LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 045 - Adapt: A Touch of Power, Heir Today, Pawn Tomorrow, VGO: Firebrand, Into the Light:  Axe Druid, Battle Spire, Deus Ex Rand

LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 045 - Adapt: A Touch of Power, Heir Today, Pawn Tomorrow, VGO: Firebrand, Into the Light:  Axe Druid, Battle Spire, Deus Ex Rand

“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: ”

Adapt: A Touch of Power Book 2 (03:34)

Score: 8.3 out of 10 

Heir Today Pawn Tomorrow: A LitRPG/GameLit Novel

The Good Guys Series Book 2 (25:41)

Score: 8.3 out of 10 

Viridian Gate Online: Firebrand: A litRPG Adventure

The Firebrand Series Book 1 (41:17)

Score: 8.2 out of 10 

Into the Light:  Axe Druid Book 1 (01:01:27)

Score: 8.1 out of 10 

Soundbooth Theater Spotlight

Battle Spire: A Crafting LitRPG Book (01:22:34)

Hundred Kingdoms 1

Score: 8.2 out of 10 

What else have they done?

Deus Ex Rand() 

Misfits, Demigods, and a Beer Drinking Dog (01:37:23)

(No Review score) 


Adapt: A Touch of Power, Book 2

By: Jay Boyce

Narrated by: Samara Naeymi

Length: 15 hrs and 59 mins


Well, Jay Boyce has done it again.  She has spun an amazing tale with barely any fighting in it, honestly there were only a handful of times that lives were taken, but it still dragged me along like I was a dog named Dinky chained to the bumper of a station wagon. (Show Chevy Chase Here).

Boyce just was a way of telling a story that is both compelling and hypnotic and she has a ton of characters, whom I don’t know how she keeps track of, that you will get to know fairly well by the end of the book.  I think I am going to start a new genre, and I’m going to call it LITRPGU or just LRU for short, and it will deal with any gamelit or Litrpg that centers on some sort of school, hence the U for University. There have been a lot of those tales lately, from Sufficiently Advanced Magic to Siphon you literally attend the classes with the characters.  Most books would shy away from actually seeing what goes on in class, but not here. You attend each lesson right alongside Jade, the MC.

The book has a lot going for it from an intensely likable lead, to a fun, if massive supporting cast.  In fact, I would say that the rotating cast of characters is what lends it an air of authenticity, if you attend a real college you will see hundreds of different people a week and not the same old set daily unless you never leave your dorm.  So, I can see that Boyce has really thought about the way her school was set up, how it was run, and who populates it.

That isn’t to say that the book isn’t without its flaws.  There were two by my count, one minor and one major. The minor one is easily overlooked, but it bothered me enough that I felt it long after Jade performed the action.  Jade is usually pretty easy going and has a positive attitude, I think that is what makes her so likable. So, when she went completely out of character and threw a tantrum in her Light Magic class, as in magic that shines and not easy to cast, it threw me right out of the book.  My suspension of disbelief snapped. It really had no point, it did not feel natural or organic, and if it did anything it actually made Jade look petulant and spoiled. Up until that point she seemed genuinely appreciative over everything that had been done for her and I don’t see how it helped her character or the story.  That is a forgivable offense. The second faux pas is not so easily forgiven. All I want to say here is that if you are building up to an event for an entire book, then have the event take place in THAT book. You keep anticipating the events to come, and then to not have it take place honestly felt like a bait and switch. I admit it, I was a little disappointed.  Still the third book now has a lot to live up to, and I am going to need some really big moments, and yes, some battles to heal my wound.

Samara Naeymi impresses me.  With such a huge cast of characters I never felt like any were recycled and she just seems to know how to convey an air of joy, which Jade seems to emanate most of the time.  She also has the ability to convey a lot of emotion in just a few words. Not an easy task. She can also flip genders believably. She adds a lot to the story and I think she embodies the spirit of Jade.

Final score? 8.3 stars.  I really liked this book, but the one event that was skipped out on really deflated some of my enthusiasm.  Again, not to spoil but the big finale wasn’t surprising and pretty much went the way I expected it to. Jade needs some solid set backs, everything comes a little too easily for her, and she needs to learn that sometimes failure is the only option.  Still, this is an amazingly good book and I highly recommend it.


Heir Today, Pawn Tomorrow: A LitRPG/GameLit Novel

The Good Guys Series, Book 2

By: Eric Ugland

Narrated by: Neil Hellegers

Series: The Good Guys Series, Book 2

Length: 6 hrs and 33 mins


Allright, So I praised the hell out of the first review on book one.  There I stated how much this felt like a serialized TV show that had solid continuity, and I stand by that assessment.  I could easily see this playing out on Amazon or Netflix, and literally loving every moment of it.

