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Literature / Grey Knights

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I am the hammer! I am the hate! I am the woes of daemonkind!

Series by Ben Counter about the titular Grey Knights chapter of Space Marines. It follows the exploits of Justicar Alaric and his squad battling various daemonic and chaotic enemies of the Imperium.

The series currently encompasses three novels: Grey Knights, Dark Adeptus, and Hammer of Daemons, which have since been collected in an omnibus.

There is also an unrelated novel by Aaron Dembski-Bowden entitled The Emperor's Gift which chronicles the Grey Knight's role in the first war for Armageddon.

Please resist the urge to put examples on this page or link to this page on tropes unless you are citing from 40K novels in which the Grey Knights feature. Examples which are specific to rulebooks or other in-universe fluff should go on either the 40K page or in the Grey Knights section of the Astartes Chapters page.


Tropes connected with the Grey Knights book trilogy are:

  • Ancestral Weapon: Grand Master Mandulis's sword.
    • Interesting in that it turns out that the sword was needed to revive a daemon and was subsequently destroyed.
  • Anyone Can Die: Even "veterans" like Haulvarn can get killed off.
  • Arc Words: "Survival is not Enough."
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Duke Venalitor.
  • Badass Creed: As Justicar Alaric said:
    "We do not know what our chances of survival are, so we fight as if they were zero. We do not know what we are facing, so we fight as if it was the dark gods themselves. No one will remember us now and we may never be buried beneath Titan, so we will build our own memorial here. The Chapter might lose us and the Imperium might never know we existed, but the Enemy — the Enemy will know. The Enemy will remember. We will hurt it so badly that it will never forget us until the stars burn out and the Emperor vanquishes it at the end of time. When Chaos is dying, its last thought will be of us. That is our memorial — carved into the heart of Chaos. We cannot lose, Grey Knights. We have already won."
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  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: In Hammer of Daemons Alaric fights against a daemon that tries to possess him. He finally wins by the way of Taking You With Me, but survives.
  • BFS: Duke Venalitor has one of these.
  • The Blacksmith: There's one of these in Hammer of Daemons, implied to be ex-Salamander.
  • Bloody Murder: Duke Venalitor can weaponise shed blood as prehensile tendrils.
  • Body Surf: Magos Antigonus manages to do this thanks to some Lost Technology.
  • Breath Weapon: Lord Ebondrake, taking the form of a large dragon, can breathe black flame.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Averted in Dark Adeptus, where a villain holds Alaric a distance from an active fusion reactor, causing him to start toasting.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Some Guardsmen are mentioned as having "finally lost the will" when they think Alaric has fallen to Chaos.
  • Dodge the Bullet: Ligeia's death cultists do this.
  • Drop the Hammer: Dvorn's Nemesis weapon.
  • Dual Wielding: Alaric briefly wields both an axe and a hammer simultaneously in Hammer of Daemons, though he's not the only one.
  • Due to the Dead: Alaric insists on going to where Ligeia died to pray for her soul.
  • Enemy Civil War: Alaric incites this between the Draakasi Chaos lords in Hammer of Daemons.
  • Enemy Mine: The first novel briefly mentions the underhive gangs of Volcanis Ultor uniting to fight a gang of Chaos followers.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Legeia.
  • Faceless Goons: Shows up sometimes, with the Mechanicus tech-guard in Dark Adeptus receiving a Lampshade Hanging.
  • Feed the Mole
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Alaric is aware that even bolter shells aren't much good against St. Evisser reanimated. Before him, there was Grand Master Mandulis, who recognised the futility of using his storm bolter against Ghargatuloth's physical body.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge
