Book Reviews: Heldenhammer & Grudge Bearer

These reviews mark our first forays into the Black Library, novels based in the Warhammer universe. We hope to read quite a few to help us, and perhaps others, get a taste of the rich world the game draws lore from.

Heldenhammer by Graham McNeill

At the heart of the Old World lie the lands of men, ruled over by bickering tribal chieftains.

Set in the time of legends, hundreds of years before the Age of Reckoning, this is the story of Sigmar Heldenhammer, young chieftain of the Unberogen tribe. We follow the epic tale of how he fulfils his vision to unite the warring tribes of his homeland into a single empire. Yes, this is the same Sigmar who is currently worshipped as a god by the men and women of the Empire.

As well as uniting the disparate tribes by means involving diplomacy, wild sex (yes really), and monster slaying, he finds time to pick up a magic hammer from the dwarf king, acquire and lose a love interest, exchange smalltalk with his shield brother, and deal with a traitor who was once a trusted friend. Finally, in order to repel a massive greenskin assault, Sigmar must call on the sword-oaths which the other tribal leaders have sworn to him and lead the men of the Empire to fight alongside the stalwart dwarf army at the Battle of Black Fire Pass.

With all these epic adventurings, there isn’t a lot of time for character development so don’t expect anything deep here. The battle scenes are exciting and well described, and the atmosphere of the savage warring human tribes is convincing. If you’re interested in the history of the Empire and their alliance with the Dwarfs, it’s not a bad way to pass a few hours.

Grudge Bearer by Gav Thorpe

This gold Barundin had dubbed dammazgromthi-umigugalaz, which meant gold that he found particularly pleasing and beautiful because it was from the man grudge

My first foray into Warhammer literature was the book Grudge Bearer by Gav Thorpe, published in 2005. Obviously, from the title, it’s a dwarf-centric book and deals with the life and grudges of King Barundin of Zhufbar as he goes from grudge to grudge, settling each in turn as dwarf life and lore dictates so he can finally seek vengeance over his father’s betrayal.

It’s better written than I thought a game-related book would be, and it definitely gave me a ton of insight into dwarf society and got me quite excited by it all. I loved that the book was divided into grudges, and I felt that it was a great book to start with for some hearty dwarf-lore and setting. From the connection between dwarfs and gold to the strict order of carrying out grudges, and the importance of both the Engineers’ Guild and beer, I learned a lot.

Ironbreakers, Hammerers, Skaven, Greenskins and the Empire all made appearances and there was a particularly icky battle scene between Dwarfs and Skaven inside an old Dwarf mine which definitely gave a sense of what’s to come in WAR. So I’d say a damn good place to start if you fancy playing a Dwarf and want a short, easy-to-read intro into the setting.


15 Responses

  1. Nice review, I’ll definitively check both those books out after I finish reading Grotek and Felix: The first omnibus. Grotek and Felix will be making an appearance in WAR when Altdorf reaches level 5 status and I can’t wait to see them in-game.

    One thing about the book I will say is that it has dragged me over from the dark side to the the dwarf side. I was dead set on playing a greenskin before I read the book but the epic characters have changed my mind. Something about a Trollslayer with a fire orange mohawk and a rune-axe seeking an epic death to redeem hiself sounds so awsome.

  2. I really want to read the Grotek and Felix books, I think spinks has some of them so will probably nick them off her when she’s read them!

  3. Yup, I’m reading Gortrek and Felix at the moment, and it’s GREAT! I’m really really enjoying it. If it wasn’t a warhammer novel, people would be calling it one of the best swords and sorcery books ever written, I really think!

    Plus it has a FEMALE chaos chosen.

  4. Read Heldenhammer and totally agree with you. Was a fun romp though and was nice to see Sigmar in action. Hoping the next couple of books in the trilogy will develop the story into a more recognisable empire.

    When looking for books for background I was strongly directed to the Gaunts Ghosts novels by Dan Abnett. While these are set in the 40k universe instead of AoRs world they are some of the most entertaininga ction novels I have read with amazing character development. You really grow to love them.

  5. Ah, I avoided those so far because of being 40k. Might take a look in the library and see if I can grab some.

  6. I can understand that. I was similarly reticent but very glad I started them. On to the second omnibus now.

    The first contains 3 books with the first 2 introducing you to the chraracters and the third is where it really takes off. The men of the ‘First and Only’ are the kind of chracters I hope I can one day create myself, flawed, charismatic and ultimately human.

    What is your fave book by the way? Would be interested in some Book of Grudges reccomendations 🙂

  7. Warhammer-related or generally? ;p

  8. Generally 🙂 I have very broad tastes. Like your writing so just interested in what you read.

  9. Right, back to books (gap was my work time, bah!). I like a lot of fantasy/sci fi stuff, some of it quite lightweight but including: L E Modesitt’s Order series, Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth books, Tolkein’s works, Gormenghast and Iain Banks (with M and without). I also like Neil Gaiman, but his comics more than his novels.

    Other than that I like a wide range, I studied English Lit so am as likely to be reading a classic as something newer. In fact, I read very little modern fiction that isn’t sci fi/fantasy. My fave read last year was Slaughterhouse Five, which I’d been meaning to read for ages!

  10. Good stuff, although it appears most of the Warhammer books are primarily from the Order side. Be nice if they had more from the Destruction side as well. I think I might see if I can find The Blackhearts Omnibus. Looks like it’s still from the Order side but is a little darker than the other books. Or maybe even the Darkblade series from the Dark Elf perspective.

    BTW if you haven’t noticed on the Black Library site, you can also order Gortek & Felix t-shirts as well (although they appear to be B&W only on grey shirts).

  11. I have at least 1 Darkblade book but have started with Order, to be honest.

    Picked up a Gaunts Ghosts one at my work today 🙂 But it won’t be top of my list.

  12. I read a fan fiction in one of the WAR newsletters. It was from the perspective of a squig herder and it was very interesting but I wonder if Warhammer greenskins are to dumb to have their own novel.

    I’ve never liked elves so I highly doubt I would read a book about them.

    Choas seems to be the most logical army to have a deep, interesting novel about them especially after reading the chapter in Gotrek and Felix about the female Chaos Champion of the Chaos God, Khorne.

  13. Ah my degree is in English Lit too and my masters in in E-Publishing. I have very eclectic tastes too from high fantasy to crime drama and books with a philospohical stint like Sophies World.

    What is this job that kept you away? Hope you will enjoy Gaunts Ghosts. I would hate to lead you astray!

  14. I work in a library (thus picking up books while at work ;p).

    Might review a more Chaos-y book next time!

  15. I would love to work in a library. Gonna be at work all night at this rate which sucks royally.

    I am desperate to work at an industry magazine like sfx or even for Black Library. Right now I am Assistant producer at and Event Management firm.

    Would like to know more about chaossy books 🙂 Magus imagery has spike my interest. Caster is fancy armour ❤

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