WARNING: THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The second book in the ‘Awaken Online’ series and it managed to improve on just about every aspect of the first. Continuing the story of Jason, the ruler of an undead city in a VR-RPG, as he seeks to consolidate and expand his power and influence. This time though, we also get to see more of the lesser characters in the first book, Frank and Riley, a deeper look at the main antagonist, Alex, as well as the AI who runs the game, Alfred.
I liked the first book, I found the story gripping and enjoyable. The main problems I had with the book however were the characters. Whilst I liked Jason and his arc, I really wasn’t a fan of Alex and felt like Riley could have been done better. This was not the case with this book however. The three main protagonists all felt real, they were all clearly flawed people who were trying to do their best and overcome the obstacles in their lives. For Jason, it was the creeping, unseen overconfidence and ability to treat others as more than pawns in his schemes, Riley had deep trust issues, and Frank had a major case of lacking in confidence. All three characters were forced to work through these problems in order to succeed in what they were trying to do and were written well. Out of the three, Frank’s arc was, for me, done the best. His high achieving family, mixed with him being overweight, left a sense of credibility for why he would be so lacking in confidence. As well as that, being forced to recognise that he was being carried by his friends and was essentially, the bitch of the group, was a good way of kick starting his character development. Driven by his anger of always being the worst and his own shame, he begins to fight more and gain equal footing with his friends. Although I thought he went from zero to hero a little too quickly, especially when you compare the developments of Jason and Riley, I still felt it was believable. I still struggle with the character of Riley however. I really like her, I just find that she’s a little inconsistent throughout the book. You can never quite predict how she is going to act or react to something. Yes on one hand this is a good thing as it keeps giving a few surprises, however it can be a little frustrating as she doesn’t always have the best reasons for doing what she does, character wise.
I really liked that we saw things from Alex’s point of view. At first I thought that I’d find his sections of the story a little boring and distracting from the main plot of Jason and co. However, I really enjoyed how Alex was given several chances at redemption but continued to make bad choices, choosing the easy path over the hard one every time. This stands in stark contrast with Jason, who continually chooses the harder path, because he knows that ultimately it’ll reap far better rewards for everyone, not just himself. It is here that my only real complaint can be found, and it mirrors one I had in the first book. I still think that Alex’s character is too extreme, the things he does in the real world are ridiculous and over the top. Yes his dad being extremely rich will always help, but you can only assault so many people before the police finally have enough, and blackmail so many dangerous people before they too have enough. There are points in the book where characters accuse Jason of “being like Alex”, which is nonsensical due to no matter what he does, he is completely the opposite to Alex which anyone would be able to see. It would have been far more interesting is Alex had been more normal and he and Jason being genuinely similar with their making the opposite decisions to the same problems. That way there would have been a really intriguing character dynamic between the two and others. It would also further underpin the idea that Jason is being seen as evil, despite only making decisions that better his city and his people, whereas Alex is seen as good, but actively only brings death to those around him.
Finally, I was a bit fan of the religious undertones of the book. It would have been so easy to just ignore or mess it up, but Travis has done a really good job at showing how religions and cults can quickly be started. Travis also did a great job in showing how easy it is to misunderstand or jump to conclusions about someone and develop a negative view of them based simply on not having the whole story.
I was thoroughly engrossed in ‘Awaken Online: Precipice’ throughout, even more so than the first. The cliff-hanger at the end of the book was done very well, much like at the end of the first, leaving me wanting more and eagerly anticipating the third book in the series (not including the two shorter ones about Riley and a OC, respectively) without feeling cheated or annoyed.