I had no idea what to expect from an official Dark Souls novel when this was announced but I was excited by the prospect of it. I’m a huge fan of the Souls games and their lore. I’m a little obsessive about it actually, it’s uh…kind of a problem.
I’ve spent more time than I’ll ever admit to reading up on all of the locations, characters, items, gods, goddesses and the real life inspirations for everything. I’m really happy to say that none of this reading did me any damned good with this novel. It’s entirely its own thing.
Very true to a Souls story, it takes place in a kingdom that is rotting from within. It starts with Ferranos, an undead waking up with no memory of who he is and setting off on a journey that only grows in grandiosity as it unfurls.
There’s an overlying quest to retrieve three keys and awaken the sleeping King so that he may return and rebuild the world that has fallen into complete disarray. There’s temporal time madness (a quest that they felt taking only a few days actually being five years. Another taking six months), bonfires and the retrieving of souls from fallen enemies.
The bonfires and souls are worked into the story really well. I was a little worried about how this would be handled in the novel because as a core game mechanic neither of them really make much sense. The book handles souls as experiencing the life of the enemy you’ve slain. You gain a portion of their memories and the essence of who and what they were. The essences absorbed is what makes the characters stronger.
I’m happy that they went with Michael A. Stackpole for this. His writing style lent itself really well to the tone required to tell a story as vague and well…weird as something belonging in the Dark Souls universe.
I hope that this is just the first of many novels set in this IP because I will happily buy and binge read all of them.
If you’re expecting to experience Lordran or Drangleic you’re going to be disappointed. If you want a Dark Souls style story with original characters that never drags and keeps you entertained from start to finish, pick this one up.