  • Gambit Roulette: Ligeia's Face–Heel Turn was a painful risk to learn Ghargatuloth's true name and hope that Alaric would trust her enough to not discount the supposed gibberish she kept saying when she was questioned, and then to use that name to weaken the Daemon Prince enough to be able to kill him. You'll be able to guess that she never really turned on them if you remember how Ligeia described her death cultists' beliefs and devotions.
  • Genius Bruiser: Alaric is one, if only in comparison to his fellow Space Marines.
  • Gladiator Games
  • Gladiator Revolt
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Balurians from the first novel don't take seeing the tomb of St. Evisser well.
  • Guile Hero: Alaric ascends to this after his plan to defeat the Chaos Lords of Drakaasi succeeds.
  • Healing Factor: The Grey Knights have better-than-human regeneration, though severe stuff still needs an apothecary. The Father of Titans from Dark Adeptus has a self-repair mechanism too.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Alaric expresses this concern to Nyxos after his escape from Drakaasi.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Valinov does this by killing Riggensen, who broke him, with the execution device meant for him originally.
  • I Know Your True Name: Ligeia babbles Ghargatuloth's True Name, which is picked up and used by Alaric.
  • Kick the Dog: Alaric spouts stolid Knight Templar dogmatisms from time to time to remind us that he's not a "pure white" hero.
  • Kill 'Em All
  • Last Request
  • Last Stand
  • Let's You and Him Fight: The end result of Valinov's taking advantage of the Grey Knights' secrecy and unknown status in order to paint them as Chaos Marines.
  • Licking the Blade: Mentioned in passing as done by some priests of Khorne.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Grey Knights, though they're far from the only ones.
  • Losing Your Head: Happens to Thalassa.
  • Lost Technology: How Magos Antigonus survives, as well as the Father of Titans.
  • The Mole
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Various Techpriests in Dark Adeptus, Skarhaddoth and other Chaos beasties in Hammer of Daemons.
  • Neck Lift: The Chaos Marine Urkrathos does this to Rear Admiral Horstgeld in Dark Adeptus. The former explicitly circles the latter's neck with his fingers. Duke Venalitor also does this.
  • Never Found the Body: Defied in Grey Knights, where the Inquisition lands the GK redemptor force on Khorion IX specifically because they need eyes on the ground to see Ghargatuloth die.
  • Not Quite Dead: Magos Antigonus in Dark Adeptus.
  • Off with His Head!: How Tancred kills St. Evisser reanimated.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Lord Ebondrake takes the form of one.
  • Out of the Inferno: The Knights did this against burning fuel in the first novel, while Lord Ebondrake's Ophidian Guard do this thanks to their armour being proof against his Breath Weapon.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Ophidian Guard.
  • Pride
  • Red Right Hand: Inverted in the first novel, where the Allking of Sophano Secundus and his retainers pass for normal at first and only reveal their Chaos taint after they are rumbled.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The secrecy of the Grey Knights is used to rouse other Imperial troops against them by Valinov.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Grey Knights are secretive and unknown even by the standards of other Space Marines, which Valinov from the first novel uses against them.
  • Space Is Noisy: The prologue for the first novel takes place on a daemon world whose surface is covered with so many mutilated cultists that their screams are audible from orbit.
  • Taking the Bullet: One of Ligeia's death cultists takes a plasma blast for Valinov.
    • Earlier in the same book, another of them does this for Ligeia herself.
  • Uncanny Valley: An eldar is described In-Universe as falling into the valley. He did turn out to be a dark eldar mandrake, so perhaps this isn't so surprising.
  • Voice of the Legion: Raezazel the Cunning has this.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Castigator claims that this is his motivation.
  • Wishplosion: When Raezazel tries to convince Alaric to be possessed, he claims that he'll make any wish come true. The wish he gets to try and fulfill?
    I wish for a world where your kind cannot exist.

