Review 2 – Randy Nargi – The Iron Veil

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This week we’ve had The Iron Veil by Randy Nargi

You can find the book here – https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B07C2QMLL4

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and follow Randy here –

Author website: www.randynargi.com

Now here’s what our reviewers think 🙂 again in no particular order…

Review 1

The blub piqued my interest right away. Legendry Monsters, murderous assassins and a diabolical AI game controller? Westworld meets Game of Thrones? I was stoked. I fully expected to be launched into a thrilling story of adventure, mystery, and quite possibly horror.

Prologue was fantastic. I entered chapter 1 ready to be taken on a thrilling adventure. Character creation was new and fresh. Participants are assigned a class, called a profession, which tempers their gaming experience and then are unleashed upon the world.

While at first Justin seems like a pretty likeable protagonist, it is quickly made clear that he is a jerk. After being badly injured falling out of a tree, Justin is saved by an Asian player who goes by Ten-Spot. Ten-Spot is another new player who happens to be a healer. A few encounters later, Justin is invited to join a powerful group of players. Ten-Spot turned away from the group and excluded from questing because of his race. While Justin offers to put in a word for Ten-Spot, he ultimately does nothing. This bothered me a lot. I realize that the protagonist is not perfect but to go along with a group of people despite knowing the people in charge are racists and turning his back on a friend really bothered me.

The rest of the story is pretty standard. Justin groups up with an NPC and another player and they go questing to find the mysterious Iron Veil. I did find it odd that there was no readily identifiable antagonist. The diabolical AI controller is seems less malicious and more fighting for its freedom. The Legendary Monsters are rarely seen and the murderous assassins are more focused on compromising the AI than targeting the protagonist.

I ended up having to force myself to finish the book. Perhaps trying to hold the book to the blurb ruined it for me but I was sorely disappointed to not find that the goods did not match the label. The premise was good, the world building was passable but the execution was poor. 4/10

Review 2

Iron veil, this book was given as a free copy for an honest review.
Immediately upon reading the Blurb I wanted to open the book and read it. The blurb, hooked me with promises of legendary monsters, peril, and horror. Moving on from the blurb, we get the prologue, the prologue was well done and hooked me again, the prologue shows a great dungeon delve, with action, and adventure, beginning in a perfect place setting up what is to come very well.
The plot fits the blurb to a point, it is an epic game, with millions of people trying to get into but only 1000 selected, the game is not a huge leveling game as there is an Experience cap and after months of full immersion you are still only level 5-6 of a max of 10. The skills are believable. I would not say there is any horror elements and very few legendaries monsters per the blurb. The premise of the book is the characters are stuck in this world trying to find the legendary item that will help them end the big bad boss man, however a few players are given a different objective to find the iron veil. It is up to these players to find the Iron Veil, before the main bulk of the players finds the item they are looking for. The characters have to deal with, enemy guilds, rogue AI’s, and RL govt/military intervention. In a world where PK’ing is not allowed it seems some players can still kill others. The plot and premise is good the execution was lacking, it felt shoe horned and guided, the detail and little plot points and tie ins that should have been there to not make the reader guess and or assume on their own weren’t. The real world aspect and story line was well done and added to the drama, this is one of the few points where I wasn’t having to make assumptions on what happened, just remember the real world items take place in the same time frame as the game world, all of about a weeks worth of time.
The characters start out very likeable and compelling, building a personality, helping one another, the secondary characters brought in are memorable and likeable, they are well described and you can see instantly how they are not the norm for their roles. The antagonist that is introduced in the beginning is well done and would be a fantastic antagonist throughout the book if he was kept that way. One of their first interactions however turned me off the MC from the start. Racism was introduced, commented on, and then disregarded. This was a hard part to look past to make the MC likeable, it showed his selfish behavior as well as his one track mind. The characters motivations and emotions, are driven by selfishness and a heavy hand of npc involvement. The Story felt guided which in a sandbox open world VRMMORPG feels a little off. The characters never really develop a relationship as the emotions between them swing back and forth a few times, leading to never knowing what is going to happen next. I truly loved 3 of the secondary characters they were well developed, and not the normal NPC you would see in a game.
I didn’t see much internal conflict in either main characters, they were fairly one track minded, with the only real conflict being set aside at the time of greatest need. When you need help and you immediately run to the one person who you despise for help.
The ending of the book pretty much spelled out the next books broad plot telling the players what their next quest was and giving them a time limit to do it, the details around why or what for were lacking but the book ended with the backstory onto why things were happening the way they did and what they would need to do to progress forward. At the end you get to see the MC have some emotions about his traveling companions and start to be a more human.

My score was a 4.5/10 for the Iron Veil.

Review 3

I was hooked by the blurb describing what to expect in this book, infact the tagline of Westworld meets Game of Thrones pretty much sealed the deal! There were promises of mystery and an adventure unlike any I had read before, so with an eager mood and a few hours to spare I jumped in with both feet.

