A universe where battles rage 24/7 might not be a place you’d expect children to thrive—or survive. But that’s exactly what attracted bestselling comic writer and sci-fi series author Cavan Scott to adapting the universe of Warhammer Fantasy for middle-grade readers.
“You don’t have to read Roald Dahl books to realize that children like to be scared,” says Scott, author of Warhammer Adventures’ Warped Galaxies, a new series for middle-grade readers based on Warhammer 40,000, a far-future tabletop war game iteration of the high fantasy fictional universe by Games Workshop.
“I’d read some Warhammer 40,000 material before, for the adult audience,” he says, “and the phrase that’s constantly used for it is ‘grimdark,’ ”—an adjective derived from the popular miniature war game’s foreboding tagline (“In the grim darkness of the far future...”). “I’ve always liked my children’s fiction to be slightly scary, slightly perilous, and 40K definitely fits that mold. It was intriguing to take something like that and translate it for kids.”
Warhammer Adventures marks Games Workshop’s first foray into creating content specifically geared for the next generation of sci-fi and fantasy lovers. Two action-packed inaugural series, illustrated by Cole Marchetti and Magnus Norén, feature brave young heroes who overcome monstrous enemies and impossible odds: Warped Galaxies, by Scott, and Realm Quest, set in the medieval fantasy realm of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, by Tom Huddleston.
“My [series] is about a group of kids in a fantastical world who are brought together by a mystical force and embark on a series of adventures they’re not necessarily ready for,” says Huddleston, who signed on to Warhammer Adventures for “a chance to tell amazing stories in a well-imagined, massive universe,” stories that are “not all sweetness and light” and every bit as compelling and complex as those written for adults.
In City of Lifestone (Realm Quest Book 1), Huddleston introduces Kiri, a 14-year-old girl raised in the barbarian slave camps of Aqshy. Honest and brave yet mistrustful, she seizes an opportunity to escape her captors by transporting to another realm. With only her wits (and a mysterious birthmark) to guide her, she must suss out friend from foe on her quest to reach Lifestone, the storied city of her birth.
In Attack of the Necron (Warped Galaxies Book 1), readers meet Zelia, a 12-year-old refugee from a planet destroyed by an evil alien race called the Necron. On the intergalactic lookout for her archaeologist mother, who disappeared in the cataclysm, Zelia falls in with a ragtag group in possession of a coveted alien artifact—with the Necron in hot pursuit.
“Showing what these characters can handle, showing that they struggle, is a way for readers to explore fear and danger and challenges from the comfort of their own room,” Scott says. “It’s important to have fiction that pushes those boundaries without being gratuitous.”
Featuring strong female protagonists and a diverse cast of characters, species, and fealties, Warhammer Adventures books are intended to inspire young readers around the world. Now available in paperback, Attack of the Necron and City of Lifestone are also available as audiobooks narrated by renowned actors David Tennant and Billie Piper of Dr. Who fame, followed by Claws of the Genestealer (Warped Galaxies Book 2) and Lair of the Skaven (Realm Quest Book 2) in May.
“I just want readers to know that this is a really fun series,” Huddleston says. “The books were written to lose yourself in. They’re massive worlds that we’ve only just started to explore, so there’s more amazing stuff to come. If you’re looking for escapist fiction and stories that will transport you, that’s what both of these series were designed to do.”
“There’s magic, there’s monsters, there’s excitement, there’s daring escapes,” Scott says. “It’d be quite easy to go down the rabbit hole of it all being grimdark-horrible, but there’s a lot of heart to these books as well. Both of them are about family, which is probably more important than anything else. That and monsters.”
“Yes,” Huddleston says, “family and monsters.”
Megan Labrise is a staff writer and the co-host of the Kirkus podcast, Fully Booked. The photo above left is of Cavan Scott and above right is of Tom Huddleston.