Tropes connected with The Emperor's Gift are:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Lord Inquisitor Kysnaros is liked by nobody. It's implied that Joros only helps him to gain political clout and the rest of the Inquisition support him as an excuse to act on their long-standing feud with the Space Wolves. Other Grey Knights openly disapprove of Kysnaros' orders, to the point that some Grey Knights and Inquisitors conspire to assassinate him before the conflict with the Space Wolves worsens.
  • All for Nothing: Hyperion invokes this as one reason why the Space Wolves are outraged the Inquisition intends to purge Armageddon's population, since it renders the sacrifices of all the Wolves who died fighting Angron's army to ensure the people would be spared worthless.
    Hyperion: When seen in such a light, the Wolves' actions - already noble enough - takes on another layer of righteousness. They've lost warriors, too. How many of them died in glory, only to learn now it had all been in vain defending a doomed population?
  • Amazonian Beauty: Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr. Both Hyperion and Bjorn take notice.
  • Battle-Interrupting Shout: Bjorn delivers one to the Space Wolves and Grey Knights fighting it out aboard the Corel's Hope, causing all present to fall to their knees before him.
  • Big Red Devil: A Bloodthirster spawns on the Frostborn to fight Squad Castian; it ends up killing Sothis. Later on, the great threat that the Chaos Gods have been hiding on Armageddon turns out to be these; specifically, Angron and his twelve Bloodthirster bodyguards.
  • Body Surf: Hyperion and Malchadiel do this on a serf on Terra to ring the Bell of Lost Souls for Sothis.
  • The Cavalry: Inquisitor Kysnaros summons the entirety of the Red Hunters Space Marine Chapter to act as this both so the Space Wolves can't claim the moral high ground by claiming their actions speak for all of the Adeptus Astartes, and so he no longer has to rely solely on the Grey Knights, who have made their disapproval of his methods plain.
  • The Corruption: Chaos, natch. The taint surrounding the demons invading Armageddon is so great that it’s enough to corrupt even inanimate materials like the metal hull of a spaceship.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Angron slaughters his way through scores of Grey Knight veterans in Terminator armor as he laughs at their attacks. It's only when his sword gets shattered by Hyperion that the Grey Knights finally turn the tide.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Both Hyperion and Malchadiel are thrashed in seconds by Grimnar, showing the difference in abilities between two young Grey Knights and a very old and experienced Space Wolves Chapter Master. Hyperion, however, is able to stop him from killing Malchadiel and even nearly destroys his axe before the fight is interrupted.
  • Determinator: One of the Cheth palace guards gets his body blown up from the stomach down due to Squad Castian's ambush but he's still able to fire his lasrifle at an unsuspecting Annika. He dies when Hyperion blocks the shot in time then burns him alive.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Inquisitor Kysnaros believes the best way to finally force a capitulation from the Space Wolves was to blockade Fenris with an Inquisitorial armada and threaten to perform Exterminatus on the planet if they didn't stand down. The plan doesn't work, and when Logan Grimnar and the entire Space Wolves fleet, having learned what is happening, emerge from the Warp ready for battle and howling for blood, Hyperion actually asks Kysnaros if he thought the Space Wolves would react any other way to such an action other than with extreme violence.Spoilery explanation 
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Angron is this for the first half of the plot as it details the Grey Knights' involvement in the First War for Armageddon. Once he's defeated, the book moves on to the War's aftermath, the Months of Shame involving the cold war between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition.
  • Distant Finale: The ending takes place decades after the Months of Shame, with Hyperion now a Prognosticar and Malchadiel returning from Mars so they can finally ring the Bell of Lost Souls for Sothis.
  • Electronic Eyes: Inquisitor Jarlsdotty'r blue bio-optics, used for taking pictures among other things.
  • Fat Bastard: Kezidha the Eleventh, the Chaos-corrupted Imperial Regent of Cheth. Hyperion attributes Kezidha's grotesque physique to the regent's weak mind.
  • Female Gaze: Hyperion recalls sharing a shower with some of Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr's warband, who verge upon being an Amazon Brigade. Being completely asexual, he notes that they state how 'impressed' they are, though he doesn't understand the reference.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Invoked by Hyperion as he duels Grimnar, telling him that the Imperium of Man isn't a fabled empire of joy where the most moral course of action is the best but a brutal place that is constantly under desperate siege within and without. The Grey Knights, as the Emperor's Gift, know what they have to do is often horrific but the alternatives are worse and they will not stint in their duty.
  • Hero Killer: Angron, who along with his daemonic honour guard slaughters his way through over a hundred Grey Knight Terminators like it was nothing, including some of the main characters.
  • Heroic RRoD: Hyperion falls unconscious shortly after using all his full psychic might to shatter Angron's sword at Armageddon. It happens to him again not too long afterwards when he wakes up then carelessly uses his psyker abilities to search for his squad amidst the mountains of corpses from the fight, in spite of his previous overexertion. He brings Malchadiel back to the ship with little trouble but starts tl black out once he decides to head back to the fight. The Karabela crew has to lock him in stasis just to save his life, putting him out of commission for more than four months. An Apocathery even tells him that he would've died had he not been immediately placed into stasis.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • The Inquisition’s, and also Hyperion’s, excuse for slaughtering the civilians and guardsmen who took part in the campaign to retake Armageddon. They argue it's better for a few thousand potentially corrupt souls to die than risk having to potentially slaughter millions of innocents in the future because they let the thousands live.
