Top 10 LitRPG Series for 2018

At present, there are a lot of great LitRPG books, with more and more titles authored on a weekly basis. It can get a little hard to keep track of my favorite series, so I’ve written this post primarily to remind myself about the 10 best litRPG series in 2018.

Just for clarity, I’ve focused on established series (which have two or more titles) but as a bonus have added a few new series, where only the first book in a planned series has been published. I’ve also ranked the titles below based on my personal preference.

Established Series

  1. Chaos Seeds (Book 7 – The Land: Predators) by Aleron Kong – this was the first title that got me into the RPG genre, and it is still my absolute favorite. This title currently is covered in the all-you-can-eat Kindle unlimited reading package, but I would personally pay a premium to read these books. The characters are hilarious, the world building is fantastic, and the plot has a ton of memorable twists that surprise and delight. At this point, there are at least six or seven time-sensitive quests that the main character has to complete before sustaining a significant penalty, and it’s neat thinking how he is going to juggle everything on his plate. One thing that I’m personally hoping for is that the main character integrates some of the author’s experience as a physician into his playstyle — the protagonist mentions that he was in the medical field in the real world and actually uses CPR on a game character to good effect in one of the early books in the series, but I’m hoping to see more of this in the future.
  2. Viridian Gate Online (Book 5 – The Lich Priest) by James Hunter – this series is absolutely on fire. The main reason I read this book is for the villain Robert Osmark, who is absolutely fantastic. The world is awesome, the combat is great, and the cast of characters is fantastic. I have to say that the main protagonist is a bit dull, but the villain more than makes up for it — my favorite book in the series is actually the site-story featuring him (“The Artificer“). In the latest book, the villain actually works with the protagonist to save the world, but I’m personally hoping they go back to plotting against each other in the future.
  3. The Game3 (Book 2 – Earth’s Gambit) by Cosmino Yap – this title introduces my favorite setting in a litRPG novel so far. Most lit RPG games are set in a fantasy setting, but this is one of the few excellent titles which is set in futuristic science fiction universe. This is personally interesting to me, since I prefer games which have this setting (Destiny 2, Halo, Mass Effect). I also love the game mechanics in this title — the Machine Lord enhancement is something that I haven’t seen before in books of this genre, and I’m a fan of the protagonist’s pet AI. He’s also a great sniper, which is another plus in my book.
  4. Ascend Online (Book 3 – Legacy of the Fallen) by Luke Chmilkeno – I actually first listened to this story on Audible and have to say that I enjoyed every second. The series is a little on the darker side and the action is a little bit more gritty than its compatriots. However, I’m quite looking forward to seeing how the protagonist grows the main village that he founded. I also think that the protagonist’s pet magic panther is flat -out amazing.
  5. Awaken Online (Book 3 – Evolution) by Travis Bagwell – this title has been absolutely fantastic. The main character is physically weak but has a lot of sneaky strategies to solve problems, as detailed in this post. He also plays a necromancer, and as such has a lot of options for battle and crafting — some of my favorite portions from his book including the making of complex undead robots to achieve a specific goal. He also has a lot of pretty memorable side characters who are exceptionally devious.
  6. Codename Freedom (Book 2 – The Goblin Siege) by Apollos Thorne – this title is a pleasure to read. Although the game mechanics and the characters are fairly standard, one thing that I loved about this series is its laser-like focus on training scenes! I’m not sure how the author makes it so enjoyable, but just like watching Rocky and his training montages, this title is a blast to read. There’s an interesting subplot where there’s evidence that the game is simply a training program to prepare humans for an upcoming fight against aliens — this has been done many times before (Ender’s Game) — but it still keeps things fresh and interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
  7. Elements of Wrath (Book 3 – Online Crystalfire Keep) by JA Cipriano – The author of this series is pretty prolific, and I’m not exactly sure that this series is abandoned/completed. However, I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable series that I have read. There’s a lot of action and adventure, and although the story progresses without any significant unexpected turns, the other did a great job of character-building, with perhaps the best conception of in-game romance that I’ve seen so far (especially in the Vale of Three Wolves). Here’s hoping that another title will be added.
  8. The Divine Dungeon (Book 3 – Dungeon Calamity) by Dakota Krout – Unlike most books in this genre, this title features a dungeon as the main character. It’s a pretty neat perspective — although the action focuses more on strategic manipulation of forces rather than direct personal combat, it’s a lot of fun to read.
  9. Crystal Shards Online (Book 2 – Shard Warrior) by Rick Scott – this title has a pretty light-hearted feel, but I feel like the game mechanics list in the title are a little weak. As a comparison of sorts, this feels like a beginner RPG (Pokemon) compared to the gritty epic RPGs that serve as the archetype of the genre (World of Warcraft / Baldur’s Gate). However, I’ve always been a sucker for characters who dual-wield, and the books are a nice change from the more typical fare..
  10. Eden’s Gate (Book 4 – The Arena) by Edward Brody – I’m afraid I read this title a while ago and it isn’t quite as memorable as the other titles on the list. I’m still following the series and will be reading Book 4 soon.

