The cover of Pixeldust by T K Arispe

In Pixeldust by T K Arispe, we travel to the online fantasy world of Avonell, full of NPCs with an advanced AI.

Thank you to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to take part in the book tour for Pixeldust and giving me a free copy in return for an honest review.

Maria Elena Gutierrez is a recovered RPG addict, who is persuaded to try Heroes of Avonell by her brother, Balt. She’s working in Seattle as an accounting intern, and feels very isolated from her family and friends back in Texas. Heroes of Avonell is a brand new online MMO that’s played using a VR headset and where all of the NPCs have advanced AI. Conversations with them happen naturally, as though you’re having a conversation with a real person. But what happens when the players then tell the NPCs that they aren’t real and they are actually lines of code in a server?

You can find Pixeldust on Goodreads, and grab a copy from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

My review

As a gamer, and a big fan of RPGs and the Elder Scrolls franchise, I was very excited by the premise of Pixeldust! The story is a lot of fun and I really liked all of the characters. It felt fresh and unique, and not something I’ve read about before. I could tell that T K Arispe is a gamer too and I think that really makes the story more engaging.

Maria Elena is a fantastic main character. I could really relate to her as someone who can easily find games taking over my life. Her struggles are really relatable too — the stress of moving to a brand new place, starting a new job and trying to fit in with her co-workers. Her thoughts as she initially joins the game and complains about how cliché the characters and storyline are also echoed my own!

It was also very refreshing to have a main character who is Latina — I haven’t read many books that have had bilingual characters. She comments on how her and her brother alternate between Spanish and English, sometimes mid-sentence, using the word or phrase that they feel works or fits best. This fits with experiences bilingual friends of mine have told me about so it gave an extra layer of authenticity to the story and the characters!

Avonell and its surroundings are such a fun and immersive world! Everything is described very vividly and it made me want to visit myself. The NPCs are great characters too. I especially liked Marlowe, who ends up questioning her ethics and beliefs after Maria Elena’s comments. I love the idea of being able to choose which side you’re on without restrictions, too. World of Warcraft has opposing factions, for example, but you are still forced into a set path.

The story in Pixeldust is quite fast-paced, and there’s no romance or graphic violence. I think because of this it would also work for slightly younger readers too. I really enjoyed the story and it was incredibly fun and original. It made me long for more advanced technology (despite the problems it causes!) and RPGs with similar immersiveness. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys RPGs or online gaming — you’ll feel right at home here!

The blurb for Pixeldust

Maria Elena thought she’d sworn off gaming forever. But she hates her new internship, so her brother Balt convinces her to play Heroes of Avonell, a cutting-edge virtual-reality video game with such complex programming that it’s like the non-player characters are self-aware.

Disappointed with the usual cliché job class offerings, Maria Elena’s character Quinny stumbles through a glitch in the game and ends up in Caed Dhraos, a strange city populated with friendly monsters. Quinny decides to work for the resident dark lord as part of his magic personnel, but she can’t tell anybody she’s playing in off-limits areas of the game—not even Balt. Soon Quinny finds herself getting to the bottom of a mystery surrounding an ancient demon and why Caed Dhraos is suffering from the Blight.

But the artificial intelligences in the game really are self-aware, and some of Avonell’s so-called “heroes” have decided they don’t like humanity very much. The game has gone out of control, and Maria Elena and her new friends have to find a way to set things right. Can she save Avonell – and Earth – while juggling her real job and trying to salvage her crumbling relationship with her brother?

Pixeldust is a dive into a fantastical, fun virtual world where the universe may be made of data, but the dangers, friendships, magic, and lessons learned are very real.

T K AripseAbout the author, T. K. Arispe

T. K. Arispe is an illustrator, gamer, and unashamed nerd with a background in animation and webcomic production, including the webcomic Trainer Wants to Fight! which somehow got its own page on TVTropes. She loves interesting stories, well-crafted worlds, and memorable characters, and is passionate about creating quality, intelligent, slightly offbeat media that everyone can enjoy. Most of her story ideas come from random research binges, usually in the fields of theoretical physics, computer science, or oddly enough food history. She lives in California, where she enjoys not having to deal with snow because it is terrifying.

You can learn more about her and follow her for updates on Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads.

You can find Pixeldust on Goodreads, and grab a copy from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

About the blog tour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources

The blog tour banner for Pixeldust

I was sent a free copy of Pixeldust to review by Rachel’s Random Resources as part of a blog tour — you can view the full tour schedule below. Check out these amazing bloggers and Instagrammers for book reviews, guest posts and extra content!

8th March

  1. Bookshine and Readbows

  2. ayjaypagefarerbookblog

  3. B for bookreview

  4. Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog

  5. donnasbookblog

9th March

  1. Mama Bear’s book hour

  2. Splashes Into Books

  3. Gina Rae Mitchell

  4. Reviews in Heels

10th March

  1. Damsel In The Bookland

  2. Previouslyunread

  3. The Magic Of Wor(l)ds

  4. everywhere and nowhere

  5. On The Shelf Reviews

11th March

  1. Felicity Grace Terry

  2. Jessica Belmont

  3. Hearthside Storytelling

  4. Book After Book

  5. Mai’s Musings

12th March

  1. alazyeggreviews

  2. My Fictional Oasis

  3. Jazzy Book Reviews

  4. The Paperback Collector

  5. Scintilla.Info