Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £32.09

Buy Now for £32.09

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

When virtual reality becomes real enough that people feel as if they're being transported to another world, Valia Online arrives.

A man running from his past joins the game to forget it all. Calling himself Jack Thorn, he chooses an undead race, Deathlord.

A mage by choice, and a swordsman by necessity, he soon finds out that he'll need to use much more than magic and steel to survive; strategy, creativity, and carefully chosen words can often accomplish what simple attacks can't.

As the game becomes too real and touches a part of him that he'd rather leave buried, he is faced with two questions: Who is he, really? And who should he become?

Challenge is book one of the Unbound Deathlord series, a LitRPG saga.

©2016 Edward Castle (P)2017 Podium Publishing

What listeners say about Challenge

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    230
  • 4 Stars
    71
  • 3 Stars
    16
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    6
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    254
  • 4 Stars
    39
  • 3 Stars
    8
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    212
  • 4 Stars
    55
  • 3 Stars
    25
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    7

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

character sheet at the end of every chapter

I found it REALLY annoying that at the end of EVERY chapter it would recite the main character's character sheet data, it completely breaks the immersion from the experience and find it disjointing in the flow of the story. (this is on top of all of the times that the MC checks his own sheet after any investigation or tweaks he chooses to make)

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best in its genre

One of the best LitRPG around, up there with awaken online. Definitely worth a listen to.

Really looking forward to getting stuck into the second book!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great tale and a new angle in LitRPG

Dammed fine read. This is a very well written and thought out book. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you are a fan of this genre.

The Main Character is well crafted and his background story and behavior is nicely feed to the reader through the book. The twists and plot movements are well telegraphed, without being obvious and feed nicely into the flow and yet still deliver a twist or two which neatly fit the story but were unexpected none the less.

World is balanced and nicely thought out. I eye to scale was clever as well as a stable form of leveling up which stops characters becoming over powered titans in their first battle, though there was a tiny bit of that in the early chapters. Still much less than other authors use so I was willing to forgive the author.

For a first book it is well edited, good plot and a good length, so excellent value for money. Looking forward to the next in the series.

The reading style and characters are well done and very listenable too. Others have commented that the list of the stats is too long at the end of chapters and by the end i was fast forwarding for a couple of minutes at the end of the chapter as it added nothing to the story, but i had also read the book. I would reduce this in the audible books as it is just dull, but not a reason to not get the book!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

awful

Book is about a sexest and over privelaged person that expects everything to be handed to him. The land and LIfe reset is superior to this book in every way.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

loved it but one thing

the only issue i have is the stat readouts after every chapter but i just skip them.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Decent, with some issues

A very well thought out game world, but unlikeable main and passable outside world sections.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Twaddle

The biggest load of twaddle i have ever read how such drivel gets past the board i don't know

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Love Jeff but not the story

My heading encapsulates everything I feel about this book. I always enjoy Jeff's narration but the story wasn't for me. I can't quite put my finger on why but it just didn't connect with me for some reason.

Would I give this another chance down the line? No.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

GOOD BOOK

I have over 300 audible titles and I have to say that the narration and performance of this book is one of the best I've heard. It's a compelling universe with a great story and awesome characters

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Could not have enjoyed more.

Really good story, and a fantastic narration throughout.

enjoyable characters that made me chuckle sometimes at them sometimes with them.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for James
  • James
  • 12-12-18

Cringey

Decent litrpg story ruined by cringtastic “real life” portions and eye rolling life advice at the beginning of each chapter.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Clay
  • Clay
  • 30-08-17

Like an essay on the problems of being a prick

There are parts about the main characters personality that I like, he's not politically correct, not constantly whimpering about his emotions, and not afraid of the opposite sex.
What I don't like about the main character, is the fact that he is the kind of person that I would take great pains to avoid in my every day life. Someone who is just a complete prick to everyone they encounter, and is still surprised when nobody wants to be their friend. I have a hard time resonating with this character because he is just such an asshole.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Josh
  • Josh
  • 19-11-18

A protagonist so bad it might be funny.

I spent the entirety of the book wondering at how the character could get a more convoluted backstory, and at every chance it became almost silly. The main character is introduced as a weathly young man, who learned how to fight on the streets..., after his family did evil things to show him what power was, then he ran a gang for some reason, then his parents die in a fire so he blames himself and all before the events of the book even start!! I can honestly say it gets deeper and more convoluted. I listen to books at work to pass time, but all I did during this book is roll my eyes. I wouldn't recomend it to anyone honestly.

48 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Cody
  • Cody
  • 21-08-17

A new take to the typical litrpg

I really really like it.

You get the feeling right off the bat that this "Jack" isn't your straightforward protagonist. While trying to follow his instincts to help/loot he's also a Jackass, Non apologetic, clever, and dark.

His upbringing and background paint a picture of pain, anger, self destructiveness, confusion, and a deep deception.

That same upbringing allows a different angle to the typical Litrpg. Most Litrpg's I listen to have me wishing right off the bat for it to focus exclusively on the game. This one however, gives me nibbles and clues about the bigger picture and draw me into the outer story just as much as the inner, if not more.

By the time the last chapter rolls around I'm at the edge of my seat to see what "Jack" will do.

The 17 hour read time is also a great seller. A lot of other Litrpg's are less than half as good, half the time, and at a similar price.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was that there wasn't a second book on Audible yet.

The only complaint I have is that every single chapter the status is read. That by itself is fine except for the mile long list of traits by the end of the book. I'd much rather hear them say, "Traits Minimized" or just mention the important ones. A minor complaint, but a common one among Litrpg's.

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Chris Anderson
  • Chris Anderson
  • 17-08-17

Only 2 negatives for me.

Really enjoyed the story over all, The negatives were only the Info updates at the end of the chapters, and the secondary story near the end. But that part may change when I hear the second book.

I liked the characters, story, and the humor. The players seemed like people you actually do meet in MMO's.

There is just enough detail that you can fill in the descriptive details in your imagination. ( I don't need to know that the crack in a cave wall looks like it's a crack in a cave wall....)

I also enjoyed all the banter. (yes a lot of it is totally pointless but that's what it's like playing with other people in games. )

I think Jeff Hays may ne by second favorite narrator. (Won't gush about my fav though.)

Can't wait for the next book!

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Deacon Gray
  • Deacon Gray
  • 18-11-18

Great Genre Done Poorly

I just found out about this jonra of literature and found it very intriguing. However this particular novel I had some major qualms with. The first issue I had was that the typical glance at the character sheet turned into a large segment of the actual novel. I didn't need a refresher on every detail of the sheet at the beginning or end of every chapter. The performance was done quite well but the characters were so simplistic and one-sided that it fell flat. I doubt I will be reading the next book I didn't feel as if this was a cliffhanger as much as simply an unfinished story.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Midwestbonsai
  • Midwestbonsai
  • 02-10-17

The writing is descriptive and not overly verbose

“Challenge” is the first book in the “Unbound Deathlord” series.  The book is authored by Edward Castle and the audiobook’s narration is expertly performed by, as usual, Jeff Hays.  In the very crowded Literary Role Playing Game (LitRPG) genre, this book sets itself apart by approaching the story from the perspective of a more evil or dark character (a deathlord) instead of your usual paladin or hero character.  It is a rather large book containing almost a thousand pages in the print edition and comprising nearly eighteen hours of audio.  Unlike many in the category, this book makes you feel you are actually experiencing a virtual game world.  If you enjoy LitRPG books, I believe you will enjoy this one.  Just be aware, the book is the first in a series, and it is the only one currently available in audiobook format.  I will be interested to see the direction the author takes this book.

If the sentence, “You awaken in a cold and damp dungeon”, sounds familiar to you, I think you get a good idea of the direction this will go.  The beginning of the story is nothing new from others like it, however I really was able to enter the world and it felt like a game rather than just another fantasy novel.  It felt polished and well edited.  One really gets a sense of the characters powers and abilities as he levels up; and who did not like this aspect while playing such games?  You felt the initial pain and struggle of a newly created level one character, and as the book progressed you felt the weight and struggles lift somewhat.  However, some of the newer quests matched or even exceeded the players skill level.  I thought the ranking system was also interesting.  Not only are we given a skill tree to understand, but the book also contained trait and class details as well.  Again, simply a nice touch adding depth to the story.

The world the author created consisted of many of the expected fantasy or adventure items and creatures.  There were swords, spiders, rats, but the author additionally included some different things such as a quite powerful illusion ring along with others.  Because the book was mostly focused on more dark characters, we were presented with vampires, ghouls, witches, along with other creatures who prefer the night.  Because the main character was a dark mage, there was some good detail provided around the magic system and the character’s process of learning it.  In many ways, the book is really a struggle between good and evil, however you are hoping evil wins in this case.  Jack thorn seems to be a rather unique player with a rather unique voice; covered in the narration section.

Although the book often filled with pokes, zings, or bantering between the players and NPCs, it also contained some serious and emotional scenes as well.  I thought the author did a decent job of taking us on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.  The opening sequence is action filled and emotionally charged.  That is not to say the book is overly deep or touchy-feely.  There is plenty of gaming humor and fun found within its pages.  The story is a bit darker than others in the genre, but it also deemed more complex and complete even though it is only the first book in a series of books.

The book’s narration was done very well by Jeff Hays.  With this book, I felt he was trying a new technique by voicing the main character and the narrator as two separate people.  Although the story was told from the perspective of the main character, the voice Mr. Hays used when the character spoke was quite different.  I’m not sure the voice of the main character fit what I expected him to sound like, but as with other parts of this book, it grew on me.  For the length of the book, the audio was performed flawlessly.  No noticeable audio artifacts were heard.  I also thought he did a good job of pacing the book’s narration.  I even enjoyed the games female Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice at the end of each chapter.  I will say that I did not enjoy the character stats given at the close of each chapter, however it began to grow on me and I wanted to hear how the character grew from the previous chapter.  Again, his level and skill elevation seemed to be in line with the actions he took during the chapter.

