Rachel Aaron

The Once King (FFO#3)

The Once King (FFO#3)

By:

Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach

Blurb:

Leylia’s secret could unite them all or lead them to an eternity of undeath.

After the loss of Bastion, everyone who’s not a zombie has holed up in FFO’s sole remaining safe haven: the lowbie town of Windy Lake. But the undead armies never rest, and it’s only a matter of time before the Once King’s forces come to crush what’s left of life in this world.

But Tina, James, and the rest of the players are facing a crisis of their own. After so long in this world, their human bodies are dying on the other side. If they don’t find a way home soon, they may have nothing to go back to.

With time running out in two worlds, Tina and James face a horrible choice: do they spend their final days looking for a way to get back to their old bodies, or join the NPCs to fight for their new ones. But just when things look impossible, James learns a secret that might change everything. Only one catch: to pull it off, they’re going to have to fight one raid boss no one, not even Tina, has ever beaten.

The Once King.

Review:

The Once King is the climactic conclusion to the LitRPG Final Fantasy Online. It was definitely climactic. What’s more, I got the ending I was hoping for. I’m actually really happy about that. I wasn’t a huge fan of the “epilogue,” but the ending itself was everything I could have hoped it would be.

Tina isn’t as bloodthirsty in The Once King. Her two major conflicts are finally resolved, and all the rage she had bottled up towards people that loved her was finally defused. That went a long way to me not disliking her so much.

James got his moment to shin as well. Though, in my opinion, he’s shinned in this entire series. I would read more books with characters like him. Someone who comes in and appeals to people’s better natures and can convince them that death and destruction are not the only way. Love it.

I’m honestly not sure if I’d read another LitRPG. If anyone has a good one to recommend, I’ll check out the blurb and maybe read a sample; otherwise, I don’t know. My desire to write one is still there, but it’s dimmed a bit. Aaron and Bach put a LOT of work into lore and world-building, and I don’t have the time to do that with most of the books I write. I don’t know, we’ll see.

3.5

Last Bastion (FFO #2)

Last Bastion (FFO #2)

By:

Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach

Blurb:

Bastion was supposed to mean safety. It was supposed to mean a break from fighting for their lives and a chance to talk to someone who might actually know what’s going on. Access to their gold and some beer would have been nice, too.

They got none of those things. When Tina and James arrive in the capital, they find a city on fire in more ways than one. Players and non-players hunt each other in the streets, while the king who controls the city’s all-powerful artifact cowers from the chaos in his castle. Desperate to warn somebody about the Once King’s coming invasion, James wants to try to talk to the king anyway, while Tina just wants to meet the royal portal keepers who might be able to send them home.

It shouldn’t be hard to get an army of the world’s best-geared players through one city, but when they discover that the captain of the Royal Knights has been massacring low-level players in revenge disguised as justice, James and Tina will have to decide what is more important: the lives of their fellow gamers, or the stability of this world’s last great city. Both choices deserve a champion, but with the Once King’s armies closing in, taking the wrong side may doom everyone to an eternity as slaves to the Ghostfire.

Review:

I’m still not sure how I feel about LitRPGs after reading Last Bastion. I can appreciate the amount of work Aaron and Bach put into the lore and world, but I’m not sure how I feel about everything else. I think what it boils down to is that I’m not a fan of the players. Their obsession with stats and levels and shit. It’s obviously a huge part of the genre, so I don’t think it’s for me.

Tina once again annoyed the shit out of me. Her first instinct is to protect her people, which is admirable, but the only way she knows how to do that is through violence. It’s frustrating and pissed me off to no end. The way she and her guild kept calling the native people NPCs made me angry. They’d been shown multiple times that these people were more than that, but they treated them like they weren’t real.

James, on the other hand, continued to fight for peace, and I enjoyed that. One of my big pet peeves with video games is that killing is the only option. Oh, you’ve just made first contact with an alien species? KILL IT! Come on, people, give me some diplomatic options that don’t always lead to killing. I hate it. So anyway, I liked James’s part of things.

All that being said, I still needed to know what was going to happen next. I’m invested at this point. I do like Aaron’s writing. It’s the genre and the one character I’m not sure about.

3/5

Forever Fantasy Online (FFO #1)

Forever Fantasy Online (FFO #1)

By:

Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach

Blurb:

IT’S NOT A GAME ANYMORE…

In the real world, twenty-one-year-old library sciences student Tina Anderson is invisible and under-appreciated, but in the VR-game Forever Fantasy Online she’s Roxxy—the respected leader and main tank of a top-tier raiding guild. Her brother, James Anderson, is a college drop-out struggling under debt, but in FFO he’s famous—an explorer known all over the world for doing every quest and collecting the rarest items.

Both Tina and James need the game more than they’d like to admit, but their favorite escape turns into a trap when FFO becomes real. Suddenly, wounds aren’t virtual, the stupid monsters have turned cunning, NPCs start acting like actual people, and death might be forever.

In the real world, everyone said being good at video games was a waste of time. Now, separated across a much larger and more deadly world, their skill at FFO is the only thing keeping them alive. It’s going to take every bit of their expertise (and hoarded loot) to find each other and get back home, but as the harshness of their new reality sets in, Tina and James soon realize that being the best in the game might no longer be good enough.

