Pawn (The Strategy Series Book 1)


The outcome of the match is a matter of life or death.

17-year-old Rogue has always classified herself as socially awkward, preferring video games over a trip to the mall. When she wakes up in a forest, she finds that life as she knew it has changed forever, and she cannot remember how. In fact, she can’t remember the last 6 months at all. As she navigates this new world she soon discovers a talent for combat and survival she’d never had before. A handy ability in a world where humans compete in a game governed by rules she can’t remember.

Ronin, a talented 19-year-old, was wrenched from his Midwest home and forced to compete with a Skaki set. Despite the set’s repeated losses, Ronin has proven himself a powerful player, his sights set on surviving each match—no matter the cost. When a new pawn is added to his set to replace one they lost, Ronin begins to break out of the shell he built around himself and reexamines what he and the other humans have become.


My Opinion: 416 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

Originally published Set. 2015, the author of the novel says that she wrote it as YA science fiction. She says the story originated with her desire to write a story that included a VR adventure game with Co-Op and that her gamer background influenced the story alot.

She contacted me to see if her novel was LitRPG since it was set in a game. I’m happy to say that it is. There are some caveats that I’ll get into that. Just remember it wasn’t written as LitRPG it is.

1) The story exists in an RPG game world or world with expressly stated RPG game mechanics. This can mean that the story is set in an MMO, a VR game, an RPG game,  a parallel or alien world, or anywhere else as long as there are expressly stated game mechanics.

-In this novel, the main character and her team are players in a virtual reality deathmatch game with a chess theme. White pieces. Black pieces. Players are designated as different chess pieces who have their own powers. Queens have control powers, Knights have a flying vehicle, etc. Everyone knows they’re in a game. The game mechanics aren’t hidden from anyone.

2) The main character progresses in an expressly stated way according to those game mechanics. For example: Leveling up, Increasing skills or abilities, increasing ranks, or increasing reputation.  Also by expressly stated, I mean that it says it in the text of the book and isn't something that's inferred or something only the author would be aware of.

- The main character absolutely gains levels and becomes more powerful not just through the game system but also as a person.

As player (called pieces) defeat their opponents, they gain experience points that lead to increased levels, weapon upgrades, unlocked items/skills. Enough levels gained, gets a new rank and increased abilities and skills. There are health bars (no numbers). Eventually, there are detailed descriptions of how the game works including how pieces get new skills and abilities.

Now for the caveats. Remember, this novel wasn’t written as LitRPG, which while having existed in 2015 wasn’t popular enough to be considered a genre. The first 60% of the novel has very few game mechanics described. The main character wakes up in the game, not remembering who she is or what’s happening around her. So, she discovers a few of the games mechanics but most of the story centers around the first deathmatch in the novel.

On its own, it minimally qualifies as LitRPG.

(Spoilers ahead)

It's not until the 60% when the main character wakes up after winning the match that the game mechanics of this virtual reality deathmatch game are revealed fully in glorious detail.

-Items and skills can be purchased using gold or viewer appreciation points (VATs) that are given by the watchers of this live streamed virtual fights. There are alot of skill options including magic, control, stealth, healing, and damage dealing skills/abilities. The ones the MC chooses are well described but don’t follow the LitRPG formatting convention of being separated into its own paragraph (Remember not written as LitRPG).

-Virtual training increases skills and abilities and also gains more XP towards levels.

Storywise, there’s a lot going on in this novel. The first half, feels like a mixture of the hunger games, YA teen drama, and some light RPG mechanics. The combat is well written but I found the jealous teen drama stuff and the romance aspects annoying. I’m not saying it’s poorly written, I as a 35 year old hispanic male, am just not the target audience for that stuff.

The last half, (after the 60% mark) is so much better. After the first match is won and the MC wakes up it takes a nice Sci Fi twist. It's revealed that aliens conquered the earth and humanity has become slaves forced to fight in these virtual deathmatches. The Sci Fi aspect that’s introduced are well described and seem relatively plausible. All the personal revelations about the MC are also revealed here and they’re kind of cool. It’s also in this section that most of the game mechanics, the game’s purpose, the hidden rules and features of this universe are revealed. The YA teen drama/romance still exists here but not nearly as much. Because I understand more about this universe and what’s happening in the story even that drama makes more sense and is less annoying.

Overall, I really liked the last half of the novel. I’d give that part of the story a 7 out of 10. It’s good. However, the first 60% of the story, while not bad, just left me feeling lost as to what the point of this death game was. That coupled with the YA teen drama/romance made that part of the novel less interesting to me.

Score: 6 out of 10.

Pawn (The Strategy Series Book 1)