Book #78

Occultist: Saga Online by Oliver Mayes

Damien thought his exams would be bad enough. Then his mother collapsed with a failing heart.

In a desperate move Damien throws himself into the Streamer Contest of Saga Online, the latest fantasy VR-MMORPG. Winning will provide the funds for his mom’s surgery. Yet early betrayal and a close run in with a vampire almost ruin his attempt before he even begins.
Stuck at the bottom of a dungeon with no gear, no allies and little hope, Damien must embrace the undiscovered Occultist class, master control of his new demonic minions and take the contest by storm.
His plan is simple enough. Topple the most famous player in Saga Online.

As a gamer myself, I’m a huge fan of the LitRPG genre. Saga: Online was a real standout for me, blending real-life with online simulation effortlessly.

Our protagonist, Damien, is sixteen, and very fond of the game. His mother feels he should concentrate more on his studies, but when she is hospitalised, Damien needs to fund her recovery by becoming the most popular streamer on the platform. Madness ensues.

As he discovers an entirely new class, we’re propelled into the game with Damien as he levels up and seeks vengeance against another player for an earlier cruelty. Mayes fills the pages with humour (this username is unavailable), gorgeous characters, and plenty of action. He has a real instinct for knowing when to shift the focus from online to real life, keeping engagement incredibly high, and reminding us of Damien’s real task.

The only thing I felt was missing was more. I wanted more on Damien’s family life, more on his father, more on the antagonist (why is he such a dick?), and more on simply everything. Call it greed, I just loved everything else so much that I was desperate for extras.

Mayes has done a wonderful job here, and I only hope there’s more to come from him. I felt truly immersed in both of the worlds he’s crafted, almost as though I had a VR headset on myself. Absolutely wonderful.