In mankind’s distant future there is only war. Welcome to the world of WARHAMMER 40,000; a time flung so far into the future that the past has long been shrouded in legend. The human empire spans the universe but is assaulted on every front by demons, aliens, and the followers of evil gods. The Emperor is immobile, only kept alive by ancient machines created in the Dark Age of Technology. Our survival depends on his constant vigilance and the command of his vast armies. The greatest of the Emperor’s soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines; and the Space Wolves Chapter of the Space Marines consists of barbarian warriors recruited from the primitive world of Fenris, selected for their prowess in battle. If they live through the brutal training regimen and survive the tests, they then drink from the Cup of Wulfen. This mutates the warriors with a beast-like spirit. If their bodies accept the savage transformation and they can learn to exist with the primal nature without it dominating their soul, they are suited up with high tech battle amour and accepted as one of the Space Wolves.
Space Wolf is the first of the series and is the story of how Ragnar came to be one of the legendary Space Wolves. The book begins with Ragnar receiving a life-threatening wound in battle. As he sinks into unconsciousness, Ragnar recalls his life before and how he came to be one of the elite Space Wolves.
RPGs are not my thing, but I love the premise of Warhammer. Both WH and WH40K describe a world on the brink of total annihilation. Mankind is ruled by the Emperor, which was once a man who ascended to become a god. He’s by no means a loving ruler. He’s cruel, sometimes unjustly so, but his power is all that keeps the hordes of Chaos at bay.
Overall, Space Wolf is a pretty good read for what it is. Mr. King’s delving into the psyche of a recruit going through the harsh training to become a soldier is realistic enough that I suspect he has some military experience himself. But the most interesting aspect of Space Wolf is the premise of plunging a Viking-like warrior into a far-future, military sci-fi adventure.
Warhammer players already have a passion for this world, so Space Wolf is sure to be fun for them. For me, it’s something I would’ve enjoyed a lot more when I was around fifteen years old. There’s plenty of combative violence, pack mentality (literally, because of the wolfish mutation), chest-beating, and dreams of glory in battle. Admittedly, I still have enough teenager left in me that I had a good time with all those things. However, with thirty years of reading since I really was an adolescent, much of what I’d have eaten up about Space Wolf back then is now cliché or just too familiar.
In all fairness to King, even though I’ve seen nothing that states the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K books to be YA, their target audience is the people who play the game. I don’t think I’d be going too far out on a limb to say that equates to a readership that largely consists of teenage males. With that in mind, King is doing an awesome job of writing fun stories that appeal to his readers — and he still managed to entertain this 40-something teenage male too.