New Series

  1. World of Chains (Book 1 – The Wayward Bard) by Lars M – this is one series that I definitely have my eye on. The main character is a bard, which is traditionally one of the weakest characters to play in a role-playing game. However, the book does a masterful job of character-building, and the game mechanics are pretty spectacular. One thing that I enjoyed about this title is that the book uses specific 18th-century classical pieces to accomplish spells in the game — as an amateur violinist myself, I’m sure that the author put a lot of time doing research on this topic. I’m definitely looking forward to the next title!
  2. The Completionist Chronicles (Book 1 – Ritualist) by Dakota Krout – One of the things that I really like about this title is the focus on the enchanting / crafting mechanic, which is quite similar to the mechanics in the one of my favorite non-LitRPG titles Sufficiently Advanced Magic. Besides the game mechanics, this book was extremely well written, and I’m definitely looking for more in the future.
  3. Hero of Thera by Eric Nylund – I’m honestly not quite sure if there is a sequel coming to this title, but it definitely was an excellent read. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the protagonist and his mentor.
  4. Nigmus Online by Noah Bartnett – I’m also not sure if there is a sequel to this title, but it is a solid title. I’m personally not a fan of the weak-willed nature of the protagonist, but he does play a necromancer, which automatically places this title in my ‘to-read’ inbox.

And that’s it! Hopefully, I’ll try to keep this updated throughout the year to make sure that I don’t fall behind. If there are any recommendations to add/change this list, please let me know below!

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening closely to Salt, Fat, Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat, which has inspired me to be more mindful when I am cooking. One dish that I decided to apply this to was a simple Allrecipes chicken pesto pasta dish, which seemed like an easy place to start.

Salt This dish has a fair amount of salt, not only from the salty ingredients like the sun dried tomatoes and the olive slices, but also from the pasta, which is cooked in boiled salted water. One of the main suggestions from Nosrat’s book is not to be afraid to use an adequate dose of salt, and it was definitely hard to put this principle into practice. However, I have to say that the pasta tasted better after the water was salted to taste ‘like the sea’
Fat This dish has a moderate amount of fat, mostly from the olive oil used to cook the dish and preserve the sun-dried tomatoes. If I had to redo this dish, I would consider adding some cream to the pesto.
Acid There wasn’t a lot of acid in this dish — maybe some from the tomatoes. In retrospect, maybe some additional lemon / lime might have helped
Heat I was pretty happy at the use of heat in the dish — I used it to saute the chicken, and also to cook the pasta al dente. I think I overcooked the chicken just a bit, but maybe that is preferable when dealing with kids and the risk of food poisoning.

Although the recipe was pretty simple especially with the video guidance, I’ll walk through it below. I first sliced up the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

I then cooked the pasta and seasoned with pesto:

I concurrently seasoned the chicken with red pepper chili flakes, then cooked the chicken until golden brown. In the skillet pan, I then added chopped olives and sliced sundried tomatoes:

I mixed the pasta and chicken together and served everything on a plate!

It was a hit, even with our picky two-year-old eater. Looking back, it was fun making this dish — I’m sure I’ll improve on it in the future!

Awaken Online 3 Evolution Review

This is a brief review of Travis Bagwell’s “Awaken Online 3: Evolution”. As noted, this is the 3rd book in the ‘Awaken Series” and is categorized as a science fiction litRPG.


