Title: Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness
Author: J. R. Milward
Year: 2023 (4th Edition)
Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Novelization
As many readers of my blog may know I am a massive fan of the Tomb Raider series (when I’m not reading books!)
Last year, I went to the TR26 fan event in Derby for the first time and one of the projects announced was the sequel to the fan-made novelization of the sixth Tomb Raider game by J. R. Milward (which has at the time of writing just been released on her website).
I hadn’t read the first book before but from the reaction to the sequel announcement in the room it was clear it was massively popular so I’ve had it on my TBR since last October. With the 20th anniversary of the games release coming up I decided now was the time to dive into it.
In the book, Lara Croft has been asked by her former mentor Werner Von Croy to visit him at his apartment in Paris. However when she arrives in Paris she finds a city in fear and her formerly brave and fearless mentor is now old and seemingly scared of his own shadow.
Lara herself is also a broken woman, dealing with the aftermath of being buried alive in a pyramid and she blames Von Croy for not saving her at the time. Lara learns that Von Croy has been hired by a mysterious client called Eckhardt to find five Obscura Paintings, however he has grown increasingly wary of his client and feels like he is being stalked.
He begs her to carry on where he left of and to see a woman, Carvier who works at the Louvre and he has been in contact with. Lara however is still angry about events in Egypt so the pair argue but in a strange turn of events Lara ends up unconscious.
When she wakes up she has no recollection of events but Von Croy is dead on the floor. She goes on the run and decides that she must continue Von Croy’s work in order to find and avenge his death. However as she goes she will uncover a dark, centuries old war which has happened often in plain sight and a dark historical conspiracy to take over the world. Along the way she will also encounter a mysterious stranger but is he a friend or a foe?
The game this book is based on is known by the wider gaming community for two specific reasons – the fact it was a gritty reboot of the franchise sow as far darker and also due to a rushed release schedule many features and story elements were left unfinished but both are carried across and improved upon in this novelization.
Beginning with the games dark and brooding atmosphere, this novelization translates that to the page brilliantly. J. R. Milward writes the story almost entirely from Lara’s perspective in first person and it is really interesting to be in her mindset through this story.
At the beginning, Lara is clearly in a broken and at times mentally unstable place and the dark, gloomy, Paris night adds to the sense of dread and foreboding as the story starts and during the story we see her start to recover to the Tomb Raider we know from the game series. You also feel like you are with her and dealing with the gruelling challenges she has to face on her quest for justice and vengeance.
I also found it interesting that Milward gave Lara an inner voice which she affectionately calls Meggie during the novel and whilst it does make you wonder if Lara may be schizophrenic it does offer an interesting insight into her character and maybe the duality of the prim and proper English lady she is expected to be and the tough adventurer she really is. It is a unique interpretation which I did like and also kept it interesting for the reader as Meggie feels like a separate character rather than Lara monologing everything throughout.
I also love how the novel handles the games action sequences. I have read some gaming novelizations before and usually the action from the game comes across on the page in a very jarring way and it seems quite cheesy. The best example I can think of was the novelization of Assassin’s Creed II called Assassin’s Creed Renaissance. At the beginning of the game the tutorial level has Ezio climbing the church tower. However, in the book it comes across as some kind of spontaneous action Ezio does on a whim which for someone reading the novel doesn’t make sense.
J. R. Milward however makes the right choices to leave in the most exciting action from the game to keep you reading without having any jarring moments.
The novel also retains the series sense of humour with Lara having some very snarky and sarcastic comments to other characters which make it entertaining to be alongside her in the novel. There are also some nods to previous games in the series for the die hard fans to enjoy, but they are also presented in a way that I think non-fans of the series will also find entertaining.
As mentioned above, the game was also blighted by a tight release schedule and being forced to come out before it was ready and though I am a fan of the game, there are definitely some story beats which are missed out or disjointed when playing through. For example in one level Lara starts looking for a gangster called Bouchard but with no real explanation of why unless you go into a side menu to read something you pick up.
However Milward’s done a fantastic job of ironing out those creases in this novelization and making the story fully coherent and it feels like the events happen as the game developers originally intended. Milward also has the support of the original game’s writer Murti Schofield which is definitely high praise and shows why this book should be read.
Overall I would highly recommend this novel whether you are a fan of the series or not. It is available on J.R. Milward’s site for free in PDF format along with the sequel which I will definitely be reading at some point.