Giantslayer is the last Gotrek & Felix book written by William King before he handed off the series to Nathan Long. Reports are that Long really stumbles with our mighty duo of Gotrek the Dwarf Slayer and Felix the Warrior-Scholar, but sadly I found that King did some stumbling of his own.

After the wonderful Omnibus Volume. 2 I was really excited to dive into Giantslayer and find out who the Giant is and how the duo will slay it. And as with all series books, the first few chapters felt like a ‘warm up’ to the real action. So I dutifully slogged through them, and after a few nights of reading I started to wonder when the action was going to heat up. And then I noticed I was two-thirds of the way through the book!

This one just never comes together as a Gotrek & Felix book; I suspect this was a story King wanted to tell and he just wedged the pair into it. They don’t even feel like main characters, and via a Deus Ex Machina device they’re not even in the Empire anymore. All their companions get left behind very early on and they’re just kind of adrift in a new (to them) world.

It’s true that as the title suggests, they’ll have to slay a giant, but that’s a side plot and the giant isn’t the main Foozle of the book. Gotrek (who, let’s face it, is a fairly ‘thin’ character at the best of times) is a total cardboard cut-out here, and I think his axe gets more attention than he does. He grumbles now and then (in a very predictable fashion) but otherwise is just swept along. Felix is handled a bit better and has some sub-plot ‘stubs’ but they’re never fleshed out and never come to anything.

The focus of the book is Teclis, a high-elf they meet early on in their adventures (giving Gotrek his single schtick throughout the book, grumbling about how much he hates and mistrusts elves). I’m a Warhammer novice so I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Teclis is a ‘known hero’ in the Warhammer universe. If I already knew about and liked Teclis, this novel might have been more interesting to me, but I signed on for Gotrek & Felix being mighty warriors, not to see them as often-ineffectual sidekicks to a potent elf mage.

The one saving grace is that some long-running plotlines get tied up here, but overall I kind of wish I’d finished my Gotrek & Felix adventure with the Second Omnibus. I can’t in good faith recommend Giantslayer unless you’re a fan of Teclis. Gotrek & Felix deserved a better final novel from William King.

Gotrek & Felix: The Second Omnibus

I stayed up much too late last night finishing Gotrek & Felix: The Second Omnibus by William King.

Honestly, I don’t have a real lot to say about it. If you haven’t read any of the Gotrek & Felix books, then you should start with Omnibus 1 (or one of the stand alone volumes, but these Omnibus re-issues are a great value). If you have read that and enjoyed it, stop reading and go order Omnibus 2. King just gets better and better the further along he goes.

All three books in the collection (Beastslayer, Dragonslayer and Vampireslayer) are full novels (the early books were collections of short stories and novellas) each of which stands alone nicely but strung together they form a continuous narrative of the adventures of our two heroes, one-time poet and scholar Felix, and gruff, death-wish driven Slayer Gotrek. The cast of characters broadens quite a bit in these books though, making them feel like a richer experience. King even finds room for some romance-driven subplots, and even Gotrek starts to show some signs of humanity by the end (and is self-aware of this fact, grumbling about spending too much time around humans).

A broader cast of characters lets King dispose of a few here and there as well, which alleviates the one weakness of a series with character names in the titles. We pretty much know that neither Gotrek nor Felix is going to fall in battle, given that there are more books to read!

I have to admit I came in to these books with pretty low-expectations given that they are based on a game. And at first my expectations were met: fun stuff, but with not a lot of meat to them. But that feeling faded away back in the midst of Omnibus 1, and the three books in this volume are great fantasy that could stand up against any non-licensed sword & sorcery fantasy novels. It doesn’t matter if you know what Warhammer is; if you love a good fantasy adventure yarn, the Gotrek & Felix books are for you.

Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus

My eyes are red and tearing from my last heroic push to complete this tome. Do I get an unlock for that? Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus is a collection of three books (Trollslayer, Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer) from William King and based on Warhammer Lore. The first two books are collections of short stories and novellas while the third is a full length novel.

Gotrek Gurnisson is a Slayer; a dwarf who has suffered some shame (this far the details of which have yet to be revealed) and as a way to make amends is seeking a glorious death. Felix Jaeger is the son of a rich merchant; a scholar and poet, who was expelled from university after killing a fellow student in a duel. After this, he somehow provoked the famous Window Tax Riots, during which Gotrek saved his life. The two went out and got good and drunk together after this incident, and Felix swore an oath to travel with Gotrek and record his doom.

The books are written from Felix’s point of view (which fits well as he is the chronicler of Gotrek’s journey), and it is his growth as a character that keeps things interesting. Gotrek is more or less a force of nature, running towards any and every hopeless battle while Felix reluctantly follows along and inevitably ends up performing better than he ever hoped he would.

Trollslayer has the pair cavorting across the lands encountering all manner of evil in a loosely linked series of stories. Skavenslayer is more focused and concentrates on the Skaven (rat-men) plot to take over the city of Nuln. King’s rendition of the Skaven is wonderfully awful; cowardly, malicious creatures who are always one scare away from “squirting the musk of fear” or chewing their own tails out of nervousness or frustration. In Daemonslayer, Gotrek and Felix take part in an expedition into the Chaos Wastes of the North.

As a stand-alone book, Gotrek & Felix: The First Omnibus is great fun, a wonderful swords and sorcery (and bit of steampunk) yarn. My only real Warhammer connection is Warhammer Online, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the book any less had I not been playing WAR; I’d recommend it for any fan of s&s fantasy.

On the other hand, reading the book really helped keep me in the mood for playing the game, so if you’re a WAR subscriber you might want to keep that in mind.

You may be a bit lost at first (I was) since the first book is all short stories, but soon enough you’ll get a feel for the characters and really start enjoying them. King’s skill as a writer improves through the three books as well (or so it seemed to me). The writing seems to get better and better as the series goes on.

I don’t usually get caught up on price, but this is also quite a bargain. Amazon lists the book $8.79 USD at the time of this writing, and it runs 763 pages. The downside is that it’s a mass-market paperback with about a 1.75″ spine, so it probably won’t stand up to too many readings without the spine cracking.