Audiobook Review: The Sword of Midras by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Media Tie-In
Series: Book 1 of Shroud of the Avatar
Publisher: Audible Studios (Audiobook: July 12, 2016) | Tor (Hardcover: June 21, 2016)
Length: Audiobook: 8 hrs and 43 mins | Hardcover: 336 pages
Narrator: Derek Perkins
Developed by Portalarium and directed by video game legend Richard Garriott, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is a game I’ve been following since it was publicly announced in 2013. In the spring of that same year, the project was also funded on Kickstarter, raising nearly $2 million. While the official launch date is still to come in late 2016, as a backer I’ve been able to dabble in early access, and so far I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen. So impressed, that I immediately added The Sword of Midras to my reading list.
(Note: This book is also sometimes known as Blade of the Avatar, which was included in serial format as a pledge reward at some backer levels, but they are not exactly the same as far as I know. The Sword of Midras is an “updated” version that contains some extra content—at least four extra chapters.)
If you want to find out more about the world in which Shroud of the Avatar takes place, then The Sword of Midras is a great place to start. Being relatively new to the game lore myself, I enjoyed learning more about the setting of New Britannia and the people who make it their home. This novel takes place approximately two hundred years before the game. It provides some history, introducing readers to a world that died during a catastrophic event known as the Fall. For a long time, those who survived managed to carve out a living for themselves in a land left wild and chaotic after the departure of powerful beings known as the Avatars. Then, the Obsidians came. Their armies subjugated the people using dark magic, and claimed that in doing so they brought law and order to the world.
The story follows a captain in the Obsidian Army named Aren Bennis. One day, while reconnoitering with a scout named Syenna, the two of them stumble upon a mysterious sword in an ancient ruin. Against the warnings of Syenna, who believes the sword could be cursed, Aren picks up the weapon anyway and is staggered to discover its magical properties—and the fact that he is the only one who can wield it. Unfortunately for him, there are plenty who have theories about the sword’s origins, but even more who want to use it for their own gain. And as the only person who can hold the blade without experiencing the negative effects, Aren finds himself caught in the middle of many conflicting agendas.
If you’re not acquainted with the world and the history from the game, that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying this book. It might, however, make this story seem somewhat sparse and conventional compared to other high fantasy novels. I’m guessing Shroud of the Avatar fans and lore buffs are the ones who will probably get the most out of this one, and it’s also rather light and reads very quickly. In other words, nothing really sets The Sword of Midras above other tie-ins of its type, so adjust expectations accordingly.
That said though, the authors do a great up keeping up an energetic pace, and I thought both plot and characters were very interesting. The book also sets up the historical context nicely, featuring some places that will be familiar to players of the game. I enjoyed the character of Aren, whom we spend the most time with in this story. He starts off as your typical Obsidian army officer, but gradually, the mysterious powers of the sword changes him, and makes him contemplate other points of view. A strong supporting cast also provides plenty of opportunities for fascinating relationships to develop.
Audiobook Comments: I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to listen to the audio edition of The Sword of Midras. Narrator Derek Perkins is new to me, but I knew right from the start that his voice would be a good fit. His reading made it easy to get into the story, even the slower sections that involve more descriptive detail (and there are plenty examples of this, especially when characters arrive at new places.) His dialogue is also animated and distinguishable, with emotion in all the right places, and I really have no complaints with overall his performance. Overall, this audiobook is one I would recommend, especially if you prefer this format for your lighter reads.
From what I hear, The Sword of Midras is only the first of a planned trilogy. I’m definitely open to checking out the next two books, and hopefully by then the game would be in full swing too, because I really enjoy spending time in this world!