Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of Harpyness Is Only Skin Deep by D.H. Willison



Author: D. H. Willison

Length: 297 Pages

Release Date: January 20, 2020

Rating:4.5/5 Stars

Purchase on Amazon

I've noticed a trend lately towards edgy, dark and moody fantasy. Even the comedic stuff a lot of time has an edge to it. I am always on the look for stuff that reminds me of my favorites from when I was younger, like books Craig Shaw Gardener, Piers Anthony, Esther Friesner, Lawrence Watt-Evans and Kyra Dalkey used to, and in fact, still do, write. Fun, lighter fare that still tells an interesting story, with good characters on fun adventures. I'm happy to say that Harpiness Is Only Skin Deep is just such a book, and fits in well with the company I mentioned earlier.

PLOT SUMMARY

Darin is a regular guy in his 20's just getting by, going nowhere fast. Hearing from some gaming friends about the newest experience in gaming, Darin follows the instructions to find how to join. He discovers the new game is no game at all. Its a chance to travel to another dimension, one that's a real fantasy world. Since he's not rich, he can't just go for a visit. Instead, we will be transferred there permanently, and a visitor from another dimension will take over his life. Signing the contract to travel to a world called Arvia, which is listed to have only small creatures and a low mortality rate for visitors, Darin gets his affairs in order. Meeting his contact to be sent over, Darin is told there were a couple typos in the contract that needed to be amended. Darin doesn't really take a close look, just signing, and gets sent across. Not reading what he signed will lead to some interesting consequences for Darin.

Arvia is definitely a fantasy world. It has fantasy creatures and races, and even magic. What Darin didn't realize is the predators of the world, which the original contract said weren't any larger than 100 inches, were actually no more than 100 feet, and were shockingly unpicky about what kind of meat they eat. Meeting up with other travelers, Darin learns its not all dungeon raids and gold. He will have to work as a laborer and earn money to live and eat. This doesn't leave time to try and find old tombs to raid. The giant predators also give incentive not to be roaming around either! 

A few months into his new life, Darin has a job working for a merchant. He makes a deal for some magic fabric and finds it has magic properties, making it usable for Darin to make a wing suit that allows him to glide long distances. On an excursion testing the suit, he gets caught by a group of harpies, who are about 30 feet tall, and they start throwing him around before they would devour him. Escaping the smallest one, he ends up turning the tables and lands on her back, which leads to something amazing. Darin starts talking to the harpy, named Rinloh, and they strike up a strange friendship, as Darin teaches Rinloh humans have more uses than as a tasty part of a balanced diet.

This leads to the heart of the story, as Darin and Rinloh teach each other about their cultures, and Rinloh starts to think of Darin as her friend, something unimaginable before their meeting. Its also during this time that Darin starts adventuring in the city he lives in, called Xin, looking into various mysterious disappearances in the city that are increasing in number as the yearly fair is about to happen, something the city doesn't need to be interrupted. What Darin and his partners discover will threaten Darin's life, and even Rinloh might not be able to keep Darin from meeting a horrible end.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

This is one of those books that has a lot of character building mixed with quite a bit of world building. Darin and Rinloh are both POV characters, and a lot of attention is paid to their character arcs, letting the reader get into their heads, with a close look at their thoughts and motivations. They both get excellent character building arcs, coming really far from where they started. There are several secondary characters, who get various levels of character building, but do rise above the level of two dimensional cutouts. The villains have actual realistic motivations based on how their society operates. 

The world building is pretty expansive, since Arvia is such a different kind of fantasy world. It has magic, but where Darin lives, in Xin, its weak and diffuse. The wilderness is full of huge fantasy predators, from giant harpies, naga, even more giant mermaids, various giant cats, giant crabs, centaurs, and many others, most not friendly to humans, who are forced to live in walled cities for protection. Xin the city is fairly small by Arvia standards, and considered a backwater, but provides protection form the predators to its residents. The various predators have their territories which they guard jealously. This is the world Darin finds himself in, a fantasy realm with not a lot of fantasy aside from the monsters.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As I noted previously, I always appreciate a fantasy story that has a lighter side. Even though there are a few darker moments in this one, they are far outweighed by the comedic elements. With fun characters and an atypical fantasy setting, its a fun story that keeps the reader turning pages, and hoping their will be more stories to come.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold



Author: Luke Arnold

Length: 369 Pages/ 7 hours, 55 Minutes (Audio)

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: February 25, 2020

Narrator: Luke Arnold

Series: Fetch Phillips Archives, Book 1

Rating: 4/5 stars

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

I saw the premise of Luke Arnold's debut novel, The Last Smile of Sunder City, and decided I had check it out, especially after a few recommendations from people I trust. What I found was a very solid story that mixes several fantasy genres and created a gripping dystopian world in a shambles, struggling with the loss of magic. 

