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- Autor Stephen Kenson
The novel focuses on Talon and his crew, who were introduced in Crossroads. This is a plus in my book, because the characters are believable. Rather than focusing on their strengths and great abilities as so many other writers do, Mr. Kenson brings out their vulnerabilites, their failings and frailties. It isn’t overdone, and makes the characters more human. (I also recommend it as reading for any character playing a magician.)
Ragnarock , however, turns away from many of the strengths that Crossroads had. The setting changes to Germany. Crossroads was notable in that it alone of all the SR novels to date made the locale come alive. The flavor of the Boston Sprawl was throughout Crossroads . Germany, with the fragmented and confrontational city-states, with the anarchy of Berlin, with the different cultures and languages, should feel alien and different to runners from Boston.
But Talon slotted a German language chip, so we don't have to worry about that.
Perhaps I am being unfair here, perhaps Mr. Kenson tried to communicate the feeling of the industrial sprawl in the shadow of Saeder-Krupp. But regardless of whether the attempt was made, it failed to move me the way Crossroads had, and that disappointed me.
Another strength that was left behind was the power-level. Now longtimereaders of my reviews will be aware that I am a great fan of low-powercharacters, the Joe Average runner who is skilled, but still nothingspecial in terms of stats, equipment, and skills. This biases (and I openly admit it), my reviews, so if you do not share my preference, this part may not bother you, but here it is. In Crossroads , Talon and crew were a highly skilled, well-equiped but believable team of runners. In Ragnarock , they have all moved up a few notches in skill level. As thebook progresses, this becomes more gross in application.
Two remaining nits remain for me to pick. First, I would've expected the author of Magic In The Shadows to have been more precise in theportrayal of magic in the Shadowrun universe. Instead, rules are ignored (I was unaware that you could "lift" a sleep spell from anyone). This is minor, of course, as a good story is everything, but I don't feel the benefit to the story was worth the blow to the credibility. (Suspension of disbelief has rules too.)
The final, and perhaps most damaging blow, was the weakness of certain encounters. Ragnarock overall has a much more James Bond feel to it. The villain doesn't kill his greatest opponents when has them at his mercy, but instead inexplicably knocks them out and takes them along. Every threat encountered is escaped through the use of more magic, leaving no feeling of near-disaster. The snide paladin of Tir Tairngire falls in line and obeys the hero dispite everything. The story was surprising, particularly in the middle, and then became predictable. This style of writing can be fun and successful (see my review of The Wolf and the Raven ), but Mr. Kenson lacks the true knack to make it exciting and gripping. Not that he is untalented as a writer, because the easy flow of the story is what saved it. I enjoyed reading this novel, but I doubt I will reread it anytime soon.
Ragnarock is a solid mediocre SR novel. While it was not stellar, it nonetheless outperform many other SR novels. Mr. Kenson has still not created a pattern for his works, and so we'll have to wait for his next novel to see what results. For fans of the Doc Savage style of writing, Ragnarock may be worth a look, but for more gritty readers, you might want to pass this one by.
Pros: Good characters. Some surprises.