Author: Dave Barrett
Publication Date: August 2nd, 2016
In It’s All Fun and Games, a group of friends head out for a weekend adventure of LARP’ing (Live Action Role Play). Soon after their adventure begins, they are transported to an actual fantasy world where the dangers are real and life is not counted in hit points.
The story takes on a rather typical “kill the evil guy to save the kingdom” story starring ogres, kobolds, goblins, and the like. I felt like this was really fitting for the story though. The story should focus more on the characters and their dealing with being transported to a different world so a simple quest-like plot pairs well. Unfortunately, the story was kind of lacking in the character department.
It is naturally really common in fantasy books for a more “mundane” character to encounter magic and be introduced to a magical world. It’s All Fun and Games differs a little in that its characters are already pretending they are in a world with magic when they realize that the abilities that they imagined come to life.
These characters though had a complete lack of shock and wonder upon realizing they were in a different, more dangerous world. They completely take it in stride and this made the transition from real world to “game world” feel a little rough to me. There is no moment of “holy hell where the fuck are we?!”
I could even buy their ability to take it in stride given that most of the characters, barring Allison, have spent a lot of time LARP’ing and probably have spent much more time imagining and fantasizing about what it would be like to be in a real fantasy story so it is mostly just really fracking cool when it becomes reality. But none of this is articulated in the book.
The first thing that is said about being in an alternate world is:
Well this isn’t really the sort of place where we have to worry about the police coming and arresting us…”
And that is pretty much the attitude we get from everyone. It just seems that every character took the realization that they are not in Kansas anymore like it was something that happened all the time. Even Allison, on her first LARP adventure, did not seem shocked about where they ended up.
That said, I did like the touch that each person’s character backstory warred in their mind with their real history. We see this most distinctly in Chuck, the rogue. While I can see how his differing personalities would be the most at war with each other, I really wish this had been explored more in the other characters as well because it has a lot of potential and actually led to me feeling more connected with Chuck than any other character.
This may be a little bit of nitpicking but I was not crazy about how some of the more experienced players treated Allison in the section prior to the adventure beginning. A few of them, namely TJ, were pretty condescending. He basically tells her she is going to be a healer (which they did need so that makes sense) but then him and the registration guy give each other “sympathetic looks” and sigh a lot when she wants to pick her own spells. The registration guy actually looks to TJ rather than her for setting up her own abilities like she’s not even there. I get it, she’s new and you just want to help, but you playing for her will ruin all the fun. Trust me, I’ve been there. I felt like giving her a high five when she did stand up for herself and got that Smite spell!
Overall, I did like the book as it was a really fun concept but I don’t know if I will continue to read the series. A little more focus on the characters would go a long way in future books.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC!