Trollslayer by William King

With the hugely sad recent death of David Gemmell, decent British heroic-fantasy authors are alarmingly thin on the ground. Thank goodness then, for Bill King and his Gotrek and Felix novels. Trollslayer is the very first of these novels, and is the subject of this review.

Set in the bleak, grim world of Wahammer from the hugely popular Games Workshop franchise, Trollslayer follows the exploits of Felix Jaeger, a rogue-like university dropout with a silver tongue, and Gotrek Gurnisson, a homicidal dwarf that bears the title of Trollslayer. Gotrek is doomed to wander the Old World in search of an honourable death as payment for a past crime of a terrible nature, while Felix finds himself accompanying the surly dwarf, with the responsibility of recording their travels and, ultimately, Gotrek’s glorious death.

The relationship between the two companions is one of the highlights of the book. The two of them could not be more different, with Gotrek actively seeking battle and bloodshed, while Felix tags reluctantly along, praying fervently for their safe passage. This leads to several amusing conversations and situations, and William King is adept at portraying Felix’s unease and panicky response to battle, as well as his failure to understand fully the violent streak in his dwarven friend. Gotrek by contrast, savours the violence of battle, and can’t understand Felix’s reservations. Their different backgrounds and race traits make them a mismatched pairing, frequently at odds with one another and unable to understand their respective motivations.

Gotrek’s desire for the ultimate opponent leads them all over the Empire, from dark woods infested with beastmen, to deserted dwarven cities teeming with goblins. The action is thick and fast, with the two companions often caught up in desperate battles, and nefarious plots. King certainly knows how to keep the narrative going, and there is barely time for Gotrek and Felix to grab a breather before the next wave of mutants/beastmen/undead races towards them.

The novel is broken down into chapters, which are effectively short stories in their own right. This breaks the book up nicely, and a short preface to each chapter by Felix Jaeger gives the impression that the story that follows is drawn from his own memory, giving the writing an almost personal quality.

In an age where fantasy writing more often than not tends to lean towards the epic, it is hugely refreshing to read a book that is not big and not overly clever, but is instead a thoroughly enjoyable read, with lovable characters and fast-paced action and adventure. And now that the Felix and Gotrek novels have been released in two omnibus versions, you can get three novels in one volume for a reduced price. Trollslayer is the first novel in the first omnibus, alongside Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer.

If you like your heroic fantasy fun and fast-paced, you could do a lot worse than pick up Trollslayer and join Felix and Gotrek on their adventures through the Old World.

James Long © 2006

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