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"Life in the 41st Millennium is hard."
- – Cavan Scott making the greatest understatement of all time.
Enter Warhammer Adventures, a series of middle-grade (ages 8 to 12) novels published by Black Library and based on Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 8th edition, which were released during February 2019.
Each novel will feature a group of children going on amazing adventures, like in every kids novel ever released. Given that this is a generic plot template expect this to be nothing like the Warhammer we grew up with. The whole series has been described by Black Library sources as "The Grim Darkness of the far future, but with a nightlight on". Black Library have recruited writers with a track record for commercial tie-in fiction and books for children, which is good for children's books like these but not so much in regards to their adhering to canon (at least, that's the current view). While that description also fits Dan Abnett, many fans predict expect high levels of derp instead of quality canon stories - especially when you consider how much of the setting they have to lighten up on to make sure it doesn't scare away any parents. Well, that or the books could all be set in Civilized Worlds, Paradise Worlds, etc. But there's a good reason why the exciting Grimdark fluff almost never happens there unless the war comes: they're boring.
The intial books have apparently sold very well, according to Games Workshop's own social media and book sales tracker Nielsen BookScan.
Warped Galaxies (40k)
- Attack of the Necron by Cavan Scott
- Claws of the Genestealer by Cavan Scott
- Secrets of the Tau by Cavan Scott
Realm Quest (Age of Sigmar)
- City of Lifestone by
- Lair of the Skaven by Tom Huddleston
- Forest of the Ancients by Tom Huddleston
- Flight Of The Kharadron by Tom Huddleston
Something you'll notice is that both settings follow a particular set of generic cliche characters: a peace-loving leader, a brash misfit of a brawler, and a prodigal artisan. Who, despite never going past their teenage years, are somehow just as, if not more, proficient as full-grown professionals in their settings. In 40k it can be explained as them being flashed taught like many manufactoria workers are on particularly bad Hive Worlds. With the caveat that doing so causes gradual brain degradation until you're basically a vegetable by your middle age and thrown away like a used battery.
Yep, you're essentially getting the same template used for literally every other book series marketed towards pre-teens. Bear in mind they are from a licensed novel series by professional authors being sold for real money, and not something you dug out of the crusty underbelly of DeviantArt or Fanfiction.net that you read for laughs; on the other hand, sometimes that's a distinction without a difference. (Because gods forbid they try and introduce warhammer to a younger audience (that's what the Internet is for, especially YouTube))
Zelia: A young daughter of a galactic explorer, she helps her mom dig up ancient alien artifacts and hates weapons in a setting where everything that's alien and most things that aren't actively trying to kill you. Instead, she believes that the best way to overcome fear is by learning. Voted most likely to be slowly tortured to death by the Inquisition for seeking out the truth. Either that or Guilliman has her earmarked to become a historitor.
Talen: The son of an Imperial Guard officer, Talen decided to run away from home to avoid military conscription and became a hive ganger (so, he ran away from a hard life as a soldier for a harder life as a hooligan constantly look over his shoulder for both the authorities, his family, and his fellow gangers...brilliant). He's fairly aggressive and kind of a brute; however, that is offset by his loyalty to his friends. He carries around a toy soldier, which is one of the only reminders he has of his older brother who went off to war. All in all, the only character whose preview is not a thinking-emoji level setup, let alone one of potentially multilasered proportions. Expect someone to make a greenstuff version of him as a Necromunda Juve. It would be ironic if his gang got conscripted by the Imperial Guard anyway, as they are known to do - he just better hope that the Commissar never finds out about the whole conscription-dodging thing (pfft, who are we kidding? His family totally reported him and his gang will be conscripted solely for the Commissar to execute him).
Mekki: What happens when you cross a tech-priest with Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. (...so "Young Sheldon"?) He hails from Mars and is described as an inventor, due to his creation of a small robotic swarm that assist him with certain duties. His right arm is paralyzed, so instead of doing the normal, cool Mechanicus thing and replacing it with cybernetics he decides to just build a brace to help him move it. Omnissiah only knows why he wasn't forcefully re-purposed as a servitor for his blatant tech-heresy yet, especially considering he's from Mars; even on backwater Forge Worlds things like Vorax Automata are shunned and forbidden because of their animalistic intelligence. This goes double as this is post-Great Rift, where Guilliman's protection of Cawl's tech heresies (one of which includes AI-tech) has the AdMech inching closer to another civil war.
