Shadowgate is an interesting game and a good subject for a book like this. The original is a graphical adventure game. It is a point-and-click style of game, and it is fun to play from time to time.
The Worlds of Power book expands the world of the game. Of the four that I’ve read so far, this feels very different. It doesn’t mention video games, the main character isn’t from our world, and it feels a bit more mature.
I thought it was a prequel for the game, but it is more of a retelling of the story but giving the player’s character a name and a backstory. I like seeing this because it adds something to the game that wasn’t there before. The book is also fun to read.
Let’s get into the story for a minute.
This fantasy story is very familiar to anyone who has read the genre. You have a young boy who is an outsider, he works as a tradesman, and he ends up going on a quest. It is a standard hero’s journey.
It takes place in a high fantasy world with a few races I’ve never heard of—especially the Fenlings and the Tyens. I’m not sure what a Fenling is, and the Tyen is a Lion-man. It is a fascinating world that was created for the game.
Like many fantasy settings, the bad guys tend to be the more interesting races. If this were a strategy game, I would have tried them out before giving the good guys a chance.
There is one group that I think is lifted from Lord of the Rings, or it feels like it. The Death Wraiths seem to act like the Ring Wraiths. They even have a boss that is referred to as a King. It fits with the story; I just thought it was a little strange that it was in here.
Other races like Orcs, Elfs, and Dwarfs are also in the books. They eventually help Jairen on his quest, but they don’t all join him. I thought this would have been a Lord of the Rings story, but that isn’t exactly what happens.
Our main character is Jairen, and one day he meets a strange wizard. The wizard has Jairen shoe his horse, and he gives the boy a vision, or he got Jairen high. It was very odd but made sense in the context of the story.
Then Jairen wanders off from the blacksmith’s shop and starts a trip towards Gatekeeper Mountain. The village seems okay with his disappearance. I’ve pointed this out in the other books, but no one looking for Jairen appears to fit better here. He isn’t from a modern setting, and kids probably wandered off more often.
Along the way, Jairen meets the wizard again, Lakmir, who teaches him some magic, and a warrior named Hawk, who teaches him how to fight. He seems to learn both magic and sword fighting very fast. He kills a Black Dragon after a day of learning these skills.
It made very little sense. However, it works for how short the book is and the targeted audience of the book. I must keep reminding myself that this wasn’t targeting some grumpy older man in his late 30s!
About three-quarters of the way through the book, Jairen stops being a hazard to himself. He becomes a one-person army! He has this dream where he apparently gets a Dragon Ball Z power-up and can take on hundreds of orcs by himself.
It is kind of amazing how quickly he progresses. His friend, Fez, also seems to grow as a person and learn how to do things.
Jairen grows up quickly during this little trip. He seems to gain more confidence as he continues and meets more people. If this was longer, I think some things could have been expanded, and the plot holes could have been filled in.
Like the other books, our hero quickly makes it to his destination. He gets teleported to a battle, and then we get a quick explanation of how the remaining five days go. It was a little strange. I would like to know if there were page requirements or if this was edited down to keep the story going.
It is a fun story, but it feels a little watered down when you look at other fantasy books. Also, as a tie-in to a video game, I don’t think the author wanted to move the story in a direction that contradicted the games. It must be hard to work with an IP you don’t own.
Differences between other stories
Before Shadowgate is a more mature story than the other Worlds of Power books I’ve read, there seems to be more of a sense of danger. Monsters die, blood is spilled, and there is more of a sense of danger.
For most of the book, Jairen is vulnerable. He doesn’t know how to fight; he is a skinny kid and is often paralyzed with fear. He has no connection to video games, isn’t from our world, and is a central character in the game’s plot.
There is a lot more violence in this book. It’s still very tame, but it is described more than in the other Worlds of Power books. It helped this book stand out from the other books in the series.
I was pleasantly surprised that this book went in the direction it did. After reading Wizards and Warriors, I think this book better used its main character. Jairen feels like he belongs in this world, and Matthew feels very out of place.
This story felt like it was a better novelization of the video game. No characters were forced into the story, the plot threads were mostly wrapped up, and it was a fun story to read through.
I think this book is better than the three I’ve read. It doesn’t try too much and explains the game’s lore well for its intended audience. It is an exciting book.
I’m glad the author didn’t shoehorn in a kid from our world. The other times these books have done, it hasn’t worked too well. It also isn’t needed given the plot of the book.
Having the main character be from the world this book takes place in took away many of the issues I had with the other books I’ve read. I’m still a little confused that no one went looking for Jairen, but I guess that happens a lot in this world. It could also be that no one liked Jairen.
Like the other books in the series, the story has several plot holes but is still a fun story. I’m not the intended audience for books like this. They’re targeted at a young adult audience, and I think they do an excellent job of hyping up the games.