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Book Review

Book Cover

The Infernal City
An Elder Scrolls Novel


Author: Greg Keyes
Titan Books
RRP: £6.99, US $10.99
ISBN: 978 1 8485 6716 0
Available 25 June 2010

Forty years after the events depicted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the land of Tamreil is once more at peace, a peace which is shattered by the arrival of a mysterious floating Island, Umbriel. Out of nowhere the city appeared and started to harvest any who they flew over, stealing their souls for the plates of the lords of Umbriel, turning their bodies into armies of the undead...

The Infernal City: An Elder Scrolls Novel is one of two novels to be released based on the Elder Scrolls computer game. This novel was written by Greg Keyes.

There has been a bit of an explosion of books based on computer games and for the most part they have fared pretty much like films based on the same media, which is a nice way of saying that most of them are pretty bad. However, there have been a few which have transcended their origins and The Infernal City is one of them.

Annaïg, a young seventeen year old Breton girl, is the first protagonist that we meet who with her friend, Mere-Glim, an Argonian, are able to board the city before it ravishes their land. Once parted Annaïg finds herself working in the kitchens of Umbriel. Here Keyes descriptive style reminded me very much of Mervin Peake’s descriptions of the kitchens of Gormangahst, resplendent with unusual imagery and random violence. Glim is condemned to the purification that is the Sump, a vast underground lake where the dead are disposed of and the new living creatures of Umbriel born.

Annaïg is nothing if not resourceful and is able to contact the Emperor's son, Prince Attrebus Mede, who sets off, against his father’s word, to rescue the girl, only to find it is he that needs rescuing, by the mysterious Mage, Sul, a dark Elf. Meanwhile Colin, an Inspector for the Penitus Oculatus, has his own quest, to find the prince he believes is alive even if no one else believes him.

With all the pieces in place Keyes creates the first two acts of our drama, this is after all the first of two books, so a lot of scene setting and background information has to be covered. The only problem which this causes is that the concentration on the characters loses something when the threat from Umbriel is examined. What it does and the horror it creates for the lands it passes over are never satisfyingly explored, remaining mostly as an implied threat, as the reader we don’t really get to see its impact.

Still, this in a minor point in what is a well written fantasy novel which has elevated itself above its source material. Keyes writes well with a good eye for character and pace. The book should be of interest to both Oblivion fans and general fans of fantasy novels.


Charles Packer

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