PLOT SUMMARY

Six years after the humans of the world "accidentally" wrecked the source of magic, life has changed significantly for the residents of Sunder City. A city founded as an industrial hub taking advantage of a geothermal hot spot which went out when the magic died, the city now tries to make things work with science based technology. The magic folk, such as elves, trolls, weres, vampires, etc., have suffered far worse, as the magic that made them strong, long lived, or magic wielding has disappeared, and killed a significant part of their populations. 

This is the world Fetch Phillips, human former soldier and now private investigator finds himself in. Called in by the schoolmaster of the local school for magicals, Fetch is hired to find the schools history professor, a distinguished historian who is also a vampire, who has disappeared without a trace. Fetch takes the case, beginning the search at the vampire's local haunts, including the city library. Not finding him, but finding some clues, he continues the search, finding that one of the vampires students is also missing. Linking the two together, Fetch broadens his search, getting push back from elements of underworld, the business community and even the remnants of vampire society, who, with the loss of the magic, are now slowly dying off.

Slowly gathering evidence, he comes across some shocking evidence that the magic might not be as dead as everyone thought. This is impossible, as Fetch knows, since he had a big part, albeit unknowingly, for the magic dying. We see a series of flashbacks into Fetch's past, as he grew up a poor human in a magic dominated world, ended up the lone human in the Opus, the governmental organization of the magical beings, as a soldier. That part of his life doesn't end well, and he foolishly gives away information to the humans that lead to the disaster the world ends up.

Following the clues finally leads Fetch to a confrontation with forces beyond his control, leading to Fetch barely escaping with his life. It also leaves him with more questions than answers, and he and his allies have to wonder if the magic is really gone. Fetch has a very personal reason to hope not, and makes a deal with someone he could never imagine to keep that hope alive. You can see that Fetch has more reason than ever to stay in business and keep looking for the elusive solution he hopes to one day see.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

This book is a combination of excellent character creation and strong world building. Fetch is an especially interesting character, having such a tragic backstory, dealing with the aftermath of past mistakes that caused so much damage to the world. Stubborn and morose, he finds it hard to find value in his own life. This changes a bit as the story progresses, and you get to see some real character growth with him. The secondary characters are for the most part well written, and you get a real feel for their thoughts and motivations, and you feel the interactions are realistic within the settings.

The setting, Sunder City, is just a fantastic new setting in the fantasy world. A combination of a fantasy city crossed with magical steampunk with some science thrown in for variety, it is not the usual fantasy setting. The reader is immersed in this tragic fallen city as it tries to recover from a disaster that affects every aspect of it's citizens lives, from food production to transportation to communication. It's one of the best realized worlds I've read in quite a while, especially in a debut novel.

NARRATION

The narration is handled by the author, who is an actor. You may even be familiar with him, as he played the pirate Long John Silver on the Starz series Black Sails. I have to say this worked out well, since he is talented as a voice actor. He does a great job creating a voice for each character, using a variety of tones, cadences and pitches. His narrative pacing is excellent, keeping the story moving along, never getting monotonous. I hope to hear him doing more narration in the future.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I did really enjoy the book. For a debut novel, it seemed very polished, which tells me he worked well with his editor. There were a couple of debut issues, such as an overuse of metaphors in inner monologues, and his use of third person plural pronouns to describe a single demon was jarring and a bit hard to follow, and since it was describing a non-human character, seemed a bit unnecessary, but these are minor issues. All told, it was an entertaining story told by someone who has a real feel for the fantasy genre, without resorting to all the usual tropes. I look forward to the next installment in the series.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of I'm Glad You're Dead by Hunter Blain


Author: Hunter Blain

Length: 333 Pages/8 hours, 39 Minutes (Audio)

Release Date: March 8, 2019/December 9, 2019 (Audio)

Narrator: Luke Daniels

Series: Preternatural Chronicles, Book 1

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Being a big fan of urban fantasy for a long time, I am always looking for new books to check out. When I was given the chance to read and review I'm Glad You're Dead, the premise hooked me and I knew I had to check it out. That turned out to be a good decision, since this book takes the usual vampire tropes, spins them in a blender, and makes them its own with some whole new wrinkles.

