Spoilers beyond this point.
Husband and wife author team Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent wrote a compelling novel in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics in time for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Tomb Raider. The latest standalone novel “Lara Croft and the Blade of Gwynnever” is a great asset to any core Tomb Raider fan’s collection. I enjoyed the style, plot and the integrity of Lara and her characteristic Lara behaviour we all know very well in the latest book. This book was worth waiting for and pleased this nostalgic fan of the franchise. Also, I judged this fairly with an open mind focused on the entertainment value and most certainly not comparing it to works on par with Shakespeare or Hemingway. This book achieves the result of entertainment force without being pretentious and stuffy as some tend to unfairly judge books spawned by a video game.
The Story …
Lara is in fine form as she romps through the pages of this tome. I am thankful there are elements in place throughout this book that are strong in nostalgia from the classic Lara many of us hardcore fans know and love.
In the prologue, we are taken to Sri Lanka and find Lara in another precarious position hanging by a thread you could say. Of course, she finds herself in the midst of temple ruins in India that took me to Tomb Raider 3 immediately. This set the stage for a great story, and I could not wait to get to the rest. I would say a part of Lara’s integrity was spoken loud and clear with this line:
“So, Florence, you think I’m dead? Well, that’s one way to give me the upper hand,” said Lara.
Lara’s strong spirit shines through there and was captured well in the pages of this novel. After Lara returns to London, Carter Bell, an old friend, contacts her to join him on a site that a mysterious discovery was unearthed. Lara found the site closed down and a strong group of people in place to halt the progress including hindering Lara in her quest to find answers to the incredible discovery that could change history in a big way. The discovery of New Kingdom Egyptian artefacts and a direct lead to Akhenaten King Tutankhamun’s father, along with a fantastic obsidian sword known as the Blade of Gwynnever whose name is written in connection with the king’s take Lara and Carter on a globetrotting adventure to uncover answers and how English history appears linked to ancient Egypt. This story takes Lara to India, Turkey and Egypt.
She finds an old nemesis Denny Sampson someone who tricked her out of several prime discoveries in the past. He has a bad reputation for treachery and what he does to acquire the priceless artefact is right on par. Lara and Carter along with a naive man Strand find themselves trapped in Denny’s Fort Knox of a villa in the Toros Mountains fighting for their lives against another despicable collector, Vata, who gains assets in the most unscrupulous manner.
Lara needs answers and pursues them on a global odyssey that brings back the original feel of the older games.
In-route for Egypt to track down the sword in possession of the trickster Denny, Lara has a weird dream about hungry wolves gathering the pack to attack her. It takes place in an old world forest perhaps? In the so-called dream, Lara fights the creatures only she uses the sword. It slaughters all that approach her. She only has to hold the sword it appeared to do the rest as if it had a mind of its own. Lara was awakened from the dream by Carter Bell, yet it felt like it was real. Could the dream have been a premonition? Or a projection of its past whilst in the hands of its mistress Gwynnever? Possibly, but let’s explore more of the story.
Later they find Florence Race is involved, remember her from India? This awful woman is now connected with Denny concerning the sword and, after a rather turbulent meeting with Denny, Lara and Carter agree to meet at KV62 which is King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Things are getting more interesting for sure. Later Lara finds the sword’s actual connection and why it is connected to Gwynnever. She learns about how it is a help to her when assaulted and works in aid when Lara needs it. It guides her through battles and there are other helper types like Egyptian gods and bears and a host of others that seem to look up to her as someone to protect when she holds it.
Lara lapses into dreams and sees herself in the place of the warrior women such as Gwynnever and Boudica etc and she is using the sword to avenge the enemy each time. However, these are hardly dreams but projections.
How will Lara deal with these projections? What happens to the sword, to Lara, Florence, Carter and all the others involved? Will Lara unravel the mysteries about new kingdom Egypt’s ties to Britain? Well, you need to read the book to find out.
My Thoughts …
When I read a story about Lady Lara Croft, I am transported to the classic games, especially if the book cover sports a classic depiction of the character as this one does. I picked this book up and found it did not disappoint from that standpoint alone. Certain elements in this story feel borrowed from the Mummy film. I really enjoyed that film with Arnold Vosloo, and as soon as particular gods and bugs and other horrible characters started rising from thin air and attacking everyone causing mass chaos in the tomb, and other places, a bell went off and that bell brought the movie to mind. I liked that element and am not complaining. It was manipulated well and blended well into the plot. It did not feel dropped into things as an after throughout.
As far as the speculation about Nefertiti, that was very interesting and fit in well with actual Egyptology. Speculation is still circulating about the parentage of the boy king and the way it was explained in a purely scientific discussion about DNA by Lara with Carter, was refreshing and along with a large amount of Egyptology within this book showed much research was involved. I appreciate that being an Egyptology student. I thought the unrestrained licence they took with everything from that aspect was fascinating and made for some great reading.
I also felt as if I could see elements from Tomb Raider IV. Of course, all of that comes from the lovely Egyptian section of this book and some artefacts found in London. This is how the book keeps the classic fan grounded in the story. As you read you imagine the magic behind the scenes in that fantastic game, and feel it is in your hand through the pages of this fine book. It feels nostalgic. I enjoyed this book immensely and will read it again. Two thumbs up!
That is all for now. Stay tuned for more tome reviews …
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