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Literature / Atharon

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The cover doesn't reveal much, but that suits the tone of the book just fine.
Atharon Exordium is the first book of low fantasy series Atharon, written by the author going under the pseudonym Argent Hellion. Like Mogworld, the inspiration came from playing MMORPGs and it shows on many places in the setting. The writing of the book was finished sooner than the publishing of Mogworld, but the search for publisher took longer. The first version of the book was a try by the author and his gaming friend to describe their adventures with their various guilds in multiple online games, so Author Avatars abound (there are at least two, by author’s admission and spotting them and characters inspired by real people is a popular game among the fanbase). It was toned down and thoroughly rewritten before the publishing, but parts of the MMO setting remain. Among other inspirations was A Song of Ice and Fire series from George RR Martin, in a way that the book follows multiple POVs in various chapters. Unlike ASOIAF, most chapters are grouped by the POV character and so follow one another.

Broadly speaking, one of the plots follows an apprentice named Nick in his tries to become a master of a healing magical discipline (a classical support class in an MMO) while the other follows an old Manser teacher training her last apprentice (a classical magical PVP/damage dealer class) before the war claims them all. There are dark things on the horizon, foul magic is afoot and not much time passes before first people die, long absent gods of the world get involved again and the plot starts in earnest. Sample chapters can be read here.Has a second installment called Atharon:Malevolence.

Atharon provides examples of:

  • Academy of Adventure: Multiple academies, in the same town, as is fitting to MMORPG ish setting. Every discipline has their own.
  • Aerith and Bob: The names in the first draft came from (cleaned of profanity and copyright) usernames of the player characters writer and his friends have met while playing the various MMO games. Some weirdness is to be expected to survive. Piomaz, Valiria, Malador vs Nick, Atilla, Victoria and other relatively normal names.
  • Affably Evil : Multiple characters. Valiria most of them.
  • And I Must Scream: There are terrible things any magic user can do to another person. In her opening chapter, Valiria thinks about several Manser ones she had inflicted (some of them post mortem!) but each profession has their own.
  • Author Avatar: The author has said that one of the characters is making decisions he would have made if he lived in that world. Can’t get more avatary than that.
  • Big Bad: We only see hints of him or her, seeing only the members of their army, which are not nice people. Of course, the fact that the overlord has an army in the time of peace might be the first hint. But baddie is also draining a lot of power unwillingly from one of the Avatars, so they have to be very powerful indeed.
  • Brawn Hilda: Victoria might be one in training, as befits the member of what might be tank class in MMO.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma:The Avatars have an audience chamber. For a mortal to get an audience with the Avatar of his/her class so they can submit their (prayer) request, they need to make an appointment with one. To make an appointment with the Avatar, mortal needs to see the Avatar of at least their discipline (other Avatars won’t do it, because they do not care about classes not related to their disciplines), after which it takes at least two months (up to several years!) until the Avatars make their decision whether to grant it or not. Except, a chance of mortal seeing any Avatar out in the real world is slim to none, because they rarely leave their audience chamber. To even get to the door of the audience chamber, a mortal has to pass a series of gruelling tests. You don’t like the rules? Luckily, there’s a shortcut: after mortal’s death, said mortal gets to see the Avatar of their class immediately, no tests needed! Unluckily for the mortals, they come to see Avatars to be judged and sent to heaven or hell, and are unable to make any requests or bargain with the Avatars at that point (because they’re dead). One of the POV characters resolves it by Taking a Third Option.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The Avatars, full stop, with the serious emphasis on Bureaucracy part. Fulfilling mortal requests is a chore to them. Judging souls of the dead is a chore to them. Returning people back to life is a major pain in the ass for them, because they have to form a committee before doing it, come to a consensus, send their helpers to find the mortal’s soul in one of the rings and that mortal will have to be judged again later, so they try to avoid it as much as possible… See Catch-22 Dilemma above for how they do it.
  • Comically Missing the Point: One of the Avatars starts complaining about the hard work he has to do in training a new Gate Guardian now the mortal has killed the previous one to get an audience with the avatars. That is just the most glaring example; it happens multiple times over the course of the story, mostly for comedic effect. Some of them are real conversations from one MMO or another, translated to book form.
  • Crapsack World: there are cities with different levels of safety in them, but there’s also a barbarian wilderness that needs to be kept at bay, explaining the need for adventurers. There are people with horrifying magical powers and very powerful creatures too. Weak are at the mercy of the strong and there’s slavery in most states because magic wasn’t very conducting to development of technology. And then there are the Avatars and the afterlife...
  • Death Is Cheap: Thoroughly averted, mostly because Avatars do not allow it to be, so the world functions relatively normal. Resurrection is possible but very hard to pull off. And there’s a price to pay...
  • Deconstruction: Somewhat dark one of the world of MMORPGs, but not as dark as Mogworld. Mostly because we are not shown the whole world and all the rules in the first book. The author’s website has more details.
  • Evil Overlord: Somebody is collecting an army of at least archers, rangers and Mansers (all primary damage dealer classes) for whatever murderous purpose they are going to be used. A character in the Prologue muses about what that might be. Then he dies.
  • Funny Background Event: In one rather tense scene a character drops her bow in anger. Her servant refuses to give it back to her until she calms down.
  • Generation Xerox : After over a century long life and raising a few generations, Valiria starts to notice genetic resemblance. It becomes a plot point later.
  • Little Match Girl: there’s a cameo of her in one of the challenges.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Valiria. Other Mansers. Almost everyone actually.
  • Stealth Pun: Two, at least. Original name of the author’s character was Sylver while his friend played (normally) evil aligned magic user. Thus, Argent Hellion. Second pun is no less convoluted: Valiria is a very old teacher who knows magic the world has forgotten after a cataclysm (game update from beta to finished IRL). That makes her Old Valyria!
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Members of the same class have the similar way of approaching the problems, but always leaning towards violence as the most expedient solution. Sometimes literal hammers are involved. Also Valiria, a Manser who has Murder Is the Best Solution solution mentality, takes gaining a Protector’s Heart as an instruction to pass a challenge rather literally. Turns out not to be the right answer after all.