Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 3 April 2003)
Series: Gotrek and Felix – Book Seven
Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read. After having a ton of fun listing my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels last week, I dive back into Warhammer Fantasy in a big way with the seventh epic entry in William King’s Gotrek and Felix series, Giantslayer.
While the Warhammer franchise has many great series, few are as iconic or long-lasting as the epic Gotrek and Felix books. Following a doomed dwarf Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his human chronicler Felix Jaeger as they travel across the Warhammer Fantasy landscape, trying to find a worthy death for Gotrek, these books are amazing and fun action-packed reads guaranteed to keep you entertained with their excellent stories. Each of these books is an outstanding read in their own way, and I have had a wonderful time getting through the previous Gotrek and Felix books by King, including Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer, Beastslayer and Vampireslayer. Giantslayer actually marks the end of William King’s run on the Gotrek and Felix series, and he brings his tenure of the series to a powerful and impressive end.
Following their arduous and costly battle against the vampires of Sylvania, Gotrek, Felix and their companions attempt to deal with the losses they all have suffered. However, the evils of the Old World are never considerate of grief, and soon the heroes find themselves attacked by a horde of beastmen. Following them to their lair, they discover a mysterious cavern full of tunnels pulsing with unnatural power.
Separated from their friends and dragged through an unnatural gateway, Gotrek and Felix find themselves transported to the legendary island of Albion, home of ancient tribes, dark forces, and massive giants. Fate brings the two companions into contact with the legendary High Elven mage Teclis, who has journeyed to Albion to uncover the source of dangerous magical energy that threatens to sink the High Elves’ home island of Ulthuan and devastate the rest of the world.
Reluctantly agreeing to work with the elf mage, Gotrek and Felix travel across Albion, attempting to uncover the cause of the latest magical threat facing the world. They soon discover that the island is far from tranquil; instead it is a dark land corrupted by magical power and the dangerous legacy of the Old Ones, the mysterious beings who created the world. Worse, the island has been invaded by the dark forces of Chaos who are determined to harness Albion’s unique magic for themselves. Caught between dark sorcerers, corrupted giants, an army of greenskins and the long-lasting enmity that exists between elves and dwarves, can Gotrek and Felix work with Teclis to save the world, or will the Slayer finally find his doom on Albion?
Giantslayer was another great and highly entertaining Gotrek and Felix novel that successfully showcased the outrageous protagonists while further exploring the elaborate Warhammer Fantasy universe. This was another amazing book from William King, and I felt that he ended his run on this series on a great note, especially as Giantslayer contained a fantastic and fast-paced story. Taking place in the immediate aftermath of Vampireslayer, Giantslayer quickly thrusts the protagonists into the midst of the action while simultaneously introducing the reader to the character of Teclis, who serves as a great additional central character. The first few chapters of the book are pretty trippy in places, especially as all the characters find themselves trapped in a mystical realm, and the subsequent escape results in some fantastic sequences. The characters are then transported to Albion and must explore this intriguing new landscape while trying to overcome their many personal issues, namely the animosity between Gotrek and Teclis, which adds a fun edge to the entire narrative.
King expands the story as the book continues, introducing the reader to several fantastic supporting characters from amongst the people of Albion, and soon shapes the major threat facing the world, namely the forces of Chaos overwhelming the magical energy of the island for their nefarious purposes. King utilises an excellent series of villains at this point of the novel, including the recurring sorcerous twins who have been dogging the protagonists since Dragonslayer. Everything eventually leads up to the massive final confrontation as the protagonists and their allies find themselves in the middle of a massive three-sided battle as they attempt to achieve their goal. There is a ton of action, sacrifice, magical duels, and of course a giant, in this last part of the book, and King really built up an explosive and powerful conclusion to the entire novel. I really enjoyed how this entire book came together, and it was great to see the characters embark on a final adventure under King’s reign. While the story itself can be read as a standalone, the author does fit in a ton of references to the previous entries in the series and long-time readers will enjoy the cool callbacks.
