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A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits travel to the Haunted Castle of the Evil Overlord, Constant Drachenfels. They fall to his minions and his Death Traps one by one until only the brave prince remains to fight the sorcerer and vanquish him at last.
That's the prologue. Twenty five years later, Detlef Sierck, the Empire's greatest playwright, is rescued from debtor's jail by the Crown Prince Oswald. Oswald has a proposition for him: he wants to produce a play about his defeat of the Great Enchanter Drachenfels, and he wants Detlef to write and star in it. The original band who travelled with Oswald are reunited for the play's premiere, a one-time performance staged in the very walls of Drachenfels' abandoned fortress, attended by all the nobility of the Empire. What Could Possibly Go Wrong??
Drachenfels is a Warhammer novel by Kim Newman under his Jack Yeovil pen name, first published back in 1989. It occupies a bizarre place in the Warhammer canon, suffering from a huge, setting-wide case of Characterization Marches On. Constant Drachenfels hasn't been mentioned in the background for years, having long since been displaced by Nagash the Black as the setting's necromantic Big Bad. Details like goblins being willing to work for humans and vampires mingling relatively openly in Imperial society will look like massive cases of Did Not Do the Research to anyone who got into the fandom any time after the early nineties. Thing is, people really like it, so Games Workshop keep it in print and other authors give it Shout Outs on a regular basis.
The protagonist of Drachenfels, the vampire Genevieve, also starred in a collection of three novellas called Genevieve Undead; Silver Nails, a short story collection; and had a small role in Beasts In Velvet. Apparently not small enough to stop the Black Library bundling the latter in with their Vampire Genevieve collections.
This book contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Drachenfels, mostly just to mess with people.
- And I Must Scream: A favourite of Drachenfels. Freezing people in place to starve to death with a feast laid out before them, trapping people in tiny pocket dimensions to be chewed on by rats for all eternity...okay, the second one might have been an illusion to fuck with Genevieve. When he died, there was a mass exodus of trapped souls finally leaving.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Played straight with Oswald von Konigswald, averted suprisingly (given the nature of the Warhammer world) with most of the others.
- Badass Bookworm: Astonishingly enough, Detlef does have his moments. Killing the Great Enchanter, for a start.
- Brainless Beauty: Lily Nissen, the actress brought in to play Genevieve. Not just brainless, but a bitch.
- Canon Dis Continuity: Pretty much, but people love it anyway. Other authors continue to reference it, creating the bizarre situation wherein Drachenfels himself is never brought up but Detlef Sierck's plays are.
- Though the 7th edition sourcebook for the Empire does mention Castle Drachenfels a few times; it shows up in the timeline as notable for the year 2203, and is depicted on the map of the Empire as being in the Grey Mountains, near Axebite Pass.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The feat which Oswald is famous for throughout the Empire - finally killing the Great Enchanter Drachenfels. At the end of the book, Detlef, of all people, does it for real.
- Expy: Laszlo Lowenstein = Peter Lorre.
- Exposition of Immortality: Drachenfels has this a couple of times, between Genevieve and the eponymous villain. Drachenfels himself has his immense age pointed early on; the adventurers reminding themselves that he was around when Sigmar Heldenhammer was still alive, a least two thousand years ago and coming across the remains of his infamous Poison Feast in which an ancestor of Oswald's was a victim.
- Eye Scream: All the people who die on the way to Castle Drachenfels have their eyes removed...and then Laszlo Lowenstein eats them.
- Heel Face Mole: Part of the backstory. Drachenfels once faked a Heel Face Turn, invited everyone to a banquet...then froze them in place there until they died of starvation. And they brought their kids along.
- Humanoid Abomination: Drachenfels, a monstrously powerful sorcerer who is older than humanity itself.
- Immortality: Drachenfels is a type IX, having survived since a time before almost every sentient species on the planet by piecing himself together replacement bodies every time his is worn out or destroyed.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Oft-rumoured to have happened between Genevieve and Oswald, though the former denies it. Very definitely happens between her and Detlef, though.
- Modest Royalty: Emperor Karl Franz.
- The Mole: Oswald. And the blurb writers don't care who knows it. *headdesk*
- The Muse: Genevieve has become this to Detlef by the end of the story.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Unusually, the hero is in on it too.
- Prima Donna Director: Detlef.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The Emperor Karl Franz. He isn't the griffon riding Badass of later versions of Warhammer (mostly on account of being considerably younger in this book) but he seems like a humane and capable individual.
- Rich Bitch: Lily Nissen.
- Shout-Out: It's a Kim Newman novel, people. Don't make a drinking game of them unless you want to wake up having your stomach pumped.
- Genevieve Sandrine Du Pointe du Lac Dieudonné.
- Time Abyss: Drachenfels. When Genevieve feeds on him, it's revealed that he remembers "the arrival of the toad-men from the stars". That's right, he predates the arrival of the setting's resident Ancient Astronauts. And when he does finally die, he realizes even his life has been little more than an eyeblink in the scheme of things. Brrr.
- Troperiffic: Again...KimNewman novel.