Short, silly and very easy to get into, The Dark Lord Bert is LitRPG but only in a very loose sense. Set inside a game world where the players know they’re in a game but also seem to have some kind of memory fog that blurs the lines. It’s never really explained how any of that works, and it doesn’t need to be since we’re mostly experiencing the whole thing from Bert’s perspective.
Bert is a goblin NPC. He has only one hit point, so a harsh sneeze could kill him. He’s technically a critter, essentially invisible to players which also makes him non-targetable for attacks, which is immensly useful when you have only one point of life to lose.
Bert is unusually intelligent for a goblin and has a plan to make himself more important in his tribe by getting a mount and becoming a warg rider. Fate takes a different turn and he winds up with a powerful “trope” – an in-game item that gives you a certain ability.
The character known as “Crotchshot”, for example, has the trope where every arrow he fired unerringly hits the crotch of whoever or whatever he shot it at.
Bert, as you can guess from the title, stumbles upon the Dark Lord trope, making him an immensely powerful game character, yet still only possessing the 1 hit point.
That’s an important point to note, actually. If you’re not a fan of LitRPG / gameLit because of the statistics, there’s nothing to worry about in this book. The most you get is a very occasional reference to a stat (for example a player mentioning an item has a +10 boost to intelligence), but that’s as heavy as it gets.
There are heaps of winks, nods, and flat-out pop culture references; from sparkly vampires, Harry Potter, Star Trek and Star Wars, through to Sesame Street, and there are probably many more that slipped by me. The Sesame Street one had me laughing hard I have to admit.
Kit is the other main character of the book. She’s a kitsune in a team with Crotchshot, Breakstuff, and the douchiest douchebag who ever douched – Master White. White is so fun to hate because he’s so obviously a horrible person in how he treats basically everyone.
The narration by James Gillies was okay. He seems to develop a lisp, or at least at times it becomes more pronounced, which made listening to the story a bit annoying at those times. I had to back up a couple of times to re-listen to check I heard what was said correctly. Other than that, his voice is rich and deep and very easy to listen to. Production was decent, though I did make a note of some occasional low-key background noises.
Rather short at five and half hours, I finished it in two sittings. If I hadn’t needed to go to bed due to needing to work the following day, I’d have pushed through and finished it in one.
The author announced during the story (via a side character) that something would be explained in the next book in the series, so ignoring the breaking of the fourth wall, there’s likely another one coming at some point… and I’d like to see what happens next with Dark Lord Bert. Given how long it’s been since the book was published, I’m not going to hold my breath since it may not be forthcoming. Don’t let that put you off, as the story works as a standalone.d.