Travis Bagwell's "Awaken Online: Precipice"
LitRPg is a steadily growing genre, and I’ve been getting my feet wet with it the past few months. Mainly because I love RPGs and reading so the combination is fascinating to me. But, there comes a time when they start to blend into one another and that is when things run the risk of getting stale. Thankfully, you come across a few gems in the growing sea of new books though. One of those gems, is Travis Bagwell’s Awaken Online series.
Awaken Online: Precipice
I enjoyed virtually everything about the first book in the series, Awaken Online: Catharsis, from the complex characters, the constantly shifting game world and the emotional consequences of the choices made by the characters. Bagwell has a talent for bringing characters to life. It’s done I such a way you can’t help but care about them all, even the ones who are major league asshats. That coupled with an interesting game world and overarching themes of the meaningof “good and evil,” redemption and personal growth makes for an engaging read that’s difficult to put down, which only works to make reaching the end a bittersweet moment.
Awaken Online: Precipice picks up a few days after the events of Awaken Online: Catharsis, with our mc, Jason, now leading a city. With that change comes responsibilities and boons that he hadn’t anticipated. Following him on his journey to becoming a competent leader is a blast, ripe with setbacks, pain, and progression. You never get the sense that Jason will come out of sticky situations on top; the sense of realism in this video game is outstanding, and allows for the reader to put themselves in Jason’s shoes, however uncomfortable they may be. Which, let’s be honest, is pretty uncomfortable for most. Not me though, I actually like the choices he makes throughout the book, save for a few.
However, Jason’s journey isn’t the only one we follow. There’s also his close friend Frank, the redemption-seeking heroine, Riley, and the arch nemesis, Alex. We spend time with each of them, be it through Jason’s eyes or their own, and their growth while playing AO is something to behold. The game is changing them all, though whether it’s for the better is yet to be seen. I will say that I couldn’t find one area of the book where I wasn’t interested in what was happening with the characters. And that is the highest praise a book can get, at least from me. Character is everything to me, and when a book has memorable ones you can feel for, root for or hate, then that there’s a book worth reading.
AO: Precipice asks tough questions: What is good and evil? Are we in control of our lives? What does it actually mean to be alive? The thing I appreciate about Bagwell’s approach to answering these question, as well as a few others, is that it’s not overbearing. The answers are open to interpretation. You could reach a different conclusion than I did after I was done reading this, and that’s one of the best thing about good books. They can affect people similarly, or in a completely different way entirely. And AO: Precipice is a book that will leave you feeling satisfied, frustrated, empathetic and conflicted all at once. It’s that good.