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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Forever Fantasy Online: The Once King by Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Rachel Aaron Website
Order “The Once King HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Forever Fantasy Online"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "FFO: Last Bastion"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "A Dragon Of A Different Color"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Last Dragon Standing"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Minimum Wage Magic"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Part-Time Gods"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's joint interview with Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

ABOUT RACHEL AARON: Rachel lives in Colorado with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.

ABOUT TRAVIS BACH: Travis is a nerd who loves gaming, reading, writing & hiking. He’s Rachel Aaron’s husband as well as one of her strongest pillars. He shares her fascination with gaming and reading fantasy. He lives in Colorado with his wonderful family.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Leylia’s secret could unite them all or lead them to an eternity of undeath.

After the loss of Bastion, everyone who’s not a zombie has holed up in FFO’s sole remaining safe haven: the lowbie town of Windy Lake. But the undead armies never rest, and it’s only a matter of time before the Once King’s forces come to crush what’s left of life in this world.

But Tina, James, and the rest of the players are facing a crisis of their own. After so long in this world, their human bodies are dying on the other side. If they don’t find a way home soon, they may have nothing to go back to.

With time running out in two worlds, Tina and James face a horrible choice: do they spend their final days looking for a way to get back to their old bodies, or join the NPCs to fight for their new ones. But just when things look impossible, James learns a secret that might change everything. Only one catch: to pull it off, they’re going to have to fight one raid boss no one, not even Tina, has ever beaten.

The Once King.

FORMAT/INFO: Forever Fantasy Online: The Once King is 443 pages long divided over sixteen numbered & titled chapters with a glossary of terms and a content warning note. Narration is in the third person via Tina Anderson aka Roxxy, James Anderson aka Heal-A-Hoop and a singular POV chapter. This is the third volume of the Forever Fantasy Online trilogy.

November 12, 2019 marks the e-book publication of The Once King and it was self-published by the authors. Cover art is provided by Daniel Schmelling and cover design is by Rachel Aaron.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Trilogy endings are hard, you got to tie all the loose ends and threads while giving a solid ending that will resonate with almost (if not all) the readers. The Forever Fantasy Online story has been a very intriguing LitRPG trilogy, which focuses on an estranged brother-sister duo. Over the past two books we have seen how much growth Tina and James have had to do.

When The Once King begins, we find both of them having left Bastion and are now in Windy Lake readying to take on the last final task of defeating the Once King (the final Boss of FFO). As has been the norm, we find that they both have different ideas about it. But after the events of the last two books, they are more simpatico than they ever were. For Tina, things have changed for the better. She has become a beacon to not only just the Roughnecks but to all the players and native population of the world of FFO. She has become a champion around whom everyone can rally and know that she will do whatever’s necessary to save all of them. Tina or Roxxy in RL hasn’t had the same responsibilities placed on her and it’s become quite apparent how capable she is.

James’ journey on the other hand has been a less physical one but no less exciting. Many readers including me have a preference among the siblings and this book will further cement readers’ choices. James’ actions in this book as well as the previous two volumes have led to a lot of revelations within the trilogy and within this book, James & Ar’bati take another journey to meet with the main titular character. Their journey is kind of a reverse “Mines of Moria” sequence but no less thrilling. They both after their actions in the preceding volume have brought much fanfare to the clan and themselves. However now they are alone and their actions might bring a lasting doom from which there’s no escape.

Both James & Tina get one final chance to shine and they bring their A-game as we find out what truly has happened. Haruto/SilentBladye also gets his moment and we understand what has been the reasons for his reticence. Lastly the other characters such as Anders, Nekobaby, Ar’Bati get their moments as well but for me, it was a solid amount of fun to watch king Gregory coming out of shell and showcasing why he’ considered such a dangerous boss. The characterization is something that has been a solid positive and we get a final reminder why we want to keep following all of these characters.

The book’s main plotline deals with what had been revealed in the climax of Last Bastion. We the readers got to know more about Leylia’s and why certain gamers faced that risk. There’s a lot more revelations in this book:

- What caused the Nightmare to occur?
- Who is the Once King and why is he hell bent on destroying all lifeforms?
- What happened to the world and how did it come to being?
- What is the origin of ghostfire?
- Who or what is Leylia?
-
All these questions and more are revealed in this final volume and this is where Travis and Rachel’s planning really comes to the fore. I loved how it all came together and how the ties were apparent from the first book.

The book’s pace is also of the kind that will make you turn pages as you will be wanting to see what happens next amidst the twists and turns of the book. The twin portions of the book have their own charms as on one end we are thrown along with James and the journey he takes. On the other we have Tina and all the troubles she faces. There’s the lingering tension with SilentBladye/ Haruto, the management of all the guilds who knowingly follow her orders as well the final battle that’s upcoming with the Once King. All of this weighs heavily and as things lay, it’s nigh impossible to defeat the Once King due to a certain move called the Million HP Blast. This and more troubles await all of the players as well as the NPCs who now along with King Gregory of Bastion are now the final host that seek to prevail against the progenitor of the ghostfire.

The action levels are seriously amped up in this volume and while it’s the final battle, I must say the preceding volume The Last Bastion had more of action than this one. The Once King has a concentrated sequence towards the end which really was a hoot to read. The major part of this book is figuring out how James & Tina will combine their talents to save the world. Lastly the ending is epic to say the least and is a solid combination of James’ empathy and Tina’s never say die attitude. I loved how the authors capped off the story and gave us a proper ending as well.

The only couple of complaints about this book was that there’s a big revelation in the start of the book and then we never hear more about it till the epilogue. Also the book has a very focused narrative and skips on many other action-packed events which occur elsewhere. I understand why this was the case as both the main protagonists are in the same place. However I thought it would have been cool to get a view into those events as well.

CONCLUSION: The Once King has an action-packed and multi-twisted plot that is sure to win the fans of this trilogy as it gives an emotionally resonant climax. The book’s pace and action heavy sequences give it the precise oomph that make it such a surefire success. The FFO trilogy has been a different genre beast and is another feather in Rachel Aaron’s already resplendent plumage. Travis Bach mightily impresses in his debut vehicle as well. I can’t wait to see when the both of them collaborate again.

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