Saturday, 21 September 2019

REVIEW: Ghoulslayer - Part 1: Spoiler Free


Released in a publicity blitz alongside the new miniature and Realmslayer: Blood of the Old World,  Darius Hinks' Ghoulslayer is Gotrek's first full length Age of Sigmar novel, and continues the  established *slayer titling convention begun in 1999 into the Mortal Realms (I'm personally looking forward to Ossiarch-Bonereaper-Gothizzar-Harvesterslayer). As per my reviews of Gotrek's audio dramas I've split this review into two parts, with Part 2 containing spoilers and a plot summary.

Ghoulslayer takes place following the conclusion of Realmslayer: Blood of the Old World, and directly after the events of The Neverspike, a recently released Darius Hinks' Gotrek short story (which I've also written a review for), introducing Trachos, a new Stormcast Eternal character adventuring with Gotrek, and getting Gotrek over to Shyish. An enjoyable stand-alone story, the Neverspike feels like almost essential reading setting up Ghoulslayer, and at such a low price there's no reason not to pick it up if you plan to dive into the novel anyway.

Hinks' has a great handle on Gotrek, still fresh in the Mortal Realms, and with a lot left to learn and come to terms with about them, and his characterisation feels both fresh and familiar, while continuing to develop. Maleneth, having previously been a character I'd had reservations about the sustainability of, excels under Hinks, who manages to make her at once hilarious, fearsome and entirely believable (he even manages to make the conversations with her former mistress, something I'd found a slog in previous appearances great) - easily my favourite part of the novel. After a strong start in The Neverspike, Trachos begins Ghoulslayer as a bit of a slow burner, but once he's picked up pace is easily the most compelling Stormcast to feature in a Black Library title. Maleneth and Trachos develop a great begrudging rapport with both each other and Gotrek, that Gotrek and Malaneth at least aren't entirely comfortable with, and I can't wait to read more about both characters, hopefully by Hinks and hopefully soon.


Set largely the princedom of Morbium, an isolated corner of Shyish entirely of Hinks' own devising that Gotrek has been told he can reach (and take on) Nagash though, Ghoulslayer predictably suffers a fair bit from "firework factory" syndrome, with Morbium itself having very little to do with Nagash; and no matter how well developed it may be, nothing new being able to come near to the advertised clash of these two established characters. I can't stress how well crafted Morbium, and its people the Erebid are, but as new concepts and characters created especially for a novel set in a very fleshed-out universe and having to contrast established protagonists they're harder to get excited about than they should be, feeling similar to how Albion presented in Giantslayer felt like a letdown after Bill King's preceding stories set in more richly developed and thus more familiar locales like Nuln and the World's Edge Mountains.


If you're looking for a definitive Flesh-Eater Courts novel, this is regrettably not it. The book's titular ghouls are given a few token scenes illustrating their delusions lacking the humour or scope of how they are presented in their battletome or C. L. Werner's Lord of Undeath, and are otherwise cast as a fairly stock army of rampaging invaders in a role that could have just as easily been played by Nighthaunt, Bloodbound, beastmen or any kind of orruk, making them the weakest part of the novel by a pretty wide margin.

Ghoulslayer is a classic Gotrek and Felix romp, with the only thing missing being Felix (though he's mentioned enough). If you've enjoyed any of Gotrek's previous adventures, old or new then it's well worth picking up, though I'd recommend grabbing the Neverspike to read first. Expect a lot of character development, but few major revelations about the Mortal Realms or Gotrek himself. If you're a Flesh-Eater Courts fan and Gotrek agnostic, but all means read the novel (it's great), but don't say I didn't warn you that the ghouls appearing aren't very interesting and don't do much. I've not listened to it, but if you enjoyed commuting to Gotrek's previous audio dramas, then Ghoulslayer is also available on Audible (albeit as a regular audio book, and not a fully voiced drama). If you've finished reading Ghoulslayer already and/or are living in the future and want to refresh your memory ahead of Ossiarch-Bonereaper-Gothizzar-Harvesterslayer, then hit up Part 2 for spoilers and plot discussion.

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