If you’re any sort of fan of books set in the old Warhammer Fantasy world, then you have probably heard of, and most likely read, the Gotrex and Felix novels from the late 1990s and early 2000s. At least the original series by William King anyway – I know I have read all of these ones, but there are some later ones by Nathan Long which I haven’t necessarily read all of them. However, since 2010 and the last of the Nathan Long stories, Gotrex and Felix’s story has been continued on by a range of different authors, each only getting a book or two.
City of the Damned by David Guymer falls into this category. In so many ways, it is similar to the old Gotrex and Felix novels: Gotrex is seeking his death fighting some terrible monster or force of evil (he is a dwarf slayer, they have committed a terrible crime and must atone by fighting the forces of Chaos until he dies) and Felix, his ever-present human companion follows him as he has vowed to record his ‘glorious’ death in a poem. In this case, it is a giant beast that has been terrorising some villages in the backwater province of Ostermark in The Empire. This adventure leads them to the city of Mordheim, damned and destroyed hundreds of years ago and now a place of nightmares and madness.
This similarity in theme and plot to the other Gotrex and Felix novels means there is much to enjoy about this novel if you were a fan of the older novels – it is fast, fun and David has captured much of the banter and camaraderie between our two main protagonists. Especially Gotrex gruff humour and reluctant respect for Felix, despite him being nothing more than a human! And, of course, it is filled with the copious amounts of violent battles scenes that we expect from these novels, and any books set in the Warhammer world really.
Unfortunately, however, despite all this and some awesome potential (I love Mordheim as a setting point, it was one of my favourite GW games ever produced) this book just doesn’t quite capture the magic of the earlier novels. For me, this basically boils down to two points: a lack of well-written secondary characters that drag you into the story and some of the prose being a bit iffy. By that, I just mean that some parts feel like the author is trying just a little bit too hard with his word choices, phrases and similes to make everything seem EPIC and TERRIFYING!
Overall, this is a book that I would recommend. Sure, it wasn’t the best book going but it was fun and entertaining – and isn’t that the important part of reading? However, I wouldn’t pick this book up if you have no previous knowledge of the Warhammer world or Gotrex and Felix. For that, you should probably start with Trollslayer: the original Gotrex and Felix! Definitely read that one before this, and ideally the next few books in the series too… Up to maybe Vampireslayer, I would say! But that is enough rambling for now, I think.