Shadowkeep by Alan Dean Foster is the first computer game to be novelized. It’s based on the 1984 first-person RPG for the Apple II. The book takes a few liberties with the source material that I think makes the book able to stand on its own.
Not everyone would have heard of the game before buying the book. It’s cool that the book was based on a video game, but not everyone who played it would have bought it, and not everyone who bought the book would have bought it.
There are two things to talk about here. Shadowkeep the novel, and Shadowkeep the computer game. Let’s dig into the book and then talk about the differences between the two.
The book’s story isn’t anything new. It is an unlikely hero questing to save the world from a great evil. You have a group of unlikely allies who join in fighting the enemies.
I felt like this was a story I had read multiple times. It was told well, in any case. Every character had a role in the story, and it was written well.
We start with the Spinner making his way to a blacksmith’s shop. We don’t get too much information about the Spinner. We know it is trying to recruit someone to save the wizard Gorwyther from Shadowkeep.
Unfortunately, Spinner’s first choice says no, and he is stuck with Practor. It all works out in the end, but the characters don’t know. The Spinner does say that he will send help, but he never does. It disappears from the book after this.
After leaving the city, Practor gathers a group of people to help him. It is explained that these races wouldn’t typically work together. Some members of each race know about the danger, while others aren’t worried about it because it isn’t a problem for them yet.
Once the party is put together, they make the trip to Shadowkeep. Along the way, it is explained that the demon king is starting to reach out of the keep, and people are fleeing. They don’t have too many problems along the way, and their personalities don’t clash too much.
Once they get into Shadowkeep, you see some tension with Sranul, the Roo. He isn’t there to save the world; he is there for the treasure. The other three are out of obligation or because they want to stop evil.
Sranul causes all kinds of trouble for them, and no one seems to want to stop him from messing things up. They let him set off traps in almost every room. One would think they would like to stop him after nearly killing all of them the second time.
Aside from Sranul trying the kill everyone, they run into a bunch of strange monsters. There are familiar things like Trolls and Ghouls, but then they throw something weird at you.
They run into a creature called a Brollachian. This is a somewhat common creature in this world. It lives in a pool of water and is a little like a blob creature. It has a large mouth, tentacles, and no eyes. I also came up with a bunch of different things when I looked it up through a google search.
Eventually, they find and free Gorwyther. He explains that he died during his long imprisonment. Then he explains how to defeat the Demon King but doesn’t tell all of them how to do it.
They’re teleported to the Demon King’s throne room and fight the first form of Dal’brad. After a somewhat lengthy fight, our heroes kill him. Thankfully, Sranul ends up dying, but don’t celebrate too much because some version of a phoenix down exists in this world, and he comes back after all the fun is over.
Then the second form of Dal’brad comes to life. It is very anti-climatic as they trounce him. They toss an exploding gem in his mouth, and that’s it.
Then things are wrapped up quickly. I wish there were a second book!
Video Game vs. the Book
There are some similarities between the two. Both have the same protagonist, the same goals, and the exact location. There are some minor differences in the names that are used. You also have more companions in the game than in the book.
Alan builds a world for the story to exist in. He expands on the world’s lore and writes about some things in other dimensions. He also gets into the different races of people living there.
The world of Shadowkeep is an interesting one. I was expecting the usual high-fantasy races of elves, dwarfs, etc. We get something closer to the Warhammer Fantasy world, but with Alan’s spin on things.
In the book, you follow a party of four. Practor, our hero, is a human who starts as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Maryld is a Thaladar which is this world’s version of an elf. Sranul is a Roo which is an anthropomorphic rabbit. Finally, we have the lizardman, Hargrod.
Each of these characters plays a role in the story. Sranul seems to get the team into trouble and ends up getting himself killed. Hargrod could have done this by himself as he is the most competent fighter. Maryld and Practor have strange interactions where you might think a romance would start.
Now, the game doesn’t have most of this. The only character from this group is Practon, although his name is spelled differently. He is still an apprentice blacksmith. In the game, there are ten characters, and it is up to the player to give them some personality.
From what I can tell, the game’s goal is to rescue a wizard named Nacomedon. The game descriptions I’ve found don’t mention fighting Dal’brad the Demon King. The demon is noted as being the reason for the wizard’s imprisonment, but I don’t see you fighting him.
In the book, our heroes are trying to rescue Gorwyther, who turns out to be dead. The wizard gives the party several tools they will need to defeat Dal’brad. He doesn’t tell them about the two forms of Dal’brad, but that would have ruined the surprise!
Likes and Dislikes
This book could have stood on its own. I don’t think it needed to be a tie-in with a video game, but it is a fun way to expand on the game’s lore. While it wasn’t too crazy, it set up the motivations for why people would go to Shadowkeep and explained how the evil in the castle was leaking out into the world.
I liked the characters in the book. They weren’t amazing, but they were set up well. At first, I was not too fond of Sranul. Especially when the story got to Shadowkeep, he kept setting off traps. That was why he was there, in any case. His character was more reckless, and his motivations were different. He wasn’t there to be a hero; he wanted to get rich.
I liked the other characters. However, the relationship between Maryld and Practor was something that didn’t need to be here. It felt like they might end up together at times, but we had already established that Practor was engaged to some lady back in his hometown. It made the flirting that Maryld was doing and Practor’s comments about how attractive Maryld was pointless.
Of the remaining characters, the one that I think should have been explored more was the Spinner. This extra-dimensional being explains what is going on to Practor and starts this whole quest to Shadowkeep. He says he will send help to Practor but disappears from the story.
The Spinner wasn’t developed as a character, but I would have liked a follow-up on him. It would have been nice to know what was happening with him and if he had sent anyone to help Practor.
The story did leave me wanting more. I wanted to know more about this world that Alan had expanded on and learn more about the video game. I liked how things were set up, and I would have liked more from the book or the game.
Learning about this book, and the video game that it was based on, reminds me that there are so many books and video games that I don’t know about. Since I started looking into books about video games, I’ve discovered hundreds of video games that I’ve never heard of. It has been a fun experience.
Shadowkeep is a fascinating book in its place in the history of video game novelizations. It is one of the better books that I’ve read so far. It did a great job setting up the game’s world and was fun to read.
I wish there were sequels to this book. As far as I know, this was a one-and-done book, but I could be missing something. I am looking forward to where this journey will lead me next!