Gotrek and Felix: unsung heroes of the Empire or nothing more than common thieves and murderers? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between and depends entirely upon whom you ask….
After fleeing the authorities in the Imperial city of Altdorf, Felix Jaeger swears a drunken oath to dour dwarf Gotrek Gurnisson to record his death saga. In the cold light of day, Felix’s worst fears are confirmed as he learns that Gotrek is a Trollslayer – a dwarf doomed to seek out a heroic death in battle to atone for an unknown personal disgrace. Their travels throw them into a string of extraordinary adventures as Felix tries to survive his companion’s destiny.
Author: William King
Publisher: The Black Library
Audio Release Date: 29/11/2019
Series: Gotrek & Felix #1
Running Time: 9hrs 55mins
My Rating of ‘Trollslayer’: 5 out of 5
A lot of the reviews I have seen shirk away from giving Trollslayer a 5 out of 5 because it is an ‘episodic’ story. Ordinarily that just means ‘this is a short story collection masquerading as a novel’ (much like ‘Ghostmaker’ of the Gaunt’s Ghost’s series). Trollslayer is certainly not a short story collection.
What this ‘episodic’ story is, is a masterpiece of grim, dark, oppressive fantasy fiction. Yes, some of the chapters are complete stories or mini-adventures in their own rights, but they are all a part of a much larger narrative within the book rather than just each chapter broken up by ‘oh, this reminds of me of the time …’ Again … I’m looking at the shoddy links in the Gaunt’s Ghost series.
William King has, in this one book, achieved what many writers for the Black Library never actually achieve. They say they write grimdark fiction and they try to get that across with excessive gore and violence, but King gets that point across with beautiful writing, incredible scene-setting skills and the raw talent for not only writing, but creating, atmosphere.
Trollslayer has long been thought of a great entry point into the Warhammer Fantasy series and it wasn’t until I re-read it that I see why. In this novel they introduce you, if not in person, but in description, to many of the factions within the Warhammer Universe and the delicate balance upon which most relations between factions hang.
Not only is this the novel to kickstart your Warhammer Fantasy adventure, it’s the start of the series that will form one heck of a solid back bone as to any reader’s understanding of the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Things like this are the main reason why Age of Sigmar will never reach the beautifully crafted levels that the Old World reached. There is nothing that wraps its arms around you and welcomes you to the world in that setting, there is only confusion.
I kind of went off-track there … but reading a book set in the Old World just angers me that Age of Sigmar exists. Anyway, back to Trollslayer.
King creates very believable and enjoyable characters throughout, even those that feature as background noise to the main setting have the feel of men, women and children that you would expect to see in a fantasy world of this sort and it makes the whole reading experience easier.
The speech, a notoriously difficult part of any novel-writing experience, is wonderful and the banter between characters is not only easy and free-flowing, but believable and realistic. There are no pitfalls where the author just decides to throw in unrealistic/unhuman-like conversation solely to pad out the word count, nor is there the awkward ‘character randomly explains plot by guessing stuff out loud to his companion’ that is often a frustrating aspect of some fantasy novels I have come across in my time.
The long and the short of this review is: Not only is this a well-crafted and wonderfully written novel, it’s one where everything just fits perfectly.
Having both listened and read Trollslayer, I can say that, for my money, the audio is a lot better (not an easy feat considering how much I enjoyed reading it). Jonathan Keeble is an absolute genius when it comes to fantasy narrating and I’ll certainly be seeking out more books read by him, especially in this series. His voice work just makes this novel such an immersive and addictive experience. It’s rare I wish for a novel to be twice as long as it was, but in this case I wish it were ten times as long.