He Who Fights With Monsters: A LitRPG by Shirtaloon

5/5 Stars – If you like to start your books with a naked Aussie then you’re in for a treat.

A friend of a friend sent me a piece posted by some geezer called Shirtaloon (aka Travis Deverell) on how he became a successful writer and I was fascinated by it and found it very interesting. How Shirtaloon serialised his series on Royal Road, built up a following and then on Patreon and finally to Amazon. It also intrigued me, however, because at the end of the day the story has got to deliver. It has to be good right? So I thought I’d take a look.

LitRPG. It says it there on the title. A fantasy with RPG gaming elements. I’d not delved into this subgenre all that much but I kind of knew what to expect. So I downloaded it and those expectations got blown out of the water. What a fantastic read. It was so much fun and surprisingly nuanced. Jason Asano our protagonist was a bit of a nobody and it is fair to say he doesn’t get off to the best of starts when he wakes up naked in a hedge maze with no idea how he got there or what to do. From that narrow beginning, we are introduced to an eclectic cast of characters all of whom are layered and different as we follow Jason’s adventures and his deliciously dark powers which change and grow throughout the story.

This book has adventure, dark arts, kickass skills and a protagonist with an attitude that doesn’t always get things right. There are plenty of political intrigues as well and plenty of twists and turns along the way. Jason Asano is a very polarizing character and interesting in that he is an outworlder and sees things through an Aussie bloke, no-frills, eyes kind of way. He is unique, alone and very much trying to understand not just his new world but his place in it.

I can see how this book suited serialisation. The chapters are not overlong and at the end of most, you just have to start the next to see what the heck is going to happen. It is very engaging in that respect and as a result, this book has dominated my evenings instead of the computer (my own writing, damn you Shirtaloon), Netflix’ing et al. It’s like eating chocolate. You say to yourself, I’ll just have 2 squares then find yourself sneaking another. It is like that with this.

The quality of the storytelling and world-building I found first-rate. That said, I never felt Jason Asano was ever really in danger, I mean he was, pretty much most chapters, but I mean I always knew he would muddle his way through somehow and this only reinforced itself as the story continued only with increasing confidence. Then, just when I was starting to think it was all getting a bit safe near the end, I got that dread sense of doom that not everything is going to work out alright and I actually had to stop and take stock at one point and collect myself.

Overall a thoroughly decadent and supremely enjoyable read. If you like the sound of all this then I suggest you give it ago. I’m so pleased I did and am moving on to the next book.

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