Review: Darksiders: The Abomination Vault
I’m one of those guys that plays video games for the story. I much prefer a solid campaign over online multiplayer any day of the week. For this reason I am a huge advocate of tie-in fiction. I love to delve deeper into characters and events that are barely touched upon while playing the game. When I caught word of a prequel novel to the Darksiders franchise from THQ my interest was piqued. When I saw that it would be penned by Ari Marmell, author of the YA Widdershins series, I was sold. May I present you, DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT (Amazon).
There exists a vault containing weapons of unimaginable power. The vault remains a legacy of the atrocities committed by the Nephilim. Of the four Horsemen, the last surviving Nephilim and protectors of the Balance, only Death is aware of its being. Now an unknown enemy strikes from the shadows, intent on acquiring the weapons stored within the vault and unleashing a wave of destruction across Creation. Only Death, with the assistance of his younger brother War, has the ability to prevent the coming catastrophe.
I know what you’re thinking, how deliciously melodramatic! Oh and it is. I eat this sort of thing right up. As a fan of the Darksiders video games and an even bigger fan of the Darksiders lore, how could I not want to read this book? Combine that with the sharp wit of Marmell and you have a winning combination.
I have to admit, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the level of characterization bestowed upon Death. I won’t pretend that he is the deepest of characters but there are levels of complexity beyond super powered Horseman of the Apocalypse. Death’s facetious responses to every given question can become grating after a time, but until that time comes it continues to be tongue-in-cheek funny. I found myself laughing every time Death interacted with his craven crow Dust and I very much hope this carries over into the game itself. What Ari does best with Death is pair him up with War. Though both are Horsemen it quickly becomes apparent that they have very dissimilar styles. Death is a subtle and agile assassin with a history so dark he refuses to share it, even with his fellow Horsemen. War is a soldier at heart, choosing the direct approach with overwhelming force. While Death picks and chooses his objectives as he sees fit, War instead follows the Charred Council’s missions to the letter. I find this use of comparison a wise move, especially when pairing the novel with the upcoming Darksiders II (Amazon), where Death will be replacing War from the first Darksiders (Amazon) game as the protagonist.
As Death races to prevent the Abomination Vault from being unlocked he crosses paths with faces bound to be familiar to the fans. Anyone who has not yet played Darksiders and is reading this book on its own merits is unlikely to find themselves a fish out of water. The concepts and characters are straightforward enough to grasp in one sitting. The lore itself is only expanded by the novel, providing backstory on Death and other notables while serving as a reminder for what drew me to the franchise to begin with. There are angels and demons and Horsemen of the Apocalypse but the story strays far from Biblical, establishing its own fiction.
Marmell’s clever prose is evident but not as distinguishable as it might have been without outside influences. The narrative is more linear than I would prefer, evidently resembling stage progression in a video game. The action is fluid, exhibiting the combat differences between Death and War. Death’s shapeshifting scythe, Harvester, is wicked cool and I’m eager to wield it in game. I can imagine THQ developing downloadable content based on DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT, and I fully approve of the idea.
Tie-in fiction has an undeservedly bad reputation with the literary crowd. DARKSIDERS: THE ABOMINATION VAULT aptly demonstrates that in the right hands, tie-in fiction can be just as good as any other book you will find in the genre. Marmell respects the source material, expands the lore, and boosts anticipation of the coming game. This makes for a successful combo.
- Recommended Age: 14+
- Language: Nothing more than mildly offensive
- Violence: With characters named War and Death... well... you can do the math
- Sex: None