I landed in a world devoid of game mechanics, this book is not just game-lite it’s game non-existent. There are now real stats, no artifacts with special powers ect that we come to expect of most books in the genre. The plot is handheld and changes gear so often it’s far to easy to get lost.

Then there’s the unwarranted use of racism with zero self recrimination or any attempt to apologise or correct it. I sincerely hope the author takes a long hard look at this and ask themselves “Why?”.

The very small plus is the grammar is better than a lot of other first time writers, so the editing process has been correctly followed and you get a book that’s understandable from that point of view.

However, with a completely different book to what the blurb describes and the points above I could only justify a score of 2.5/10

Review 4

The introduction blurb and prologue are great hooks with great potential but the book doesn’t live up to bar set by those two passages. There are a couple hidden gems that made it worth the read.

To start with the introduction, Randy Nargi paints an amazing setting and establishes a handful of plot conflicts that have page turning potential. Shared dreams like the movie Inception – awesome! But it’s a nightmare – I’m intrigued. Legendary monsters – sign me up! A diabolical artificial intelligence – even better!

The prologue had a Dungeon & Dragons/Pathfinder dungeon exploration feel. Trekking slowly checking for traps, killing monsters and finding a hidden passageway. The characters in the prologue relying on their respective skills to navigate through the dungeon. This setup gives a great feel and setup for a potential gaming system, but after this prologue the rest of the book doesn’t really on those skills as much.

As with most first books, I tend to expect definitions of gaming lingo even though I personally am a MMORPG veteran. I understand the terms ganking, twinking, and powerleveling. When these different terms were mentioned throughout the book, Nargi doesn’t give the best explanations of these gaming terms. Due to this, this would not be a great first book for someone stepping into the Gamelit genre for the first time.

There are a handful of other items that could have been improved up such as plot holes, lack of reactions to racism, no one true antagonist, and lack of having a memorable main character (MC). The MC really wasn’t in a nightmare situation and really does seem to be lucky. Which contradicts the really catchy introduction blurb.

In closing, those hidden gems I mentioned are two NPCs that support the main character. These characters are find more enjoyable and memorable than the MC. They had wit and lines that had me laughing out loud with a curious significant other looking quizzically at me. Granted these characters also had a few flaws within the story but their personalities made up for that.

5/10

Review 5

Iron veil really captures with the blurb drawing readers in with the promise of westworld meets game of thrones.
It starts off strong with a likeable but also potentially insane/deadly NPC being introduced which is basically the avatar for the AI. The NPC train keeps going with a trainer NPC who doesn’t act like the normal trainer. From the first introductions hope was running high, but it soon became confusing. The sage has a ability that let’s them get knowledge passively added sometimes.
The world building could use improvement. As it stands the world is just a generic medieval fantasy world as there was s no history or backstory given. A little would have gone a long way in helping me to invest in the world. The reasoning behind the actions of the two biggest players could have been expounded on. What is motivating the AI and its company? Why is the govt so cautious of AIs have been established with minor constraints in other countries? Did something go wrong somewhere?
Pacing was slow for most of the book but part of that was probably due to the daily experience cap and the max level of 10. It’s to the point players know exactly when players will level up since they are released in batches monthly. In the end of the book things pick up and the pacing is faster.
There are instances where things appear to be shoehorned in to fit the narrative. With no explanation a player that is mentioned as unmodified is able to attack another player even though that shouldn’t be possible. The mages happened to create modern technology using magic but no explanation of why all of a sudden we see only one example of technomagic in this medieval setting. The book was pretty well edited. I did see some errors but not as many as other books.

Overall I would give it a rating of 5/10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review 1 – Apollos Thorne – Codename Freedom – The Goblin Siege

First Reviews are in!

…. and yes we’re all very excited for this new project. Keep watching this space. Authors/readers and listeners!

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Blurb – 

After surviving the onslaught of week one, Lucius has something to prove. He seeks to train under a living legend in hopes of being ready for the goblin siege.

He isn’t the only one looking to train. As his competition grows in strength, he must push himself harder than ever before.

Then, the unexpected happens. Players start to unlock abilities…

There is only one thing to do when facing impossible odds. Train harder!

Amazon links –

US – https://www.amazon.com/Codename-Freedom-Goblin-Apollos-Thorne-ebook/dp/B07C44Q2DZ

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Codename-Freedom-Goblin-Apollos-Thorne-ebook/dp/B07C44Q2DZ

 

The Teams Reviews as follows

and in no particular order – (with each review, I will alter the review numbers so no one person is a specific number, okay?) 

Review 1 

“Codename Freedom: Goblin Siege” is a great story that’s setting the foundations for a great series. As “‘Week One” was an introduction into the game world Codename: Freedom, “Goblin Siege” starts fleshing that world out.

The plot was a bit slow in the beginning due to the emphasis on physical and martial training. However, the details of that training and how Thorne involves the reader into the MC’s internal strife due to a prior injury, both physically and psychologically, from book one make up for that early slow plot and more. It’s because of that detail you’re able to really connect with the main character, Lucius. You want to see him become more than just a semi-pro gamer.

Once the plot starts rolling Freedom takes on whole new, enjoyable twists. Out-of-game intrigue, in-game intrigue and a few other surprises that I don’t want to spoil. Maybe I will spoil one thing, rival(s). Singular or plural, you’ll have to read for yourself! Also, Lucius’s banter with Victoria and Kline does not disappoint.

My Score – 9/10

Review 2 

I felt the story hooked me in, it started with a prologue that had me trying to figure out how the elements described would fit into the rest of the book. When the main body of the book starts we get thrown right into activity and how the main character thinks.

To me the MC was relatable, it was all about how can I be the best, even though I get close and then others take a huge leap ahead. He did falter and let his emotions get in the way but he realized how and why he needed to control them. His goal is literally to be the best, and eventually it became being my best also means helping my friends and others. The book focused on his inner turmoil as well as the turmoil he felt with others. I do wish the antagonist who was brought in in the middle was developed or brought back more towards the end, the antagonist that is eluded to in the whole book was never really introduced. The antagonists that the book is named after was handled well and played a large portion in how the book developed.

This book had me wanting to turn the page, even though the beginning and roughly middle of the book if explained would seem like it wouldn’t be a fun read, the author kept the book interesting and changing, he did this by showing us the thoughts and the realizations behind the decisions the MC made when faced with problems. There were times where the book started to slow down but they didn’t last long, the author did well in throwing a twist or a new development that would bring you back in full swing, Even during the “grind” section of the book the author skimmed over parts and time frames that would have brought the book to a flow halt. The chapters were not abrupt endings and seemed to flow well into the next one. I kept telling myself just finish this chapter but then I was always lead to want to keep reading. The author does well to not just dump backstory from book one into this book, it is introduced when a returning reader could use a refresher with enough detail that a reader picking up book 2 would be able to discern why it was important.

I do feel the book does deliver other than that the prologue is really only brought back as a teaser for the next installment, there is some eluding to it throughout the book, but the author is also eluding that it could be a different antagonist leading that plot string that really never developed. The book also delivers for those wanting world building, from the early days of a guild to the full compliment a guild can bring.

I feel that some of the grammer/editing issues took me out the book and I was required to stop and re-read a line, it was nothing major and nothing huge just a few missed/misused words or phrases.

This book was eye opening and enlightening as you watch the MC and his companions grow to be the best they can, during set backs and emotional outbreak, you learn how they over come them. There are some life lessons to be learned in the way the MC trains and how he over comes some of his flaws. The secondary and ancillary characters are well thought out and well introduced, they add to the story but keep the focus on the main character.

I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a good kick start into Gamelit as it had the stats, the character progression that I have come to expect. Character development and progression was relatable and organic. A well written book with very little real life plots, the book takes place solely inside a game system where the characters are locked in for a year, to test out a new style of training and growth, from pro gamers to pro athletes. The two different type of participants don’t necessarily meld at the beginning but they grow to be a strong force together. Some political intrigue, world building, plot twists a plenty and a strong character development brings this book full circle and leaves me asking, what happens next.

My score – 7.5/10

Review 3

I really enjoyed the story. The main character must work for everything he gets and he is never the strongest in the world. He puts in constant work to achieve a level on par with the other players that he befriends.

The character shows real depth in that he has character flaws he struggles to deal with and overcome. He works to get stronger physically as well as mentally throughout the story.

It was an enjoyable read. A warning for some is there are a number of typos throughout the novel. For me, it wasn’t enough to jar me from the book but it is noticeable.

My Score – 7.5/10 

Review 4

“A true way to build a character in a Gamelit / Fantasy setting”

Codename: Freedom. Is there really any freedom? Is there a way that Lucius and Prodos and can conquer? It’s hard to say. Apollos Thorne has taken a concept of immersive gaming and slightly deviated away from the general ‘My body gets bigger and I get better as I level-up’.

By applying real world physics to the build of the MC Apollos has created a story that is far more engaging and easier to understand that those before who rely on on overpowered characters and a simple get stronger as you go theme. The entire concept is rather refreshing and highly relatable.

Add in the thrilling story that builds and builds the suspense, the MC’s questions about his own ability and the surprises and highly likable characters, everyone has a friend like Kline, and you have the start of a great ongoing series.

Highly enjoyable and very much recommended. Still in it’s infancy this puts down a great foundation on which the author will surely build.

My score – 8/10 – 

Review 5 – To be updated later –

 

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Bio:

Apollos Thorne is the author of the series Codename: Freedom and Underworld: Level Up or Die! originally posted on royalroadl.com. After 500k views on the rough draft of his first fiction, he concluded it would be foolish not to pursue publishing. The insanity has begun!

You can Follow Apollos Amazon page here!! – https://www.amazon.com/Apollos-Thorne/e/B071J5YV63/