Guardians and Sorcerers in Black Library fiction

With new codexes for both the Adeptus Custodes and the Thousand Sons on the way, we figured you might want to learn more about these forces and their place in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. So we’re going to take a quick look at their appearances in Black Library fiction, giving you some perfect starting points to discover the secrets of these factions.

We’ll start with the Adeptus Custodes. They have their origins in the time before the Great Crusade, when the Emperor conquered Terra. While that era hasn’t been covered in fiction (yet…), the Custodian Guard did have a part to play in the Horus Heresy series. They make appearances in both ‘The First Heretic’ and ‘Prospero Burns’, sent out to watch the Word Bearers and ensure Magnus’ defeat respectively. Meanwhile, ‘The Outcast Dead’ shows them on Terra itself, hunting escaped prisoners from the Traitor Legions.

They’re also the focus of a number of short stories. Dan Abnett’s ‘Blood Games’ depicts the elaborate training missions the Custodes use to stay sharp, while ‘Hands of the Emperor’ sees a day in the life of a Shield-Captain – a most unusual day. Most recently, ‘Magisterium’ saw the much-reduced Custodes trying to find their place in the defence of Terra after the Webway War, and ‘Dreams of Unity’ features a Custodian in a different way. Both of these stories were released as part of 2017’s Advent Calendar.

And what of the Webway War itself? It was covered in Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s ‘The Master of Mankind’, which delves into the Custodes like never before, as they fight against the numberless hordes of Chaos in defence of the Emperor’s great experiment. It’s essential reading for any fan of the golden-armoured heroes.

Also essential are a pair of tales in the further future by Chris Wraight. ‘The Carrion Throne’ and ‘The Emperor’s Legion’ are both set on Terra in the 41st Millennium. The former sees the Custodes through the eyes of an Inquisitor hunting down a conspiracy on the Throneworld, while the latter covers the events of the Gathering Storm from a Terran perspective – including the invasion of Terra itself by the forces of Chaos, and the major role the Adeptus Custodes played in preventing the fall of the Imperium’s heart.

On the other side of the coin are the treacherous Thousand Sons. They too have a long history in Black Library fiction, which begins in the Horus Heresy. ‘A Thousand Sons’ by Graham McNeill is the essential history of the Legion, showing how they came to fall into the grip of Chaos, and turning Magnus into a sympathetic figure. It also begins the ten thousand year enmity between the Thousand Sons and the Space Wolves which is key to so much of the Legion’s character. This is followed up in the audio drama ‘Thief of Revelations’ and the novel ‘The Crimson King’, both of which deepen the Thousand Sons and show their unique and conflicted place in the events of the Heresy. Also unmissable is ‘Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero’, Graham McNeill’s Primarchs novel which shows more of Magnus in the Great Crusade and highlights the depths of his fall.

The Thousand Sons return a millennium or two later in Chris Wraight’s novel ‘Battle of the Fang’ and accompanying novella ‘The Hunt for Magnus’, which see the Legion enacting a masterful plot to do to the Space Wolves what the sons of Russ did to them many years before by destroying their home world. They may not be entirely successful though, which is why they come back eight thousand years later to finish the job…

But before we get to that, let’s talk about Ahriman. Exiled from the Thousand Sons after accidentally damning most of the Legion to spending eternity as dust in sealed armour, he is a fascinating figure, consumed with fixing his horrible mistake. And that’s the focus of John French’s Ahriman trilogy – ‘Exile’, ‘Sorcerer’ and ‘Unchanged’ – which see him undergo many trials as he closes in on his goal, and also returns to certain themes and issues from the Horus Heresy too. You can pick up all three in ‘Ahriman: The Omnibus’. There are also a series of short stories, handily collected in ‘Ahriman: Exodus’, which show the sorcerer from the perspective of one of his servants, giving a very different view of his villainous ways.

The feud with the Space Wolves powers a lot of the Warhammer 40,000 fiction featuring the Thousand Sons. In ‘Legends of the Dark Millennium: Space Wolves’, their presence is small but significant, as they prove to be the driving force behind the woes besetting the Fenrisians, and this becomes ever more true as the Dark Millennium approaches and a plan long in the making comes to fruition. Though the Thousand Sons don’t directly appear in ‘Curse of the Wulfen’, it’s essential set-up to what comes next, as the Legion and their daemonic allies fall upon Fenris in ‘Legacy of Russ’. And all of that brings us full circle, as the next novel to feature the sorcerous traitors will see the Space Wolves return to where their enmity began, in Gav Thorpe’s ‘Ashes of Prospero’, which is out soon…

Any of the stories mentioned above would be a great place to start to find out more about the Adeptus Custodes and the Thousand Sons – where are you going to begin? Let us know on our Facebook page.

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