A Heated Review
The review this week is a wild ride, get ready. Before that, there isn't much news. I've been awful about my 100 Days 100 Words challenge, hopefully next time I'll have more to share. Other than that, work on the Lost Omens Podcast, in which Dani is running Pathfinder (second edition) is going strong, we're recording our second session this weekend and we should have the first few for Patrons to give us feedback soon. Other than that, news with the Professional Casual Network is light, business as usual.
OH! If you like tasty bars, Built Bar is a sponsor, use the promo code Professional Casual at checkout and get 10% off! Figured I'd throw that in there :)
In the world of fiction I've been working on Lani 2, tentatively titled New Gods. I've had a lot of new ideas lately, so now it's just a matter of getting the ideas onto the page, the hardest part. I've also been sending out queries for Hundred Dollar Heroes. I've had a few bittersweet rejections, one today said it was a 'strong pitch' and they loved that the MC was called Purge, but they didn't think they were the right publisher for the project. Oh well, I'll find the right one eventually!
Gaming had a huge week with GenCon last weekend. The current hotness, Marvel: Crisis Protocol had a ton of announcements, the main one being X-Men are coming to the game with no less than 8 models to start! Iceman wasn't included yet, but the lineup is great and I'm super pumped for November/December when they come out. I've also been reading about a ton of different RPGs for an upcoming pod where we try out different games, tentatively titled "Professional Casual Plays." I'm super pumped for that one too.
That about covers the last two weeks, below is my review of David Guymer's Slayer, get ready for a wild ride!
Gotrek & Felix: Slayer by David Guymer
This was a rough one for me. It took me three tries to get through this book. It’ll make more sense as I explain my relationship with this series and in particular the two-part ‘ending.’ First up, I love Gotrek & Felix. Hell, I have a son named Felix. This series really got me into the Warhammer and tabletop miniature hobby. I remember my brother, Tim (no a different Tim), was reading the first book of the series, Troll Slayer. I picked it up and looked at the cover and scoffed. “A dwarf and an elf fighting monsters? Is that the best they can do?” Or something similar. He took it from me and corrected me, Felix is a human. He described to me what Slayers were. Dwarfs that had some personal shame so deep, so concrete that they forsook all of their life and took the Slayer Oath to die in battle with the most worthy opponent they could find. They forsook land, title, any claims their name would have. They cut their hair into a mohawk and dyed it and their beard bright orange after the first Slayer, the dwarf god Grimnir. Then they would go out into the wilderness to kill or be killed. I was hooked. That was the coolest idea, and so different from anything about dwarfs I had ever read (even if at that point it mostly amounted to Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit).
I dove in and devoured the series as quickly as I could. Initially there were seven books by William King- Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer, Beastslayer, Vampireslayer, and Giantslayer. The series ended for a time without Gotrek finding him doom, but they were all great. After a three year hiatus, Nathan Long took over and wrote Orcslayer, Manslayer, Elfslayer, Shamanslayer, and Zombieslayer. The first few were rough, but Elf-, Shaman-, and Zombieslayer were the height of the series for me. After another three year break, other authors got their chance with the duo, but told stories that fit within the broken chronology. Orcslayer leaves a large gap, with the two returning from a far-off continent decades later. The timeline gets a little muddled, but it’s fantasy, who cares.
Then the End Times happened in the Old World, the setting of Warhammer Fantasy. Everything was getting destroyed, gods were dying, new gods were rising. Naturally, Gotrek & Felix HAD to take part! So they had a mega-sized two-part tale that took place during the end of the world, Kinslayer and Slayer, by David Guymer. Now, this wasn’t his first foray with the duo, he also wrote (probably the worst G&F book) City of the Damned, one of the ‘filler’ titles before the End Times. So yes, I was a bit biased going into the final two books. Kinslayer was OK. Not good, not terrible. I was livid at first. Felix was living in the capital of the Empire with his fragile wife (don’t get me started), and he had forsaken his oath to be Gotrek’s rememberer. I was so mad as this was completely out of character. This might have sealed my feelings for this finale from the beginning.
