Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: June 23rd 2015
Preorder Now (Amazon)
Ebook - 256 Pages
Acquired: eArc via Edelweiss
Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller.
Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world.
It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy’s latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance. 

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them. But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn’t some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note.

Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why? Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they’ve encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined.

But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

I never thought that I would be the type to request an ARC.

But this book... this one was the exception. I took the chance and I wasn't disappointed.

The Leveller is one of those stories that you literally cannot put down. It flows perfectly, with just the right number of twists and turns to keep you guessing. The pages turn because you have to know what happens next, even at 4am.

Julia Durango has managed to create not one, but two amazing worlds within one story. She is able to describe both the real world and the MEEP so perfectly that you can almost smell the salty air and feel the heat on your skin. You are not simply reading about it, you are right there with the characters. You fight their battles with them. You have fun with them and you feel scared or surprised, right there alongside them.

I found myself falling in love with the characters too. Julia has a knack for writing them with so much dimension that they are believable and real. She writes Nixy with power, wit and emotion (and a good pinch of sarcasm) and Wyn as her perfect sidekick.

The story itself is unique and interesting. Considering the current trend for user customisable gaming, and for bigger and better gaming technology, the device that sends players into the MEEP is not unrealistic. This book deals with that possibility and with the very real issues that could happen if it does. Julia still manages to keep the story entertaining and well-paced without it becoming preachy or a warning.

The reason that I dropped a star is because I felt that the final twist was a little obvious. I had a couple of possibilities in my head and wasn't hugely surprised by the outcome. I wouldn't say that this ruined the story but I would have liked a surprise.

On a positive note I believe that The Leveller is the first in a series (per Goodreads information) and it has certainly been left open enough to move forward to another book. The immediate issues are all taken care of but there are enough open threads, unanswered questions and possibilities to continue this. I will definitely be looking out for sequels in the future.

I received The Leveller as an eArc from the publisher via Edelweiss. The book itself is to be published on June 23rd 2015 and I thoroughly recommend it to all Sci-fi and fantasy fans as a pre-order.

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