‘Gotrek & Felix return to the city of Nuln to lie low and gain some steady employment. Being a sewer-jack would seem to be fairly mundane work until the skaven raise their furry heads. The maze of sewers provides a perfect staging post for the foul chaos rat-men, as they seek to overwhelm the city. Luckily there are two people below ground who like a good fight.’
As you can probably tell, I really liked it so all pretence at objectivity goes out of the window here. I am aware that it is not technically adult fiction so the prose lacks the subtlety of older fantasy fiction. This can make reading it a bit clunky every now and again and yes, secondary character development (thinking particularly of Von Halstadt’s backstory) is can be predictable or shallow at times. Felix’s girlfriend is a tedious encumbrance on the plot, and she added nothing to it. BUT I DO NOT CARE.
Honestly, these became secondary considerations when I immersed myself in the universe. This second Slayer instalment is plot-centric, unlike its predecessor which established our characters. I think this made Skavenslayer less obviously textual which means you can feel more involved with the plot- it feels more organic than Trollslayer, as we follow our protagonists around in the same place from chapter to chapter. It is nice to have one (more or less) continuous narrative instead of leaving gaps of time between chapters unfilled or only referred to in passing.
What I liked most about the book, however, is the effect that the split perspective had on the way I read it. Skavenslayer is told from both the point of view of the skaven (rat-men) and Felix (never Gotrek, he is frustratingly holding us at arm’s length and remains a sullen dwarven enigma). Now, in theory, I should be rooting for Gotrek and Felix as they are, not to put too fine a point on it, not evil. But Grey Seer Thanquol is really quite sympathetically written- dealing with treason after treason and being thwarted by his enemies at every turn. The depth of his character really surprised me and I felt more interest in the skaven as a result. He brought life and feeling to the skaven power struggle like an equally despotic, yet more likeable Joffrey Baratheon. Thanquol, (plus comic moments like Chang Squik taking advantage of Emmanuelle’s canapés in the heat of battle) makes it hard to see the story in simple black and white. If I can’t accurately say that the skaven are humanised, they are certainly made more relatable.
So of course I am going to recommend that you read Skavenslayer, but I would recommend that you read the Slayer series in order, unlike this chap on Goodreads. As he says, you won’t miss an enormous amount but I’d do it anyway, in order to avoid breaking your immersion. On a topical note, as we are indeed in Movember, Holden is correct when he says that ‘the shaven are their own worst enemy.’