Shadeslinger by Kyle Kirrin started a little slow and with, let’s be honest, a fairly douchebag main character but quickly warmed up as the plot got moving. The main character, Ned, buys out all the head-start places for a brand new VRMMORPG, intent on becoming the best in the game. The problem is that he’s mediocre at best. The game developer isn’t too happy with Ned and gifts him a unique artifact to start the game with. An axe that knows everything there is to know about the game. Something that everyone else playing the game will want to pry from Ned’s cold, dead hands.
Frank, the talking axe, doesn’t like mages. Frank likes melee fighters, up close and personal killing. So, of course, the axe tries everything in its power to sabotage Ned’s early game. The game system is interesting, with an extra feature built-in known as The Ripple System (the series title), where significant events that impact the game universe trigger the ripple system causing massive jumps in the player’s stats.
Character growth was really well done. Ned, starting off as a hated pharma-bro douchebag type person, actually begins to grow on you, and as we get to know him, you can’t help but start rooting for him. Even Frank the sass-talking, smart-alec axe grows, kind of, as much as a sentient wise-ass axe can.
Some of his early choices leave you wondering, but overall he’s playing in earnest and really does want to make a lasting impression on the game. He’s still a rather middle-of-the-road player, but his choices do make a kind of sense. Sometimes, at least.
Narration by Travis Baldree was top-notch. Without noticing, I seemed to have, without noticing, picked up a few books narrated by Baldree recently, including one I’ll be reviewing after this one. He is quickly becoming one of my favourite narrators, though. His voice is easy to listen to, his ability to breathe life into a large cast of characters is excellent, and the finished quality of everything I’ve listened to has been superb.
I’ve added the second book in the series to my wish list for when I buy my next lot of Audible credits. A series I’ll happily continue with if the first book is any indication. At just over 21 and a half hours, there is a bucketload of story packed in which clips along without getting bogged down, except for the early stat readouts, which fortunately seem to drop off in frequency as the book progresses.