God of War Review - BOY!!
by J. M. Barlog
Published in 2018
I love video games - in theory. I don’t actually enjoy playing video games because I hate that feeling of being stuck in a level and having to play it over and over and over again to finally progress to the next part. Instead, I really enjoy the story behind the games which is why I usually read while my husband plays video games. It’s like watching TV, I just pay attention to the good parts then get back to my book during the “commercial” breaks while my husband gets stuck on a level. I kept hoping God of War would get turned into a book because the story was great but my husband was taking his sweet ass time beating the game and thank God I found it on Amazon!
God of War begins with Kratos teaching his son Atreus how to hunt in the woods. They get attacked by a troll which Kratos kills while Atreus cowers, telling him he is “not ready” for the journey to bring Faye’s ashes to the tallest peak in all the realms. That night, a stranger shows up at the door and begins fighting Kratos as Kratos desperately tries hiding Atreus from sight. Before killing the man, he hears that he was sent from Odin to find him and his boy. Kratos gets Atreus and decide regardless of if he is ready, they must immediately begin their journey. Kratos and Atreus begin venturing out to the tallest peak in Midgard while continually being attacked by Draugrs (undead soldiers) and even cannibals. They try hunting again and Atreus manages to hit a boar which they chase into a cave and find that the boar belonged to a witch who is angry at them for hurting her friend. They apologize and help bring her to the other side of the World Tree to her home so she can heal him.
They continue on the water close by to find a giant statue of Thor that says to throw their weapons down. They do and all of a sudden the water levels decrease as this giant World Serpent rises out of the water to uncover territory under the water. It is there that they find Brok - one of the original brothers who helped make Kratos’ ax - and Brok makes some upgrades to their weapons. Shortly after, they are attached by an ogre and run into the same witch who tells them they need Bifrost light in order to continue their journey to make the Black Breathe go away. They travel through the World Tree to the realm Alfheim where they can find Bifrost light. They find that the Bifrost light is hidden inside a hive built by the dark elves inside a temple. Kratos leaves Atreus in the temple as he enters the light to find his wife inside as a vision before being pulled back out by Atreus who says he’s been gone all night while Kratos felt it was only a few minutes. They store the Bifrost light inside a Bifrost crystal, return back to Midgard, and use the light to get rid of the Black Breathe before continuing on their journey to the tallest peak. It isn’t until they finally get to the top of the peak where they find a one-eyed Mimir who tells them the tallest peak is actually at Jotunheim (another realm). It was at this point I felt bad for my husband for thinking he almost beat the game - so close yet so far… Mimir’s body has been cursed to that peak forever by Odin and says he will gladly show them the way to Jotunheim if they cut off his head and reanimate it so he can be free (somewhat).
They bring Mimir’s decapitated head to the witch who brings it back to life and reveals that she’s actually a goddess named Freya. Kratos, Atreus, and Mimir’s head begin their journey to look for the rune to open the bridge to Jotunheim before running into the sons of Thor - Magni and Modi. Kratos kills Magni and Modi escapes when Atreus falls into a bloody coughing fit since he suffers from an illness. Kratos brings Atreus back to Freya for help who tells him he needs to get the heart of Mattugr Helson who guards the bridge of death in Helheim in order to help his son. He ventures off to find his Blades of Chaos and then defeats the guardian of the bridge and brings his heart back to Freya. Freya heals Atreus and reveals she once had a son whom Atreus reminds her of. Shortly after, Kratos reveals to Atreus that he is the God of War which means Atreus is a god too. This instills some confidence in Atreus which later motivates him to kill Modi for speaking poorly of his mom. This infuriates Kratos as he is afraid that Atreus will turn into an angry and hateful god like Kratos did.
Right as they are about to enter Jotunheim, they are attacked by the stranger from the beginning who they learn is Baldur and another god. Kratos slams him into the bridge thus destroying their path to Jotunheim and chases Baldur after he steals his son and jumps on a dragon. Kratos gives chase and manages to rescue his son when they pass Baldur who is seeing phantom visions. The first is of Atreus killing Modi which Atreus seeing now from the outside realizes was a wrong decision to do and understands why Kratos was so furious. The next vision is of Baldur and Freya where we learn that Freya is Baldur’s mother and cursed Baldur to be unable to feel pain or die which leaves Baldur living a furious life. He wanted to kill Freya but instead shows her mercy and says he never wants to see her again. Kratos and Atreus and Mimir sneak past and grab a boat to exit Helheim. They find a plan that shows that in the temple, there’s a door that leads to other realms but they need a certain key to do this. They ask Brok and his brother Sindri to make the key for them and then find the travel room in the temple and go back to Midgard.
