LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 012
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 012 - Accidental Duelist, Martyrs, Eden's Gate, Fostering Faust
“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:”
Score: 8.2 out of 10
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Score: 8 out of 10
Score: 8.4 out of 10
Accidental Duelist: Accidental Champion Trilogy
By: Jamie Davis, C.J. Davis
Narrated by: Stacy Gonzalez
Length: 10 hrs and 29 mins
Ok, so we return to the land of Fantasma for another round of who will I be this time. Only not. This time it is Kari Dix who has the spotlight, and she really takes the mantle her father laid down, and runs off into the night with it. I have to admit that I was initially skeptical of someone stepping into the hero role that Hal created, but I can see that Davis and his son have really thought this one out. Kari, and accomplished fencer has been told that her memories of Fantasma are all false, and that she was basically delusional, until the Empress sends out a call for her hero to return, and Kari is inadvertently pulled into her “imaginary” world. Upon her entry she opts to become a duelist, surprise surprise, but there were a few other choices she could have made that were pretty intriguing such as a paladin. Within about ten minutes of her arrival she manages to run afoul of some men who work for the Duke, y’know the guy who is after the Empress’s throne, and is challenged to a duel. Well, as you guess it bad things happen and she ends up on the lam. The book is then devoted to her reluctantly trying to protect the last grandchild of the ailing Empress.
What is really nice about this book is that it actually breaks the format of the old series. As much as I loved Hal, it was a touch repetitive in the last book. It had become a sort of wash, rinse, repeat sort of thing with him basically restarting with a different class each time he entered Fantasma. Each book also had Hal returning back home after each of his adventures had concluded. Not here, from the way it looks it seems that Kari is going to stay in Fantasma for a while. And that, my friends, was perhaps the most refreshing part. Ninety percent of the books out there always have the main character trying to make their way back home the minute they find themselves stuck in a game they love to play. Alright, 90% is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Kari is actually reluctant to go home, and shows little to no interest in doing so. SO, I can’t go into more detail but suffice it to say the book does not end like the other books do. Also, it sort of looks like Kari will be remaining a Duelist for a while longer. Additionally, it looks like Hal, and possibly his wife might be returning to Fantasma as well. Hmmm, maybe one of them will become a cool paladin! We’ll see.
Now, one change that I am not doing cartwheels over is that Roberto Scarlato didn’t return for this series. It is a real shame because I am a huge fan of his, and he was sorely missed. Although, from talking to Jamie and C.J. at the Dover Comic Con this year (where I got this totally awesome signed book, MY FIRST SIGNED book!) they told me that Roberto will be narrating his Extreme Medical Services series, in which a Paramedic helps humans and monsters alike. It isn’t LITRPG, but it is something I will be getting. But I digress. As I was saying, Scarlato isn’t returning because Stacy Gonzalez has taken over the accidental champion reigns, and is now leading the team with her vocal charms. She is new to me, but she seems to handle things fairly well. Now, I’m not going to lie. She does do voices, but her male impersonations are not as strong as they could be. There were a few times that I had to wonder who was speaking, and I almost wondered if they were female or not. But it isn’t like that with all of her male voices, just some. I chalk that up as a rookie thing, I think that this is only her 6th book that she has narrated, so I can cut her some slack. From what I’ve heard, once she gets her footing, she is going to become a really great narrator. She does this series some serious justice, and that is really all that matters.
The book is fun and is family friendly, if you don’t mind some killing every now and then. Kari, as much as I resisted her replacing Hal, I think that she has some real depth, and brings a new perspective to Fantasma that I really enjoyed. I have to say that I like the new format of the stories, so it isn’t a one and done kind of deal anymore, and that I have seen some serious improvements over all, there are a lot of changes to Fantasma, and it doesn’t feel like a “The Emporer is evil and oppressive” kind of tale. There is a lot more going on, and things are not so straight forward. I’m going to give this book a solid 8.2. It is well worth your time to give it a listen.
Legends of the Great Savanna, Book 1
By: Justin Lincoln
Narrated by: Matthew Broadhead
Length: 10 hrs and 40 mins
Martyrs is a book I would readily recommend to a few types of listeners, those who are new to the genre, young adults, or families looking to listen to something together that’s light and fun. The book is not overly heavy on the numbers, and is most certainly meant for a younger audience with references to characters like Lion Dude. Well, I should say that it starts off stat lite and works it way into the numbers and game info at around the 30% mark of the book.
