Book Review: “The Sin War: Book Two: Scales of the Serpent”

The Sin War is a trilogy that takes place in the “universe” of the Diablo games. All of the books in this series were written by Richard A. Knaak. According to the Diablo Wiki, everything that happens in The Sin War trilogy takes place around 3000 years before the darkening of Tristram.

The Sin War: Scales of the Serpent is the second book in the trilogy, and it was published in 2007. This means that when the books were first published, fans had to wait for about a year after The Sin War: Birthright came out to see what happened next. We waited, frequently checking the shelves of our local bookstores, hoping to find the next part of the series.

Since this is the second book in the trilogy, it becomes a challenge to review it without accidentally revealing some information that would be considered a “spoiler”. However, I will try my best to avoid doing that. I really enjoyed this book. Naturally, I want other people to be able to enjoy it, too.

Every once in a while, you find a series of books where each one has been written in such a way as to allow people to “jump in” to any part of the series, without missing any major plot points. This is not the case with The Sin War trilogy.

Knaak does a good job of giving readers brief reminders of who the main characters are, and how they relate to each other. Readers that skipped the first book are going to completely miss out on the depth of who those characters are, and how they have changed from the start of the first book to the beginning of Book Two. Birthright and Scales of the Serpent feel like the continuation of one, long, story.

Scales of the Serpent begins not too far from where Birthright left off. Uldyssian is now leading what, in many ways, is an army of people. He has used his powers to awaken the powers in each of them, and many have chosen to follow him. The group has grown quite a bit since the end of the first book, and each person has gotten a bit stronger. Uldyssian still has some angst about leading people into a war, and is saddened when each person dies, but he has become a much more confident leader.

The book starts with a violent battle between Uldyssian’s army, and the minions of a Temple of the Triune. There is a scene where Uldyssian is by himself, and walking through some of the inner parts of the Temple.

It is dark, and he cannot see very far ahead of him. Suddenly, small creatures jump out of the darkness, and attack him. After fighting them off, he casts a spell of light, that allows him to see a little bit more of his immediate surroundings. He doesn’t know the layout of the Temple, and is guessing about where to go. Knaak has captured exactly what it felt like to play the original Diablo game.

If I had to sum up this book into one phrase, it would be: “Nothing is as it seems”. Characters are taken, against their will, to do the bidding of more powerful entities. The dead don’t stay dead. They rise, often under the control of someone else’s power. Sometimes, the dead are consciously aware of what is happening to them, and other times their bodies get up and fight, (with no one inside). There are situations where a character is masquerading as another one, in order to influence the events that take place.

This book gives readers a ton of information about what Sanctuary actually is, and how it was formed. It tells you more about how the Sin War began. You get another inside look at what some of the demons are doing, as well as the plans of the angel who appeared in Book One. Readers also get to discover what the Nephalem are, and where they fit into things. The “serpent” mentioned in the title is introduced in this book. Those of you who wanted to know more about what, exactly, was going on with Mendeln in Book One will not be disappointed.

Much of this book includes detailed descriptions of battles. Readers get dropped right into the middle of things. This way, readers get to “experience” the excitement of the battle, (through the eyes of a main character). Knaak has created some extremely complex battles, with quite a bit of strategy involved.

By the end of the book, many of the loose ends that were scattered through this book, and the book before it, are nicely tied up. It is clear that the story isn’t over. The implication I took from the ending was that the war is still going on, and Sanctuary is still very much in danger of being completely destroyed, despite the achievements of those who wish to save it.

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