Eric was born in a world governed by the Great System, in the family of Aren Bergman, a respected miner from Orchus. But the joy of gaining a son was overshadowed by the newborn’s terrible affliction. Eric was completely nulled – level zero and no characteristics points. The only things keeping him from dying were his tiny base supplies of “life” and “energy.”
The medicine woman who delivered Eric believes this to be the work of the evil spirit Bug. Due to the peculiar laws of the Great System, Eric cannot use experience essences or characteristics tablets, so he risks having to spend his whole life confined to a bed. But his father finds a solution. He takes out a large bank loan and goes to the capital where he buys a few artifacts of the Ancients on the black market, which have no level restriction.
Despite having the artifacts, Eric is still very feeble and everyone in town thinks him a freak. But at least he can move on his own and that gives the Bergmans hope. But alas, it isn’t for long. On Eric’s fourteenth birthday, his father and mother die in a mining accident. The bank takes their house, and Eric is left with no choice but to work off the remaining debt in the Dungeons of the Crooked Mountains.
And so begins the story of a nulled boy’s struggle to survive…
My Opinion: 393 pages, $3.99, Available on Kindle Unlimited
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy for review. I purchased a copy when it became available.
This is novel is written by the same author of the popular Mirror World series and if you’ve read that and enjoyed it you can be assured you’ll probably like this too. From the first pages I was hooked.
The story is set on a fantasy RPG world where the main character (MC) is born 'null' or with low stats and a level of zero. Just about everything in their world has a min level 1 requirement so he can’t use anything, not even the special tablets that raise stats and skills. The MC can only use rare artifacts don't have level requirements and while his father and mother try to get him some so he has the strength to get out of bed. When tragedy strikes, the MC is left all alone and sent to work off the family debt. Now he has to not only survive but avoid the many scheming bad people looking to exploit others and he has to find someway out of the debtors camp before he’s struck with an ever increasing burden.
The story is pretty good with some very interesting world building that makes the RPG stuff part of the world’s culture. The gods 'System' and 'Random' determine all things with the evil God 'Bug' being responsible for all the bad things that don't make sense. Instead of automatic stat increases, everything is improved by tablets that drop from gathering resources or killing monsters. These tablets grant XP, stat increases, skills, magic, and abilities. Since these are physical items, they’re also a commodity that others sell, buy, and steal to get. The world as a whole is not kind with traditions like inheritable debt and cold calculating people willing to put people in perpetual debt to keep them working and stealing their tablets.
Overall, this is a good underdog story with a disadvantaged MC facing a cruel world and figuring out someway to survive and turn his disadvantage into an asset.
Score: 7.6 out of 10