Fleapit the Jokaero: Yes, a frigging techno space-ape is in this book series and it is helping the children. Yes, his name is "Fleapit". Apparently Cavan Scott thought that what 40k really needed to bring in the kiddies was Scooby-Doo.
Space Marines: Here as usual. Depicted in Primary-sue armour, so this bright and happy tale is happening post-Great Rift. Naturally, they're using the Ultrasmurfs, as they're "bravest of all the heroic Space Marines", and not because they're just the most easily recognizable Chapter that gets the most publicity, honest.
Necrons: The cold and unfeeling "enslaving tyrants" we all know and purge, probably chosen because killing robots is much more family-friendly than shooting at living things, and some of their primary weapons kill cleanly too. Less retarded than it sounds, since Wardcrons have enough variation in their personalities that some random Phaeron keeping Enfleshed as pets makes perfect sense, especially considering Trazyn's "collection." Ol' Trollzyn as an evil space collector who traps living beings to keep as exhibits in his space museum would actually make him a pretty good kid-adventure villain (possibly leaving out the eternal agony parts in regards to some of his captives).
Age of Sigmar
Elio: Token black kid from the realm of life. His medical skills are "second to none," presumably among his age bracket of a mere 14 years. Obsessive about plants, but apparently interested in all critters great and small, up to and including monsters like manticores. Also, he's not much of a fighter - because that's not a concern with giant man-eating monsters, right? Basically the embodiment of the gentle giant/pacifist healer trope, in a setting where people like that exist to be fed to Chaos Warriors or Vampires to show the audience how evil they are.
Alish: A 12-year old from the Realm of Light, who is "restless, inquisitive and highly intelligent" and has the instinctive ability to repair "almost any mechanical device." She also loves inventing and has apparently designed and built everything from clocks to airships, despite being 12. Mary Sue classic. And to make her extra stupid, the one thing she refuses to build is weapons, despite A) walking around with a sodding huge hammer and B) living in the monster-and-barbarian-filled world of AoS where access to weapons can and will save lives. Basically Zelia, but in fantasy.
Kiri: At fifteen, she seems to be the oldest of the bunch, coming from the realm of metal. Kiri is "as strong and steadfast as steel" who was raised in the barbarian slave camps of Aqshy (because the whole character would probably have been a lot different if it was a Slanneshi warband) where she learned to fight as soon as she could walk. "Somehow this harsh life hasn't made her cruel or resentful" - direct quote, and we're pretty bloody surprised too. She uses a slingshot. She fought in Chaos gladiator pits and won with a slingshot. Not a sling, which can do some actual damage, a toy slingshot. This is just silly. Before you bring up David from Scripture who fought Goliath, leaving aside the element of divine aid which depends on one's beliefs, at least he fought one giant in a 1-v-1 challenge not several and he had a real weapon; a real weapon that was well known for being able to damage armor and David himself was extremely skilled with a sling due to needing to be for his livelihood.
Thanis: A 12-year old gal from the realm of Fire. The big sister type of the group who protects her friends.
Kreech: A cunning Skaven packlord of the clan Quickfang YES YES. An unusual Skaven who has adopted the man-thing's behavior and their ability to be creative, very unusual since most Skaven look down on anything that's not Skaven. Currently scheming with a heretical woman-thing in order to gain more power in the man-thing hierarchy. He also owns a man-thing play-thing called Scratch. YES YES.
Scratch: A 12-year old from realm of Beast and currently Kreech's plaything; his true name is forgotten. Like how Leman Russ and Lion El'Johnson was raised by the wild and had adopted it's behavior, Scratch has adopted Skaven's cunning thinking and has fashion himself to be like one of them.
Stormcast Eternals: As they are. Nothing particularly odd or inaccurate in their bio blurb - they even mentioned the whole "died and was reborn" bit.
Darkoath Barbarians: One of many tribes serving
Chaos the forces of Evil (they're probably lumping all non-Order Grand Alliances into one big "bad guys" group, because Order totally lacks any dark side). Plundering, pillaging, enslaving... typical villain stuff. Their name is still less stupid than 99% of what GW Legal's shat out, though.
