As we close out 2019, it’s time to reflect upon the best books we read. If you follow the podcast, you know we read a lot of books, and we even handed out awards for the best of the book club. But we both read a lot of books outside of that as well. (You guys, we’ve read a lot of books). It’s only fair that we take a moment to recognize the best books we read this year both in and out of the book club list.
Jen’s Top 5
If I had to pick a theme for 2019 for me, outside of the book club, it would be All Horror, All the Time. I am over-the-moon excited about the Warhammer Horror line. I also discovered that Necromunda can be a lot of fun. And Chris Wraight taught me to love again with a Primarch book. It’s been a wild year for me, as a fan.
There is an art to fan service, and Dan Abnett is a master. The Unremembered Empire manages to tie together countless plot threads and characters into one cohesive narrative that successfully answers the questions “What is that one person up to,” and “Where the heck is Guilliman during the whole rift storm?”
I am an unabashed sucker for haunted house stories. I love the moody atmosphere, the slow burn of dread, and the sensation of reality slipping away. Haunted houses prey upon our bases fears and this book is a thesis statement for how well the genre fits into WH40k. There is no blood or guts or jump scares in this book, and that’s why it works so well.
OK it’s a little weird to include an anthology (it’s only three stories!) but this was such a fantastic first step out of the gate. The three stories weave into one narrative and it brings together two of the Black Library’s rising stars (Reynolds and Kelly), along with the more established Annandale. Each author brings their own flavor/brand of horror, meaning there’s something for everyone.
I love ensemble pieces and sieges, so it should come as little surprise that Josh Reynolds’ Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty made it to my top 5. The book is nonstop action and one of the funnest things I read all year. I laughed a lot throughout and found a bevy of new minor characters to love and obsess over (it’s kind of my “thing”). I closed the cover to this book wanting more, immediately.
This might be a surprising pick, given that I’ve been so down and negative about the Primarchs series on the whole. But I have been unable to stop thinking about this book since I read it. Not only does it finally showcase, in all of its glorious excess, the battle between Lion El’Jonson and Leman Russ, it helped me better understand a primarch I thought I understood quite well. It’s well-written, it’s fun, and it enhances Russ in my eyes so much. I loved this book.
Keri’s Top 5
Do I have a theme for this first year of the Book Club? If I did, I suppose it would be a learning theme, so maybe Magnus-esque? I feel like so many books we read for the Book Club or for the Primarch Pilgrimage required background information or they inspired me to acquire background information. I’d learn about one thing, so I’d have to research it to learn more. Like Magnus, I want to know everything about everything in this universe, just without the bargains with Tzeentch.
Out of every other book in the massive Horus Heresy, Fulgrim by Graham McNeill was one that should have had zero surprises for me. I knew that Fulgrim would fall to Slaanesh. I knew Fulgrim would kill his best friend. I knew from the first two books that the Emperor’s Children were arrogant scum. The only reason why I bothered to read it was because I decided to read through the Horus Heresy. Even though I knew all of this, Fulgrim‘s story hit me surprisingly hard. When Fulgrim delivered the killing blow to Ferrus, I wiped tears. Watching Fulgrim slowly turn was gut-wrenching. Even though the Emperor’s Children are still awful, awful Astartes, it’s hard to read this novel and not feel sorry for them. Fulgrim affected me the most out of any book I read this year.
After reading about Ferrus Manus in Fulgrim, I had to learn more about him. He honestly cracked me up with his brutal honesty, especially when critiquing Fulgrim’s attempts at painting. His primarch novel wasn’t mind-blowing and didn’t provide any new insight to his character, but I greatly enjoyed it just for his reactions and attitudes toward his brothers. Everything and everyone, except for Fulgrim, seem to always put him out. Well, he also relishes the thought of “rescuing” his brothers’ sons from a bad compliance attempt, but that’s probably because it’s one thing he can lord over them later. He’s such a gruffy guy, and I’ll never stop giggling over his thoughts about Robby G.
Legion was another Horus Heresy novel where I assumed I knew what it was going to be about. Something something, I am Alpharius, something something betrayal. Hahahahaha I had no clue, which is exactly how the Alpha Legion wanted it. I was so captivated by the 20th Legion that I read this entire book in one day. It’s also what has made me an Alpha Legion apologist. They are really Loyalist, dammit!
I didn’t review this one for the site, because I read it earlier in 2019. I’ve made it no secret that I love the Ultramarines and their Chapter Master in particular. Graham McNeill’s Uriel Ventris series brought him to my attention and made him endearing, but it was Paul Kearney’s Space Marines Battles novel that planted me firmly in #TeamMarnie. Marneus Calgar is an absolute treasure to the Ultramarines Chapter, and Robby G should really be nicer to him.
Grey Knights: Sons of Titan
This is another book I read earlier in the year. Once again, it was McNeill’s Uriel Ventris series that introduced me to the Grey Knights chapter, which made me want to learn more about them. When I attended my Warhammer Citadel’s Black Library Celebration, I saw that David Annandale wrote a Grey Knights novel and that was that. It’s also my first time seeing Ku’gath, when he was rather terrifying and not so melancholy. If you have a passing interest in Grey Knights, ork battles, some badass retired military, and inquisitor in-fighting, pick this book up.