LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 011

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 011 -  Warden: Nova Online, Initializing - Somnia Online, Book 1, Jessica's Challenge: Book 5, War Aeternus 3

“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:”

Warden: Nova Online (00:26)

Score: 7.8 out of 10

Initializing - Somnia Online, Book 1 (13:50)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

Jessica's Challenge: Book 5 in the Puatera Online (22:26)

Score: 8.25 out of 10

War Aeternus 3: The Culling (29:08)

Score: 9 out of 10


Warden: Nova Online

By: Alex Knight

Narrated by: Todd Boyce

Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins


This story is about a young fellow named Kaidon, who get framed for the murder of his only friend.  Once in prison he is drafted into the Warden program, in which inmates are made into a virtual police force in a game called Nova Online to help players who get themselves into trouble.  The whole thing seems a little silly, drafting criminals to be a police corps, and players needing help surviving their game. The last part makes since when you consider that if you are killed in the game then you are locked out of play for seven days, and so if you are paying a lot of money to play (and the game generates cash for the state) then you want to keep the players alive.  Additionally, by using incarcerated people they do not have to pay them, whereas if they hired actual gamers to police the game it would cost money, so there is logic to this.

By Playing, Kaidon has an opportunity to shave time off of his fifty year sentence.  He ends up with two teammates and slowly begins to unravel the secret of who killed his friend and framed him.  The story itself is enjoyable. You will like Kaidon and his compatriots, and they have some excellent battles. As a lovecraftian maniac I particularly enjoyed the void spawn.  The story is, for the most part, spent in game with a few prison scenes thrown in, so this is kind of like Shawshank Redemption blended with the colonial marines from Aliens. The book has some excellent fight scenes, and a fun chase scene.  We pretty much only have about six real characters that rotate in and out of the book, with several background players popping in at various times, so while you get some character growth it also makes it a little easy to spot the villain of the story.  Either way, I enjoyed the book.

The book was a fun escape, and I will most definitely be on the lookout for book two.  This was a solid eight stars, coulda been higher, but I had to shave points for the incessant incorrect pronunciations that filled this book.  I hate to do that to a good story, but the fact is it was jarring and not fun to listen to. Now, honestly, I would rate this book higher, but the mispronunciations were so jarring, and easy to catch that I had to take some points way.  What could have been much higher, I’m going to give 7.8 stars. Hopefully, next time around Boyce does some research or Knight checks his audio, because this was a decent and well written story.



Somnia Online, Book 1

By: K. T. Hanna

Narrated by: Andrea Parsneau

Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins


Initializing is one of those rare books that really has no end game, no antagonist, and no real big battle scenes, but is very interesting nonetheless.  It has a great twist at the end that you can pick up on if you pay attention to the way that the main character, Murmur, interacts with others, the powers that she begins to wield,  and the way others treat her in the game, but you have to really be on your game. I figured it out during the bathroom scene, and maybe I was slow, but it was rewarding to see that my hypothesis , or in the words of the Heavy Jake Sullivan, Hypo thee sis, panned out to be accurate.  No spoilers from me. Hanna is fantastic at fleshing out her characters, and their relationships such as those between Murmur and Sinister, Murmur and her instructor/mentor, and Murmur and her dragon pal. Each is unique and realistically rendered. The only issue I really had was that I have to wonder when Sin left the game.  

Normally, I would complain that this book is just one long bit of grinding, as it really lacks a villain to latch onto, although there is a player that gives Mur some grief.  What the book is actually about is Murmur coming to grips with herself before school starts, rekindling friendship, and unraveling a mystery that only she seems to notice. There is a movie out there that stars the ex-wife of Tom Cruise that this put me in the mind of, but I don’t want to spoil things for you.  The grindy thingy, as Scott Pilgrim would say, is actually fun as Mur and company get to test their ever growing powers as they beat on monsters and accrue XP. Best of all, while the group does advance their levels quickly, they do not power level, which is a big no no in my book. No, the real fun comes in piecing together the mystery that Murmur slowly senses is around her and seeing just who is a part of the conspiracy.  The best part of it, I was certain that Sinister was going to tell Murmur that she was in love with her. So, keep an eye open and an ear to ground to see if you can get the big reveal at the end.