Review:

I’ve wanted to read a LitRPG book for a while now. I’ve played the sort of games these are based on, and I don’t think anyone can play them without thinking about writing their own story. I was also part of a writing group for a while that was nothing but people writing these types of books. Since I enjoy Aaron’s other books, I thought I’d try her version of things.

After reading Forever Fantasy Online, I’m not sure if this genre is for me. I can see the appeal of writing this kind of story, but I’m not sure if I see the appeal of reading it. I like a more fantasy aspect, meaning not just magic, but the idea that people aren’t immediately horrible when given freedom. I’m sure Aaron and Bach’s version is much closer to reality, especially with how god-awful gamers are, but I wish there had been more good. It’s like Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoner’s series, with so many bad, powerful people and not enough good. I need good in my entertainment right now.

The book was divided into two points of view. Siblings, Tina and James. James is a screw-up in real life, but once stuff happens in the game, he is courageous and diplomatic, quickly acclimating to the new way of things. Meanwhile, Tina leans heavily into her tank role and becomes even more of a tyrant than she sounded before things happened. I did not like her. She has MAJOR control issues, and even after she’s called out on them, she gets pissed off at anyone who questions her. She messes up all the time, but still, her way is the best way. She’s frustrating.

I still wanted to know what was going to happen, but I started skimming toward the end. Things were gruesome, and it was sad what was happening to the world they were stuck in. I want to know what happens next, but I think I’ll end up doing more skimming through the following books. Thankfully, they’re all in kindle unlimited.

3/5

Night Shit Dragons (DFZ #3)

Night Shit Dragons (DFZ #3)

By:

Rachel Aaron

Blurb:

They say family always sticks together, but when you’re your dad’s only lifeline and the whole world—humans, dragons, and gods—wants you dead, “family bonding” takes on a whole new meaning.

My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m in way over my head. I thought getting rid of my dad’s bad luck curse would put things back to normal. Instead, I’m stuck playing caretaker to the Great Dragon of Korea. That wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t such a jerk, or if every dragon on the planet wasn’t out to kill him, or if he was my only problem.

Turns out, things can always get worse in the DFZ. When a rival spirit attacks my god/boss with the aim of turning the famously safety-optional city into a literal death arena with Nik as his bloody champion, I’m thrust onto the front lines and way out of my comfort zone. When gods fight, mortals don’t usually survive, but I’m not alone this time. Even proud old dragons can learn new tricks, and with everything I love falling to pieces, the father I’ve always run from might just be the only force in the universe stubborn enough to pull us back together.

Review:

Night Shift Dragons is the conclusion of the DFZ trilogy. We get a resolution to everything, which was exactly what I wanted. The ending was properly climactic as well. I was happy with this story.

So, when last we saw Opal, she had saved her father and been eaten by the DFZ. When we join her, it’s been two months, and during that time she’s been training to be a shaman while her father remains unconscious. She’s afraid to make herself a target, so she’s let the DMZ hide her, which means Nik has no idea where she is or if she’s safe. I wasn’t a fan of that. It came off as very selfish on her part, making her feelings for him seem less.

Like the previous book, I felt for Nik. He made a really bad decision based on his infatuation for Opal and ended up paying a huge price. However, I like that this story revolved around Opal saving him. He finally got the attention he deserved from her.

Opal’s relationship with her father has been a significant driver of the series, and we finally get a resolution. I loved how this was worked out. These are two incredibly stubborn characters, and neither was able to see things from the others side. I thought how Aaron resolved things worked beautifully.

My only complaint is that I wish the series was longer. I wanted more. I was delighted to read the author’s note at the end that said Aaron would be writing more books set in that universe. I have no idea when the next one will come out, but I’m looking forward to it.

4/5

Part-Time Gods (DFZ #2)

Part-Time Gods (DFZ #2)

By: Rachel Adam

Blurb:

Life in the magical mess of the Detroit Free Zone is never easy. When you’re laboring under the curse of a certain prideful, overbearing dragon, it can be down right impossible.

My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner. At least, I used to be. Thanks to the supernatural bad luck that turns everything I do against me, these days I’m more of a walking disaster. Getting rid of this curse is the only way to get my life back. Unfortunately, dragon magic is every bit as sneaky and deadly the monsters behind it, and just as hard to beat.

But I’ve never been one to take her doom at face value. Cornered doesn’t mean defeated, and in an awakened city that rules herself, dragons are no longer the biggest powers around.

Review:

We learned more about Opal and her relationship with her family in Part-Time Gods. We also got to see the relationship between her and Nik develop. His devotion to her is so sweet and obvious. However, there was a conversation at the end that made him almost seem obsessed.

Opal is figuring out a way to work around her father’s curse. There’s a lot of trial and error and, of course, a gunfight because nothing can be easy for her. I’m curious if that’s curse-related or just because of her. Maybe we’ll find out in the next book.

For whatever reason, everyone wants to take Opal’s freedom away. Her father, in a way Nick, and now the spirit of the DFZ. None of them think about it that way, but it’s almost identical in the case of her father and the spirit of the DFZ. It’s kind of weird, and I have no problems seeing her side of things. I do feel some sympathy for Nik, we learn more about his life, and it’s easy to see why he feels the way he does. It doesn’t make it right, though.

The next book is the last in the series, and there are a couple of things I want a resolution on. I have faith that Aaron will be able to deliver, though. Heartstrikers had even more threads to tie up, and she handled that well.

3.5/5