Friday, October 12, 2012

80 AD by Aiki Flinthart Series Review

80 AD by  Aiki Flinthart Series Review

I really enjoyed this series; the premise is something fairly original with the characters trapped in a computer game world. Some plot points do get repeated throughout the series.
The main set of characters is very good. Phoenix and Jade undergo quite a development during the series; Marcus and Brynn are excellent characters too and bring plenty of entertainment to the books. The many secondary characters that typically appear for just one book are also interesting and usually bring something new and varied.
The humour is very good especially that provided by Brynn’s antics.
It was enjoyable seeing a different culture in each book and it brought some nice variance to what was happening in the stories.
It has a number of good lessons, the importance of doing the morally right thing, working well with others, helping people, not losing control, and being self confident.
The reminders of what happened in the previous books has the right balance, enough to remind you what happened but not too much to break up the flow. Because of this it doesn’t matter if you have a gap in-between reading the books.
I enjoyed the appendix at the end of the first book as it gives some historical information that applies; it was a shame that this wasn’t included in the rest of the series.

I would recommend this series to fans of high school/young adult fantasy books, that are looking for something a little different, although some knowledge of computer games and/or roleplaying games would help with understanding of some parts. There is some fantasy violence and one use of the word “bastards” in the first book making it suitable for an audience of 13+.

Oh and it’s currently FREE on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. 

Book 1: The Jewel of Asgard

The basic premise of the story is somewhat traditional, young people thrown into an adventure and expected to save the world. But the specifics in the way it is told is new to me. The characters each are playing a computer game, by some strange events they are thrown INTO the computer game, except that the world appears to be real.

Having some knowledge and enjoyment of computer games and Role-Playing Games would help anyone reading this book, especially at the start of the book when they are creating their characters and playing it just as a computer game.

One nice effect of the computer game element is that because the book characters become their computer game characters the book doesn't have the annoying thing that happens in some books where children become very powerful heroes in a short amount of time. There are other gaming elements, such as a concept of a number of lives, recruiting NPCs, character skills and quests.

The pacing of the book is excellent with a good balance between action sequences and slowing scenes.

The characters are very well written, they have interesting personalities and you are drawn into their story. They are fairly stereotypical though, for example the boy Phoenix chose to be a fighter in the game, he enjoys battles and adventures, and wanted to play in the game world straight away. The girl wanted to be a pretty half-elf wizard and wanted to go home instead of going on adventures.

The characters have some development, Phoenix begins to feel bad about killing enemies and starts to take the world seriously instead of just being a game. It is also interesting to see how at first his real life skills and the skills of his character are sometimes in conflict with each other but he learns how to use both world abilities in unison.

Another nice thing is that the characters act in a real way. For example they need to pee and poop, and they miss their families.

The appendix is good, as it gives some information about the Romans, their armies and about Britain and its people.

There are a few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but not enough to take away from the book.

Book 2: The Hammer of Thor

Book two continues with Phoenix, Jade and their companions traveling through Nordic lands to try and return Truda to her home, and then get hold of Thor’s hammer. Failing to do so will not only bring about the end of the computer game world but their original world as well!

As you would expect level two of the game is harder than the first. The warriors have to battle against indestructible trolls, and Jade has to use her wits to help defend them in a Norse Gods courtroom or they will become sacrifices!

Fortunately the computer avatars skills seem to have improved since the first book, this helps them with their quests but they still have to struggle to overcome great odds.

The personalities of the “real” characters are also developed, with all of them getting more fleshed out in this book. All four main characters in the party, as well as the newly acquired Truda are great to read about and are very interesting.

Phoenix and Jade are at odds in this book, often arguing or being mean to each other. In one of my favourite sections of the book, Marcus gives an excellent practical demonstration to Phoenix of how co-operating with a friend will get you more points than trying to compete with them.

Jade and Phoenix also deal with real feelings, such as fear of having to be in this world without the other one, as well as missing their families.

