I love reading. I love horror. I love Warhammer.
You can imagine my face when I 'calmly unwrapped' a present on Christmas morning and found this beauty staring back at me.
Black Library's new Warhammer Horror line caught my eye from the very first newsletter, but Maledictions was my first chance to check it out up close. (You should see the size of my TBR pile — now that's horror.)
More than anything else, I was intrigued to find out how BL was positioning these stories, in terms of distinguishing them from the hundreds of other, often horrifying, tales set across their various universes. Horror comes in so many flavours already — which of those were BL identifying with, and were they frightening?
Interestingly, they went right ahead and called this out in the first sentence of the blurb:
Horror is no stranger to the dark worlds of Warhammer. Its very fabric is infested with the arcane, the abnormal and the downright terrifying. From the cold vastness of the 41st millennium to the creeping evil at large in the Mortal Realms, this anthology of short stories explores the sinister side of Warhammer in a way like never before. Psychological torment, visceral horrors, harrowing accounts of the supernatural and the nightmares buried within, this collection brings together a grim host of tales to chill the very blood...
With everything from 'psychological torment' and 'visceral horrors' to the 'supernatural' mentioned, I was fully expecting a Quality Street approach the styles and flavours of horror contained within. (Shotgun the purple hazelnut.) Boxing Day was the perfect opportunity to stick the kettle on and sink my teeth into the book. (Anything but more turkey...)
What did I think?
I wasn't disappointed. The collection opened with a strong entry in 'Nepenthe' by Cassandra Khaw, and my eyes lit up when I read the words 'space hulk' beside one another — a real Ghost of Christmas Past, reminding me of what must have been one of my first impressions of Warhammer as a small child (a time when I saw Genestealers as nothing more than purple space aliens — ignorance is bliss!)
True to its word, horror comes in all kinds of varieties, with the distinguishing take (for me) being the emphasis on the character and emotion of more relatable protagonists over the God-level special characters and epic battles we often see in BL's traditional lines. We're looking out at the world through the eyes of widows in small fishing towns and sewer guards lost in the dark, even a young dryad, witnessing the horror of battle for the first time. There are twists aplenty, serving to bring the reader back to the true horrors being explored across the stories, and an attention to the darker side of realms, races, and settings that are perhaps overshadowed by Chaos and Death in the mainstream narrative.
"I smashed the collection in a couple of days. Between Christmas dinners, bottles of rum, and an excruciating game of family Monopoly, that says everything it needs to about how much I enjoyed Maledictions."
My favourite story?
The one that's really stuck in my head is 'A Darksome Place' by BL legend Josh Reynolds. I won't spoil it for you but it ticked a lot of boxes for me — the atmosphere, the mystery, the revelation (which wasn't over-explained, preserving much of the strangeness and wonder while giving just enough away to produce that 'aha!' moment), and some beautifully descriptive writing meant this one planted some firm roots in my mind.
If you have any questions about the book or you want to compare good ol' fashioned notes, drop me a message!
Haven't read it yet? Order a copy, turn down the lights, and dive in...