The second Diablo 3 Novel, Storm of Light is now available for purchase. It’s set in the few months between the end of Diablo 3 and the start of Reaper of Souls, and provides lots of interesting lore and story background about that crucial interval. This article contains a review/discussion of the book, and a pair of contests to win your own copy of the book, plus a copy of The Order, Diablo 3 novel #1.
1) What’s going to happen at the end of Reaper of Souls and beyond? Will Malthael be destroyed? The demons in the Black Soulstone freed? The Nephalem corrupted? Something else? Offer your best speculation in this thread in our Story and Lore forum.
2) What’s your favorite element or plot twist or aspect of the Diablo story and lore? You can go cosmic on the world creation or local on some particular plot twist, or even reflect on a bit of lore or NPC background story. Submit your reply via our Diablo.IncGamers Facebook page.
You must enter in the forum thread or the Facebook post. (Or both.) You can not enter either contest in comments to this post. Please don’t do so, since you will not win and people will laugh at your reading comprehension.
Storm of Light Review
I read the novel before approving it for our contests and readers, and it’s a good tale. I read it on two levels; 1) as a fantasy story, and 2) with an eye on how it advanced and filled in details of the Diablo lore and mythology. It did a good job at both, and as such my review is more of a discussion, covering the actual book contents and story and characterization, as well as touching on the larger lore/story/world-building elements.
Click through to read it, and it is spoiler-free… covering nothing more than Blizzard’s official info about the novel, as seen in their blog and on the Amazon.com book sales page.
Diablo III: Storm of Light, by Nate Kenyon
This article goes into some details about the plot, but avoids spoilers. At least there are no more spoilers than Blizzard has already provided, with the official Blizzard news post and Amazon.com description giving away much more than I would have thought prudent. If you’ve not read that official info and you’re going to read this book, I’d recommend that you do not read this article until afterwards, since some of the plot developments in the book will be spoiled by this discussion
Disclaimer: Blizzard provided us with an advance review copy of this novel, and they are providing the prizes for our giveaway contest.
Review and Discussion
I read this book with two points of view. I treated it like any work of fantasy literary and took in the story, enjoyed the action scenes and character insights, etc. At the same time I was taking in all the story and lore with an eye on the larger Diablo 3 and Reaper of Souls story and lore and plot points. Storm of Light works on both fronts; it’s a good story set in an interesting fantasy world, and it does a nice leading into the story of Reaper of Souls, as well as fleshing out the world as presented in the game.
Storm of Light is the second Diablo 3 novel, a sort of sequel to the previous book, The Order, which was also authored by Nate Kenyon. That novel was set prior to Diablo 3 and detailed Deckard Cain and Leah’s lives and search for lore and knowledge during the years between the events in Diablo 2 and those presented in Diablo 3. Storm of Light takes place during the few months between the end of Diablo 3 and the opening of Reaper of Souls, and focuses primarily on Tyrael’s struggle to save the High Heavens from the spreading evil of the Black Soulstone, while also keeping the surviving Angels from launching an effort to exterminate the humans on Sanctuary. (A double task complicated by the fact that the corruption of the Black Soulstone is making the other angels on the Angiris Council behave erratically and angrily. Imperius is being an even bigger prick than usual, if you can imagine.)
Most of the book is from Tyrael’s point of view as he suffers through his abrupt embrace of mortality, and the novel does good work humanizing him. (Though he’s not actually human. The book makes clear that he is mortal, but not like the human characters who are all in some phase of “awakening” to their Nephalem nature. Presumably Tyrael had some ability to choose what he would look like when he de-angeled himself, or else his long-standing association with and sympathy for humans influenced his end result appearance.)
However his look came about, it’s a new thing for Tyrael. Not just looking human, but being mortal at all. In the novel he often thinks how vexing it is to have to breath, eat, sleep, suffer aches and pains, etc. And he does a lot of those things since there’s constant trouble and danger and combat, but even before then, because he’s in the Heavens and Angels do not sleep or eat or age. If you’re prone to skepticism you’d wonder why there’s breathable air, a liveable temperature, and walkways in the Heavens as well, since Angels don’t need any of those things, but try not to think too deeply about it.
