Author: Charles Dean
Length: 468 pages/13 Hours, 58 Minutes (Audio)
Publisher: Charles Dean/Soundbooth Theater (Audio)
Release Date: November 2, 2017/ January 24, 2018
Narrator: Jeff Hays
Series: War Aeternus
I got a review copy of this book a bit ago from the author, but somehow confused it for another title and this one just slipped through the cracks. Thankfully, the author reminded me he sent me a copy, and I am glad he did, because it was an enjoyable LitRPG experience.
Lee is the typical IT drone, making decent money but really just cruising through on autopilot, with no challenges other than raids with his gaming buddies. No challenge, that is, until a "god" named Augustus transports him to what amounts to the setting of a medieval RPG and tells him he is Augustus's new herald on the world, and he is to gain worshippers for Augustus if he ever want to make it home. Unfortunately for Lee, Augustus is being punished by the other players, "gods" of this world, and his herald is sent in at level zero, with a two month disadvantage over his rivals on the world. Not the best way to start a game where the stakes are life and death.
After defeating his first opponent through luck as much as anything else, Lee, who the world system recognizes as an NPC, starts leveling up. Meeting a a bloodthirsty giant firbolg named Donovan, who is a player in the system, Lee starts recruiting followers as he goes, including Ling, an NPC village girl handy with a bow, who suddenly gains independent awareness around Lee. Questing through the area, Lee and his followers must complete the quests to help Lee fulfil his duty to Augustus so he can get back home, all while trying to not get killed by the other god's heralds, all who are more powerful than Lee with their two month head start in leveling up. This all leads up to Lee's confrontation with another god's herald, sending shockwaves through the game world.
While I think as a genre LitRPG is hit or miss, this was much more a hit than miss. Starting with a meta kind of premise, that "gods" play an RPG on a server hosted by a creator, in which real people are the in game characters, the author makes use of the standard genre tropes but spins them in some creative ways. Lee is fairly standard as a character, but grows into his role, all while silently hoping he isn't doing the wrong thing converting the masses. The secondary characters are fun, if a little cliched. The setting should be familiar to anyone who has ever played an RPG, and that comfort level makes it easier to get into the story. The plot moves along at a fairly brisk pace, and readers should be able to power right though the story.
The narration is handles by the always excellent Jeff Hays. Basically the king of LitRPG audiobook narration, this title is no exception. He is excellent creating various characters in the listeners mind though use of tone, pacing and accents. Donovan especially stands out, as Jeff basically channels his inner Ahnold voice for the rampaging firbolg. His narrative pacing is excellent, and really keeps the listener engaged. Another excellent effort on his part.
While it isn't perfect, War Aeternus is definitely a series I can wholeheartedly recommend. Any fan of the genre should be able to find something to enjoy in it.