I have greatly enjoyed everything I have read by Drew Hayes. I even taught one of his novels this past spring semester; I plan to keep it. I enjoyed Siege Tactics, but it just seemed to lack a little something, like the usual sparkle of fun that everything else by Hayes that I’ve read. So, even if what follows seems like a list of complaints, which it kind of is, just to be clear, I really did enjoy this book. It just was slightly a teensy wee little bit less awesome as the rest of Hayes’ canon.
I think the thing that wasn’t quite as fun was that the IRL gamers and their in-game counterparts were treated as considerably more distinct than in previous volumes. Accordingly, there was a bit less of Russell, Tim, and the rest, and their part in the overall mystery of the connection between their world (the real one) and the game world is just getting good. Some real potential progress in figuring things out starts to happen, but that’s much less the focus this time around. I liked the back and forth balance of previous stories better.
The quest itself this time was a good one, and the hidden village of Notch is a great addition, especially with its residents all of whom are retired characters, or ‘echoes’. I do kind of wish I knew if it was Kieran or Brock that the adventurer crew controlled by the real world ran into during the attack on Lumal though; I can’t tell because I’m not entirely sure who/what Brock was before. The return of Fritz and some more detail about her (not a total surprise) is welcome and it does lead me to a theory of what’s going on overall, but I’ll just have to wait and see how right or wrong I am. It was also interesting getting to meet a few more gods, and getting a better sense of how the divine and mortal worlds relate and interact.
The mystery of what Gabrielle now is and some ideas about her axe are given some interesting attention, and I know I’m probably being baited here, but I wanna know more about the one the axe or the spirit within it called “Master”. The mystery of Timuscor’s Mr. Peppers is complicated further but not clearly revealed, which is fine for now, but the mystery god/divine voice bugs me a little. Who or what is it? Even a hint would be nice.
Complaints aside, there is a lot of good set up to be had here, but I’m now really looking forward to finding out what happens for the former NPCs since each one of them except for Eric and Grumph, and actually why nothing new for them?, has a pretty clear new challenge before them. Thistle’s future fight to steal Madroiria back from Kalzidar is going to be awesome, Timuscor’s new self-confidence and link with his boar companion will make for entertaining adventure, and Gabrielle has to manage her demon axe and its need for blood as an undead individual. Also, what will Russell and company get up to in their search for answers? The wait for the next volume begins.