PLOT SUMMARY

In Houston, a vampire named John is the last of his kind. Working with catholic priest Phillip Philseep, John is best described as a fixer, putting down supernatural menaces such as demons and their summoners. Being a vampire, John needs human blood, and satisfies the need by killing murderers and rapists. There is a supernatural underground with only one rule: don't let the mundanes see you doing supernatural stuff. Secrecy is the key to their society's safety, and someone has been trying to raise demons, threatening their exposure. Father Philseep thinks there's a bigger conspiracy behind the demon summoning, and it's up to John to find out what. 

The story also flashes back to John's past, showing how and when he became a vampire. As a teen in the late 1400's Ireland, his parents are killed in a pogrom against heretics. While he awaits his fate, John is given a choice by a strange man offering him revenge against the men who killed his family. Taking the offer, he is made into a vampire and proceeds on a crusade to destroy his parent's killers, learning to use the many powers of his vampire nature, finally ending years later in an event that changes the course of his unlife.

Back in the present day, a local warlock tries to warn John off the hunt for the summoners. John, in his hatred for being told what to do, instead antagonizes the warlock, letting him know that he was not dropping the pursuit. Ending up back in his secure hidden home under a crypt, he awakens in the day weakened and seeing sunlight in his hidey hole, which is filling with water and iron dust, which is toxic to any magical creature, including vampires. Burning and weak, John is half a step ahead from the tactical team that is trying to kill him in a place they shouldn't know exists. With the help of his one foot tall fairy roommate, John manages to fool the team. He also discovers the warlock has an unexpected connection to his past, guaranteeing they will be confronting another again. 

Escaping out the hidden emergency exit, John is so hurt he is basically feral, and breaks the cardinal rule, don't hurt innocents. This leads him into conflict with Father Philseep, who locks him away in a special cell. Fearing the priest means to kill him, John escapes with some difficulty and proceeds to get some help from another friend, a werewolf he knew from World War Two. They go after the cause of demon summoning, finding that it has a connection to John's first moments of his undead life, and will have repercussions that will affect the rest of John's undead life.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

This is very much a character driven story. Taking place in modern Houston, with only a secret underbelly of supernatural creatures, it relies heavily on the characters and their interactions. John is a very interesting character, being over 500 years old, as well as a completely irreverent smart ass. He is kind of tragic, trying to atone for years of blood and slaughter, knowing the truth of the afterlife. His friends, Da the fairy and his werewolf friend are also fun characters, each bring something to the story. The villain has realistic motivations, even if they are a lust for power. The various supernaturals are creatively described, and get some new twists.

The setting, modern Houston, is a nice change of pace from the usual New York, Chicago or LA urban fantasy setting. It does have the stereotypical magical bar that's neutral ground, with the requisite mysterious barman owner, but that's about the only trope as far as setting. The rest is just real Houston with supernatural events and creatures, giving it a realistic gritty feel not often found in urban fantasy books.

NARRATION

The narration is handled quite ably by Audible Hall of Famer Luke Daniels. I was very familiar with his other work, so I came in knowing what to expect, and wasn't disappointed. Luke does an amazing job creating various character voices, using a wide variety of tones, accents and cadences to differentiate the various characters. His narrative pacing is some of the best in the business, never becoming monotonous, while keeping the listener engaged at all times. I would consider this some of his best work to date.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I was surprised how many unique aspects the book had. This is definitely not a sparkly vampire romance with vegetarian vampires, but a redemption story set in an offbeat setting, with a cast of characters that keeps the readers on tier toes. I know I am excited to see how the series continues on, and will definitely be doing a review for that one as well. This book has something to offer for any fan of vampire and urban fantasy stories.

Thanks

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of The Headlock of Destiny


Author: Samuel Gately

Length: 344 Pages

Publisher: Cylinder Publishing

Release Date: March 5, 2020

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Amazon Link

Growing up, I was kind of a shy, introverted kid. I did have two interests though, more than any others. I loved reading fantasy/sci-fi books, and I loved watching pro wrestling. When I saw the premise of  The Headlock of Destiny, a mashup of fantasy and wrestling, I knew I had to review it. Here are the happy results of my read through.

PLOT SUMMARY

The Open Nations in the past were wracked with chaos during the Titan Wars, wars humans fought against the descendants of the giants, known as Titans, or Ten-Men (because each was as  strong as ten men). The Titans now fight for their respective nations in organized wrestling matches that are now the biggest entertainment in the world. Titans like The Savage, Scott Flawless, King Thad, and Earthshaker are larger than life celebrities, performing matches throughout the Open nations, where once their ancestors had terrorized the humans. Since Titans can breed with just about anything, there are some pretty odd Titans as well. The best wrestlers from each of the nations compete in the biggest tournament of them all, the Headlock of Destiny, where fame, fortune and advantage for their countries await.

