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Publisher's Summary

The skull throne sits empty and the Kingdom of Heaven is in turmoil.

Enter "iron" Jack Russo. Able to drop newbs with a single headshot and the king of online games. At least, he used to be, before his sister got pregnant and he had to get a job to help take care of them.

But when a particle accelerator explodes, causing Jack to get stuck in his favorite game, Kingdom of Heaven, he'll have to conqueror Heaven and seat himself on the skull throne. If not, he'll be trapped in the game forever.

©2017 Jason Cipriano (P)2017 Jason Cipriano

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Awesome LitRPG with Impressive Narration

Jack Russo is a pretty average guy, supporting his sister and nephew and spending all of his spare time playing the MMORPG Kingdom of Heaven. Inside the game he's Iron Jack, an awesome knight and member of one of the top guilds in KoH. When Jack's sister objects to him spending all his time in game with no real world friendships, she kicks him out of their house.

Jack meets a stranger who claims to work for the developers who created Kingdom of Heaven. The stranger takes him back to the studio where an explosion traps Jack in the actual game. No respawning, no communication with the outside. His only chance to go home is to capture the Skull Throne. Iron Jack is the biggest baddie in Kingdom of Heaven, but that still may not be enough to win the Throne.

I've read a few LitRPG books by these authors and they are really all about the slow burn. They put so much time and thought into developing the characters and their motivations, it's really well done. Jack spends a lot of time in his own head, beating himself up for the situation he's in. He makes some silly decisions, but he's really just a good guy at heart. I liked watching him come to terms with the reality of what he thought was a game. He's a character I want to root for.

The game side of the book is great, a world with a heaven, hell, mortal plane, and portals between them, and all the fantasy creatures that reside there. There weren't too many stats to drag down the action scenes, which I always appreciate. It doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but it's a great setup for the rest of the series.

I thought the narration was awesome. The narrator had a great range of character voices, even performing different voices for each female character which was really impressive. There were some cool sound effects that enhanced the story. I think I would have enjoyed reading the book, but I loved listening to it. I requested a copy of the audiobook, and I'm voluntarily leaving a review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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What if you were in the game for real?

The Skull Throne
Kingdom of Heaven, Book 1
By: J.A. Cipriano, Conner Kressley
Narrated by: Jeff Hays
This is an audible book I requested and the review is voluntary.
This book I found to be much more personable for a LITRPG. The characters seemed more real and and I picture them as a person when they were not playing and experienced the fun and excitement when they were playing. Because it was more personal, the team playing was more interesting and more dramatic. Plus, no one knew that one of there friends was in the game for real! He was really feeling the hits, falls, and battles. There was humor too. A good all around fun read!
The narrator made this extra great! All the voices, emotions, sounds,....just perfect! Loved it, tipped it up a notch or two!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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You only live once...

“The Skull Throne” is the first book in the “Kingdom of Heaven” series. It is a well-crafted story co-written by J.A. Cipriano and Conner Kressley. The audiobook edition is once again masterfully narrated by Jeff Hays and produced through Soundbooth Studios. The book is a blending of Literary Role-Playing Game (LitRPG) with a dark fantasy feel. The created world was rather unique and interesting, including the many creatures the main character faces while on his journey. The first book is a bit short being just shy of three-hundred pages while the audiobook is just under six hours in length. If you are a fan of the LitRPG genre and/or if you are a fan of Jeff Hays’ narrations, this book is one you will want to pick up and give it a listen. It should be noted that this is a book series where the story does not conclude the various open plotlines. Instead, it ends with a cliffhanger which expect you to pick up the second book titled “Escape from Hell”; which is currently available on Audible.

The book follows our main character “Iron Jack” as he struggles with his desires to play online games to the determent of life events occurring around him. As with many books in this category, Jack comes from a broken family and uses gaming as a means of escaping the pains of reality. Things quickly change when he is mysteriously brought into a world much like the game he had been playing with his friends. Jack’s eyes are opened to the real meaning of the game world by a stranger he meets one night. After this encounter, his life and the world he is a part of are turned upside down and he goes from not caring to full survival mode. The story can be seen as a typical good vs. evil, yet at times it is hard to know which side is the right one. I found the means by which Jack learns of his new reality quite different from others I have read. The book quickly hooks you and brings you into the story, always a sign of good storytelling.

Although the world is quite unusual from other books in the genre, I found that its addition of somewhat familiar creature such as ogres, ghosts, and dragons with a blending of angles and demons to be helpful in my understanding of the world and its inhabitants. The book has rather interesting magic and weapon systems, however I found the life system to be a bit more complicated to follow then a simple hit counter. Iron Jack has always been a warrior class character in other games and he was very good a min/maxing his game characters requiring him to be dependent on others when in a battle. Yet, in this world, magic rules, and Jack needs to find a way of enhancing this part of his skill set if he has a hope of survival. I will say that the authors did a good job of giving the listener a feeling of the character’s leveling process as not only did he get stronger as he increased, the creatures he faced later in the book are more fierce and unforgiving as those found earlier.