Book two picks up about one second after book on finishes, in fact it sort of  relives the last three minutes of book one just to give you an even footing. The MC, Montana, has some hard decisions to make, and some how survive and I don’t know which is actually harder for him.  I keep hearing that Montana is a little low in the intelligence score, but he actually seems like a regular guy trying to deal with extraordinary circumstances.

He has to deal with the concept of adoption, whether he wants to become royal, dodging death, and still just being himself.  He’s given a few tasks that seem insurmountable. One plus is that all the crunch seems to have lessened a bit in comparison to book one, but still retains a healthy coocoo for coco puffs crunch.  (Insert Coco puffs pic here)  

The real draw of the tale is Montana, and how he deals with all the craziness that suddenly fills his life.  He gets, for example, a couple of man-otter beastkin to help on his way as sworn vassals, and he continues to gather boons from the gods.  Montana continues to get himself in and out of trouble, sometimes to the chagrin of his party. Still, he is incredibly likable and I enjoyed spending time with him.

Neil Hellegers really does an outstanding job on this book, and the series in general.  I honestly don’t believe he’s ever done anything better. He is at the top of his game here, and sells this story like he’s getting all the profits.  I’ve heard carnival barkers that didn’t have half the heart or coercive skills to keep you listening than Neil does here. Unlike the barkers he’s not selling a bucket of crap, he has some serious goods and you will thank him for his efforts.  Seriously, Hellegers really romps and has fun with this book. He plays Montana like Conan with the brains of Chandler Bing.  

This series has quickly grown to be one of my favorites.  I sincerely listened to books 1-3 one right after the other, almost all the way through in each listening.  I can’t speak more highly og this series. It fits right into my sweet spot, running under 8 hours and is masterfully told.  So good run time, excellent Narration, and humorous and well crafted story telling combine for a blast of a time.

I give this 8.3 stars, but the series as a whole is much higher for me.  It is just so fun. It cuts a fine line between campy and serious. It is a perfect blend.


Viridian Gate Online: Firebrand: A litRPG Adventure

The Firebrand Series, Book 1

By: J. D. Astra, James Hunter

Narrated by: Emily Woo Zeller

Length: 10 hrs and 17 mins


Here’s a little story about Abby, Grimjack’s love interest in VGO.  I have to say that I have always been a little leery of one writer taking over another writer’s character.  I think that sometimes it can work and others not so much. For example, I think L Sprague DeCamp (Please show the Decamp Conan pic) did a great job portraying Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, but Robert Jordan (Jordan Conan pic) not so much.  Yes, Jordan has his own acclaimed series, but I think his rendition of the Cimmerian Suckmerians. Personal preference, but you can get my point; even a great writer who has tons of material to research and work from may not succeed in the way you might expect.  So, JD delves into the works with I suspect a guiding hand from Hunter, but little else. And man, does she take his character and make Abby her own. That is a rough thing to do. After several novels you get a real taste for what a character is like, and while I might think I know how Cutter would react in a situation I could never handle him like Hunter could.  So, hats off to Astra for that power play.

Now, when I first heard the title my first thought was of DC Comic’s Firebrand, a certain little flame based superheroine that hung out with the All Star Squadron, a fantastic Series, BTW. (Show her picture here, please).  Both are redheads and deal with fire like I do ice cream and cookies; in large volumes and periodically getting out of control, but Abby isn’t some one dimensional C-list comic book character, she is a fully formed and developed character that can truly carry a series all on her own.  That’s points to Astra who really fills Abby with some life of her own, and shows she can be just as interesting as Grimjack.

The book takes place a little bit before Grimjack goes off and snags that Seal that lets him do things that few characters can.  So, it is an interesting alternative POV of how things led to that point, only for Abby and her companion. I have to say, that even though I knew certain things, such as Abby wasn’t going to die I didn’t mind the backstory fill-in; nor did it feel like filler material.  To me it helped to flesh out certain events and grow my understanding of the VGO world. Like I say, it starts pre apocalypse and follows her into the game, so we become more privy to things as the book moves forward. It was a fun romp that sort of looked back at the beginning, and one that I hope will move ahead posthaste.  I’d like to see Abby away from Grimjack in the next book but in a concurrent timeline or as close to it as possible so that the series doesn’t feel like a prequel that tries to play catch up to the main series.

