Book Review: The Corpse Rat King / Author: Lee Battersby / Publisher: Angry Robot / Release Date: Out Now
First impressions count in storytelling as much as they do in reality, so when we first meet Marius Hellespont, the protagonist of The Corpse Rat King, we see him picking the belongings of the bodies of fallen soldiers, and know exactly how far this man can fall. Or so we think. Rather than being some sort of dark, gritty fantasy cliché, filled with sorrow, lament and introspection on how precious every moment is, what we get is a well pitched fantasy romp filled with good ideas and clever moments.
Poor Marius picks the wrong corpse, that of the recently slain king, and for his troubles, finds himself thrust into the land of the dead, cursed to roam the land looking for someone to rule the underworld. Of course, being less hero and more a weasel in human form, Marius does his best to out-run his fate, which presents a lot of problems as the dead are everywhere, and far outnumber the living.
Battersby mixes dark sensibilities with a pitch perfect sense of humour and strong talent for action. The main characters are likeable enough, and it is written in an easy going, cinematic style that really suits the story. We get immersed into the land of Scorby, with its mad kings, endless poor and hidden magic, whilst somehow keeping a foot in the real world, despite a heavy dose of wild fantasy. This is a tale of con-men, their victims and the undead, and will appeal to fans of Scott Lynch or Mark Lawrence, or anyone who likes a not-so-loveable rogue.