I first heard about this book from Steve Thomas (author of Mid-Lich Crisis) and saw reviews of it pop up more than a few times elsewhere so I looked to see if it had an audiobook, and it did! Hooray!
This is a story about a dungeon core named… Corey, lol. At the beginning of the book he doesn’t know how he became a dungeon core, the only thing he knows is that gnomes discovered him deep underground and they have begun to worship him. He has a companion sprite named Ket (sp?) who is guiding him through his own powers and abilities. She works almost like the instructions you get when you’re playing a new game – except with a personality rather than being dry. Since Corey doesn’t know who he used to be, how he became a gem, what the gnomes are, or how to control and increase his powers, everything is explained to him. It ends up being a touch info-dumpy but given the context, it does make sense – I get much more annoyed with info dumps if the discussion is about things the characters should know already. Corey and sprite are strongly bonded and can sense each other’s emotions … Ket tries to shield her emotions as to not overwhelm Corey.
Corey starts off super arrogant and thinks of himself as superior to the gnomes. He thinks they’re pathetic, weak, uninteresting, and is only using them to gain enough power to escape his gem-prison (his body is a purple gem) and get back in a corporeal body. He doesn’t have any memory from his past life, but he’s certain he had one, and with it, a body. He wants to escape this fate, he doesn’t want to accept he has no choice. “Can I set them on fire?” was one of the first things he asked Ket. As time goes on though he starts to become more affectionate towards them and we learn more about the gnomes. These are the last of the world’ gnomes, no one knows what happened to the ancient gnomes. It’s possible there was a disaster, a disease, or some monster hunted them to extinction. The survivors left the underground and became a very simplistic version of what they used to be. They used to be inventors and tinkerers’ and as they gain faith in Corey their instincts to invent things are coming back.
This is only the second time I’ve read a book from the perspective of a dungeon (pretty rare POV), the other book being Dungeon Born. These two had a similar tone as well, and I think if you’ve enjoyed one you’ll enjoy the other.
Many times when I’m reading LitRPG the story follows a MMORPG game-type, but this one felt more like a cross between The Sims and Civilizations – sorta. Corey isn’t able to understand the gnomish language, it sounds kind of like gibberish and he’s supposed to try and intuit what his followers need rather than following direct prayers. The gnomes can be assigned designations like “builder” and set to tasks. Corey is able to level-up or “ascend” and each time he does so, he gets new powers and abilities.
A disembodied voice starts talking to Corey and tells him that Grimrock has returned, and when Corey tells Ket about this she flips out. Grimrock is an evil core that was supposedly defeated but obviously hasn’t been since he’s talking to Corey. His goal in the past was to conquer and enslave other cores and become more and more powerful. Grimrock has enslaved kobolds who are running around abducting gnomes and then sacrificing them to grow Grimrock’s power – it appears as though the dreaded core is back with a vengeance.
I enjoyed the sense of humor this book had, it kept things light and entertaining. The gnomes were in my opinion, adorable, and I liked watching Corey become more protective of them. It’s an extremely quick read, very straight forward writing, not much in the way of turns of phrase, metaphors, simile etc. it kept things to the point for a nice even flow and pace.
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 12/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12.5/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 83.5/100 or a solid 4 stars