It’s by no means an easy feat to design a fantasy world. You have to think up some kind of a history, cities and people to inhabit them, new races, creatures, names for all those things, in short it’s a task that is very daunting to say the least. Especially if you want that world to feel real. Well, as real as it can be anyway. We are after all talking about a fantasy world. For many years now the Games Workshop company has been expanding their fantasy and science fiction universes for their popular tabletop miniatures games Warhammer Fantasy, and it’s far future counterpart Warhammer 40000. Literally thousands of books have been written containing background material for players to expand their games with. The history of both these universes is so vast, that it would probably take you a hundred or so years to read every single detail of it. But even if you don’t play the games, there is another way to enjoy Warhammer. And that is by reading the vast array of fantasy and science fiction novels that have been published based on this franchise. You don’t have to be familiar with the games in order to be able to read these books.
I myself have ventured only into the science fiction universe of Warhammer 40000 so far, (with The Horus Heresy being my favorite series) and have enjoyed quite a number of pulse pounding novels from this setting. Last year however, with a new range of books called Warhammer Horror, that has finally changed. As you all know I’m a huge horror fan, so it was a very easy step for me to check out these new books, and see what they are all about. Drachenfels, a novel that was originally released in 1989 has been republished with a new cover, and is one of the first books in this new series. It doesn’t take place in the grim dark future where there is only war, and so is my first experience with the Warhammer Fantasy range of novels. Was it a good experience though? Drachenfels from what I have heard has received somewhat of a cult following, due in part to it’s vampire heroine who is one of the main characters in this novel. With the very colorful (and impossible to remember) name Genevieve Sandrine du Pointe du Lac Dieudonné, having now read the book, I can definitely see why this character is such a fan favorite. But more on that later.
Drachenfels is a good old fashioned good vs evil tale, but definitely not one that you can compare to something like for instance Lord of the Rings. Many years ago a huge evil ruled the land in the form of a man, if you can call him a man that is, by the name of Drachenfels. An expedition of brave adventurers was formed that included the vampire Genevieve and young Prince Oswald von Konigswald to put a stop to this terrible evil. Venturing into his castle they eventually succeeded in this task but many people lost their lives in the process. Now, the self proclaimed greatest playwright in the world Detlef Sierck, has announced that his latest play will be a recreation of this great tale. Moreover it’s going to be held at the site of the evil’s demise, the fortress of Drachenfels itself. Bringing back some of the heroes that were responsible for the end of him, Detlef is confident this production will be the greatest thing he has ever written, and will make him the stuff of legend. But when strange events are beginning to happen, including some horrific murders, it seems that true evil never dies. The castle of Drachenfels still holds many dark and terrible secrets, as Detlef is about to find out…..
Drachenfels is one of those novels that I don’t quite know what to make of. On the hand I had a really good time with it, on the other I also felt at times that there was something missing but I can’t really put my finger on it as to what that something was. Maybe it’s because I was expecting a more tense and horrific novel, as of course it’s being presented as a horror novel. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some pretty gruesome events that take place in Drachenfels, but most of these happen in the last half of the book. The first half takes it’s time in building up the story, and it’s characters. But because of the style of writing that Kim Newman (or his pseudonym Jack Yeovil) has, I was at the same time never bored. He manages to incorporate some very good humor into this otherwise dark tale, that somehow just works. In part that’s mainly due to his wonderful and rich characters that bring the story to life. The 600 plus year old vampire Genevieve was definitely my favorite. Every scene that involved her, always succeeded in either bringing a smile to my face, or grabbing my attention the most. The character is just very unique and not at all like other vampires that you might know from fiction.
But let’s not forget Detlef here, who is the real star of the book. When we first meet him, he is at rockbottom, and I honestly disliked him a bit. He at first seems very self absorbed and really full of himself. However when the book progresses, so does his character, and without giving away too much, suffice it to say he will definitely grow on you. Now as mentioned the book, at least for me, didn’t have that many true horror moments. The ones that are included though, are pretty graphic, while at the same time it’s never going fully overboard. A last thing I should mention is the fact that the rerelease of this book just looks amazing. I know one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I just love the way this novel is being presented. It has blood red pages, a dark cover, and it looks as if the book is very old and been read many times. Great stuff. So, to conclude things I have to honestly admit that while I wasn’t fully satisfied and expected just a bit more, at the same time I had a good enough time with this novel to definitely recommend it. If you want to read a pretty unique and fun fantasy novel, with some rich characters, this one is well worth checking out.
I give Drachenfels a 8 out of 10 score.