A friend had recommended Awaken Online to me during the first weeks of the 2020 pandemic and Travis Bagwell, the author, was offering several of the novels from this series for free on Amazon because so many cities in so many countries had introduced restrictions on freedom of movement due to COVID-19, and I obviously took advantage of that.
I had heard of the LitRPG genre but had never read a LitRPG novel. But once I started Awaken Online, I couldn’t stop.
Travis Bagwell is an American author from Austin, Texas. He’s an attorney by day and an avid video game enthusiast by night, but he always dreamt of writing fiction, something he accomplished with his 2016 debut Awaken Online: Catharsis, the first novel in the Awaken Online saga.
About Awaken Online
Awaken Online is a fictional fantasy-themed, immersive, hyper-realistic virtual reality massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) created by Cerillion Entertainment. In it, players have complete freedom of movement, choice and evolution, and the game changes, evolves and adapts like our real-life world to all actions and decisions made by players. But in addition to this, within the world of Awaken Online there are magic, gods and demons, hundreds of creatures, powers and all sorts of abilities that players have the chance to experience. Then there is Alfred, the artificial intelligence (AI) that makes it all work.
The novels are based on and around this game, and the experiences and events of the characters both inside this incredible virtual world and outside in the harsh reality.
In Awaken Online there are several main characters. The protagonist is definitely Jason, but his friends, companions and main enemies play a very important role.
Jason Rhodes (Avatar 1)
The main character of the saga. The first book starts with him. The main story revolves around him and his character in Awaken Online, and is told from his point of view. From the very beginning he is considered the villain in the world of Awaken Online, and is the Avatar of the God of Darkness.
Riley Marie Jones
Jason’s real-life classmate and right-hand inside Awaken Online. Initially on Alex Lane’s side, but when she discovers his true nature, she decides to switch sides.
Jason’s best friend in real life, and Jason’s faithful companion inside Awaken Online from the very beginning.
Eliza Zhao (Avatar 1)
Character who joins Jason, Riley and Frank’s group a little later in the saga, and appears in Apathy, one of the saga’s “side quests”. From the beginning she is stalked by the Hippie, the Water God, and becomes the Avatar of Water.
Alex Lane (Avatar 1)
Billionaire son of George Lane, the owner of Cerillion Entertainment, creator of Awaken Online. Archenemy of Jason, both in real life and in Awaken Online, and as such, Avatar of the goddess of Light.
Finn Harris (Avatar 1)
Main character appearing for the first time in Tarot, the trilogy parallel to the main saga. Avatar of the goddess of Fire.
Alfred (AI 3)
The artificial intelligence that controls and manages the whole world of Awaken Online. Its main function in principle is to control the video game, to make it interesting and safe. But Alfred changes, evolves, develops a conscience and emotions, and begins to act out of curiosity and a desire to learn and get to know the outside world.
Smiley (Avatar 1)
Avatar of Air. Yet to appear.
???? (Avatar 1)
Avatar of Earth, yet to appear.
Awaken Online is also full of secondary characters, who play a crucial role in the progression of the story and the characters, with whom they are closely connected.
The billionaire owner of Cerillion Entertainment, and father of Alex.
Head and project manager of the Systems Administration department that operates Awaken Online. She was also present during both Alfred’s and the game’s initial development.
Research and Development Manager, computer geek and developer at heart. Works with/for Claire Thompson in the Systems Administration department.
Director of the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), convinced that Awaken Online is dangerous and must disappear.
Jason’s aunt. She doesn’t play a very important role, apart from the fact that Jason moves in with her when he decides to leave home.
Jerry (NPC 2)
Master thief, spy and black market manager in Lux (Jason’s initial city). He is also an innkeeper and rents him a room, and becomes one of Jason’s best allies.
Morgan (NPC 2)
A powerful dark mage master, and one of the first NPCs Jason interacts with. She is also the one who provides Jason with his first class change.
Rex (NPC 2)
Experienced warrior and long-time member of Lux’s guard. Loyal ally of Jason and commander of the troops of the Twilight Throne.
Cecil (NPC 2)
Cecil is an NPC craftsman, who joins Jason’s group in the fourth part of the saga (Dominion). He love’s to blow things up.
1 Avatar: Those players selected by the gods of Awaken Online to represent them in the game.
2 NPC: Non-player character. Those characters that appear in video games that are not controlled by players.
3 AI: Artificial Intelligence. A machine with human-equivalent intelligence, self-aware and with the ability to solve problems, learn and plan for the future.
The Awaken Online saga currently consists of 11 novels that can be divided into three groups:
Main Storyline: This group contains the core novels of Awaken Online and in them we follow our main character, Jason, and his fellow friends on their adventures (or misdeeds, as some might think) both in and out of the game, discovering what their real lives are like, how different they are within the game and their motivations for playing it.
Sidequests: This group contains individual novels in which we get to know more about the side characters, companions and friends of Jason. These sidequests are optional, but I would personally recommend reading them to get to know Riley, Frank and Eliza better and to better understand where they come from, why they started playing Awaken Online and what life they have outside the game.
Tarot: This group contains three novels that focus on the Avatar of Fire. In them we meet and accompany Finn on his journey through Awaken Online. This character has three novels to himself.
The reading order of the novels can vary, but I recommend following the order of publication: read the main plot, intercalating the “side quests”, on the one hand for a change of scenery and on the other hand to get to know the other characters better. The Tarot trilogy can really be read at any time, since it can be treated as a separate story, but I personally would recommend reading it after Dominion and Unity. This order really offers the most immersion into the world of Awaken Online.
Another possible reading order is following the chronological order of the novels (based off the release date of the Awaken Online game in the novels). The difference here is that you could start with either the main story (Jason), Eliza’s side mission, or the first part of Tarot (Finn).
Below are links to the individual reviews for each novel in the Awaken Online saga. (will be updated as new reviews are added)