Taking the day off work to surprise, Andy, with a ticket to the hottest fantasy VRMMORPG. Emma returns home to find his cheating ass in bed with her sister. Throwing them both out, Emma sits slugging back the wine they’d just shared. Drunk and devastated she almost blows his gift, but watching the adverts for the amazing fantasy world depicting monster’s mayhem and adventure. Emma keys in her name and details – Akillia-F-22 and decides to take on Puatera Online.
My Opinion: 349 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
This novel was so frustrating I nearly pulled my hair out. At one point, I just had to put the book down and walk away or my kindle was going to get thrown across the room.
Part of my frustration may have to do with my expectations for the story. I enjoyed books 1-3 in the series with the main character, Maddie, an AI who becomes self aware and fights to break the expectations of others, and her own programming to accomplish a goal and save the dragons and the player she cares for. I could ignore some of the lack of RPG mechanics because she was an NPC and the world she lived in was just a world to her. There were still RPG stuff happening, she got quests and rewards for completing those quests including XP and levels. In book 3, you even get to see her character sheet as she finally gets access to it and spends all the points that had accumulated since her creation.
Here, in book 4, the story is about a player Emma/Akilla. She has a bad real life break up. Her husband cheats on her on their anniversary and she uses the amazing VR gift she bought for him for herself. 6 months on an island playing a full immersion game that will feel like 2 years in-game. There’s hints that there’s also a romance thread that will develop, and it does eventually. But the story is about the MC rediscovering herself, building back up her confidence, and finding a way to be happy again (with the help of that hot dude of course). Those parts of the story are done well. The strong female lead, is also written well. She starts off feeling bad and lacks confidence but by the end of the story is leading a whole complement of warriors into battle.
Where the story is supremely frustrating is in the game mechanic department. There’s a section early in the story 10-15% mark, where a bunch of game mechanics are explained in detail. Loads of great information about how dice rolls work, actions, abilities, aspects, aptitudes, karma, and more. Lots of stuff.
Only none of that stuff really shows up in the rest of the novel. The most you get is one view of the MC’s character sheet at 47%. She spends some karma points a couple times. And there are lots of notifications in the early part of the story about her ‘discovering an action’ that really amount to a running gag. She discovers the actions: breathing, walking, jumping, and projectile vomiting. But even that aspect mostly disappears after the 30% mark.
Combat is almost non existent most of the story, with a highlight early on being the MC slowly pushing a sword through a goblin like creature’s chest as it stands there and doesn’t fight back. Combat picks up a bit in the last 10% of the story but this isn’t an action story.
The most frustrating part of the story is how forced it feels and how thing occur that just don’t make sense.
Ex 1) This new player, for some reason forces herself into this big quest to get the magic dragon poop. And for some strange reason, becomes a decision maker for where they go and how many people are taken with them over the ocean. Never mind that the other NPCs that live there advise her to do otherwise. Then she decides to take a child with her for some reason on this dangerous journey, cause her ‘feelings’ tell her too.
Ex 2) To get access to a ship, the MC must convince come cat people to take them across the ocean. The cat person she meets refuses to give her his name since a person’s name can be used in bad spells (not established in book by the way). Not two paragraphs later, the same being is telling her his name and announcing that she’s now part of their family so of course they’ll help her.
Ex 3) Later the same MC saves the grandpa cat guy from a heart attack by telling his granddaughter to use her eclectic spell to jump start his heart. Only, the MC doesn’t actually know anything about how magic in the world works or if the grandpa is having a heart attack (no medical training, she works at a law firm). Of course it works.
Ex 4) As a reward for saving his life grandpa then gives the MC a family heirloom, a special necklace whose item description says it lets the wearer talk to sea life and command them (A bit OP but ok). Then in the next scene, the MC used that same item to create a vast magic shield to prevent the ship that’s being put into the ocean from crashing and hurting people. Later this same item is used to contact the dead, speak with guardians of the land, and even talk to the game itself. All of which is not in it’s item description. Basically the necklace becomes the doo-hikey of problem solving.
Ex 5) Things get so contrived, that even the other characters in the story have to some up with a reason why it’s all happening. At one point, the MC is thrown off the ship (she could have just talked to the sea creature attacking but she didn’t) and finds herself washed up on shore. Another player eventually finds her and confirms that he talked to the developers and that she should have died falling into the brutal storm ravaged sea full of monsters. But it’s explained away that ‘the game itself seems to be changing to keep her alive, because she’s the chosen one to save things and travel to a special place’. (Oh, also her cheating ex made a bet on her dying and she made a counter bet that she wouldn’t, so of course she can’t die.)
There’s a lot more but I think you get the idea.
To finish the story without pulling out my hair, I had to think of it as a fantasy story. Where any logic inconsistencies are just waved away as ‘magic’. Which for the record is also never described as a system and is just ‘I want a thing to happen, so it does’. But once I thought of it in those terms, it was easier to read.
Overall, as LitRPG, this was supremely frustrating. Not only does that well described game stuff in the beginning disappear as the story goes on, most of the events just don’t make sense logically.
As a straight fantasy story, it would maybe get a 6 out of 10.
As LitRPG is gets a 4 out of 10.