Book Review – The Ravenstones: Gains and Losses

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

The alliances in Aeronbed and Vigmar have shifted, the battle lines redrawn. Old enemies become friends of convenience, former confederates hunted down. Can bears and lions become true allies? Can old prejudices be overcome? Is true reconciliation possible?

Eirwen and Fridis have been reunited, but their lives are filled with conflict and challenge. Eirwen must lead the Heimborn bears against their panther overlords. Fridis embarks on her quest to unearth the truth about the Ravenstones, starting with her former bodyguard Raicho, the peregrine falcon, and then to uncover the mysteries of Manaris.

Ammarich begins to doubt Adarix, who has abandoned the wolf pack’s ambitions and committed his life to supporting the polar bear. The lioness Olwen seeks to rejoin her kin in their northern sanctuary. Her panther friend and confidant, Eisa, chooses to stay with Eirwen and Heimborn’s bears, but he must prove himself to the suspicious clan chiefs — or die. And Vigmar’s security chief, Vulpé, the fox, is on the hunt once more, but now it’s the magic gemstones he’s after.

In Volume 4 our heroes face new trials. The stakes are higher, the challenges bolder, the treachery more outrageous and the threats to survival even graver.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eirwen and Fridis have come a long way since the events of the first book in this series. Fridis continues to discover secrets about the magic gems she and Eirwen discovered. Eirwen continues to grow and understand his role as a leader. All the while the world is at war and plots, complications and battles are changing the political landscape at every turn.

As always in these books there are alliances, betrayals, surprises and plenty of action to keep the reader interested. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the characters as there are so many in the story. There is a handy dramatis animalium to help the reader keep everyone in mind at the beginning of the book.

The work here by C.S. Watts is extremely ambitious and impressive on a large scale. The different factions vying for rule or supremacy or in some cases simply to survive are reminiscent of the politics in the Game of Thrones series. The Ravenstones books are certainly more suitable for children but that does not make this story any less complex.

It’s been a great ride so far to see how the characters grow and change, constantly needing to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. And while Eirwen and Fridis are the stars of the series there are plenty of other characters Watts is able to make the reader care about. In particular Olwen and Eisa who were featured in the last book are enjoyable and interesting to read about.

There are still more books in this series to come and they are all great reads. If you want a story with a focus on not just fighting but politics behind fighting and plenty of character growth and development, do yourself a favor and pick up the Ravenstones books.

If you are an epic fantasy fan and have read The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or if you love Watership Down these books are for you.

Book Review – Disciple of Vengeance

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Betrayed and left for dead, the only thing keeping Janis alive is rage. Rage at the enemies who slaughtered his family, at the wizard who sold them out, but most of all at himself for letting it happen.

Now it’s too late.

His body spasms. His memories leak away. In his final moments, a presence approaches him. It’s alien but powerful, driven by a hunger he’s never known. “Give me life within you,” the nameless one offers, “and I will give you your vengeance.”

Janis will go from prince assassin to fugitive sorcerer as he hunts the people who killed his family. He’ll battle mercenaries, cultists, gods and wizards in a magic devastated world to unravel a conspiracy that goes far beyond the treachery of one wizard.

He fuels his success with a diabolic power that will force him to ask what he sold his soul to, and to wonder what it really wants.

All he knows for sure is that there’s no going back.

Vengeance is only the beginning.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Janis is dead. But this doesn’t have to be the end of him. An alien presence approaches him and promises to give him the power for vengeance. The pact seems worthwhile but all things come at a cost. Upon awaking, Janis has no memory of who he is and a new kind of hunger is inside of him. Janis knows he wants revenge but he’s not sure at first on whom or why.

The story unfolds in a series of actions sequences and flashes of memories reminding Janis of who he is and what he has lost. He has a few friends and can tap into an incredible power but reaching his ultimate goal may be harder than he imagined.

The book comes in on the shorter side at around 40,000 words which leaves the reader wanting a bit more from the story. However, in the short time of the book a lot is accomplished. An interesting and complex magic system is established well and the world feels rather robust and lived in.

Because Janis starts the story with no memory of himself it was at times difficult to get full context of who he is and what the purpose of his actions were. Still, the story is ultimately satisfying and enjoyable. It’s well worth a read, it would just have been nice to have a little more background and a little more story altogether.

If you like series such as Elric of Melnibone by Micheal Moorcock and Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner you’ll enjoy Disciple of Vengeance.

