Sea of Sorrows

Sea of Sorrows reads like a play to me. It is divided into several acts and the dialogue (especially in the first few chapters) would fit better when actors shout them on stage, almost blinded by the spotlights hanging above them. It was so over the top and dramatic at first that I couldn’t take it too serious. I bet it’s not easy being Cobiah Marriner. It takes only a couple of chapters for him to lose everything – with dramatic flair that Shakespeare might’ve approved of.

This does get better. The dramatic flair stays, but at least the characters start to feel fleshed out. They’re not just carbon copies meant to demonstrate one of the races of Tyria, but they clearly have their own goals and needs. Sometimes the goals even seem to be different than what we had come to expect. As the characters grow older, the dialogue (usually) feels more layered. This book is a wonderful guideline for how the different races in Tyria can speak. Better yet it’s a historical seafaring extravaganza, which gives the game itsself more depth.

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I like that Sea of Sorrows is different than what you would expect of a novel about an MMORPG. This is not your actionpacked fullfledged adventure, but the history of a figure that has meant much for the world in this game. If you’re a lore enthusiast this book might just fullfill some of the cravings for a story. If you’re not this will have many dragged out scenes, over the top dialogue and not enough heartracing fighting.

I’m a bit in between. I appreciate what this book does for the world of Guild Wars 2. It gives a part of it more context like reading a historical non-fiction work would, only with the added dramatic flair of a play. I’m down for this, but it wasn’t what I wanted to read at the moment. And so this book only fed my reading slump as I forced my way through the book. I appreciate it, but I couldn’t fully enjoy it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are actionscenes. Huge chunks of this fictional memoir happen on the sea. And even though the characters don’t have many places to explore on a ship, it’s the most exciting. Maybe because it makes sure the focus stays on the characterization or the action. Of course this book will have swordfighting and canonballs. There’s even seafaring zombies and ghosts of the past. But there’s also growing up and a man settling down in a city to become part of its council. It doesn’t help that the characters all blame Cobiah for choosing this path, it makes the scenes feel even more dragged out. Even though I did enjoy the policits involving asura.

In some ways I feel like this is a gem that’s not polished enough. Sea of Sorrows might be in need of a good editor, one that knows its way with dialogue. In one of my creative writing lessons I was taught that a book shouldn’t contain descriptions or even words that don’t contribute to the story. In the last act the three previous parts do all come together but for the longest time this seems to be a collection of tales in a lifetime. I couldn’t place a lot of the scenes and how it benefitted the story. Sometimes in life things don’t add up. I haven’t decided if I want my books to give me a cohesive story to fill that void or if I like it when some things happen without reason, just like in our world. Just when I decided I accepted that this book went for the latter, the plot holes get solved. I know that should be a good thing and that my complaining is silly, but reading through all of it, it didn’t feel satisfying.

For all the nagging about dialogue I have to give credit where credits due. The descriptions of the characters, objects and places really made the world come alive. I can easily picture what it looks like. To me, it even seems that someone that hasn’t played the game could do the same. But the eloborate and imaginative descriptions couldn’t save the fact that I think this story might have actually been better suited as a script for a play. Ree Soesbee, if you’re ever in want of a new career, maybe you should try being a playwright.

Sea of Sorrows is a novel by Ree Soesbee and its set in the world of the MMORPG Guild Wars 2.