“The Land: Catacombs” is the fourth book in the well-crafted Chaos Seed Literary Role-Playing game (LitRPG) series written by Aleron Kong; said to be the father of the genre. As with the previous released audiobooks, this one is wonderfully narrated by Nick Podehl; who has grown to be one of my favorites to listen too. This audiobook picks up where book three left off. Because this is truly a piece of LitRPG, our character grows to face new and more powerful challenges all the while struggling to balance his own advancement with that of his growing empire; or town. If you have listened to the previous three books in the series, grabbing this one for a credit is not even a question. If you have not yet listened to any of the books in the series, I recommend you start by picking up the first book in the series and working your way through them in order.
What I have come to enjoy with the series is that each book focuses on a specific theme or plot line, all the while maintaining the overall feel of a character maturing in their skills. This of it as a major quest while there are a number of minor quests still needing to be done. So, when you finish one book, you feel a sense of accomplishment and completion, yet the overall storyline progresses at a steady pace. Here in book four, there is a renewed focus on magic and more notably alchemy. The characters discover the importance of enchanting items, but such requires special crystals to achieve. Hence the name of Catacombs is given to this book in the series.
Parallel to leveling up his alchemy skills, our main character battles the many needs of a growing community of people. They want to grow and be used for the better of the two, and to accomplish this, they need new buildings or items which sets our protagonist off in search of materials. I enjoyed seeing the town grow and as it becomes bigger, there requirements for extra protections keeping it secured from attack. As with the previous books, the main character also faces the trauma of his past decisions which at times had dire consequences. As stated in previous reviews, I enjoy the sense of growth and expansion to both characters and world, as this really gives one the feeling of a role-playing game. The author is able to balance questing, action, and growth along with character development to keep the story interesting. There is always a fine balance as to what is better for the character or the village; including wanting to move from a militia to a full fledge army for improved protection.
The book continues to follow the many characters surrounding our main character and we get a view into their continued progression; including that of his dragonling familiar. The book continues the banter, zings, pokes, and humor of the previous books, but I found this one to be a bit heaver on humor having a more sexual tone then than the previous two books; similar to the first book in the series. This book also seemed to have a darker overtone then some of the previous ones, which may be a setup for what is coming in future books. We are also introduced to a few new creatures such as a saproling and a rather scary dark aberration. But, we are still faced with the bugbear invasion and a few other enemies. These are only a sampling of the many various creatures our characters encounter in this book. The ability of the main character to be able to transfer knowledge or spells to others was a unique twist keeping things a bit more interesting.
Nick Podehl does an exceptional job narrating and continuing to be the voice of the Chaos Seed series. I like when a good narrator is able to produce all the works of a series as this gives a level of consistency; and even better when that narrator has over three-hundred and thirty titles currently narrated on Audible. From a veteran narrator, what more would you expect than a professionally produced book which includes just the right amount of sound effects to make you feel like you are truly in the game. I do not recall any audio artifacts (swallows, page turns, etc.) while listening. It is such a joy to listen to a piece where the narrator knows his material and can help augment the story with his voice.
For parents or younger readers, it is difficult for me to recommend this book due to the heaver use of vulgar and sexual language. There are plenty of innuendos thrown around like a pitcher in a world series game. To me, it felt like the author took a few steps backwards in this area, where the material did not have to be so adult focused to be considered funny or witty. This book in the series is more geared towards mature audiences.
To summarize, if you have journeyed with our main character through books one, two and three, it only makes sense that you would want to pick up book four. You will not be disappointed when you do. It feels bigger, darker, and vaster then the previous books; which is a good thing. The series is one of my favorite LitRPG series I have listened to thus far, and I look forward to future books in the series.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.