Emily Woo Zeller, whom I actually recognize from a book called Minimum Wage Magic, which is part of the Detroit Free Zone series.  It’s a good series, and is funny in a lot of places, but also isn’t slow and draggy. It has a breakneck pace that made me realize how good of a narrator she is.  FYI, Emily has done some hella lot of narrating, and I credit Shadow Alley for bringing in new blood for their LITRPG books. Emily really does a fantastic job, I enjoy her voice and her reading is paced with the story.  I think she fits right in as Abby and can’t wait to listen to more of her work in this genre.

Final score 8.2 stars.  I did enjoy it a lot, and the narration was a great match up, my only issue is that I didn’t feel any tension since I knew that no matter what happened Abby would be OK.  Still, if you like VGO you will adore this book.


Into the Light:  Axe Druid, Book 1

By: Christopher Johns

Narrated by: B. J. Harrison

Series: Axe Druid, Book 1

Length: 16 hrs and 18 mins


I don’t know what I was expecting with this book, but whatever it was it wasn’t what I got.  I have a few things to say about it first and foremost. I really enjoyed this tale, so what I am about to say is not a criticism or meant to be detrimental to the story or Chris Johns, but I really wish that he had made this into a group book, rather than focusing on the Druid MC.  Wanna know why? Because the other group characters a fleshed out really well, are interesting in their own right, and there were times that I wanted follow them as much as I wanted to follow the MC. I honestly think that this could have been as epic as Dragonlance in some ways. Not that the story is similar, but in that each character could have had times to shine on their own, and I would have followed them anywhere.  Ballmer and Yosikai were two of my faves, but like I said, each was unique, fun and interesting in their own way. I lament the loss of the possibility, since this was told in first person.

That said, Damn that as a fun ride.  The book mixes portal fantasy with Litrpg splendidly.   What was refreshing was I didn’t hear the characters struggling to go back home.  They all knew they had a job to do and did it with minor (but believable) complaints.  Obviously they missed their loved ones, but knew that their lives were as endangered as those in the new world they inhabited and so stayed focused.  Funny thing is, the characters all seem to become super OP, and never failed to grab a new skill, spell, trick, craft, or items whenever they went somewhere new.  Regardless of that fact they didn’t come across as being able to go and whip War’s butt (the main threat to both worlds). They use team work and intelligence to achieve the impossible, and it is their closeness and comradery that drew me in. They all knew that had each other’s backs and worked together well.  So, maybe not quite like Dragonlance. You get the point. 

There are several times where the story could derail, as the heroes found themselves in side areas, such as the Fey realm or a Dwarven Demesne, but the side trips only serve to further the story.  The MC, Zekial, opts to become a druid who uses a big ass axe to kill his foes with. He also becomes a Kitsune, a fox humanoid (Show old man with axe painting here) so he doesn’t look a thing like I would expect an axe druid to appear, and never meets an npc he can’t make friends with almost instantly.  He seems to gain a new ability or gear everytime he farts. That is my only real complaint about the book. It seems at times like Zeke loses his agency, and doesn’t do a lot to earn things. He goes to the fey and gets a ton of stuff since he and his group are going to be emissaries, goes to the dwarves, does a ritual and gets things like a nifty lightning axe that I think looks a lot like this (Show Axe Pic, please).  Like I say, there are points where it literally feels like the gods are just throwing stuff at Zeke and his companions to help their cause. Other than that, or maybe even in spite of that, the book is a fun romp.

No, the real sin, for me was the book’s ending.  I understand cliffhangers and have no problem with them at all, but in a way this has a feel similar to another Mountaindale book I just reviewed, Adapt.  Again, I enjoyed the book, but the ending made me bite my cheek. I definitely want book 2 now! Still, The almost 15 hours felt like half of that, and as “off” as the ending was for me I still loved the book, the writing, the characters especially, and the entire premise.

I absolutely loved Harrison’s narration.  He’s another narrator with over 300 books that he’s worked on, but I’ve never heard of.  He simply nails the characters, and keeps you hooked with his story telling. I can’t wait to hear more from him.

Final score, 8.1 stars.  The end and lack of agency made me drop a few points, but I still think this is more than worthwhile and that you will enjoy the book.


Soundbooth Spotlight

Battle Spire: A Crafting LitRPG Book

Hundred Kingdoms, 1

By: Michael R. Miller, Portal Books

Narrated by: Justin Thomas James, Jeff Hays, Annie Ellicott

Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins


All right you crazy cats and chicks I have to say that this is one fun Soundbooth Spotlight tonight.  My first thought about it was how in the hell can you carry a story on crafting? Especially when the cover makes it look like the story is about when 007 gets mashed up with Assassin’s Creed.

I needn’t have worried.  The book is full of crunch, so for you die hard Litrpg-ers out there it will satisfy you on that front.  It also has a cool new class, the scavenger, which brings back fond memories of the great Deadlands rpg game, specifically Deadlands: Hell on Earth that had a class that reminded me of the scavenger.  There, though, they were called Junkers. Still, the point is made a class that nobody wants, and everyone knows is super weak proves to be the best choice that the MC, Jack, can make. He milks every advantage that he can, too.  Making weapons and upgrading them to insane levels. He really uses his powers to a degree that no other Scavenger would have been able to, so this isn’t a need to nerf situation in regards to what he does and how he levels rapidly.

The book also takes on a Die hard feel when the game is basically taken over by a terrorist who seeks the liberation of his brothers in arms around the world such as members of the Asian Dawn . . . wait, that is die hard.  In that vein let’s just say that what the bad guy wants isn’t obvious at first just as the Nakatome Heist was really about stealing negotiable bearer bonds. The baddie here is playing hide and seek with his true objective.

In spite of or maybe because of its similarity to Die hard the book is a real adrenaline blast, and you sympathize with the MC, who is trapped in the game along with everyone else, but with some serious implications if he can’t halt the siege of the terrorist group.  The bad guy isn’t as nasty as Hans Grueber, but is just as nefarious and morally bankrupt. And watching Jack butt heads with him is fun. 

The only issue you might have is that it definitely feels like you’ve read this book before, at least in the beginning, however as the story moves ahead and really gets going you can see that this is a stand alone kind of novel.  My only concern? That this feels more like a one shot book than a series. Given that the book is called the Hundred Kingdoms 1 I’m guessing that this is a full blown series. I can see this being a book unto itself, as everything is pretty much completed and wrapped up at the end.  If it isn’t, and it is a full blown series, then I am excited to see where Miller takes us.

What can I say about Soundbooth?  The trio of terrific tones takes this tale and twists it into a torrent of tunes to tickle your ears.  Yeah, I love alliteration. Seriously, though, the soundbooth gang really have fun with this story. You can almost hear the smile on Jeff’s face as he performs, he just loves what he does so much and easily exudes evil.  Annie brings the bang for our buck as she nails down the role of the shifty AI, and sounds perfectly glitch in all the right spots. And damn, can I say that JTJ brings home the Canadian bacon on this book? The man’s mellow tones reminds me of WKRP’s Venus Flytrap,  only with double the cool and triple the smooth. The man is like bourbon for the ears. SBT all the way my pretty babies!

Final score?  8.2 stars. I liked the Home Alone vibe (Insert MCcauly Caulkin pic) but it did start a little slow and treaded some seriously familiar paths before taking off.  Still, one hell of a read!


What else have they done?

Deus Ex Rand()

Misfits, Demigods, and a Beer Drinking Dog

By: D.J. Bodden

Narrated by: Daniel Penz

Length: 18 mins


Here’s a segment that I haven’t done for a while and I figured that since I was reviewing the Firebrand book I might just throw a bone to one of the other writers of the VGO sidequest book (Please show the book here), DJ Bodden.

As you know, I am one to adore short stories, and am always looking for a good shorty (Show shorty girl pic, please), No not that kind of shorty.  Well, maybe that kind. Save that for me for later please! No, I’m talking short stories, brief but entertaining stories, and I think Bodden has actually set up an entire post apocalyptic world in under 20 minutes that is dashed with action and humor.   The book features a motley crew of unexpected heroes, dead people, demi-gods, a horseman, and a ton of other craziness that is pure high adrenaline fun. 

The narration is good and Penz is spot on when injecting humor into a scene.  This is the only story that I know of that entails a group of warriors battling for their lives against one of the Horsemen that also has a beer drinking dog in it (Show Dog pic here please).  I’ll grant you, getting a dog to drink beer isn’t all that hard, it’s teaching him how to light a cigarette that’s damn near impossible (Show Dog with cigarette pic please ). So, yeah, Penz tells the story very well.  I enjoyed him and his weaving of the tale immensely.

No score, just putting it out there for you, a brief review of a short story.  I have to say that I really enjoyed this short, and felt that it was over all too quickly.  Now, I don’t recommend using a credit on an 18 minute story, but I do suggest it if you are looking for a good entertaining story then it’s worth the few dollars to pick it up.  That’s what I did. Give this story a look, its not a waste of time or money. I rather look at it as a good investment, and could easily see this getting fleshed out into a bigger story later.


Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video.  I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.

For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!

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