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Publisher's Summary

Leylia’s secret could unite them all or lead them to an eternity of undeath.

After the loss of Bastion, everyone who’s not a zombie has holed up in FFO’s sole remaining safe haven: the lowbie town of Windy Lake. But the undead armies never rest, and it’s only a matter of time before the Once King’s forces come to crush what’s left of life in this world. 

But Tina, James, and the rest of the players are facing a crisis of their own. After so long in this world, their human bodies are dying on the other side. If they don’t find a way home soon, they may have nothing to go back to. 

With time running out in two worlds, Tina and James face a horrible choice: do they spend their final days looking for a way to get back to their old bodies, or join the NPCs to fight for their new ones? But just when things look impossible, James learns a secret that might change everything. Only one catch: to pull it off, they’re going to have to fight one raid boss no one, not even Tina, has ever beaten. 

The Once King.

©2019 Rachel Aaron and Travis Bach (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

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

Get this action packed conclusion!

Oh, My, Gosh!!! I was totally unprepared for how much I really, really loved the conclusion to Forever Fantasy Online, especially Josh Hurley's contribution. I had really panned his over-acting in the last book, and I totally expected I'd just have to suck it up for the sake of the rest of the storyline... and surprisingly, I didn't have to! Josh was excellent this time around. His performance was Much more refined and nuanced, making The Once King a pleasure to listen to!
I was also tickled pink to discover that the race of cats, known in the game as "Jubatus", is in part, the actual scientific name for Cheetahs (Acinonyx Jubatus). How cool is that?!??
Rachel Aaron, and Travis Bach really outdid themselves with the way this book brings the FFO series to its conclusion. So much so in fact, that I don't mind if we can't play FFO again... and no, I'm not telling you what happens (Dream On! LOL)! Get the Series, 'cause my lips are sealed, locked, and I've thrown away the key! 🤫 🤐

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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an amazing end for the series

There were so many good points in this book.
i really loved it. if you liked world of warcraft you will like this as well:)

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A Tidy Bow for a Messy Story: For MMORPGers only.

/cracks knuckles
Ok... here we go:

The trilogy of FFO tales takes place during ~2 weeks from beginning to end. But it feels much longer. Like a road trip that combines the fun of inexplicable and erratic driving, unexpected turns, dead ends and gaping p(l)otholes. I really wanted to like this series. But I was equal parts bored and frustrated, which eventually settled on begrudgingly accepting the experience of being reluctantly dragged through 40hrs+ of audiobooks. I can't tell you how many times I just went "Uuuuuuugh!! Are you freaking serious?! Come ON!!" while listening to this on my commute.

WARNING: This book series is ONLY for people who played egregious amounts of WoW, Everquest, or other MMORPGs and the meta-driven, loot-loving, level-grinding sub-culture that's attached to it. If you imagine that being sucked into FFO is gonna be a sandwich laden, dessert filled picnic, that'd be a big old nope-a-rooney. Harrowed by flagrant gamer-speech and far too many acronyms that should only uttered with aid of a keyboard. Nobody actually says, "LMAO", "ROFL", or "LOL". It just makes you sound stupid, especially in a game-world. #SMH. Both the NPC's and Players are stuck in "game mode" and it aims us to think there is a set of rules to the power structure and "magic" of the world, which there isn't. It's all arbitrary and all over the place. No structure. No rules. No math. No sense. Like lost Legos in the carpet; you'll find it eventually, but it'll be a painful surprise followed by some colorful cussing. I don't entirely dislike the MCs/Players, but they just aren't relatable. Instead we get characterized wooden tropes of gamerdom, narcissistic pettiness, and that ever-present "murder hobo" violence that comes with any role-playing game. I said this in my other reviews of the series: it's an isekai LitRPG with out the G. No Game.

My biggest gripe is that the characters tend to get out of negative situations with articles of power that just show up.
-Example: "Oh! This was that thing that, if you played FFO [which no one has/will], you'd know did the EXACT thing the character needs to survive/escape/win/etc and it showed up out of nowhere, the character conveniently remembered, and/or never mentioned it before!!!"
...
Dude.
What?
Get Out of Jail Free Cards work only once and it happens at least 3-5x a book; How's our hero going to get out of this mess? Surprise! It's a thing you never knew about and are completely blindsided with! It just happened to appear over there or be remembered at this critical point! Yay. Fun.

I did like how certain untraditional themes were explored (dealing with physical and mental illness, LBGTQ+ issues, trauma, adoption, arranged marriage), but it still felt uncomfortably injected for the sake of appeasing potential readers vs applying it in a practical application in the world and learning from it. Almost like the authors knew that these issues needed attention, but didn't really identify with these people, or their struggles, aside from obvious stereotypes and therefore they became identified by them. i.e. The transgender troll is always a transgender troll. The macho latino is always macho latino. Snobby successful person stays snobby and successful. No one learns anything aside from what could be gleaned from a single episode of Sesame Street. In wartime, 2 weeks is enough to change anyone. But, no one really changed. At all. And that's not how people work.

I also liked how the MCs had some character development, albeit predictable, but they still moved forward. Hell, that's the one thing this book does well: barrel ahead in a straight line like Roxxy. Careening through the story all smashy-smashy with almost no concern for the world around her. We avoid lore & world building in favor of conflict & battle. The fight scenes were either predictable or droning. I definitely appreciate the amount of effort that went into the battle-planning stratagem and the overall visualization. But again, we had more internet-y randomness show up and lots of just-add-water-for-instant-plot-filler. That made anticipating any potential strategic moves, from the reader's standpoint, a moot one. Even James' chapters were either all talk or all action. By the time the story points and lore started "coming together", I just didn't care anymore.

