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Literature / Ghosts of Ascalon

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Ghosts of Ascalon, by Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb, is the first of the three novels bridging the gap between the video game Guild Wars and its sequel Guild Wars 2, then in development. It notably introduces the four non-human playable races from Guild Wars 2 and explains how much the world changed in the interim.

Dougal Keane, a deserter of the Ebon Vanguard, is hired by the asura Clagg to steal the Golem's Eye, an asura artifact capable of auto-assembling powerful golems, from the crypts underneath Divinity's Reach. While he succeeds at the job, he is caught by the Seraph and convicted, but freed at the last moment by Riona Grady, a member of the Vigil, for a more noble task. The Vigil wants him, as the sole survivor of a past expedition to the ghost-haunted ruins of Ascalon City, to return there and find the Claw of the Khan-Ur, a lost relic vital to bartering peace between the humans and charr.


This novel contains examples of:

  • As You Know: See Exposition.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Golem's Eye, which Dougal carries with him through most of the story, and which is used in the climax against the titular ghosts of Ascalon.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dougal, especially at the Seraph interrogation.
    Officer: Dougal Keane, you are accused of grave-robbing in the crypts beneath Divinity's Reach. How do you plead?
    Dougal: Did you find any grave goods on myself or my companions?
    Officer: No.
    Dougal: And did you find much in the way of weapons on the three of us?
    Officer: No.
    Dougal: Then, if we are tomb robbers, we are extremely ineffective ones.
    • And also:
    Officer: You are listed as missing, presumed dead. Deserter?
    Dougal: We were caught behind charr lines on an extended patrol.
    Officer: You disappeared five years ago.
    Dougal: It was an extremely extended patrol.
    • And also also:
    Officer: You worked for the Durmand Priory, apparently.
    Dougal: Briefly. We parted company after a disagreement about their book-lending policy.
    Officer: I was unaware that the Durmand Priory lent out its precious books.
    Dougal: My point exactly.
  • Exposition: Lots and lots of it, to an insane amount. The characters keep retelling historical tales or rambling about their cultures for pages and pages at the slightest provocation, sometimes telling others things they should already know, because the book assumes that the reader is only familiar with the original Guild Wars and not with the sequel.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • Almorra Soulkeeper wants to retrieve the Claw of the Khan-Ur to broker peace between the humans and charr, believing that only united, the races of Tyria stand a chance against the Elder Dragons.
    • Ember Doomforge is spying on the Vigil for the Imperator of the Ash Legion. Almorra knows this, but enlists her for the operation anyway.
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    • Riona Grady eventually betrays the expedition with the intent to give the Claw to the Flame Legion and reignite the charr civil war to weaken them, letting the humans retake Ascalon. Luckily, she is stopped by Dougal and Ember.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Killeen and Kranxx.
  • Honor Before Reason: Damn you, Gyda. She pays for it, though.
  • In Medias Res: The book starts with Dougal and his first team looking for the Golem's Eye, and then elaborates how he got to that point.
  • MacGuffin: The Claw of the Khan-Ur turns out to be apparently an ordinary, non-magical weapon, sought for its symbolism and value at the negotiations table rather than its inherent powers.
  • Not So Different: Riona is called on her reaction to the need to pretend to be Ember's prisoner being not so different from Ember's refusal to be smuggled into Ebonhawke as a prisoner.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Even within the same universe. Most ghosts in Tyria just have Unfinished Business or don't even realise they're dead. The ghosts of Ascalon, however, were created by their insane king's immensely powerful spell and are driven to protect Ascalon from everyone they see as an invader (that is, everyone living). Savione is different from the others, retaining his sanity, because King Adelbern killed him before casting the Foefire.
  • Overreacting Airport Security: Parodied with the asura gate in Divinity's Reach, which is staffed with the fantasy version of this.
    Asura Clerk: Are you carrying any items that are illegal in Lion's Arch or Divinity's Reach? Are you entering Lion's Arch with intent to commit any illegal actions or to flee Divinity's Reach authorities?
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Both Dougal's tomb-raiding team and his Ascalon City expedition.
  • Skewed Priorities: Riona calmly listens to the gory details of Dougal's explanation how he lost his original team going to Ascalon City, getting them killed one by one, but becomes utterly furious after learning that Dougal was married to another woman.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Somehow, the protagonists manage to carry out an exposition-heavy conversation about Destiny's Edge even when the two humans are pretending to be Ember's prisoners in the sight of an entire charr patrol.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Used twice, first as the means for Dougal and Riona to smuggle Ember into Ebonhawke, where a live charr normally wouldn't last a few seconds, and then by Ember when they run into a charr patrol on the road to Ascalon City.

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