Book Review : “The Sin War: Book One: Birthright”.

The Sin War is a trilogy that takes place in the “universe” of the Diablo games. The entire series was written by Richard A. Knaak. According to the Diablo Wiki, the events that take place in The Sin War trilogy take place around 3000 years before the darkening of Tristram.

Those of you who have been playing the games since the original Diablo will recognize the town of Tristram as the setting in which Diablo I and the Hellfire expansion took place. So, the things you read about in The Sin War trilogy took place before all the stuff that happened in the very first Diablo game.

The Sin War: Birthright is book one of the trilogy and was published in 2006. This means that it was published years after some of the other Diablo books. However, the events going on in The Sin War series actually take place well before the events in the other books, (that are not a part of this trilogy). If you are someone who wants to read things “in chronological order”, (well, as much as one can in a fantasy series), then I highly recommend that you start with the first book in The Sin War series, and work your way through that. Check out the other Diablo books later.

The main character in “Birthright” is, without a doubt, a farmer named Uldyssian. Readers quickly learn that, in the years before this story begins, Uldyssian lost almost his entire family to a plague. The only one who survived was a younger brother, named Mendeln.

Now, the two brothers are running their farm, which is located just outside a small town called Seram. Mendeln is not much of a farmer, but he tries. Uldyssian can’t quite understand Mendeln’s interest in reading every book he finds, or studying maps of places he will never travel to, but he tolerates it.

Uldyssian’s family, well, “died ugly”, from the plague. There are two religious groups in Seram that said a lot of words, and made a lot of promises, but didn’t actually provide any help to Uldyssian’s family. It is well known that he holds a grudge against both the Cathedral of Light and the Temple of the Triune.

Uldyssian’s best friend is an extremely skilled hunter named Achilios. Achilios is deeply in love with a young woman named Serenthia, who is the daughter of the man who runs the trade center of Seram. Unfortunately, Serenthia is very much in love with Uldyssian, who has absolutely no interest in her. She is about a decade younger than Uldyssian, and he still sees her as a child.

In the beginning of the book, Uldyssian meets a noblewoman named Lylia. She is beautiful, dressed more richly than anyone else in Seram, and traveling alone. He immediately becomes attracted to Lylia, who is probably “out of his league”.

Just when you think this book is going to be a series of love triangles, taking place in a quasi-medieval setting, Knaak delivers the darkness that those of us who play the Diablo games have come to expect, and enjoy. Two especially violent murders take place, which Uldyssian gets blamed for. Shortly after this, it appears that Uldyssian has somehow, unexpectedly, developed powers.

It isn’t easy to write about this story without going into “spoilers”. You may have already guessed that these five characters continue to be an important part of the story. I can assure you that the “darkness” of the Diablo games is also a part of the story. Demons unexpectedly jump out of the darkness. People die in horrible, disgusting, violent ways, (and not just the “bad guy”). Readers get to learn more about the Demon side of “The Sin War”, and are taken into some hellish places.

However, there is also “light”. Some of the mysterious powers that Uldyssian has suddenly developed can be used to do good, (as well as evil). Readers also get to learn more about the Angel side of “The Sin War” and even get a good look at the true nature of one, specific, angel.

Throughout the book, readers get the sense of “nothing is as it appears to be”. By the end of “Birthright”, some questions are answered (maybe). Other questions are left to be answered in the next book (hopefully). The book ends with a glimpse into what the “humans” might be, and what they are planning on doing. In other words, it is a satisfying ending, but it does leave some loose threads. This sort of thing always makes me want to start reading the next book in the series, right away.

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