In the brewery village of Clearwater, there lives a titan named Van. He's not a wrestler. Instead, he works in the local beer brewery warehouse, hauling barrels and doing other manual labor. When his country's best shot at the Headlock of Destiny title, Owen Grit,  is unexpectedly hurt in a match, the search is on for a replacement. Spotted in the crowd at the annual beer festival by a mysterious woman named Kyle, Van is drawn into this world of high stakes, nation affecting wrestling, as he becomes his nations best and only chance at the title. Given the option to compete or be fired and basically exiled, Van find himself swept up into events way beyond his pay grade.

With no help from his team, including Owen, Van must basically wing it at the tournament. Expected to lose his first match against the bestial titan The Ram, Van does surprisingly well,  moving on to the next round to face Panem Manley. It turns out hauling 250 pound kegs of beer all day builds a lot of muscle, and while Van doesn't have much technique, he does have a lot of brute strength and a stubborn streak a mile wide. As he continues deeper into the tournament, he has to deal with the machinations of other nation's wrestlers and even the tournament promoter, who definitely wants to see his nation at a disadvantage. Kyle does what she can for Van behind the scenes, working to help keep him safe from the very real threats to his life.

There seems to be something exceptionally weird at this years tounament, as the Nether, the unnatural other realm where the undead live, have sent a representative to the tounament. This Titan is called The Overlord, and he takes his defeated opponents, puts them in a coffin, and drags them to the portal to the Nether, not to be seen again. This is just another complication Van has to deal with as he gets closer to the finals, where Van would be tested like never before, with the fate of nations riding on his shoulders, and the reigning champion, King Thad, standing in his way.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

You would think a book about wrestling titans would have fairly cartoonish, two dimensional characters. Well, you'd be mistaken. The characters can be a bit cartoonish in their wrestling personas, but they have surprisingly deep wells of personality and motivations. Van is a complex character, riddled with self doubt and loathing, only to realize he has more to offer the world and finding internal strength. The various characters have some surprising motivations for their actions, and are not the caricatures you would expect. You can easily get behind Van as he progresses, and be appalled at some of the villains as they work their various plans to fruition.

The world building, aside from the special aspects dealing with the wrestling, which in this case is not scripted or fake, is fairly standard fantasy realm type of stuff. Humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and what have you are all included, with the Titans being the unique addition to the mix. With what amounts to a bunch of small nations with an outside threat in the Nether, every nations is not particularly fleshed out, but the main settings of the book do get some attention, giving you an idea of the settings. Definitely an interesting fantasy setting to dig into.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Taking two premises that shouldn't work together, Samuel Gately instead takes the more fantastical elements of both, stirs them up, and makes an entertaining story that keeps the reader turning pages. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel to see what fate has in store for Van and his allies. I think this book has something for fantasy fans to enjoy, and even wrestling fans who aren't into fantasy may enjoy the story.


Monday, February 24, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of The Ravenmaster's Revenge by Jacob Sannox.


Author: Jacob Sannox

Length: 229 Pages/ 5 Hours, 52 Minutes (Audio)

Publisher: Alan O'Donoghue

Release Date: May 23, 2019/ September 20, 2019 (Audio)

Narrator: Nigel Peever

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I have to admit, I am a sucker for Arthurian stories. Camelot setting, modern day, it makes no difference. I just love the mythos surrounding Arthur and his knights, and the hubris and betrayal that brought them down. If Merlin is a wizard in the story, even better. That's why Ravenmaster's Revenge immediately got my attention, and got such a quick read through.

PLOT SUMMARY

On a field in Camlan 1500 years ago, King Arthur and his knights and army face off against Arthur's bastard son Mordred and his army. This battle is to determine the fate of Arthur's kingdom, and brings about the end of the kingdom, as Arthur and Mordred mortally wound each other. As this knights start to mourn Arthur, Merlin appears and offers them a choice. He will bring Arthur back, but Arthur will sleep until land needs him again, and they can sleep with him as well, waiting to return when needed. Of course, all the loyal knights follow their king into sleep, awaiting the day the land needs them most. 

Moving on to modern day, we go to the White Tower in London, where the ravens of the tower suddenly fly off and don't return, which legend tells portends the end of England. The ravens, all six of them, fly off to their true master, Branok, Merlin's former apprentice. Branok has a plan to use the ravens to bring about his revenge on England for the execution of Charles I. 

