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Publisher's Summary

When virtual reality becomes real enough that people feel as if they're being transported to another world, Valia Online arrives.

A man running from his past joins the game to forget it all. Calling himself Jack Thorn, he chooses an undead race, Deathlord.

A mage by choice, and a swordsman by necessity, he soon finds out that he'll need to use much more than magic and steel to survive; strategy, creativity, and carefully chosen words can often accomplish what simple attacks can't.

As the game becomes too real and touches a part of him that he'd rather leave buried, he is faced with two questions: Who is he, really? And who should he become?

Challenge is book one of the Unbound Deathlord series, a LitRPG saga.

©2016 Edward Castle (P)2017 Podium Publishing

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    1,422
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    399
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A new take to the typical litrpg

I really really like it.

You get the feeling right off the bat that this "Jack" isn't your straightforward protagonist. While trying to follow his instincts to help/loot he's also a Jackass, Non apologetic, clever, and dark.

His upbringing and background paint a picture of pain, anger, self destructiveness, confusion, and a deep deception.

That same upbringing allows a different angle to the typical Litrpg. Most Litrpg's I listen to have me wishing right off the bat for it to focus exclusively on the game. This one however, gives me nibbles and clues about the bigger picture and draw me into the outer story just as much as the inner, if not more.

By the time the last chapter rolls around I'm at the edge of my seat to see what "Jack" will do.

The 17 hour read time is also a great seller. A lot of other Litrpg's are less than half as good, half the time, and at a similar price.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was that there wasn't a second book on Audible yet.

The only complaint I have is that every single chapter the status is read. That by itself is fine except for the mile long list of traits by the end of the book. I'd much rather hear them say, "Traits Minimized" or just mention the important ones. A minor complaint, but a common one among Litrpg's.

35 of 36 people found this review helpful

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

What did I jsut listlen to, that was amazing!

Where does Challenge rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

8th out of 200+

What was one of the most memorable moments of Challenge?

The ending

What does Jeff Hays bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He adds great depth to the characters

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I did not laugh or cry, but was very entertained with the drama

Any additional comments?

Great book, only thing I disliked was the constant verbal implication that a group was racist or xenophobic as it felt very forced into the dialog. The story had already described this and did not need the character telling the listener, it maid it feel forced and a cross between an agenda and a writer who was not sure about his story covering the point. Which I though they did well without the verbal comment.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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

Only 2 negatives for me.

Really enjoyed the story over all, The negatives were only the Info updates at the end of the chapters, and the secondary story near the end. But that part may change when I hear the second book.

I liked the characters, story, and the humor. The players seemed like people you actually do meet in MMO's.

There is just enough detail that you can fill in the descriptive details in your imagination. ( I don't need to know that the crack in a cave wall looks like it's a crack in a cave wall....)

I also enjoyed all the banter. (yes a lot of it is totally pointless but that's what it's like playing with other people in games. )

I think Jeff Hays may ne by second favorite narrator. (Won't gush about my fav though.)

Can't wait for the next book!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

1 to 100 in 3 seconds

I started this book with low expectations. But as time passed I could not put it down I want more I want more from this author I want to see what he can make in the next book. if you're new to LIT RPGs this is probably not the book for you. but if your long-time reader I recommend this one hundred percent.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Impressive

Full character development, interesting plot hooks and intrigue to keep you riveted to the story.

Narrator is Jeff Hays, and as per usual, perfection. I don't know how he does it.

Can't wait for the next book in the series to hit audible.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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

The writing is descriptive and not overly verbose

“Challenge” is the first book in the “Unbound Deathlord” series.  The book is authored by Edward Castle and the audiobook’s narration is expertly performed by, as usual, Jeff Hays.  In the very crowded Literary Role Playing Game (LitRPG) genre, this book sets itself apart by approaching the story from the perspective of a more evil or dark character (a deathlord) instead of your usual paladin or hero character.  It is a rather large book containing almost a thousand pages in the print edition and comprising nearly eighteen hours of audio.  Unlike many in the category, this book makes you feel you are actually experiencing a virtual game world.  If you enjoy LitRPG books, I believe you will enjoy this one.  Just be aware, the book is the first in a series, and it is the only one currently available in audiobook format.  I will be interested to see the direction the author takes this book.

If the sentence, “You awaken in a cold and damp dungeon”, sounds familiar to you, I think you get a good idea of the direction this will go.  The beginning of the story is nothing new from others like it, however I really was able to enter the world and it felt like a game rather than just another fantasy novel.  It felt polished and well edited.  One really gets a sense of the characters powers and abilities as he levels up; and who did not like this aspect while playing such games?  You felt the initial pain and struggle of a newly created level one character, and as the book progressed you felt the weight and struggles lift somewhat.  However, some of the newer quests matched or even exceeded the players skill level.  I thought the ranking system was also interesting.  Not only are we given a skill tree to understand, but the book also contained trait and class details as well.  Again, simply a nice touch adding depth to the story.

