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"Life in the 41st Millennium is hard."
- – Cavan Scott making the greatest understatement of all time.
To the fans who know the lore in depth, Warhammer is the worst possible setting for a children's series which could exist even in theory, so of course it now has its own "junior" product line. It makes perfect sense though -anyone who's read a fairy tale can confirm this.
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. They have been highly succesful. Unfortunately this has lead sections of the community to respond pretty poorly to the success, mostly by spreading out-right lies about the content of the books.
Each novel will feature a group of children going on amazing adventures, like in every kids novel ever released, but with just enough xenophobia and mistrust to lay the groundwork for other 40K stories. 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. This description also describes Dan Abnett, so your mileage may vary. Black Library editorial has strict rules to ensure that it stays both 'Warhammer' and 'Child Friendly'. Anyone who has actually read the books realise that these are basically high-peril kids adventures. We get a whistle stop tour of the horrors in the grim-dark galaxy and it feels very Warhammer, just without going into Ian Watson levels of derp.
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
- War of the Orks 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 - and while that's perfectly fine, some of us can't shake the fact that there's examples of that being a distinction without a difference.
Zelia Lor: 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 (Most likely the latter, because let’s be honest - this IS a kids’ book series). Also, her pacifism is naturally met with disdain from others, so at least that's not being outright ignored. Told by her mother to seek safety at the Emperor's Seat, likely referring to Holy Terra, though given the civilian landscape of the homeworld of Mankind its not as safe as one would first believe.
Talen Stormweaver: 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, and that's BEFORE factoring in external threats visiting his homeworld...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).
Well, his gang is definitely not getting conscripted, considering they and their planet got ground to dust by the Pokemon Masters. He's also traumatized due to the whole ordeal, as well as the fact his gang ends up hating him and tries to kill him right before said skeletons come in guns blazing.
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. Mekki also looks like Aang, complete with bald head and warm-colored clothing. He's also the only one that can effectively communicate with Fleapit via the Jokaero's cybernetics.
Fleapit the Jokaero: Yes, a frigging techno space-ape is in this book series and it is helping the children. Well sort of. The kids are awful to him and nickname him 'fleapit'. He's got a proper name of course (unfortunately he got stuck with one practically asking for him to get his nickname - Flegan-Pala), but these are Imperial Kids. This is still Warhammer 40K, after all. Has hammerspace of the pocket dimension variety, and is aware of his race's creators.
Inquisitor Jeremias: As everyone expected, the kids eventually get the attention of the Inquisition, but surprisingly the Inquisitor in question puts them under their protection, instead of interrogating/purging them due to reasons already raised. Likely a Radical as a result, as they'd be less likely to BLAM them if he were himself skirting the line. He's also a mysterious one, though to be fair all Inquisitors would be to common Imperial citizens.
Elise Lor: Remember the Rogue Trader mom of Zelia we mentioned? This is her. Due to the actions of her main sidekick, she indirectly causes a Necron assault on the planet she was doing her archaeological digs on, Targian, that gets the place blown to bits by Necron orbital weaponry after the surface is scoured. Gets separated from her daughter and assistants in the resulting chaos, only reunited with Zelia and Mekki (the one who caused all this, Erasmus, bites it of his own volition very early on) in the finale of the series. Like her daughter, she's also a pacifist, despite her line of work often involving combat. At least we know Zelia didn't get that belief on her own, as even the other kids accept violence as a fact of life in the 42nd millennium so childish naivety was always out of the question.
Tyrian Stormweaver: A staunch motherfucker who stood for what it means to be a Guardsman and an Officer, but alas probably dead since life expectancy is poor in the Astra Militarum. Probably very displeased (post mortem) that his son pussied out of service, but nonetheless his lessons in survival in the Imperium are explicitly stated to be why Talen is even alive at this point. Also meant to show how dogmatic and totalitarian the Imperium is by proxy, and as such is not a character we are given a chance to form any emotional attachment to, though some fa/tg/uys believe the main Black Library 40k line could pick him up, flesh him out to make him not a Guard stereotype, and add him to the ranks of Astra Militarum heroes. Most don't consider it worth having Warhammer Adventures canonized, though.
