Friday, November 24, 2023

Book Review: New Rock, New Role

With millions watching on live stream, Daxx and his teammates Krystal and Grell win the role-playing Games (RPG) Grand Championship. But winning the game was was a piece of cake compared with what comes next.

Daxx wakes up to find he's turned into his own avatar and is in the middle of a wilderness he doesn't recognize. Armed with a crappy sword and dressed in beginner-level gear he must figure out how to survive quickly because he can already hear the blood-thirsty howls of wild animals from the jungle that surrounds him.

Once the three friends finally find each other they need to puzzle out their new world, gain skills, combat enemies, and make alliances with all kinds of characters and creatures from the different territories in order to survive.

New Rock, New Role by Richard Sparks will be released December 12, 2023. Arc Manor/CAEZIK SF & Fantasy provided an early galley for review.

As a gamer and a big fantasy fan, this one easily appealed to me. The story concept I've seen before in various mediums (the first time being in Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series which began in the early 80's), but I am always open to it - especially if the author can bring something new to the table in their work.

Right off the bat, I like that Sparks fills in the non-gamer reader with details so they understand from where the main characters are coming. He isn't assuming that everyone came to the story from the same viewpoints. I like too how he takes time for the main characters gather their bearings in the new world they've found themselves. He covers all the bases in the ways it would make sense. He also does not go down the standard routes with his worldbuilding; the fantasy world he presents has some different choices that make the world its own.

Clocking in at 500 pages, there is a lot of story here. At times, it might seem to be moving slowly, but Sparks is being very thorough. The reader discovers things as the main characters do with a steady trickle, and even smaller side treks end up providing layers to the overall narrative. This is a slow simmering tale with moments to savor and digest. I won't lie - it does get a little weirder towards the end, but it does make sense.

Even as this book ends, there is a lot more of this story to tell. I've read that the author has completed two more titles in the series (slated for 2024 releases) and is working through several more after those. Clearly, Sparks has a passion for these characters and the world he has created. The reading experience is enhanced when there is passion in the writing.

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