The ending was, as the headline says, "A Tidy Bow". The MCs and Lead SCs all get the 80's montage outro treatment. Its astonishing how much gets glossed over so we can have that kind of epilogue. Also, it's very reminiscent of Rachel's Heartstriker series in which lots of bad stuff happens but we still have time for at least one sappily awkward romance that's laden with communication issues and scandalous secrets we drag along by it's neck til the (almost) bitter end. It's not the kind of drama I want in LitRPG because it permeates every other kind of storytelling and that magical love-love unicorn is deader and drier than petrified horse jerky so please stop kicking it. It's dead, Jim.

All in all, I don't dislike the book series, but when compared to Rachel Aaron's other works, (which have their own flawed gems) I have no choice but to assume that Travis was the weak link in the writing. That blatant disregard for understanding how user-perceptions shift when "AR/VR" becomes just "R" felt so broken. The way the Players interact with the world, it's pretty obvious that they don't get it and none of them learn to really engage in the world around them (aside from the MCs). Don't use VR as an excuse to water down your characters. The assumption that gamers are all (at least in some way) single-minded, differently-abled, borderline sociopathic MMO-junkies that masquerade as meme collectors and edge-lords is painfully inaccurate and kind of insulting. These people truly love these artificial realities and the digital social environments they provide to help them maintain a grip on the real world and their responsibilities in it. Even the SCs that aren't obviously basement-dwellers come off as pedantic and petulant. It doesn't feel like a "love letter" to gaming. Maybe more like an "unrequited confession letter".

Overall, this series lacks balance, a coherent mythos, and worst of all an honest heart. I'm more disappointed by how it COULD'VE gone. So much critical information came in reluctant sprints and quick gleanings instead of crafting and shaping the "why". So much storytelling destruction is left by the wake of the Roughnecks' mudbound trudge to the end. So many good characters left by the wayside or discarded due to poorly thought out development and plot to make room for fake quirkiness and cheap gags. This isn't supposed to be a virtual world, it's a just different one. From both the Players and the NPCs, we never really feel like we know what each side is going through. Just a little peek through a clean spot on a dirty window. All in all, it's not terrible. But there are many other stories that are much better. Here's to hoping DFZ book 3 doesn't disappoint as much as FFO did.

Oh and Josh Hurley did great. He was the only reason I finished this series.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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"Don't think about it Morty." -Rick Sanchez

You would think that the ending would prompt alot of question with that conclusion. (Seriously the Government.) But as a wise character once said "Don't think about it!" Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the story, pacing and narrative. Josh Hurley ability to narrate between characters is pretty awesome. FFO is kinda like a love letter to Log Horizon and to a lesser extent *Groan* SAO.

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such a great book

I loved how this book played out.
I love where characters..good and bad change, evolve and grow..

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Amazing conclusion to an amazing trilogy

For me this entire series is the gold standard for litrpg. It had everything, a good story, non-OP MCs, a compelling dynamic between characters and actual game mechanics. So many litrpgs abandon the classic mmorpg mechanics once the characters are trapped in the game. This series holds on to them but puts a 'real life' spin on them. The series is just great all around. If you like the genre then you will love this story.

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Good Series

4.5/5

I really enjoyed this series. It's much more polished than most of the other LitRPGs out there.

My only complaints are that #1 - The backstories were all needlessly melodramatic between middle school father daughter incest, friends committing suicide, people on life support, parental physical abuse and those that are horribly disfigured offline etc. Kinda made me feel like there weren't any people with normal lives that got ported over. The story didn't need all that, it was compelling enough on its own.

#2 - I didn't realize until now that the narrator has been saying a character name wrong the entire series. I always thought "Nekobaby" was "Nicobaby" based on the pronunciation. Ugh.. That's pretty unforgivable. It's the kind of thing that should be confirmed before recording. Big botch on speaking character names.

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One of the Best LitRPG Series Available

First off, all of Rachel Aaron's books are phenomenal. The FFO series is a bit of a departure from the rest of her catalogue but Rachel and Travis bring a level of quality and depth that is extremely refreshing in the LitRPG genre.

In terms of FFO, I was a bit shocked to hear the series would only be a trilogy, as both the author(s) and genre are known for a higher quantity of storyline installments. With that said, The Once King was an incredible ending. The story had an unpredictable path that led to a complete tale while bringing all of the best character's narratives to an appropriate close.

I would highly recommend this series and would encourage anyone who started the series to hear it through, as it is arguably the best book of the trilogy.

Well done Rachel and Travis, Now more DFZ stories please!

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Love it!!!

Great series, wish there was more or something similar. I hope to see more litrpg from this writer.

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Perfect ending to a perfect series.

Awesome story. Absolutely awesome narrator. Dude you need to do more recordings, people need to hear you. Hopefully the writers keep up the great writing. Cheers!!

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  • Callum M.
  • 05-13-20

Highly reccomend

I was enchanted by this series. Being an mmo player the zones within the book brought me a sense of nostalgia for a particular mmo and the described landacapes were painted vividly in my minds eye. I loved the characters, the story as a whole. The prologue gave me a pang of sadness when i realised it was likely over. Just fantastic. If anyone has played fantasy mmos they'll find their home again in the world of FFO.

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  • Aaron W
  • 11-21-19

EXCELLENT!!!

I can't reccomend this series enough. the story was one of the best I've ever listened to.

1 person found this helpful