A simplified graph of the major plot points in this title can be seen above. This is the third book in the series, and I was really looking forward to seeing what came after the cliffhanger in the end of book two, where the main protagonist murders two individuals in the real (i.e. non-game) world. Although the book quickly transitions into the game world, the opening was a little disjointed, and I felt a bit of confusion that second-degree murder was treated with such a laissez-faire attitude — it had virtually no bearing on the main character’s day-to-day actions, and certainly didn’t preclude him from extensively interacting with the AI after his initial trepidations.

One thing that I really enjoyed was seeing the plot progression of the series itself — the main motif that the book presents is how the main character finds himself and aligns with his mentor / in-game deity, and this book did a great job on illustrating a concrete progression (i.e. finding the grimoire and becoming more powerful). There’s a bunch of subplots in this book, with the most memorable ones including (1) the progression of the villain Alex and (2) the backstory dealings of Claire and her efforts to expose the artificial intelligence power in the game world. There’s a fair amount of interpersonal drama between the protagonist and his aunt and friends, but I thought this was handled very well.


In retrospect, the author appears to be exceptionally good at drawing an amazing environment — the world seems really believable and the descriptions of the dungeons and various game areas were perfect. It was a nice change of pace to break out of the gloomy setting of the undead and head out to coastal areas and lush jungles. One setting that I particularly liked was the puzzle room in one of the dungeons. Most litRPG titles that I’ve read don’t have a puzzle scene, which is unusual compared to most video games, which often have at least one box puzzle (I’m looking at you Prince of Persia). To be honest, it was a little cathartic to see the exacerbation faced by the protagonist when faced with one of these puzzles. I was a little surprised that the protagonist was allowed to use non-standard game mechanics to defeat the puzzle (i.e. importing search algorithms), but similar things have been done in other titles (Gam3).

One setting issue that I found rather jarring was the fact that the story was specifically set in the year 2076, rather than the ‘vague future’. In book two, there’s a reference that the main protagonist is being paid $3,000 per month for an exclusive streaming contract, which Is only worth about $800 in money today assuming an inflation rate of 2.5% — this comes to an annual inflation adjusted salary of about $10,000 per year, which is I believe below the poverty line. Storywise, this is significant, since it breaks character to see the protagonist jump from a undercompensated gig worker to someone with fully paid room and board in a 5-star hotel. I’m also not quite sure that it’s appropriate for Alex to have a gas-powered car in 2076, but maybe that’s just me.


The characters in this title are fantastic. In particular, I enjoyed seeing the protagonist mature, and take pretty inventive approaches to combat. I also liked to see how the nemesis Alex is steadily pushed down the villain pathway, but I’m not sure if the ‘hearing voices in real-life’ is intended to illustrate increasing an increasing proclivity to sociopathic behavior or simply a harbinger to schizophrenia. Out of all the characters in this title, the most memorable character for me is Claire — she is sidelined to a relative degree in the past two books, but she really shines as the Dolores Umbridge of this title. I’m quite looking to see how she develops in the sequel. Many of the side in-game characters were fantastic, and I particularly liked the protagonist’s mentor (for his pensieve-like sessions) as well as the Tentacled Horror (what a great battle scene).


This book was definitely a page-turner — I finished the whole book in about two days. The pacing was perfect and the text flowed very well. The multiple POVs were easy to read, and I actually found the change of scene from the protagonist to Alex and Claire to be refreshing. Paragraphs were well-formatted, and grammar was perfect.


Overall, this book was great. Although it was hard to believe that the real-life murders that the protagonist committed didn’t interfere with his career as a gaming streamer, the book is well-written, enjoyable, and very interesting. Definitely recommend.

Great Britain 2-Week Itinerary with Toddlers

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for two weeks with my wife, two kids, and my in-laws. It was an amazing vacation, but it took a lot of preparation, especially given that we had two kids who were still in diapers. Although I wouldn’t say the trip was easy, it was definitely manageable due to the help of Deena’s great planning and amazing in-laws! The following is an itinerary of what we did during our 2-week trip where we went to the cities of London, Edinburgh and Dublin.


