Stan Nicholls


The First Trilogy


The series, which has sold well over a million copies worldwide, began with the original trilogy, Orcs: First Blood. 


Published by Gollancz in the UK, it consists of Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder (both 1999) and Warriors of the Tempest (2000). 


They appeared in trade paperback, mass-market paperback and hardback book club editions with these covers by Chris (“Fangorn”) Baker:

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Here are two of Chris’ covers without over-print:



The trilogy was subsequently collected in an omnibus edition (in its sixteenth printing as of mid 2020), and also appeared as an unabridged (24 hours, 48 minutes) audiobook, read by John Lee:

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Several items were produced to promote the trilogy to the trade, including an orcs ale (actually Guinness) and coasters, with art again by Chris Baker:



Chris also painted these studies of the five principal characters as part of the trade promotion:

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I’m pleased to own the original of one of the above portrayals; the character Coilla:


The first volume was launched at Fantasycon in1999, in Birmingham, and the organisers kindly agreed to turning their traditional banquet into an orcs-themed feast.  I was asked to rewrite the menu accordingly, and here it is:


American Editions

The first trilogy was published (by Orbit) as an omnibus edition in the US.  Here’s the front and back cover of the ARC (Advance Reading Copy) issued to the trade and reviewers pre-publication:


The finished cover:


I love that cover, and the covers Orbit created for the individual volumes of the second trilogy, which I think come nearest to the way I see my orcs.  The effect on this and the subsequent covers was achieved by having a prosthetic bust built and photographed.  Here are some photos of the process:




The omnibus was published in hardback, trade paperback and e-book editions.  There was also an American Science Fiction Book Club edition, and Tantor Audio released the unexpurgated audiobook, read by John Lee:



The SFBC magazine including a promotion for the US book club edition:


Orbit US promoted the omnibus in a number of ways, including a bookmark and even a Christmas card:



Promotional banners/posters:


The window display at Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue, New York, when the omnibus launched:




Here’s the Brazilian cover of the first volume of the trilogy, Bodyguard of Lightning, published by Panini Books, along with a promotional poster. As publishers don’t always supply author copies, irrespective of contractual obligation, I’ve never seen volumes two and three.





The trilogy was published as an omnibus in Bulgaria: 



Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder and Warriors of the Tempest with uniquely Chinese covers, and a promotional poster sans overprint:



Czech Repiblic

Published by Fantom Print, the covers of the Czech Republic editions, by Jan Patrik Krasny, were quite different, and imaginative:



Here they are without over-print:




Here’s how Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder and Warriors of the Tempest first appeared in France (published by Bragelonne), in trade paperback editions with cover art by Didier Graffet.


The subsequent mass market paperback editions had covers that were variants on the above:



When the trilogy was re-issued in mass market paperbacks in 2018 they had these covers by Paul Mafayon:



Each of the above covers without over-print:


There have been several French omnibus editions of the first trilogy, as here:

The first cover below was an early, unused version of above.  The second is the cover of a re-issue, the third an e-book edition:


A limited number tenth anniversary edition, a set of bookmarks and a promotional poster:




In Germany, Heyne published the trilogy as an omnibus edition, first as a trade paperback and later in mass market pb with variant covers; and there was an unexpurgated audiobook, read by Erik Schaeffler:




I like what my Italian publisher (Mondadori) did for the covers:


There was also an Italian omnibus edition (actually a box set) with three variant covers:



The Netherlands

The Dutch editions of the first trilogy, and the omnibus edition (published by Luitingh-Sijthoff):





Publisher: Amber




The trilogy and a promotional banner.  The Orcs short story ‘The Taking’ was included in volume 3.



Published by Ekcmo. In Russian I’m Стэн Николс. All the Russian editions are nicely produced hardbacks.


Here’s the artwork for volume two, Legion of Thunder, without over-print:

There were two Russian omnibus editions of the first trilogy.  I’ve always felt that the cover of the second, repackaged one resembles Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman ...


Here’s the artwork for volume one and the first version of the omnibus (by Keith Parkinson) without over-print:



The situation in Spain was a little odd.  The publisher Timun Mas took on the first volume of the trilogy (on left below) but decided not to publish the other two.  Fortunately the publisher Marlow later stepped in and issued the trilogy as an omnibus in a handsome hardback edition:



The Taking

At this point I should say something about the Orcs short story ‘The Taking’.  I wrote the story, a prequel to the first trilogy, for the anthology Swords Against The Millennium, edited by Mike Chinn and published in 2000 (Alchemy Press).  ‘The Taking’ was a finalist in the following year’s British Fantasy Awards, short story category. 

When Gollancz, my UK publisher, issued the first Orcs trilogy as an omnibus and wanted a bonus for the book we added the story.  Some foreign editions of the omnibus included the story, others didn’t.  To make things a little more complex, the story was subsequently published in a number of anthologies and magazines, both in English and in translation.  It’s my most reprinted story, having appeared in various publications around twenty times.

