The longest-running series of Warhammer novels by far, the Gotrek and Felix series reaches novel number sixteen with David Guymer’s Kinslayer, book one of The Doom of Gotrek Gurnisson. Returning to the ‘nounslayer’ style books and set a year after Nathan Long’s Zombieslayer, we see Felix dragged from a quiet life in Altdorf by the appearance of the vampire Ulrika to help rescue the wizard Max Schreiber, who has been kidnapped by the Troll King and imprisoned in the enemy-held city of Praag. With his loyalties torn between helping Max and being with his frail wife Kat, and still struggling to deal with his feelings for Ulrika, Felix finds himself back in his old life of adventuring once again, and soon reunites with more familiar faces than just Ulrika.
One of the few series to continue while the End Times are taking place, the story begins prior to the events of the Nagash book, and runs alongside those events without really overlapping, and it feels like part of the End Times in tone without actually tying in too closely. It would have been a shame for the Gotrek and Felix series to have been subsumed by what’s happening in the End Times, so it’s good to see David Guymer getting the balance right between the two. This does very much feel like a Gotrek and Felix novel, just a bit darker; there’s a sense that Gotrek’s doom may very well be at hand, and not even the best-loved characters are safe.
It’s testament to Guymer’s grip on the characters that this does still feel like part of the series, as not only do we see a number of new characters introduced, but the core relationship between Gotrek and Felix is very different now. Gotrek has freed Felix of his oath and found himself another rememberer, and while Felix wants to stand by his decision to leave Gotrek he’s very much conflicted; a key theme of the book is Felix’s struggle to understand where he fits in everything that’s happening. It’s all explored really well within the ongoing narrative, and Guymer has managed to still capture the essence of the characters and the series despite all of the changes.
As with the main End Times novels, this is chock full of big characters and momentous events, and for the most part they’re nicely incorporated into the story. It does occasionally feel as though some of these elements have rather been crowbarred in though, such as the brief appearance of both an old school Chaos character and a dragon partway through, both of which are fun but perhaps not essential to the story. Overall though it’s got everything you want from a Gotrek and Felix story – adventure; danger; dry, dark humour; and some of the best Warhammer characters ever written. If the writing is occasionally a little clumsy and ponderous, it’s made up for by the pace of the story, the strength of the characters, and some cleverly done revelations concerning certain characters and their backstories. Fans of the series should love this, but just don’t expect it to end well for everyone involved.