    • The Space Wolves resort to using teleporter technology to escape their enemies when the armistice goes awry. Traditionally, the Space Wolves despise using it as it is very dangerous and inaccurate.
    • Inquisitor Kysnaros' view of why he is prolonging the conflict with the Space Wolves: in his view, not bringing them to heel runs the risk of the Imperium sinking into a civil war on a par with the Horus Heresy.
    • Grand Master Joros advises Kysnaros to open fire on Logan Grimnar's fleet, in the hopes of either forcing Grimnar to capitulate or taking him as a hostage to force the Space Wolves into compliance. He even admits this when Grimnar confronts the Inquisition forces, stating his actions were for the greater good. It results in Grimnar burying a power axe in Joros' chest and the Space Wolves effectively declaring war on the Inquisition.
  • Identical Twins: Sothis and Malchadiel. The two are distinguishable thanks to Sothis's many scars and bionic augmentations, though the many wounds Malchadiel sustains over the course of the book start to make him resemble Sothis more by the end.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: No Grey Knight has ever fallen to Chaos. According to Hyperion the Grey Knights themselves are uncertain why this is, although most think that their gene-seed’s source has something to do with it.
  • Just Following Orders: Hyperion's defense when Annika chides him for doing nothing while the population of Armageddon get sterlized by the Inquisition. A chat with Kysnaros changes his mind.
  • Knight Templar: The Inquisition, of course.
  • Lady Swearsalot: Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr, a given since she's Fenrisian.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Every Grey Knight has this done to them before their training begins. Also the fate of anyone who actually sees a Grey Knight in the flesh, assuming they aren’t simply murdered outright.
  • Long Dead Badass: Many of these are witnessed by Hyperion when he passes through the Dead Fields on Titan, where the fallen Grey Knights are laid to rest.
  • The Magnificent: Hyperion is given the epithet 'Bladebreaker' by the Space Wolves after he psychically shatters Angron’s Black Blade.
  • Master Swordsman: Dumenidon, the best swordsman in Squad Castian.
  • Mighty Glacier: Tactical Dreadnought armour is heavy, lumbering and very restrictive, sacrificing mobility for defense. Taremar has every Grey Knight of the Ragged Brotherhood outfitted in Terminator gear to increase their survivability for once they teleport right in the middle of enemy lines. Squad Castian tries to object, finding the armor cumbersome, but Taremar reasons that every second a Grey Knight survives is of the upmost importance when they're going up against an army of daemons, among whom are several Bloodthirsters and a Daemon Primarch. The armor helps the Grey Knights endure the attacks of lesser daemons but Angron's BFS cuts through them like cake. However, Logan Grimnar is still able to act and fight faster and more effectively than those in 'normal' Power Armour. He moves so fast in his suit that he was able to draw his axe, swing it and kill another Terminator-clad character before anyone else in the room could even react. Hyperion notes, however, that Grimnar's armor was breaking because of being pushed to its limits.
  • No Social Skills: Hyperion repeatedly mentions that he finds reading normal people’s expressions and understanding their motivations extremely hard. This also means that his few attempts at telling jokes fall flat.
  • Noodle Incident: How Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr reformed Clovon from a cult leader into a member of her warband is left ambiguous.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens to Lord Inquisitor Kysnaros at the hands of Logan Grimnar.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The daemon-possessed Imperial governor of the planet Cheth and his Chaos-corrupted court's reaction when an entire squad of Grey Knights teleport into the room and Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr orders them to kill everyone in the room.
    • Squad Castian have two moments of this themselves: first when they encounter a Bloodthirster while escaping from a Space Wolves ship; and second when Angron senses their presence and psychically tries to kill them after Prognosticar Torcrith helps them psychically probe Armageddon.
  • Old Shame: In-Universe: The Grey Knights refer to the months spent hunting down and slaughtering the fleeing guardsmen (and the billions of innocent people who came into contact with them) the Months of Shame. In fact, it's not just the Grey Knights calling it this. That's the OFFICIAL GW name for that event.
  • Paper Tiger: Grand Master Joros of the 8th Brotherhood. Hyperion describes him as one of the Brotherhood's finest duellists, often able to analyse an enemy's next blow before they make it. Logan Grimnar sprints across a hall and kills Joros with a single blow from his power axe before Joros can get his sword halfway drawn.
  • Peace Conference: Bjorn is able to negotiate a peace deal between the Inquisition and the Space Wolves, allowing both sides to save face. The terms of the deal are: in exchange for the Space Wolves standing down, no Inquisition ship will ever appear in the skies of Fenris again, on penalty of immediate destruction, and the Space Wolves who had learned of the Grey Knights should not be mind-wiped as was normal in such cases, but instead Hyperion should personally explain the Grey Knights' mission and its importance to all of the Astartes within The Fang, so that such a conflict should never again occur due to misunderstanding and ignorance of the Inquisition's mission.