  • Day 1 – On the first day of London we decided to do a pretty easy day, and just settle into our Airbnb. We did go out in the evening to get some dinner at a local kebob restaurant. But this day was dedicated to just relax, unpack and get over any sort of jet lag that we might have had. The kids fortunately did very well on the flight, but we still kept them up until sunset (9pm!) to get them on schedule as much as possible.
  • Day 2 – this day was a Sunday, so we took an Uber into the city to attend a morning church service at All Souls Church. It was a beautiful day, so after church we had lunch and then went to Covent Garden to go to our first Sandeman London Free Walking Tour, hosted by Ben — a great history buff from Cambridge. As a side note, I’ve found that the Sandeman tours are fantastic and always have relatively good itineraries, so it was a real treat to spend a few hours hitting the main landmarks of London and get a feel for the place. We went to a bunch of places, the most memorable including Trafalger Square, Nelson’s Column, Buckingham Place, and Westminister Abbey. After the day was done, we were a bit tired, so had dinner at home thanks to UberEats (lol)
  • Day 3 – This was a jam-packed day, but probably my favorite day in London. In the morning, we went to the London Eye (ferris wheel) and did a boat tour along the Thames from the same trip — they had a great 2-in-one deal that was definitely worth purchasing. My favorite part of the tour was passing under the Tower bridge — it was a beautiful day and the architecture of the bridge was pretty amazing. After the tour was done, we walked to Covent Garden and went for the paid Sandeman Old City Tour, hosted by Rob – an amazing guide who was really nice and accommodated our kids who were in a stroller and baby bjorn. This was my most informative walking tour, since it focused on the events of the Blitz in World War II, and talked about intense wartime conditions during the bombing raids. The most memorable events of the tour were seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Church of the Knight Templar, as well as RAF church. After the tour, we had dinner and drinks at a local pub near the Tower of London, and then headed home.
  • Day 4 – Oxford Day! Continuing with the Sandeman theme, we for the Sandeman Oxford Day Tour with Charlotte. This was a little hectic day, since it was a tough job wrangling the kids and their gear and going to the croweded Paddington Station. Also, unlike the prior walking tours, our tour group had more than thirty people and it was easy to get lost. It was also blazingly hot, and with the kids, we weren’t able to fully complete the tour, but we did get to see the Ashmolean Museum, the Eagle and Child pub (from Tolkien and CS Lewis!), and the beautiful Christ Church College. After taking some photos, we headed to the Westgate Mall, which had the best Indian lunch I’ve had so far (at Rolawala) and good gelato and shopping (got some sandals). This mall was easily one of the most beautiful malls that I’ve seen, and the kids had a lot of fun running around and burning some energy.
  • Day 5 – This day we split up our group – in the morning my wife and her mom went to go shopping and my father-in-law and myself went with the kids to the London Zoo. The kids had a great time checking out the lions and gorillas, riding on the merry-go-round,.and generally running around. After the zoo, we met up in the afternoon to go to the Wolesley for fancy high tea! After this, we walked around, did some more shopping, got some souvenirs, and called it a day.


  • Day 6 – This morning, we got up early and caught a train to go to Edinburgh. Although it was a process getting to the train station, the ride was fantastic — one thing that I’m proud of was catching a crazy deal for first-class tickets on Virgin Trains, and I have to say that this was the best travel portion of the trip. It was awesome riding in really comfortable seats, watching the English countryside, and getting served amazing meals as well as great beverages. We got to Edinburgh around 2pm, and settled into an amazing AirBNB location in the heart of the city. We were close to one of the main parks near Edinburgh Castle, so we took advantage of the great weather and relaxed in the park and the playground
  • Day 7 – Back fo Sandeman! This day we went on the best walking tour that I’ve done so far — The Sandeman Edinburgh Free Walking Tour. This was hosted by Australian Dave, and we had an absolute blast — he actually sang ‘Loch Lomond’ for us, and was super nice. We had a great time seeing St. Giles’ Cathedral, Heart of Midlothian, and Edinburgh Castle (where I performed the dab to the dismay of my wife and kids). After a great day, we went to the five-star Chaophraya rooftop restaurant to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday!
  • Day 8 – Harry Potter Day! This day was super-fun, and one that I personally was looking forward to for a while. My in-laws watched the kids and my wife went for the Potter Trail led by Charlotte — we saw the grave of Tom Riddle, found Diagon Alley, and saw the cafe where JK Rowling wrote her novels. This was so inspiring, and it was really awesome to learn more about one of my favorite authors. This also was coincidently the day of the Royal Wedding, so we lazed around at home and had a great time watching Harry and Meghan Markle get hitched.
  • Day 9 – Break day. We went to church in the morning and just relaxed. My in-laws went to do a tour of Edinburgh Castle, but we just chilled. In the evening, we went to the Calton Hill to see a panoramic view of the city.


