Firstly, let me start by saying that I’ve, a) never reviewed an audiobook before, and b) never involved myself in the world of Warhammer before. It’s time for me to pop my cherry on both fronts.
I happened to receive a gift of sorts in my post a few weeks back now; an audiobook of the latest Gotrek & Felix adventure from the world of Warhammer. Written by an old friend of mine, David Guymer, he thought that the story may be of interest to me and my site. With my advanced, personalised copy firmly in hand (thanks, Dave), I’ve held back on posting my review until the book and audiobook versions both went on public sale. Since then, though, there’s been various other articles and pieces that have taken my time and my priority, meaning that the tale of a man and his dwarf – or should that be a dwarf and his man – had to be put on the back-burner. I blame it solely on the Oscars and deadlines elsewhere. Also, as a proud Welshman, St David’s Day and the limited run of specialist Welsh ales that were available in my local ale house may have played a part. With the story available for over a week now, I thought it best, on a day away from the office, to finally let out my thoughts on this world, characters and experience that is totally new to me.
If I’m honest, my first thoughts going in to this were of trepidation. If I didn’t like it, I didn’t want to offend a friend, yet I was always going to give a thoroughly honest review of the work. Then there was the whole Warhammer element, with it being totally unknown to me. I didn’t want to disrespect a community and niche that I was going into with the naive eyes of a child. I didn’t want to disrespect the genre with my lack of knowledge on the subject matter. Hopefully, I have managed to overt those concerns.
The story focuses on Gotrek, a Dwarf Slayer, and Felix, a mere man, a mild mannered poet of sorts, that is tied to this savage beast due to a drunken pact. Felix is tied into this oath, with his only purpose being to chronicle the life and, more importantly, the death of his savage associate as Gotrek search for a demise that he classifies as worthy. We join the story here, with Curse of the Everliving, as the pair find themselves with no choice but to go head-to-head with a daemon. What starts off as a simple pursuit of gold, sees our heroes questioning each other’s motives and what lies ahead of them.
As the story starts, the audience is lulled into a false sense of security. As mentioned, this is just a mere journey in the hope of obtaining hobgoblin gold. On their pursuit, Gotrek and Felix find themselves taking refuge in the infamous Castle Bilankov as guests of Count Viktor. This is where things take a turn for the worse, as Felix is seemingly battling an ancient Kislevite curse. Isolated and cold, Felix begins to suspect that Gotrek, his partner in crime, has something terrible planned for him. Is the Dwarfian Gotrek possessed and holding an urge to slay Felix? Is Felix merely hallucinating and suffering from being out in the elements? Or is it Felix that is the one taken over the something more powerful. With the tension building, with suggestive strong at hand from every direction, the story pulls towards the climax as the two look to uncover what is really lurking in the darkness.
With the audiobook rolling in at a comfortable 74 minutes, the story flies by. An enjoyable, well paced tale, the voice talent on show is fantastic. The only previous real audiobook that I have experience of is the excellent Batman: Knightfall series that the BBC worked on. Whilst I enjoyed that title immensely, the talent on show here is on a different level. The vocal duties here are taken on by Gareth Armstrong, Chris Fairbank and David Timson, with narration by Jonathan Keeble. All with suitable backgrounds and experience, it’s the inclusion of Chris Fairbank that immediately took my eye, with him having small yet notable parts in the likes of The Fifth Element, Alien 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and, more importantly, Tim Burton’s Batman. In fact, Fairbank has one of the most iconic Batman moments, likely the most iconic Batman moment, in film history. He’s the guy that delivers the ‘What are you?’ line at the beginning of 1989’s Batman, prompting Keaton’s Bat to drop the ‘I’m Batman!’ line that so perfectly set the tone for how Keaton was going to play the character.
Right, back to point. Whilst it’s Fairbank that was the stand out name for me personally, it was actually Jonathan Keeble’s narration that stole the story from me performance wise. All four of the talents on show were fantastic, but the annunciation and crispness of Keeble’s narration is what keeps the story moving so swiftly and descriptively. His narration, along with the excellent sound effects on offer truly give feeling to the story’s surroundings. Without feeling ‘in the moment’ of the story, a story often lacks purpose and you feel no sense of emotional attachment. That is not the case here, with the language used by Guymer (hey, Basement!) a joy to listen to as Keeble and the rest of the cast snap through simile after simile, giving the audience a reason to feel and fret for the characters involved.
As well as the great effects work and vocal work, it is impossible to ignore the score by Simon Slater. Played at all the right times and at just the right pace, again, the music helps the audience to relate to our heroes and their adventure. Playing almost like a Lord-of-the-Rings-lite – and I mean that in a good way – the score varies from joyful and carefree to ominous and frantic at blink of an eye (or ear should that be ear?).
I can honestly say, Gotrek & Felix: Curse of the Everliving is a great story. I went in with a sense of trepidation but came out with a sense of fulfillment and with an urge to find out more about these characters and their past adventures. As a first time reader and listener of anything from the Warhammer world, I would say that this was a great entry point. The characters are fleshed out enough for someone like myself to appreciate them, whilst the pace of the story is quick-moving and appropriate enough to give your interest piqued.
If I’m using a ratings system, such as when I review films, I’d have to give the tale of Gotrek & Felix: Curse of the Everliving an impressive 4 out of 5. Good work, Dave! The quality of the story definitely saves on me worrying about hurting your feelings.
For this looking to purchase Gotrek & Felix: Curse of the Everliving, you can find all you need to know at BlackLibrary. You can also find more information on David Guymer and his work at GoodReads. Go and check him out, he’s a good dude.
Oh, and for all of those curious, check out Christopher Fairbank coming face-to-face with the Caped Crusader below: