Friday 8 June 2012

Warhammer Novels: Games Workshop Books 1989-1991

In my previous post I mentioned the classic anthology, Wolf Riders, published in 1989 and I was surprised about the number of messages I got about it. I had assumed that knowledge of these early forays into publishing were well known to the citadel community, but perhaps this is not the case. 

A quick buyers/collectors/general guide then? 

Why not!

I love these novels and stories. Yes they vary in quality (though that might be mere taste) but there is something about the books that still draw me back. Perhaps its the production values, which are, of course, very of our period. The books themselves are larger format than standard, there is a card insert with full colour artwork as a first page and the stories are illustrated throughout with line drawings by the likes of Ian Miller and Russ Nicholson. They smell nice and retro too...

I must confess, I haven't read them all! I own them all (thanks to eBay) but now that I think of it I couldn't lay my hands on them all at the moment. Just typing these words encourages my desire to get out into the garage and delve into my collection to uncover these gems once again. But that is for another day because its raining and I'd rather stay in the warm and type.


If I recall, this was the first of the Warhammer anthologies published back in October 1989 and I recently re-read (last summer actually) to provide inspiration for my return to retro gaming, painting and collecting. The stories are a mixed bunch and introduce some characters that are still with us today. Obviously, Geheimnisnacht is a classic that may of you may have heard of (or even read) in other places. The other stories may not be so well known. Three stand outs for me are; The Gardener in Parravon, due to its malign dreamy quality and its subtle exploration of chaos (in its original form), The Star Boat, for reasons explained below and The Laughter of Dark Gods, a tale that explored the more violent (and bizarre) side of chaos. 

Geheimnisnacht by William King, notable for being the earliest Gotrek and Felix story.
The Reavers and the Dead by Charles Davidson
The Other by Nicola Griffiths
Apprentice Luck by Sean Flynn
The Gardener in Parravon, by Brain Craig
The Star Boat by Steve Baxter, notable for including the 80s version of the Slann involved in a journey to the Chaos Wastes and never republished by the Black Library.
The Laughter of Dark Gods by William King
Ignorant Armies by Jack Yeovil

WOLF RIDERS NOVEMBER 1989 Status: Orlygg's read a single story.

The second anthology, published in November, was more of the same. Despite owning two copies of this book I have only read Wolf Riders and that was some time ago. A very popular story at the time if I recall. I cannot really comment further at this point. 

Wolf Riders by William King, notable for being the second Gotrek and Felix story
The Tilean Rat by Sandy Mitchell 
The Phantom of Yremy by Brian Craig 
Cry of the Beast by Ralph T. Castle 
No Gold in the Grey Mountains by  Jack Yeovil, notable for being a Genevieve the Vampire story.
The Hammer of the Stars by Pete Garratt, not republished by the Black Library.
Pulg's Grand Carnival by Simon Ounsley, not republished by the Black Library
The Way of the Witchfinder by Brian Craig, not republished by the Black Library

RED THIRST 1990 Status: Orlygg's read a single story.

This anthology was published in April 1990. Red Thirst is a brilliant story and I remember it vividly. Sadly, the only story that I have actually read from this book.

Red Thirst  by Jack Yeovil, notable for being a Genevieve the Vampire story.
The Dark Beneath the World  by William King, another Gotrek and Felix tale.
The Spells Below by Neil Jones 
The Light of Transfiguration by Brian Craig 
The Song  by Steve Baxter, never republished by the Black Library
The Voyage South by Nicola Griffiths, never republished by the Black Library


This was the first GW style book that I read. I remember being absolutely glued to it and devoured it over a weekend. The illustrations and presentation were really impressive and felt gorgeous to hold in the hand. Its a tale I have returned to time and time again, and one I enjoy. Ferring begins with the village in which Konrad lives, his relationship with Elyssa, his childhood friend and slowly builds up a sense of impending doom which is wickedly gripping as you wait in wonder at what is to occur. The chaos assualt on the village by the warped forces of chaos, in which Konrad plays a truly horrifying part, is my most vivid memory of anything I read as a child and did not disappoint with re-reading. Happily, I bought a mint condition copy on eBay last year! 


Excellent sequel to Konrad. Just as gripping as the original. Shadowbreed builds on the many unanswered questions left from the original.Enthralling and engaging throughout with some awe inspiring skirmishes and battles. The cliff hanger is just brilliant! You'll never see it coming! Or perhaps you will! Who knows?

WARBLADE, later published by Boxtree after the demise of Games Workshop Books, wrapped up the story with a rather ambigious ending that suggests further stories may have been planned but never produced. 


The castle of Zaragoz is a citadel where once justice reigned. But to the great misfortune of the land, an army comes to seize the castle and depose the duke--and take away the hope that justice would return. Orfeo, a wandering player, is plunged deep into a web of intrigue within the walls of Zaragoz where he struggles against the dark powers that threaten the Warhammer world.