Book Review – Aurelia And The Enemies Of Pity

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Prepare yourself for a spectacular, page-turning, and mind-blowing fantasy fiction novel that will take you on a one-of-a-kind trip filled with intense fights, amusing and swift dialogues, and vividly graphic imagery – precisely the way good fantasy fiction novels should be.

REVIEW

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Aurelia is an Akkadian which means she has powers that help her to reshape the very environment around her at will. She is thrown into a war that rages all around her and must learn to control her power without destroying everything around her. She is aided by her friend Nadia and several mentors.

While the book has potential and the plot could lead to some interesting places, the technical issues in the writing make it difficult to follow. The reader’s head spins a bit from the amount of head hopping and abrupt changes in past or present tense, sometimes right in the middle of a paragraph.

The world built here is intriguing and the mix of magic with some more modern weaponry can be exciting. However, the plot was difficult to follow and understand and it would have been nice if some more background had been given to both the characters and what was causing the war. It was not always clear who was fighting whom or why they were fighting in the first place.

While the book overall was not for me, I did think Aurelia was a memorable character and she has the potential to have an interesting series. It would be nice to see a bit more background and context in the next books and to have a little less confusion about what is happening and who we are supposed to be focusing on in each scene.

Book Review – Olwen and Eisa

Olwen and Eisa by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 3 in the saga of The Ravenstones, introduces the reader to our protagonists’ enemies, the big cats of Aeronbed. The courageous lioness, Olwen and the insightful panther, Eisa must chart a dangerous path through life. Olwen, has received the gift of a prophecy, but she must figure out its meaning and learn how to benefit from that knowledge. Eisa, cut loose from his kin and comrades, comes to her aid.

Eirwen, the polar bear, has accepted the charge to lead the bears of Heimborn in revolt against their oppressors. His road to victory will require every ounce of patience, cunning and ingenuity he can muster. Although he must confront a determined and vicious enemy, often it’s his own side presenting the greatest obstacle to success.

Fridis, the Eider duck, left behind in Vigmar’s capital has set herself lofty goals, ones that require a trip to the southern reaches of the empire. While the trip opens her eyes to the mysteries of the magic Ravenstones, it also brings threatening and heart-wrenching news. The reach of her enemies may be strong and ruthless, but she will not be denied.

REVIEW

The third volume in the Saga of the Ravenstones series introduces us to new characters and gives the reader a peek into what has been going on with the enemies of Eirwen and Fridis, the main characters from the first two books. We get to see how the big cats of Aeronbed see the conflict and there are some unlikely allies made.

The book does still continue the story of Eirwen and Fridis but it allows the reader to see the whole picture and it sheds light on some of the events from the first two books in the series.

The big cats of Aeronbed (lions, panthers, and the like) have been at war for about as long as anyone can remember. The panthers have been oppressing the bears of Heimborn and don’t consider them to be a true threat. What they don’t realize yet is that a certain polar bear has come along to change the situation. Some of the panthers want to take extreme measures against both the bears and those who rule in Aeronbed.

This military maneuvering and political intrigue make unlikely allies out of Olwen, a lion and Eisa, a panther. They must depend upon one another for survival and to prevent utter disaster on all fronts of the war.

Meanwhile, Fridis has been exiled and is learning more than she thought possible about the magic stones she and Eirwen discovered. She may have been kept away from Vigmar but she is not without allies.

Don’t let the fact that this series has talking animals in it fool you. This story is every bit as complex, intriguing and interesting as some of the best fantasy series around. In fact, the plot twists and turns are downright Shakespearian at times. The story will keep you guessing and continues to surprise and delight.

If you love sweeping epic fantasy series like Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or The Shannara series you will get a thrill out of The Ravenstone Saga. This is not a series where you can skip around though, so make sure you read the first two in order to get the fullest picture of the series.

Conqueror’s Blood – #BookReview

Conqueror’s Blood by Zamil Akhtar

SUMMARY

The Kingdom of Alanya is home to mystic warriors and mischievous djinn, vulgar poets and vain philosophers, soaring simurghs and scheming shahs.

Little do the people know that a power struggle between an ancient sorceress and an upstart sultana threatens to bathe the sands in bile and bones. A bloody cauldron boils, and primeval gods laugh whilst they stir it.

As warhorses charge, arrows shower, and cannon shots brighten the night, all must choose a side.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s a tall mountain to climb when you set out to write a second novel. A first novel can grab readers’ attention and generate a lot of buzz if it is good. A second novel has to meet the expectations set out in the first book and then exceed them. Some authors are better than others at achieving this.