I think that King did an interesting job of wrapping up his run on this series with this final fantastic action story, and fans of his writing style will not be disappointed with Giantslayer. This is very much another epic hack and slash Warhammer novel, and King always manages to make that style of novel stand out, especially with his excellent attention to detail and ability to make all the fun action really pop. The use of multiple perspectives, including through Felix, Teclis and several antagonists’ eyes, gives the reader a very wide narrative to explore, and I loved the fantastic and fun moments that emerged through their adventures. King utilises very quick pacing for this book, so it is quite easy to power through it, especially as there is really never a dull moment as the characters jump from one deadly scenario to another. I do have to be a little critical and point out that King is a somewhat repetitive writer; if he finds a phrase, description, or sentence that he likes, he tends to overuse it slightly throughout the plot. This is particularly noticeable after seven Gotrek and Felix books and readers of this series will no doubt know what phrases I am talking about (wool cloaks and beads of blood). However, while this repetition is occasionally distracting, it honestly didn’t mess up my enjoyment of the story too much and I had a ton of fun getting through Giantslayer.
Giantslayer also serves as a particularly interesting and lore-heavy addition to the Gotrek and Felix books as King spends a lot of time diving into the history of the Warhammer Fantasy world and the original creators, the Old Ones. The book is primarily set on the island of Albion, the setting for the 2001 Warhammer Fantasy campaign series, Dark Shadows, and the author really leans heavily into the setting, showing the rain drizzled island in all its swampy and deadly glory. King sets it a little before the events of Dark Shadows, and much like the campaign’s descriptions the island of Albion is shown as a very Celtic landscape, very much inspired by Scotland. This serves as a brilliant background to the main story, and I loved seeing the characters traverse and fight across the various settings to achieve their goal. As one of the few Warhammer Fantasy books set on Albion, fans of the Dark Shadows campaign can have a bit of fun with Giantslayer, and it was great to learn a little more about the local societies and the history of the island. History really is a major part of the book, and the protagonists end up finding a lot of about Albion and the Old Ones as the story continues. This includes a dive into the Path of the Old Ones, a series of magical gateways existing outside of the main reality which can be traversed. The sequences set within this gateway are very trippy and dark, especially as they have been invaded by daemons, and King really knows how to make all these unique locations stand out with his excellent writing. As a long-time Warhammer Fantasy fan who can remember the Dark Shadows campaign, I really liked the heavy lore inclusions in this book and I felt that King utilised them perfectly throughout Giantslayer to tell a powerful narrative with some really heavy stakes for the protagonists.
I need to highlight the great characters contained within Giantslayer, especially as you get to see more of the titular protagonists, Gotrek Gurnisson and Felix Jaeger. This odd-couple pair of suicidal Slayer and pragmatic human is always a ton of fun, and King keeps this up all the way to the end, as the two characters play off each other perfectly. Gotrek’s glee at each encounter is usually only matched by Felix’s understandable reluctance to travel into the dangerous places their quests take them, and you can always count on a sarcastic and fatalistic statement from Felix, and it makes for some amazing, if slightly predictable scenes. King has never done a lot of character development when it comes to these protagonists and this continues again in Giantslayer. Gotrek remains the same old unstoppable and unflappable Slayer that he always has been, constantly diving into danger, with the author never showing his perspective or providing too many hints at this past. While King does however provide some intriguing insights in Gotrek’s seemingly unkillable nature, this was pretty much a status-quo book for Gotrek, which still has its fun moments. Felix also had some minimal growth in this book, although King does dive into the emotional impacts that the previous adventures have had on the character, which does provide some insights into his cynical and reluctant personality. I did like the more scholarly bent that was shown around Felix in this novel as he learns more about the history of the world and it was fun to see him finally get the idea to start writing the books that have introduced all the prior Gotrek and Felix adventures.
