Last night I finally finished Steven Savile’s Vampire Wars: The Von Carstein Trilogy. This is another Warhammer novel, taking place long before Gotrek & Felix roamed the world. I’d really enjoyed William King’s Vampireslayer and so was looking forward to learning more about the vampire legacy in the world of Warhammer.
Savile strikes me as a pretty good author in search of a pretty good editor. Lots of what he writes is really well done, but you’ll hit some real clunkers now and then, mostly when he tries to work some historical quote into the book. At one point late in the book, a swarm of bats block out the sun and one of the officers confidently quips “Good. We shall have our battle in the shade.” We are still reeling from that groaner when Mannfred, being harried by the Grand Theogonist (a high ranking official in the order of Sigmarites) suddenly shouts “Would someone rid me of this damnable holy man?”
The other main problem is that the books are disjointed, and I’m guessing that once again they started as a series of short pieces published in (or meant to be published in) White Dwarf. So characters appear and disappear almost randomly. Sometimes they vanish for good, other times they’ll suddenly pop up again 300 pages later. It prevents the book from ever getting into a smooth flow. It doesn’t make it bad so much as it makes it unusual.
On the other hand, these are bad vampires. These days it seems like the focus is on making vampires some kind of tragic figures, but not the ones in these books. This is gritty, gory book full of ghouls and zombies and dire wolves (and vampires, of course!). None of the three vampire Counts’ features are tragic, though there is one brush with vampires more like the ones that Gotrek & Felix encountered.
Lots of fighting, lots of heroics, lots of death. One of the benefits of the willy-nilly coming and going of characters is that really bad things happen to characters you’ve come to care about. Savile will spend enough time on a character that you start thinking “OK, this is a main character, he’s safe.” and then BAM! something terrible happens.
At 766 pages, its a *long* volume and I think if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have read all the volumes in it sequentially, because after a while you do get kind of desensitized to it all. There’s only so many ways to depict corpses clawing their way out of their graves to attack the living, y’know? But the book isn’t too long, because it covers a lot of time and a lot of campaigns and a ton of characters.
By the time I started reading Vampire Wars, I’d pretty much finished playing Warhammer Online, and the focus on vampires, men and dwarves did nothing to remind me this was a Warhammer novel. Orcs and goblins are mentioned only tangentially, and the elves had not yet revealed themselves when these events took place. Chaos doesn’t feature in the books, either. This isn’t good or bad; I’m just conveying the info that if you’re playing Warhammer Online, don’t expect these books to tie into that too much.
On a scale of 1-5, I’m going to give Vampire Wars: The Von Carstein Trilogy, 3 stars. It was good, but had some rough spots and was a bit disjointed. It probably would’ve benefited from one more edit/rewrite cycle. Still, a fun book to read.