  • Praetorian Guard:
    • The Cruor Praetoria who accompany Angron to Armageddon are comprised of the twelve strongest Bloodthirsters of Khorne.
    • The Wolf Guard for Logan Grimnar.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Squad Castian gives one to the governor of Cheth before they slaughter every heretic in the room.
    Galeo: In the name of the Emperor of Mankind, we do judge thee diabolus traitoris. The sentence is death.
  • Pure Is Not Good: The Grey Knights fight against Chaos and are incorruptible, but they also actively take part in the subsequent purge of Armageddon and the system-wide Exterminatus operations in pursuit of the Space Wolf-aided guardsmen.
  • Protectorate: One of the first things Logan Grimnar does when he meets the Grey Knights and Inquisitors sent to Armageddon is make it explicitly clear that the guardsmen and civilians there are under his protection, and that he will brook no purges of them after the battle is over. When the Inquisition initiates a purge anyway, it sets the stage for the war between the Space Wolves and the Adeptus Terra.
  • Rain of Blood: The battle at the river between the Grey Knights and Angron's daemonic horde takes place in the midst of one.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr. Hyperion notes that her black hair is actually rare for a Fenrisian.
  • Robot Dog: Merrick's cyber-mastiff.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Logan Grimnar and, to a lesser extent, Inquisitor Jarlsdottyr. Hyperion reasons that the Space Marines, bred to be warriors first and foremost, would see it as a smear on their honour if they prevented a greater evil by allowing a lesser one to occur. The Space Wolves themselves outright state this is their reason for fighting the Inquisition, arguing that the men and women who fought so valiantly to defend Armageddon from Angron's daemonic horde deserve better than to be quietly eliminated so the Inquisition can more easily sweep the truth of what happened under the carpet.
    Hyperion: You've made your point, Rawthroat, now stand down.
    Bran Rawthroat: We're not making a point, Bladebreaker. We're doing what is right.
  • Secret Test of Character: Brand Rawthroat accompanies the Karabela to escort a ship containing survivors of Armageddon. When Hyperion follows Joros' orders to destroy the ship, the Space Wolves take it as a sign that they can no longer entrust any of the refugees to the Inquisition.
  • Ship Sinking: After a half a book of Ship Tease between Hyperion and Annika, the ending makes it clear that it doesn't work out between the two, as they end up on opposite sides during the Months of Shame and their final meeting years later ending as an unpleasant one.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: A one-sided example with Clovon to Hyperion. Hyperion finds it difficult to tolerate his presence since Clovon was a cult leader before joining Annika's warband.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Downplayed with Annika and her custom Mk Vb Godwyn pattern boltgun. The Inquisitor herself is tall for a normal human; it just so happens that her boltgun is scaled for the much bigger Space Marines.
  • Space Cold War: Between the Inquisition and the Space Wolves after Armageddon. It turns hot after the Inquisition fires on the Space Wolf flagship under the guise of a truce.
  • The Speechless: Galeo who can only communicate through telepathy as a result of his injury.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Arguably, the Space Wolves. Though mostly about the Grey Knights and, in particular, the rise to fame of one of their number, the book goes to great lengths to show the Space Wolves as being the nicer, more honourable and generally more tactically savvy than the protagonists in nearly every scene in which they appear. Having said that, this IS the Warhammer 40,000 universe, so concepts like "nice" and "heroic" are vague at best.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Bjorn the Fell-Handed constantly tells the Inquisition and Grey Knights to stop kneeling before him.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Logan Grimnar ordered his forces to never return fire during the campaign to shield the loyal guardsmen from the Inquisition and the Grey Knights, and was even willing to attend an armistice to discuss terms of de-escalating the conflict. All of this goes out of the window when they fire on his flagship during said armistice, after which Grimnar vows to fight to the death.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: At Armageddon, Enceladus and Galeo throw their swords at a daemon's wrist in an attempt to help Hyperion. Unfortunately, said daemon was Angron so it didn't work, and since Galeo no longer had a sword to defend himself with, he's subsequently hacked to pieces by daemons.
  • Training from Hell: The book opens with Hyperion's harsh training as a Grey Knight initiate.
  • Tranquil Fury: Grimnar makes it clear during his meeting with Kysnaros that he's pissed that the Inquisition opened fire on his flagship in spite of their armistice. When Kysnaros demands that he surrender, Grimnar and his retinue proceed to swiftly kill the Grey Knights Grand Master who allegedly ordered the attack on his ship and then several Justicars.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Hyperion. He only recently became a Grey Knight but his potential as a psyker is immense. He shatters Angron's daemonic blade with a desperate psychic attack at Armageddon, and then becomes a Prognosticar by the book's Distant Finale.
  • We Will Meet Again: Though the conflict between both sides ends in a (albeit grudging) peace deal, both the Space Wolves and the Inquisition know they will likely end up fighting each other again sooner or later.
  • Wham Line:
    Prognosticar Torcrith: Ready yourselves to shed a primarch's blood. The Lord of the Twelfth Legion awaits you on Armageddon.
  • You Are in Command Now: Following Galeo's death and Enceladus' coma, command of the Karabela falls to Hyperion.

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