Initial reception has been polarizing, to say the least. Many consider this series a futile attempt to dilute the grimdarkness of both Warhammer settings to try and appeal to a younger demographic, with the slim but worrying possibility of the dumbing-down and "modern" approach to writing working its way into the setting proper in a greedy lunge for Daddy's credit card. (It's not like GW isn't known for terrible ideas, after all.) Characters hating weaponry, gleefully searching xenotech and running away from conscription in 40k certainly don't give people that much confidence, leading to pointed questions regarding how they would deal with darker groups like Dark Eldar/Elves, Daughter of Khaine, Idoneth Deepkin, Chaos, Undead or Tyranids; when asked, Black Library deflected the question or gave non-answers to the effect of "very carefully." There's also the argument that many kids prefer fantasizing about characters older than them (i.e they hope that they might grow up to be like them), and that by making the protagonists kids, they are invariably just making it corny and unappealing to the very audience they want to attract (as if the protagonists are their age, they already have no chance of becoming them).
It's also inevitable that some parents will catch on to the fact that these kid-friendly adventures actually take place in a universe where the literal gods are embodiment of concepts like genocide and sexual violence. Less abstractly, Warhammer is full of things like race-wide mandated mass torture, machines who wear the flayed and bloody flesh of their foes, and horrifically mutated sub-sapient breeding slaves. Daddy and Mommy are going to be upset when they realize just what Warhammer is actually like. For once in human history, the parents who just bought their kids something which causes permanent psychological damage will have a valid point when they blame the company that sold it to them. Of course, all the above is moot if GW ends up depicting a comparatively whitewashed version of the setting with most of the nastier parts stripped out or otherwise not alluded to directly, but that still doesn't stop the kids from stumbling over the unabridged versions anyway (and their parents putting two and two together from there).
Defenders argue that this could be an opportunity to flesh out groups and aspects of the setting that often get ignored, showing positive aspects of the galaxy in a setting so focused on grimdark. There's also the possibility of new mini-lines being produced, probably somewhat cheaper than the mainline series to not scare children (or their parents) away, which could help flesh out the more neglected armies, assuming they don't just keep drowning us in Spacesigmarines and Stormhammer shit because that's what Marketing wants to sell. And the most obvious benefit being that parent gamers will be able to introduce their younger children to the setting with age-appropriate material before weening them into the more mature stuff (like it is meant for ages 8-12, older people aren't suppose to like it) thus giving young kids more options.
Considering that GW themselves have said that their ideal demographic is “an intelligent 18 year old,” it's somewhat baffling why they’ve chosen to write for a demographic so young. At best, they should have started with young teens, giving them more room to stay closer to the grimdark of 40k while still being able to pull back. Perhaps their reasoning is that younger kids are easier to sell merchandise to, which is probably true if properties like Skylanders are anything to go by. That being said, we don’t know what’s GW’s long-term strategies are for drawing in and maintaining this younger demographic, or what the parent’s reactions will be when their kids start screaming “BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD” or “HERESY” at every opportunity.
The positive reception of the initial books dashed the hope that poor sales would put an end to the series before it could start, so for better or worse we're stuck with it.
For those mythical players of Warhammer with kids, many have reported to actually enjoy having the books to connect on another level with their kids and thus doom them to a future of plastic crack much like them. Or in more serious words, if you have kids who like to read and you want to introduce them to the hobby and setting then these books might be a good way to go and help them get better marks in their reading classes. Or you could just stick them with Path of the Archon, it's really up to your own discretion.
In all honesty the books aren't that bad. It's certainly toned down a lot from the usual 40K fare, but so was Ciaphas Cain HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! The plot of the first book is rather suspenseful, Ultramarines getting killed by Necrons. Most of the book is the main characters running for their lives from a Deathmark. You can argue that no kids, no matter how skilled, could outrun a Deathmark. But then the plot wouldn't happen and a story that lasts 3 pages wouldn't sell. Besides how many of us got into our fandom of choice because we read a book on it as a kid?
Gallery of Memes
One of the few unambiguously good things to spring from the announcement of Warhammer Adventures is the number of lulzy images produced by /tg/ as anons interpret what little they know in their own "unique" way.
Life in the 41st Millenium is hard.