The computer game elements are not quite as prominent in this book. Jade and Phoenix still have a number of lives and this becomes an issue in this book as they start to get used up. They also sometimes talk or think about their lives in the ‘real’ world. They have to use some of their skills from their original lives. Although I somewhat missed seeing the computer game parts of the book, it did make it more interesting in a way as it does raise the question if the computer game world is real?

The plot is cleverly woven and several seemingly different things, turn out to have a common root that is only revealed at the end of the book.

The pacing is excellent with a great balance between fast action sequences and slower talking/thinking scenes.

There is quite a bit a humour in the book again, one of the funniest is when Phoenix gets to use a real toilet again!

Book Three: The Tekhen of Anuket

Level three of the series is set in Egypt, the group of hero's are set the task of freeing a trapped Goddess before time runs out and Egypt is plunged into a never ending drought.

The story is exciting and like the previous ones, there is a good balance of action and slower talking scenes that allow for character development.

The characters face even stronger foes this time including a powerful wizard and a host of undead soldiers. The avatars are stronger so they are can battle against them.

Phoenix character is very interesting in this book, he is slowly becoming controlled by his berserker sword and his friends are at as much of risk of his anger as his foes.

The computer game elements are still in the book, mostly to do with the main characters having a number of lives. In this book they use up a number of them, they also rise the interesting question of is it right to use up one of their lives to help 'save' them.

Book Four: The Sudarshana

A good addition to the series. Our heroes adventure in a game world continues, this time they are in India. The story is of the same great quality as the previous book, the characters are excellent and the group dynamics is fantastic.

The new character in this book that joins our regulars on their quest is a player from the real world. This was very interesting to see as it has massive implications for what is going on in the story. Unfortunately it raised a number of plot points that are my main reason for only rating this book three stars.

Firstly the new character states that every character in the computer game has their own unique quests, this is to stop players teaming up, and they are not allowed to discuss what their quests are with other players or they will be banned! This doesn't make sense in the real world, since it would be practically impossible to create that many unique quests for 1000's of players. Plus the fact that the whole point of on-line games IS to team up with other players in order to complete quests. And why they heck doesn't anyone tell him "HELP! We are trapped in this game and can't get out!"

Admittedly this may be explained in the final book, but it also seems odd that new players have been allowed into the game after our two heroes have become trapped in it, it has been assumed that their real bodies are still in the real world, plugged into the game.

The other problem I had with this book is that most of the main plot points are from the previous books; avoid a large army (book one), go back and help people instead of adventuring on towards your goal (book two), free a trapped God (book three). There are some new things in this book, but not enough for my liking.

Overall this was a good story with great characters and group interactions, but was let down by the fact it is too similar to the rest of the series and plot points that make no logical sense

Book 5: The Yu Dragon

The Yu Dragon is the final book in the excellent 80AD series. I was very concerned with the opening chapters of this book as it was very similar to the previous books, the male characters end up trapped in a tomb and Brynn triggers a bunch of traps and guardians after he tries to steal some treasures. Ironically even the characters point this out and blame ‘the programmers’ for being unoriginal. Fortunately once you are past those early chapters the story expands and there are plenty of new ideas.
Both of the main characters undergo big developments in this book and they have to work hard in the battles against the final boss. Seeing the final changes that have been building throughout the series was very satisfying and I felt a great sense of completion. 

SPOILER: I was really annoyed with Marcus’s resurrection, I like him and was sad when he died, but it felt spoiled by being brought back as it lessened his sacrifice and it was a plot point that has been used before. It also made the rest of the book less tense as it seemed that the characters would always survive.

The interaction between the characters is very well written and the humour in the book is highly entertaining.
The actions sequences are exciting but there is also a good amount of slower more personal scenes to balance it out.
I enjoyed the ending; it was nice that the author kept whether the world of 80AD was real or not a mystery.

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of this series. It does sound interesting and unique. I already know a teen that I think will love this. I will pass on the reviews to him. Thanks for sharing. ;)