Playing for Keeps (Alpha World Book 4)

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Alpha Company is embarking on a grand mission, crossing the Dead Lands to find and conquer Gwain’s Keep. Led by Alburet, most of the guild embarks on what could be an epic and memorable journey, as they aim at being the first Two-souled guild to capture a keep.

Besides safeguarding the members of the guild, Alburet also has to worry about the natives that are with them on their journey. Deidre Crowley, Stacia’s sister, is the one he worries about most, having sworn to see her safely across the lifeless desolation of the Dead Lands.

Having to be ultra-vigilant during the day, night brings welcome relief and relaxation to the raid. For Alburet, Karen, and Stacia it also brings their chance to help Fluffball come to grips with her past.

Rejoin the group in Alpha World while they “Play for Keeps”.

(This book contains adult themes, just like the rest of the series. If you didn’t like those themes there, you won’t like them here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you ahead of time. After all, one of the main supporting characters is a Succubus.)

 

My Opinion: 421 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

Full disclosure: I got an advanced copy for review. I bought the novel as soon as it became available

Book 4 starts off immediately after the end of book 3 and is almost just a continuation of that story. The main character (MC) , Alburet/Seamus, and the core group join the rest of the guild in the Dead Lands. Their goal? To travel to and conquer one of the abandoned keeps in the high level zone, get a bunch of great loot, and level like crazy.

While I’m a fan this story and the series, I also recognize that there are some things about this story that may not mesh well with everyone. This is primarily a travel story. You remember that first LOTR movie? Where most of what they did was walk? Sure, there were some fights, but mostly walking and character and story development? That’s what this is. It’s the fellowship of the succubus.

75% of the novel is spent traveling to the abandoned keep through the high level Dead Lands. Yeah, there are regular fights but they’re usually a few paragraphs long each. Most of that 75% is spent traveling, developing the relationships between characters, advancing the memory exploration thing. I found it very entertaining, but in a different way than a primarily action driven novel.

Something that may bother some people, there’s more fade to black sex and non-mainstream relationship talk. The MC struggles with loving multiple women and how that doesn’t mesh with his ingrained beliefs about monogamy. The conversations aren’t ‘in your face’ but they’re honest and open with the subject of polyamory. Personally, I found the viewpoints very interesting to read about.

Also, there's more memory exploration. Each of the core group members, the MC, Karen, and Fluffy each have issues and traumas. The characters explore and share these moments with the reader through a kind of magical memory thing that replays the memories as they actually happened and not as the person remembers them through the haze of time/self protection. It’s a very cool tool that the author uses to create emotional resonance with the reader and I found myself tearing up sometimes and getting angry when seeing other memories. However, be aware that this is a major portion of the first 75% of the story. This is how a great deal of the character development is done.

Only when the group reaches the abandoned keep do you really get any action and fighting. That’s not until the 75% mark.  While I thought a couple fights ended a little wand wavy, overall the action is good and I was just glad that the group was able to wipe and learn from their mistakes. That’s what makes a good MMO raid.

Overall, I had a good time with the story. But, I also really like the memory exploration aspect of the story. I think it’s a great story telling tool. I’m a fan of how much character development the author does. If you don’t like that mechanic, or if you’re not into some of the frank relationship exploration conversations, this may not be the novel for you. Personally, I love getting the chance to see the world through someone else's lens (is that the right phrase?). Regardless, that’s one of the things I love the most about fiction. It’s ability to safely explore new concepts (magic, tech, or social) that people may have never had the chance/inclination to in real life.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Playing for Keeps  (Alpha World Book 4)

http://amzn.to/2CSDzUR