Trollslayer is the first part of the death saga of Gotrek Gurnisson, as re-told by his travelling companion Felix Jaeger. Set in the darkly gothic world of Warhammer, Trollslayer is an episodic novel featuring some of the most extraordinary adventures of this deadly pair of heroes. Monsters, daemons, sorcerers, mutants, orcs, beastmen and worse are to be found as Gotrek strives to achieve a noble death in battle. Felix, of course, only has to survive to tell the tale.
As a female lady-type person, it will not surprise many people when I say that until recently, I was unfamiliar with the Black Library and the Warhammer Universe in general. Trollslayer is one of the first Warhammer novels I have read and it will definitely not be the last.
As the blurb helpfully points out, Trollslayer is written in an episodic format which reads like a collection of short stories told in chronological order. Each chapter starts in a new place, with a different focus and with different supporting characters. I had my doubts about this at first, thinking that the book would be a predictable sequence of descriptive set-pieces with a bloody climax but I was, thankfully, proven wrong. Even though the focus of the narrative changes from chapter to chapter, I felt that each contributed to the sense of a larger impending blight that seems to provide a darker tone throughout the novel.
Despite the overall sense of plot-thickening, I would argue that, in essence, Trollslayer is rather more character-driven than plot centric and it is this that provides the novel with a sense of linear development. I felt this was particularly true of Felix, as he started out as a fairly average scholar and duellist (if there is a precedent going for that kind of thing) with a distaste for battle. However, in later chapters, I sensed a kind of bloodlust that I hadn’t read early on. I thought this was really nice touch, as I doubt anyone travelling (and thus, constantly fighting) with Gotrek could remain unaffected by his relentless pursuit of A Good Death. Gotrek himself, aside from his motivation to die in battle, remains an enigma. Unlike modern portrayals of dwarves (here’s looking at you, film Gimli!) Felix finds that the dwarven culture is not like human culture (but smaller) but it is in fact completely alien, insular and difficult to understand, much like Gotrek the Slayer himself. What did he do to merit his status as a Slayer? I guess I’ll have to read on.