Here’s the original anthology that carried ‘The Taking’, and as examples of reprints, French and Czech Republic anthologies, Dutch magazine Eclips and Belgium magazine Khimaira, and a French e-book version:




Most editions of the trilogy carried a map of Maras-Dantia, the land where the first trilogy’s set. Here it is in English alongside the Russian version for comparison:



The Second Trilogy

The second trilogy, Orcs: Bad Blood, consists of Weapons of Magical Destruction (2008), Army of Shadows (2009) and Inferno (2011).  Here are the covers of the UK editions, from Gollancz:


The trilogy appeared in hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, e-book and book club editions with these covers.  Here’s the omnibus cover, and the cover of the e-book edition of the combined first and second trilogies:


There was also a limited number box set:


American Editions

My American publisher, Orbit, wasn’t keen on the title of the first volume, Weapons of Magical Destruction, and changed it to simply Bad Blood - which was slightly confusing as that’s also the overall name of the trilogy.  But, as with the first trilogy, they produced some of the best covers for the series:


Volumes from both trilogies made it onto the New York Times bestseller lists.

Tantor issued audiobook versions in the US, read by John Lee.  Here are the covers of the first two.  I don’t have the third, and don’t know if it was ever issued.




The cover for volume one. I don’t have copies of volumes two and three.



Publisher: Bragelonne. Again, the covers were by Didier Graffet:


I’m very fortunate in that I own the original artwork for book one, which hangs on my workroom wall:

A promotional poster for the book, among others:

The French publisher preferred the overall title ‘Revenge of the Orcs’ for the second trilogy.  There have been three omnibus editions to date:




Publisher: Heyne.


Here’s the German omnibus edition, and the artwork for a variant book three cover:




The situation with my Italian publisher, Mondadori, was a bit strange and rather disappointing.  As I understand it, after books one and two were translated their principal translator sadly died.  By the time they finally found a replacement there had been such a big gap after book two’s appearance that they decided not to publish book three.  I get irate messages from Italian readers about it to this day.  Here are the covers of the pair of volumes they did publish, in hardback and trade paperback editions:



The Netherlands

Publisher: Luitingh-Sijthoff.



The Dutch omnibus edition:

By necessity I’ve not included various covers of foreign editions simply because I don’t have copies - publishers aren’t always scrupulous in supplying them.  There have even been editions of my books I didn’t know about until after the event.  If any of these turn up in future I’ll include them here.


Orcs: Forged For War

When I was invited by New York publisher First Second Books to produce an Orcs graphic novel I wanted to write a new adventure, not adapt any of the existing novels.  I went about it in a slightly unusual way.  Rather than going straight into a script I wrote it as a fully rendered short story, to give the publisher and the artist the best feel for what I intended.  The book is a prequel, taking place before the first trilogy.  My title was Fit For Purpose.  The publisher wasn’t keen on that and suggested changing it to Orcs: Forged For War.

The artist chosen was Joe Flood, and it was his first graphic novel.  Joe’s since gone on to produce several more fine illustrated books.

Orcs: Forged For War was first published in the US; Pan Macmillan published the British edition (an import essentially, identical to the American edition) and Les Editions Gallimard issued a French hardback edition.  The book entered the New York Times bestseller list.  It won the 2011 Geek Life Award for Best Comic Book of the Year, and was awarded a Great GN Accolade by Graphic Novel Reporter, all of which was very gratifying. 

The cover’s a wraparound, shown here before the final lettering was added:


The French edition:


Some sample pages:



This piece of art by Joe, which I really like, unfortunately didn’t make the final cut. I draw some consolation from owning the original.


Here are some of the illustrations by Joe that appeared in the programme book for 2011’s New York Comic Con, promoting Orcs: Forged For War. The illustrations were drawn specially for NYCC, not taken from the book.



Orcs: Tales Of Maras-Dantia

Published by NewCon Press in 2015, Orcs: Tales of Maras-Dantia is a collection of novellas and short stories, again prequels to the original trilogy, Orcs: First Blood.  I included Fit For Purpose, the story that the graphic novel was based on, and which differs from it.

The collection was published in trade paperback, in a limited, numbered and signed hardback edition (250 copies) and as an e-book.

The cover’s by Chris Baker, which squared the circle nicely as Chris provided the covers for the first printings of the original trilogy. 

Here it is, with and without lettering:


The table of contents:

The Taking
Fit For Purpose
Paid in Blood
A Night on the Tiles
Bonus # 1: Weapons of Magical Destruction Alternate Opening
Bonus # 2: David Gemmell Interviews Stan Nicholls [about the Orcs series]
About the Author



Orbit US collected these quotes and included them in their omnibus of the first trilogy:



You can read chapter one of Bodygyard Of Lightning here.


This summary/gallery compiled August 2020.


© Stan Nicholls

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