The Order
by Nate Kenyon, fantasy (2013, reissue)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-4565-1


The Order is a fantasy story set in the world of the video game Diablo III. I didn't pay this book much attention when it was issued in hardcover, but when the mass market paperback edition hits the market a year later, I find my curiosity piqued by the fact that the main character is Deckard Cain.

Not much was known of that guy, other than he's this annoying old coot that, in Diablo, had kept repeating that one line ("Stay awhile and listen!") until I want to vomit, and there's no avoiding him because I needed to get him to identify rare items I picked up during the game. And he had the nerve to charge me each time when all I wanted was to save the world! Also, it became supremely annoying when I forgot to save the game before getting him to identify an item, only to discover that the item would sell for far less than the amount I paid that old coot to do his job. Asshole.

He was less annoying in Diablo II and he finally identified stuff for free, but he was still a useless sanctimonious old fart that ordered me around like a slave driver. In Diablo III HAHAHAHAHA... er, sorry about that. As you can tell, I'm sure, I never like him much. I liked Wirt and Griswold better - Deckard Cain should have died instead of any of them!

As I discover from reading this book after having played Diablo III, it is best read before the game is played, but oh well, cheapskates that didn't bother with hardcovers can't be choosers. This one can stand alone very well for people that have no clue what the game is about, however, so there's a big plus. The big minus is that I still can't muster even a little enthusiasm for Deckard Cain by the end of this book. I just think back to Diablo III and HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Deckard Cain is the last surviving member of the order called Horadrim. The Horadrim - the order referred to by the title of this book - was formed under the "wise" guidance of the archangel Tyrael to stop the forces of the evil rulers of Hell called the Prime Evils. The Horadrim's track record consisted of: (a) these losers cracking open the device that would trap Baal, the Lord of Destruction, inside forever, so (b) the leader decides to use his body instead to imprison Baal, thus sacrificing himself, only to (c) fail when Baal takes over his body completely and almost destroys the world later while (d) the Horadrim were almost entirely wiped out. It's really not an order to be proud of, although the good guys in this book treat it like the best bunch of people ever.

In The Order, Deckard Cain has lived through the events of Diablo and Diablo II. I learn that he spent the first half of his life denying his Horadrim heritage, and he really regretted it - still does to this day - when the forces of Hell rose to slaughter everyone and he was like, "Okay, maybe I should have been a little more open-minded and treated my mother nicer..." He proceeded to throw himself into books, neglecting everything else until his long-suffering wife decided that enough was enough and ran off to a better place with their kid. Those two died along the way, and Cain sighed some more and whined for another ten thousand times that he had yet again failed everyone and he was so guilty.

When the story opens, he and some disposable meat companion venture into some ruins, only to discover what seems to a legitimate copy of a Horadrim manuscript. He attempts to track down its origins, and discovers that there may be other Horadrims out there besides him. He also decides to pay Gillian - the useless barmaid NPC in Diablo - a visit, and I learn that, after Diablo ended with the hero smartly deciding to use his own body to imprison the Lord Of Terror (smart move, genius), the hero knocked up Adria the witch and they had a daughter, Leah. Adria and Gillian departed before the ghouls rose up to kill everyone else apart from Cain (those useless ghouls), and Adria left Leah in Gillian's care once they reached Caldeum, the other city in the desert that isn't called Lut Gholein.

In this story, Cain finds that Gillian has gone crazy, raving about Leah being a threat to the world, and ends up having Leah as his companion while poor Gillian is cast as the Cassandra, raving about things that turn out to be true in the end. In other words, the events in Diablo III are partly Cain's fault. Eventually, Cain finds the other Horadrims, but instead of being the life of the party in a triumphant reunion of losers, he discovers that there may be more evil afoot than he already suspects. What will happen next? Will Leah avoid becoming that "kid that ends up being a 'help me, the bad guys have me!' cliché"? Find out, or whatever.

The good thing about The Order is that it is a competently written story, although the author's use of flashbacks often kill the momentum of his story. Those flashbacks could have been replaced by something that flows more smoothly with the rest of the story, perhaps an moment of introspection or a character sharing his thoughts with another - anything other than a flashback that actually pulls me away from the scene just as things are getting good. Still, everything else about the story is fine. This is a very readable and engaging story, surprisingly hard to put down.

However, Deckard Cain is such a bore for a main character. Even as the world goes mad around him, he just whines about his guilt and what not. I don't mind if he'd do something as well, but for the most part, he is just moping and sulking, carried along by various secondary characters. Faced by the first sign of adversity, he doubts himself and wails, with unnecessary melodrama, that he has failed everyone again. This guy survived seeing his people being butchered by demons in two video games, and he has supposedly bore mental scars from all his ordeals. He is entitled to whine a bit. But please, not all the time, not every time! If someone has smacked him and told him to shape up or get out by page 100, this story would have been far more enjoyable to wade through.

The villain is a sympathetic one. Normally, I would roll up my eyes at someone who, in addition to being power-crazy and inhumanly cruel like only a cartoon villain could be, also whole-heartedly believes the words of a demon known to all as the Lord of Lies. But he was indoctrinated from a young age, when he was full of anger, so the poor fellow ends up being more pitiful than anything else. Or maybe I'm just biased because, unlike Cain, he does something with his angst instead of just standing there and dumping everything on the poor reader.

The plot suffers from the problem that plagues Diablo III: the big bad demon Belial is known as the Lord of Lies. He is nothing like the schemer he is supposed to be, however, as in this story he acts with the subtlety of a hippo stampede and he even reveals all his plans to Cain without much prompting. Maybe the Lord of Lies is the biggest lie of all?

Anyway, The Order has its good points: the author's narrative style does the job and the story is a pleasant read despite the main character being a wet rag. But it also has a subpar plot that, with its laundry list of fantasy clichés, isn't memorable enough to leave much of an impact. This is a decent time-killer, in other words, as long as expectations aren't too high.

Rating: 76


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