The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. Book review

THE CORPSE-RAT KING by Lee Battersby, Angry Robot, p/b, £7.99, www.angryrobotbooks.com

Reviewed by Katy O’Dowd

The Corpse-Rat King, if you ask me, only needs two words to sum it up – but then that wouldn’t be much of a review, now would it?

Actually maybe ‘bloody brilliant’ doesn’t quite suffice. Totally marvelous, wonderfully goofy, superbly madcap, grotesquely fantastic, fantastically macabre, more bones than you can shake a stick at – ok, that last one had more than two words if you’re going to get all pedantic on me. But you get my drift.

The book opens straight into the actions of Marius and his apprentice Gerd as they steal from bodies lying broken and bloodied on a battlefield. And you just want to say ‘aww’ every time the dim-witted Gerd, immensely likeable from the start, is mentioned. Not forgetting his erstwhile master Marius, who is led away by a soldier whose life has been extinguished, into the bowels of the earth, summoned by the Dead to be their King. But of course he just happens to be holding a crown and doesn’t have the tiniest drop of blue blood running through his veins. When he refuses, he is sent forth to find the denizens of darkness a leader to rule in his stead.

What follows is a really brilliantly written, highly inventive, often laugh-out-loud story, which recounts Marius’ travails over land and sea as he tries to find said Majesty. And did I forget to mention that said Marius is kind-of-more-or-less dead? Poor fellow has to deal with bodily concerns throughout too, some of the descriptions so stomach churning that you should take my word for it and definitely do not read over your lunch break.

But back to the story, in which our hero retains his smart arsed sense of humour and witty tongue through everything that is thrown at him, which is rather a lot.

Passages of note include a dastardly card game, a half-horse half-Monarch prancing around under the sea, and a really gruesome granny. Not to mention another deceased King whose mouth needs washing out with soap for more than one reason.

If you had a wish list every time you read a book – great characters, story, pace, writing – that you ticked off every time you came across one of them, you’d soon wear out your pencil while reading The Corpse-Rat King. Or stylus if you have a newfangled eReader.

I was very pleased to see that there will be a sequel, and look forward to reading it and more from both Lee Battersby and the good folk at Angry Robot.