Sacrosanct and other stories – Review
This must be my first foray into the Age of Sigmar literature. Before Warhammer Age of Sigmar, there was Warhammer Fantasy and I, like any true novices, know nothing about that either. So what is “Sacrosanct and other stories”? It is an anthology of short stories centered on, well, the worlds and characters living in the world of the Age of Sigmar.
The Age of Sigmar literature started with the Realmgate Wars Saga, which is unanimously not recommended because it acts as an introduction of models and campaign of the tabletop game, called, of course, Age of Sigmar. There are some short stories in this book that relate to that era and events, and not surprisingly, are my least favorite. There are so dull that I understand why Age of Sigmar managed to upset all the fans of the Warhammer Fantasy at release. The game was not yet fully formed and even the narrative couldn’t hold a candle against the shadow of what Warhammer Fantasy had been before. (Again, it’s not my personal opinion as I discovered this setting relatively recently and I have yet to read any volume of Warhammer Fantasy.)
Sacrosanct and Age of Sigmar
But AoS is not so bad, after all – judging only from this volume of short stories. There is plenty to like here, from the imaginative fantasy settings to the weird Stormcast Eternals copied straight from Space Marines of 40K.
I particularly enjoyed the bloodthirsty vampire stories in this world, and the weird interconnected realms (which at first I thought was just a gimmick to replicate the many planets in a galaxy from 40K).
What I think now is that the Age of Sigmar is potentially big enough to cover many stories. This flexibility is what will allow continuous growth while catering to people with varied tastes.
Without any further ado, I’ll present the stories I liked and then the stories which fall short of my expectations (mostly compared with the good stories in this volume, lacking other relevant references.)
The Dance of the skulls by David Annandale
When I was building my list of reading in Warhammer 40K, readers were all in agreement regarding David Annandale as one of the weakest authors of the Black Library. Yet, what I found here was different. The Dance of the Skulls was one of the shining pieces of literature in this volume. Sure, it was not deep, but it was entertaining and captured perfectly the mood of heartless vampires with a penchant for blood. There’s also a lot of blood. A lot. And probably the most gruesome story in this story. And I liked it best.
A Dirge of Dust and Steel by Josh Reynolds
To my shame, I remember only a little about this story. (I’ve read it a few months before writing this piece) I only remembered I liked Josh Reynolds’s writing style and the Stormcast Eternals in this story had more soul and development than in the others here.
Callis and Toll: The Old Ways by Nick Horth
It was an interesting read, setting the mood of vampire hunters (I know the main characters are witch hunters, but nevertheless, a good mood is a good mood). There are some mysteries, intrigue, and some world-building, but the twist is not as surprising as it should be. Disappointing, but still enjoyable.
Shiprats by C.L. Werner
Another good story with plenty of humor and action. The first half is way better than the last half, once the mystery is solved and battles abound. Also, flying ships that kind of make sense. AoS is truly full of potential.
Auction of Blood by Josh Reynolds
One of the best short stories that detail the world of magic artifacts in this world, the secret underground, and finally, interesting characters that I’d wish to revisit someday.
The sands of Grief by Guy Haley
This one seems like it’s part of a longer story. Lots of descriptions. The ending hints at something larger and at more adventures, while the beginning hints at something that happened before. Usually, I don’t care for stories that feel like a fragment of a novel, but this one has enough character development and plot to justify its length. It’s that type of story where the hero needs to acquire something to use in a greater scheme. Alas, the greater scheme, it’s in the other book or story yet to be published.
The Volturung Road by Guy Haley
A novella that has an interesting first longer half. It’s about the life of Fyreslayers (some kind of dwarfs), their struggles and battles against chaos (first part), and their quest for a new home (in the second half). I have to say the first part is the better one. We have some mystery, some intrigue, and some unexpected betrayals. The second part is a standard battle quest. Nevertheless, it was really enjoyable and felt like reading a novel. The characters are interesting enough and the plot, while simple in the second half, has a nice conclusion.
The following two stories are way too long for what they offer, but if you’re new to the series, they provide some well-needed background for some factions. The eponymous Sacrosanct presents the Stormcast Eternals and what they represent, battling against the enemies from the underworld (Nagash). I felt I was reading a presentation on the miniature models and what their role is in a campaign battle. Which explains my dissatisfaction with this as a piece of fiction.
The Witch Takers
The other story, The Witch Takers by C.L. Werner, is shorter and follows a couple of hunters of the Order of Azyr. They track a relic of the dark Blood God with the power to drive people mad and encounter massacres along the way. The occasional banter is enjoyable, but the story proceeds as expected. Very predictable.
And the rest of the stories
Now onto the stories I simply cannot recommend to anyone. Surprisingly or not, they are all part of the Realmgate Wars Saga, before the Age of Sigmar became what it is today, when (possibly) the authors received little direction but not a lot of freedom of expression.
The Prisoner of the Black Sun by Josh Reynolds, Great Red by David Guymer, and Wrathspring by Gav Thorpe present the continuous war of different factions against the forces of Chaos. I’m still confused if this is the same chaos from 40K. These stories are battle after battle, with characters that come and go, with zero character development, and extremely simple plots (just fight or survive).
Sacrosanct and other stories – Conclusion
All in all, I liked in varying degrees all the stories of what is Age of Sigmar today. I purposely ignored the Realmsgate Wars. This volume is a fantastic anthology of short stories set in the world of Age of Sigmar. They are, if not deep, at least a very enjoyable high fantasy with a drop of grimdark.
What do you think? Did you read this book? What was your first meeting with the Age of Sigmar?