James, the MC, wakes up and finds himself in game. His mission, as far as he knows is to take six months and figure out what he can about the game. He arrives in the camp of the Martyrs, a group of lion folk, and settles in with them for a bit. The mechanics of the game do work pretty well, and one aspect that I liked was how the game gradually altered as he learned about how to play. I enjoyed the town building aspect a lot, but the one thing that did throw me was the sort of game within the game, that got played out like Tower Defense. I could have done without that bit altogether. Still, it is nice to see a new fantasy race, and not your standard elves, orcs, dwarves, and goblins as the MC’s best pal.
One thing that really bothered me was the way the Martyrs were handled. They were on their last legs as a species so to speak, and yet they continually do nothing to stop the rapid decline of their numbers. At the end all I could think of was here is a pretty neat new race, and they are doomed to extinction because of poor decisions and lackluster defense. Another thing that bugged me was the way that the MC and pals behaved. I have five and seven year olds who act more mature and consider their actions better than James. I find it ironic, too, because at the beginning of the book he is mistaken for a human child because of his size. I just wish that he had acting more like a grown up (I hate that term), rather than a child.
In spite of this the book does hold your interest and has some solid moments that keep you hooked, it is certainly worth the time that you put into it, and like I say this is some good family fare, and if you have ever listened to me you know that I love family books because then I can listen to a book while I drive and get the added bonus of the kids keeping their yaps shut for a few hours. I really didn’t mean that. Much.
Matthew Broadhead has become kind of hit or miss with me. He was great in the Bathrobe Knight series by Charles Dean and the Artificer by James Hunter, but then he tanks hard in Warscapia by Garrett Boggs. Here, he kinda hits the middle of the road, not bad, but not amazing either. I’d say he was solid, but did not stand out. I really think for him it is the material. If he doesn’t have a strong connection then he doesn’t pop as much as he should. Here he seems almost languid in his approach to reading this, and I know I have said there were times that I wanted to slow down my narration speed because the action was so hot, here I wanted to speed it up. I didn’t but I should have. It might have helped. Either way he was just a 5 or a 6 on the narration scale. This saddens me because I think he was the first narrator that we found who was for the whole family, that even my wife enjoyed.
There were some issues, so I’m going to give this a 7.5 stars. Honestly, the game within a game bit just made no sense other than to throw it in just because, and the narration choked the book a little as well. It is a fun slice of life styled book, and I think it only struggles when it gets away from that aspect.
Eden's Gate: The Reborn
By: Edward Brody
Narrated by: Pavi Proczko (prochcov)
Series: Eden's Gate, Book 1
Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins
Brody pens one helluva book here. I give him credit, he takes a few tropes here and turns then on their head. For me, this was a really fun ride, and I felt that this is one of those series that has a lot of potential, which means it is either going to soar or crash and burn horribly. Personally, I believe it is going to be the former rather than the latter, there is just too much beefy goodness here for the series to drop off. I can honestly only see it getting better.
So, here is the book in a nutshell. A new innovative virtual reality MMORPG is released, and everyone who is in the game on launch day dies as their minds are uploaded into the world of Eden’s Gate unwittingly and against their will. The games creator happily accompanies them and promptly shuts the game off from the outside world. There is no communication between the game world and the real world.
Gunnar, the protagonist, is told what happens via a message alert, but like you or me, he doesn’t understand nor believe what he’s been told. So he goes forward looking for a way out, and for his girlfriend, whom he believes had entered the game in a distant land due to her being a different race when they started out, but he admits he has no idea if she was in game when the great massacre occurred.
Now, where this book really stands out is the characters, Gunnar and his pals are fully fleshed individuals. I think the best example of how realistic Gunnar is comes when he makes a deal with Jax, a man who takes him in when he first arrives in the game, and then tries to weasel out of it. The entire event had the ring of truth to it. I could see a player doing that to an NPC. The repercussions were even better which just shows that the writing is excellent, and the plot is paced perfectly. Normally, I hate interludes with info from the “real world” but real world event had actual significance and had bearing on events in the game world in spite of there being no communication between the two. And that is the issue. People in the real world are killing themselves to enter the game, and the government feels it has to be stopped. So they implement a plan to shut down everything in an effort to wipe the game out. When Gunnar finds out he reluctantly agrees at first to help try to initiate contact between the two realities. And that is the crux of it all. The gamer’s reluctance to actually try to save the world he is in because of doubt is very believable, as is the staunch belief by the politicians that the game is just a game that must be shut down. The reactions, the reluctance, the revelations are all believable, and I enjoyed the whole aspect that Gunnar wasn’t out to win any prizes, nor was he an uber super character. He was just a player who happened to be at the wrong? Place at the right time. He is drafted more than he volunteers, but once he is onboard he is all in. Plus, he has ulterior motives, getting where he needs to go might just help him find his girlfriend. All in all, this book is really fun and my only concern is that the rest of the books will just focus on Gunnar’s lost love, and if it is just a secondary quest then great, as Gunnar really makes some strides in other game related areas then fantastic. I’ll wait and see, because I am most definitely going to be picking up the next book.
Proczko is an excellent narrator. He hits every mark that I can ask for. He does excellent voices, he is crisp, clean, and easy to follow, he paces the story well, he adds emotion and emphasis where needed and he makes you care about the characters in a way that the written word can’t convey. I keep going to Jax and the betrayal, he handled very well.
This is a solid book that was music to my ear holes. For that, I am going to say that this is a firm 8 out of 10 stars. Excellent work.
By: Randi Darren
Narrated by: Stephanie Savannah
Length: 13 hrs and 16 mins
I am at a loss as to how to delicately describe this series. The best I can come up with is it is the Marquis De Sade shakes hands with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This book both impressed me and appalled me, which is no easy task, and I am not being negative when I say that. Randi Darren is pretty fearless in tackling what is basically a story about a man who tries to keep his soul out of hell by creating deals with other people. Each deal he makes helps him meet a monthly quota that he has to fill for the evil goddess of murder, Lea. Darren very wisely breaks away from the possibility of having a monster as the protagonist, Alex, by making bargain for people’s souls. No, if he had done that then this book would have been very different. Alex is caught between the Scylla and Charybdis, no matter what he does he is damned and he has to make deals in which he always comes off with the better end of things. People need to unwillingly part with a piece of themselves in exchange from very little from him. The more he gets, and the less he gives the better off he is.
Alex, to his credit, doesn’t revel in his newfound power over people. He is actually pretty cool about it, and this too helps to mitigate the creepiness factor that he could have. Darren really pushes boundaries, but manages to male Alex likable and sympathetic. I’m going to be honest, this book is not something someone new to LITRPG should start with. If you are a fan of Randi Darren from his other books in the Wild Waste saga, or even books by William Arand, then you will love this book. The characters are all well written, have very distinctive personalities, and come across as the broken people that they are. The only person in the entire book who isn’t broken or damaged in any way that I could see is Alex’s main wife. She is an incredibly stable and sane individual who allows nothing to phase her. In fact, I loved her the moment she was introduced.
Every character is so well fleshed out that they feel real, and if you know Darren from Wild Wastes then you know that you are gonna get hit in the feelz somewhere along the way. The only character that felt like a potato was Alex’s second wife, who was about as bland as they come. She is so shattered that it takes nothing for him to break her within minutes of their meeting. That’s ok, as that is what she is meant to be, but you will have no connection with her at all. The actions scenes are all fun and range from a fistfight duel to a full on warfare. Darren really had fun storming the castle.
In spite of all the lurid things that happen in this book, and I mean all the breaking of people, not all the graphic sex scenes this was a great book. Did I mention sex scenes? Yep. If the general content wasn’t enough to let you know, this ain’t a book for kiddies, so don’t listen around the house if you have children. The sex is pretty graphic, and does last, as Darren does not do a fade to black and he doesn’t hold back. Also, Alex is more powerful than most porn stars in the volume of the product of his loving, and the frequency in which he is able to perform.
The story is a fun look into what you might do if you were put into a bad situation. Alex really reminds me of Felix (who actually gets a nod here) from Super Sales on Superheroes. Felix has to deal with the issue of slavery for the sake of his powers. So, the two both handle tough subjects in their own way. Now I want to see a William Arand and Randi Darren collaboration in the future.
Stephanie Savannah handles the narration, and she is actually really wonderful. She is also a new voice for me, and I thought she just killed this reading of this book. I mean she played every number (that would be Alex’s conquests) with a clear and distinctive personality so that I NEVER wondered who was speaking. She also played Alex really well, showing that she can crush masculine voices as well. I’m really surprised that she only has four narrated books to her credit so far. She really is incredibly talented and hopefully this book will get her noticed. I loved listening to every second of her.
This book was a blast, and it was unrelenting. I can very easily see how some of the content can put people off, and know that the disclaimer that Darren uses in his book description is warranted. Either way, I had fun, I enjoyed Alex, numbers 1 through 5, and the whole concept of the story. I cannot stress how difficult it had to be to create a sympathetic lead who has to do really nasty things in order to keep from burning in hell. I’m going to give this an 8.4 star review, because I think the next book will be better, and while it was emotional I don’t think it quite had the heart of his Wild Waste series. I think that will come a little bit later. Either way, this is a very different kind of book, one that I have no doubt that you will enjoy.
This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks.
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