Forever Fantasy Online by Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach

IT’S NOT A GAME ANYMORE…

In the real world, twenty-one-year-old library sciences student Tina Anderson is invisible and under-appreciated, but in the VR-game Forever Fantasy Online she’s Roxxy—the respected leader and main tank of a top-tier raiding guild. Her brother, James Anderson, is a college drop-out struggling under debt, but in FFO he’s famous—an explorer known all over the world for doing every quest and collecting the rarest items.

Both Tina and James need the game more than they’d like to admit, but their favorite escape turns into a trap when FFO becomes real. Suddenly, wounds aren’t virtual, the stupid monsters have turned cunning, NPCs start acting like actual people, and death might be forever.

In the real world, everyone said being good at video games was a waste of time. Now, separated across a much larger and more deadly world, their skill at FFO is the only thing keeping them alive. It’s going to take every bit of their expertise (and hoarded loot) to find each other and get back home, but as the harshness of their new reality sets in, Tina and James soon realize that being the best in the game might no longer be good enough.

Forever Fantasy Online is a LitRPG where the characters end up stuck in the game. You know, the ones where the characters play through a virtual reality system and then somehow end up stuck inside the game, being hit hurts, death is permanent, and all that fun stuff. I found this one to be unique compared to those that I’d read previously, almost like portal fantasy rather than LitRPG. NPCs (non-player characters) are people too. They’ve been stuck in a recurring nightmare where they’re forced to act out the game for the last 80 years. Naturally, they aren’t very fond of the ‘players’.

The two major POV characters, Tina and James, both have their own character arcs which are independent of each other. I enjoyed both POVs immensely, however, I preferred James’ POV more, I really enjoyed reading about him and found his chapters to be more relatable for me. While the book switches POV each chapter, I rarely found myself wanting to skip chapters to get back to a character I preferred.

Tina was preparing for a raid of the biggest, baddest dungeon in the game with a trial team to prepare for guild inductions. The change hit before the team entered the dungeon, and Tina is faced with the challenge of managing her team and ensuring their survival. I really enjoyed her survival arc as she struggled with managing an unfamiliar team.

Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of Tina’s personality. She’s stubborn and controlling, but at the same time, she’s doing all she can to keep the other players alive. I admire her determination to save them all, and the challenges she perseveres through, but she constantly conflicts with members of the team she’s trying to save. In this, the authors have done a fantastic job of creating the conflicts that would likely arise when you throw people who were playing a game to relax into a situation where their lives depend on the game they were playing.

James, on the other hand, logged into the game in a lower level area where the NPCs quickly pick up on him being a player. James quickly finds that the NPCs were originally people in the Forever Fantasy Online world who’d been trapped in the game and forced to live by a script for 80 years. For some, this meant simply giving the same quest out millions of times. For others, this meant they were the character that was kidnapped every day for the players to go rescue. Needless to say, they weren’t very happy about their 80 years of nightmarish living.

James was easily one of my favourite characters. He reminded me a bit of Rachel Aaron’s Julius Heartstriker from the Heartstrikers series. He plays a healer and wants to do all he can to help the local NPCs and right the wrongs caused by the game.

Throughout this book, the authors do a great job of showing how their characters react to different scenarios and the growth they achieve. Over the course of the book, they go through some serious character development with their emotions and motivations quite clear for the reader.

One of the other things I really liked about this book is how it deals with common practices in video games. Characters who chose to play non-human characters have to learn how their new bodies work; how their tails work, what it’s like to have elven agility, what giant stone people like to eat. They also deal with characters who elected to play the opposite gender in the game and their sudden change in gender, and players who’ve bought their accounts online and are in end game content without having any idea how to play. Furthermore, the unrealistically shrunken maps are extended to make them more in line with what an actual landscape would be like, and bags/inventories hold a much more realistic number of items.

Overall, Rachel Aaron and Travis Bach have written an amazing story and a realistic LitRPG which deals really well with a number of different factors involved in gaming. They’ve created a great world with lots of interesting pieces of lore and filled it with realistic, well-developed characters. The stakes feel very real and from early on it’s evident just how much they stand to lose.

The only negative thing I can really say about this book is that it left me wanting more and that I’ll have to wait for the sequel. Josh Hurley’s narration of the audiobook is very well done too, and I enjoyed every moment I listened to it.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy:

  • LitRPG
  • Character Development
  • Character Conflict
  • Multiple POV
  • Female POV
  • Good Worldbuilding
  • Battles

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