Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby is full of wonderfully macabre atmosphere and attitude. Marius don Hellespont makes his gory living by wading through battlefields, liberating the dead of their valuables (in other words, he is a corpse rat). Our story begins as Marius and his lackwit assistant Gerd are interrupted as they are making their latest collection.
I’ll skip over any spoilers here and just say it results in Marius being sucked into the underworld where he is mistaken as a dead king. Once the army of dead realize the mistake, they send Marius on a journey to find them a dead king (I guess they are in serious need of a deceased monarch). As incentive, the dead are able to hold his life ransom, so while he is making this journey, he does so as a walking corpse. As Marius travels, we get to see him stammer through many different situations, obstacles, setback and such, all of which are made more interesting and disgusting because of his lack of life. And some of which would never be possible otherwise.
One thing that I need to make clear about this book, is Battersby writing skills are top notch. He is able to convey the disgusting and absurd in a stunningly grotesque way. I absolutely loved this and it just makes me smile. And Marius has a very dark, acerbic sense of humor. Also love that.
But, while I enjoyed the quips and descriptions, I just never really connected with Marius, and I never felt all that drawn into the story. And since I didn’t connect to Marius, that was a real issue because there are really no other prominent characters.
If I set this book down, I was completely fine not picking it back up again. It was rather strange, because I swear I can open up to almost any page and find some bit that I enjoy reading. I guess it’s a case of enjoying the details, but not really caring about the larger picture. Which is unfortunate because the details are so amusing.
But, for a first novel, I can see some serious potential here. With a bit more character development and plot, this book could be phenomenal because of Battersby’s ability for details. Despite its flaws, Corpse Rat King by is a mire of dead, undead, blood, gore and caustic prose and I am a bit surprised this book didn’t receive more attention when it was released. But I can also recognize it won’t be a book for everyone. It is very dark, but also one of those dark books that is just filled with humorously wrong moments.
Many thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review.