All right! Finally, we have a novel of the Video Game Fantasy genre that is still, at the bottom, a novel. The key point is that the author did not concentrate on the game but on the characters. This is an author writing a book for her readers, not a gamer trying to attract the attention of video game creators.
Like any Fantasy, this story takes place in a world with magic. Here, the rules of the magic are simple, clearly stated, and always followed. Because of this, the players in the game have several levels of conflict: global, which is how to beat the game (called Engine) itself; external, which is how to defend themselves against the other players; family, which is how they deal with members of their team; and the most important one, personal, which is how they react to the stresses and opportunities visited on them. You could even say there is a metaphysical element, because the nature of death is often discussed, and Engine takes the place of a god.
The main conflict involves the character development of the heroine, Shadow, who has to come to terms with her ability to kill and her growing enjoyment of the act. It is the story of someone pushed to the verge of madness and fighting to stay sane. At the same time, she is a positive person, with a soft side she rarely reveals and a sense of ethics completely at odds with the environment into which she is thrust. It is her struggle that provides the overall conflict to the story arc and creates the rising suspense to the final conflict.
If pushed, I could point out a few small errors. For example, the Prologue, which is actually a scene from later in the novel, must have been written early in the process and then not adapted to the changes made as the book was written. There is technology mentioned that is not used in the rest of the story. I also noted slips in the fight scenes, where certain actions are impossible because of the weapons being used. But these are minor annoyances in a book that brings us in and keeps us engaged throughout.
Highly recommended for Gamers and other Fantasy readers. A bit gory for younger souls.(5 / 5)