**if you haven't read Call of Carrethen Book 1, there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead in the novel description below for that novel!! **
The Ripper is dead. I know--I killed him.
Jack is dead and so are all my friends. Or at least that's what I thought. An artificial intelligence named Wintermute created a backup world of to save those who died in Carrethen, and I've been sent in to get them out. But this isn't the Carrethen I once knew.
The world is decayed, corrupted and twisted, filled with things that should not be possible: twisted mutated monsters, shattered landscapes and Sunken, players who have died so many times they've lost their minds and identity, reduced to creatures fueled by nothing but pure rage. They call it The Dark World.
I spawned naked and alone and I managed to survive, but there's just one problem. My special powers of restoration aren't working, I can't contact Wintermute and I have no idea where to find my friends. Are they scattered across the realm with the Unchained? Have they become one of the mindless horde of the Sunken? Or worse, are they trapped in Sheol, the cavern prison at the center of the world, guarded by a max-level boss, the Lord of the Flame?
No one has ever come close to defeating him, but if it's the only way to rescue Jack, my friends, and the rest of the players trapped in this terrible realm, I'll be the first one to do it.
My Opinion: 440 pages, $4.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy for review but purchased a copy when it became available.
While on a technical level, the novel isn’t poorly written and the action scenes are rather visceral, I couldn’t enjoy the story. The 2nd novel in the series honestly feels like a less polished version of the 1st novel. The outline of the story is the same: intro to the world, setup the bad guy, then a huge middle section that advances the plot slightly but is mostly level grinding and then a resolution with a twist at the very end. The themes are the same too. The stakes are set so that death feels permanent, and thus no matter what happens the main character won’t ever die. Which brings me to the biggest problem with the story, it has all the issues that brought down my enjoyment of the first story but none of the originality that made up for it.
There were multiple instances this time of the rules of the RPG suddenly changing or just being inconsistent. Take death for example, with in the first 15% of the novel, the rules about death in the story change three times. First it’s die in the game, die in real life. Then it’s die in the game, respawn without your memories until you turn into a mindless mob forever (not setup and doesn’t really make sense). Then it shifts again, to one special player having the power to permanently kill these mindless beings called, the Sunken. Oh, then of course the MC just happens to be given (not earned in anyway) the one power to reverse this loss of memory. Oh, also, turns out some players aren’t killed after all but turn into random monsters. Again and again these changes keep taking place, either to save the MC from some imminent death, or to add some new thread to the story that really doesn’t make sense. Any obvious inconsistencies are waved away by the characters as ‘Oh, this new broken dark world is just weird like that.’
The fights in the story still have good action descriptions, but they often end up with either the MC feeling overpowered because she has a bunch of levels she didn’t earn and is facing low leveled mobs, or the MC losing all but a ‘tiny sliver of health’ but being miraculously saved. Even worse, there are multiple places where the MC should have clearly died but didn’t. For example, in the first few pages of the novel the MC faces off against multiple monsters that should have killed her. I mean really, one of them is over 100 levels higher than the MC but she somehow survives the fight despite starting it at less than 25% health, having no armor, no weapons, and having just fell 200 feet off of a cliff.
Overall, while there are interesting aspect of the story, there’s just too much wandy waviness and inconsistent world rules for me to really enjoy the story.
Score: 6 out of 10