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Series: Spells, Swords and Stealth #1
Author: Drew Hayes
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
From Amazon.com & Me
What happens when the haggling is done and the shops are closed? When the quest has been given, the steeds saddled, and the adventurers are off to their next encounter? They keep the world running, the food cooked, and the horses shoed, yet what adventurer has ever spared a thought or concern for the Non-Player Characters?
In the town of Maplebark, four such NPCs settle in for a night of actively ignoring the adventurers drinking in the tavern when things go quickly and fatally awry. Once the dust settles, these four find themselves faced with an impossible choice: pretend to be adventurers undertaking a task of near-certain death or see their town and loved ones destroyed. Armed only with salvaged equipment, second-hand knowledge, and a secret that could get them killed, it will take all manner of miracles if they hope to pull off their charade.
So the next morning, off they go. Thistle, Grumph, Eric and Gabrielle all head to the local goblin village, where Gabrielle knows them quite, as they kidnap her on a regular basis and has developed a friendship with them as she waits for Adventurers to rescue her. This time however, something goes wrong. A bunch of demons appear from crystals and more by luck than anything the group helps the goblins wipe them out. The real issue is that these demons appear to be smart, strategic and willing to die to kill the whole village. Our group moves on, glad to have escaped with their lives.
Next they come to a village which is sponsoring a tournament. There are several groups of Adventurers and the village is milking them for all they are worth. Grumph talks with a couple of other leaders and strikes up a friendship with an elf paladin/warrior/sorcereress. Demons once again appear and only with every group of Adventurer giving their all do they kill the demons and stop a massacre of the village. Something is obviously up. Our group gets a bunch of good armor and weapons as a reward and continue to the main city to present themselves to the king.
The story cuts to the King talking to his advisors and revealing that the current group of Adventurers is the 13th or 14th group attempting to breach the hidden cave and recover the magical artifact inside. The king also makes it plain how he is using the Adventurers for his own ends and shows what a scum bag he is.
Our Gang, and several other groups, all head into the magic cave. Our Gang goes last and Thistle, a former minion, shows them a hidden shortcut that all minions know about, as they have to make the traps, etc and need easy access. They bypass everything and find the magical artifact. However, they also find a Mad Wizard who reveals that their world is somehow tied to our world and that the magical artifact can control our world. Our Gang takes the Mad Wizard down and head out. They encounter the last group of Adventurers, who have been hanging around outside waiting to ambush whoever comes out. The magical artifact helps Our Gang to win and we see that the group of Gamers playing the ambushing Adventurers give up on the game as they roll nothing but 1’s.
The book ends with Our Gang heading to another country and the one Gamer who was decent talking with the Dungeon Master about buying an expansion pack that would land them in the same country as Our Gang.
The idea of our world and the world of D&D both being real and influencing the other was pretty cool. The story itself was just ok though. I’m not a gamer though and so having tropes turned on their head or whatever isn’t enough to appeal to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike this in any way, it just lacked some appeal for me that I want in my books. Now that I’m reading less I’m also less willing to put up with mediocre books simply for the sake of not having to seek out other alternatives.
If you like fantasy rpg’s turned 90degrees this might be right up your alley. I enjoyed the read but really had no desire to read the rest of the (completed) series. This was a bread and butter series when I wanted gourmet toasted garlic bread with spaghetti.