We’re talking about Slayer here though. I think this last book picks up near where Kinslayer left off. It was very confusing. Felix and Gotrek are in a fight with beastmen, but Guymer’s style is so roundabout that I had no idea where we were in the world, how long it had been since the last tale. So I gave up. I didn’t want to struggle through this mess. I put the book down for a while. A few other books later I gave it another shot. I don’t want to leave things unfinished. I read a few more chapters and gave up again, exasperated. I had no idea what was going on. I had read at least 16 other books in this series and I was lost. Ugh.
About a year in real time passes and I started these book reviews on the blog. I figured if anything was going to get me through Slayer, it would be the accountability of writing the review. That and I could go on and on about how much I hated it.
So, quick summary (I’m going to get into deep spoiler territory here, so if you have any plans on reading this book, skip to the last paragraph of this review): Felix and Gotrek are trying to get to Middenheim after Altdorf has been reported fallen. They’re with a small group of human soldiers from Badenhof or something with Gustav leading them. They make their way to the mountains where there are a bunch of scenes following a chaos warlord called Khagash-Fel. Throwaway villain. In the mountains there’s a skirmish with mutants and apparently there are more dwarfs that accidentally attack Gotrek and Felix? It’s very unclear. Guymer has a style of writing that makes things hard to follow unless he really spells it out. Very frustrating. Either way, the dwarfs are led by series character Malakai Makaisson, a Slayer engineer and genius with weapons. It’s revealed that he’s building a new airship up here called Unstoppable. Khagash-Fel attacks with his huge army of Kurgan warriors. Gotrek fights the army and Kagash-Fel. Felix flies in with a gyrocopter in one of the best sequences of the book. Felix takes out Khagash-Fel, who probably would have beaten Gotrek cause he’s exhausted. They hop in the airship and fly to Middenheim.
On the way a rift to the Realm of Chaos opens and daemons spew out. Defend the airship! Max Schrieber, the Light Mage has been with them and he is super powerful now. He can manipulate at least Light, Shadow, and Life magic, something a human should not be able to do. The first daemon prince, Be’lakor attacks and wrecks Gotrek and kills his new Rememberer, Kolya. Be’lakor goes after Felix, but Max wrecks him and saves the ship, sacrificing himself, all while talking about density forever.
Airship doesn’t go to Middenheim, goes to Karak Drengazi, the Fortress of the First Slayer. There Gotrek and Felix meet Grimnir, the dwarf god and first Slayer. Gotrek fights him and gets dead. But only until Felix shows he’s worthy by attacking Grimnir. Then Grimnir brings Gotrek back, good as new. Even replaces the eye he lost decades ago.
Gotrek and Felix fight a bunch of daemons. Gustav and Malakai fight Kurgan when the valley rushes up hundreds of feet. But we don’t find out what happens to them, because it’s ok to have plot threads dangling at the end of a series, right?
G&F find Be’lakor inside the temple. Three Greater Daemons go to fight the REAL Grimnir in the Realm of Chaos. Be’lakor stands around monologuing, totally out of character. The same Bloodthirster of Khorne from Daemonslayer attacks. Felix does the second of two heroic acts in the whole book and stabs the thing in the shoulder, distracting it. For Gotrek to attack other daemons…
The Bloodthirster then knocks Gotrek, Be’lakor, and itself into the Realm of Chaos. Felix follows. Gotrek killed the Bloodthirster “off screen.” Grimnir says, ‘let’s go kill daemons forever,’ and Gotrek is like, sweet! “Felix. Remember me.” I do like that he FINALLY calls him Felix instead of ‘Manling.’
Felix is like, what the hell? And goes back through the portal. He’s stuck though. Apparently the mountain collapsed while he was in there. Nothing left to do but write in his journal with the fading light of his hot sword that came out of the Bloodthirster. Guess our hero gets to slowly die of suffocation in a mountain. He doesn’t even get a heroes death...
Now that it’s finally over. I can say I DO hate it. It was awful. There were characters that took up pages and pages of over-detailed scenes that literally did nothing for the story. There were multiple bait-and-switches that were deeply unsatisfying. There were plot threads left dangling in the final book of a series.
I’m going to start with the end with my loathing of this story. First off, Gotrek STILL doesn’t die. He walks off into the ‘sunset’ of the Realm of Chaos with Grimnir (yes, the dwarf god). And Felix was thoroughly tortured. So much for an ending, we don’t even get closure with the two main characters. The book literally ends with Felix sitting at the bottom of a cave in writing in his journal for no one to read, because the world is ending anyway! Felix can’t even have a heroic death. He’s going to suffocate buried deep within a mountain without having done much of anything to affect things.
Seventeen books. Seventeen. That’s not even counting the one or two “Lost Tales” of short stories. I’ve been reading these characters for two decades and that’s how you’re going to do Felix in? He doesn’t even get to die in battle? Bull.
Now, I will say, the whole End Times narrative in Warhammer rubs me the wrong way. The miniatures game was not doing the best in sales, so they wanted to try something new with the Age of Sigmar instead. So what do they do? Literally destroy the world people have been playing in, reading novels about, roleplaying, for over 25 years. It cut deep. It seemed like a kick in the pants to fans. Now, they are bringing it back in a few years with a new game called… “The Old World.” I’m happy about this.
Yes, I know. It’s a fantastical world. It still exists in the fiction and lore that you can read. But the idea that the company destroyed it completely in their own lore, I found it to be an insult to fans. So reading a Gotrek and Felix story that took place during this time… I put it off for five years because I didn’t want to.
Wish I had put it off longer.
No only do we get no closure for either main character, we also are left wondering what happened outside of their story. It was set up to be a huge part of the End Times, and then G&F had no impact whatsoever.
So, some more reasons I hated this book.
Kolya, Morzanna, Gustav, any of the chaos warriors that get pages and pages of dedication to do literally nothing with the plot. Ok, Kolya, a Kislevite warrior who became Gotrek’s new Rememberer after Felix inextricably gave up in Kinslayer, was a fun character to read, as he was very straightforward and a little funny, and died having no impact of any kind. He hardly interacted with other characters, and died in a way that I just didn’t care about him. Morzanna. Oh, Morzanna. She was a walking trope. A seeress that told Felix everything he needed to know, but in a slightly veiled way. I hate prophesies and talk of density, that’s why my fantasy stories will not have them, or have them in a way that’s different. But here it was just a hammer blow after hammer blow of ‘this is going to happen,’ that I was like ‘Ok, I’ll stop reading now that I know what’s going to happen.’ Bad storytelling. Stop with the prophets and seers. Also, she had literally zero impact on the story, other than to drive the reader ntus.
Then there’s Gustav. He’s Felix’s nephew and he is there to remind Felix of how he was when he was younger. Because Felix is old now. Like 50 or something. That’s it. That’s Gustav. Waste of time.
Then there are the scenes that are so confusing for the characters, the readers don’t know what’s going on! While G&F are in the temple of Grimnir, Felix has this weird vision of Middenheim. In it he sees people that are dead, such as Kat, the dwarf Slayer-King of Karak Kadrin that was mentioned as lost earlier in the book, older characters from the series like the Templar that owned Felix’s sword Karaghul. The real kicker was dead chaos warriors Khagash-Fel and Arek Daemonclaw. These scenes were equally confusing as they were unnecessary. They ended with Felix meeting with Kat and their daughter, even though Kat would have died in Altdorf before she could have given birth. Dumb.
One thing I did like about these flashbacks was to name-drop characters from the past to stuff in a little nostalgia. We saw Ulli Ullisson, Bjorni Bjornisson, Teclis, Ulrika, and the chaos sorcerers Goldenrod & Blackstaff, all for a few seconds each, but it was kinda cool to see some characters from the first seven books again.
I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me complain about this awful book. Hopefully it was entertaining at least!
Oh, it gets one Slayer mohawk out of five, just for having some cool moments.