Soulstone: Awakening

Aaron Hope plays video games, like a lot, just not professionally. When he entered the EpiX! Games! PVP World Championship on a lark, this college senior never expected to make it to the final round, nor to get drugged and shoved into the alpha test for World of Ruul.

The premise for this virtual reality MMO is simple. Find all eight treasures scattered throughout the world before the maelstrom’s forces devour everything in sight. The only catch? You can’t log off, and if you die… well, let’s just say what happens in the game doesn’t stay in the game.

My Opinion: 268 pages, $4.99, available on Kindle Unlimited.

Full disclosure: The author sent me an advance copy of the novel for review but I’ve purchased a copy since it came out.

The description of the novel is technically accurate but doesn’t really play a big part in this novels. It just serves as the reason that the main character and several other players are trapped in the game World of Ruul.

At it’s core, this story is not an epic journey to destroy the ring of power, it’s just a fun adventure with gamers. I had good time reading it after I adjusted my expectations. If you’re the kind of reader that needs the LitRPG game rules to be consistent and make sense, then this may not be the novel for you.

When I first started reading this, my mind kept pointing out game mechanic inconsistencies and plot points that seemed unbelievable. Heck, there are parts of the story that remind me of a weird dream I had after a marathon gaming session and I ate too many chilli dogs. Like the players brains being taken out of their bodies and hooked up to a machine to play this immersive game,  a game notification system that sounds like Elizabeth Hurley, a talking foul mouthed rabbit, and a main character that rolls four 20s for his stats on a D20 die.

However, once I adjusted my expectations and accepted that the game rules weren’t always going to be consistent (it’s part of the story), I had a nice time reading the novel. The action adventure parts were good. The game world had nice variety of monsters for the players to kill. The skill and powers the players got access to were varied and interesting.

There are only a couple things I wished could have been done better: 1) the NPCs don’t sound any different than the players, using all the slang and pop culture references players use. The voices of the NPCs don’t vary and there’s no backstory to make them feel that different. Heck, the author makes a joke about the town guards looking and acting the same but just having different names. 2) About 75% into the novel there’s a quest sequence that just goes from fight to fight without a real break. I would have liked a less frantic pace here to give the characters a chance to develop and expand on their backstory/motivations.

This is a unique LitRPG novel that at times feels like a cool gamer dream. I enjoyed reading it. I’d give it 7 out of 10.

Soulstone: Awakening