SPFBO Status: Cut
Overview (No Spoilers):
When we first meet our unlikely hero, Jake Darrow has just been convicted of murder and is in the process of settling into his new life behind bars. But this isn’t just any prison, as Grid Eight employs holographic guards and relies on maintaining order by shocking prisoners through implants if they misbehave. This prison also offers a unique incentive to keep people in line: when you’re not working to remove sulfuric sludge, your body is able to rest and refuel while your mind is connected to Pantheon, an online role-playing game. In fact, players even get to choose when to return to the real world (unless they suffer an in-game death, that is). Once connected, Jake reinvents himself as Gunnar Ashwood, a dusk elf tasked with completing quests to win Glory for his patron deity, Nymoria. So, how far is he willing to go to level up and remain online? After all, it’s just a game, right?
Published in May 2022, Den of Thieves is book one of the Pantheon Online series by S.A. Klopfenstein. While this is one of the few LitRPG books that I’ve had a chance to read, I thought the in-game aspects were well done and didn’t feel repetitive. I especially enjoyed the snarky humor used in the descriptions by the game developers. As different quests become available, the direction of the story continually shifts, allowing new questions to arise about what’s really going on not only online, but in the real world as well. At the start, I wasn’t sure what the balance would be between time spent in Grid Eight versus Pantheon Online, so it was interesting to see how the line dictating ‘the real world’ starts to shift as the story progresses.
Upon entering the game, Gunnar finds himself in the city of Thailen, a place teeming with danger at every corner. While trying to make himself a more desirable candidate for local guilds, Gunnar quickly realizes that no one is as they seem. And so, this elusive nature of other characters tends to leave them feeling less fleshed out, but goodness, do the hidden motives keep you guessing! Despite the cutthroat environment, Gunnar differs from the majority of the other players in Pantheon as he’s willing to stick his own neck out to help another. Throughout Den of Thieves, Gunnar is introduced to many different beings from this realm, but the majority are only mentioned in passing. It would be interesting to explore their abilities as well as other regions in the Pantheon to a greater extent. This reader was left with many questions that make me excited for the future of this series!
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound!):
- Why is Lex in the game? Why does Gunnar recognize her voice? Have all of Jake’s memories returned? Did he actually commit any crime since he said it wouldn’t be like him to get behind the wheel after drinking?
- Why did Gunnar die after leveling up from completing the Break the Chains quest? Shouldn’t his health have been restored?
- Based on the interlude, I’m not sure which world is real anymore. Who is Nymoria really? What is her story?
- Does Gunnar make it to the crypt in time to keep Sykes and his men from hurting the folks there? Will Gunnar form his own guild? Will he join the Nighthawks?
- Nice addition of Thunderstruck for the dancing Fulcra. I assume that was a choice made by Angus from his time in the real world.
- More magic, please!
- Will future books explore the bond that Gunnar has made with the dire wolf?