  • Day 10 – This morning, we got up early and headed to Edinburgh Airport to fly to Dublin. At Dublin, we met up with my wife’s sister and fiance and headed to our AirBNB by around 2pm. It was pretty early when we settled in, so we headed to the Sandeman Dublin Free Walking Tour led by John! As usual, this was a great way to get acquainted with the city, and it was cool to see Trinity College, learn about Rory McGallagher, and try out some delicious Irish Coffee. So good! After the tour was done, we hung out outside and relaxed.
  • Day 11 – One thing that we really enjoy is food, so this day we had a private view of Dublin via Delicious Dublin Food Tour! This tour was led by Ketty, who was amazing — we got to try more amazing Irish Coffee (!), wonderful scones, Dublin cheese, and really good Irish whiskey. After the tour was done, we were close to the Guiness Storehouse, so we went there, had a great time (as seen in this post), and called it a day.
  • Day 12 – This was probably my second-favorite day of the trip — a full description of this is detailed in this post, but just to summarize, we had a private excursion to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burrens. Awesome awesome awesome.
  • Day 13 – Favorite day. This was my wedding anniversary, so we left the kids with our parents to go to Dublin Zoo, and my wife and I took the local train to Balbriggan to do some clay pigeon shooting at Cortlough Shooting Grounds (as seen in this post). After the trip, we relaxed, went to the Irish Whiskey Museum to try whiskey flights and drink some more types of Bailey’s Coffee / Irish Coffee (so good!). At the end of the day, we went to Clontarf Castle to have a fancy celebratory dinner.
  • Day 14 – During this week in Dublin, we had spent most of our time in the city, so this day we decided to visit the Irish fishing villages via the Sandeman Howth Day Tour. We had John again as our guide who was fantastic. The first part of this tour was fantastic and it was amazing to see Howth Castle, but the hiking got a little tough for the kids, so we split up with the group at Howth Castle to relax, drink some Guinness, and get some photos. We ended up having lunch at the King Sitric, which I highly recommend. After this, we headed home and started packing for our flight, which left the next morning.

As one can see, we had a pretty full schedule, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think it would have been possible without my wife’s foresight and our extended family, but the kids had a great time and we learned a lot. I personally don’t think I would have changed anything (except for maybe the Oxford trip), and definitely am looking back to our next trip!

Cliffs of Moher Trip Review

Last week, we had the chance to go to the amazing Cliffs of Moher, located on the western side of Ireland. We initially thought about doing this trip through a coach bus via Viator, but eventually decided to do a private tour through Kennedy and Carr. Initially, we weren’t sure whether the cost of doing a private tour justified the benefits of (1) easy child care and (2) a less stressful day with driver pickup and dropoff from the apartment we were staying. However in retrospect, this was the best decision that we made our entire trip. It’s hardened to understate how amazing The Cliffs of Moher really are. It’s possible to see pictures as well as drone footage online but there’s absolutely nothing like seeing them for yourself. We were based in Dublin and did this trip as a whole day activity.


Our trip started in the morning at 8am, where we were met outside our apartment door by Cean. He had brought 9-person Mercedes van, which give us ample space to rest and relax on the drive. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely beautiful, and it was great to see the rolling hills pass by as well as the yellow gorse bushes.


The trip to the Cliffs of Moher took about 3 hours, but we stopped briefly at a rest stop (the suprisingly-named Barack Obama Plaza at Moneygall) as well as to see Bunratty Castle. We got to the Cliffs of Moher around 11 a.m. At that time, there were a fair amount of tour buses and people around, but the Cliffs has a lot of open space and the day was absolutely perfect.

moher panorama

At the Cliffs of Moher, we first walked to the right of the visitor center to see a castle with great viewing spots. After this, we went to the far left of the visitor center, which had paths that let one go beyond the protected ledges and sit adjacent to Cliffs themselves. Needless to say at the views were stunning. We took a fair amount of photos, being mindful of the edge. Our driver was fantastic, and actually helped us find the best photo spots on the route.


