Length: 7 hrs 50 mins; 11 hrs 19 mins; 15 hrs 24 mins.
Total = 34 hrs 33 mins
Narrated by: Roger Wayne
1st of all you can read a more detailed summary of each book review from my previous articles.
NPCs (Book 1)
Split the Party (book 2)
Going Rogue (Book 3)
And let me start by saying that this series is way better than I was expecting.
Why wasn’t I expecting amazing things?
Well because the genre is fantasy, pure fantasy, like Dungeon & Dragon kind of fantasy, Lord of the Rings kind of fantasy…and normally I don’t like that stuff at all.
I started out with NPCs because I had previously listened to Drew Hayes with the awesome series that is Super Powereds, and after I’d listened to everything that series had to offer at the time, I was hungry for more of his great writing.
The overall plot?
The premise is basically a Role-Playing Game – the ones that are directed by the rolling of a 20-sided dice. The chance of success for a certain action, and sometimes even a fight comes down to the roll of a dice and how high the number is, coupled with how many ‘bonus items’ or amplifiers you have on your character at the time. Such as can be artefacts, or potions or whatever.
For example, if a player was to roll a 12, but the game manuscripts state you need a 13 to win a duel, or see through a mist or something, but you have a special amulet that amplifies the power of your concentration by +3 points then you may actually be able to win that fight or see through the mist because it will add to your dice roll.
So, it starts off with some characters/ ‘adventurers’ playing the game and beginning to work their way through the imaginary world…going on quests and exploring, but when they find they’ve accidentally eaten some poisonous mushrooms, all their characters die. Just afterwards some NPCs (Non Player Combatants – the equivalent of computer AI characters, but in a board game) decide to take the mantle of the ones that just died, and complete the quest that they were originally tasked with.
So you’re now of the perspective of the imaginary characters in their world but looking at it like it’s the real world. There is sporadically some back & forth between the adventurer’s world and the imaginary world, and some ponderings to see if the imaginary world can affect the adventurer’s world. It’s all quite interesting to be honest.
Here’s a little summary of each book to give you a taste.
(You can click on the title to listen to a sample of the book on audible.com)
As the Non –Player combatants take the mantle from the ‘adventurers’ (the characters which were played by people in the ‘Real world’) We are slowly introduced to the characters.
Thistle- the Elf who will become a Paladin (servant of a God) for the minion god Grumble,
Eric – the former guard who is set to become a Rogue, (lock picking, stealth, spying etc)
Gabrielle – the daughter of the local mayor who through being kidnapped so many times by Goblins has learnt their language and made friends with them… set to become the Barbarian,
Grumph- the half-orc former bar-owner who seems to have an excellent memory and just so happens to have a little magic in him… set to become the group’s Wizard.
They aim to complete the quest that the original adventurers were set upon, so as to not bring the wrath of the mad king upon their small town.
The standard group is joined by Timiscore- the Knight and most recent addition of the party; as they are fleeing from the mad king from the 1st book. They have little choices given their experience and safety situation so they decide to go to Bharwillow, a town which is rumoured to have a strange sickness, not only as their only real choice for escape but also to see if they can help.
It turns out the town is indeed plagued, but everything is not as it seems as a priest with no name has plagued the town on purpose which will enlist the town members to help carry out his evil … plan, which is aiming to help his god –Calzadar into regaining power
Anyway, when the residents of the town disappear, and are found to be used as enslaved labour by this priest with no name, then the party decide to split off with Grumph the wizard and Gabrielle the barbarian journeying to see if the guild of mages can help, and Thistle, Eric & Timiscore staying behind to do research to try and find anything that would help them know what they’re dealing with.
The group (find out more information about the group here) enter the Grand quest, which is to ‘free the kingdom from a rogue dragon’. I’m giving away a slight amount of information but not much more than what you can guess by looking at the front cover of the book. Plus it’s all in the spirit of creating intrigue for you all to listen to this book.
So, to get to a stage where they can enter the Grand quest, they have to have completed quests that show enough skill to be deemed worthy of taking up the Grand Quest. They have thus far gained their experience by accident, which includes fighting demons, their half-Orc wizard becoming a proper mage, fighting powerful priests ordained by an evil god, and have done all of this simply by trying to help the people around them. They don’t necessarily look for trouble, but of course it finds them.
They are just trying to find their way to recover pieces of a special artefact that has the potential to change the link & balance between their world and the world in which people playing the game ‘Spells ,Swords & Stealth’ the real world are in.
Complexity of the story/ depth:
The story is quite interesting because of its depth. Yes, it is an adventure like fantasy story with standard fantasy-like characters, but because there’s also the division between the real world and the fantasy world which the main characters have lived all their lives and obviously consider real, there is much more to the story.
In fact one of the little Gem-stones / Easter eggs from one of Drew Haye’s other books (Fred the vampire accountant) is that the real world is actually Fred’s world in which Vampires, were-wolves, demons and the like exist as well, with the Spells, Swords & Stealth game acting as an explanation for all the characters & laws in Fred the Vampire’s world (the real world).
Yet, as it turns out this game is a world in itself and the 2 worlds can be bridged certain artefacts, as is apparent in all 3 NPCs book.
This also leaves the door open for an interesting cross-over in the future whereby we might see Fred the Vampire somehow mixed up with the Spells, Swords & Stealth world.
Another thing, is that the characters in this series seem to have immense back stories. Especially the Elf, Thistle & the half-orc Grumph. The competitions between the gods and their manoeuvring with mortals is most interesting.
The books also do a great job at explaining the general aspects of any fantasy world or these role-playing games for those that are new to it. There are of course terms or creatures that I didn’t get like ..still don’t know what a Colbolt is… I guess it’s a mini-orc that’s blue… but to be honest it kind of adds to the intrigue.
Narration & story telling:
Perfect. It’s slightly different compared to previous Drew Hayes books, whereby there is no story designed to re-cap past events, it just launches straight into it. It kind of takes you by surprise but it means that you’re right into the book straight away.
Narration by Roger Wayne is great.
Conclusion & recommendation:
I am well aware that many people don’t know what I’m talking about.. so I would honest suggest just taking a listen. You can use the 2 free audio books in the link below to get them and make up your own mind, or… just click the links
Split the Party
to listen to a sample.
As compared to other Drew Hayes books, this series is further down the list, but that’s not to say it isn’t great, it’s just that Drew Hayes is such a great author, and his other books are more fitting to the genre of science fiction that I prefer.
That being said, the more complex nature of the plot and the potential for a cross-over with the Fred the Vampire series sounds incredible & really adds value to this series.
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I’m not sure how after reading three books you still think Thistle is an Elf. I’m also not sure how you never got curious to look up what a Kobold is. Thistle is clearly stated to be a Gnome which is a fantasy race somewhat similar to dwarves or halflings but even smaller. Think very short small person almost like a child.
Kobolds that you referred to here as “Cobalt” are another fantasy race. They are different in each mythos but are almost always small in size compared to humans and mixed with an animal. Like small dog people or small rat people or scaly lizard people.
Thanks for the correction. I’ve been listening to the books, so the words are what i hear them as. I’ve never really been interested in the traditional fantasy genre, yet thanks to books like this this is changing. I’ve not got a lot of foundation knowledge to go by, so when i type in what i hear to google, not much comes up…which is probably why i never knew that the thing was wrong.
To be honest i listen more to the story, rather than who is what race/ creature, and the differences between them, but good to always be learning.