Erasmus: Lexmechanic assistant to Elise that fucks things up by not disposing of a Necron artifact, leading to a Necron fleet arriving with its deadly occupants who promptly shatter Targian after scouring it of life. After he and the protagonists are sent through the Warp to an ice world due to a badly timed escape pod launch (How they survived without a Gellar Field is not known), he sacrifices his life to bury himself and a Deathmark that trailed them - the Artifact, known as the Diadem, being safely stored in one of Fleapit's microverses (given that the Jokaero are made by the Old Ones in the main lore, and outright namedropped when we get to see things from Fleapit's perspective, them having access to pocket dimensions makes some sense).
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. And surprisingly, in the first book they aren't the Mary Sues they usually are, getting their asses handed to them by the Necrons despite saving Elise from joining the planet (and presumably the brave Marines) in death. They come to avenge their fallen comrades in the finale too, showing up with a large force this time.
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).
Against all expectations for a kids' book, they go fucking hard, shown in the beginning of the first book when they completely shut down any and all Imperial attempts to defend Tarigan and reduce the planet to a new asteroid field in a matter of hours. Even the Ultrasmurfs stood no chance. And they weren't done after that, sending a Deathmark to track down the protagonists and particularly Erasmus for having one of their bits. Spooky scary skeletons, indeed.
They return for a final showdown in the final book in the series, wanting to still get their hands on the artifact the protagonists have in their possession. Possibly this means a showdown with the Necron Lord that's after it. They also have to fight the Ultrasmurfs again, who returned with a much more significant force to avenge Tarigan and their fallen brothers. Might tie into 9E's return of the Silent King and his personal Dynasty, given Imperium vs Necrons is a general theme.
Tau: Surprising nobody, the weeaboo space communists have their own showing, getting the spotlight in the third book in the series. A natural fit for the kids-adventure setting, given they're less hardcore than the other factions but still have their own grimdark elements to not seem (too) out of place.
Orks: Yet another natural fit for the Warhammer Adventures series due to Orks being Orks, the Greenskins pop up in the fourth book, seen in their natural state of beating the shit out of each other. Appear to be either feral Orks or Snakebites fighting the more "technological" of their kind.
Nurglings: Grandpapa Nurgle sent in some of the stinky-but-somewhat-cute Lesser Daemons while corrupting a Forge World the Protagonists were on. Surprisingly don't result in the kids being executed for witnessing Daemons, though they probably got a pass for being under Jeremias' wing (aka unofficial Acolytes) by the time it happens.
The Adeptus Mechanicus: Featured alongside the aforementioned Nurglings, they are mentioned as being their own "cybernetic race" despite just being heavily augmented humans who worship the Machine God. Probably displeased with Mekki's inventor streak, but by the point they show up they can't do shit about it due to Jeremias.
Age of Sigmar
Elio: Token cleric from the realm of life. His medical skills are "second to none," presumably among his age bracket of a mere 14 years. Obsessive about various 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 or certain murderously xenophobic plant-people, 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, and before you bring up David from Scripture, at least he fought one giant in a 1-v-1 challenge not several and he had a real weapon, plus divine aid.
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. Black Library responded by saying strict editorial rules would be followed.
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. But you could say the same thing about the Doctor Who books and the BBC seem to be not only raking in the cash but also don't seem to have upset too many parents.
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. These books don't really do that though; the setting is gritty, the kids are in constant peril. Young minds seem to love that sort of thing.
Of course, GW have been working very hard to get young people into the hobby; the run school clubs and have be applauded by various kids charities and schools for working with children to be creative in a Grim Dark sort of way.
For those many 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 and a whole hive world getting destroyed. 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.