Author: Jack Yeovil
Length: 174 pages
Type: Warhammer fantasy
Ages ago, when the old world was young and the lands of man were divided, a blond haired man rose up to fight against the encroaching darkness that had a stranglehold on the lands. He did battle against many great enemies, from vile greenskins, to champions of the gods of chaos, to sorcerers who knew no end to life. This man was known as Sigmar Heldenhammer, the one who would create an Empire that stands tall to this day, and one of his greatest foes was Constant Drachenfels, the eternal and diabolical being no longer a man.
A time just prior to the present, a young man bound together a motley band of friends, warriors, sorcerers, bandits, dwarves, assassins, and even a vampire as he sought to finish what the great Sigmar did oh so long ago: vanquish, once and for all, the enchanter Drachenfels from this world. Many would perish in the attempt, but in the end their story would become that of legend.
That is, until years later when the young man grew up into a fine prince and commissioned one of the Empire's greatest playrights to compose the story into one of the most memorable plays of all time. This would be the story of how the young prince Oswald von Konigiswald defeated the evil enchanter Constant Drachenfels.
As always with the books I find myself reading, Drachenfels begins with a prologue; however this one is unique in comparison to others. Rather than start out slow and introduce a theme or settle readers into an idea, this one starts right in the middle of the action and is key to many of the flashbacks that several characters recall. Right away we are introduced to two of the four major players in this novel, the young prince of Ostland, Oswald von Konigiswald, and the six hundred thirty year old vampire Genevieve Dieudonne. Before the prologue ends, the third of these characters, the enchanter himself, is brought into the light; and as the prologue comes to a close, the makings of the legend of Oswald comes to its finale.
From the prologue we are thrust forward twenty five years into the present; here we meet the fourth major character, for whom the bulk of the story revolves around, Detlef Sierck. Sierck has run into some grand misfortune and is paying the price, until the intervention of prince Oswald, who commissions the director-actor to create one of the greatest plays of the Empire. With a way out of a hell on earth, Detlef accept this and begins working on the play that will either send him back into the limelight or make sure that his previous troubles were a mere joke.
It is important to keep in mind that there are two major stories at play here. One revolving around Detlef and the play Drachenfels, the retelling of the legend, and another revolving around those members of the group gathered by Oswald to defeat the enchanter. For many, the intervening twenty five years have not been kind, as time finds a way to erode everything and everyone no matter how great. The only ones to have avoided these effects are Oswald himself, who's fame came about from the event, and Genevieve who, as a vampire, is subject to the fact that time is a mostly meaningless concept. These characters are brought back into the light as help and inspiration for the play to be; but as it draws to a close they become embroiled in a deadly plot. Deadly for those meant to see the play, and even more so for these returning warband members.
Returning to Detlef's story; we discover that the man is far more noble in nature than others that might be encountered in similar positions. More than once he admits that he would rather other members of the play take much of the credit, and that he cares more for his work being good than the fame or money itself. Even when he discovers a horrible truth about a close friend, hatred and fear are the last things on his mind. But despite this noble nature, fate would seem more than willing to try and deter Sierck from finishing the play. At first he encounters what are thought of as apparitions, and as the play comes closer to completion things take turns for the worse.
As the play itself draws closer and closer to being finished, the story takes a shift from a play being made to something of a murder mystery and ultimately into an action epic. Someone, or something, is killing off people in the most gruesome of fashions, possibly to stop the play. However despite these, the play must go on, and on it does; in the end with some of the greatest members of the Empire in attendance.
All in all, Drachenfels gave the feeling of neither fast paced or slow; it simply sucked the reader in and kept you on the edge. This ideal is pretty unique in and of itself, because the reader is gripped by what is no more than the story of a play; not some detective novel, not killing or fighting or assassins. Its all about a play, and the lives of those the play is based upon. Perhaps this is the reason behind the draw, that it is something you do not see very often.
-Genevieve: Despite the fact that Drachenfels is the first story of the vampire Genevieve, she does not play a large role in it. Instead, Drachenfels serves as the story of Detlef Sierck, and Genevieve does not begin to shine as a major player until much later in the story. She's important, and the reader knows that from the start; the prologue starts from her view of things. The overall decision for her not to be the ultimate focus though, that was a very interesting move.
-Lowenstein: The man was amazing, the descriptions of him were captivating. But what was most memorable about him were the subtle hints to his dark desires. Not many characters from the stories you read would even suggest such a thing; such may be the benefits of writing in a different age.
-Recurring past: For some of the characters, the events of Drachenfels [the play] serve to drudge up memories of the past, notably those days spent making way to defeat the enchanter and his forces. Characters like Anton Veidt, who spent the last hours of that long ago time in darkness awaiting death; or Menesh who suffered greatly at the hands of the villain; or the bandit Rudi or dancer-assassin Erzbat. For them, the past is a major thing, giving insight to the actual events that even they do not make known for the play.
-Not so much a bad thing, more the saddest; the revelation of Detlef's closest friend. You see it coming from a mile away, and the ploy used by the killer is as obvious to the reader as it is to Detlef himself. But despite this, the other characters manage to miss it and a great man pays the price for what he is to become.
Oh by the gods I loved this book, and I would wholeheartedly suggest it to anyone. It has some insight on vampires, but make no mistake this is not a vampire novel in the sense that the ones based on the Von Carstein's are. Drachenfels is an older story, but I believe it to be well worth the read should you be able to get ahold of a copy. (Not as hard, seeing as they re-released all of the stories into one omnibus a few years back.)
9/10, I'd give this a ten, but I give tens because I feel that every black library novel, no matter how good, can always improve somehow. So nine of ten it is, glorious book, beautiful story.
Also, it has come to my attention that there are about nine Necromunda novels there in the world. And of those, three of them are stories of Kal Jerico, in which Blood Royal is the first in that series, with Cardinal Crimson being the second and Lasgun Wedding being the third.
Edit: By the way, that cover for Drachenfels looks pretty damn cool, but that does not give me the impression of a sixteen year old woman.
Now thats more like it!
See ya'll next review, expect some deathwatch action in Warrior Brood.