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Publisher's Summary

Taking the day off work to surprise Andy with a ticket to the hottest fantasy VRMMORPG, Emma returns home to find his cheating ass in bed with her sister. Throwing them both out, Emma sits slugging back the wine they’d just shared. 

Drunk and devastated she almost blows his gift, but watching the adverts for the amazing fantasy world depicting monster’s mayhem and adventure, Emma keys in her name and details - Akillia-F-22 - and decides to take on Puatera Online. 

©2018 Dawn Chapman (P)2018 Dawn Chapman

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Good entry to LitRPG for noobs

Book Review:
The female MC is a noob to MMORPGs (me too, I've never played one before) but she has a boyfriend or husband (still not sure on that one) who plays so she has picked up the gist of how they work and the lingo just by being around him. There's a great scene where the noob is introduced to the game world and mechanics through a tutorial NPC. During that part, there's a lot of discussion about stats. In the audio book you even hear the "ding" when she acquires a new skill or new stats. These continue through the beginning of the book as she's leveling up. But once she's fully on her quest, they recede into the background.

Now, some are going to argue that this would make the book GameLit, not LitRPG. I think it's actually fairly organic to how leveling up in a game works. Though I've never played an MMORPG, I have played games where you achieve levels. As you first play the game, each new level is exciting because it probably opens up new abilities. But as you go higher and higher, new levels are 1) harder to achieve, 2) take longer to get and 3) don't give you that much advantage. I mean, what really is the difference between a level 100 player and a level 101 player or even a level 110 player? So the further you get into playing, the game mechanics become second nature to you - you may even turn off notifications so that you can just play uninterrupted. This is what I think Chapman achieves by focusing less on the stats as the story unfolds. There are a few mentions of the MC swiping away the heads up screen that is blocking her view of what's going on in the game. And in an immersive VR game like this one, those kinds of notifications do seem like they'd be annoying and quickly dismissed.

There's a love story that is not terribly compelling. But that could just be my own prejudice against falling for someone you've only met online - I don't think you can make a real connection until you've looked someone in the eyes and know really what they're all about.

I like the fact that this is a beta version of the game that people payed BIG bucks to get access to. That explains the special nature-ness of the MC. It's a common complaint that LitRPG books focus on players who get special skills or luck into things. But with only 100 people playing the game, MC has much better odds of being that special player than the books set in games with millions of players.

I like that the game is basically jacked in to her brain. I find it very hard to get into these futuristic settings where people are expected to actually run around in order to play VR games. Have authors looked around at the people who play video games or even just humans in general? They sit on the couch or in a desk chair and play for hours BECAUSE they're only moving their hands or thumbs. If they had to stand up and run around in a VR set up, they'd play for an hour and then collapse from exhaustion.

There were some elements I personally didn't like - I'm not a fan of underworld type characters and the MC runs into some of those. The author did her best to make them seem not blatantly evil characters, but I still would prefer a story without them. Just a warning to those who may have the same preferences.

Narrator Review:
Anneliese Rennie did a fine job with the reading. The production value is good. Sometimes there are spots in books where I can hear that a reader had to re-do a line and the audio-engineer dropped it into the chapter. The difference is small but I can hear that the background or the pace changes just slightly. I'm sure there are plenty of times when that happens and it matches so perfectly that I don't notice it. Well, I did not hear any of those in this recording. As stated above, there was even a sound effect added to help draw attention to the game mechanics.

As for acting different voices, I'd put Rennie in the middle of the pack. She did great with some, particularly the underworld characters that I mentioned above. She put a hissing/sinister quality to her voice for those characters. She didn't do poorly with any characters, just average on most of them. I did like her "head voice" for the MC. It was obvious when she was reading thoughts that the MC didn't want to voice out loud to the other characters in the scene.

The only other thing I would recommend to the author and reader combination - the author is English and wrote the book with English phrasing. The reader is American but kept the English phrasing and word choices. It wouldn't phase me if a reader with a British accent read "in hospital" or "lift" or "got sorted" or (the worst) "maths." But those are phrases that Americans simply don't use. So those things stood out to me when I heard an American accent say them. If an English author wants to use an American reader, I would change over to American English for the audio book. It's a small thing but you don't want the listener to get pulled out of the narration for such an easy fix. And you wouldn't have to change the text of the book, just the audio book.

*****I was given a free copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review. My review is entirely my own opinion.*****

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

even explains the real world side of Puatera

This is the sixth book I’ve read/listened to by this author. All the books have been in the Puatera series. These are books I would listen to again and again. I am really enjoying them!

