For the fourteenth novel in the much-loved Gotrek and Felix saga, David Guymer sends the doom-seeking dwarf slayer and his human rememberer to Mordheim, the City of the Damned. Unlike the ‘Nounslayer’ books (the first 12 novels, from Trollslayer to Zombieslayer) this one doesn’t follow on chronologically, so it’s not clear exactly at what point in their careers we’re seeing them, and none of the cast of old friends that pop up throughout the other novels make an appearance (other than a brief mention for one).
This is Guymer’s first stab at a full-length Gotrek and Felix tale, and he’s definitely got a handle on their characters, the way they think and interact with each other and the wider Warhammer world. Despite being the fourth author to tackle the characters, their voices still feel very familiar, which helps to keep the reader involved with the story. What doesn’t help though is the sheer amount of description throughout the whole novel. It’s not always at the purple prose level, and in places works rather well – for instance once they’re within the boundaries of the city itself, the style of prose works great to give a sense of the city’s scale, its level of disrepair and the sheer spookiness of everything. That’s all well and good, but when large parts of the story involve the characters trekking through the wilderness or fighting their way out of sticky situations, too much description just slows things down too much.
In terms of scale, compared to many of the Gotrek and Felix novels this is pretty small – there are no epic treks through the World’s Edge Mountains or trips on flying machines here. Perhaps it was a deliberate decision to let the description flow overboard in order to pad the novel out, as without it a lot of the book would happen very quickly indeed. For the style of novel though, and for what people read these books for, the pacing just doesn’t work for two thirds of it. It’s only once they’re in the city and really in the thick of the action that things pick up speed and feel much more like a good Gotrek and Felix story.
If you’re new to the Gotrek and Felix saga, you’re better off leaving City of the Damned for later and starting at the beginning – pick up Trollslayer and work your way through them from the start. If you’ve devoured everything G&F related, this is a decent enough addition to keep you going until the next instalment. Just don’t expect William King-esque levels of fun, and persevere until you get to the final third.