The Ambassador by Graham McNeill
This novel has the best cover of any Warhammer book I have ever seen—a truly beautiful painting—and the prose inside measures up to the outstanding image. Kaspar is a fifty-four-year old widower who thought he had put his campaigning days behind him when his emperor asked him to become his ambassador to Kislev to help them prepare for a coming war with the hordes of chaos. This novel focuses on the preparations for that war—all of which are complicated by the disastrous tenure of Kaspar’s corrupt predecessor. The imperial troops are not just years out of training, they are starving because the voluminous supplies sent by the empire have all gone astray. The egos of the average Kislevite make it difficult to get anything done. And, of course, there are the traitors found in every corner of the world of Warhammer—men and women who have sold their souls to chaos and are secretly working to bring the defenders of the realm down.
Yet important as all of this is, it is not the heart of the novel—that revolves around the mysterious butcherman—a horrifying serial killer who eats his foes and who appears to have a sick fascination with Kaspar. Finding out who the butcherman is and stopping him becomes a critical storyline—even as the chaos horde grows closer.
Gotrek and Felix
William King's Gotrek and Felix charge across the world of Warhammer destroying evil wherever they find it. Gotrek is a dwarf who committed an unmentionable crime and has sworn to die fighting evil to make up for his misdeed. Felix is a scholar and the son of a merchant who made a drunken promise to Gotrek to chronicle his doom. Together they are the Conan of the Warhammer world.
Gotrek and Felix 1 Trollslayer by William King
Gotrek and Felix are classic heroes of hack-and-slash fantasy. In the strong tradition of Conan the Barbarian, they trek through rivers of blood, cutting down monsters and supernatural bad guys left and right. Gotrek is a dwarf who committed an unspoken crime and has vowed to seek his death by slaying the foulest of the fell creatures that inhabit the Warhammer universe. Felix is a well-educated, university drop out, who got drunk and swore to accompany Gotrek, chronicling his efforts.
This first novel of the series is far from the best. King is still figuring out his characters and as often seems to happen in early Warhammer books, we’re given a series of short stories rather than a full novel. But the heart that makes the series great is already present. Gotrek’s eagerness to end his own pain by finding an evil too great for even his sharp axe constantly runs afoul of his own iron will and unwillingness to concede to any opponent. Felix is far less eager to find his own death, but just can’t bring himself to leave the dwarf behind. It’s not his oath, whatever he pretends, it’s loyalty and friendship and courage beyond all rationality.
Gotrek and Felix 2 Skavenslayer by William King
Gotrek and Felix are back in a book length adventure set in the Warhammer city of Nuln. Gotrek and Felix are completely broke and struggling to earn enough to feed themselves as part of the sewer watch, but that doesn’t mean Gotrek’s doom will give them a break. The rat-like skaven are planning to conquer Nuln and only Gotrek and Felix stand in their way.
This book is packed with all the action that one would expect from a Gotrek and Felix novel, but at the same time the skaven are just loads of fun. Each weird clan has a specialty that makes them unique and interesting—pestilence, machines, assassins, etc, but the true thing that stands out in each clan is its ability to connive and backstab the others which helps to explain why Gotrek and Felix constantly find themselves in a position to frustrate their plans.
King’s genius in this novel is bringing several of the skaven into full existence for the reader so that we have as much fun in experiencing their squabbles for power as we do in their battles with Gotrek and Felix. King also uses Nuln to greatly flesh out Felix’s character by introducing his brother and this added tremendously to my enjoyment of the book. All in all, this is a great second installment in the series.
Gotrek and Felix 3 Daemonslayer by William King
Dwarves, dwarves, and more dwarves dominate the pages of Daemonslayer as Gotrek and Felix accept an invitation to join a quest to reach a long lost dwarven stronghold, Karag Dum. This is Gotrek’s second effort to reach the fabled underground city which is buried somewhere in the dreaded Chaos Wastes—an impassable barrier whose poisoned sands kill just about everyone who dares to trek out into it. So, to make the journey possible, the dwarves are depending on the genius of a mad dwarven engineer who has constructed the world’s first airship—a mighty zeppelin capable of flying high above the sands to reach the stronghold and the true peril that has condemned Karag Dum.
This book is the best yet in the series, a wild ride from opening to close. We see a lot more of the Warhammer world and best of all meet two new slayers who are simply loads of fun. We also have two of the skaven who survived the previous novel reappear here to the great benefit of the overall plot.
If you want to explore Warhammer’s equivalent of Tolkein’s Mines of Moria, get yourself a copy of Daemonslayer.
Gotrek and Felix 4 Dragonslayer by William King
Gotrek and Felix return to face the classic monster of fantasy—an ancient fire-breathing dragon. As if that’s not enough, they also get to battle skaven, orcs and bandits as well. King’s corner of the world of Warhammer is coming to life as the heroes figure out that a new great incursion of chaos monsters from the Chaos Wastes is beginning and it has the potential to crush the Empire. The cast continues to flesh out as well as many characters who looked to be making single book cameos return and look like they may become continuing cast members. Most interesting of these is the magician, Max, who gives King a voice through which he can analyze on a macro level what the forces of chaos are doing.
Favored villains also reappear in the form of Grey Seer Thanquol and Lurk, two skaven from book two who have been dogging our heroes’ trail. I think of them as primarily comic relief, although both pose potentially serious threats.
