Underdog: Dungeons of the Crooked Mountains by A. Osadchuk
Eric was born in a world governed by the Great System, in the family of Aren Bergman, a respected miner from Orchus. But the joy of gaining a son was overshadowed by the newborn’s terrible affliction. Eric was completely nulled – level zero and no characteristics points. The only things keeping him from dying were his tiny base supplies of “life” and “energy.”
The medicine woman who delivered Eric believes this to be the work of the evil spirit Bug. Due to the peculiar laws of the Great System, Eric cannot use experience essences or characteristics tablets, so he risks having to spend his whole life confined to a bed. But his father finds a solution. He takes out a large bank loan and goes to the capital where he buys a few artifacts of the Ancients on the black market, which have no level restriction.
Despite having the artifacts, Eric is still very feeble and everyone in town thinks him a freak. But at least he can move on his own and that gives the Bergmans hope. But alas, it isn’t for long. On Eric’s fourteenth birthday, his father and mother die in a mining accident. The bank takes their house, and Eric is left with no choice but to work off the remaining debt in the Dungeons of the Crooked Mountains.
And so begins the story of a nulled boy’s struggle to survive…
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- Overall Score
This is a rare case where translation is actually better than the original. Being native in Russian, I can tell you this with certainty.
Osadchuk (the author) has vivid imagination and his books are never boring, but his command of Russian language is on a level of high schooler who tries to mimick three different writers he adores simultaneously, while using dictionary of synonyms to "enhance" his choppy prose.
Luckily, the translator/editor picked the good parts and left all to odd quirks or the original behind.
Fairly interesting story, that is guaranteed to be continued (there is a second book in the series), unless the translator drops it.
- Overall Score
The story is good, very good. I was hooked even before the prologue ends (that would be the first part of chapter 1) and then it continues straight off to the aftermath of the most tragic thing the MC has experienced while doing fantastic job of world building and showing parts of the character's past, life as a whole and glimpses of his personality. It leaves you with many questions and mysteries about the system and the world and how everything works (not just in fantasy or sci-fi way, but also in social and moral aspects), but there is much happening in the here and now and the balance between is almost perfect and keeps you interested. Mixing in all the feels and drama and every triumph met with two disasters, as a whole it makes you believe the world is real and giving it life.
The sheer hopelessness and helplessness shown at the start really emphasizes what "Underdog" means.
This (chapter 16 at the time) is half the book, maybe even more and I give it 5 starts. There is really nothing more I could want or need for it to be a lower score. I haven't read other stuff from this author yet (I think Mirror World or something like that),
all said till now could not be said about the rest. Everything and I mean everything good so far is not in the second half or everything good in the book is concentrated in the first half and then the story just ran out of anything of worth. It's like reading another story in the middle of the previous one (and terrible one at that). Is it even the same author after this? Or it's like Acerbic said and the translators and editors simply couldn't keep the miracle up for this mashup writing?
Out of nowhere you get ridiculous setting and ridiculous characters with ridiculous reasonings that try to somehow fit in the current story and continue it, but every plot hole (and they pop up almost every chapter), every would-be explanation, every motive is answered with something equally ridiculous stupid bullshit or literally with "I can't tell you that" or "I don't know". It's like the author had too many ideas, tried to put them all in and implement them somehow, but made halfassed reasons for them. At the same time the plot is not going anywhere, the world building and story telling at this point fails miserably, it's basically several info dumps expositions, but worse because it's through the lens of said ridiculousness.
Things become too convenient, too lazy, too boring and some things stop making sense even with the system. Near the end we get another info dump on events happening on the surface, but at this point I didn't even remember which should be familiar (mentioned before or hinted at) and which is new information and out of nothing developments. That was supposed to be the cliffhanger leading to the second book, but who cares about somebody we only heard about 10 minutes ago and his war or the new potential girl companion? I certainly didn't after that massive disappointment I felt the whole way to the finish. I cannot recommend buying the book in good conscience. I do recommend not buying it. If I have to rate the second half alone would be 1.5-2 out of 5 stars (I've seen far worse) and the whole thing 3/5. For me that is "do not bother / ignore / avoid" or about to drop it any minute. I only read it till the end because of the fantastic first half.
I still leave it here as 5/5 because in this case I'm not with the popular opinion of one bad thing ruins everything else. If the whole book is uploaded I'll change it, but now I prefer to view it as an unfinished story and think of it what could be or what could've been. I have some (small) hopes for the second book (it should be coming out soon?), maybe it will be different, but won't wait for it, will check it out if I happen across it.
- Overall Score
Like the story! Went get it on Amazon the stuff here is just a taste. I'd recommend reading it.