For me, I found the wit a bit lighter and less funny as I would have hoped. That is not to say the book is not humorous, just that some of the one-liners did not have me laughing out loud. But, where the book lacks in humor, it more than makes up for it in its battles, intrigue, and suspense. The book includes some rather powerful and impactful emotional times where I could understand and feel the pain the character was experiencing. In a book that is filled with action and adventure, there is also a fair amount of love and tragedy. For a rather short book I found I was often on an emotional rollercoaster, and I think the authors did a good job of giving the characters depth and life.

It is no surprise that I’m a fan of LitRPG books and as I have said in many of my previous books, I feel Jeff Hays is the Boss Monster when it comes to narrating these types of books. He is so talented in his ability to voice the many characters differently and he gives them each a very unique personality and feel. The audio itself is what I have come to expect from Mr. Hays and Soundbooth publishing. It was professional, clean of any audio artifacts, and crisp. The audio quality is what one would expect from a much larger publishing house and it sets the standard by which I often compare other books.

For parents or younger readers, be aware that the book contains vulgar language along with sexual references and innuendos. There are a few scenes of graphic violence that may be inappropriate for younger readers. If these items are not something you enjoy or expect in a series, I would recommend you find a different series to listen too.

In summary, for people who like the LitRPG genre and more importantly Mr. Hays narration, this book is one I would recommend you pick up. Again, it is not intended for younger listeners, but more mature people will find the story compelling and the gaming system quite exclusive from others.

Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A pretty good LitRPG

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

So, this was a good, and fun LitRPG story. I enjoyed the particle accelerator exploding and sending Jack into a video game world and the exploits he has. He is a bit thick, what with all of his denial about his situation, but that wasn't a complete turn off. All in all, this was a really enjoyable story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A wonderful read!

The skull throne sits empty and the Kingdom of Heaven is in turmoil...
Enter "iron" Jack Russo...

The story was so interesting that I got hooked right from the start!

Perfect for readers of LitRPGs.

The narrator did such a great job of narrating that I enjoyed this story so much better listening to it (rather than reading it)!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful new RPG Lit

Having read a few of these and enjoying them all quite a bit, this is a little different spin. Typically the main characters "choose" to import into the game.

This one is about a character that doesn't want to be there. It was a nice change of pace.

The narrator is perfect for the Character. I believe that I wouldn't have liked it nearly as much if I had read a paper version. He really brought the main character to life.

The story doesn't meander. It is fast paced and wonderful The ending was a bit anti-climactic, and is obviously intended for a sequel. It would have been nice if there was something satisfying about the ending. There isn't. It leaves things in a heap. But I guess it works, because I plan on reading the next one:)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Frustrated

The problem with this character is that he spends the vast majority of this book in deep denial. If I wanted to be inside the head of someone in denial, I would just interview an art history major.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Solid start to new LitRPG series.

Kingdom of Heaven is the first book of The Skull Throne saga, a new LitRPG series by J.A. Cipriano. J.A. Cipriano is no stranger to the LitRPG genre, and I am no stranger to J.A. Cipriano, lol. This man is a machine, putting out great book after great book...so many so that I've fallen behind a bit.

While Soulstone: Awakening, is my favorite Cipriano book so far (seriously, check it out), Kingdom of Heaven is still a fun/wild ride. It adds a unique wrinkle to the typical LitRPG novel and it has a great ending that will have you wanting to know what comes next.

As expected, narrator Jeff Hays delivers a stellar performance, once more showing why he is one of the best narrators working today. The man never disappoints!



I received a copy of this audio title for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Geeky Gamer becomes part of the game

Jack is a geek, a gamer, and a slacker. He lives with his sister and her two year old son. He loves them both very much, but one night his sister kicks him out so he can live his own life. Going to a bar, Jack meets a man who works for the company that makes his favorite role playing game. The man offers to take him to the office to see the next upgrade to the game, Kingdom of Heaven. Suddenly the man turns into a female alien and Jack is whisked away and finds himself actually inside the world of the Kingdom. He is tasked with taking over the Skull Throne, but dangers await everywhere and someone from the real world is also there and wants Jack dead.

An interesting take on the role playing gaming community. Jack is humorous and scared at the same time. I've listened to a few other books by JA Cipriano and enjoyed them, so I got this one and liked it a lot. Of course it is book 1, so I'll be looking to listen to the rest soon.