The world the author created consisted of many of the expected fantasy or adventure items and creatures.  There were swords, spiders, rats, but the author additionally included some different things such as a quite powerful illusion ring along with others.  Because the book was mostly focused on more dark characters, we were presented with vampires, ghouls, witches, along with other creatures who prefer the night.  Because the main character was a dark mage, there was some good detail provided around the magic system and the character’s process of learning it.  In many ways, the book is really a struggle between good and evil, however you are hoping evil wins in this case.  Jack thorn seems to be a rather unique player with a rather unique voice; covered in the narration section.

Although the book often filled with pokes, zings, or bantering between the players and NPCs, it also contained some serious and emotional scenes as well.  I thought the author did a decent job of taking us on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.  The opening sequence is action filled and emotionally charged.  That is not to say the book is overly deep or touchy-feely.  There is plenty of gaming humor and fun found within its pages.  The story is a bit darker than others in the genre, but it also deemed more complex and complete even though it is only the first book in a series of books.

The book’s narration was done very well by Jeff Hays.  With this book, I felt he was trying a new technique by voicing the main character and the narrator as two separate people.  Although the story was told from the perspective of the main character, the voice Mr. Hays used when the character spoke was quite different.  I’m not sure the voice of the main character fit what I expected him to sound like, but as with other parts of this book, it grew on me.  For the length of the book, the audio was performed flawlessly.  No noticeable audio artifacts were heard.  I also thought he did a good job of pacing the book’s narration.  I even enjoyed the games female Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice at the end of each chapter.  I will say that I did not enjoy the character stats given at the close of each chapter, however it began to grow on me and I wanted to hear how the character grew from the previous chapter.  Again, his level and skill elevation seemed to be in line with the actions he took during the chapter.

For parents of younger readers, I would not recommend this book as the subject matter is geared more towards an adult audience.  The book contains a fair amount of vulgar language (rather heavy at times), high-level sexual topics, and a few scenes containing intense graphic violence.  If any of these offend you, I suggest you grab a different book.

For someone to want to be placed permanently into a virtual world due to a life event, you have to feel for him.  Yet, even though he selects a dark character type, the story is written in a way that you want him to succeed.  The writing is descriptive and not overly verbose.  If you are a fan of the genre, I recommend you pick up Challenge by Edward Castle, and give it a listen.

Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.

Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

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

Solid buy!

Everything about this story is inticing to read. The voice acter was good and editor threw it together perfectly. Thr only bad thing is the constant lvl update every chapter!! I get it you got a new item but tword the end lissening to 3 mins of cheractor stats is borring and only makes the book less worth the $. I can see the intrest with a physicle.copy but not an audio.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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

Promising start.

I enjoyed the book. Not the first litrpg I've read where the Protagonist is viewed by the world as a villain but still does it fairly well. Book also does something else as a twist on the litrpg that's been done before (and by the same series that also did the Protagonist as villain) but might have a more interesting hook so I'm curious to see where it leads.

Only real annoyance with the book was that at the end of every chapter they'd read out all the characters stats and skills which felt a little excessive in my opinion.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Didn't expect much.... got a lot!

If you could sum up Challenge in three words, what would they be?

Pretty damn good.

What did you like best about this story?

The writing was surprisingly well done. i don't expect much from LitRPGs as they are generally badly written.

Which character – as performed by Jeff Hays – was your favorite?

All of them.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Why do I have to answer this weird question.

Any additional comments?

Get this 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

Fantastic

This was fantastic. The characters are great. Story is great. One of the best books out there for the litRPGs can't wait for the next one

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • JP OK
  • 08-22-17

One of the best in its genre

One of the best LitRPG around, up there with awaken online. Definitely worth a listen to.

Really looking forward to getting stuck into the second book!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ivan Fodor
  • 10-24-17

Good

good for litrpg. who likes the world of games will enjoy it. aiting for next one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 09-07-17

Great tale and a new angle in LitRPG

Dammed fine read. This is a very well written and thought out book. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you are a fan of this genre.

The Main Character is well crafted and his background story and behavior is nicely feed to the reader through the book. The twists and plot movements are well telegraphed, without being obvious and feed nicely into the flow and yet still deliver a twist or two which neatly fit the story but were unexpected none the less.

World is balanced and nicely thought out. I eye to scale was clever as well as a stable form of leveling up which stops characters becoming over powered titans in their first battle, though there was a tiny bit of that in the early chapters. Still much less than other authors use so I was willing to forgive the author.

For a first book it is well edited, good plot and a good length, so excellent value for money. Looking forward to the next in the series.

