Review of Castle of Blood (2019)

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C. L. Werner (writer).

Read in 2021.

A vindictive nobleman invites his collaborators to a “murder party”.

Highly genre-fied literature: It is both pseudo-medieval fantasy (including dwarves and elves) and horror, set in the rebooted Age of Sigmar continuity of the Warhammer IP, published under the Warhammer Horror imprint of the Black Library, the publishing arm of Games Workshop. To top it off, the central motif mixes the schemata of “dubious people coming together for intrigue in a centerpiece location” (e.g. House on Haunted Hill) with an almost literal dungeon crawl, implausible traps and all. Literature doesn’t get much more commercial than this outside of pornography, celebrity biography, and general tie-ins.

As expected, the plot is forced through a stainless steel extrusion die to make something rather tasteless; the prose is dull and the characters flat. Fortunately, it is a stand-alone novella as far as the characters go, and there is an appropriate level of subversion: The main character, who is set up as if to be the final girl, does not actually make it; her hero is not a hero; and the literal designer of the dungeon is on hand for once. The worldbuilding is unimpressive but the level of crapsackery—that is cynicism—is right for the setting.

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