The title – Jake’s Magical Market – is a bit misleading for what you’re going to get. Yes, a good deal of the first fifth or so of this book is centred around Jake and him getting his shop set up, but he soon turns away from that, with the shop becoming a bit of a distant memory. Sure, not all of his lack of returning is his fault at first, but eventually, it seems more of an obsession to focus on rather than a wanted goal.
So what starts as a pleasant slice-of-life style story with the occasional dungeon crawl turns into an entirely different type of adventure spanning multiple worlds. Jake was so invested in making the shop work, but everything moved on. Sure, he frequently wishes to get back there and play shopkeeper, but after everything, I can’t see him doing that.
Eventually, even the dungeon dives fall away over time, and the story becomes a story of survival. A post-apocalyptic fantasy on dying worlds. Jake is well-suited for what is to come, being overpowered as all get out from the get-go. An ability to stop time the hell out of fireballs makes him virtually unstoppable. A few people come close, but it never really feels like he’s in any sort of danger at any point in the story.
The power growth makes a sort of sense in the end, as Jake’s inherent sense of how to best utilise magic and energy coalesces into the next stage of his existence and set the stage for what will happen in future books.
All that said, even though the story strayed away from the promise of the title and cover art, this was still a highly enjoyable story. At over 20 hours long, the story kept me engrossed and listening for hours upon hours at a time.
The magic system of cards seemed well thought out (never having exposure to magic card games or the like) and generally well balanced, with not one school of magic being dominant over the others. The lack of understanding of “deck builder” type card games has made me shy away from some books in the past, which I’m going to have to rethink now that I understand the premise behind them.
Narration by Travis Baldree was excellent. This was my second outing with Travis, and both I’ve enjoyed. His range, tone, and professional finishing of the audio are excellent, with no issues to report. I’ll certainly be adding him to my list of narrators to look for in the future.
Overall, this is a series I’d like to see more of. At the time of writing, this is the only book currently released in the series, so I really hope J.R. Mathews, the author, continues with this. Even though the main character is OP, the story is solid and interesting, the world-building intriguing, and generally an easy-to-follow and listen-to experience.