Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Heldenhammer by Graham McNeill


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Heldenhammer by Graham McNeill
Black Library (Games Workshop), 2008, 414pp.

I’ve ‘discovered’ the world of Warhammer this past year and have been enjoying reading in that universe. And it’s quite the universe. I haven’t tried finding exact numbers, but there are already hundreds of books, spread out across four different eras, with an average of four new books a month coming out. There’s a lot there, but of the books I’ve read so far, I can see that the abundance of books has resulted in a rich and textured world.

Games Workshop are the makers of the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 collectable miniature figures games. The Warhammer world is a late medieval/renaissance world where the Empire of Man has to fight constantly against non-human races who impinge upon the outer edges of the empire. Warhammer 40k is set in the 41st millennium of the Empire of Man. Like in the main series, the Empire of Man is fighting against aliens to keep itself intact.

In addition to the games is the publishing arm, the Black Library. Originally, there were two main series, one following each of the games, but in the past few years, the Black Library has expanded to cover previous eras in both realms. Telling stories of the time long before the time of Warhammer is the Time of Legends series, which currently consists of a set of trilogies (none of which at this time has yet to be completed). Heldenhammer is the first of the Legend of Sigmar trilogy, which tells the story of the founding of the Empire of Man.

This first novel of the trilogy tells about the rise of Sigmar as king of the Unberogen tribe. At the time of the story’s opening, the various tribes of men are, at best, in a fragile peace with each other. However, the orcs (or ‘greenskins’) are getting more and more vicious in their attacks. Sigmar slowly and gradually unites the various tribes of men into a single force that culminates in the Battle of Black Fire Pass.

To someone familiar with epic fantasy, there’s not much originality in the basic plot/story structure. I could see a lot of the plot points coming. But this is one of those books that one doesn’t read for original plotting, but for the enjoyment of a story well told. Too often we focus on how original a story is, when we should spend more time just enjoying a story well told. And Heldenhammer is definitely a story well told.

Heldenhammer was my first foray into the Warhammer universe, yet McNeill made it a painless transition. I could tell that someone with a more in-depth knowledge of the lay of the land could get more from it, but as a newcomer, I still found the story easy to follow and understand. I’ve read the second book in the trilogy already (review forthcoming), and am waiting for the final volume to come out early next year.

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