A surprisingly grown up tale. No battles or 'Grimskullcrackersplitta' style characters of today. A good story, which is well written with actual believable characters. This tale centres of Orfeo himself (though he still, like in the other books, acts as a narrator for the action) and is set in the impregnable fortress of Zaragoz. Wizards, Semjazza being a suitably sinister example, clash and intrigues follow in this densely plotted opener to a great series of novels. Brain Craig is actually Brain Stapleford (ie; a proper author) and boy does it show when you compare this (and his other tales) with much of the dross the Black Library churns out these days. Recommended by Orlygg!


Brian Craig's second Orfeo novel is THE classic Warhammer Novel. The book centres on Harmis Detz, a soldier of the Border Princes who after surviving an attack on his fortified camp is swept along into a horrifying struggle against the plague-bearing forces of Chaos. Well-written, vivid and immediately engaging. The novel follows him and his companions on the trail of the Daemon, Ystareth, lost in its diseased wake. If the Daemon is the enemy within (ie: the worst that lies inside us all) the Zani, a primative tribe are the enemy without, a hungry group of nomadic people who assualt the kingdom from the outside. Caught between these two perils Harmis must decide whether to save his own soul or those of the entire Warhammer World.
After Zaragoz, Plague Daemon continues the themes of corruption and seduction by evil only this time that corruption turns towards the flesh. Instead of wizards blowing their minds and souls to Chaos, here innocent people are corrupted unwittingly by the Daemon. This makes the novel truly unsettling. Pregnant women give birth to mutated, tormented infants, while rotting, diseased beasts attack isolated strongholds. The pace never lets up until Harmis faces the impossible odds of combat with Ystareth, the Plague Daemon. I found nothing to fault in this novel, I read it in one go and deeply regretted finishing it. Excellent.


The king of the isle of Morien is dead, and now the new King Herla, a brave and powerful youth, must face his greatest challenge when an eldritch storm shipwrecks mysterious elves onto his shores. An ancient law forbids Herla from casting the elves back into the seas, so he accepts their presence and watches them carefully. But when accidents, thefts, violent slayings and unnatural disease spread across his land, Herla is up against the odds and about to discover the darkest secret of all

Not read this one. If I recall, its set in Albion, which would make it an interesting read to learn a little about that particular Warahmmer location.

DRACHENFELS OCTOBER 1989 STATUS: Orlygg's read it quite a few times!

Detlef Sierck, the self-proclaimed greatest playwright in the world, has declared that his next production will be a recreation of the end of the Great Enchanter Drachenfels - to be staged at the very site of his death, the Fortress of Drachenfels itself. But the castle's dark walls still hide a terrible secret which may make the opening night an evening to remember! Storming dark fantasy with the vampire femme-fatale Genevieve.

Astounding! A fantastic fantasy novel that transcends Warhammer itself. Brilliant. Read it. I'll say no more.

BEASTS IN VELVET MAY 1991 STATUS: Orlygg's not read it!

As a killer called "The Beast" stalks the Imperial capital of Altdorf, evidence points to members of the Imperial court. With the gruesome murders mounting, the disgraced watchman "Filthy" Harald Kleindeinst is reinstated for a single assignment: to stop the Beast's reign of terror and discover its true identity.

The follow up to Drachenfells. I really should get around to reading it.

Phew! Of course, there were more books published by Games Workshop Books. 40k and Dark Future related stuff but this blog is about Warhammer so I don't think that I'll mention them here. 

Well, I hope this contribution is useful to some! I really do recommend getting hold of these books (preferrably the first editions) if you are interested in early GW fictions. Essentially, these are 3rd Edition novels and short stories. If we are gaming with 3rd edition rules, using third edition miniatures and painting with 3rd edition paints; surely we should be reading 3rd edition books too, eh?

Before I leave, I'll direct you to this interesting article from Vector Magazine about the development of these novels and general GW history around the time of 3rd Edition. 


Vector Magazine Freedom in an Owned World.pdf by Attilla13


  1. Cheers for reminding me of the Konrad series!! I remember fondly getting it out from the school library when I was about 12 and it blowing my mind and at the time it being the darkest thing I had ever read. I didn't realize there was a third novel so will have to give that a try. I've just purchased all three of them on Amazon for under £2.

    1. I love the stories too. I was a similar age to you when I first read Konrad. The meeting between Konrad and the beastmen in the woods still haunts me- then he kills it a skins it before participating in the attack.

      Wonderful stuff!

  2. Read Beasts in Velvet! I think it's the best depiction of Altdorf I've ever read, and it's my favourite of all the GW inspired fiction past or present. It defined the Empire for me when I was a teenager. I borrowed the first edition from my local library countless times but they got rid of it, and I had to buy the inferior reprint. :-(

    I have a lot of GW/Boxtree/Black Library books, but my first edition anthologies are the most treasured. :-)

    1. Like I said, I have them all around here somewhere. I'm itching to get looking actually but the wife has too many 'jobs' for me at present. I never read 'Beasts' but if its anything as good as 'Drachenfels' it must be quite a read!

