Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Elder Scrolls: The Infernal City – reviewed

The Infernal City is a tie-in to the Elder Scrolls series of roleplaying games, of which I’ve played numbers three and four, Morrowind and Oblivion, very extensively. This takes place several decades after the latter, and the events of that game have already passed into legend.

The story concerns a flying island that approaches the coast, whipping the souls from the bodies of all it encounters, creating for itself an army of zombies that seems likely to overwhelm the entire continent. In one story thread two characters use potions to fly up to the island, but become trapped there, while in another the emperor’s cosseted son rushes to their rescue, discovering en route a number of disquieting truths.

It’s hard to judge how good this book was, when I was so delighted throughout to be back in the world of the Elder Scrolls! It’s faithful to the games, but moves the story forward in quite surprisingly destructive ways. From time to time there’s perhaps a touch of the programmed itinery as we move from one key game location to another – but that didn’t bother me at all, since those were precisely the places I hoped we would visit.

The pace is terrific, the story intriguing (especially the gradual revelations about the monstrous ecology of the floating island), and it all seems to tie in well to the games (though I was never very assiduous about reading the tomes I collected, so for all I know it plays fast and loose with the history). I was disappointed that the story’s incomplete in this volume, but I enjoyed it enough to look out for the next one.

The Elder Scrolls: The Infernal City. Greg Keyes. Del Rey, pb, 304pp.

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