Zamil Akhtar’s first novel, Gunmetal Gods showed us a world of armies, magic, terrifying and strange creatures, and personal stories about men whose struggles would change the fate of the world. That book focused on Kevah and Micah who would become entwined in events that shaped history and changed the two of them forever.

The follow up to that book, Conqueror’s Blood is told from the alternating perspectives of Zedra and Cyra, two women who are the center of events that will change a kingdom. Zedra and Cyra are friends and both are connected to the throne of Alanya. Zedra wields more power than one would imagine and she has the power to bend events to her will. Yet Cyra may be stronger than she knows. What the two women do will decide not only the fate of themselves, the ones they love, and the kingdom they call home but also may be the deciding factor in the fate of humanity.

While it’s not strictly necessary to have read Gunmetal Gods in order to enjoy Conqueror’s Blood the reader will have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the events in the current volume if they have read the first volume.

The book is an immensely enjoyable read full of deep characterization, a world that feels complete and alive, creatures that are magnificent and terrifying, has tons of action and political intrigue which will keep you up reading late into the night.

If you love fantasy books like Throne of the Crescent Moon or the Game of Thrones series, Zamil Akhtar is a must-read author. It is a tall mountain to climb to write a second novel. Lucky for readers, Akhtar has laced up his climbing shoes, checked his gear twice, made a plan and carried it out all the way to the summit.

Take my advice and read both Gunmetal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood. The only drawback is there is not yet a third volume. And when there is I’ll be eagerly reading through it.

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Re-Post: Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

Hey all, since the sequel to this book, Conqueror’s Blood (Gunmetal Gods Book 2) is coming soon and I will be reviewing an advanced copy I wanted to re-post my review of the original. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Gunmetal Gods do yourself a favor and check it out.

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kevah was once a hero who did the impossible. He killed a magus and his legend was born. Ten years later he is old and leads a life averse to warfare but his time will come again. Meanwhile, Micah the Metal has been on a conquest for his faith. He has conquered much of the world and now he comes for Kostany, the city that Kevah lives in. He will stop at nothing to achieve his victory.

When an author is bold enough to name a book Gunmetal Gods, they better deliver the goods with a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. That is exactly what author Zamil Akhtar has done.

The parallel stories of Kevah and Micah intertwine and intersect in surprising ways as the world moves with them and around them. As the book progresses, the reader only becomes more engaged in the story as the cast of characters grows.

Battle scenes are fascinating in this book with the combination of swordplay, magic, and technological advancements in the early development of guns. They are vividly described and utterly thrilling to read.

The book is full of well realized characters, a deep culture that is well thought out, incredible creatures and amazing beings that turn the tide of the story and everything else you would want in a fantasy tale. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.

If you love sweeping epics like the Game of Thrones series or Throne of the Crescent Moon, drop whatever else you are reading and pick up this book. It’s as bold as the title and it delivers on all fronts. Remember Zamil Akhtar’s name because if he keeps writing like this, he will be the next well known epic fantasy author to have a global fanbase.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Heir to the Darkmage – #BookReview

Heir to the Darkmage by Lisa Cassidy

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Ambition drives her. Danger thrills her. But magic always has a price.

Twenty years have passed since the Darkmage was destroyed and the war between mages ended. For Lira Astor, the single living heir to the Darkmage, escaping her name is impossible. People still fear what is long dead, and they see in her the rise of another dangerous mage with deadly ambition. Desperate to claw her way free of her grandfather’s shadow, to make her own name amongst the world of mages, Lira is willing to do whatever it takes. Even if that means joining the secretive rebel group looking to restore his vision.

Survival is a lesson Lira learned early and often, yet when she is abducted and held prisoner in a deadly game of cat and mouse, she finds herself facing a nemesis she may be no match for. Forced to band together with unlikely allies who challenge everything she believes about what it means to be a mage, she will have to rely on every bit of ruthlessness she possesses.

Because the war may only just be beginning…
…and Lira Astor intends to come out on top.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Imagine being the heir to the most hated and feared mage ever known. You’d have to grow up with everyone knowing your name and what your ancestor did. Everyone hates and fears the name of Lira Astor’s grandfather and though she has never met the man, people have judged Lira based on her lineage alone. She grows up on the streets learning to survive with her wits and not much else.

