Top critical review
Lord of the Nodes
Reviewed in the United States on March 8, 2020
As the series continues, Drew and his magical development are still at the center of the story. That’s definitely a good thing, as the magical system Drew commands is interesting and complex. And building on the first book, more aspects of the “game” system are revealed through his unique “Chosen One” status. While the magical system is not number intensive, there’s a lot to remember and a “character sheet” and quick summary of all the associated colors and grades would have been beneficial. I had to go back to the first book to get a refresher.
So, the great hope of humanity rests on the shoulders of a naive and absent-minded hero who clings to old hierarchies and ideas of democracy. Even after he is told gaining personal power is vital to the survival of Earth-3, he defers to group distribution of Xatherite to be fair instead of efficient. It’s also likely that Drew is on the spectrum based on his bizarre social interactions and awkward attempts at comforting others. This might be why Drew’s mind continues to wander in the midsts of dangerous situations, getting him caught flat-footed while he constantly forgets routine tasks like refreshing his defenses. And regardless of his status as a “Red Mage” he is a born follower, willing to allow those who abuse authority to be in charge rather than taking leadership or even defending himself.
And while Drew has some challenging traits, the big problem with this book is that it’s an apocalypse with training wheels on. Despite the ever present monsters, there are no real threats to Drew and everything always works out for the best. People are unrealistically friendly, reasonable, and predictable. Greed, reticence, and stupidity are minimized while malicious betrayal and outright sadism are absent. I like stories that focus on the triumphs of people working together, but the author has an overly optimistic view of human nature. It makes me think of how Piggy from Lord of the Flies must have viewed the world - highly logical, faithful to established norms, and largely ignorant of our potential for self destruction.
Another annoying story element is the sappy romance with Katie. Such a relationship can add depth to the story, but it can also drag it down. Having Katie’s character go from tough and competent to clingy and protective is a great example of the latter. Also, Drew hardly needs another leash to jerk him around. Never mind that the fate of trillions demands he become a war leader, he would roll over and show his belly if she commanded it. Katie has great value to the story, even with the low system potential the author gave her, but she would have been a much better character without these lame romance dynamics.
While I still enjoyed reading this book, it was a lot harder to finish than the first one. I’m sure many readers couldn’t care less about psychological realism in a fantasy story, but I think it’s pretty important in a survival/apocalypse setting. At any rate, this is a decent continuation of the series and probably a hit for most fans of the first book.