“The Brothers Three” by Layton Green

It’s great to finally find a writer who can use the online fantasy game format and make a proper story of it. To be fair, the main reason it works so well is that “Brothers” is mainly a novel, with the games element restricted mostly to the action sequences.

This tale follows the usual pattern of the genre; a group of non-heroes is transported from the modern world into a fantasy setting, where they must solve puzzles and navigate mazes full of traps to retrieve weapons to be used in further conflicts. But there is a level of reality to these heroes and their reactions that sets them apart from usual cardboard video game characters. While the fantasy characters they meet are moderately stereotyped, the brothers themselves, and especially Will, are fully formed individuals, with a complete grab bag of family interactions, good and bad.

And while in most novels of this genre the characters are too easily able to shake off the culture shock and cope with their new world, in this story their responses are much more like, “Yeah, that’s how I would have reacted.”

As the plot progresses from modern New Orleans to the initial otherworld city and through the jungle to the wizard’s castle, the action does become more stylized. The computer game conflict with monsters and magical creations pretty much takes over, but the internal conflicts of the three brothers, based on their relationships with each other and their dead father, keep the emotional storylines going.

The action is fast and furious, the game-style visuals are described in wonderful detail, and the tension is carefully crafted, always increasing towards a satisfying, if not quite final, ending. A sequel is in the works.

Highly recommended for all fantasy fans, especially gamers. Required reading for young novelists who dream their story will attract the attention of online fantasy programmers and go viral.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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