When she is finally accepted to mage school life gets a bit more comfortable, although Lira still has difficulty trusting anyone considering her painful past. She’s learned to place surviving above all else. This will come in handy when she and several other students are mysteriously abducted and face life-threatening challenges. To top all of it off, she’s agreed to do a job for the organization that wants to restore her grandfather’s vision. She’s going to have to rely on all her instincts to survive and perhaps do the one thing she swore never to do again in her life–rely on others to help her.

Heir to the Darkmage takes on an interesting premise. What if a student at a magic school was a relative of the worst kind of mage there was? Lira can’t change who she is or who she is related to but that doesn’t stop most people from judging her without even knowing anything about her.

The book moves back and forth in time to the days when Lira is left alone on the streets to fend for herself and to the dangerous situation she currently finds herself in. Overall, the book works very well and is quite entertaining. It was occasionally distracting to hop back in time or go forward just at an exciting moment but it’s still engaging enough that it is very much worth reading.

Fans of fantasy books with mysteries and action at their core will love this book. There are strange creatures, powerful mages, and life on the mean streets. This was my first read of a Lisa Cassidy book but now that I have read about Lira I’m much more likely to check out some of her previous books. If you’re a fan of hers already, I think you will enjoy this one. Even if you are not, I think this is a good entry point as it doesn’t leave the reader feeling like they need to read any previous books to fully enjoy this one.

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Children of Jade – #BookReview

Children of Jade by Morgan Cole

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Driven by the fear of losing the woman he loves, Annuweth Sandaros has betrayed his family and united himself to a conspiracy that has plunged the Empire of Navessea into civil war…a war that has cost the lives of some of his sister’s loved ones.

Determined to bring her brother to justice, Marilia Sandara pursues Annuweth and his allies with the same relentless tenacity that has made her a legend on the battlefield. But as the bodies begin to mount and Navessea begins to crumble, she will be forced to reckon with the price of her vengeance.

A story of love, loss and redemption, Children of Jade is the highpoint of The Chrysathamere Trilogy…and also a Last of Us style revenge saga that stands on its own.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Marilia Sandara is a respected strategist, military leader, and legend in her own time. She never expected the betrayal of her own brother and now she wants to bring him to justice. She’s lost friends, family, and good people who have fought for her cause. At every turn, she is surrounded by enemies and the odds are never in her favor. Even so, she is on a quest for vengeance and may go too far. Is she truly seeking justice or just looking for revenge?

Annuweth Sandaros has committed an act of betrayal of his own sister. But even Annuweth isn’t sure who to trust and what consequences his own actions have. He’s at risk of losing the woman he loves and choosing the wrong side in his fight. It seems like he is on the edge of either gaining everything he wants or losing everything that matters.

Children of Jade is the third book in the Chrysathamere Trilogy. Like the books before it in the series, this book has everything you would want from an epic fantasy book. There is a ton of action, a complex network of characters, a rich and developed world, and deep emotions. Although there are characters who do bad things, they all have their reasons making the world feel rich and complex, and vivid.

While this is the third book in the series, the author Morgan Cole, puts a nice summary of the previous books at the beginning. This is helpful to the reader who is new to the series and is helpful to someone who has already read the books because quite a lot of story has already happened and it can be difficult to remember all of it.

The twists and turns are surprising and unforgettable. The series overall is phenomenal and this book is no exception.

If you like sweeping epic fantasy where choices can be morally gray, there is a large cast of characters, and don’t mind extremely vivid descriptions of bloodshed, especially in battle, this book is one hundred percent for you. Fans of Game of Thrones or Throne of the Crescent Moon are sure to find something to love here. This is one I have to say is a must read.

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The Executioner’s Daughter: Dungeons & Dragons Solo Adventure Review

The Executioner’s Daughter, Part 1 of the Tribunal Trilogy by Ashley Warren

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. If you are like me you love playing Dungeons & Dragons. Also, if you are like me, you can’t always get a group together to play. So what do you do? Find a solo adventure you can play by yourself. I found myself in this situation recently so I decided to play The Executioner’s Daughter by Ashley Warren who writes some fantastic RPG material you can purchase on the Dungeon Master’s Guild.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

What’s a solo adventure for Dungeons & Dragons you say? Simple. It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure book but where instead of making decisions you roll up a character sheet and roll some dice to find out what happens.

These types of adventures have become increasingly popular in the last year for obvious reasons. Never let the lack of a group stop you from enjoying your favorite TTRPG. Now, on to the review.

