"A lighthearted middle-grade adventure filled with infectious enthusiasm."– Kirkus Reviews
A young video gamer competes in an interdimensional tournament in Purbaugh’s middle-grade debut novel.
When 12-year-old Tom Hock goes to San Diego’s Comic-Con—home to all things comic-book, video game, science-fiction and fantasy-related—he stumbles into a world beyond even his fertile imagination. His clutch performance in a mysterious arcade game wins him a ticket to participate in a real, live role-playing competition, battling monsters on the other side of an interdimensional portal in the convention center’s basement. Conceived by a powerful, unknown Creator, it's a game in which teenage human players compete to entertain the inhuman denizens of the Monster Realm. The winner will be crowned Multidimensional Game Master, but the losers must forfeit their souls to the game itself. As if those stakes weren’t high enough, the Creator has given the game its own insidious schemes for victory, and all of San Diego might be in danger if Tom—also known as “Combat Boy”—can’t defeat the bosses and assemble the fabled Monster Token. For help, he relies on his hapless older brother Joey, who tends toward hysteria and self-indulgence, and Dark Pixy, a fellow gamer who’s already lost her soul and wants desperately to win it back. Purbaugh draws these characters with affection and humor, providing a human center to the virtual setting. Although she offers some fun additions to a familiar genre, she wastes no time with unnecessary worldbuilding; instead, she assumes that her audience is familiar enough with fantasy and gaming tropes to dive straight into the costumes and swordplay. Just as some gamers love immersion while others simply want to grind through levels full of baddies, Purbagh seems happiest when charging through her chapters, leaving a trail of vanquished trolls and other minions in her wake. As a result, the story is fast-paced and there’s just enough at stake to keep the tension taut. Like the video games that the author takes as her inspiration, the novel is a colorful, welcome distraction from the mundane struggles of the real world.
A lighthearted middle-grade adventure filled with infectious enthusiasm.