Sunday, November 21, 2010

Betrayal at Falador Review

Well, I finally read the book. Yes, it's been around for a few years, but I waited for a paperback version to read it. What can I say, I wish I didn't wait for so long...

The book has its problems (and I'll talk about them later), but what it gives is a full immersion into the Runescape world. Suddenly places and distances became real and characters alive. Sir Amik, Sir Tiffy, Sanfew, Kaqemeex, Abbot Langley, Doric aren't just NPCs - they are real people (or a dwarf in case of Doric) with unique personalities. White Knights, Black Nights, HAM followers, goblins, dwarves and chaos dwarves aren't just "monsters to train on", they have their own plans and agendas which have nothing to do with raising my character's combat level. And the world widened: a trip from Falador to Taverly takes 2-3 days on horse, crossing White Wolf mountains is a tough journey, almost impossible in the winter, one needs will, determination and luck to reach the monastery near Edgeville traveling from Barbarian village, and the lands of Kandarin are almost like another continent which only a few could visit in their lifetimes. Quests do the same thing (if you do them in a right way, that is without guides), but at lesser degree and only for characters and races - never for places and distances. The book does it all: it gives life to the Runescape world. So if you have a "role-playing" mind and treat your character as a person (or personification) rather then just "pixels with levels", the book is virtually a "must read". But if Runescape is "just another game" for you and you treat your character only as a "tool inside the game", I probably wouldn't recommend "Betrayal at Falador" to you. Unless, of course, you decide to change your approach to Runescape - then the book can help. Finally, if you are not a Runescape player, I would recommend you to try the game first, before reading the book.

The reason is that, unfortunately, "Betrayal at Falador" does not hold its ground as a standalone fantasy book. You have to have deep appreciation for Runescape in order to ignore book's problems and be able to absorb extra dimensions "Betrayal at Falador" brings to the Runescape world.

So what are the problems? There aren't that many, but there are enough to make the book unsuitable for readers who haven't played the game yet.

The biggest one for me was unnecessary and illogical actions in the flow of events. At times it seemed like the author was trying to push yet another battle scene or sequence into the book just for the sake of it. That happened a lot during the final "epic" battle, but also earlier on several occasions. One of them was the second battle at the monastery - the whole "run away/stop/return/kill everybody" sequence was completely illogical and uncalled for. The plot (which was actually quite engaging) could very well do without those extras. Yes, the book would have been smaller, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The second problem I had with the book was overabundance or blood and gore. Maybe some people find it breathtaking and exiting - I don't. And as far as making the story serious and realistic, there are other ways. And the best fantasy writers are able to find them.

Finally, the epic battle. It was just too long. For me it looked like the author was trying to repeat a siege of Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings and, indeed, these two battles had many (too many!) similarities, but the problem was that during the siege of Minas Tirith every action was absolutely necessary, logical, in the right place and at the right time with all characters fully developed before that, while siege of Falador felt like a long random tiring sequence of battle scenes.

There were some other minor problems like unconvincing attempts to seduce Kara to the dark side, but the three listed above were the major ones, at least for me.

Any good things (apart from being set in Runescape)?
Yes, actually there were many, I don't really want to give an impression that the big problems ruined the book completely.
They didn't. As I mentioned before the plot was engaging. the main characters likable and their travel adventures interesting. I also liked how White Knights weren't that "white" after all (far from it), and that despite them being "good guys". And Black Knights weren't all that "black" either. Bits of humor here and there were also very welcome.

Summarizing it all up:

  • Did I like "Betrayal at Falador"? - yes, very much!
  • Would I recommend this book to others? - if you are a Runescape player with at least some inkling for "role playing" - then yes, absolutely. Otherwise, probably, no.
  • Should other Runescape books be written? - yes, please!

1 comment:

Bryson said...

Well i am a Runescape player and i also would like the book. thank you for that wonderful review and by the way, i do think of it more than just a game. i play it for its medieval attributes and fantasy based doo-dads and hickideedoo's i find it amusing to "be a part" of a "medieval" storyline, if you know what i mean

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