Edge Of Destiny Review

December 31, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Posted in Books, Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 15 Comments
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Eir and Garm

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.

Heavy 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.

Logan is wearing seraph armour, so it's post Snaff, but why no love for the little dude

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.

You can check out the Kill Ten Rats review for a cheerier outlook, or my live blog impressions part 1 and part 2.

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15 Comments

  1. I heard exactly the same from one of my buddies who read the book already, especially regarding how quickly they dispatched the apparently not so mighty Champions.

    • All in all it’s not like it ruins the book but it did take me out of the moment to stop and think, really? one arrow?

  2. I explain Logan’s “betrayal” in a very simple way: Jennah is a Mesmer. One on one, a Mesmer will own you. When Jennah says that she’s got a bond on him, it’s more like she hexed him with every spell on her bar, and Logan has to obey or his lifebar goes kaput. Or, to use a book example, she implanted a powerstone where his frontal lobes used to be, and she’s got the laurel right there in her skill bar.

    As for why the letters are so stilted, Jennah’s royalty. She has to write that way, or her political opponents, rivals, and even some supporters pounce on the slightest opening or weakness, and grubby up some power for themselves.

    Let me rephrase: Hypothetically, Jennah writes a sordid and passionate love letter, complete with promises of her hand in marriage and the temptation of her bed. A court spy gets a hold of it, and sells it to the highest bidder, or all of them. The first thing that happens is she loses the support of all her court suitors, whatever actual rank they may be. Then her other Human subjects hear about it, and the tabloids, or the time-period equivalent, has a field party. Then her enemies find out. Sensing a loss of focus on the war, the Charr start sending in EVERYBODY, from the spies and assassins, the diplomats with orders to surrender and improved siege engines when she stalls, to the infiltration and sabotage teams for the final assault. The Asura sneer, the Norn all toast the “adventurous” Logan, and the Sylvari all decide they want to know too. All because Jennah wrote a few letters telling him how she really feels. Which I doubt.

    • Uhm that’s some interesting and imaginative filling in the gaps on your part, but I’m going to have to stand by my interpretation.

  3. I don’t disagree with anything, but I guess I came with expectations of video game style dialogue/motivations/etc. I guess I am too lenient b/c I find Starcraft 2’s dialogue to be delightful for what the game offers.

    Thanks for the review. Very thorough and well put.

    • I think it’s a fine book if you go in with expectations of a light action and story experience, but if you were looking for anything deeper, it certainly doesn’t deliver.

  4. This book definitely suffers from the constraints of writing for an existing and well-known franchise. But I think when it comes to tackling a backstory for a group like Destiny’s Edge, it could have gone both ways. I would have loved to see more emphasis on these legendary characters, which would have been a major strength of a novel like this. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel they were given enough attention at all.

    Like you pointed out, there are so many aspects that the author just touches upon, but would have been amazing if he took them further. There was huge potential for some great relationships (Rytlock and Logan, Logan and Jennah, Snaff and Rojja etc.) There were some interesting concepts there and all the right ingredients were in place…King just stopped short of taking it all the way.

    • I agree with mmogamerchick.

      After finish the book, I have a feeling like I’ve just watch the movies that has been cut some part of to fit the screen time. (and later there’ll be an extended version out. which i’m quite sure it must be in GW2!!)

      anyway, I enjoyed, and going to read it again.

      • Yeah you never know, maybe gw2 will bring unforeseen relevance, or be the nice second half of this book that fleshes things out.

    • Yeah I think you’re right, all kinds of opportunities to go deeper, he definitely sets up those opportunities quite well, but no follow through.

  5. Keep in mind, a lot of the major plot points of the book were probably already sketched out long before J. Robert King came along. Just look at the GW2 demo we have seen so far. Tons of dialogue was already written and voiced in the demo with the backstory in mind. Dynamic events that assume the backstory are already implemented, debugged, and tested. Artwork for the Destiny’s Edge heroes was released a year and a half ago, which means the descriptions for each was done before that.

    From the blog, “we needed an author who could juggle five main characters, write his story in the world of an as-yet-unfinished game, and who could entertain and delight.” Of course, I really don’t know exactly when King got involved, but it seems like an outline already existed.

    Clearly King wrote the story details and how exactly it unfolded, as well as helping to adjust the timeline so it made more sense, but he was contrained by certain events that had to happen. “…in developing the outline, Rob came to us and said ‘you know that important plot point? It should happen right here in your timeline.'”

    Did King succeed in his task? I’ll address 3 plot points.

    Point 1: Tell the story of how the heroes get together, and make it believable for the human and charr who hate each other’s race to work together.
    This is very tough to pull off, and I think King did a fine job. A little cliche yes, but remember it was reinforced a couple of times when Rytlock tried to leave the group but circumstances kept them together (like in the dwarven city and the arena).

    Point 2: Tell the story of how the heroes became heroes, and make it apparent that these heroes could possibly help with defeating an elder dragon. On this point King did a great job, especially with the final battle which was exciting to read. I didn’t care much for the arena fights, but they accomplished the task of making the characters famous in the world.

    Point 3: Tell the story of why the group split up, and make it so that the reader (ultimately the player of GW2) will feel motivated to want to encourage the group to get back together. I think you see so much hate on the forums over this one point. The reader is confused as to why the split really happened. It didn’t make rational sense, and created a lot of anger toward the characters involved. I feel King failed to pull off this plot point in a satisfying way. Sure, he accomplished the separation, but the reader is left to try and decipher the motivations of the characters, and those motivations seem so shallow or unrealistic that the reader then loses motivation to pursue the characters in the game (other than we must do so to play the game).

    Or maybe I just wanted something deeper. Would I recommend the book? Absolutely, to anyone thinking of playing GW2. Is it a great book? Meh. Can I enjoy the story anyway? Yes!

    • Yeah, if I were King, I would have written it a bit more Mesmer-ish/Sith-mind-control. You know, emphasize that Logan didn’t really have all that much control over his actions. Altho, that would make Jennah a “bad guy,” and well, there’s obvious in-game problems with that. …Or is there? 😀

    • well i think i addressed a lot of that in the review, so hopefully we’re not too off the page from one another.

  6. […] Anyway, if you’re interested in a take of EoD from a long time Guild Wars fan and don’t mind a ton of spoilers, I also recommend checking out Hunter’s review. […]

  7. […] To The Readers: What did you guys think? Better or worse than GoA?  Favorite characters / parts? How do you think this will affect the stories in GW2? Any other forum discussions / reviews I missed, let me know! Discussions: GW2G | Quaggan | GW2 Forums | IncGamers Reviews: Hunter’s Insight […]


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