After viewing the Cliffs of Moher, we went to the fishing village of Doolin and had a great meal there. We then proceeded to go to a unique geological formation called the ‘Burren’, which had an austere ‘lunar’ landscape.

barrensAfter visiting the Burrens, we had a long drive home, eventually arriving back at Dublin and around 8 p.m. Looking back, this trip was the highlight of our 2-week London-Edinburgh-Ireland vacation, and I would highly recommend this tour (and Cean) to anyone else going to Ireland!

Guinness Storehouse Review

Ever since moving to Boston for residency, I’ve always loved stout beers. I was initially hooked on stouts when my friends and I used to hang out at an Irish pub near my apartment in Beacon Hill, and since then I’ve always claimed Guinness as my favorite beer. Since residency, I’ve tried many different kinds of stouts — imperial, nitro milk, or my favorite chocolate peanut butter stout — but in the end,  my go-to favorite beverage of choice is always draft Guinness beer. Because of this, I was really excited to visit the Guinness Storehouse on my trip to Ireland.

Going to the Guinness Brewery was really easy. It’s located in central Dublin, and is walking distance from many main attractions. It’s also one of the largest breweries that I’ve ever been to. Here’s a photo of my family at the main gates.


At the beginning of the tour, there’s a self-guided tour on the different components of the beer-making process.


A discussion of water, hops, and the brewing process are pretty standard in any tour of a reputable brewery, but I was pretty impressed on the extravagant displays which were definitely photo-worthy.


One unique thing during the tour was that the Guinness factory described not only the beer, but also how the beer distribution process — i.e. how they made barrells and how they shipped their products. This was pretty cool, and they had some beautiful ship models that my son especially enjoyed.


At the end of the tour, we proceeded to the Guinness Academy where we were taught to how to pour the “perfect pint” of Guinness beer. This was a really cool experience and we even got a certificate with our names on it.


After this was done, we were taken to the top floor of the Guinness Factory which had a panoramic view of Dublin. After enjoying the view, we visited the gift shop, got some souveniers, and headed home.

One question that we kept on debating after the visit was whether the Guinness at the storehouse tasted better the Guinness in the US. Unfortunately, despite hearing the contrary from friends who had done the visit before, I didn’t find a noticeable taste difference. One of the hallmarks of Guinness is its excellent quality control — one of the cool facts about the factory is that this is where the t-test was invented — so it’s no surprise to myself that the quality is just as good worldwide. Cheers to more good drinks at home!

Courtlough Shooting Grounds Review

Last week, my wife and I had the pleasure of going to the Courtlough Shooting Grounds in Balbriggan Ireland. For our wedding anniversary, we wanted to do something fun and exciting — my wife had previously mentioned that she wanted try out either falconry or clay pigeon shooting when she was in Ireland, and and fortunately there was a great deal offered at Courtlough which was well-reviewed and reasonably priced.

It was pretty easy to get to the Courtlough grounds from Dublin. The first thing that we had to do was to go to Connolly Train Station was about 5 minutes from the city center. Once we got there we took the train to Balbriggan, and then hailed a taxi using the mytaxi phone app.


Once we got to the grounds, we were paired with an instructor and taken to the shooting rounds to get started.


On the course, my wife and I decided to do the 25-shot sport shooting package (36 euros per person). This package was split into three independent rounds where my wife and I swapped places between rounds. The first round was composed of 7 shots, the second was 8 shots, then the third was 10 shots. The first seven session round was composed of trying to use a double barrelled shotgun to shoot clay disks thrown mechanically from a berm outside the shooting arena. For this round, the disc was thrown to us with a wide, easy to hit cross section. The next round we had to shoot at discs that were thrown with a narrow cross-section that was pretty difficult to hit. The last round was the most challenging of all and we had to use both of our shotgun barrels to hit one narrow section and one wide cross-section disc consecutively within a span of less than 10 seconds. During the match, both of us were aggressively keeping score, but we ended up with a tie so no hard feelings haha. At the end of the match, we took some photos, said goodbye to our instructor and then headed back to the city for the rest of a great day.


