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Diablo: Birthright, by Richard A. Knaak
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 2006
Review Posted: 2/18/2007
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10

Diablo: Birthright, by Richard A. Knaak

Book Review by Howard von Darkmoor

Have you read this book?

Dragonlance. Conan. WarCraft. Shattered Light. Diablo. All formidable names (Well, except for Shattered Light). Richard owes his career to the first, but by continuously writing within this universe of media tie-ins he has eternally chained himself to them. He does have his own works -- four stand-alone novels and a ten-book series called "The Dragonrealm" -- but they get nowhere near the amount of press these other works do. Even with the exposure he's received by associating with such media giants, I know no one else who reads him let alone recognizes his name when I mention it. By writing in these other worlds and within other author's guidelines, Richard Knaak has deprived himself of developing his own brand. I have read enough decent books by him that he should be a larger draw than he currently is, and there seems to be no other explanation for this.

Which is rather sad, as Knaak does provide an excellent story -- on occasion. I discovered Richard in the Dragonlance series in his terrific books "The Legend of Huma" and "Kaz the Minotaur" and followed him into his own world, The Dragonrealm. I enjoyed the first six books of this series, but the stories steadily decreased in creativity and sustainability after that. I've read two of his stand-alones, rather enjoying "Frostwing" but finding "King of the Grey" to be simply okay. For me, his best work by far has been within the Dragonlance collection. Despite the hit-or-miss quality of Knaak's books and the narrow spectrum within which he allows himself to write, I really haven't read a 'bad' book by him. Until this one.

Knaak should have swapped his Birthright for a bowl of porridge. He would have been better served.

There is not much good to say about this book. Every single character but the protagonist is interesting. Yet only one of these secondary characters is worth further reading -- and my curiosity has not been aroused enough for me to read any further in this proposed trilogy.

The novel tells the story of Sanctuary (the name the devils and angels know earth by) and the eternal war between what passes for heaven and hell in Diablo. It is the story of one man, hunted for heinous crimes he did not -- could not -- commit and the path to justice and redemption he is forced to follow, first as an unwitting pawn of the combatants, then as an unwitting pawn of his own boringly dull lack of intelligence and his sheer dumb luck. We are also forced to follow along, not with our character and his obligatory sidekicks, but as detached observers. Something separates us from Knaak's characters; there is no empathy, no collaboration, no living vicariously through any one of them.

Every step our trepid 'hero' takes in the right direction is through the inadvertent guidance of his friends or plain old luck -- the kind he considers bad luck and is too dumb to realize it's saved his backside yet again. And no, sadly this novel is neither spoof nor humor piece.

Our hero is arrested, duped, ambushed, injured, defeated, victorious. He kills, he loves, he tries to think, he tries to be a friend, he sees friends die and grotesqueries abound. He faces demons and devils, warriors and women, worship and wonder. He overly-discusses every single one of these occurrences with himself and without learning a single thing from any of them. I weary of his thoughts long before the end of the book draws near. From first word to last, Knaak elicits within me a tearless ennui.

The book is loaded with blundering prose. There is a heavy attachment to -ly words, childish phrasing, and extraneous unnecessary and convoluted wording. There are multiple instances of very poor, redundant, and often ridiculous word usage. There are even numerous mistaken identities, naming a character on one page and then, on the ensuing page, having a different character (sometimes not even present in the scene) continuing the action in question. This book is a prime example of careless writing in my opinion. These weren't errors caused by typesetters and printers. These are definitely author errors and possibly editor errors, depending upon whether or not the editor's job description still mentions story continuity.

"I will say this succinctly and clearly only one more time!" (p. 47)

This is a bad book, filled with hokey writing. Please don't waste time reading this! I would not recommend Birthright (Diablo: The Sin War, Book I) by Richard A. Knaak to my friends.
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