Book Review – RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador
Betrayal at Falador is the first (of at least two) novelizations of the RuneScape universe. As someone who has never played RuneScape, I went in expecting to be fairly confused and largely underwhelmed by the debut novel by T.S. Church. I was pleasantly surprised, however. Betrayal at Falador was briskly paced and did not require a PhD in RuneScape-ology to follow the plot. While not the best fantasy novel available today, it is a solid start to a series.
From the start, Church avoids a common pitfall of fantasy novels: mind-numbingly boring openers that spend dozens of pages crafting the world. Instead, he jumps right into the action. In the middle of a terrible storm that threatens to destroy their stronghold, Knights of Falador race to protect sacred bits of statuary. And in the middle of all the rain and thunder, a blinding flash of lightening brings a bit of a surprise: a girl. The race to see who she is and where she came from serves as the launching pad into a twisted plot done in classic high fantasy style, with more magic and monsters than you can shake a wand at.
The novel’s prose is not of the same caliber as Tolkien or Gaiman, but Church does write a step above the fan fiction fare sometimes offered in the genre. He is adept with descriptions, especially when recounting something distinctly fantastical. The dialogue, though, is a touch stilted. Certain characters speak as though they are players at a Renaissance Faire; they talk the High English talk, but it’s forced and obviously not their native tongue. Still, there is no denying that Church’s writing is full of promise and I can’t wait to watch his skills grow with each publication.
The chosen point of view is also an issue. Told in third-person subjective, the story bounces between characters’s minds, with a constantly rotating cast of people taking up the narrative. Such a narration can be used to great effect (such as the majority of Star Wars novels), but in Betrayal at Falador, the rapid-fire jumping from one mind to another made it difficult to connect to the important characters. This was especially true when the narration bounced over to nonessential characters like unnamed maids. Fantasy worlds are already large enough; no need to make them bigger by having an endless array of storytellers.
Those issues aside, however, it was a good read. RuneScape fans in particular will likely be delighted by how many names Church takes directly from the game. I did some basic Googling of the RuneScape universe as I read and found that Church was pulling in a lot of the game’s mythos without boring the reader to death with large chunks of prose dedicated to explaining the RuneScape world. I was particularly impressed with his handling of religion. It is so easy to fall into contrite ramblings when trying to explain a fantasy deity, but Church sidesteps the temptation, simply letting the religion be a part of the world without feeling the need to explain it.
Final Recommendation: Betrayal at Falador is a perfectly satisfactory start for the RuneScape series. Though I have not played the game myself, I would imagine that fans of the MMORPG would be happy with this bit of expanded universe. And for those who simply enjoy a quick fantasy read, the book would make a great weekend distraction.
And be on the lookout for our review of Return to Canifis, the second RuneScape novel by T.S. Church now available at bookstores.Book Review - RuneScape: Betrayal at Falador,