There are two great battles with the dragon. I thought the first was the more exciting, but both are important. In addition, we meet a kingdom of dwarven slayers and a whole bunch more slayers join the quest. This is particularly useful because they show how strongly Gotrek stands out from this group. He’s a slayer’s slayer, so to speak—almost a force of nature much as Conan was.
One of the most interesting facets of the series to me is Felix’s personality. He still hasn’t quite figured out that he truly is as much a hero as the great heroes of legend. He sees himself as simply surviving their struggles without crediting the fact that at anytime he could break his word and leave Gotrek to his own devices. The dwarves certainly realize this and it’s nice to see Felix getting the respect the reader knows he deserves.
Gotrek and Felix 5 Beastslayer by William King
The first of the massive Chaos armies has reached the walls of Praag and nothing appears to be able to stand in its way—nothing that is, but everyone’s favorite dwarven slayer, Gotrek, and his human friend, Felix. As if the army outside the walls is not bad enough, there are numerous traitors inside the walls as well—many of whom have set their minds to the task of killing Gotrek and Felix because the enemy commander has had a vision that they could defeat him. The novel is a dizzying mess of plots and attacks instantly clarified with Gotrek’s axe and Felix’s sword.
The supporting cast of extra slayers, a mage, and Felix’s girlfriend, a
martially puissant noblewoman, all have strong roles in the book as well.
Everything is on the line this time, not just for the Gotrek and Felix, but for
the entire city and the human civilization beyond it.
Gotrek and Felix 6 Vampireslayer by William King
A powerful vampire is seeking to get his hands on an artifact that will let him control all of the bloodsucking fiends of the night, and only Gotrek, Felix and their friends stand in his way. Their efforts will bring them out of Praag into the frightening land of Slovinia where centuries before vampires ruled and where those creatures of the night are still far more powerful and influential than any opponent of chaos would want to believe.
There’s a lot of tragedy in this novel as characters that King has developed over many books are all threatened with death and worse. There are also some great battles and one of my favorite moments in the entire series leads to the destruction of this latest peril. Fans of the series will love this book and fans of vampires will find a lot to enjoy in this novel as well.
Gotrek and Felix 7 Giantslayer by William King
William King ends his run as author of the Gotrek and Felix series by confronting them with a world ending threat and by forcing Gotrek to overcome his dwarven sensibilities and ally with an elf. It’s an exciting adventure in the far north of the Warhammer world and a worthy final novel for King—really upping the ante for the most serious stakes Gotrek and Felix have fought over yet.
That’s not to say that it is all praiseworthy. King separates Gotrek and Felix from their remaining companions of the past four books and that really was sad. Dwarven Slayer Snori brought a lot of laughs and the Mage Max has been a solid companion as well. I was sorry to see them go, but ultimately it didn’t detract too much from the novel.
Gotrek and Felix 8 Orcslayer by Nathan Long
When Nathan Long takes over as author of the Gotrek and Felix series, he advances the storyline two decades into the future. Gotrek and Felix are trying to return to the empire as Gotrek continues to seek his elusive doom and Felix continues chronicling his heroic efforts to die. The novel starts on a high note as Gotrek has himself catapulted onto an orc ship so he and his axe can reach the bad guys. Then matters slow down a little so Gotrek and Felix can find their latest quest—helping a former friend recover a dwarven stronghold.
There are two very good things about this novel. The first is an extended look at dwarven grudges—epitomized in the senseless enmity between Gotrek and his former friend. The second is the fascinating force behind the orc invasion of the dwarven stronghold. The clues that things are off—that this isn’t a typical orc attack—grow throughout the novel and the solution to the mystery is both creepy and fitting for the Warhammer universe. My only real complaint about the novel was that it ran a little too long.
Gotrek and Felix 9 Manslayer by Nathan Long
I think this title was ingenious for this series. We’ve had eight monsters in the title so far (Trolls, Dragons, Daemons, Orcs, Giants, Vampires, Beasts, and Skaven) and in book 9 Nathan reminds us that man can be quite the monster as well.
The plot revolves around Gotrek and Felix’s efforts to get to the front in the new war against Chaos. Their journey takes them through Nuln and for the first time in twenty years, Felix sees his brother who has (unknown to Felix) been publishing his journals as adventure stories which no one believes are true. As the reader can imagine, everyone’s going to have a chance to learn how real they are.
The plot revolves around the theft of a barge-load of black powder needed for cannon at the front. Gotrek and Felix seem to be the only ones making progress in finding it, which angers the watch into castigating them for all of the damage caused in their battles. The watch is a conundrum throughout the story. Are they just protecting their turf or are they actually aiding the chaos cults trying to burn down Nuln and its gunnery school?
This book is packed with fights and the return of characters from when William King wrote the series. The most important of these is Felix’s former lover (now turned into a vampire), Ulrika. I thought Long handled this obviously painful reunion very well and it added a lot to the story. In addition, the threat is very well drawn and I was totally satisfied with the ending which actually makes the reader think about what life must be like in the world of Warhammer.
I do have one complaint, but it’s of the Warhammer universe, not of Nathan Long’s book. Chaos causes mutations. They pop up in tons of the novels. I find it difficult to believe that a world in this serious of a struggle doesn’t routinely make people strip down to be examined for mutation since such mutations always lead to the mutant joining the side of chaos.