Jeff Hays does a great job with the voices, especially the two female characters were great, and since they were a type of fairy, Jeff added a little rolling and shaky sound to their voices that was very subtle but noticeable. Very talented. I look forward to the next book....

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review

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Well, that was unexpected

This is a new genre for me, I've also never played any RPG games, so this book is very different to what I normally listen to.

I found the concept both interesting and weird. My lack of knowledge definitely affected my experience but I found the book surprisingly good. I found it more difficult to connect emotionally to the characters but I was still curious about what was going to happen next.

It's well written and the plot seemed creative. I'm interested to see what happens in the next book.

The narration was excellent, the character voices are clear and the delivery was engaging.

I received a free copy of this book from the author and/or narrator and/or publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Six
  • 10-06-17

A real treat for the fans of LitRPG genre

OH MY GODS!

I know it's another book by J.A. Cipriano and that by this point I shouldn't really even be getting surprised like this. His writing just keeps getting better, and even if I actually read it I don't think I'd be able to put it down.

But as an audiobook? Un-be-lievable!
The voices, the acting, the emotion... Oh man!

Narrators can bring so much goodness to a book and make it so much more than it ever could have been if you read it for yourself. And if they're on top of their game, the whole thing becomes a theater in your mind.

This book you simply have to listen. If you don't, you will still enjoy it, but you will have no idea what you've missed.

Let me get this straight - I've never heard Jeff Hays in my life. I had no idea what to expect of him and his performance. When the book offer came up, I just saw Cipriano wrote it and didn't even check the audio sample. He always gets great people to read his books, and he's one hell of a writer, so why even bother, right?

My first minute of listening was "Hm. OK. There's something unusual about this guy's voice."

And then, another voice joined in. And it was a female voice. And it was a very good female voice! Generally, male narrators do better female voices than the other way around, but this was really good. Like, Ray Porter or Marc Thompson-level good.

And so the story continued, and every single voice in there was epic in its own right! Up and coming narrators - listen and take notes.

Characters are well written, but Jeff gave them life and uniqueness. I should probably give a huge credit to Conner Kressley too, as he co-authored this awesome book. With Cipriano and his frequent co-writing deal I never know who works on which part. And I'm not sure I even care. End result is always awesome.

Book starts the second LitRPG series I've read from Cipriano - first one being Soulstone - and it's the second one done right.

Character introductions are seamless, have a purpose and are not overly dramatic during their initial appearance as we tend to see nowadays. Well formed, built over time, and definitely not forgettable.

Majority of the story plays out in the virtual world, as we've come to expect with LitRPG genre, but as this is the exact reason I'm reading it I couldn't find any faults with it :-)

There's an immediate fork which differentiates The Skull Throne from Soulstone, and it's a good thing. Similarities of the virtual world quickly end, and I was left to enjoy the new world without having to subconsciously compare them.

Writer definitely isn't a one-trick-pony when it comes to similar subjects. Something I feel should be pointed out.

If anything, the book kind of expects you to have an MMO experience of sorts. If not, then an open mind is required so you can actually enjoy it. If not, you're definitely holding/listening the wrong book.

But I think the preamble takes care of that. "Enter "Iron" Jack Russo. Able to drop newbs with a single headshot and the king of online games." Yep, you're in the right place :-)

There's even a glossary of game terms at the end! Second-to-last chapter. Read first. I wish I did :-)

I couldn't help but feel how stuff, which is generally visual, got conveniently formed to accommodate narration. For example, combat logs, when you see something like:

"Goblin Thief hits you for 2432 Physical damage.
You are Poisoned.
You take 200 Poison damage.
12378 energy remaining."

A special voice is used for events like this, and it works surprisingly well!

"Congratulations! You have reached level 53!
The Principalities smile on you. You gain 2 attunement ranks.
You gain 2 Essences of Principalities"

Yes, it's actually "listen-able". Jeff the Wizard makes it so! Even the glitching characters are awesomely "converted".

"IronJack! Who is your best friend?" Jackal cracked me up every time. Ridiculously funny character. Also, made 50x better by hero-level voice acting.

Sequel cannot come soon enough. It's written already, but I'll absolutely wait for the audiobook to come out of production! Hope it arrives before holidays :-)

So, now I'm going to chase down books voiced by Jeff, as I simply have to confirm that this isn't a fluke. If he's really of Ray Porter's or Marc Thompson's caliber, I'll spend my entire Audible credit bank getting new stuff.

I'll have to find more time for reading, too. Perhaps hit the gym, as I've been planning for months now, and listen while on a treadmill.

- "I want you to be happy Jackie."
- "Don't call me Jackie!"
- "Why not? You can call me Chuck!"

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-05-17

Moo review

Ok so just let the book start and take off it's not a book that picks you up strait away but it does take off and looks to be a great set up for book 2