- A Standalone Novel
- Focuses on Rogue Traders
- Published by Black Library in 2022
- Grimdark SF
- 293 pages
The Imperium has been ripped in half. As the Great Rift splits the galaxy, those who traverse the stars must face unprecedented challenges. Challenges that come not only from without, but within their own ranks . . .
Rogue Traders have been a part of the Warhammer 40,000 universe since the very beginning. Not so much as a faction in the table top wargame, but in the lore. There they are, nestled in the corners, but occasionally stepping out to be front and centre. These scrappy free traders have seen their popularity wax and wane over the years, but along the way there have been miniatures, board games, roleplaying games, and audio dramas. Yet when it comes to novels, pickings can be awfully thin. Andy Hoare’s mid-2000s Rogue Trader trilogy is one example, with the only modern counterpart I’m aware of being Darius Hinks’ Blackstone Fortress duology, which tie in to the board game of the same name.
Void King marks the first true Rogue trader novel in a long time, and brings the archetype kicking and screaming into the modern timeline of the Warhammer universe, complete with messages from Guilliman and the presence of the Great Rift. Though it’s not directly part of the Era Indomitus storyline, it nestles in nicely with the larger ongoing narrative. At the same time, though, it’s a standalone tale that can easily be read on its own.
One thing that has continually impressed me with Black Library’s releases over the past couple of years is how much they can pack into a standalone story. These books are usually in the 300-400 page range, but there’s a whole lot going on in here. Take Void King for example. Whereas previous Rogue Trader novels have focused on the zany adventures and action scenes, Void King is more interested in the house-based politics of Trader dynasties. That means there are various factions to keep track of, with motivations both known and withheld. In the hands of some authors, this would all be the setup for a long-running series of novels and spin-offs and TV adaptations and so on and so on.
Happily, Collins keeps things lean. In under three hundred pages, he introduces all the major players, kills off a couple, sets up a larger threat, and throws in a couple of betrayals for good measure. In amongst all of that, there’s plenty of character development (for heroes and villains alike) and, of course, plenty of action. There’s plenty in here that I’d have liked to see more of, but nothing feels underutilised. Any number of characters in here could be the protagonist of their own story (short or otherwise), but for Void King each one is perfectly designed to serve their purpose. And honestly, it’s the sign of good author that characters feel like they have a life beyond the page.
Void King is yet another reminder of how strong the current crop of Black Library authors is. If you’re looking for a way into the new era of Warhammer 40,000, there are much worse places to start.
Click here for an interview with Marc Collins
Deeper Dive: Science Fantasy Space Travel
Science fantasy is a part of the genre I don’t really get on with, but for Warhammer 40,000 I am willing to make an exception. One of the things Void King does particularly well is showcase the uniqueness of space travel in the grim dark future. In order to achieve faster than light travel, ships fly through the Warp, which is essentially Hell. There are literal demons in there.
Along with Mike Brooks recent Rites of Passage, Void King takes this ridiculous concept and runs with it. If you face demons, and the chance of being mutilated and/or devoured with every journey, how does that affect your state of mind? With the level of paranoia that must induce, perhaps it’s no wonder that Rogue traders are always at each others’ throats.
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