While the character work around Gotrek and Felix was minimal in Giantslayer, King more than makes up for this with the inclusion of the master mage Teclis, one of the more significant High Elf characters in the game. Teclis is a very fascinating character in the lore, and I deeply enjoyed how King portrayed him throughout Giantslayer. King amped up the arrogant, ethereal and ancient qualities of Teclis in his storytelling, and you can really feel how apart from the various human characters he is, especially in the many scenes that he narrates. Teclis is also, by his nature, a rather darker cynical figure, even compared to other elves, and it was great to see this featured throughout the book, especially when it comes to his dealings with the other characters. Despite this, he is still a good person whose sole concern is the preservation of his homeland and the rest of the world. I think that King utilised him perfectly throughout Giantslayer and he served as a great alternative narrator to Felix. I loved seeing this iconic mage in action, and it was especially fun to see him interact with Gotrek considering how antagonist dwarfs and elves are with each other. The two engage in a petty war of words for most of the book, which proves to be highly amusing, as these usually collected characters end up bickering like children. This makes for an extremely unique dynamic throughout the novel that I found to be highly entertaining. King backs up Teclis with a series of great supporting characters and intriguing villains, all of whom add a certain amount of flair and strength to the story. While King once again fails to include any substantial or distinctive female characters, except for a few minor figures, I enjoyed the excellent character inclusions to the series and you get really invested in some new personal stories in this book.
While I did manage to get a physical copy of Giantslayer (as part of the Gotrek and Felix omnibus), I ended up listening to it on audiobook out of convenience, and due to my love of the format. Coming in at just under 10 and a half hours, this is rather easy audiobook to get through quickly, and I manage to knock it out in a couple of days. Like most of the Gotrek and Felix books, the audiobook format for Giantslayer was very fun and I loved how it managed to enhance the epic nature of the book. Not only does it really showcase King’s elaborate descriptions of the Warhammer world, but it also ensured that all the many action scenes really popped as you were drawn right into the heart of the battle through the cool narration.
It helped that the listener was once again treated to the awesome narration of Jonathan Keeble, a veteran voice actor and audiobook narrator who has lend his voice to a huge number of Warhammer audiobooks, including all the Gotrek and Felix books. Keeble is a particularly skilled narrator, not only because he produces a huge number of distinctive voices but because he brings a high level of excitement to his performances that really drags the listener in. I love how Keeble’s voice speeds up to match the carnage and the enthusiasm and energy that permeate his voice as he describes every blow or crazy moment makes you feel like you are sitting there watching it. I also love the very fitting voices that he brings to all the characters, all of which are pretty damn perfect and a lot of fun. The gruff and brutal voice of Gotrek and the sarcastic, scared, yet determined tones of Felix are still just as good here as they were in Trollslayer, and all the new voices introduced by Keeble in the Giantslayer audiobook work just as well. I loved the more ethereal and arrogant voice that Keeble used for Teclis, which really fit King’s portrayal of the character in the novel, and the cool Scottish accents that the natives of Albion spoke with were very distinctive and helped to really characterise these awesome supporting figures. Keeble also brings a great range of monster voices to the book to fit the various Chaos creatures, orcs and giants that are such a prominent feature of the plot, and I loved how dedicated he got to bringing these creatures to life with his narration. Keeble is a very talented narrator, and his performance adds so much to this audiobook while also helping to enhance the already exciting narrative of Giantslayer. As such, I would highly recommend the audiobook version of this book, and you are guaranteed to have a ton of fun listening to it.
Overall, I felt that William King brought his run on the iconic Gotrek and Felix to an end in a fantastic way with Giantslayer which was another awesome and electrifying entry in the series. Featuring an epic, lore-rich story, a ton of action, and the complex and enjoyable characters that King has spent seven books developing, Giantslayer is King at his best and all Warhammer fans will have a blast with this outstanding novel. This entire impressive series has been so much fun to get through and King’s work on these books really stand the test of time as the Gotrek and Felix series are still the premier Warhammer Fantasy books. I will hopefully dive into the next book in the series, Orcslayer, later this year, and while it will be odd not to have it written by King, I am very intrigued to see what Nathan Long brings to the franchise.
3 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday – Warhammer: Giantslayer by William King”
I’m currently also working my way through Gotrek & Felix – just finished Dragonslayer and have Beast and Vampire lined up. Just wanted to agree strongly with your praise of the excellent Jonathan Keeble – sounds like he’s having a blast!
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I’m glad you’re enjoying it, really love Keeble, such a good narrator, and luckily it looks like he sticks with the series throughout its entire run so that’s something to look forward to.
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