Bastion was supposed to mean safety. It was supposed to mean a break from fighting for their lives and a chance to talk to someone who might actually know what’s going on. Access to their gold and some beer would have been nice, too.
They got none of those things. When Tina and James arrive in the capital, they find a city on fire in more ways than one. Players and non-players hunt each other in the streets, while the king who controls the city’s all-powerful artifact cowers from the chaos in his castle. Desperate to warn somebody about the Once King’s coming invasion, James wants to try to talk to the king anyway, while Tina just wants to meet the royal portal keepers who might be able to send them home.
It shouldn’t be hard to get an army of the world’s best-geared players through one city, but when they discover that the captain of the Royal Knights has been massacring low-level players in revenge disguised as justice, James and Tina will have to decide what is more important: the lives of their fellow gamers, or the stability of this world’s last great city. Both choices deserve a champion, but with the Once King’s armies closing in, taking the wrong side may doom everyone to an eternity as slaves to the Ghostfire.
Well, this was another long book, but it just flew by due to all the excitement and action. I thoroughly enjoyed this second book in the Forever Fantasy Online series.
At the end of the previous book there was some relief, since our two parties had finally met up and they were able to achieve their goal and port to the capital city where they thought they’d be safe. But turns out, things are not great in the capital either. There seems to be little leadership in the city and both players and NPCs, or people who live in the world, are bent on killing one another. Tina and her brother James, finally reunited, come into conflict on how to approach the situation.
Once again the highlight here has been the characters. I love how much depth the main crew especially has been given, but even side characters like the King of Bastion are written well. With the players–James, Tina, and SB–we get to see a little bit more of their back stories, what life was like for them outside of the game. I loved this. We get to see find out how Tina created her character, how she met SB in game and then became friends outside of the game, a bit more of the rift between James and Tina. Of course, we don’t get all the answers, and some things will have to remain a mystery until later, but I love the bits we get as the history between James, Tina, and SB begins to affect their relationships within the world of the game now that they realize they may be stuck in the game forever, especially when they have conflicting reactions to that. I find Tina and SB’s relationship especially intriguing, especially when we get to see things from both their points of view and you can empathize with each of them. I do wish they’d just talk to each other and tell each other the truth of how they feel but baring your soul and your darkest secrets is tough. But, their unwillingness to share is driving a wedge between them.
Now, it’s not just the characters and their relationships with one another that has grown more complex in this second book, but also the world itself and the consequences of the players, well, playing in it. The world of FFO is presented as a real world. The NPC’s / folks who live in the game refer to the time while the players were playing the game as The Nightmare. They were stuck repeating actions for what seemed like lifetimes and had no control over their own lives, but remembered a time before. Finally being released from this control has given them freedom, but it’s also driven some of them mad with vengeance. You can understand why they’re so mad and stabby. But from Tina’s point of view she just sees her fellow players, innocents, being rounded up and slaughtered and, defending them, wants to slaughter the soldiers in return. You get Tina’s point as well, even though you wish she would be a little less stubborn and work with James on coming up with an alternate plan to stop the killing. There are so many ethical dilemas in this book, and I kind of love it. War is hell, even in a maybe fake gaming world, and there are consequences to one’s actions, so one should think carefully before acting.
I also love how James insists on taking a more diplomatic route, even if it means breaking with Tina again. Seeing a bit of their history, you understand Tina’s resentment and why she stubbornly refuses to do things James’ way, but you kind of want to knock some sense into her too. Sometimes both parties can be right and wrong at the same time and these things are frustratingly complex here just as they are in real life. I think this is why diplomacy is necessary but also so tough.
Bottom line, I thought this book was a fun ride with lots of action, ethical dilemmas, and great characters. Can’t wait to see what book three brings. 4/5 stars.