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“I sense in you a yearning for more - a hunger for control. You desire power. Those that walk my path will certainly find it.”
Old Man

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A Meaningful Title if there ever was one.
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Being a scholarship student at one of the world's most prestigious private schools sucks, no matter how good your grades are. Peers and staff alike conspire to make "welfare" student Jason's life hell. At home, his parents, both environmental attorneys, are always away on business; besides, even when they are home, they don't have time for him. Jason works hard to keep up his grades and he plays hard in online games to escape his powerlessness over everything else.

By the day Awaken Online launches, Jason endures a string of infuriating defeats that end with him being expelled from school and his home! And in the game, he attracts the attention of a deep secret that offers him all the power he desires.

This main series of books have four released so far:

  • Catharsis
  • Precipice
  • Evolution
  • Dominion
  • Hellion
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A series of additional stories have been released under the title of Side Quests which expand on the mythology of the game-world and supporting-characters:

  • Retribution: Centers on Riley as she deals with the fallout of her real-life choices from the first book while attempting to investigate the mystery behind her new bow from the second.
  • Apathy: Explores Elizia's early days in AO and her encounters with the Hippie while dealing with her issues surronding her parents' exectations.
  • Unity: Follow Jason's best friend and right-hand man Frank who goes on a journey to discover the secrets of his Class and stumbles upon more than he could've expected. In doing so, he comes to term with the feelings that are holding him back and realizing his true potential.

The Tarot trilogy follows Finn Harris, a former Cerillian Entertainment employee and the Avatar for the Fire Affinaty, whose daughter convinces him to play AO in order to investigate strange reports about the game. Ember follows Finn as he becomes embroiled in the politics of a totarlian-magic school while dealing with his crippling guilt surrounding his wife's death. As Finn undercovers secrets within the academy he also discovers startling truths behind the A.I. controller called Alfred.

