The Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby

April 7, 2014
The Corpse Rat King by Lee BattersbyThe Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby
Published by Angry Robot on 2012-08-28
Genres: Fantasy, Humorous
Source: NetGalley

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Marius dos Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers, is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. The dead need a King--the King is God's representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are. Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running. File Under: Fantasy [ Royal Prospect | Loot | Keep Running | Living Dead ]


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.



  • Nathan April 7, 2014 at 9:11 am

    True story, I got the order of this series mixed up and bought the second book at one time. Still have not gotten around to this one, so I have the second book to a series I have not read sitting on my kindle for no reason.

    Still want to read this one, it looks like my type of thing.

  • Pabkins April 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    See I loved this book. I think I just loved the audacity of Marius you know? And how ridiculous some of it was.

    I know what you mean about when you set the book down and not feel compelled to ever pick it up again.

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) April 8, 2014 at 8:33 am

      Yeah, I absolutely loved so much of what was in this book. The atmosphere, humor and Marius’s attitude top the list. I don’t always do well with ridiculous, so the fact I did not complain about that shows how much I enjoyed reading it. But that could also be a factor in why I didn’t fully connect with it as well.

      • Pabkins April 8, 2014 at 12:53 pm

        I really enjoy a good ridiculous and humorous SFF novel from time to time. Terry Pratchett is a favorite of mine and also A. Lee Martinez. Sometimes its just nice to know things aren’t to be taken seriously.