Genre: LitRPG/ Apocalyptic with religious undertones.
Synopsis: A primeval darkness threatens to destroy mankind...The world's largest gaming platform in the entire industry is led by a man with many secrets. The popular game DarkForce features the World of Zion which has been plagued by the destructive will of the Leviathan for centuries. What gamers don't know is that the World of Zion actually exists, and the Leviathan has fed off of the souls of men and his fodder has become scarce. He now turns to Earth with an insatiable hunger. Only a woman from Earth who levels up to discover a divine inner power can challenge Earth's Apocalyptic Fate.
My Take: I've never read LitRPG before, although I kind of wonder if Realms Unreeled would qualify? But anyway, I saw some complaints from some "purists" of the genre who said that this wasn't truly LitRPG. As I'm not really familiar with the subgenre, I won't argue that point. What I will say is that I really enjoyed the story at the beginning. There was a strong science-fantasy edge, with a heavy religious theme. I was enticed by the concept of seraphim as told in the story, and the way each chapter began with chapters from "Methusala." The book had me until about 68% of the way through.
The complaint that another reviewer had that the gaming scenes felt forced and like they were slapped in to "make it LitRPG" didn't feel true to me. I felt that those pieces flowed in the story, and that they made sense. But suddenly there was too much happening at the 68% mark, and it happened fast with little time spent really delving into the why and how.
The story starts out being all about Allan, his client Timur, his fiance Lilly, and how their relationships aren't what they seem. Then we get thrown into another world where Timur is not what he seems on a WHOLE new level! Allan meets John and discovers that he is "the chosen One" type of trope. I was good following this story line, following Lilly and Allan's motivation, even following John's motivation, and realizing that Timur's motivation might be a bit skewed as he is clearly insane and unstable.
I followed the intro to Brittany and why she was a part of the story, but suddenly Brittany and her guy took a huge chunk of the story that seemed only tangentially related to the main story line. , but there was no clear understanding of why their quest in the video game suddenly had such importance (I suspect that will become more relevant in the next book, but talk about a HUGE cliff hanger!) and then there were some explanations that ended up being inconsistent (The four horseman tie in, leading to the number of seraphim pulling from famous historical figures, which then changed in a latter chapter, for example.)
We started out with Allan being the main protagonist, then that shifted to Lilly and both of their motivations took a drastic shift that while sort of making sense, were still frustrating because we didn't see the growth on Lilly's part to lead to her change, and with Allan being the protagonist, I expected more of him. Then the story ended on a giant twist of Screw the Reader ever designed and I was left mad.
I believe this is the first book by the author, and I think that part of the problem is that he was too ambitious. I love books that pull from lots of historical mythos. Rick Roirdan's series are some of my favorites! The way that Joshua Robertson weaves ancient Celtic myths into his works, Supernatural pulling monsters from all around the world.
But each of those weave all those elements into a series. We get a chance to be immersed in one element before another element is thrown at us. With Conquest we are barely getting used to the idea of the two worlds and seraphim, before the game element is thrown at us. Before we can process that aspect, we get dragons, before we can fully process that element, we get the ascension aspect, and before we can truly right our view of this world, the Leviathon flips everything on it's head. We are invested in Allan's story, and then the focus shifts to Lilly, and before we can fully get invested in Lilly we're twisted to Brittany's story and then the last chapter is about James. Each of these characters tie into the others to some extent, but the transition of focus was a bit mind bending for me, all in one relatively short book.
Then there are some other aspects that I need to decide if it was the author's cleverly toying with my expectations of the tropes, or if the transition really was as jarring as it felt to me in the moment. This will take some time to process and analyze. I might have to come back to that.
I think the author has an incredible concept going. The world he has created and the multiple conflicts are fascinating, especially as a first time author, but it gave me major whiplash bouncing from all those focuses. Mad props to the author, though. I have yet to brave writing true fantasy or science fiction because I fear I would not do so well with keeping all the plates spinning and balancing the focus. For him to add in these other story elements on top of such a tough genre? Wow.
I enjoyed the story enough, and feel that the content is ok for my boys to read. I will probably read the next book in the series when it comes out. Hopefully as the author fine tunes his storytelling, the focus will tighten and develop. I am excited to see where this author goes! Want to learn more about Conquest? Here it is on Goodreads.
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