Publisher: Black Library (Paperback – February 2001)
Series: Gotrek and Felix – Book 5
Length: 275 pages
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. For my latest Throwback Thursday I continue to examine the awesome and exciting Gotrek and Felix series from the Warhammer Fantasy range with the fifth book, Beastslayer by William King.
Readers of my blog will have no doubt noticed my increased consumption of Warhammer novels in the last year as I have really started to get hooked on this cool franchise again. One of my absolute favourite series has been the epic Gotrek and Felix books, the earlier entries of which are written by talented William King. This excellent series is set in the Warhammer Fantasy world and follows two compelling protagonists, doomed dwarf Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his human companion Felix Jaeger, as they face the monsters, daemons and evil forces of the world in an attempt to find Gotrek a mighty death. I have had a lot of fun with this series in 2021 and ended up reading the first four Gotrek and Felix books, Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer and Dragonslayer. This fifth book was another great entry in the franchise and pits this legendary team against an entire army of evil.
After their harrowing journey to the Chaos Wastes and their epic quest to slay a monstrous dragon, Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his chronicler Felix Jaeger continue their adventures throughout the Old Realm. Once again determined to journey to the most dangerous place possible, Gotrek and Felix find themselves within the Kislev city of Prague, the great fortress city that serves as a bulwark between the Chaos Wastes and the civilised realms of man. However, this mighty city is in mortal danger as a massive horde of Chaos descends upon it, led by the fearsome Arek Daemonclaw.
Arek, a ferocious and cunning war leader and sorcerer is determined to destroy Prague and lead his forces throughout Kislev and down into the Empire. To carry out his goals, Arek has amassed one of the greatest armies of Chaos ever seen, filled with Northern marauders, elite warriors blessed by the dark gods of Chaos, beastmen, mutants, monsters, daemons and two sorcerers of unimaginable power. Their victory over the people of Kislev seems certain, but Gotrek and Felix are used to fighting such impossible odds.
Accompanied by several powerful friends and allies, Gotrek and Felix are resolute in their determination to save Prague and kill as many followers of Chaos as possible. However, their opponents are well aware of the threat these two companions represent and are doing everything in their power to destroy them. Forced to confront both the massive army outside the walls and treacherous cultists from within who are led by a powerful member of the Prague court, can even Gotrek and Felix survive this latest attack from hell?
This was another thrilling and fun entry in the Gotrek and Felix series that I had a fantastic time reading. Beastslayer has another great, action-packed story, and it was awesome to see the series’ two protagonists embark on another epic adventure. This fifth novel takes place shortly after the events of Dragonslayer and sees the heroes arriving in the city of Prague just before the invading Chaos army arrives. The story quickly devolves into a bloody siege novel, with the entire city under threat from the massive army outside. I have a lot of love for siege stories, and this proved to a pretty good one, especially as some of the battles get quite brutal and over-the-top. While the focus is naturally on the siege itself, King also mixes things up by installing a cool arc about a traitor within the city who is given the task of eliminating Gotrek and Felix. This amps up the stakes for the heroes and ensures that they are facing threats from all sides. While I did think that the identity of the mysterious traitor was a bit obvious (I had them pegged before I even knew there was a traitor), this intriguing arc worked out really well and I had a lot of fun with it. The real highlight however is the final battle between the protagonists and the invading army. King produces a truly amazing final battle sequence that sees Gotrek, Felix and their friends in one massive extended battle that really stretches them to their limit. Although the eventual arrival of various allies seemed a tad predictable, it still ended up being an intense final third of the novel and I could not put the book down the entire time the battle was raging. Throw in some interesting character development and an entertaining, if slightly disconnected, storyline around recurring antagonist Grey Seer Thanquol, and you have a great Gotrek and Felix novel that is really worth checking out.
I really liked the way that King wrote Beastslayer and I honestly think that it was one of the more consistent and compelling entries in the series so far. King has moved away from having novels with partially separated storylines (such as the first parts of Daemonslayer and Dragonslayer), and instead presented a strong and very self-contained narrative. Like most of the entries in this series, readers can easily dive into Beastslayer without having any prior knowledge of the series. King makes sure to revisit and examine most of the key storylines and character moments from the previous novels, ensuring that new readers can easily follow what is happening here without too many problems. From a series standpoint this is a key entry, wrapping up storylines from the previous novel in a fun and exciting way. I loved seeing where some of the long-term story elements went, and by concluding a few of them, King sets up the next novel as a bit of a clean slate for new things. This ended up being a pretty solid action-adventure novel, and I loved all the brilliant fight sequences that King loaded into the story. These various action sequences are pretty gritty and brutal, and you get a real sense of the destruction and death being dealt around. I had an outstanding time reading this novel and I think it was one of King’s stronger books.
One of the things that I liked about the Gotrek and Felix series is the slightly limited degree to which the plot relies on the overarching universe. While this is clearly set within the Warhammer Fantasy world and features several iconic factions, locations and foes, enjoyment of this book is not dependent on known anything about them. Any fantasy fan can easily dive into Beastslayer without being familiar with Warhammer lore and still have fun, and indeed this is a great introductory series for people interested in checking out the franchise. There is of course a lot that will appeal to people more familiar with Warhammer and it was great to see some of the iconic locations, such as Prague and Hell Pit, especially as King does a wonderful job fleshing them out (especially Hell Pit, which is filled with some crazy Clan Moulder mutations). There are also some great references to key parts of Warhammer history, such as the previous siege of Prague, and I enjoyed the continued focus on the lands of Kislev, which are often overlooked in Warhammer Fantasy fiction. This ended up being a fantastic tie-in to the wider universe, especially as King went all out bringing in various monsters and Chaos foes, and I cannot wait to see where this series goes next.
At this point in the series, the central characters have been well established, and not only are the readers very familiar with the two main protagonists, Gotrek and Felix, but also with some of the main supporting characters, such as Max Schreiber, Ulrika Magdova and Snorri Nosebiter. As such, there isn’t a great deal of character development in Beastslayer as King was mostly concerned with keeping the status quo. As such, Gotrek and Felix are pretty much portrayed in the same entertaining way they have been throughout the entire series, with Gotrek being a grim, taciturn badass and Felix being a more sensible but dangerous ally. There are a few interesting developments surrounding them, such as some fascinating peeks into Gotrek’s past which partially reveal the reason he became a Slayer, and Felix’s continued transformation into a hardened warrior and leader. Max and Ulrika end up with a bit more development than Gotrek or Felix, with Max becoming more a sympathetic figure whose knowledge of magic becomes an important part of the novel. Ulrika also goes through a few changes in this book, and it was great to see that annoying relationship with Felix mostly come to an end. King still struggles a bit when it comes to writing female characters, especially since Ulrika is the only female character of note in the entire novel. Several other fun recurring characters pop up throughout Beastslayer, although readers shouldn’t get too attached to some of them, especially during some of the climatic and deadly war scenes.
Aside from this great group of protagonists King has also included some interesting antagonists in this novel. The most prominent of these is Arek Daemonclaw, the leader of the Chaos army attacking Prague and a follower of the dark god Tzeentch. King does a lot with Arek in a very short amount of time, and he is soon built up to be a dangerous enemy and a real threat to Gotrek and Felix. Aside from Arek there are a couple of other interesting villains, including some sorcerer twins who have their own agenda, and a mysterious cultist hidden within the city with some complex motivations. King also makes sure to include the entertaining skaven character Grey Seer Thanquol, who has his own storyline throughout Beastslayer. Thanquol once again serves as an excellent comic relief for most of the book, and it was entertaining to see all the fun intrigue and betrayal of the skaven. I did think that Thanquol’s storylines were bit disconnected from the rest of the plot, especially as this is one of the last time we see Thanquol before he gets his own novel, but I still had a fantastic time following him.
Overall, William King’s fifth entry in the epic Gotrek and Felix series of Warhammer Fantasy books, Beastslayer, was a fun and exciting fantasy tie-in novel that I deeply enjoyed. Featuring a ton of intense violence, a compelling siege-based storyline and some amazing Warhammer Fantasy elements, Beastslayer continued the cool storylines and character arcs established in the previous novels and made sure the reader was constantly entertained throughout. I had an excellent time reading this awesome novel and I plan to grab the next few books in this series as soon as possible.