Tyrael’s mortality isn’t going over well with the other Angels either. In addition to feeling that he’s deeply disrespected them and abandoned them by leaving their ranks, most of the other Angels are disgusted by his new frailties. Every time Tyrael shows any weakness, wincing at blinding light or deafening sound, clearing his throat to speak, etc, the Angels observe it without sympathy and with distrust and distaste.
You get the idea. Things aren’t going well in the Heavens, and Tyrael realizes much of the trouble is due to the corrupting influence of the Black Soulstone, which the angels retrieved after Diablo in Prime Evil form was defeated by the Nephalem. The Angels feel it should remain in their safekeeping, and some of their more aggressive leaders, like Imperius, wants to take this opportunity to destroy all humanity and the remaining packs of leaderless demons. There’s a lot going on with the Angels, with different factions arguing for different approaches, and rogue agents and covert groups acting with murderous impunity, mostly targeted at demons.
Faced with this deteriorating situation in the High Heavens, Tyrael decides that he must get the Black Soulstone out of there before his former kin are completely ruined by exposure. There’s no question of the other members of the Angiris Council agreeing with him, and ultimately Tyrael is forced to actually flee from the Heavens before one of Imperius’ very belligerent lieutenants is about to arrest and imprison him.
Naturally, Tyrael heads to Sanctuary (traveling through a portal this time) where he summons a variety of humans, all burgeoning Nephalem for a secret mission; to infiltrate the High Heavens and steal away the Black Soulstone. Tyrael’s motivation is largely to free/save the Heavens and the Angels from the stone, and in the early planning stages Tyrael does not know where he will take the stone if he’s able to steal it away, which humans he can get to help him steal it, etc. All of that evolves over the course of the book, and the mission is not at all a piece of cake. In that and in many other ways, I often wished I didn’t know anything about the plot of Reaper of Souls and that I’d never seen the intro cinematic.
From that movie we all know events that take place after the conclusion of Storm of Light, that Tyrael does steal the stone away, that the big enemy is Malthael, that the other Angels are less murderous towards humans than they were in the past, etc. None of that is revealed in the book, and reading it before you knew anything about RoS’ story and plot and cinematic would make the story revelations in the game very cool and surprising.
The spoilers work both ways, too. After all, the RoS intro cinematic gives no hint of how difficult it was for Tyrael to get the Black Soulstone out of Heaven in the first place. Nor does it build up to the appearance of the dark enemy in the cinematic, the way this novel does. The book makes many hints about a secret enemy, but nothing really points at Malthael who is hardly mentioned in the book at all, and only as a former member of the Angiris Council who vanished twenty years ago and has not been heard from since.
Early in the novel, even knowing RoS as I do, I spent some time wondering if the one scheming, deceptive angel was somehow a traitor and working with some demonic power, since all the hints about his secret allegiances were mentions of dark and dangerous and lurking powers that were devoted to destroying all of humanity.
The New Nephalem
Besides Tyrael, most of the rest of the book is from the PoV of various human heroes. There’s no sign or mention of “the Nephalem” who actually was the hero of Diablo 3. The individual who battled into the Heavens in Act Four and ultimately defeated Diablo. No one is the “canon” hero, and there’s no mention of why that individual isn’t still around to help Tyrael.
In the absence of a proven fighter, Tyrael has to assemble a mixed party of would-be heroes and Nephalem to reform the Horadrim and to shape themselves into a fighting force suitable for a hit and run, snatch and grab mission into Heaven to retrieve the Black Soulstone. The characters come from a variety of classes and backgrounds, and some of them were seen in previous Diablo fictional properties.