The Executioner’s Daughter is an adventure meant for a 3rd level character. This can be played by one person alone or is easily adapted to have a Dungeon Master and a single player.

The adventure is rich with detail and has some pretty cool twists and turns. I chose to be a 3rd level Aasimar Paladin because I had never played that race or class before. I found the combat challenging (mostly because I somehow managed to roll really well against myself and really poorly for my character). I will say that the adventure tends to lean toward the good side of alignment but you can play as whatever you want.

The setting is a place called Soldra that has a history of fighting dragons but at a price. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here but basically Soldra has survived for years by sacrificing a young woman from the city every year to Bahamut the dragon god. Things must be going relatively well because there hasn’t been a dragon attack on the city in years. The ceremony where this selection happens does not go as planned this time and that is where your character comes into play.

Conveniently, all of the stat blocks you need to play are included right in the module so there’s no awkward pausing to find something in the Monster Manual just to continue playing.

While it is a bit odd rolling against yourself for combat, I got used to it pretty quickly.

The artwork is high quality and it helps to make the adventure feel truly immersive.

There are some drawbacks to the module. First, if you have never played D&D before, this could prove challenging because the module assumes you know how to make a 3rd level character. Since that’s outside the scope of what the module is trying to achieve, I don’t hold it against the creator. I just thought it would be fair to warn anyone who might purchase this that it’s not for totally inexperienced players.

The module is text heavy and does seem to assume a couple things about your character. Mostly it assumes that you want to get in on the action somehow. Since it would be a pretty boring adventure without getting involved, I can’t really hold that against the module either. But due to this it can feel a little bit like thee outcomes are inevitable.

Overall, including the time it took me to make a character, this adventure took me about 2 hours to play. I am sure some people will go faster and others will take longer.

So, what’s the cost of this little adventure and is it worth getting? I have good news for you. This is a steal at only 99 cents. It’s technically a Pay What You Want title on the DM’s Guild but I paid the full price and I think it was worth every penny. If you are interested and want to buy it, click on one of the links to it above or click this link here.

Not only did playing this fill my time and give me a couple hours of fun, it also crossed off one of my challenges for my read-watch-play challenge. To check that out take a look at this post or download the challenge here for free.

I should also mention that this is part one of a trilogy. I plan to play all three and review them on this blog so if you are interested, stay tuned and I will let you know how they go. I feel like there is a lot of story potential in this first one so I am looking forward to the next adventure in the series.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Overworld, The Dragon Mage Saga – Book Review

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

A magic apocalypse. Refugees from Earth. A new world. Elves, orcs, and dragons!

Portals from Overworld have appeared on Earth, and beings intent on conscripting humanity into the mysterious Trials have invaded.

Earth is doomed. Humanity has been exiled. Can Jamie save mankind?

Jamie Sinclair, a young man with unique gifts, must find a way for his family and friends to survive Earth’s destruction and build a new home in Overworld.

The Trials is not a game. Will Jamie survive its challenges?

Join Jamie as he struggles through the brutal Trials while wrestling with his new magics and Overworld’s game-like dynamics.

A fantasy post-apocalyptic survival story of one man’s journey to save humanity.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Jamie Sinclair is an avid gamer who loves the challenge of playing online games. When Earth is threatened with extinction and forced onto a new planet called Overworld Jamie will have to put all his skills to use, only this time it is no game. On Overworld there are life and death consequences to your actions and one mistake can mean the end for someone in the Trials. Jamie has a bit of a disadvantage in the Trials because he has a hobbled foot but he doesn’t let that stop him from being as much of a hero as he can. He does have one thing going for him though–he can cast magic and that makes him valuable to his friends and potentially deadly to his foes.

At times there is a bit of overexplaining of how the Trials game system works but if you love playing video games or are really into hard magic systems in fantasy this won’t be an issue. The enemies are deadly and dangerous and make for interesting foes. Jamie’s character develops well in most parts of the book and keeps the reader engaged. The action is fun and frenetic with what feels like real stakes involved. There are some standard fantasy bad guys but there are at least a few enemies that were surprising and fun to read about.

The world is quite well thought out and it’s easy to get an understanding of how it works even if the reader is not a gamer. The author does a good job of setting up the first book while laying the groundwork for a sequel.

For readers who love books like Ready Player One, Warcross, or fantasy books full of orcs, elves, and the like, Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyable.

Also, as a bonus this book met one of the requirements of my Read, Watch Play challenge, read a book with a dungeon in it! If you want to see the challenge and perhaps participate yourself, check it out here!