We see in a series of flashback chapters how Arthur and his knights are revived during the War of the Roses, when it looked like the monarchy would fall. Instead, Henry VII took the throne and his line continued. Its during this time Branok was apprenticed to Merlin. Arthur and his knights would remain awake and involved in the background, protecting England. When Arthur makes the decision not to save Charles I from being overthrown by the forces of Cromwell, Branok turns fully to the darker side of magic, and only the intervention of Merlin stops him from saving Charles. 

Locking Branok into a magical stasis in the tower, Merlin, Arthur and the knights continue on through history. The battle of the Somme in WW1 was especially bad, with a knight dying and Arthur severely injured and never fully recovering, either physically or mentally. This leads to the modern day, where Merlin is living as a homeless itinerant, keeping his own counsel as he watches for Branok escaping. Arthur is a living as a rich business owner, and his knights make up his security detail. This is the setting as Branok makes his plans for revenge, which includes revenge against Arthur for not being the king he wanted him to be. Its up to Arthur and the knights to try and stop a wizard that is willing to use the darkest arts to bring about the destruction of everything they love, with no guarantee they will succeed. 

CHARACTER AND WORLD BUILDING

Since this is an Arthurian story, even in modern times, Arthur has to have his knights and Merlin. It definitely does, although you find out a few knights have fallen over the centuries since they were awakened. Merlin remains an imperious force in Arthur's life, but Arthur is very much his own man. He gets a definite character arc you relive with him through the flashbacks into modern times, through his triumphs and failures into the present day. The various knights are a bit two dimensional, for the most part being loyal knights and retainers and not a whole lot else, although you get the idea that at least one knight went rogue at some point. The villain Branok is a tragic character. He really gets an interesting character arc, since so many of his life's tragedies are a direct result of Arthur and Merlin's actions, even though he's not an innocent himself. 

The various historical settings are obviously well researched. The modern day London settings are well thought out, and you get a real sense of the where the action is taking place. Since its flashbacks take place as far back as the 6th century, there's a  lot of creative license with the historical settings, but they have a very real feel, immersing the reader into the setting.

NARRATOR

The narrative duties are handled by Nigel Peever. This was the first time I've heard his work, and it was an enjoyable listen. He creates a variety of voices for the various characters using various accents and tones, avoiding  the trap of repeating voices for the characters. His narrative pacing is solid, never devolving to monotone, and he really emotes well while in character. I look forward to hearing him in the future.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As I stated before, I'm a sucker for all things Arthurian. Well, except for that last movie with Charlie Hunnam. Anyways, this is the kind of urban fantasy tale with enough story and action to appeal to a wide array of people. If you like the kind of story Steve McHugh tells with his Hellequin Chronicles, this should appeal to you. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of Bulb by Bradley Wind


Author: Bradley Wind

Length: 363 Pages

Publisher: Kind Books

Release Date: October 13, 2019

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I get a lot of requests to review books. I heard the premise for Bulb and decided to give it a go. I can honestly say I have never read anything quite like it. It crosses a few genres and raises some disturbing questions about the nature of privacy.

PLOT SUMMARY

Ben Tinthawin is a 29 year old artist living in a future where privacy is a thing of the past. The Grand Archive, created by Dr. Mamon, has seen to that. Every thought and experience person have is stored in the Grand Archive for all to view. Initially causing riots, its now accepted by the vast majority of the population, being the ultimate form of entertainment. There is a movement to keep off the grid, but its far outpaced by the group who accept the Archive.

Ben is struggling to recover from the car crash he came out of fairly unscathed that killed his mother and father, as well as the aftermath which left him even more emotionally damaged. He is left raising his 7 year old conjoined twin brothers Ed and Francis, a result of their father's genetic tampering. Ben also goes to counseling and is also trying to recover from a broken relationship, which is due to the pitfalls of the Archive. This is the shape of Ben's life as he gets the opportunity to work with Dr. Mamon in creating an even more exciting project. Unfortunately, Dr. Mamon has plans of his own that could have far reaching consequences for the rest of the world, and its up to Ben and his new allies to try and stop the destruction of everything they cherish.

CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING

The idea that there is no privacy in thought allows for a very deep look into each character. Ben is such a tortured character, having to deal with so much trauma, while also trying to keep it together for his brothers. He definitely is a rounded character. Ed and Francis are a product of their age, and ring true to it. The secondary characters all come across as fleshed out, with motivations and actions based on the unique circumstances of the world they live in. The antagonists have realistic motivations, seeing their actions as a way to point the way to a new future.

