the Little Red Reviewer

Mystery Review!

Posted on: June 3, 2016

This is a most unusual book review, because I am not going to tell you the name of this book, the name of the author, or the year the book was written.  You don’t get any cover art either.  We all judge books by their covers and all that, so I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts will be if I tell you everything you need to know about the book except what you’d see on a bookstore shelf. A deliberate experiment, if you will. And don’t worry, I’ll reveal the author and cover art in a few days.  For those of you who recognize this book, or think you do, please, please don’t reveal the book’s title in the comments.


Are any of you familiar with the anime TV shows Sword Art Online or  Log Horizon? In these shows, gamers get transported into the world of their MMO video game, and have to survive. This book has a similar, if simplified premise. A bunch of college kids are in a table-top Role Playing Game club, with a professor as their game master.  I won’t get into the how’s or why’s, but the professor is able to transport the students to the fantasy role playing world, and the students have to survive. What’s really neat here is that while everyone comes through into the fantasy world as their characters (a cleric, or dwarf, or thief,  etc) and with the skills and attributes (strength, speed, dexterity, etc) from their character sheet, they also retain all their knowledge and morals from the real world. One woman depends on her real world travel experiences to help her haggle with traders, there’s even some “innovative” WWF style fighting moves that no one else in the arena had ever seen.


At it’s heart, this is a coming-of-age fantasy quest story . The goal is to find the gate between worlds, so they can get home to the real world. But, as we learn, not everyone wants to go home.  Sure, home has modern dentistry, and cars, and our parents, and health insurance. But one guy, if he goes home, the only thing waiting for him is his wheelchair and people pitying him. Here, in the fantasy world, he can walk. He can do all the things he can’t do at home. Another character, this is the first time in his life he’s respected for his knowledge and abilities. If he goes home, it’s back to being the guy everyone makes fun of.   It was neat, how some characters abandon their real world  first names right away to only go by their fantasy role play character names, and how others never take on their characters names because they don’t want to be these fantasy world characters, and how others have an internal conflict as to who they are because they have a compelling reason to be a little bit of both.  The author presents the character’s inner conflicts with subtlety. The author doesn’t shy away from tough subjects either. Like another very popular series, main characters die – usually in shockingly awful ways.

Finally free of her family’s judgement, one of the girls in the group hops from boy to boy as she pleases, and the guys in the group have to suddenly deal with the double standard of if a boy does it, it’s fine, but if a girl does it,  somehow it isn’t ok? I wouldn’t have expected such a forward thinking conversation about slut shaming in a book that advertises itself as a fantasy quest story.   Speaking of forward thinking conversations, the characters also have to deal with the deaths of people in their group, post traumatic stress disorder, rape culture, and how people with disabilities are treated. It would be so easy for any author to make those discussions preachy and heavy handed, or overly plot device-y, but in this book, the opposite is true.  Everything felt organic.  It’s a discovery, it’s coming-of-age, it’s becoming the person you knew you could be.


As I said, the “quest” of this story is about getting home. I’m not going to spoil any of the surprises, but there ends up being an extra step, and the extra step involves asking a high priestess for help. She’s happy to help, for a price of course. And that’s so cliche, right?  But the price she asks, and how she asks it, and *why* she asks it, was just so absolutely perfect. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. That scene, with the priestess and everyone else, is probably one of my favorite scenes in a fantasy book, ever.  I read it at least 3 times. I’m probably going to reread that scene again a few times.


There’s a great juxtaposition happening here – a group who is limited by the “expectations” of the world, such as if you’re a cleric you’re responsible for healing people, or if you’re a thief you can’t help but pick people’s pockets, against the fact that all these people are college kids who are continually asking themselves what the hell am I doing here? Why am I trying to steal from this person? Do I really believe saying the words of this spell will cure my friend’s mortal injury? There’s a lot of layers of interesting things happening here, and the pacing and writing is spot on, so you don’t even realize it’s happening.


Does this sound like a book you’d want to read?   If you woke up in your favorite gaming world tomorrow, what would you do?


13 Responses to "Mystery Review!"

Please let me know what this book is called so I can avoid it.


What a great idea…a mystery review! You should do more.


i think I might! this review was both fun, and super challenging to write. it’s interesting to see people’s responses if they don’t know title/author.


I liked this mystery review style. You’re right, covers do play a huge role in determining a worth of a book on first sight, titles too.

There is much in your review that appeals to me; a quest and the forward thinking, and the “layers of interesting things happening”. But, and this is a huge but for me, the quest premise coming from a gaming world turns me off. I’m not a gamer and have no interest. The idea though of going from our world to one of fiction is appealing, just not one of a gaming world (although, I guess it depends on the world, now that I think about it. For instance a Mario world, no thank you. But one like Skyrim, maybe so.) The general idea reminds me of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.


oh, this isn’t a Mario type world. more a, erm, World of Warcraft fantasy type world? You can walk around, there are villages, and taverns and guilds, and non-player-characters that can make your life hell.


Hmm….that sounds interesting. I am now even more curious about the title of this book.


This was such a great idea, I actually read your entire review, lol! (Where I might have skipped it if I saw the title and wasn’t interested.) And I DON’T know what this is but I suspect it’s an older book. Definitely want to read it:-D Awesome idea!


The range of reactions to this is fascinating. Everyone seems to like the mystery review idea, but mixed reactions to your description of the book. I think I know what this might be, and if I’m right, I didn’t notice nearly as much of the social insight aspects, I just plowed through enjoying the story. That said, the characters doing some self-realization was important. I’m guessing this might be part of a series.


there’s closure at the end, but the author certainly leaves things open to tell additional stories in this world.

the focus of the story is fun worldbuilding, and the journey of the characters to get home. the social insight bits are small, subtle scenes, and most certainly not the focus of what’s going on. I liked how the author did the social insight stuff – it’s there if you want to notice it, but it’s not in your face.


Hello Andrea! This is irrelevant to your post, but I hope that is okay because I didn’t know where else to contact you. Anyways, my name is Aya, and I am a fellow book blogger/lover. I was wondering if you’d be interested in participating in a small project that I am doing. I wanted to ask a bunch of bloggers (49, to be exact :p), to give me one of their favorite book quotes. I’m going to compile them all in one post and then post it on my blog on the 22nd of this month. It’d be fantastic if you were to be a part of this. Just let me know by this Sunday, please, so that I have plenty of time to compile and/or ask someone else. Thank you!
P.S. You are the 41st one to be asked!


This is a sweet idea, can’t wait to see what book it is. Bet it was written in the 2000s.


I want to know what this book is!!! I’ve read several video game novels, so I was trying to figure out if it was one of them, but best I can tell, it’s none of them.

My favorite video game is Diablo… so if I woke up there tomorrow morning, I’m pretty sure I’d be killed by some demon creature XD


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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