Reviews

RuneScape: Return to Canifis – Book Review

Author: T.S. Church
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Fantasy

I admit that I was intrigued when contacted by Titan Books offering me a copy of the latest RuneScape book – written by T.S. Church – to review. I don’t play RuneScape, nor have I read the books predecessor, but as a gamer and avid fantasy reader I could hardly say no.
However, it all works out for the best, as the author and Titan Books are curious to know if the book is accessible to those that don’t play RuneScape, or haven’t read the first book, such as my self. The answer? Sort of, bt it’s good fun all the same.

While set in the RuneScape universe, Church has been careful to ensure that you don’t even need a nodding familiarity with the game to appreciate its rich universe. The fact that it’s set in a gameworld never feels like its done just to sell the book, but rather to simply expand on the existing universe for fans and to give an already rich world to new readers.

A large portion of the book takes place in Varrock where a mystery monster is causing carnage, and it’s up to the books returning heroes to ge forth and save the day.
The characters are by far the strongest aspect of the book. While the usual game types that populate an RPG are here (warrior, rogue, wizard etc.) each one feels perfectly fleshed out with a personality that matches their type, but never feels too cliché. Theodore is the pure and noble night, but isn’t afraid to make those hard choices. Kara is the fierce heroine who’s starting to feel tired of killing and Gar’rth is the rather dark werewolf who plays a rather central role to the book. Several other characters are here as well and they all feel like a perfect fit, and are all enjoyable characters to read.
Though Gar’rth has arguably the most bearing on the plot, it’s the budding romance between Theodore and Kara that helps keep it all going. It’s one of the will-they-wont-they romances that always tends to leave more questions that answers.

There’s a clear-cut line of good and evil in this world: a river to be exact. This river, called the Salve, serves as a barrier between Misthalin – the good guys – and Morytania – the bad guys – and acts as a holy barrier which stops the vampires and evil of Morytania crossing. It’s an interesting idea and one that serves the story well as our heroes must cross it in order to parley with the ruling vampires in order to stop the rampaging beast at Varrock.
it takes a while for this too get going, arguably too long as the first half of the book is fairly slow-paced and has a good bit of “filler” in terms of little conversations and events that have little bearing on the plot. However, once the crossing begins the books dark tones take an even darker turn as werewolves are introduced in larger numbers and the book describes such acts as children being ripped apart by them. It never feels overdone, or like this violence was added simply to try to shock, instead it feels like it justifies the fear that is felt by the humans about this dark land, and  that the werewolves serve the vampires – and are afraid of them – adds another layer to this already disturbing kingdom.

The writer wasn’t happy at just giving us the heroes story either, as we’ll also get glimpses into the story of Sulla and Jerrod – the two villains of the previous book . There tale is an intriguing one, and it has plenty of impact on the books main events.
Sulla makes for an interesting character as he seeks revenge for his defeat at the hands of Kara, and yet ends up helping them in a round-about way.

There are a few problems that ‘d like to point out though: the book does make plenty of references to events in the first book, and moments of reflection from some of the characters are entirely lost on anyone that hasn’t read the first book. While this doesn’t ruin the book, it does make it a little harder to understand the characters and their personalities.
The real meat of the plot takes a good while to get going , and once it does it feels a tad rushed as a result. While the first half of the book is by no means dull, its pacing is slow which may put some readers off.

While Return to Canifis doesn’t break new ground for the High Fantasy genre, it certainly proves to be an enjoyable and fun tale. The characters are well written and manage to keep true to High Fantasy tradition without ever feeling to clichéd. Couple that with a great setting and you’re onto a winner.

If you’re a lover of fantasy then there is no reason while you shouldn’t run out and get yourself a copy, and if you play Runescape then why are you still reading this? Shouldn’t you be at the bookstore already?

Score: 4/5

Keep an eye out for my upcoming intverview with the author as well.

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