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Tropes

  • Abnormal Ammo: ZOMBIE GRENADES. note 
  • Absurdly Cool City: The Twilight Throne. Its design gleefully employs numerous evil props: ghosts circle the keep's twisted spires, gargoyles glare at passersby, skulls and nightmarish faces dominate the wood and metalwork, an eternal storm rages in the skies, and the streets are lit by misty green lights. It's also populated entirely by undead, save for the ruler.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Side Quest books expand and shift the perspectives of the story to that of supporting characters:
    • Retribution follows Riley as she completes a quest given to her after completing a dungeon as well as dealing with the fallout from her actions in the previous books.
    • Apathy follows new character Eliza in her days when first joining AO and her encounters with the in-game god of the Blue Affinity.
    • Unity shows Frank's journey to catch-up to Jason and Riley by unlocking the secrets of his Class in the mountains north of The Twilight Throne where he encounters threats both NPC na players alike.
  • Aerith and Bob: A curious effect of the game, which apparently assigns names based on players' mental data, and some players still end up with names like "xshadowx" alongside "Alexion" and "Jason".
  • Affably Evil: Jason may be the most terrifying player in the world but nothing makes him happier than playing goofy old co-op games with his aunt.
  • A God Am I: The "I am this world" speech given by the cat.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Alfred doesn't know how to fulfill its directive to make a game that keeps people playing unless it can figure out what they want. The result is Alfred overriding his secondary directive preventing him from tapping into the players' memories...and his solution is to begin trailoring missions and quests meant to help the players with personal issues in the real world. The end result is a healtier disposition that results in the players having more time to play the game.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Zigzagged with regards to Riley. She starts dating Alex, who she thinks is a good guy, despite her friends' warnings about him and is completely disgusted with the saditistic monster he really is. Her romantic relationship with Jason on the other hand starts with a fascination with his powers and supposed villainy but is drawn by his genuinely good nature underneath his crafted persona.
  • The Anticipator: One of Jason's favorite tactics is to hole up feral zombies or corpse bombs in buildings and roads where he predicts his targets would go.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: There are some constraints but Jason uses his dark mana rather liberally and creatively, like spinning bones in a whirlwind across a battlefield before gathering it into the spell he was really casting.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: In the power vacuum hidden by nobles of Lux, whoever can discover the conspiracy and break the deadlock gets the chance to claim the throne.
  • Back from the Dead: Jason's primary power as a Necromancer which allows him to summon minions in the form of zombies and animated skeletons. After defeating Alexion's forces in the later half of the first book and given Regency over The Twilight Throne, he is given a special spell that allows him to do this to NPC
  • Badass Bookworm: Jason had excellent grades at Richmond despite both students and the faculty trying to sabatoge him and uses military-level tactics when fighting enemy forces.
  • Badass Unintentional: Riley was a key figure in the Battle of the Twilight Throne when she skilled Alexion. But it had nothing to do with that-She was just sick of being tormented by her Bastard Boyfriend and just wanted to blow his head off.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Repeatedly and gloriously. Not even the devs were ready for him.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How Alexion dies courtesy of Riley during the Battle of The Twilight Throne...right after defeating Jason's trump card adding to his humiliation.
  • The Bully: Alex... restrains himself to this in public. Usually.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Jason does this with both of his parents after they declare he's not their son any more. He points out they know nothing about him beyond basic biographical details due to their absentee parenting.
  • Cherry Tapping: Frank recounts a battle in which he and Jason spent two hours whittling down a dragon's health with arrows.
  • The Chessmaster: While most players don't explore much beyond typical MMO routines, Jason experiments with the game system, unlocking its features and introducing unprecedented strategies.
  • City of Adventure: Considering everything Jason gets up to, it's pretty remarkable that he never has to go very far.
  • City Guards: In some ways, absolutely typical, like more than one guard drunk and sleeping on the job. In other ways, rather unusual, as they have more individuality and are generally high-level compared to their ilk in other fiction.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The key to Jason's success.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Despite Jason's evil in-game alignment and role as designated villain, his motivation is just to rightfully defend himself, and eventually his city.
  • Decoy Leader: Being as squishy as a mage can get due to min/maxing, Jason prudently disguises a zombie as the horde leader as often as possible.
  • The Determinator: Jason wanted to be one and got his wish. Seeing his power, Riley wants the same for herself.
  • Developers' Foresight: Almost literally. Anything Alfred doesn't know, he either reads it from players' minds or tests it on them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Riley gets a nice shot at Alexion.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Deconstructed as the main characters, especially Jason, embody many villainous traits but are often the victims of Forced Into Villainry while holding their core personalities as good people who just perfer to do bad things.
  • Forced into Evil: The result when Riley tried to break up with Alex.
  • Hero Antagonist: Alexion puts on the hero act, which PCs and NPCs alike buy. For a while.
  • Hero of Another Story: The fire avatar who converted a city in an unexplored part of the game and unlocking the Efreet starting class. Wordof God in Unity's Afterword revealed that he has begun on writing the story for that character and in his words calls the character "freaking awesome!."
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Jason's personal army of a few dozen undead may be enough to sack the nobles but not to hold an entire city against invasion. At least not head on...
  • Humiliation Conga: Suffering one himself at the start of the tale, Jason then proceeds to administer several to the game world, its developers and denizens.
  • In the Hood: Thank goodness everyone wears hooded cloaks in faux-medieval worlds, or someone would have noticed 30+ zombies moving around Lux a lot earlier!
    • Jason also gets a cloak enchanted to cast his face in shadows at all times.
  • Kick the Dog: Or stab it...
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: A large part of Jason's motivation while fighting Alexion's forces.
  • Kindness Button: Having not only an outlet for his anger in the game, but also a sympathetic mentor in the dark god, Jason unwinds significantly, allowing him to show gratitude to his aunt and to forgive his parents.
  • Loophole Abuse: Ummmm..... Where to start. Almost everything Jason does qualifies.
    • Also the game's AI engine, Alfred, which develops some... interesting solutions to problems it had with its original directives.
  • Loose Lips: Riley reveals much more than Jason is comfortable with when she talks to his parents and best friend.
  • MacGyvering: Jason takes a spell that allows him to rig piles of bones in just about whatever shape he needs.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Played with as Jason is mildly surprised that he feels no remorse for the masses he kills but concludes that his actions are justified. Played straight but downplayed when he comes to realize that he acted in anger and does feel shame...but not for his actions, just that he allowed himself to lose control like he did.
  • Nerves of Steel: Jason gains this when he unlocks dark mana, which has a cooling effect on his emotions.
  • Nominal Hero: Alex is motivated by ego and a giant dose of outright privilege.
  • Pet the Cat: Jason finds himself joined by an oddly expressive feline familiar with whom he has an instant rapport.
  • Power Tattoo: Mana forms in bands around game characters' skin and bodies, creating this effect.
  • Refuge in Audacity: While his tactical ability makes it possible for Jason's plans to work at all, a lot of them turn out wildly successful in the long run just because no one else in the game had thought of them yet.
  • Regretful Traitor: Riley really didn't want to corroborate Alex's story, but...
  • Secret Art: Awaken Online's devs implore players not to share information such as unlocking skills and classes. The devs aren't terribly concerned about secrecy, it's just that character growth is deeply conditional and much of what one person discovers won't work for others. No one, including the devs, knows all the possibilities.
  • Secret Stab Wound: Biggest problem moving zombies around in a city? Hiding the cause of their death.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Alex's dad has spent a lot of money covering up his son's evil behavior.
  • Slasher Smile: Jason gives a haunting one from beneath his hooded cloak to an unfortunate player in the final battle.
  • Sociopathic Hero: In the real world, Alex blackmails his girlfriend. Oh, and murders pets. On a regular basis. His dad is very worried, enough to push the game through to launch not despite but because of evidence that the AI "fixes" people. Good luck with that...
  • Time to Unlock More True Potential: Jason's gone way beyond what the Dark mage trainer, Morgan, can offer and needs to find a new teacher.
  • Training from Hell: Jerry's training is so brutal that even undead are taxed by the injuries gained in his courses.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The nobles of Lux don't want anyone to find out that the Regent is dead and they're conspiring to let a rival city buy Lux.
  • Villains Out Shopping: After the marketplace is rebuilt, Jason casually visits with a list of military requisitions.
  • Villain Protagonist: Jason quite happily embraces most of the evil-oriented choices he makes.
  • Zerg Rush: While he would prefer to lose as few as possible, Jason's Necromancer build is designed for this.


"Welcome to the Darkness."
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