  3. Dammit - more stuff to track down from Amazon/Ebay!

    I do remember reading some excerpts from some of these stories that were printed in White Dwarf - my memory is a bit hazy but I definitely remember very much enjoying a passage from one of the Konrad novels.

    1. They were the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplements that gave character profiles for the major characters in I remember correctly. Well remembered!

  4. I might be wrong, but I think you missed out one of the stories in Ignorant Armies. The one with Johann von Mecklenburg and Vukotech out to rescue Wolf from the chaos warband of Cicitrice. My favorite story out of all the original Wrahammer Publications.

    1. You're right! Its Ignorant Armies itself! What a mistake to make, eh? Its the name of the bloody book!

      A quick edit should sort that out!

      Thanks eagle eyed viewer!

  5. I'm rather drunk, so I hope this makes sense. I started buying White Dwarf in early '89. I remember a short story (the excerpts that Thantsants mentioned) that appeared in one issue and it involved a fight against goblins near a river (in the Empire, I think)and one of the human combatants commented that the only way to kill a goblin was to stab it in the heart/brain or something similar. I've since wondered whether it was taken from one the short stories in Ignorant Armies/Red Thirst/Wolf Riders. Any help would make one sad old geek very happy! Great blog, by the way. Because of you I've bought (on Wednesday last) a copy of WFB third edition, so help me god.

    1. Hope you didn't suffer a major hangover there! I am wondering if you are referring to 'No Gold in the Grey Mountains' published in WD117 or the 'Magician's Son' from WD136? These are the only two longer stories published back in the day; of course there were many other shorter ones.

    2. A breathless laugh came from Muenchbeck. "It's hard to kill a goblin by hitting it on the head. They can fight with half their brain gone. Thanks for your help, comrade."

      That is indeed from The Magician's Son, by Barrington J. Bayley, in White Dwarf #136.

  6. And there I thought that said 'breasts in velvet...'

    I had no idea these things went as far back as the 80's. I always thought the black library was where the Warhammer World fiction started. Having consumed a few of those, I turned my back on them, finding more pleasure in the swallowing of broken glass.

    But, now that the pedigree has been explained, I'll keep an eye out for these things...

  7. Looks cool, I'll have to Ebay a couple of them. Does anyone know if there's a difference between the early editions and the Black Library ones?

    1. The early editions are vastly superior to the Black Library ones. They are a larger size and are lavishly illustrated throughout. Many of the stories were edited for BL release too - ret conning at its worst while some stories were never republished as they were totally against the GrimDraktm setting.

    2. That was what I was afraid of. I can take the lack of art and uglier covers, but retcons ... that just will not stand. Thanks mate :-)

  8. I remember a number of the characters from the novels were written up as Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay NPCs in early White Dwarfs as well...

  9. I was commissioned for various bits of artwork for these early books when Ian Miller was in charge, and later by John Blanche after Ian had gone. Not all of them were used.

  10. Ah, there are some titles that bring back memories! I owned (and read repeatedly) most of them as a lad, but sadly only Ignorant Armies and Drachenfels remain in my possession. If you weren't aware 'Jack Yeovil' is the nom de plume of SF&F writer and critic Kim Newman, making it rather less surprising just how excellent the novel is.

    Stephen Baxter published an essay on the history of GW books, which might be of interest:

  11. These books really inspired a great deal of things in me when I read them as a teenager... awesome nostalgia! I owned all these books in the first print editions when they first came out... and I thought that one of them contained a particular story I was looking to rediscover. However, Ive since obtained copies of all the above, yet still cannot find the tale in question. In the short story, a woman falls for a macabre but gentle mutant and eventually runs off to live with him. I think there they are hunted down in a classic torch and pitchfork style peasant mob, yet manage to escape. The story was written in the style of a fable or folktale... but I'm left scratching my head now as to whether or not it was even Warhammer at all? Maybe it was in either Lost and the Damned or Slaves to Darkness... or even an issue (late 80's/early 90's) of White Dwarf.... Would really appreciate any clues at all !!!

  12. It doesn't ring any bells with me I am afraid. though there are lots of little stories in Lost and the Damned like you said, perhaps it is one of those?

  13. Bizarre... its not in either of the Realm of Chaos tomes, thanks though. Must have been all of that fine Halfling weed around at the time. Cant find any hint of it anywhere on t'internet.

  14. I've read all the Jack Yeovil stories, and they are well worth the read, if you can't get all the various books seperately, pick up the collected edition from Black Library, though that too is out of print.

    Konrad was my second book I read for warhammer, and I seem to recall reading the Ignorent Armies as a kid as well, I would love to have read the rest, still might yet.

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