The world building is a mix of what I'd consider future tech and cyberpunk semi-dystopia, since there are still ruined areas left over from the riots that destroyed some cities after the Grand Archive went online. The Archive is a technical marvel, although it has problems of its own that it brings to society. The whole idea that there can really be no privacy in the end makes interactions different. It makes a blind date a choice, since you can look anything up abut a date. It also creates interesting entertainment opportunities, and makes people think twice about just what they are doing. It does raise some interesting questions.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The concepts and ideas in this book are a lot deeper than you expect out of a sci-fi novel. The author creates a very plausible society and its reaction to the loss of any real mental privacy, creating some intriguing scenarios around the idea. I can recommend this book for anyone looking for an idea driven book, which will have you turning the pages until you reach the satisfying conclusion.

Amazon Link

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Bookwyrm's Review of Mogworld by Yahtzee Crowshaw


Author: Yahtzee Crowshaw
Length: 350 Pages/ 13 Hours, 18 minutes (Audio)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Narrator: Yahtzee Crowshaw
Genre: GameLit
RATING: 5/5 STARS
When a gaming industry insider like Yahtzee Crowshaw puts out a book directly poking some fun at the industry he has spent so much time in, it’s best to check it out. Mogworld is the fruit of that labor. You can tell he has deep roots in the gaming industry, as he details some of the backroom details someone on the outside wouldn’t be privy to, while creating a cracking good bit of hilarious fantasy GameLit that is basically what Monty Python would come up with if they wrote a GameLit book.
PLOT SUMMARY
Jim has a dream. Graduate magic school and open up a magic shop, avoiding being a pig farmer like his parents. After a year in magic school, he has three spells and is ready to continue his studies. Unfortunately, the students from the warrior school down the road have other ideas, invading his school and killing Jim and the rest of the students. That should be the end, but life has a funny way of warping expectations, because 60 years later, Jim finds himself awoken in his previously alive, and now undead, body. Things are bound to get weird from here.
Being called back by a necromancer looking for an undead horde isn’t all bad. Since Dreadgrave the Necromancer forgot the part about unquestioning obedience in his spell, his horde has free will. Dreadgrave also provides a nice pay and benefits package, such as keeping the spoils of any looting and quality jobs in his   dread fortress. Jim lands the plumb assignment as head of the giant rat pit, and takes a real shine to the destruction of all the heroes. He even gets to kill what is possibly the funniest rogue ever, Slippery John, a time or two as he raids the fortress. Unlife is goodish until a bunch of strange Angels show up and Delete the fortress, Dreadgrave and all the undead but Jim, his associate Meryl, and a loudmouth undead priest. 
Now on the run, Jim and his companions discover things in the world are getting really strange. Another priestnamed Barry that they met in the first village they came to after the deleting is now traveling around with a bunch of adventurers, destroying whole towns, and he is exhibiting incredibly powerful Magic! He is also preaching the word of Simon, his new god. Who is this god Simon? And why is he trying to delete so much of the world? With a couple of crazy adventurer’s gulld goons chasing them as well, Jim, Meryl, the Priest and Slippery John must discover what is threatening their world. And Jim needs to find out why he is all of a sudden hearing voices in his head, possibly from another god. The answers will shock them, and their world will never be the same after they discover what is causing it all.
CHARACTERS & WORLD BUILDING
This book has so many good things going for it. Snappy dialogue, fun world building, a plot that mixes fantasy, game and real life seamlessly and some of the best characters you’re likely to find. The characters are all fully realized, and show depth you wouldn’t expect. The comedy is mixed throughout and is , and really fits well within the story. The entire group of Jim, Meryl and the Priest are so funny, and even the priest’s name is a hilarious joke. The GameLit elements fit seamlessly, and just make the book that much better.  
NARRATION
The narration is handled quite ably by the author. This is not a bad thing, as anyone who has ever heard his podcast can attest. Acerbic, witty, snarky and droll are all words that can be used to describe his performance, and he does such a great job bringing his characters to life. His narrative pacing is excellent, and he has such a good grasp of what he wants to emphasize in the story! He is definitely my favorite narrating author.
FINAL THOUGHTS
All told, this is definitely in my top five favorite of this genre. I can’t think of anything I disliked, and it should appeal to a wide range of fans, from straight fantasy, grimdark, LitRPG and GameLit. There’s something in here for everyone.