Review: Keyforge – Tales From the Crucible
It’s hard to know what to expect from a book based on a card game, but somehow Tales From the Crucible still managed to surprise me. Where I’d anticipated arcane battles and endless combat I instead found stories of thieves and librarians, of lonely woodland healers and floundering researchers investigating Martian social customs.
In short, I found an unexpectedly charming little window into the thoroughly weird world of The Crucible, and of Keyforge.
Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say windows, plural, as rather than a single view, the stories presented in Tales of the Crucible offer up an incredibly eclectic jumble of viewpoints and settings. None of the ten tales on offer seem to be linked in any meaningful way, to the extent that if you skipped the blurb you could probably get a decent way through the book before realising they’re all meant to be set in the same world. As one story ends you really have no idea what to expect from the next few pages; it might be a heist, it might be a war story, it might even be a sad little reflection on loss and the need for time to mourn.
In some ways this is a slightly messy mark against the anthology, but at the same time the scatter-shot tone does a wonderful job of driving home the setting’s major appeal – it’s sheer flexibility and diversity. Indeed, the entire point of the Crucible is that it’s a world formed of stolen fragments of sci-fi and fantasy lands drawn from across time and space and slammed together for reasons beyond the knowledge of man or beast.
Okay, so in reality it’s probably just a narrative contrivance that allows the game to bodge elves and martians into the same world without having to worry about details, but that contrivance has given the authors full rein to get enjoyable weird and thoroughly creative with their setting.
The result is a book that’s a little off-kilter and a shade unpredictable, but endlessly intriguing. I’ll admit to having skipped a couple of stories that simply didn’t grip me enough to keep going, but the nature of the book meant that I was always fairly confident that I could hop a few pages deeper and find something entirely new, and entirely entertaining.
Will this appeal to fans of Keyforge? Quite probably. Even with the game’s quasi-random allocation of decks some players still manage to form attachments to the factions they play, and the grab-bag of tales should ensure that everyone gets some juicy lore or fresh takes on their favourites.
Beyond this, though, it really isn’t that hard to imagine Tales From the Crucible finding a welcome spot on the bookshelves of people who’ve never so much as touched a card sleeve. It’s a shade silly and indulges in countless cliches, but that all just contributes to the fun.
An eclectic, enjoyable anthology of weirdness in a thoroughly fascinating science-fantasy setting
Publisher: Aconyte Books