NOTE: Skein of Shadows was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Dark Quest Books.
Tie-in fiction for roleplaying games is a subgenre that is really taking off. The RPG Crown: City of the Fallen has gained a following, and has recently joined the ranks of branching out into fiction markets. What is also intriguing is that it takes a method similar to that in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, that of a mosaic novel. In short, it takes a series of almost standalone stories and weaves its tale in and out of them, creating an overall picture and plot that is more than the sum of its parts.
Authors Nathan Ellsworth, Davis Riddle, Brannon Hall, Corey Blankenship, and Brannon Hollingsworth teamed up to give us a picture of Crown, a city of the edge of the sea, teeming with treachery, violence, and magic. The quintet of authors do a good job of mixing the elements of an RPG into a non-interactive story, minimizing the elements that feel too much like a transcript of an RPG adventure. The story flows together well, each of the stories moving in and out from one another in a way that works wonderfully.
I had no previous knowledge of Crown: City of the Fallen, and I found myself catching onto the world pretty quickly. The magic system seemed a little too oblique to me at first, but it began to make much more sense as the story went on. Different authors seemed to handle it better or worse, some of them making it feel more natural and less charts and numbers than others.
All-in-all, however, Skein of Shadows takes a very interesting approach to the media tie-in, and hits a homerun. The interwoven stories work well, and the overall plot is definitely one worth reading about. This is strongly recommended to fans of Crown: City of the Fallen, as well as those looking for a mash-up of a number of different subgenres, from more action-based fantasy to assassin stories, etc, and who are looking for a tale that shows you the city, not just one person’s view of it.