One young woman hungers for status in a harsh, feudal future—but her greed could become her downfall.
In the desolate future city-state of Verre, King Leopold and his lords rule with absolute authority. There’s only one way for oppressed serfs to rise in rank: the MMORPG called ‘The Grind’. Once a year, players in this virtual game can fight for the opportunity to raise their standing by gathering as many points as possible. Peasants can become Nobles, Lords and, with enough skill, sometimes Kings…
Savannah “Savvy” deForge is a Grinder—the lowest of the low, who earns a living racking up points for players by “ghosting” them in the game. When a wealthy client named Timon comes calling, she sees him as her ticket out of the classless limbo of Grinder life.
But when her father vanishes into the game, Savvy will have to choose between the advancement she craves and reclaiming the one she loves. As virtual deaths start to become terribly real, Savvy realizes there is much more at stake than status, and it may be too late to save anyone, including herself.
My Opinion: 558 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
From author Dante Doom, who is presented to readers and the LitRPG community as a gamer and LitRPG lover who wrote his first novel in two weeks, self published, then put out a whole trilogy within a couple of months.
Who I heavily suspect is a person made up by Relay Publishing as a ‘gamer author’ to appeal to readers. Which I wouldn’t have a problem with except if the company were honest about it.
-See episode 71 of the podcast, where I lay out the evidence for that. A link in the show notes (https://youtu.be/LJFVz_DbVa8?t=2587 )
Now, putting that aside, the review for this novel is a little mixed.
The novel starts out wonderfully. It has a great opening scene that not only catches the reader’s attention with a mix of sarcasm and action but at the same time describes some of the gaming elements in the story.
The main character (MC), Savannah, is a Grinder. Someone in this future post rebuilt society that illegally power levels anyone that can pay for the service. In the society she lives in, ranks earned in the game determine one's place in society. If you do well during your game run and get enough experience orbs, you can even be king.
It’s a great setup for not just the game, but also for why it matters in this society. I was genuinely surprised by how much I liked this beginning. Which made my disappointment with the rest of the novel that much worse.
As the novel continues, the MC gets a new client. This noble needs to get a good rank in the game to help maintain his family’s power at court. It’s a way for the author to take the reader on a newb journey and explain more about how the game works and how it matters to this society. Unfortunately, it turns into this argument between the two about whether it’s good to be a noble and how the MC wants to be one of them to live the good life.
Afterwards, the story devolves into this Wizard of Oz kind of story where she goes through a series of decently described fights and collects a group of magical friends (one of whom is a total tin man rip) to defeat the evil king before he can take control of the game. Now, that on it’s own wouldn’t be a bad plot. But the story then tries to mix in so many other ideas and plots that the whole thing gets muddled and uninteresting. The author adds a plot to kill nobles opposing the king, then the MC is forced to try to kill the king, then back to killing the nobles, then she’s looking for her father who’s been stuck in game for 30 years in game time. Then it shifts again to the MC trying to reset the game world. Then a political trial. Then a test to stop the city from killing everyone during a rebellion. So. Many. Plots. By the end I was just struggling to stay interested in the novel and finish it.
The game mechanics, while consistently used in the game, don’t have much depth. The experience orbs that convey rank don’t mean much in game. Powers that the characters use can be purchased and are not earned. Same with the weapons, though those can be loot drops. There’s a health bar. But that’s about it.
Overall, this was a disappointing read after such a good start. That mostly has to do with the unfocused nature of the plot. It just couldn’t seem to stick to one storyline or purpose and just kept shifting around.
Score: 5 out of 10