Book Review: The Sword of Midras

Sword of Midras

Ever wonder what a book would be like if a bunch of NPCs stood around talking to each other? I give you The Sword of Midras by . Tracy Hickman, of the original DragonLance  fame, and Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar. Actually, looking at the games site, it looks like both of them are involved in Shroud of the Avatar

Our story starts a s a lot of fantasy stories do, in the middle of a battle.The Obsidian Army lay siege to the inferior city of Midras. We meet our main character, quippy Captain Aren Bennis and his equally quippy side kick Syenna. After the city is mostly defeated, the general sends Captain Bennis to find a good spot to hold his victory parade, sounds like a pretty standard MMO quest. While in the city Bennis and Syenna chase down one of the city’s priestesses. In the midst of their chase they fall into a large tomb where Aren finds a magic sword that only he can touch and is suspected to be the Blade of an Avatar. Now everyone wants the blade and to find out what power it holds.

First let’s talk about the characters. They sound like video game characters almost all of the time. All of them are either super witty and have a comeback for everything like Captain Bennis, overly dramatic and ominous, or very one dimensional only there to move the plot along. But they’re enjoyable enough and there is enough character development to make you kind of care about Captain Bennis at least.

Now when I started reading this I wondered why they got the book traditionally published besides the fact that they could. It was originally an e-book for backers of Shroud of the Avatar. But what was the appeal for mass market, maybe some more advertising? I wondered if it would hold up with other fantasy novels and I think it did. It’s a par for the course as far as fantasy writing and plot lines go. In the back drop, the Obsidian Army is trying to civilize the world through law and order while the rest of the countries form a coalition to oppose them. At its core its the story of Captain Bennis coming to terms with whether or not he still believes in the Obsidian Cause.

For a 300 page fantasy novel, it does a good job at introducing some of the world. Though it feels kind of like Destiny’s story. There’s just enough lore and information to move the plot along but the deeper stuff you have to go outside of the game/book to look for. They keep talking about the Fall and everyone in the book seems to know what it was but its never explained I thought it was interesting that elves, ogers, fauns and other fantasy creatures were actually ,magically shaped from living humans by the Obsidians.

It actually made me a little more interested in the game itself. It was fun reading about places and thinking if I could play the game and go to those same places. While I didn’t think this was a fantastic book I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.

The Sword of Midras

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I was at my local library the other day when I passed the Fantasy/SciFi section and saw The Sword of Midras: a Shroud of The Avatar novel by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott. My first thought was “Huh maybe it’s a series that has nothing to do with the game.” Turns out it’s the first book in a trilogy that’s a prequel to Portalarium’s upcoming, there aren’t going to be anymore wipes but we didn’t launch yet, MMO. I’m all ready reading something but it was less than 300 pages so i decided to check it out.

I know books based off video games aren’t by any means a new thing but I was surprised when something as seemingly niche as Shroud of The Avatar had a book published.It made a little more sense when I did a little digging. A shorter version of the book was distributed to backers as Blade of The Avatar. It would make sense that people who pledged their hard earned money to a game would be interested in a book about their game. The book was already written so why not get it traditionally published as well? Turns out the publishers didn’t want to publish something that had already been giving to 50,000 people already for mass market. So a few chapters were added so that they could get their book traditionally published but who’s the target audience for this now?

I know this isn’t the first MMO to have a book out before it launched either. I remember being very excited when the Guild Wars trilogy came out that bridged the gap between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. Those have fairly respectable ratings on Goodreads, while they weren’t fantastic and I barely remember what they were about, as a fan at the time they did it for me. I’ve also seen the scores of books

The people who already received most of it from the kick starter obviously aren’t unless they really want to read those extra 4 chapters. Maybe once the game actually launches new players will want to buy it but it hasn’t officially been launched yet. It also seems like they’re hinging on it being so successful that it will sell two more books. I picked it up simply because I have a vague idea of what Shroud of The Avatar is but I wouldn’t have paid for it if I saw it outside of the library.

The only thing I can think of is if the story and writing are actually good enough to compete with other fantasy novels. This I can’t comment on yet as I haven’t read more than a few chapters  but I’m interested to see how it turns out.

I’ll get back to you when I finish it.