Akillia is the name Emma has chosen for her character in the game Puatera. She spent a lot of money getting one of the sought after slots to test out the new VRMMORPG as an anniversary gift for her husband. Planning to surprise him with it, she is instead surprised when she returns home and finds him in bed with her sister. She decides the slot should not go to waste- she’ll use it. Emma has no experience gaming so everything is a learning curve. She becomes emotionally involved in the world of Puatera and whenever she feels overwhelmed, the though of her cheating husband (and the fact he’s started a real world bet against her succeeding in the game) encourages her to continue. She has been given an important quest.

The book is written so the experience gained and skills acquired by Akillia is mentioned as it happens. We hear the prompts the games gives her. Periodically Emma/ Akillia logs out, so we hear the interactions with the employees that support the people playing the game. Each player is housed at the companies complex and monitored every moment they are in or out of the game. Because of this, we learn about the workings of the company too. This book eventually leads to a connection between Akillia and Jessica, Dahlia and their other sister (from other Puatera books).

This is the second book (previously A Woman in the Shadows) I’ve listened to by this narrator ( Anneliese Rennie ) and I would listen to another. I love the voice she gives to Akillia. She brings out Akillia’s fears, strengths, uncertainty and convictions. Her reading made me loose myself in the story. I did not want to put the book down until I was finished.

There are no explicit sex scenes, excessive violence or swearing.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this unbiased review.
Please feel free to comment on whether you found my review helpful.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting LITRPG

Good read. I liked the world building, characters, and story. I read the first 3 books, so far this is my favorite. The story is loosely tied to the other books, reading them all gives you a good picture into the world. Narration was interesting and fit the story. I will definitely read the next book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • TU
  • 08-14-18

Bold move by the author but well done!

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

So, at first, I was ecstatic that she made this book way longer than the previous books. However, I was really perturbed that the author went with a new narrator for book 3 of a really great series. That being said, I absolutely enjoyed this book! The new narrator, Anneliese Rennie, did a great job and the new set of characters were really interesting. I must say, this was a bold but well executed play on the author's part. It is risky to shift focus like this in a series but I think it payed off here. I'm very interested in where this series will go next.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

the change of narrator was cool

I wasnt sure abaut this book because of the change of the narrator, but it was good really good acually.
the story was good as always .. the book is very well writen.
a good one indeed
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good popcorn book

Fast paced book with a female lead. The mechanics seem a bit strange for a futuristic setting (dice?) but it doesn't detract from the experience. I started the series on this book and that wasn't a problem. I'm not sure if I'll continue reading the series but this was worth a read.

Narrator did a good job, I've never heard of her prior to this.

Overall I'd recommend if you're looking for something fast paced and are able to look past small inconsistencies.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

This novel is an excellent choice for women.

This novel is an excellent choice for women looking to try out Litrpg. It’s not too crunchy, and there are no ‘male fantasy’ overtones. I always say that gamelit is just a backdrop to tell a story or a stage for the actors to perform on. You could pluck out the plot of Akilla and drop it into any other genre. It was nice to see the novel focus on an emotionally driven plot instead of just character progression for its own sake. You don’t have to read the entire series to get this book.

Anneliese Rennie did a good job of narrating the novel. She was a good choice for a strong female main character. I did laugh at her AI voice, which was hilariously awkward.

Towards the middle and end of the novel there was a lot of wand waving going on. Like the novel is on rails, driving the character towards the climax. I had a few minor issues, but frankly, they didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. The tutorial was too long with more info dump than strictly necessary.

Give the book a try, you won’t be disappointed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

More Puatera Goodness

I’ve read each of Dawn’s Puatera books as they’ve come out. Decided to listen to this one as I had a long road trip. It didn’t disappoint. Good ‘newb learns to be a gamer’ story with a solid tie to previous books. Unusual mechanics with a dice component.
Anneliese does an awesome job, keeping things lively and interesting! Definitely worth a listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

FASCINATING!

Great story! Given I'm 50, grew up in the 80's BC (before computers), and started playing video games back in the day where Pac-Man was the biggest thing ever. It was cool to be around for the beginning of all that. To see where it is now, it literally blows my mind. I am not a gamer (other than the classics - Pac-Man, Centipede, Asteroids, Missle Command, lol you know those), but enjoyed this story as I can relate a bit to the heroine not knowing a lot going in. I was fascinated by the story, it kept my attention, and I also thought the new narrator to the series did an excellent job. I'd be interesting in reading/listening to more from this author and narrator any time. :)
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This world gets better with each book

This LITRPG world gets better, deeper and more well developed with each addition to the series. This one can be read as a standalone but you will definitely want to get the others as they are amazing plus they lead right into this one and provide great entertainment. The initial round of testing has been completed and the first group of real Players is being allowed to immerse themselves into the world. Our heroine isn’t a gamer and ended up here due to some “difficult” circumstances. There are those that wish her to succeed and those who wish her to fail. regardless of that. The world itself wants her to succeed. And the npc’s are very different than any other game world created. Can’t wait to continue the adventure in this world. I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator or publisher

2 of 2 people found this review helpful