When avid gamer Ian Rivera, 12, gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to test out Dragon Ops—a fully immersive augmented reality theme park based on his favorite video game—before its release, he leaps at the opportunity, even if he has to share the experience with his sister, Lilli, and cousin Derek, neither of whom appreciate the visit to the remote South Pacific island on which it’s situated. Shortly after the three gear up to begin their adventure, the game’s end boss, dragon Atreus, traps them inside, kidnapping Derek and assigning Ian and Lilli a quest. They must find and defeat Atreus within three days, “no save points. No do-overs,” and any game-side fatality will result in their deaths. Luckily, they have the assistance of an AI guide named Yano, and Ikumi, an experienced fellow player, to compensate when Ian discovers that his in-game experiences haven’t prepared him for the more physical demands of the setting. With this adventure, Mancusi (Geeks and the Holy Grail) employs common gaming tropes, interweaving fantasy and mundane elements to create a world that feels familiar and yet enjoyably dangerous. The concepts—rogue AIs, theme parks gone haywire—may be well visited, but Mancusi successfully delivers a sense of urgency to her entertaining tale. Ages 8–12. Agent: Mandy Hubbard, Emerald City Literary. (May)
Praise for Dragon Ops:
"Even reluctant readers are likely to find something to keep them engaged. . . . A fun, fast-paced read for video game fans, adventurers, and fantasy readers. Highly recommended."School Library Journal
"With this adventure, Mancusi (Geeks and the Holy Grail) employs common gaming tropes, interweaving fantasy and mundane elements to create a world that feels familiar and yet enjoyably dangerous. The conceptsrogue AIs, theme parks gone haywiremay be well visited, but Mancusi successfully delivers a sense of urgency to her entertaining tale."Publishers Weekly
Praise for The Once and Future Geek:
"A highly imaginative twist on the legend of King Arthur, complete with time travel, programming, and fierce friendships, The Camelot Code is the perfect pick for tweens who love medieval lore and geek culture in equal measure!"Christina Soontornvat, author of The Changelings series
"A wholesome, modern twist on the classic legend that could provide a gateway for newer readers and fun for the gaming set."Kirkus Reviews
"Cinematic and epic in scale... A delightfully unexpected amount of detail from Arthurian lore... Fast-paced, downright fun novel. Certainly not the first retelling of the King Arthur legend, this start to a promising series is not only cleverly plotted but also has enough unique elements to elevate if from the rest."Booklist
"Dashes of romance, bullying, social anxiety, family stresses, commentary on middle school social structure, and bits of history and Arthurian lore all combine to create a thought-provoking adventure story... Blending elements of several genres, this story will be appealing to many different types of readers."School Library Journal
"Arthurian legends just leveled up in this hilariously geeky, modern, and clever take on The Sword in the Stone. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court meets Ready Player One for the middle-grade set."Julie Leung, author of the Mice of the Round Table series
"Boys and girls will ditch their video games and be sucked into the delightful world of (future) King Arthur and his unlikely saviors, Sophie and Stu. An absolute delight!"Jen Calonita, author of the Fairy Tale Reform School series
"Imagine The Sword in the Stone with a dash of Freaky Friday and a pinch of World of Warcraftthis funny, fast-paced adventure is chicken soup for the geek's soul."Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, authors of The Adventurers Guild
Gr 3 Up—Siblings Ian and Lily, along with their annoying cousin Derek, have scored a once-in-a-lifetime chance—they will get to explore the new Dragon Ops augmented-reality video game theme park before it opens to the public. But they haven't even finished their first quest when they realize something has gone wrong. Getting hurt in the game hurts in reality, their goggles don't seem to have an off switch, and suddenly the exit is missing. And if that wasn't bad enough, the game's legendary big bad boss, the dragon Atreus, has issued them a personal challenge. They have three days to find him and fight him, and in this virtual world controlled by the Atreus artificial intelligence, there's no save points or do-overs. In fact, if Ian, Lily, and Derek can't defeat Atreus, it's game over—forever. This book could be described as Ernest Cline's Ready Player One for middle grade readers, complete with old-school video game references. Even reluctant readers are likely to find something to keep them engaged. Despite the book's length, the short chapters help the story fly by. VERDICT A fun, fast-paced read for video game fans, adventurers, and fantasy readers. Highly recommended for any library's middle grade section.—Amanda Toth, Lane Libraries, Hamilton, OH
Trapped inside a mixed-reality game, two siblings race the clock to defeat a villainous AI dragon and rescue their cousin.
Ian Rivera, a 12-year-old misunderstood gamer, loves the Fields of Fantasy role-playing game more than anyone. Now he gets to enter the world through Dragon Ops, a mixed-reality theme park on a small island. When the game’s ultimate, undefeatable opponent seizes control of the game, the stakes rise to the highest possible level: die in the game, die in real life. In order to beat that boss—Atreus, a red dragon with fire power—Ian’s party needs to collect three Elemental Stones from the other three dragons that maintain balance in the world: earth, water, and (no, not air) ice. Mancusi packs the story with references to memes, video games, and Disney in the vein of Ready Player One (the movie is actively referenced in the text). The surname Rivera is the only indicator of cultural identity for Ian and his family. They are otherwise presumed white. Ikumi, a girl whose avatar has “eyes like an anime character's," is Japanese, as is one of the game’s creators. Their representation comes in the form of sprinkled-in lines about bowing and “gaijin,” which smacks more of exoticization than authenticity, especially as they are seen through Ian’s perspective.
For all its cool premise, this fantasy’s full of tropes but no surprises. (Science fiction/fantasy. 8-12)