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I noticed that there are two new charachter books out.

Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Feywild

Are these two books part of the Essentials line? Have they stopped differentiating between Essentials books and the main line of books? I ask because these books are hardcover, while the Essentials books were softcover.

Also, does anyone know if which books are prerequisites for these two books. (e.g., do you need heroes of the forgotten kingdoms, or the Rules Compendium to find weapons and armors for characters in these books, etc.)

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Note, that at the time of writing Heroes of the Feywild is not out, just on the release schedule. –  Simon Withers Jun 28 '11 at 2:42

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"Have they stopped differentiating between essentials books and the main line of books?"

Yes, in regards to content.

Heroes of Shadow presents player options usable with both essentials builds and non-essentials builds.

For example, in addition to new races and classes, there are player options usable with the Essentials Paladin as well as the PH1 Warlock.

The layout of the content is more in the essentials mold, but mechanically they are blurring the lines.

And No, in regards to publication style.

The Heroes of Shadow book is published as a hardbound book just like the three Player's Handbooks, and are not part of the "Essentials" line of products (which is a name given to the 10 products that WotC has told big retailers - Walmart etc - that will always be in print, and should be what are kept always in stock)

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I'd complete your answer with "Are these two books part of the Essentials line?" No. The new books are not part of the Essentials line, they adopt some formatting from the line. –  Adriano Varoli Piazza Jun 28 '11 at 19:55
    
@Adriano - very good point, I will update my answer –  Simon Withers Jun 29 '11 at 1:52

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