Release Date: August 3rd, 2021
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher (Shadow Mountain Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my reactions/rating. This also means that all quotes and plot points are based on the ARC copy and should not fully reflect the final work.
“WARNING – Gameplay in Champion’s Quest only ends upon successful Quest completion.”
World-building: Realistically, there isn’t a ton I can put here. Of course, there is the whole aspect of building the game, making the rules, learning about the creatures, and mentions of map pathways, but as far as actual description goes, this story could benefit from having more. There was a lot of telling and not showing, so for most of the book I was picturing the characters in a generic forest or town, but in some cases, I couldn’t picture anything and, in my mind, the characters were emoting against a white background.
Plot: Right away, this plot sweeps you off your feet. By quickly introducing a whole slew of characters, there’s no disconnect between learning the backstory of main character Lucas and launching into a world of magic and mysticism. The plot runs as any other adventure might, but there are definitely aspects that add flair. Specifically, I found it rather interesting that, in this game world, players can get injured, but they don’t bleed. This might be a way to make the style a little more PG and less life-or-death, but it is also something that isn’t normally in adventures like this. Otherwise, the “game mechanics” are similar to what most games have, including enemies, a health bar, a storage system (with limited space), a currency, and healing.
Characters: Of the characters, we hear the most about Lucas. Considering he is the one telling the story, this makes perfect sense. In the beginning, Lucas is a kid that just wants to get away from his foster home. Having lost his parents at a young age, he doesn’t feel at home anywhere he gets placed and decided to run away. Lucas is a relatable character, in some ways, because he suffers from the “Creepers” or what others might simply call anxiety. This is a great way to talk about mental health for this age level and even shows that Lucas himself doesn’t know what is happening to him.
While I think this is a great story, with an interesting premise, I think some of the characters are bland. We hear a lot about Lucas, the voice of the book, but the other characters lack a special something that would make me feel more drawn to them. In particular, Vanessa is a very dislikable, vain character. Not only does she come off as selfish from the start, she constantly asserts her age to inflict her superiority (which, to be fair, most teenagers probably would do). I found myself rolling my eyes at her character and generally felt like she didn’t contribute much to the plot.
Miles was a fun character that I would consider fun-loving and energetic, however, I think this was exploited and often made him come off as dumb or foolish, which I don’t think was the intention.
The character I wanted more from was actually Jasmine. I found her character the most interesting, especially since she is silent for a good portion of the novel. Game-wise, she is stealthy and quick to learn the rules; she even seems to be the best at fighting, a useful skill when it comes to RPGs. We learn a few things about her backstory and her family, but there is clearly more to her, leaving untapped potential.
Overall: Four normal kids are thrown into Champion’s Quest, a role-playing game unlike any other. Taking the real-life stakes of Jumanji with the creativity of Dungeons and Dragons and the gaming feeling of open-world RPGs, board game lovers finally have a book curated especially for them. In the end, they learned how to overcome their differences and came together as a team, which is very heartwarming and leaves room for a book two!
Warnings: Mentions of death, anxiety, mild violence