Book Review: Ico: Castle in the Mist

Book Review: Ico: Castle in the Mist

It seems like a cliche these days. Say the name of the game Ico and everyone expects praise. And by this point, everyone knows the idea of the minimalist game with beautiful design and a story that can be interpreted a myriad of ways. But what we’re talking about is one interpretation that was interesting enough to get published.

Ico: Castle in the Mist, written by Japanese bestselling author Miyuki Miyabe and released in English by Viz Media, is possibly the most detailed theory about what was really going on during the events of the game. We all know the basic idea: a horned child named Ico is to be imprisoned inside a mysterious castle due to being born with horns. After he manages to escape his sarcophagus prison and explores a bit, he meets Yorda, a princess trapped in the castle, and has to protect her from the shadowy minions of her mother the Queen.

Miyabe starts things off right by spending the first chunk of the book focusing on Ico’s village, the people there, and the various implications of the tradition of the Sacrifice. As things build to the inevitable moments of the game, we build a bigger attachment to Ico as a character, and understand why a child would go along with such a tradition. Put lightly, when you find out why Ico chooses to remain in a village that plans to send him off to his death, you will have a new respect for the strength of his character. And after he meets Yorda, we start seeing more original content, as Yorda has a 128 page long flashback detailing the story of the castle, her mother, the reasons behind the choice for horned humans and the sword that Ico uses during the climax.

That actually is the strongest thing about this novel. Miyabe took everything she saw in the game, from the detailed cloth that Ico wears over his short, the statue of a horned man on the bridge, the trolley, the graveyard, the two arenas, and the sword that is such a major part of the game, and just goes into amazingly original detail. I never, in any of my thoughts while playing, thought that the statue was anything significant. Nor did I question why the castle had two arena areas. Or even wonder why the tower Yorda was found in was so separated from the rest of the castle.

The one negative I can think of is that diehard purists will not count the novel as canon, arguing against the interpretation due to more accepted theories brought about because of further games like Shadow of The Colossus. But honestly, I like that it goes different from what I’ve heard. And I love that Miyabe didn’t write a page for page walkthrough of the game, instead injecting it with a slightly more epic climax.

As Miyabe says in the preface, do not expect this to be a guide for the game. It’s simply an interpretation. And like all interpretations of dreams like Ico’s journey in the castle, there is no wrong answer.


A sharp eye for the original game's details and a vivid and epic imagination makes for a novelization that stands on its own merit.If you're an Ico purist, and don't like how details were changed or added, you will spend too much time complaining to see what's great here.
95 out of 100

Ahmed is not just a fanboy, but also a martial artist and an indie author who has published such fantasy adventure books as “Lunen: Triblood”.

  • phendrenaline

    They should make one for Shadow of the Colossus 

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