The Infernal City

February 24, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Posted in Books | Comments Off on The Infernal City
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UmbrielLong ago it was announced that there would be two Elder Scrolls novels, set around 40 years after Oblivion. Now as I am a pretty big fan of Oblivion, I went ahead and got The Infernal City by Greg Keyes. It came out around the end of November, I picked it up in January.

My first problem with it was the cost. For a 300 page novel, it was $18. Setting aside the fact that Canadians get ripped off by publishers on a regular basis because of our fluctuating dollar, $18 bucks is too much for a 300 page paperback pulp fiction fantasy novel. The length of the novel itself is pretty short, big lettering, and slightly less than 300 pages.

The story itself has it’s strong points and flaws. It relies of course on the lore behind the Elder Scrolls games, to its great benefit. However some of the settings and motivations are quite droll and it steals from the urgency of the book.

It centers around 2 friends who hear rumours of a floating city approaching their home. Where ever the city passes over, those below die and become undead. Through various circumstances they flee and end up inside the floating city of Umbriel. Up until this point I was enjoying the story, a grand threat, two adventuring buddies, humour, conflict to be overcome. Unfortunately this is where the story somewhat leaves me.

Although Greg Keyes weaves his own universe inside Umbriel, a well created caste system, community, with its own motivations, drives, and people, it is undermined by one basic underlying flaw. It centers around cooking. The entire civilization of this city centers around the “food” collected below the city and then cooked by the kitchens of Umbriel. Each Kitchen is it’s own little army, fighting for the favor of it’s patron by making delicious food. The kitchens fight with each other, rival each other, steal from and kill each other. It’s a well created vision of a fantasy society but unfortunately, I’m just not that into Iron Chef.

As with any fantasy novel, there are cliches, but none so over wrought that it bothered me. The B story centers around the efforts of the Imperial prince to reach Umbriel and bring an end to the city. It’s a story I’ve heard before, coddled prince led to believe he’s a hero, turns out he’s been set up for the win over and over again. The C story revolves around an Imperial covert agent, who stumbles across a plot against the prince. I liked this story more, but he barely gets any pages.

By the end of the book I was satisfied with where it was going, if somewhat disappointed by the loss of credibility with the whole Top Chef theme. It’s well written, over priced, and a fairly original place to take the Elder Scrolls lore. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Elder Scrolls, but would have to warn anyone who isn’t that they’d probably be pretty lost early on.

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