I’m going to review Lost Archive and Soul Reckoning by Isaac Winter together, since I did read both Veilwalkers books close together. In short, linguistic scholar Winston Beckett goes to game world, has adventures, is a decently good guy; I’d give them about 3.5 out of 5 stars. In long….
Been spoiled by Log Horizon and Death March, I have.
There’s two specific aspects my bunnies always look for in a “trapped in a game as your character” story. Worldbuilding, and how the character deals with body dysphoria/ having strikingly different abilities from when he was an average Joe. I crave those things in an Isekai (in another world) story, in part because those are the main reasons I hunt down gameworld sourcebooks in the first place: imagining a different world, different ecosystems, different cultures, and being a vastly different physical person.
(Because seriously. Any D&D adventure would kill me. I’m squishy.)
The Veilwalkers books kind of fail, on both points. I think, in part, because there’s no on-Earth game used as a basis here. No game to start with means no worldbuilding and background knowledge beyond what Winston runs into himself. Which means, among other things, he has no idea what to expect – or be surprised by – when he chooses dark elf as a character race in the very brief character build segment.
One of the things he should be surprised by is Cael’s several inches of height. I have to admit one of the things that makes me adore Log Horizon forever was Shiroe tripping over his own feet – because he was about an inch or so taller than he was used to.
But outside of some very brief descriptions of gray skin and the “flatter” colors of darkvision, we don’t get much sense of the physical differences between the human scholar and his dark elf alter ego. This when he’s learning to use magic and various pointy things his human self might have a hard time lifting. It just doesn’t ring right that a scholar doesn’t really think about it.
And the worldbuilding… we don’t find out how the original bad guy crossed the Veil in the first place. We don’t know how anyone from earth differs from one of the NPC characters, or even if they do, given the NPCs refer to “noobs” just as a gamer would. It jars.
The writing is pretty good. Characters come across well as different people with different agendas. But without that depth of worldbuilding behind them, it’s hard to see how the world can matter to the characters. Messy.
Also there’s an instance in the second book where Winston mentions having encountered monsters we did not see in the first book. Plothole. Argh.
Still, the books did at least get me absorbed into a world not here-and-now, which is what I wanted. I just have the feeling of hoping for a nice meaty sandwich, and getting glazed donuts instead. Food, but not as much substance.
If you want a light read with the good guys living through the end, though, you might check it out.