Friday, 20 September 2019

REVIEW: The Neverspike (short)


Not as widely publicised as Realmslayer: Blood of the Old World or Ghoulslayer, The Neverspike is a short story by Darius Hinks that bridges the gap between the two, setting up Ghoulslayer (also by Darius Hinks) by introducing a new adventuring companion for Gotrek (and Maleneth) at the start of the novel, getting the Slayer to Shyish, and giving us his motivation for wanting to be there. Mild spoilers follow.

The story is told entirely in the fist person, from the perspective of Trachos, a Stormcast Lord-Ordinator hailing from the Celestial Vindicators. Distinct in that he's seen a lot of personal trauma on campaign and is slightly insane, with suitably dinged up wargear and a helmet that never comes off, and even having conversations with a lingering voice in the back of his head that may or may not be a spirit he picked up in Shyish, Trachos is a very memorable character that escapes all of the usual memory-loss, where-do-I-fit-into-the-world, aren't-mortals-fragile cliches that seem to inhabit most Stomcast characters appearing in Black Library fiction. The first person narrative is an uncommon novelty, that as well immediately telling us what Trachos is all about, gives a great window on an inhabitant of the Mortal Realms meeting and getting to know Gotrek, and how unlike anything else in the setting he is.

Like this but dented and turquoise

Trachos first encounters Gotrek and Maleneth in a craggy area of Aqshy, hunting local fauna in a bid to reach a possible survivor of the World-That-Was after hearing a tip in... you guessed it, a tavern. The plot's too short to not spoil in detail, but Trachos' being a Lord-Ordinator is played up in full, with detailed descriptions and uses for the stuff clipped to his arcane tool belt. Gotrek is naturally curious about how Trachos' instruments work, having an immediate handle on the conventionally engineered elements and impressed by how they blend with the less familiar mystic energies. Hinks makes the brilliant decision to have characters write Gotrek off as a monotonous brute, only to subvert for him to subvert impressions and display a wry intelligence, which is a really great take on his character. Maleneth isn't left with an awful lot to do bar get annoyed at Trachos for also wanting to get ahold of the Master Rune of Krag Blackhammer in Gotrek's chest, but does get most of the short's best lines.

As well as being terrific, The Neverspike is almost essential reading going into Ghoulslayer, as Trachos is a major character from the outset and most readers would want to know who he was and how he'd come to travel with Gotrek, and it's a massive shame more fanfare wasn't drawn to its release - I'd only stumbled across it by chance when I saw it in the sidebar on the Warhammer Community site, and wouldn't have had any idea where Trachos had come from otherwise. It's certainly not a transplanted first chapter or prologue, but a self-functioning story in its own right, and it's Ghoulslayer that suffers without it and not the other way round. If you're planning on picking up Ghouslayer, or even just curious to dip your toe into Hinks' Gotrek before you do, Realmspike is a steal at only £2.49, and I can't recommend it enough.

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