Wouldn’t it be cool to suddenly have the battle skills of a seasoned warrior? Wouldn’t that be even better if the battles felt real but there was no physical risk to you? Wouldn’t it be perfect if the hypnotist in charge of your session was not insanely evil and using you as a weapon in a plot for revenge? Four friends, two in love, two in hate enter into a Group Hypnosis study attempting to introduce fantasy adventures to small groups. They are promised a video game type of adventure rescuing an Elf Queen from her crystal prision as elf warriors, a sorceress and a fairy. As soon as they fall under the good doctors spell they begin to realize the adventure is more real than they could have ever imagined. They find themselves in a hostile world they can’t seem to escape from. When Nicole Waters’ boyfriend Tom becomes ill the prominent St Louis Assistant DA is forced to take Tom’s best friend Jack Tyler, a local travel agent on a business vacation.
Certain she’s discovered the next hot trend in adventure vacations Nicole takes Jack and two others; Sarah Sims, a shy nurse practioner and Todd Hopper, a professional hockey player into a test program for group hypnosis. They travel to a small town in the middle of Kansas to meet Dr. Strong, the psychologist researching group hypnosis at his clinic . Undaunted by the fact that the so called clinic is housed in an ancient looking run down hotel and Dr. Strong’s creepy assistants the group is eager to get started with their ‘adventure’.
Dr. Strong introduces the soon to be adventurers to an equipment filled gym explaining, “The wall of netting might become a series of vines or perhaps the side of a rock cliff. The weight machine will serve as stimulus if you are required to lift or push a heavy object. The stair climber will act as a tree, fortress wall or perhaps a rock incline you must scale.” He then offers Nicole and her friends a mild sedative to aid in their simultaneous entry into hypnosis. Yet instead of experiencing an action packed fantasy adventure akin to a video game quest; they find themselves trapped in a deadly world of elves and monsters that is more real than they could ever imagine. Where a cry for help is left unheard.
That’s Sweet: This book gives you all you expect from a fantasy adventure: four main characters, who could not be more different if they wanted to; normal people being thrown in fantastical challenges, but prevail with wit, creativity and of course a bit of luck and another universe, which is threatened by the heroes actions even though not on purpose.
I loved the fast pace of the story, which was intended by Alaina Stanford, who got the idea for it while playing her kids video games. Its a good read if you prefer shorter stories.
I also loved the development of the characters, who were able to discover hidden qualities in themselves. Most of all Nicole, a very ambitious young woman, whom I hated in the beginning as she is portrayed pretty arrogant and impatient. But when she wakes up in another role she was supposed to be in, she is able to accept her softer and more caring side.
That Stings: There are small incongruities to the story like Todd, who became a troll sometimes can be helped along by just one person but sometimes he is so heavy only all three other friends can carry him. But these are minor problems that do not change the enjoyment of reading the book.
And the honey of it all?
If you like to escape your daily life with a short adventure to immerse yourself in, this is the perfect book for you. This is not a book for lovers of longwinded fantasy adventures that keep you occupied for days.
I think Alaina Stanfort captures the fast flow of a video game story perfectly and gives you a read to enjoy thoroughly.
There are two more books to the series and all are available for the Kindle, the Nook and via Smashwords.
Certainly a book you should not miss if you enjoy fantasy books.
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