‘Fresh from their adventures battling the servants of the rat-god in Nuln, Gotrek and Felix are now ready to join an expedition northwards in search of the long-lost dwarf hall of Karag Dum. Setting forth for the hideous Realms of Chaos in an experimental dwarf airship, Gotrek and Felix are sworn to succeed or die in the attempt. But greater and more sinister energies are coming into play, as a daemonic power is awoken to fulfil its ancient, deadly promise.’
Here we go again! It is Warhammer time. (Apologies for that joke, I bet it has never been made before.) I have to say, Daemonslayer is the best Slayer book YET.
Anyone who has read my previous Black Library reviews knows how little I know about Gotrek Gurnisson, the titular Slayer. You will also know how much I have longed for his character development and backstory and, in Daemonslayer, WILLIAM KING FINALLY DELIVERS!
For those who don’t know, the Slayer series is narrated by Felix Jaeger, to whom Gotrek is as alien as he is to us. In the two preceding books, Felix has tried to understand Gotrek with little success, until the arrival of The Courier (not that one). Then the shit turns, looking speculatively at the fan. We come face to face with the elusive dwarven race and their true creative capacity and we see Gotrek in a previously unseen dwarven context, which results in some fantastic character development- notably when Gotrek calls another dwarf a ‘maniac’. I genuinely laughed out loud when I read this. If Gotrek can call someone a maniac, what the fuck has this guy done?
Getting back to the matter at hand, however, I found Daemonslayer to be an ambitious sequel to the previous books, Trollslayer being a linear set of short stories and Skavenslayer being a much larger narrative, set in one major city. Daemonslayer takes the reader across cities, sweeping plains and into the very heart of the Chaos Wastes. It would be easy to call it predictable, as it is essentially another narrative of Gotrek’s death-and-glory quest but you really couldn’t second-guess this story. Knowing as I did that there were several sequels in the series, I was still convinced that Gotrek and Felix were going to die. There was a character I was convinced would not die (because I didn’t want him to) and he totally did. It was grim, dreaded (and simultaneously unexpected) and very evocative. The standard of the description in the series has dramatically improved in my estimation- to create such a powerful scene as this guy’s death takes some skill. Just don’t read this scene on public transport as I did, because people don’t take kindly to their fellow passengers squeaking with horror.
Speaking of which… Luckily for me, we still see a little of Grey Seer Thanquol and the snivelling Lurk Snitchtongue. They are by far my favourite characters in the series. They are without doubt the most back-stabbing, self-serving, cowardly and villainous of the skaven I have met yet but they are so likeable that I love to read about them. Take Lurk, a coward and traitor stowed away on the dwarven airship. He is given, for a moment, all the power and strength he needs to fulfil his most violent fantasies and Lurk, being Lurk might do it… later. If the numbers are on his side. At moments like these, I cannot fault King’s characterisation and sense of comedy. He gives his readers a better knowledge of the characters than they have of themselves and I think it is probably the fact that we can see the skaven with all their nature and failings that makes them such an entertaining read.
This is a series that I really enjoy reading and I thoroughly recommend. They were originally written as young fiction, so don’t expect Ice and Fire levels of character and plot but they are really good fun and compelling reading when you get into them. At least until we know what Gotrek did.