NPCs (Spells, Swords, & Stealth #1) by Drew Hayes - Book Review

Write on: Sun, 19 Sep 2021 by  in Assaph's Reviews Read 695

I was in the mood for something light and quick (and fantasy), and found NPCs languishing in my TBR pile. Now I'm glad I pulled it out :)

What to Expect

When a group of careless adventurers dies in a local pub from mushroom poisoning, a few of the locals decide to impersonate them rather than risk the ire and retaliation from the mad king. What makes this book different, is that the adventurers are from a role-playing group from our world, while the main focus is on the 'NPCs', the 'non-player characters', those who would normally just be the background interactions for the players.

As this semi-random group of everyday people take up arms and try to fake being adventurers, we get fun story that will be familiar to anyone who played table-top role-playing games with beginning (low-level) characters.

What I liked

This book brought me back to the days of playing D&D, both the good and crazy times as my and my friends' storytelling abilities evolved. The main characters (the NPCs) are solid, well drawn and relatable. The plot is fun and fast-paced, and the tone light and entertaining. It made for a wonderful read at a time that one wasn't after anything heavy or demanding, and yet it still captivated.

I liked how Hayes plays with the stereotypes, both of characters and of players. It had enough behind it to make you think a little, while still enjoying a fast ride.

What to be aware of

Don't expect an overly original world (kinda the point, of reflecting the faux-mediaeval generic RPG setting), or an overly complicated plot. This also isn't about some world-saving sagas or intense emotional dramas. Instead read this for what it is -- a lighthearted fantasy based on RPGs.

Felix's Review

Felix certainly much prefers the tight stories of everyday people (aka 'low-level characters' to some of the explosive, brick-sized epic fantasy that are common today. He would like to point out that while the 'adventurers', ie the players, do let themselves run wild because it's a game, there were plenty of instances in history of real people behaving just as, if not more, obnoxiously.

Still, he thought the tone was excellent, a perfect entertainment for a summer night, and that should he meet some of the real heroes (the NPCs) of the books he'd happily share a glass of wine with them and swap tall tales.


If you enjoyed (or still do) table-top role-playing games like D&D and are in the mood for light entertainment, this is a perfect read. I'm certainly going to check out the rest of the series.

If you have read this one already and are looking for something similar, I heartily recommend Rocks Fall. Everyone Dies by Eddie Skelson.

Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He's the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 September 2021 05:58

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy - he whinged horribly when they dragged him to "yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling", yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis' Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and - this being Australia - assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he's writing - he seems to do his best writing after midnight.



Twitter: @assaphmehr