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Keeper of the Realm
H.J. Ralles
Top Publications, Ltd., 231 pages

Keeper of the Realm
H.J. Ralles
H. J. Ralles was born in the United Kingdom. Her first story was published in a New England camping magazine when she was 13. She is a member of Plano Writers and the Society of Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators and is a Regional Representative for the National Association of Women Writers. She and her family now lives in Dallas, Texas.

H.J. Ralles Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

One exposure to a group of LARP gamers is more than enough to convince anyone that these role players live inside the world of the game. Are video and computer gamers that... well... obsessive? How many people would want to be in the game, following the rules and doing there best to survive? Come to think of it, how many would make it through when the new reality hits them in the face and they have only one life to risk; no reset for when the boss beats them?

Matt, the gamer in question, found himself trapped in his favourite game, facing the Keeper of the Kingdom in H.J. Ralles first book in the series. Now, he is deposited in another, higher level of the game, tasked with defeating a ruthless enemy in Keeper of the Realm. His friends Varl and Targon are reluctantly whisked away to join forces with Matt. He must convince the people of Karn that he and his friends are not enemies. That's the easy part: defeating and driving away the invading Noxerans could well be beyond their combined abilities.

This time, the environment is an underwater world with some very interesting inhabitants. There is more to the people of Karn than they are willing to share. At least, for the moment. For his part, Matt has decided to keep a few secrets of his own -- namely, the fact that they are all living inside a computer game. If Matt is the only real being in the game, what then, are the people he fights for and against?

Ralles' creation may well be a dream come true for some readers. The young adult audience is rife with gamers who should thoroughly enjoy Matt's adventures. Those with less interest in the gaming side of science fiction may not be as entertained. Older readers could find the story a bit too "young" for their tastes, but judging by the time and effort some adults put into their playing, this could be a romp for all gamers.

Watching a young man the age of Matt use his wits to navigate the complicated obstacles and decisions at each level of the game is a good reminder that the young are capable of great things. With so many news stories shaking humanity's faith in our children, it's a point that bears repeating now and then. It can't hurt to focus on some of the positive effects of puzzling through a complex video game, either. (First-person shooter and theft of automobiles excluded, of course.)

Ralles knows her audience and she gives them what they want. No doubt her fans are already champing at the bit, waiting for Keeper of the Empire. It's coming. Practice some of that patience video games reward.

Copyright © 2003 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction, horror, dark realism, and humour. DARKERS, her first novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She is a contributing editor at SF Site and for BLACK GATE magazine. Lisa has also written for BOOKPAGE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Science Fiction Weekly, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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