The Fabulous Andrea Parsneau narrates this, and kills the narration.  I am so glad to be able to review a book that has a solid narrator and I do not have to describe just how much they brought the story down.  Nope, Andrea elevates an already great story to even higher levels. She really nails the characters, and is flawless in her readings. The sound quality is superb and she really enlivens the dialogue between Sin and Murmur to the point that you believe they are two distinct people, but also that they are very dear friends.  You can feel their bond.

One thing that I like is that while this is a basically one long game session that it is neither bogged down by the grinding , nor does it try to be overly cerebral, Murmur outthinks her opponents, but also puts a good smack down on them in the process.  She is not one to be trifled with, and it is clear as to why she is a leader, and not a follower. She is a very complex character, and one that I want to see more of, and cannot wait for the next edition to come out. This is a solid book that stands out for what it doesn’t have or do with the characters.  The narration is outstanding, and the plot is slick and fast paced. I really enjoyed this book, and if I am going to be honest I wasn’t sure if I would. I knew nothing of KT Hanna, but I figured if Andrea liked her book it had to be of substance. I am awarding 8.25 stars. This is a great book, and I look forward to it more from this writing narrating pair in the future.


Jessica's Challenge: Book 5 in the Puatera Online

By: Dawn Chapman & Jess Mountifield

Narrated by: Suzanne Barbetta

Length: 3 hrs and 24 mins

Puatera Online, and Dawn Chapman hold a special place in my heart.  I came to this series right after I discovered the Litrpg genre. Now, I don’t mean discovered in the sense that Columbus “discovered” America.  I mean that I had just sort of stumbled into this magical thing, and Dawn was there to guide me. Putera was very different from the other books I had thus far read, it was sci-fi based (a plus for me) and starred and NPC rather than a player.  That was a hook I could enjoy. Dawn, herself, was incredibly open to her fans, and always found time to answer any questions or to let me know when her next book was coming out. I’ve been a fan ever since.

Jessica’s Challenge returns back to the format that I was accustomed to in the first three books.  The book length was back to a three hour listen, which is great for someone like me who loves a nice amuse-bouche just as much as feast.  Dawn does really well with short bursts. That isn’t to imply that she can’t write a great full length book. Just look at book four, Akilla’s Reign.  She nailed it, but she has a real skill in packing a lot of material into three hour bites. For me, this means that there is never a lull or a break in her book that a longer version might have.  She gets to jam it full of action, emotion, and adventure. And man, does she manage to do that here, along with Jess Mountifield’s help. I’ll be honest, I always get a little leery of collaborations.  Sometimes voices don’t mix very well, but that isn’t the case for Jessica’s Challenge. Nope, their voices meld together wonderfully, and the story flows smoothly. Alright, at this point, you are probably asking what the book is about.  It is about three sisters accidentally enter Puatera for real, and struggle to find one another as well as a way home. When I say struggle, I mean they struggle. The story is just as I said earlier. It is emotional. It is adventurous, and it is undoubtedly dangerous.  All I could think of was this will teach them to stay out of their mum’s lab. They go through a lot, which amazes me for the timespan that we have to work with. While the book flew by pleasantly, it really felt like there was waaaay more to it. This was a tightly written piece that really impressed me.  I love the Putera series, and cannot wait for the next book.

As for the narration, Suzanne Barbetta is a new narrator to me, and I appreciate that Dawn continues to introduce me to all of these wonderful new readers of words.  I would have never heard of Anneliese Rennie if she hadn’t shifted the tone of her books with new narrators. All I can say is that when Maddie returns we better have Andrea Parsneau back for that, though, otherwise it just won’t be Maddie.  Anyway, I digress, Barbetta does a fine job, and is really pleasant to listen to. Like my pop used to say, she is sweet on the ears. She has distinctive voices, and readily distinguishes who is speaking with the tone of her voice. I enjoyed hearing her for the first time and welcome her to the Litrpg community.  I thnk she’ll fit right in.

As always, the writing is smooth and fun, the characters, ALTHOUGH THEY ARE NOT MADDIE, are interesting and you connect with them right away.  This was a fun book, and it only adds to the Putera World. All I can say it that I hope Dawn can keep up this amazing series, because Putera is a fun place to visit every now and again.

As for my rating, man I really hate ratings, I can never really convey how much I love of hate a book with a number.  I think you know that just by how I act when I do the review, but if I have to then I will say that this is probably the best book in the series so far, just in terms of concept and how things played out so I am going to give this an 8.25 stars.  If you haven’t read the series, this could be a stand alone book, and so is a perfect place for someone to jump in. Don’t miss out, go back and start with the early books. You won’t be sorry.


