This book caused me quite a bit of internal debate, especially as I progressed throughout the novel. On one hand, it was a LitRPG, and that is literally one of my favorite genres ever. But on the other hand... I just really wanted to give Luke a giant wack on the head throughout all 369 pages.
Luke Stephens is struggling through his senior year of high school, with his mother's rapidly declining health, and their even more-rapidly declining finances. The only time he can escape from his obligations to the real world is when he is playing online video games with his 3 best friends. But when he finds out that his father is the creater of the world's first fully immersive virtual reality MMORPG, and that he is the only one who can save beta players trapped inside the game, he jumps at the chance. But when things go wrong almost immediately, it is up to Luke to attempt to rescue the beta players, persuade his father to back down, and escape the game with his own life intact. After all, if you die in Neverfall--you die in real life.
First of all, I just want to say that I loved the friendship between Luke, Mack, Cassie, and Christopher. The conversations between them seemed so genuine and realistic, and it really felt like I was sitting in on a conversation between a couple of friends. I'm not always a fan of relationships between characters because they can sometimes feel forced or unauthentic, but this wasn't the case here and I really enjoyed it. My favorite parts were the constant banter between the group, as well as the fact that Christopher was a great example of a character knowing their values, and staying true to them no matter what. Even under all of the pressure to change, he stayed committed to what he believed in, and I thought that was a great thing to see, especially in a genre where that isn't always the case. I also really loved the world of Neverfall, with all the magic and D&D references. As someone who does play D&D (my philosophy? steal everything), it was pretty cool to see Wintertide's take on it, and how it was mixed in with other ideas.
My main issue with the book was the number of convenient plot jumps. Now, I am a naturally more anxious and paranoid person, but if someone came up to me and said hey, come get in this game where people are dying in real life, we promise it won't happen to you, and by the way we literally aren't going to tell you anything... I would have noped out of there so fast I would have set a world record. But Luke is all gung-ho about it, and it felt a little forced and out of place. There were some other minor things, like the fact that the stats were constantly being repeated and felt forced into the plot, and that the ending felt a little too abrupt, even for the first book in a series, but that didn't bother me nearly as much as the plot jumps.
I would definitely be interested to see where Wintertide goes with the next books in the series, and I would be lying if I said that I wasn't interested to see what happens next. This book definitely wasn't bad by any means, but I didn't enjoy it as much as other LitRPGS that I have read.
Disclaimer: I was contacted by the publicist regarding a review, and was provided with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinions on, feelings towards, or review of this book.