Review: Trollslayer / Author: William King / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: October 24th
One of three titles Black Library is re-releasing under its new Classics range, William King’s Trollslayer recounts the efforts of disgraced slayer Gotrek Gurnisson to find an honourable death. Thanks to a drunken oath, poet Felix Jaeger is forced to follow and record his fate as they combat orcs, trolls and the cultists of the dark gods. Unfortunately for both of them, Gotrek is extremely hard to kill.
King went on to write another six books, but this first instalment remains one of the strongest in the series. Along with striking a good balance between the darkness of the setting and high adventure, it’s one of the few which feels as if the duo are constantly on the move. Whereas other books are centred on single cities or enemies, Trollslayer is a constantly changing anthology of short tales as they move through the Empire. While the tales are smaller scale, they offer much more variety of foes. As such the book never feels as if it’s dragging and is more appropriate for the initial premise of a questing warrior.
The two are depicted fighting their way through many environments and settings, each requiring different strategies – a siege war, an effort to protect a cursed noble family, a raid upon a fallen city, an assault upon a cult. The pacing of each of these is well handled, and while King doesn't offer the most descriptive of writing, his prose nonetheless never fails to be exciting. A major edge this book has over later tales is that the heroes are far from immortal, to the point where Gotrek gains his iconic eye patch during a vicious battle.
The humour the series is known for is well established here. As with the dark elements, it’s perfectly balanced with the combat and provides plenty of moments of levity. The trade-off is a lack of serious drama, but it’s hard to imagine anyone turning to Trollslayer for deep insights into its characters.
Trollslayer is far from a substantial book, but it proves to be great fun. Better yet, it has aged very well despite being written fifteen years ago. As an introduction to the Old World and a fun adventure story, Trollslayer is well worth your time, but there are more serious and substantial tales out there.