War Aeternus 3: The Culling

By: Charles Dean

Narrated by: Jeff Hays & Annie Ellicott

Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins


Lee and the surviving team return for book three, and all I can say is that this is a welcome return after the kick in the feelz that Dean gave us in the last book.  One thing I will say about the Lord of Beards is that he knows how to entertain. After the events in the last novel, Lee is in a funk, and he isn’t looking to break out of it anytime soon.  To say that the quality of his mercy is strained would be an understatement. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the book, in which Lee and the amazing Miller rush to defend a monument Lee built at the end of book two.  Sorry, spoilers and all that, so I can’t reveal anything, but there are two moments in which Miller steals the show. The first comes from the eating of the nobleman’s heart, and the other is the spear to the face and Miller playing thing off with the line, “Well, you said to kill anyone moving towards the statue.”  I burst out laughing, and chuckled for another ten minutes after the scene was played out. I admit that I am a Miller junkie. And, if I am being honest, that is the only complaint that I have about this book. There is not enough Miller. He is missing for a big chunk of it, but it is for reasons that I cannot reveal.  So, I just cherished every moment I had with him.

Thankfully, Lee keeps things interesting as he goes around killing blind children and old people, this is all about culling the weak, after all.  While this might sound controversial, it is simultaneously funny, heartbreaking, horrifying, and moving as Lee is only doing what he must. Meanwhile, poor Augustus is getting his butt chewed off for having a herald who goes around killing other heralds.  Even though that is pretty much expected of him. Augustus is probably my second favorite character, because he just does what he wants, and worries about consequence later, since he doubts they will ever affect him.

Dean also introduces a new character, Jade, who could be a Patty Duke styled cousin to the Bathrobe Knight’s Stephanie.  She is a fun character who has no issue speaking her mind, lives as if she were in a Manga Anime series, and just so happens to see non heralds as NPC’s who are not real.  Her POV is . . . . . . . . . . . . . .different , to say the least. You can tell that Charles had a blast writing her, and that Lee is in some serious trouble with her as a companion.  To say that she makes life complicated for him would be an understatement. Dean is almost making a harem for Lee, who just isn’t biting. We have Ling, Brigid, and Jade, but for me Masha is the best and most practical choice for Lee in my humble opinion.  I really like her, and think that he has an emotional tie with her that the others all lack. If I was going to play MFK with these ladies, I would marry Masha. I love Jade, as a character, but she is far too crazy town for me. Like I said, she reminds me of Stephanie, and while both I and my kids loved her, we wouldn’t want to marry her.

The story is fast paced, and we finally get back to Satterfield.  Lee gets to know the game AI, and the herald he faces off against is about a bat crap crazy as you can get.  I don’t think that there was ever a moment that wasn’t dragging me along at a break neck speed, an awesome fight was taking place, or danger didn’t loom off in the corner.  This is a tightly written tale that fulfills every need for comedy, action, adventure, emotion, and big events. Dean just continues to step up his game. I see him improve in every book he has written, and I know that WA4 is going to be even more amazing.  I have no complaints on the word front.

As for the narration, well I have to say that I have never heard Jeff Hays do better.  I don’t think there is another person who could pull off Jade the way that he does. Are multiple reasons Jeff is amazing, and his ability to do believable female voices is one of them.  Still, he hits the attitude and exuberance that is Jade like he lived with her as a kid. Between his performance of her and that of Miller I don’t know how Lee ever gets a voice of his own.  Jade definitely steals the show. Annie plays a fine Brigid, and who I’ll call the crazy chicken lady (because that is all I could see when she transformed). She nails them both like she was a gas powered hammer.  I really like their chemistry, these two don’t work so well together as they just blend flawlessly with one another. They go together like water and a Kool aid packet. Like peas and carrots. As always, the sound production is exemplary and the book is as clear as Crystal Lake right after summer break.  SBT has the highest quality standards when it comes to storytelling that you could ask for.

War Aeternus: The Culling literally cut away every weak moment that it had, and left us with the most choice cut of pure Kobe Beef.  This story had real meat on its bones, and I most happily dug in and asked for thirds when it was all over. I am giving this book a 9.  It is solid, surprising, funny, and poignant. I could not have asked for or expected more.

This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.

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