Diablo, much like all of Blizzard’s franchises, has a deep and vast history behind it. So deep that even small side characters end up having a lengthy section just about them. Between the plotlines of the games themselves focusing on the prevention of Diablo and his minions from exerting their control over the mortal realm, though, there is not always a chance to go deeper into the relationships between the various entities of a franchise, or what happened prior to a game’s events.
That is where the book, Diablo III: The Order, comes into play. Focusing on the escapades of Deckard Cain before the events of the third title in the game series, The Order follows Cain as he travels across the lands to find meaning in the prophecies surrounding the coming End of Days, and the faces that he meets along the way. We are even shown a young Leah, one of the major protagonists in Diablo III, struggling to find out who she is, and what her heritage means for her.
Written by Nate Kenyon, who also authored the novel Starcraft: Ghost: Spectres, we see the various horror inspirations that accompany his other works. His descriptions of the various characters that you encounter, from the young paladin Akarat, to the near insane Gillian, makes the reader feel like they personally know the person in question, and the way subjects such as rotting cadavers, shambling corpses, and brutal combat scenarios are presented may very well make those without strong stomachs a bit queasy.
Passages such as the following show this vivid imagery firsthand:
“It was human, or had been once. What little clothing remained hung like ribbons from the creature’s shoulders. Shards of gleaming white bone thrust through strings of leathery flesh. Its face was little more than a skull, with wisps of hair and skin and grinning teeth, but it stared forward and then turned back and forth as if searching blindly for something.”
It’s also a treat in being able to point out the various connections that tie it to events from Diablo and Diablo II. Little faucets such as the mention of Wirt and his wooden leg, as well as the traitorous deeds of Archbishop Lazarus, are mentioned in the pages of the novel, which help to create a stronger link between the series’ characters. At the same time, these segments also provide a bit of fanservice for those familiar with the history of the franchise. A number of these nods also serve as flashbacks or dream sequences, and help to set the backstory before the events of the book, and by proxy, Diablo III itself.
The chapters of the book are not just done from Cain’s third person perspective, though. It actually shifts perspectives throughout the reading, based on which character the chapter focuses on. Occasionally it goes to Leah, and sometimes introducing different characters, such as The Dark One, who is working with the demon Belial, or the monk Mikulov, who seeks out Cain regarding his visions about the end of the world. This form of presentation means that the viewpoint rarely stays on a single character for more than two consequtive chapters, which spreads the spotlight around, so to speak. It also helps readers get better in touch with the personalities of each of the main characters, whether it’s Cain’s lack of knowledge on how to deal with children, to the backstory of The Dark One before he became a servant of evil. These transitions come naturally, and rarely, if ever, confuse the reader as to who we’re looking at next.
If there’s one thing that could be criticized about the novel itself, it could be the feeling that some of the events move too quickly. Right at the beginning readers are thrown into a battle against evil spirits as Cain searches for his answers. Many events also tend to take place within the span of a single day, and it can possibly be a bit jarring when you realize that not even a couple sunsets have really passed since the start of the book. The pace does even out more as you continue on, and the backstory sequences also help to give a break from some of the tension. Altogether, it’s a minor inconvenience that can largely be forgotten once you become immersed in the plot, which should be fairly quickly.
As for actually having knowledge of the other games in the franchise, that is not a concern to have. The book does a great job filling the reader in on the previous events that had transpired, so even if you’ve never played a Diablo game before in your life, you shouldn’t have any problems following what is going on. Those that have played the games will simply be able to better spot out the various details included from the lore itself.
Throughout the 373 page novel, you’ll find a lot that can satisfy both fans of the games, and those who simply enjoy horror novels as well. The vivid imagery, combined with the backing of tons of lore and the connections between the games themselves, should especially satisfy any Diablo fan’s need for good reading material.
Final Grade: A-