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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Forever Fantasy Online: Last Bastion By Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Rachel Aaron Website
Official Travis Bach Website  
Order “Forever Fantasy Online: Last BastionHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Forever Fantasy Online"
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 "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 Athens, Georgia 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 Rachel’s fascination with gaming as reading fantasy. He lives in Athens, GA with his wonderful family.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Bastion was supposed to mean safety. It was supposed to mean a break from fighting for their lives and a chance to talk to someone who might actually know what’s going on. Access to their gold and some beer would have been nice, too.

They got none of those things. When Tina and James arrive in the capital, they find a city on fire in more ways than one. Players and non-players hunt each other in the streets, while the king who controls the city’s all-powerful artifact cowers from the chaos in his castle. Desperate to warn somebody about the Once King’s coming invasion, James wants to try to talk to the king anyway, while Tina just wants to meet the royal portal keepers who might be able to send them home.

It shouldn’t be hard to get an army of the world’s best-geared players through one city, but when they discover that the captain of the Royal Knights has been massacring low-level players in revenge disguised as justice, James and Tina will have to decide what is more important: the lives of their fellow gamers, or the stability of this world’s last great city. Both choices deserve a champion, but with the Once King’s armies closing in, taking the wrong side may doom everyone to an eternity as slaves to the Ghostfire.

FORMAT/INFO: Forever Fantasy Online: Last Bastion is 563 pages long divided over twenty-four 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 second volume of the Forever Fantasy Online trilogy.

April 30, 2019 marked the e-book publication of Last Bastion and it was self-published by the authors. Cover art is provided by Daniel Schmelling and cover design is by Rachel Aaron.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Last Bastion is the sequel to Forever Fantasy Online, the new LitRPG trilogy by Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach. With Forever Fantasy Online, they introduced us to James and Tina and the world of Forever Fantasy Online aka FFO. The first book dealt with the repercussions of the players finding out that the FFO world is a real one and that they are the intruders. The NPCs of that world hate them for their very existence and would actively want to kill them. Amidst all of this Tina aka Roxxy and her Roughnecks survived a brutal march and James in his Jujubatu avatar has managed to make friends with the Ar’Bati as well as help the Jujubatu clans.

Reaching the city of Bastion was supposed to be their last stop before their recovery but Bastion proves to be a whole another matter. James, Tina, SilentBlayde and the rest encounter a bigger problem than before and it’s not just the dead. The living also seem think of them as enemies and look forward to disposing them quickly. Trapped between bastion and the approaching army, it looks like Tina and James will really have to dig deep to help themselves and everyone else.

Last Bastion is a real beast of a book and even though it’s the middle volume of the trilogy, it skips all the middle volume syndrome problems and gives us more of what made the first volume such a pleasant read. Firstly the characterization is topnotch as ever. However unlike the first volume, we get a deeper dive into Tina, James, their dysfunctional status and how they view the world. This is the main draw of the story and its enrichened even more in this volume. In the previous book, I preferred James’ chapters more than Tina’s and that was due to the nature of the plot. However within this volume, I must say it is Tina who gets to shine.

In the prologue we get to see how Tina became who she is. The story then gives us twin storylines but unlike the preceding volume wherein they were separated by vast distances. This time around though they are in same physical location but mentally they are still at odds. This time around we truly get to see what makes them tick and why they don’t eye to eye. I loved this exploration as James and Tina are truly at the heart of the story. We also get more input into the other characters like SilentBladye, Nekobaby, Frank, etc. The authors also do a lot with a limited POV structure and we even get a solo POV which was fun to read. Next up is the worldbuilding which is extremely upgraded than its predecessor. This book really gives a deeper look into the world of FFO plus the magic system which is explained in more detail.

At the core of the FFO trilogy is a solid mystery about the very nature of the world and what exactly happened. We don’t get a clear cut idea but we are given some crucial clues. I of course wanted more but there’s a plan here and now with the final volume, I expect there to be massive revelations. Lastly the action, this book is choc-a-bloc with it and then some. The action sequences are on a personal level as well as massive battle sequences which also feature a lot of gore. There’s also the cover which highlights a particular sequence in the book and so make of it what you will.

The only thing that perhaps didn’t quite gel within the book is the eventual mystery about SilentBladye as well as James. They are referred to obliquely and even with two books, we don’t have a clue. I was hoping for more and since we are two-thirds of the way in, there’s no clarity. This caused a bit of consternation and even the main mystery isn’t much revealed. So everything is now dependent on the final volume. Maybe the authors purposefully planned it as such but that’s’ a bit too much left for the end for my liking.

CONCLUSION: Last Bastion perfectly encapsulates what I loved about its predecessor Forever Fantasy Online and then it basically takes things to a whole new level. With more magic, more action, & even more character upheavals, Last Bastion is a perfect sequel that makes me wonder how the authors are ever going to up the ante in the trilogy ending. I will be there to see how it all goes down in The Once King (FFO# 3) and I can’t recommend this book enough.



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