“Dishonored: The Corroded Man” is a tie-in novel for the “Dishonored” video game series from Arkane Studios (the developer) and Bethesda Softworks (the publisher). It is set between the first game, “Dishonored”, and the sequel it was released a few months before, “Dishonored 2”. Like most video game tie-in novels, it’s not particularly good, but neither is it offensively bad.
Just as in the games, the worldbuilding and aesthetics are compelling, but a novel such as this is a much poorer vehicle for exploring and displaying such strengths. There’s no environmental storytelling, art direction, or score in a novel. What a novel does offer is character’s internal monologues and greater freedom with content and structure, but the characters are not particularly interesting here, and the vast majority of the novel just alternates between two static locations in a fairly linear storyline. The paternal relationship between the two main protagonists is charming, but the whole novel can’t just coast off that.
The prose isn’t great. For some reason, it tries to transpose the actual gameplay mechanics of the series into the prose – including sucking down mana potions, using powers like “blink” and “slow time”, and that sort of thing. It’s fun to play, but rough to read.
At least everything feels consistent with the games; the characters don’t feel tonally off or anything, it all feels cohesive and connected there. The nation of Tyvia, and its related characters, are so blatant a reference to Russia that it’s distracting. The author repeats “all Tyvians were equal, but some were more equal than others” multiple times, which just bewilders me – does he think readers won’t understand the reference, or the implication? It’s a shame, because Dunwall and the Isles were a creative alternate London and British Empire. However, if or when it’s depicted in the games, I’m fairly confident the stellar art direction will elevate it beyond a cheap reference to Russia.
The novel isn’t offensively awful or anything, but it’s certainly clunky and forgettable. The author clearly has proper and earnest familiarity and passion for the game and the lore, but the novel itself turned out to be quite a mess, in my opinion. With video game tie-in novels, it’s always difficult to tell whether issues come down to the actual author, or mandates from the publishers and/or developers though. Nonetheless, I give the novel two whale jawbones, and a mysterious knife.