Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Leveller ~ Julia Durango (earc) review [@julia_durango @harperteen]

The Leveller (The Leveller #1)
June 23, 2015
256 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from TBD/or Amazon

Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nixy’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.
If you mix Inception with The Adjustment Bureau, video games, and action you get something close to The Leveller.

The MEEP, the virtual reality gaming world, is Nixy Bauer's parents work so she has more access and knowledge than most. She knows her way into and around the MEEP - and ways around the rules.

Her knowledge has allowed her to create a very lucrative job for herself as a Leveller. When teens stay in the game too long and their parents want them home, awake, it's Nixy who goes in, finds them and brings them back.

It's all been easy money, so far, but Nixy's new job may, finally, put her skills to the test.

Wyn Salvador  isn't her usual assignment. While most teens she's sent to retrieve are missing dinner or family time, Wyn has left a suicide note. He doesn't want to be found.

Still, Nixy thnks she knows how to handle it, handle him.

Until she enters the MEEP to find him and it's nothing like she expected.

Facing danger, surprises around every corner, even possible death, all in a world of dreams, a world where anything goes. Nixy and Wyn try to get home.

With the possibility of anything coming at you, anything someone can imagine, The Leveller leaves readers and characters both not knowing what to expect. Julia Durango did a superb job creating the MEEP. It is well imagined and follows the rules - even when there seem to be no rules. It is a fantastic setting for a rich, original, action filled and captivating story.

Nixy is an enjoyable protagonist. She isn't a girly girl, but neither is she the female character that often seems to be associated with gaming. Her best friends are male but she doesn't eschew all things 'girly,' either. I enjoyed the balance there. She's funny, she's smart and someone you'd want on your side if skeletons ever attacked.

Wyn is someone Nixy expects to be the typical Richie Rich. When she finds him, she realizes there's not only more to the job, but more to Wyn. They are put together in an unconventional way, in an unconventional place, not allowing for the usual get to know you things. The way their unique circumstances allow us to learn about them and them to learn about each other is great. Some of it is backwards (having to trust the other with their life before they can really talk) but it works here.

I don't want to give away all that Nixy encounters or all that being in the MEEP entails for the characters, but suffice it to say with all of the mythical, magical and/or terrifying creatures/beings, all that is missing from The Leveller is a narwhal. And I can see that being part of Book 2.

The conclusion of The Leveller is a good ending to the novel while still holding enough promises of what's to come in Book 2 that you'll want to bump it right to the top of your TBR list.

digital arc received, from publisher, via Edelweiss for review

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