The second book in the Guild Wars fiction line was officially released yesterday. One can find Edge of Destiny by J. Robert King at most bookstores and e-bookstores. The book was better and worse than Ghosts of Ascalon, and I will get to that. For Guild Wars fans and future Guild Wars 2 players that want a deep background for some of the major NPCs in their Guild Wars 2 personal story, I’d say that this book is worth the read. I think that ultimately the Guild Wars 2 world will be deeper and richer because I read the book.
Okay, now I will try and be spoiler free-ish, but you have to be “spoiled” on one well known fact regarding Guild Wars 2. This book details the formation of the famous guild Destiny’s Edge. The spoiler is… the book also details their separation. Most Guild Wars 2 fans knew this because a large part of Guild Wars 2 will be getting the band back together to rock some dragon face. The “why” is much more interesting, and I will not be spoiling that.
As for writing, I felt it was great. The writing flowed very well. The dialogue was entertaining and snappy. I noticed that some of the criticisms of the book were leveled at the dialogue. I don’t understand what those critics expected. For the most part, I felt King did a good job at showing emotion and thoughts, instead of telling, and I am thankful we had no Wheel of Time-length conversations where I would have to masochistically get to the end of the chapter. The best part of the writing, in my opinion, was how King described Capitalized Proper Nouns. I felt in comparison to Ghosts of Ascalon, the descriptions were much less in the reader’s face. The book was much less a Guild Wars universe teaching aid, but I think it told plenty of lore.
The thing I always secretly hated about Destiny’s Edge was that they were evenly composed of the five playable races. One human, one charr, one sylvari, one asura, and one norn made up the group. Except that’s not quite right for reasons explained in the book. Anyway, the first half of the book details how this ragtag bunch became a guild, and I have to say I was very impressed with how King handled it. I mean, it is very easy to do some variant of “you meet up in a tavern,” but King set up a chain of events that made the group come together quite well. Each character, individually or in small groups, had their own small story for a few chapters. By the time they settled in as Destiny’s Edge, I was just nodding my head.
The first major problem to be handled by Destiny’s Edge was set up very early in the book. So, by the time the guild got around to dealing with it, it had been in my mind for some time. This should have been the end of the first book. However, ArenaNet needed to get the story of Destiny’s Edge in one book, and this is where I felt the book stumbles.
See, Destiny’s Edge accomplished a series of Herculanean feats by which their legend spread throughout Tyria to the degree that no one could ignore their celebrity. The second half of the book quickly portrays the problem, the set up (“weeks later”), and then gives a real-time on-the-fly solution. The feats are impressive, but the presentation is not. Whereas the first feat felt impending from the start of the book, the later feats felt tacked on. They were nearly meaningless to the me because I was not attached to the significance of the problem at all.
The book had to present reasons for the legend of Destiny’s Edge, and objectively it succeeded. Yet, I feel that the book did not portray the fame and impact of the guild’s feats very well. I would have preferred to have a few chapters of the protagonists talking with locals about their past accomplishments or overhearing bar chatter about them rather than me being at the action site for feats #2 and #3. Then by the time the guild gets to feat #4, it feels like a trainwreck. Instead of the masterful elegance I saw in the first half of the book, the pacing and story elements felt like they were crammed in for the final throw. Honestly, the last half of Edge of Destiny could have easily been one or two more books. Thankfully, King pulls the book out of nosedive for the final chapter. He does a great job showing failure and loss in just a few short paragraphs.
Lorewise the book is a gold mine. The Elder Dragons are thoroughly reviewed, but some of their mysterious infinity is lost in the process. They now feel more Lovecraftian than the Greek/Exalted Titans I had them set out to be. King takes us in to the norn culture and the asura culture for a pretty good look at each race’s capital city. Unfortunately, sylvari still remain mostly a mystery. We learn a little bit more of the new race’s internal struggle with the Nightmare Court, but we are not shown much of the plant creature’s culture like we are with the asura and norn. I also feel that the one monumental lore feature near the end of the book kind of gets short changed. That piece was with us from the beginning, and it feels like that bit of lore was concluded abrasively. We do get a nice “gameplay” teaser because mesmers and mesmer magic are confirmed to be significant in the Guild Wars 2 world.
Finally, I loved all the times King would talk to the reader by bringing up “beta testing” or some other inside joke. I love when media brings in little jokes like that because when done well, it has a lot of impact. Those winks at me were not unnoticed, and much appreciated.
Overall, the book was well worth the read, and I am glad I bought it. I think that its flaws are mostly do to poor compression of too much material in to too little a writing space. Seriously, it could have easily been an 800 page book in a perfect world without deadlines, editors, and print costs. I would say that it’s still of good quality, and a must have for Guild Wars 2 fans. There has been little information on the third book, but I am very interested to see what the final, planned story is going to be… or if it beats the Guild Wars 2 launch date.