“Books?! On TSA?!” You’ll be forgiven if that’s your immediate reaction but this is the God of War novel. The very same story that had many glued to our PlayStation 2s all those years ago has now been adapted and printed on something called ‘paper’. I realise paper may be a scary and ye olde thing for some of our younger readers but you should still give it a chance.
It’s difficult to talk about the God of War novel as a book in its own right. Based on and around the adventures of one of gaming’s most instantly recognisable characters, this particular book is always going to be compared and referenced to the virtual source material.
With the characters, plot lines and locations already having been seared into the minds of the millions that have played GoW, writing a novel containing the same material could be seen as a risky and pointless venture. So, what does this book do to attract non God of War fans?
If anyone picking up the God of War Novel is a virgin to the franchise then they will soon understand the might, strength, fearlessness and brutality that Kratos oozes from every pore. The book is quick to outline that this Spartan warrior isn’t just any old soldier. His meaness, efficiency and skill at killing is described early on and continued throughout. They will come to learn of the power of the weapons that have been seared to his wrists and the absolute comfort with which he uses them. He may be on paper this time round but he certainly hasn’t lost any of his appeal.
That’s what this book does so well. It knows it has a lot to live up to and it knows that it has characters that need to be described down to the very last scar. Athena, Artemis, Ares, Zeus, Poseidon, Medusa, Hermes and Aphrodite all have a part in this tale, some bigger than others, but they are all represented by writing that instantly gives them a defined personality.
In fact it’s the Gods that steal this book, in my opinion. Yes, Kratos is still his angry, vengeful, freakishly-strong self, but it’s the Gods that hold the whole thing together. And here’s where the book provides something the games don’t.
The God of War Novel will provide fans of the games with a new level of explanation as Athena attempts to trick, recruit and side with other Gods in order to help Kratos reach the ultimate goal – the death of Ares. During the God-driven parts of the story, new battles and encounters take place that Kratos isn’t even present for. Most noticeable is a battle in the forest between Artemis’ “beasts” and Ares’ undead minions. The relationships between the Gods are almost discarded completely in the first game but the book not only welcomes the chance to explore them, it does so in such a way that’s humourous, exciting and refreshing. And these sections also offer a much-needed break from all of the gore. Lots and lots of gore.
As with the games, Kratos’ blood-thirsty approach is littered across almost every chapter. The action is relentless, gory and frantic. But this sometimes works against the book. There are only so many ways you can describe this type of content and, when it happens so frequently, you might find yourself growing tired of certain confrontations. All the enemy types are there, however. Minotaurs, Centaurs, Cyclopes, Archers, Skeletons, Wraiths, Gorgons and countless Undead Infantry all pursue Kratos but the interest in hearing about every encounter loses its appeal. This isn’t because it’s poorly written, far from it, but rather because the description of such things like the Blades of Chaos seem to lose something in translation. Obviously for those who have never seen the Blades of Chaos, these fight scenes may be just as enthralling as watching them in action, but perhaps not so much as actually controlling them. But there is no doubt that Kratos is just as brutal as we have always known him to be, if not a little more so.
The rewards for killing in the game come in the form of orbs and the book does a decent job of representing this aspect without losing credibility. The book’s ability to explain things, such as the fact that Kratos carries many things in his arsenal but nowhere to store them, is done so in a believable way which eliminates any questions that could have arisen.
From the crashing waves of the Agean sea to the burning piles of rubble in a war-ravaged Athens and from the swirling sands of the Desert of Lost Souls to the awaiting throne on Mount Olympus, the God of War novel includes everything. Every aspect of the game is catered for in some way during the book’s 301-page length.
If there is one aspect of the novel that I felt didn’t do the game justice, it would be in the sense of scale of the world. One of the game’s most acclaimed features was the sheer size of everything – towering mountains and vast open deserts along with densely packed cities and never-ending corridors. Whilst you do get a feeling of grand locations from the book, the scale of everything doesn’t feel properly represented. Even Cronos crawling through the desert with Pandora’s temple sat on his back seemed smaller.
But that’s the book’s only flaw in an otherwise brilliant translation of the epic adventure that is/was God of War I. Many people will argue that if this is the case then they wouldn’t need to read it. To that I would argue that you are getting the game plus a little bit more. It’s a must for any God of War fan that enjoys reading. The one thing that this novel managed to do, the one thing I found myself becoming increasingly surprised about, was that it isn’t until the latter stages that you actually begin to like Kratos. As far as characters go, he’s not exactly the nicest but I had always felt sympathetic to his cause from the start of the game. Reading the book though, his level of total disregard for any life whatsoever really is apparent and creates a totally different reaction to the character. It might seem amusing when controlling these actions but not so when reading about them.
I’m not too sure you can score books as you would a game so I’ll finish up by concluding on two fronts:
Conclusion for the readers:
An epic story of revenge, jealousy, feuds and betrayal, filled with more action and fighting than you can shake two-sharp-swords-connected-to-your-wrists-by-chains at. The story defies its action orientated nature by providing a twisting, interconnecting and sometimes complex plot which moves along at a relentless pace to keep up with the well-defined and unmistakable characters.
Conclusion for the gamers:
The God of War novel not only covers everything from the game but it also adds a little more depth and understanding to the story and to why certain characters aid the Ghost of Sparta. Athena’s deceitful nature is amplified and her story alone adds to the original experience that you’re likely to have had with the game. Above all, Kratos and the God of War name were treated with the respect and understanding they deserved.
So now you’ve read the review you’ll obviously want to get your hands on a copy right? Well keep your eyes on TSA in about two hours when we’ll have a chance to win the book. That’s right, win a free copy! TSA: Keeping you in paper since… today.