Guild of Tokens: Initiate – Jon Auerbach
100 pages| Publisher: ARC Worlds Publishing| Urban fantasy
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review, as part of the TBRindr scheme. I requested this book.
The digest: a well-written, plot-driven, easy to read novella which entertains from the first page to the last. There are no false-pretences here, Auerbach takes an uncomplicated idea and executes it smoothly, with a well-paced narrative ensuring that the reader is never bored. The main drawbacks here are the lack of character development and narrative complexity, which are (to an extent) admissible when considering this as an introductory part of a larger body of work.
The story follows Jen Jacobs, a talented computer programmer who is always tidying up someone else’s code for none of the credit, as she discovers a new Quest section on Craigslist. What follows is Jen taking part in a series of what seem to be menial tasks in return for physical tokens, slowly beginning to work out that this is more than just a PR stunt for a new fantasy game. In 100 pages we learn a lot of shallow knowledge about Jen, from her college friends and old gaming obsession (addiction?) to her current relationship with investment banker Duncan – it is just a shame that so little of this is expanded on. This is the major downfall of the novella, but it can easily be rectified in future instalments of the series – it is hard to get convey meaningful depth in so few pages, but the odd throwaway line does hint at underlying points of interest. There are some obvious tensions as well as the odd obvious one – between Jen and others but also between secondary characters. I hope that we continue to learn more about Jen and those around her in future books as they could all have a place in a sprawling narrative should the author choose to take the story in that direction. There are only a handful of supporting characters and at the moment it feels as if we have read a summary description of them – though I imagine Auerbach will focus more on magic users in future books.
The plot is by no means complex, and the simple yet elegant prose of Auerbach means that a reader can easily sit back, relax, and enjoy the story. There are no big questions here, and little space for a reader to form their own opinions beyond, ‘wow, that was a bit questionable’ a few times (Jen is quite a reckless character) – but not every story needs to force the reader to make pages of notes just to keep up with which character is which. By the end of the novella, there has been enough information drip fed to us (no info-dump, thankfully) that we want to know more about the new Quest-oriented world. I can quite easily see new elements of the Questing world being revealed to us through more developed character interactions in sequels. I will say no more for fear of spoiling the story.
Stylistically, there are a few nods to modern pop culture and social media platforms which may not age well into the future but as it stands, there is nothing wrong with their inclusion in a piece of urban fantasy like this.
I recommend this book. It is a short, fun story which has a very promising premise with a likeable main character an interesting take on magic. If you need a break from heavy tomes or epics, Guild of Tokens: Initiate could be exactly what you need. I eagerly await the sequels.