Gifted with the ability to use magic and advance in power, he is given an ultimatum: Level up or die!
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By Ray Johnson on 05-06-18
Swords, spells, & ranch dressing in the Underword
Level Up or Die! By Apollos Thorne is a fun book, but not one without its problems. The main character is a gamer who is snatched from our world and taken to what is essentially a hellish under realm where every fantasy monster you ever heard of is real. The Underworld is not a human friendly environment, or so we are told, and the only job the abductees have is to . . . you guessed it, level up or die. A great premise with some intriguing characters, but even the Hope Diamond has flaws.
My biggest complaint comes from the title. Level up or die. There is a boatload of leveling, and not a whole lot of dying. At least not by anyone except monsters. I suppose that in a case where your protagonist can die, but we all know he’s not going to die, can be hard to write. But, if you go through the whole of the book the number of deaths that we get, even from background characters is . . . . .well, I won’t say how many, but it sure isn’t a high number. In fact, there is literally no sense of danger to the MC at any point. Elorion pretty much solos the labyrinth the majority of the time. He plays everything rather smartly, and keeps his head cool in situations most of us would freak out about and so never comes remotely close to any danger. There is one time where he is shot by an archer, but even that is a minor wound that he comments could have been much worse. This lack of danger really takes some of the kick out of what could have been an outstanding novel.
Elorion is an interesting player, who seems to adjust well to whatever situation he is dropped into. He uses his head, and at the right time listens to his heart. His unique abilities allow him to level himself, and others, far quicker than should have been possible. He also manages to constantly think of innovative ways to use his powers that show he will be a force to be reckoned with when the time comes. At no point was I ever bored with the story or any characters, in fact I rather loved seeing the creative methods Elorion came up with to defeat his enemies or apply his abilities. I know I just carped about the whole no sense of danger thing, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this book in the slightest. The Mistress is a luscious villainess that you love to see appear, and you will want to punch an imp in the face. The MOBs are standard fare, and just fodder, but Thorne’s writing still makes them interesting creatures to kill. I did appreciate that most loot that Elorion pillaged from the corpses of his enemies was not something that he could always use, or even if he could use it he did not employ it. He sold or shared most of the loot.
Graham Halstead narrates the story, and does very well. His voice isn’t as smooth as Luke Daniels or Jeff Hay, but it still works in this genre. He’s read a ton of novels, and knows what he is doing. He plays a multitude of roles, and has fun with it, and so you enjoy the reading even more. He has a done a few other series that I have looked at, and will now probably pick up and give a listen to in the future.
Oh, the cover. I usually comment on the cover. I am pretty neutral on this cover. The art is nice, but a little cartoony, something about the protagonist’s pose looks stiff, almost like the stance an action figure would take. I think it is a fun cover, but really isn’t all that impressive. If it were a touch more realistic, then maybe I’d rank it higher, but the more I look at that pose the more I think of some kid playing with his He-Man action figures.
In spite of the few flaws, the book is fun, and keeps your attention. I only paused the book because work or real life intruded, otherwise it would have been a straight shot all the way through. I cannot wait for the next novel in the series, and look forward to more great things from Thorne. Even though I did receive a promo code for this review it in no way influenced my considerations of the material, and in fact, inspired me to be more honest. In fact, getting a code generally makes me harsher as a reviewer as I am more often concerned what someone like Me will decide based on my review.
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10 of 11 people found this review helpful
By Jason Brown on 23-05-18
a gem in the Litrpg genre, with ranch dressing.
this Is a litrpg novel, and its one of the better ones I have listened to lately.
lets be honest litrpg books are like the junk food of the novel world. they are generally short not overly filling and always leaving you wanting more.
the book was fairly short and the story didn't really go anywhere but the mechanics were well thought out and the grind was entertaining.
the characters did not really have a lot of backstory and were rather 2d but I cant say I was disappointed.
this is the first time I have listened to this narrator and in my opinion he did a fantastic job,
will definitely be getting the next installment.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful