The Apprentice of Arabella

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When his home and livelihood are ripped away, artist James Wulf must struggle against an oppressive government to survive the journey from Fox Valley to Old Atlanta, where he hopes to start a new life. All things are possible in Arabella online.

 

My Opinion: 173 pages, $2.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited

* The story has technical writing issues that may bother some people. There are frequent missing words, punctuation, and unclear sentences. An early example: “He had angry and frustrated as she and her partner had shown up at the crack of dawn to serve their warrant.” *

The story can be divided into two parts, the real life story and the in game story.

The real life story setups a future dystopian world where the government makes anyone it considers a dissident disappear or kills them. The main character, James, has his home seized but escaped arrest because the authorities couldn’t find a pretense to arrest him on. He flees and ends up finding work playing a VRMMO where he plans to make enough money to flee the country. There’s actually some pretty good world building done here that paints a picture of future I wouldn’t want to live it.

There story regularly switches back to this real life story line but mostly focuses on vague hints about the government seeing the MC as a major threat that they will do anything to put down. No reason is ever revealed why and few personal details about the MC are given as hints. At most, the MC had read a lot of banned material on free speech, spiritualism, history and had experience making things. Ultimately, even though the author spends a significant amount of time trying to build some sense of tension, mystery, and conspiracy in this dystopian world, the real life story doesn’t end up mattering.

In-game, the story is just a pretty good slice of life LitRPG adventure with fighting, leveling, and crafting. There are few small arcs with PKers and a story thread about trapped gamers but that ends up being utterly disappointing and resolved in two paragraphs at the end of the novel. Crafting becomes a good portion of the in-game story and is nicely detailed. However, it gets too overpowered too quickly. After only a few days learning the basics of smithing for example, the MC is making tons of exotic weapons and using advanced smithing techniques there’s no prior setup that he should know. The MC isn’t a smith in real life and appears to, at most, have academic knowledge of crafting. Still, not bad stuff, the progression just gets too advance too quickly to feel reasonable. The rest of the game mechanics aren’t anything special but nor are they bad. Standard character sheets, classes, and leveling stuff.

 

There are also some  inconsistencies in the story that bugged me.

-MC states doesn’t know much about gaming, and his house is filled with books and low tech stuff. Even has such a low tech presence in world, the game AI initially thinks he has a corrupted online profile. Yet, he also also thinks and talks like a gamer, using gamer terms and using references only gamers would get. Including immediate understanding of RPG system and how to min max his character.

- Lots of people seem interested in the MC but no explanations as to why, it’s kind of annoying. Especially considering that the game portion is just slice of life leveling and crafting. No cohesiveness between in-game and IRL storylines.

-MC is sneaky and distrusting enough to have a go-bag ready when the government  shows up to seize his land randomly. He also has contacts prepared to make him a false identity and wants to flee the country. Yet he also just reveals all his in-game secrets to random strangers he meets?

Overall, I almost like the in-game story. The MC goes on some decent adventures and I’m a fan of the crafting. However, the in-game story doesn’t go anywhere despite the MCs clearly stated goals.  That combined with the unfocused, convoluted, and ultimately meaningless real life storyline just made the story less enjoyable. Not boring but not good either.

Score: 6 out of 10

The Apprentice of Arabella

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