The Space Wolf Omnibus by William King – Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews The Space Wolf Omnibus¸ published by Black Library and written by William King.
“Epic action-packed encounters. The adventures of Ragnar Blackmane are among King’s best work.”~The Founding Fields
Warning! This review contains minor spoilers!
William King has quickly become one of my favourite authors, especially after reading The First Gotrek and Felix Omnibus, and due to the fact that I’m a huge Space Wolf fan, I could hardly give this one a miss. So naturally, with a two-week holiday on the way with no distractions of the Internet, I brought the first Omnibus with the intention of finishing it over that period.
And finish it I did. Containing the novels Space Wolf, Ragnar’s Claw and Grey Hunter, William King’s portrayal of the Space Wolves is completely different to that of Dan Abnett and Chris Wraight, who gave us Prospero Burns and Battle of the Fang respectively. These are the insane, blood-drunk space Vikings of old, with no mention of the words Vlka and Fenryka, the term used to describe Space Wolves in the two books previously mentioned, or of the Rout, another unofficial Abnett invented term.
Needless to say, I enjoyed this Omnibus, and will pick up the second when and where I can. The First Space Wolf Omnibus could be used as an introduction to Warhammer 40k, as you learn the way that Ragnar Blackmane, the protanagists of these novels, learns, and soon you’ll find yourself deeply overwhelmed in the Space Wolf culture, the banter between Ragnar and his fellow pack members, and, the character tension that was brought up between Blackmane and another member of the pack.
The trials and induction to the ranks of the Space Wolves are explored upon in this novel, as one really understands what a warrior of Fenris has to through to be a son of Leman Russ. The Combat is well-written, as King is unafraid to unleash the action throughout the books. In the first book, entitled Space Wolf, we watch as Ragnar is recruited into the ranks of the Wolves. In a sense, if Ragnar Blackmane was a superhero, this would be called Ragnar Blackmane: Origins, as it looks how the Space Marine became the legend that Games Workshop put him across to be.
And there’s the thing really. Because, if you are well-versed in Space Wolf lore (IE, you own the Codex), you will know whether Blackmane lives or dies, which really robs the story of its suspense. It’s like, in a sense – watching X-Men: First Class and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, after watching the original X-Men Trilogy, if you get what I mean. You know who’ll be there at the end.
But nonetheless, I found this book enjoyable, and the price you pay for the Omnibus is also quite satisfying, for £10.99, you get three novels which would normally have cost you either £6.99 or £7.99 depending on which edition you buy, where you buy it from, each.
Throughout the omnibus though, there are a few errors that reflect its age, like the Tyranids being described as present in the Great Crusade, which in fact, in the ‘current’ WH40K lore, they arrived a good while afterwards.
Whereas Space Wolf looks at the inductions of Ragnar to the ranks of the Sons of Russ, Ragnar’s Claw, part two in the series, looks at the astartes as a full Space Wolf (although still a young one, in the guise of a Blood Claw, which is the Space Wolves term for those who have just been recruited, and have passed their tests.
The final book in the Space Wolf series, named Grey Hunter is told from an older, more experienced Ragnar, as he looks back on his final battle as a Blood Claw. who has to defend one of the Space Wolves’ most sacred relic, which has come under attack from a Chaos fleet.
However, The Space Wolf Omnibus is no Gotrek and Felix, and this is made clear as King fails to put across Blackmane as how he should have been portrayed, a great, noble warrior – and puts an extremist naysayer, in his place. Sure, Ragnar is a great warrior as well, but that’s just it. He’s a naysayer, bringing his light-hearted, overambitious packmates down-to-earth to remind them of the grim darkness of the ‘reality’ that they live in… Every single time. And I don’t know about you, but it gets annoying after a while.
The characterization as the wolves of immature space Vikings isn’t one I preferred before the book, and at the end of the omnibus, although I do view them higher than I had done before, something in me still prefers the newer portrayal of the Chapter of Leman Russ.
The pacing is relatively the same throughout the entire omnibus, starting off with events that happen sometime in the ‘present’, (with the exception of Ragnar’s Claw), and going back to retell the events that have happened in the ‘past’, and then has various scenes of action throughout the novels with individual breaks in-between where the pacing cools down a bit.
More Space Wolves Action: Space Wolf, Ragnar’s Claw, Grey Hunter, Wolfblade, Sons of Fenris, Wolf’s Honour (All but the last two novels are by William King. The last two novels are by Lee Lightner.)