Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel by Greg Keyes

Mmm, Skyrim week!

Lord of Souls: An Elder Scrolls Novel

Perfectly, or not, I received the "advance uncorrected proof" copy as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, back in July - then, unfortunately, it sat in storage for much longer than the two weeks I had planned. I actually finished reading it a few weeks ago, but I wanted to write about it this week, with the release of Skyrim.

Here's the blurb from Amazon:
Forty years after the Oblivion crisis, the empire of Tamriel is threatened by a mysterious floating city, Umbriel, whose shadow spawns a terrifying undead army.
Reeling from a devastating discovery, Prince Attrebus continues on his seemingly doomed quest to obtain a magic sword that holds the key to destroying the deadly invaders. Meanwhile, in the Imperial City, the spy Colin finds evidence of betrayal at the heart of the empire—if his own heart doesn’t betray him first. And Anna├»g, trapped in Umbriel itself, has become a slave to its dark lord and his insatiable hunger for souls.
How can these three unlikely heroes save Tamriel when they cannot even save themselves? 
Based on the award-winning Elder Scrolls® series, Lord of Souls is the second of two exhilarating novels that continue the story from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, named 2006 Game of the Year by numerous outlets, including Spike TV, the Golden Joystick Awards, and the Associated Press.

Having played a good bit of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I was somewhat familiar with some of the world-building terminology... however, the first fifty pages went a bit slowly for me. I am unfamiliar with the first book in this series, and I can't help but think that it might be better to read that before reading this.

However, ultimately, the story stood well enough on its own, and as the novel progressed, certain gaps and questions fell into place.

This is a niche novel, not unlike those by Weis/Hickman - you need to be able to immerse yourself into a secondary world with a deeply established set of rules and protocols, some of which stray from traditional fantasy, others which mirror and echo what you might expect in the genre. In other words, fans of the Elder Scrolls games are more likely to enjoy this.

Greg Keyes does a fine job at characterization - none of the characters are perfect, and while the story itself is somewhat short at just over 300 pages, there's plenty of time to explore motivations, back story, and varying degrees of character growth.

Without giving too much away, the ending was not what I expected for a novelization of a video game. While there was certainly an element of resolution and "happily ever after", which may be too saccharine for some tastes, there were also as many, if not more, tragic resolutions which stayed true to not only the characters, but also the storyline.

The beginning of the tale seemed a little awkward with the prose - but I attribute that to the nature of an ARC - otherwise, Keyes is a solid wordsmith, with moments of levity, humor and vivid description enough to keep the whole work entertaining. What Keyes did not do, to his credit, was spend too much time on meaningless narrative. Perhaps a few spots where a character's introspection was mildly overwrought - but again, it fit the particular chapters where they were found.

Who should read this? Those who have read the first novel, of course. Those who have played Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and those gamers who want a little backstory before playing Skyrim.

Near as I can possibly tell, Lord of Souls has actually nothing to do with Skyrim, as it follows events following the storyline at the end of Oblivion, and takes place in Cyrodiil.

As you can see by the nifty map I snagged from the unofficial Elder Scrolls wiki, Skyrim is a region to the north.

Give it a read while you're burning up the time until you get your hands on Skyrim! I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

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