Title: Battle of the Linguist Mages
Author: Scotto Moore
Release Date: 11/1/2022
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 52
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Tor ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Isobel is the Queen of the medieval rave-themed VR game Sparkle Dungeon. Her prowess in the game makes her an ideal candidate to learn the secrets of "power morphemes"—unnaturally dense units of meaning that warp perception when skilfully pronounced.
But Isobel’s reputation makes her the target of a strange resistance movement led by spellcasting anarchists, who may be the only thing stopping the cabal from toppling California over the edge of a terrible transformation, with forty million lives at stake.
Time is short for Isobel to level up and choose a side—because the cabal has attracted much bigger and weirder enemies than the anarchist resistance, emerging from dark and vicious dimensions of reality and heading straight for planet Earth!
Wow, this book is just indescribably weird and entertaining and beyond anything I thought it could be. The best way to describe it is to use a quote from the book itself, It is just filled to the brim and bursting with:
“Dazzling WTFness”Battle of the Linguist Mages – Scotto Moore
It is the perfect description for every inch of this story. From the worldbuilding to the plot and all its many twists, you are left with the dazzling feelings of "WTF" and "Holy Hell that’s good"-ness. The sarcasm and social commentary, drip from the page in the most eloquent ways. I often found myself laughing and sharing passages with my husband. This is defiantly a book for those of Left leaning politics. Parts read like a really well put together stand up set, detailed commentary with perfectly timed punch lines.
Isobel, the MC and narrator, is fantastic. She is utterly unlikeable in the best possible way and her droll sense of humour and razor sharp wit make the completely bizarre and complicated elements of this books plot and world building easily digestible. I like how integral she was to the worldbuilding. The story takes place in both a near future California and virtual world known as the Sparkle Realm, the hub world of the medieval house music based VR RPG/dungeon runner known as the Sparkle Dungeon franchise. Isobel has ruled all the leader boards for the game for almost a decade, she is cocky about that and I love how much of the game world we get to experience through her. It allows for the bizarre and the wonderful to happen without it really throwing you, the reader, out of the world. This is particularly well utilised when the boundary between the virtual and the real begin to blur.
The use of linguistics is also amazing! It is just such an inventive magic system. Many magic systems play with language (particularly Latin) but I have never read one that it constructed like this. This is a spoiler free review but I would never have predicted the twist and turns just this ‘magic system’ throws into the mix! The plot is the one thing that is indescribable without spoilers other than it will throw you through so many loops that you could end up dizzy. It takes so many sharp turns, gasp moments and moments where you just have to scream "WTF" that you just can’t put the book down. It is in a nutshell a Hero’s journey but it plays with the tropes and messes them up that they become unrecognisable at points. A lot of our side characters fill all those typical SFF/Gaming archetypes and then twist and shape them into something new. The story goes so far into the fantastical that you find yourself just swept along for the ride. I found myself marvelling at the inventiveness while also recognising so much of the commentary, shade thrown at the current world and love for all things geeky contained within this completely dizzying read.
This book is for you if you are a Gamer, a music lover, a language nerd, RPG player, SFF book fanatic, a rainbow spangled dreamer, its got a little bit for every kind geekdom for you to find your home. It is just an utterly unique and entertaining read from start to finish. Its going to be one of those reads that divides readers. Some will love it as much as me others will find it far too bizarre to continue but those that do embrace its completely Dazzling WTFness will have a rollercoaster ride.