DISCLAIMER: THERE ARE SPOILERS. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU DON’T MIND SPOILERS OR YOU HAVE ALREADY READ THE BOOK.
I know it hasn’t been too long since I posted up a book review, but I just had to write a review about this book! It’s called Sword Art Online: Aincrad by Reki Kawahara, specifically volume 1 in the series. Sword Art Online: Aincrad is actually a light novel, so it’s not just any typical novel—the length of light novels is approximately 200 words or slightly more or less as far as I’ve experienced with reading light novels. So this sort of book would be the type of book you can read on the plane or just for wasting time.
I will admit this: I kind of bought the book partially because I knew it was a shorter read than most books are. I happen to like light novels—they’re usually easier to read, you can get through them quickly but understand what exactly is going on in the book as it goes. However, Sword Art Online: Aincrad went above and beyond the typical light novel.
Honestly, I think this book is just as good, if not better than, some of the best books I’ve read.
Sword Art Online: Aincrad takes place in an RPG setting, which is interesting since I’ve barely found any books that do this sort of thing. Here is the summary of the book:
“In the year 2022, gamers rejoice as Sword Art Online – a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) like no other – debuts, allowing players to take full advantage of the ultimate in gaming technology: NerveGear, a system that allows users to completely immerse themselves in a wholly realistic gaming experience. But when the game goes live, the elation of the players quickly turns to horror as they discover that, for all its amazing features, SAO is missing one of the most basic functions of any MMORPG – a log-out button. Now trapped in the virtual world of Aincrad, their bodies held captive by NerveGear in the real world, users are issued a chilling ultimatum: conquer all one hundred floors of Aincrad to regain your freedom. But in the warped world of SAO, “game over” means certain death – both virtual and real…”
I’d heard of the Sword Art Online franchise even before I picked up this book, but I never really knew what it was about. I was expecting, as usual, that any original concepts brought up in the book (such as the VRMMORPG for example) as it was a sci-fi-genre book would be explained. And they were explained very well, either through Kirito (the main character) narrating the events of the book or through dialogue with other characters. It didn’t feel like a gigantic info-dump, which was good, and I liked how the book incorporated RPG elements like HP (hit points) and other things.
When it came to character development, I was actually impressed by it. Asuna (the main heroine) went from “awesome battle girl that kicks ass” to “still awesome battle girl that kicks ass but also has feelings” without making it too cheesy. Kirito, our main hero, went from the mode of “loner battle dude that wants to beat the game” to understanding what good teamwork does and using it to help himself and others beat the game. The character development for Asuna and Kirito both makes sense—as they team up together in the beginning chapters of the book to beat the game they’re trapped in, they end up getting closer. Other characters such as Klein and Agil were amusing, and even the villains Kuradeel (who is practically Sword Art Online’s version of the character Jirall from the video game The Last Story because of his bloodlust and madness) and Heathcliff were very well done and were not completely one-dimensional, which was nice to see.
Asuna and Kirito’s relationship developed quicker than I expected, even to the point that they get “married” in the virtual world they’re stuck in. However, their relationship felt believable. At first Kirito and Asuna didn’t really even see each other as friends, with Asuna belonging to the Knights of the Blood and Kirito usually being a loner when going through each level of the game, but as they bonded they naturally seemed to come close together and worked well with one another.
The pace of the entire book wasn’t too fast or too slow for me, which was good, and I could literally picture everything that was going on in the entire book. There was also some very nice illustrations throughout the book which helped me picture further what the characters looked like and what they were feeling at the moment. Also, when I tried to picture the characters, the entire book played out in my head like an anime—with funny moments here, serious things there, and overall painted the entire world of the VRMMORPG that all the characters were stuck in. That part was what I enjoyed the best out of the entire book. When it came to the ending, the book ended off in a cliff-hanger-like ending which made a bit of sense since it’s the first in a series, but the book could also end the way it is without needing a sequel, which I liked.
Overall, I have to give this book 5 out of 5 stars because of it being incredibly easy to read as well as the well-written world building, incorporated RPG elements, the variety of characters and the great character development. If you’re looking for a quick but entertaining read, I would totally recommend this. As this is the first out of a series of books, I definitely plan to read the next one in the series once I get my hands on it.