80AD by Aiki Flinthart is a five book series that as of the time of this writing all five books are being offered for free on Barnes and Noble’s site for the Nook and on Amazon.com for the Kindle. The series is a typical coming of age story that centers around Phoenix and Jade. They are two fourteen year old children that come from dysfunctional family homes and independently both decided to escape their reality for a while by playing a brand new video game.
This video game apparently has a virtual reality interface and is truly immersive to the average player. For Jade and Phoenix this is even more true as they are pulled into the game for real, and must fight their way through all the levels in order to save the game world, and get home.
The books follow Jade and Phoenix as they learn how to be a team and deal with the impossible reality of the situation they are in. As they work through the levels their friendship grows and they learn to depend on each other in tough times. Along the way they make friends and enemies, who force them to deal with their own weaknesses. In many ways they are forced to quickly grow in to their new seventeen year old adult identities that they have in the game, while holding on to their fourteen year old selves.
The series is light hearted, and an enjoyable clean read with likable heroes. It feels like it is targeted for the young adult crowd, possibly a mature middle school student. Still, even as an adult, I enjoyed the author’s skill at balancing a light tone with a serious story. The only real complaint about the series is that many times through out the books things just fell into place too easy. Things just always seemed to work out for the best no matter what the heroes did.
Overall I rate this as a great read for mature middle school and up. It has no sex, or foul language in it at all, and the violence is tastefully done.