War Storm is the first full-length book in the Age of Sigmar fiction line from Black Library, and a direct sequel to the introductory novella, The Gates of Azyr. It’s a collection of three short novellas itself, by BL alums Nick Kyme, Guy Haley and Josh Reynolds, published back in early August last year.
The first story follows Vandus Hammerhand from the last book as he attempts to secure another gate from the bloody hands of a Chaos warband. Turns out this gate, the Gate of Wrath, is in the centre of a Chaos fortress held by none other than Korgos Khul, who evidently survived the slaughter of the Brimstone Peninsula as described in the last book! The Hammerhands split their forces, one group going after a bastion in the woods under the command of the Lord-Relictor Ionus Cryptborn, while the others follow Vandus in assaulting the main fortress. Along the way, Vandus meets up with a fellow Hammers of Sigmar Lord-Celestant, Jactos Goldenmane, and the two assault the fortress with disastrous results.
This story follows the Gates of Azyr very closely, and I feel that the two are both quite bland in their descriptions of the realm. We learn little about the Stormcast Eternals, save for they clearly have different companies within the same Stormhost, and there is something up with them being able to remember their past lives despite being reforged by Sigmar. We get some further characterization of the golden men, particularly the Lord-Relictor, and we begin to see more personality come through from other soldiers, notably the Retributor-Prime, Theodrus. I mentioned in my blog about the novella the parallels between Stormcast and Space Marines, in terms of the fighting structures etc, and we’re beginning to see some of the different warriors fleshed out in similar manner to the 40k novels – hopefully we’ll see a move from the Lord-Celestants to all types of warriors! I’m particularly interested in seeing more of the Paladins and the Prosecutors, at any rate.
The lack of depth to the setting is still unsettling here, at any rate.
The second story moves to the Celestial Vindicators, the sixth Stormhost of the “first forging”. Already, this manages to bring quite a lot of depth to the story, I found, as we see some lore begin to form behind the different groups of Stormcast Eternals. Rather than the usual Khorne followers, we also have a sorcerer of Tzeentch as the antagonist, which further helps to bridge the gap with the Old World, and add some much-needed variety to the storyline. The story follows the teal-armoured warriors as they search Chamon, the Realm of Metal, for signs of the duardin (that’s dwarfs for the rest of us).
I found this a really interesting story, not least because of the world-building given to us here. Chamon is a weird place, with land floating about the place, and literal rivers of metal. But it’s entirely appropriate for a Tzeentch-centric story. The way Thostos Bladestorm, the Lord-Celestant we follow this time, is built up is also interesting – we see him as a mortal, at the moment Sigmar selected him for his army. The world Thostos used to live in was one overrun by Beastmen, and it would have been nice to have seen more of that, or at least to get more of the history of the realms pre-Chaos. Currently, the Age of Sigmar setting is basically a generic landscape of isolated villages that have been ransacked by Chaos, and that’s all we know. I know the setting isn’t yet a year old, but it would be nice to have seen more of this already. (Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, though – this is only book one, after all!)
Finally, we have a story of the Hallowed Knights (from audio drama fame) and Astral Templars defending the Ghyrtract Fen from the hordes of Nurgle. The story has a few twists and turns, including one near the end that I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say it was pretty interesting! I’m not a big fan of Nurgle-centric stories, as I find the endless descriptions of pus-filled buboes a bit much after a couple of pages. It was interesting to meet a couple more Stormhosts, and we also got to see some dryads and treemen in action, so that was cool.
This collection is pretty decent if you want to see the story from Gates of Azyr continued. Each of the three stories is set around a Chaos god (now that Slaanesh remains MIA), and is short enough, if you don’t particularly enjoy that god then you don’t have long to go before there’s another. They are still a little bland, though there are the beginnings of a wider universe for the Age of Sigmar setting that has me interested more so than the first novella. For me, the central tale was undoubtedly the best, and seems to set up the second book, Quest for Ghal Maraz – which I’ll no doubt be getting to shortly!