There’s no representation for the Demon Hunter or Witch Doctor, and the Necromancer is the only Diablo 2 character. There aren’t any Crusaders in the book either, which surprised me . There are Paladins, of a sort, as a major subplot is tied to corruption and evil within the Zakarum church. Various of the NPCs seen in Reaper of Souls appear in the book as well, most notably Lorath Narh, who is a gung-ho Horadric trainee in the book, roughly matching his NPC presence in the game.
The book handles combat and Nephalem heroics in the usual fiction style, when adapted from video games. The characters all play as though they were Hardcore, and the special effects and healing are all greatly turned down. There’s not much dramatic effect in fiction when a character can slaughter thousands of enemies, instantly heal all wounds, etc. You don’t see healing potions, item upgrades, exp-grinding, etc. Combat is dangerous and avoided when possible, and fairly realistic when it occurs.
So all the combat in this novel and most other Diablo novels and good fanfic takes place on a much smaller scale, where defeating even one or two monsters is an achievement, and the heroes are always in danger, intimidated by going up against huge demons covered in armor and armed with massive blood-stained weapons, etc.
I generally enjoyed the book and the direction it took the game fiction. I also liked the humanizing info about Tyrael, and the added lore and background on the Angels and the High Heavens. The “birth” of a new angel — materializing fully-formed and grown from a the Crystal Arch — was described and explained. (I still want to know where the endless hordes of demons come from, though, as there don’t seem to be demon mothers or training academies.)
I did have some complaints or areas I wish it had done things differently.
The main was the lack of personality or individuality for most of the heroes. Jacob and Zayl the Necromancer seemed like real people, and Tyrael was quite interesting with his frailties, but all the other Nephalem were ciphers. Anonymous warriors who were no more than their game descriptions imported into a novel. Ironically, they had less individuality than their actual in-game dialogues, where all the voice acting is well done and gives them personalities.
The overall tone and type of dialogue in the novel was off in a few places. The Diablo world is an odd one on that front since it looks medieval, but the language has always been basically modern. There’s never any “thee” and “thou” and “milady” or other such Olde English speech in the series, and there’s none of that in this book either. But the game dialogue and word choices aren’t quite modern either, which fits the mood. You wouldn’t want the characters speaking in modern slang, after all. The book doesn’t do that, but there were a lot of word choices that felt inelegant and kind of modern.
Characters, even Angels are always “talking” rather than oh, “speaking” or “declaiming” or “intoning.” The group of humans Tyrael is gathering is repeatedly called a “team.” Never a “group” or “party” or “band” or other such words. A lot of the dialogue feels a ltitle too casual and easy, and I noticed it especially amongst the Angels. They talked mostly like humans, despite being immortal and completely outside humanity. I could give other examples, but often the book felt just a little careless in the tone and mood, like it needed one last editorial pass to class it up a bit and give it the right “sort of but not quite” medieval gothic mood of the game.
One plot element I disagreed with was the subtlety of the Maltheal foreshadowing. Maybe that was the mission given to the author, to structure it so readers would know some evil force was lurking, but to leave the reader in doubt if it was demonic or evil Angelic or what. So during the book you realize that there’s some secret power working behind the scenes and using certain Angels to see that Tyrael is successful in removing the Black Soulstone from Heaven, presumably so it can be stolen. But there’s so little info given about who the evil is, or why it (he?) wants the Soulstone that I didn’t feel any real foreshadowing or build up to “Uh-oh, this is only going to get worse in the future.”
As I said, maybe that was how Blizzard wanted it to be. Or maybe I was insensitive to the cues and clues since I’d seen the RoS cinematic and played through Act Five in the beta and thus knew how things were going to happen next. But while reading it, I kept wondering why there weren’t some more hints about Malthael, or that removing the Soulstone from Heaven might save the Angels while dooming mankind.
Anyone else read the book so far? What were your thoughts and what did you want more or or differently covered?
Contest: Please do not attempt to enter either contest in these comments. See the links at the top of this post for contest entry information.