Drachenfels by Jack Yeovil

April 9, 2011 by dracs

We were digging through the BoW team's various book collections the other week and we came across an old gem of the Black Library's. Nestled amongst some of Justin's more "specialist interest" magazines was to be found a book who's character in the Warhammer Fantasy is probably only to be rivalled by Gotrek and Felix. Genevieve, Black Library's original vampire heroin.

Over the years other vampire heroins have risen to... er... life, such as Ulrika the Vampire, subject of Nathan Long's fantastic Bloodborn. However, none can boast to have had the same level of impact as Yeovil's ambiguous character, with references to his works appearing in many of the modern day Warhammer Fantasy publications (for example Detlef Sierck's plays, the central focus of Drachenfels' plot, are often mentioned by characters in other books).

Drachenfels, the first novel in the Genevieve series, is possibly one of the must reads for fans of Warhammer. The plot revolves around the soon to be Count of Ostland commissioning the writer Detlef Sierck to stage a play about his greatest accomplishment, the defeat of the great enchanter Drachenfels, at Drachenfels' castle in the mountains. Genevieve and the others who assisted in the sinister magician's defeat accompany the players to the castle in the expectation of seeing a great rendition of their exploits. However, in the abandoned stone halls of the Castle all may not be as at peace as it may seem.

In Drachenfels Yeovil has created an a plot which is thoroughly gripping and enthralling. As murder stalks the corridors of Drachenfels you find yourself drawn more and more into the story, as well as finding it harder and harder to put the damn book down. He has populated the story with a colourful selection of characters, which cleverly manage to be at one and the same time stereotypes, yet contrary to the expectations you might hold for them. For example, the almost unbearably proud figure of Detlef Sierck nonetheless has many redeeming qualities and you cannot help but find yourself liking him.

However, where Yeovil excels at is in his workings of all things macabre and grotesque. In the hands of Jack Yeovil a figure's mutations become a true eye sore, the monstrous figures which are faced become the very stuff of nightmares and the you find yourself almost trying to mentally turn away from the murder descriptions. For myself I have to say the creepiest moment would be the old count dreaming of being assaulted by his toy soldiers. This may not seem creepy, but try reading it at one in the morning, while hyped-up on caffeine.

The main problem I can see is with newer readers of the Black Library's publications, as the established background of Warhammer Fantasy has changed somewhat since Drachenfels was first published. Today's readers might find these discrepancies somewhat jarring, such as the almost social acceptability of Vampires, at least those not referred to in the book as being "truly dead". So it is important for a reader to come to the book with the right attitude and expectations.

Another point which some might dislike is that some of the plot can seem somewhat predictable at times. You often feel you know who is going to do what and what's going to happen next. However, it is my opinion that Yeovil plays upon these narrative expectations. The plot seems predictable and we do often feel like we know what will happen, but we never truly know. We are constantly left guessing and this only serves to bring us further into the story.

All in all I would highly recommend Drachenfels, especially to those who may have been into Warhammer Fantasy for some time. It is a thoroughly entertaining piece of Gothic literature, filled with moments of action, mystery, dark humour, and the macabre.

Interested? You can read an extract of Drachenfels here.

BoW Sam



+ Gripping plot
+ Likeable characters


- Somewhat dated
- Moments of predictability

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