Edge Of Destiny ReviewDecember 31, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Books, Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 15 Comments
Tags: Books, fantasy, Guild Wars 2, MMO, mmorpg
It must be particularly difficult to write something creative, innovative, and interesting while dogged on all sides by limitations, guidelines, and blocked paths. Nor would I want to follow a strong book like Ghosts of Ascalon. Surely writing in a universe that has been touched by many hands is much more difficult than creating your own.
Those who triumph while writing stories in the worlds of others must have tremendous ability to harness the ideas of others for their own use. After reading Edge Of Destiny, I feel as though I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what not to do.
Spoilers, of course. I mean that too. Huge spoilers, virtually the whole book spoiled. Don’t read if you don’t want spoilers.
One of the things I found I liked that King does immediately is dive into the lore, not stay away from it, not avoid it. I could have used more depth here and there but overall a good use of history. Guild Wars fans immediately know the strength and ferocity of the Destroyers. The sylvari conflict between dream and nightmare comes immediately into play. You get a sense of what sylvari are, their wonderment at the world, and yet their obvious non-humanity. That’s just in the prologue.
Where he integrates and utilizes the lore though, I find he ignores the development and creation of the characters. Eir gets the fairest treatment. Her soulful artistry is portrayed well and the frustration at seeing her people slowly worn down by an adversary they can not comprehend wears on her. The statues she created to glorify the men who go off to fight, only serve to torment her as a constant reminder. Especially the statue of her father.
It’s her drive alone that sets the stage for the story. Without her the two asura, Snaff and Zojja would continue on in their blissful little one note lives. Snaff the wiser than he seems asura, Zojja, the head strong apprentice who doesn’t appreciate her master as much as she should. A cliched dynamic, it does border on heart-warming at times. You can tell Zojja has some affection for her master and that Snaff knows how she truly feels and that she will miss him when he’s gone. However it’s touched upon too little to truly pull the heart strings.
Part of the problem is surely the large cast, of course. 6 sentient beings working in a team, 7 if you count Garm, and all of them have stories to tell. Not everything can be an original masterpiece, but at times I feel the story is simplistic. Perhaps I’m just too old and too experienced a reader to appreciate a straight up adventure.
Take for instance the first time we meet Logan and Rytlock. Logan causes an avalanche that crushes many charr, cuts off the main force from their objective, and a chase ensues. Rytlock and his men catch up with Logan and his, only to have the tables turned on them by a band of ogres who want them both dead. They must unite or die.
Sounds like a good adventure, but to me, it’s done to death. The phrase “oldest one in the book” certainly comes to mind. The banter between them makes the simplicity of the plot less grating, but I always felt throughout the book, that the barbs and wit could have used improvement.
“I suppose we have to kill each other now” Logan said.
“Yeah” Rytlock replied dully.
“You’re going to die like a dog.”
“I’m more like a cat” Rytlock pointed out.
Logan shook his head. “You can’t die like a cat. They have nine lives.”
Rytlock spread clawed arms. “That’s what it’s going to take!”
A new voice – a woman’s voice – broke in and said “You two have the strangest conversations.”
Couldn’t agree more Caithe. There are clever moments in the banter but when interspersed evenly with somewhat awkward conversation like that it, it sullies the rest. Far too stilted for my taste. Who says “you’re going to die like a dog” to a giant cat creature? Talk about leaving the door open.
Overall I didn’t mind the banter too much and things move fairly smoothly up until about halfway through the book when a few things started nagging at me.
For one, the vast majority of the book is fighting. It seems as though the novel is a number of fight sequences interrupted by short and composed entirely of exposition instead of character building. Setting up the next fight instead of setting up emotional investment.
At the same time the arena fights are quite repetitive but when they finally end, they move into fighting dragon champions. Fight after fight after fight. Not a scene can pass without some mention of what they’ll be fighting next. This drags on for the entire middle of the book. There is deep lore and history in this universe and I’ve been sucked into a gladiatorial novel.
The ease with which they defeat their enemies at times is very disappointing. Their first match up against an undefeated team in the arena is a joke. I suppose I could be convinced that that’s the nature of arena combat. Quick, brutal assaults that end matches before they’ve begun. King never really makes the case for it in my mind. They’re just amazing warriors, no further details needed.
You could argue that Eir, Snaff, and Zojja lose out the first time to Jormag’s champion, and another notable loss at one point, but Primordus’ champion goes down with one arrow. Morgus Lethe is struck perhaps 3 or 4 times in total. It just seems like some of their enemies should have been more of a challenge.
The final thing I had a large problem with were some of the relationships. While Garm and Eir are hardly explored but still interesting, and while Zojja and Snaff verge on having a touching relationship, I was confused by most of the other relationships. Why does Faolain poison Caithe only to release her later? What is so bad about Logan’s relationship with his brother that he much prefers Rytlock? Why in the name of Balthazar does Logan run to Jennah at the moment he does?
This last is truly excruciatingly painfully done. There is no justification. Their meetings and letters between them are stiff, and stilted. They make bold proclamations of how they care for one another without any tangible reason. I suppose it’s meant to reflect chivalry and courtly love, but it just comes off as awkward. Even if she has seen his whole life via her mesmer powers, and even if he just fell in love at first sight, it’s still unreasonable for him to run off when he is on the verge of defeating an elder dragon. My god. What an ass.
Another Dragon Champion lay slain at your feet. The Destroyer of Life and his thousand minions. Well done!
Yeah that’s how lovers congratulate each other. Right? Good job on that dragon dude, thanks a lot!
That said, what better reason for the guild to break. It sets the stage for Guild Wars 2 nicely. I expect I’ll have choice words when I finally run into Logan of course.
I’ve been pretty critical of the book but there are plenty of things to like as well. The final action sequences are well done, I couldn’t put the book down. I had been sort of waiting for Snaff to be killed off all along, so knowing it was coming in those last few pages had me on the edge of my seat.
I criticized the banter before but it saves the book in places as well. Rytlock and Logan are fine entertainment but add in Caithe’s plain spoken words and Rytlock, Logan and Caithe turn into the 3 stooges.
I really love Caithe too. She’s got the cat-like moves and reflexes, keen mind, a sense of wonderment. She doesn’t get as much time as I’d like but by the end of the book I empathize heavily with her. She loves someone she can’t save, her friends have cracked and gone their separate ways, she’s left to pick up the pieces (literally) and hope that one day she can fix things.
I completely understand Rytlock’s reaction to Logan’s behaviour. Nothing more to be said there. I just wish his loyalty to his other guild mates meant something more to him.
The world of Tyria is truly further fleshed out in Edge Of Destiny. It definitely gives the sense that this is not just a game world but a living breathing universe with it’s own characters, it’s own villains, things going on outside the periphery of the main characters. I think King is given a directive to accomplish a lot with this book. He has to build characters, build a team, build a legend and then break them up. All in one book. Hard to do by any standard. Overall much of the plot is predictable, the writing a little plain and repetitive, but the world itself is bigger than those two qualities and I think that shines through.
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