshed out across the three books. If you are looking for an inside look at motivations, methodology, and the psychosis of the Night Lords, then go no further than here. I stopped short of ‘rooting’ for these characters, but the journey they took me on was definitely worth my time.
Deathwatch by Steve Parker
A bit of an unsung hero of the 40k universe, this book is about as interesting an introduction to the Deathwatch as you could hope to have. You get to follow the protagonist starting with the recruitment into the Deathwatch, through training, and then the first operation undertaken by the Kill Team. With a healthy dose of mystery and Inquisitorial shenaniganing, this is a really entertaining read. Give it a shot!
Here’s Your Homework
Five is a small number to try to sum up the wide swath of books out there about different factions. Which ones were your favorites? Are there any you would add to this list from your own collection? Let me know below and stay tuned for next week’s Tomes of the Librarius!
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