The reading style and characters are well done and very listenable too. Others have commented that the list of the stats is too long at the end of chapters and by the end i was fast forwarding for a couple of minutes at the end of the chapter as it added nothing to the story, but i had also read the book. I would reduce this in the audible books as it is just dull, but not a reason to not get the book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Dingo 883
  • 09-16-18

Not my favorite LitRPG story to date but a good 1

LitRPG has become my audiobook of choice. Challenge is LitRPG only by a narrow definition. It's more gamelit as the only time you hear of character sheets and leveling is pretty much at the end of each chapter. In fact each chapter ends with a reading of the character sheet and that's pretty much the only time you hear it.

Another issue I had was not only did the main character seemed to get some obscure skill every time he did absolutely anything at all was that he get a master, arch, or legendary title for it. Found a tripwire at level 1 for the first time. Legendary finder. Learned his first spell. Now he's an archmage. This had me scratching my head. The fact he's a rich kid that's always talking about how he was a gang leader always had me picturing him in a Cardigan sweater leading his gang of socias and about to square off with the local greasers. By level 3 he managed to kill two of the most powerful NPCs in the game because he's clever like that.

OK, bitching aside. The story kept me listening and I was entertained enough that I'll continue listening to the series. There isn't a lot of world-building to bog down the story and there was always something happening. The author never delved into the minutia and lost the listener.

As far as performance goes, Jeff Hayes is one of my two favorite narrators and I don't see that changing anytime soon. My only gripe is the voice he used for the main character while he was in character. It's gravelling and grating and suited for occasional use by a demon or lich or something, but it's not something I enjoyed hearing as a main voice in the story. I didn't understand why a character voice would be different from the person's real voice in a full immersion VR game unless your'e really into role playing your character. I don't know too many people who change their voices in TS or Vent while online gaming.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Jonathon F Bialick
  • 06-24-18

Worth a listen.

Not bad... main character developed fairly well.
Decent story, although at times feels a bit far fetched (outside world rather than in game world).

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 06-10-18

awesome

One awesome story and I can't wait for the next one. Kept me listening to the end.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-04-18

excellent<br />

I have listened to many books of this genre and this was one of the best .it kept me thinking and you really didn't know how the main character would react to different situations making it a really good story

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dan Tilley
  • 05-04-18

Absolutely brilliant

Interesting, deep characters.
Engaging game mechanics.
Familiar, yet fresh takes on fantasy tropes.
Great story with twists and sub plots.
Fantastic narration, each character has their own voice.
Totally bad ass, what more could you want?
The only negative is that book 2 is not on Audible yet.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-19-18

not what I was expecting.

bought this on a whim and really enjoyed it. I'd recommend it to anyone that like fantasy or litrpg games.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • M H.
  • 12-04-17

Jeff Hays made me finish this book

I was going to refund this book. Then something made me laugh at the end of chapter 2 and I just couldn't stop listening to it. Jeff Hays needs some serious recognition for this. The MC is basically a Bruce Wayne like rich kid who grew up street fighting. I didn't like him and he was the reason my hand was over the refund button. But Jeff Hays made his voice a comedic rasp in the game and all of a sudden he was transformed from arrogant rich kid into a lovable rogue.

I'm not too sure on the story outside the game though. I think the author may have shot himself in the foot here and moved too quickly as do a lot of LitRPG authors however I am looking forward to the next book to see what happens next.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-26-18

Great book

the book is one of those that you end up sneaking off to finish the entire book.

highly recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mitch
  • 05-25-18

awesome story. Litrpg fans.

I did really enjoy this book. the mains chars voice was annoying to begin with but after a few chapters I got used to it and started really enjoying the voice. it made the character so much funnier and I had a smile alot of the time on my face. good book. the underlying story about his real-life too was just awesome. it made me think too. And I'd say U got it spot on.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Customer
  • 01-04-18

A quality read.

Dont really write a review often but i just have to say that i really thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought the plot had a much needed depth required in this genre.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 12-05-17

Jack Thorne, what a legend.

This story is funny, very well told and I hate that I have to wait for the next part. I laughed a lot during this book and felt like I was apart of the quest line.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-22-17

Awesome!!!!

I really loved the plot, very well written and a great narrator, can't wait for the 2nd book!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Stan
  • 08-31-17

great work!!

best book yet in the fast growing litrpg world. fast paced and excellent character growth.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 08-20-17

Yer son omg it was soo good

This book yes .. this story yes .. the characters yes everything yes book 2,3,4,5 yes I need them I'm addicted

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Damien
  • 10-29-17

Felt like I was playing

While it was set up in an odd way and the main character was a little more than a jack-ass, it all pushed the story along and was never not an engaging story. All in all I'm looking forward to the next one

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Xravia
  • 10-29-17

Rushed Ending?

It felt as though the plot twist if we can even call it that was a bit forced and they didn't need to immediately solve the crisis they were building up to before it even happened.

Getting the next book out soon would help though...

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 10-25-17

overall

overall it was a good story and was well narrated. The only annoying part was how at the end of each chapter they would go through the ENTIRE character sheet which by the end of the book takes like 2-3 minutes each time.