Novels set in roleplaying worlds are a tricky thing. On the one hand, you want to be true to the game world, but sometimes the game mechanics get in the way when applied to a novel. So sometimes you end up with a story that feels like it’s been lifted from someone’s campaign (which is, let’s face it, bordering on improv) rather than being a proper story.
Then there’s the problem of having certain characters or monsters being seriously overpowered, which can cause problems. Worst of all is if you have a writer who doesn’t truly understand the minutia of a game world, only how everything looks, and you end up with crap like the D&D movie from the late 90s. (*cough* Beholder Guard Dog *cough*)
Add on top of that the fact that vampires aren’t my thing. At least, not as protagonists. Twilight jokes aside, I’m not one to read stories with villain protagonists. Or, if they’re not a villain, I tend to assume they’re angsty and emo about their struggle with the dark side while listening to The Cure or something.
So when I was given The Dark Gift by Trevor Jones to read, and I was told it was essentially a fantasy roleplaying novel featuring a vampire protagonist, I was… skeptical. Then, as began to read it, I was worried.
Then I was very pleasantly surprised.
The Dark Gift walks a different kind of tightrope, trying to stay true to a D&D world vibe while having its protagonist be what in any other campaign would be the villain, only he’s not.
Penta Ka Wa is not your usual protagonist. He’s not a young hero, he’s long since retired with a large (and sadly doomed) family. When everyone he knows is killed and turned into vampire thralls, including himself, he alone has the strength of will to resist losing his humanity and turn on his master. When he does, the question then becomes, what does he do next?