The days of magic and adventure are fading away, giving way to the age of industry and science. As the aged last Hero sits upon the throne of Albion, two friends—the privileged Thomas and his loyal servant, John—set out for the East in search of a legendary beast: the vicious, rarely-seen balverine. But their desire for adventure may be their ultimate undoing—because their quarry has just found them...
For my first book review column (something I plan on doing somewhat regularly) I chose a novel that incorporates many of the things we geeks find interest in around here: Fantasy stories, Video Games and Peter David. That last bit is an important piece. I truly think his skill with characters, dialogue, pacing and just plain fun is what made this book so enjoyable.
The plot itself is fairly generic. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that it's about two young adventurers setting out on a quest. This quest is initially about vengeance against "Balverines" (Fable's version of werewolves more-or-less), but, of course, turning into a bit more as they encounter interesting characters and obstacles along the way. The reader really does not need to know anything about the Fable video game to understand or enjoy this book. At most, a player of the game might recognize names of things or places without explanation and the magic system parralells the games'. Magic itself doesn't play a big role until the last few chapters. Much of the book being magic free.
One reason the book remains magic free (besides young characters) is that Albion, the Fable world, is slowly moving toward industry and that move is driving magic and all the mystical creatures further out of the developing areas. This takes our story out of the setting the video games have been based on, to cross the sea to a new land that is less "civilized", but more inclined to superstition and mysticism. (From what I've read about the new game, I believe Fable 3 will allow travel off Albion as well).
Being that it is a video game tie-in novel, it may not have a ground breaking plot, but Peter David still delivers something enjoyable to read. In the midst of most epic fantasy stories, spanning countless volumes and character point-of-views, it's nice to have a break and relax on a fun adventure with a couple characters in a single novel. He keeps the pace moving and character interaction interesting. Peter David also breaks the story up by use of narration. It starts out as a story being told to a king and then every few chapters the king tends to interupt the story-teller for questions and comments. These are short page breaks and really don't distract from the story at all. In fact I think the use of narration adds to the pacing and the story.
As a side note, for those that play the video game, this book comes with a code for a unique in-game weapon: the Wolfsbane sword. The code is on a card attached to the middle of the book with a scratch off to get the code, so it doesn't matter where you get the book, they all come with it.