The latest novel on my finished list is the first of the Skaven trilogy by C.L Werner, Grey Seer, and a new personal favourite for Fantasy. Chronicling the adventures of the megalomaniac, conniving and devious Skaven Grey Seer Thanquol and his trusty dullwitted sidekick Boneripper, a series of Rat Ogres that always end up dead, the series is a smash hit and brings the Skaven into the spotlight with all their cunning and ratty deceit.
The novel begins with Grey Seer Skrabritt and his Adept Kratch excavating a dangerous artefact called the Wormstone from the ruins of another Skaven Clan Warren. Kratch is able to trick Skabritt into wandering too far and awakening a Giant Rat beast that assaults their group, and provides ample distraction for Kratch to cause a cave-in that claims Skabritt and the rest of the Skaven. Then jumping to Grey Seer Thanquol who is being held captive by the Council of Thirteen for his failures in Nuln and the botched attempt to steal the Dwarven Airship, (see Skavenslayer and Beastslayer respectively), and is awaiting his punishment, all while devising a way to weasel out of it. Dumped into a maze Thanquol is pitted against many dangers, including warp-flame jets and a giant Skaven eating insectoid but manages to survive to be brought before the Council. Although the Arch-Plaguelord Nurglitch VII wants Thanquol dead, as Thanquol's fame comes from slaying a rogue Plague Priest and shaming Clan Pestilens, however he is granted a final chance and a mission to go with it. Thanquol must go to the Skaven city of Under-Altdorf and investigate potential disloyalty, and to recover the Wormstone artefact for the Lords of Decay.
Arriving in Under-Altdorf, with Adept Kratch in tow, Thanquol quickly learns the extent of opulence and decadence that has allowed the Altdorf council to become corrupt, even believing themselves greater then the Lords of Decay, and Under-Altdorf to be greater then Skavenblight. Thanquol of course immediately begins scheming to turn them against each other, while the Grey Seer Thratquee sees through Thanquol in an instant, and in arrogance announces his intentions in private discussion with Thanquol.
Meanwhile in Altdorf a group of smugglers led by the Dietrich Brothers, Hans and Johann Dietrich, lead an expedition to recover smuggled goods from underground and inadvertedly stumble upon the Wormstone, believing it to be the less dangerous and very valuable Wyrdstone they steal it and those who carry it are unwittingly infected by its deadly touch. While they attempt to sell the Wormstone they draw the attention of a Wizard who fights against the Skaven threat, and the attentions of Thanquol who desires the stone. Thanquol and his ad-hoc force from the Clans Moulder, Skyre, Skab and Eshin must find the Wormstone, while Thanquol must survive the repeated attempts on his life, the countless betrayals and secret plots that are the norm of Skaven life.
The book itself is excellent. The Skaven are brought to life in all their devious glory, the self-serving motives of Skaven are their nature and the only life that is not expendable to a Skaven is his own. And the Skaven language of Queekish is very humourus and fast-paced, fitting for the Children of the Horned Rat. 'Fast-quick flea-maggots!,' 'Speak-squeak faster man-things!.' I also found Thanquol's revulsion at the Under-Altdorf Skaven's almost human mannerisms interesting, Thanquol considers it corruption that these Skaven use their expressions to convey emotions and consume human liquor and use human decorations and furniture stylings in their dens.
High Point: For me the portrayal of the Skaven is the high point. They are conniving, cruel, devious and supremely arrogant, and cowardly when things turn against them. Thanquol's own arrogance costs him much and the betrayals by Kratch, Viskitt Burnfang and Skrim Grimclaw cost him even more, but such is the way of Skaven life.
Low Point: The early parts with the smugglers group and the Dietrich brothers was annoying, I was much more interested in reading more about the Skaven but the parts were essential to understanding, however they weren't as good as the rest of the book, mainly because its humans and not Skaven.
I give Grey Seer a 8.5/10 for its excellent depiction of the Skaven, its interesting storyline and engripping characters, and the rantings of Grey Seer Thanquol are always good for a hard laugh.
"As one the beasts leapt, pouncing on their prey. Thanquol covered his head and cursed anything and everything he could think of."