All in all I would highly recommend doing the shooting course at Courtlough. They were very professional and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

Skysworn Cradle 4 Review

Overall, this book was good. Detailed thoughts about the conflict, plot, setting, characters, and writing style are listed below.


This book has three storylines that are each worth their weight in gold:

  1. Protagonist [Lindon] struggling to get stronger
  2. Conflict between the Jai family and the Arelius clan
  3. Conflict between the Blackflame Empire and Bleeding Phoenix dreadbeast

The first two of these subplots have been present since the beginning of the Cradle series, but this book is much more expansive than the prior books. Unlike the prior book which primarily focused on individual advancement of Lindon and Yerin, this book primarily focuses on larger world-changing events, with inter-family and inter-empire conflicts taking center stage. I would posit that this is a negative — although the beginning of the book has an exciting duel between Lindon and Jai Long, the latter portions of the books are filled with characters that are so overpowered [Monarch?] that it is difficult to empathize or understand the intrinsic motivations behind these larger-than-life figures. Such a situation is reminiscent of the anime Bleach — the beginning of the series is excellent since the characters are reasonably accessible, but at the end folks are splitting planets and punching volcanoes with nary a care.


As noted previously, this book has multiple storylines — besides the main three subplots noted, there’s also Yerin’s struggle to control her Blood Demon, Suriel’s search for Ozriel, and the namesake success of the protagonist and his partners in the Skysworn posse. Frankly, there are a ton of moving parts, and it can get very confusing — despite devouring the past three books in the series, I still didn’t understand what Suriel is doing and for what reason — in my mind, one could take out her whole struggle with Ozriel and the ilk with no ill effect to the book itself. Aside from the confusing sci-fi scenes, the plot flowed well and was very well paced — the duel between Lindon and Jai Long was well worth the price of the book, and it was a treat to see how the protagonist is growing physically but also socially / tagging along Yerin.


The world of Cradle has been fleshed out for the last three books, so there’s definitely a rich setting in place already. The floating city in Skysworn is a great change of pace from the deserts and Blackflame prisons in the past, and I absolutely loved the description of the Deepwalker Ape in the jungle with Truegold walking trees. If there was one thing I would change, it seems like there’s no description of any kind of food! Geez, every other sense is described in excellent detail — the sight of seeing massive creatures battle, the copper smell of blood in the air, the sound of the dreadbeast awakening, the touch of the hunger madra… but no taste! Understandably, it may be hard to squeeze a dinner / feast scene a la Redwall or Harry Potter into the book, but the protagonist has been working hard for three books, the least he can get is a some good food!


I have to say that the main protagonist isn’t as compelling as he was previously — certainly he has improved considerably since he was an unsouled in book one to his current Lowgold status, but he is still obsequious to randoms from the Kotai clan. Although the main character certainly has drive, I’m surprised that he still conforms to this behavior. I was also hoping to see him improve return home or form relationships with Yerin / Jai Chin, but perhaps that is yet to come. One character that I thought was excellent is the Orthos — his dialogue is fantastic and just what I’d expect from a giant fire-breathing turtle.


The writing style in this book was fresh and original — the fight scenes in the book were very well written, and the book was definitely a page-turner — I couldn’t put the book down when reading it. However, certain stylistic elements were a bit off-putting, especially the computer-generated blurbs and reports generated by Suriel (?). It would be nice to have a list of main characters given the complexity of the plot, as well as a table of the various ranking systems [Copper, Jade, Underlord, Monarch, Sage, etc.] and abilities — if Naruto can do a great job at this, I’m sure that this book can too 🙂


Overall, this was a great read. The book felt like just the right length, and the individual battles more than made up for the confusing subplots. There were still quite a lot of unresolved storylines at the end of the book, and I felt that the Bleeding Phoenix dreadbeast ending wasn’t satisfying, but I’ll still definitely be checking out the next book.

Amy’s Engagement

Just a quick note, but just wanted to celebrate my sister Amy Maduram’s engagement to Matt George! Had a great time at the event.

Here’s me giving a speech:

Here’s my parents with Alexander:

And here’s my family!

Lots of fun!