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The Crafting of Chess is a work of fiction written by Kit Falbo, and is available in digital edition, via the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, or via paperback copy.
Synopsis: In the real world, Nate is a hardworking teenager with a gift for the hustle, especially with betting on rounds of online shooters or playing chess at the park for money. He is cautious but optimistic, a product of having lost both his parents at a young age and being raised by his conartist grandfather. Nate has his eyes set on a new hustle: the virtual MMO Fair Quest. Players can raise an NPC companion to do their bidding, with the chance of winning 2 million dollars if their companion succeeds in being crowned king. Nate’s plan isn’t to chase this quest however. He plans to craft high level items to sell on the auction house, which will allow him to cash out some of his profits for hard currency.
What I liked:This story works because Nate, or Chess as he is known in-game, is a relatable character. His caution in dealing with other players and NPCs is understandable, his struggles to become skilled at crafting makes sense in the game world and outside of it, and the sense of progression as he is forced to adventure for various reasons to keep crafting are believable. This book is, genuinely, a fun read. There is also a real investment in how crafting is handled that will remind most readers of crafting systems found in classic role playing games, something I would like to see more of.
The LitRPG subgenre tends to be littered with useless stats and statblocks; this book by comparison handles its stats with a fair and even hand. The stats have weight to them as explained and as used. Also, the mechanic of having a focus on an NPC in order to win the tournament proper is an interesting hook to get the player, and by proxy the reader, interested in the game world.
What I disliked:Editing and grammar mistakes show a copy that clearly was edited, yet not edited enough. In fairness, this is par for the course for a lot of books available on Kindle Unlimited, but it was at times a real distraction. There is also a sense that the ending was rushed. This leads to a conclusion that feels surprising, but in a predictable and flat way.
The world of Fair Quest, the game that Nate plays, takes some handwaving to get used to. This, too, is notable towards the end.
What I hated: There’s no sequel. Yet. But the author is active in several LitRPG communities so maybe if he is pinged enough he’ll write the second, third, or even fourth!
Overall score: Read it. I don’t know if this book is quite up there as “everything a book in its genre should be” but it is definitely an example of a book in the genre done right.