In order to go to Jotunheim, they need to find Mimir’s missing eye which they learn is inside the statue of Thor which was eaten by the giant World Serpent. They sail back to the serpent and ask to look inside his stomach where they locate the missing gold eye. On their way out, they run into Freya who has decided to try and reconcile with her son after seeing Kratos and Atreus together. The reunion occurs sooner than she expects as Baldur returns ready to face Kratos one last time before laying eyes on his mother Freya. A huge fight breaks out (final boss battle mode) where Kratos is trying to fight Baldur as Baldur tries to kill his mother as Freya tries to fight off Kratos (by reanimating a giant stonemason body) to protect Baldur. Yeah shit just got real! The World Serpent bites off the stonemason head leaving Freya weakened by the magic she used in the fight. After asking Kratos to please not kill her son, Baldur advances on Freya to kill her before Kratos delivers one final blow that kills him. Freya is angry and devastated and curses Kratos and Atreus to make the rest of their journey impossible (they are still not done… I know).
The beautiful weather turns into a flurry of snow storm as they finally reach the highest peak in Jotunheim. As they arrive, they see a series of pictures carved into stone. The first is of their mother amongst the giants, which reveals to both of them that their mother was once a great warrior and a giant. The next is of Faye with her son Atreus. The following is of one with Atreus fighting Baldur showing that this was already prophesied to occur. The last is broken and shows Atreus over a dead body with the identity unknown. Kratos fears this may be a foreshadow of his own fate knowing that he killed his father when he became a god and fears Atreus may one day follow in his footsteps. With that knowledge, they spread their mother’s ashes and return the long journey back home. Finally safe and sound at home, the book (and game) ends. In the epilogue, Kratos is awoken in the middle of the night to find Thor at his doorstep who reveals that Ragnarok has now begun.
Final Rating & Thoughts: 7/10
Even though I did not actually play the game, I felt like I did after reading this book God of War! No wonder people spend hours, days, weeks, months, even years on a game! I don’t think I really got to see Kratos rest at all in this book minus the 5 seconds of sleep he got back in the first few chapters. However, I think that’s my main problem with this book. It is jam packed from beginning to end which makes it the kind of book that is best read in one sitting. I took about a week to read the book which meant every single time I went back to reading, I was just thrown right into a crazy action scene and it also made it difficult to find a place to stop reading and go to bed because just as Kratos and Atreus finish one mission, another one quickly begins. I also felt that the author did his best to write the book as a book versus just a written depiction of the game, but some parts just did not fit in as organically as others. For example, as someone who isn’t playing the game and is just reading, I don’t care to read the 5 or 6 times Kratos and Atreus have to upgrade their weapons, yet it is included anyway! It is probably because it is more important in the game that their weapons get upgraded, but when reading it doesn’t seem to matter much since Kratos and Atreus win every battle anyway.
With those negatives aside, this is perfect for my fellow lazy readers! I loved reading God of War because it was just the ultimate Story Mode of the video game! I got to skip fighting multiple enemies and puzzles and melee combos and go right to the juicy parts of what are they doing, where are they going, and who will they kill next. I think I would have enjoyed just taking a day aside and reading the book from beginning to end because it does have a nice flow and adventure for Kratos and Atreus. The missions they go on are exciting and the secrets they unravel such as Baldur being Freya’s son (I did not see that coming) or Atreus being part god and part giant from his mom and dad were a lot of fun to uncover and made it even more interesting to continue reading till the end. Reading the book made me have a whole new appreciation for this game and all the detail and work that went into it to make it an enjoyable experience for gamers.
As for the characters themselves, I thought the author did an excellent job at bringing them to life in this novelization. While video games do their best to provide an exciting story, a variety of missions, and stunning visuals, they often lack emotional depth in their characters. J. M. Barlog does exactly that in this book with showing Kratos’ inner turmoil as he tries to raise his son on his own knowing his anger and impatience is something he needs to work on while also fearing that his son will turn into him. We also get to see Atreus and his grief over the passing of his mother and how hard he works to make his father proud of him even though he knows his father will be critical of his every move. I thought he also did a great job of showing Atreus’ transition from scared son to angry and violent god to someone who realizes that he is responsible for his actions regardless of if he is a god in honor of his mother. Surprisingly, they also do Baldur some justice and turn him from some angry, vengeful god to a hurt and scorned son who only is looking for a way to be free from a lifetime of misery. Overall, the main characters in the books are conflicted people with them having a balance of good and bad inside them. I would recommend this book to those that are a fan of the game or looking for a fun adventure to follow. I am looking forward to the next God of War game/ book!