For parents of younger readers, I would not recommend this book as the subject matter is geared more towards an adult audience.  The book contains a fair amount of vulgar language (rather heavy at times), high-level sexual topics, and a few scenes containing intense graphic violence.  If any of these offend you, I suggest you grab a different book.

For someone to want to be placed permanently into a virtual world due to a life event, you have to feel for him.  Yet, even though he selects a dark character type, the story is written in a way that you want him to succeed.  The writing is descriptive and not overly verbose.  If you are a fan of the genre, I recommend you pick up Challenge by Edward Castle, and give it a listen.

Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.

Please find this complete review and many others at my review blog

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]

51 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Matthew Robinson
  • Matthew Robinson
  • 30-07-21

All hail Edgelord...er...Deathlord Jack

I'll start by saying that I love LitRPGs, they are my guilty pleasure and I'm always looking to invest in the next series and follow the the main characters through their adventures. I'll also say I love the narrator (Jeff Hays) and his whole company of players over at SoundBooth Theater (seriously, check them out). I've read and listened to great series, ok series, and bad series. Good, bad, or ugly, I usually can find something I can latch on to to feed my appetite for this genre. I am officially beat.

Maybe it was the one-dimensional, constant cringe-inducing main character torn right from the creative writing journal of the quiet, edgy kid in high school, maybe it was the numerous plot holes that failed to flesh out that same main character as anything more than trench coat mafia wet-dream, maybe it was the awkward prose, limited vocabulary, and just outright childish writing style that made it impossible for any single moment in the book to land properly, or maybe it was just the fact the author can't decide who he is aiming this book at that made this the most difficult listen of my life.

Let's start with the main character. We meet Jack as a self-entitled man-child that reminds you of the younger brother of your best bud that really wants to tell you about all the girls he's scored with and all the fights he won all by himself. Meanwhile you just sip your beer and say "sure ya did little buddy". The protagonist is not a hero, he's not an anti-hero, he is a consistent douche that does absolutely no personal growth throughout the entire book. I can only assume he's meant to come off as "edgy" and "in-your-face" but is a person so disconnected with reality it makes me think the author is a Poe and is waiting for someone to call him out on it. The character lucks into everything (yeah, main character, got to keep him interesting) but does zero introspection and zero growth as he easily murder-hobos the entire game-world. His backstory is equally infuriating because you can't tell if you are supposed to hate him, pity him, or relate to him. He is so wildly inconsistent about his own background, morals, experiences, and feelings you can't help but eye-roll every time he tries to have a "human" moment. The main character is just a caricature, for what reason, I honestly cannot tell you; But there is some real cognitive dissonance between a character you can get behind and one that just blocks the view of the world they inhabit.

Speaking of cognitive dissonance, let's talk about who this book is aimed at, and if you figure it out, let me know. The author breaks down standard gaming terms and acts as a glossary for the uninitiated. Great, folks new and old to the genre can enjoy this book. Problem is, he frequently gets these definitions wrong, or uses terms from a previous generation of gamers that would have to listen to a section multiple times before they realized that the author really doesn't have much of a background in this style or RPG tropes to begin with. Ok, so we have established this is not really for hardcore LitRPG fans right? Wrong! Because the author glosses over more complex mechanics, terms, and tropes with zero exposition or explanation. Also; Exposition! You don't just have to insert a definition for a term in the characters inner monolog EVERY TIME it needs an explanation! Mix it up, let it happen organically, put it in a foot-note, hell, let the reader look it up! Just stop padding your word count with it!

Ultimately, it feels like the author spread him/herself too thin, trying to take a subject they poorly grasp and pander it to as broad of an audience as possible. You get an edgelord of a main character that KNOWs he's the smartest, handsomest, baddest guy in the room that cannot seem to pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel. He struggles to do everything, and much like his real life backstory, is just handed everything on a silver platter, never needing to grow, or work, or survive.

Final thoughts, if your eyes need a great workout, go read this book; You'll spend the entire ordeal rolling your eyes every time the main character speaks or monologs (good luck getting away from that). If you need a good listen though, look for nearly anything that Jeff Hays and SBT put out! You won't be disappointed.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nicholas Marques
  • Nicholas Marques
  • 31-05-18

Written by a 16 year old

This book reads as if it was written by a 16 year old edge-lord. The main character is supposed to be dark and cool, but he sounds like that one guy you meet at a party that is obviously telling a fake story to impress everyone. He apparently also sleeps with a lot of women even though everything he says to women is cringy and sexist.

Every other character in the story is incredibly 2D and has no personality, save for one character that only becomes interesting after they die towards the end of the book. Everything is incredibly predictable with no real twists to the story. It was difficult to finish. The only thing that got me through it was the voice acting. Bless this soul for giving everything he had with the most bland characters.

I cannot recommend this book.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for SquishyWire
  • SquishyWire
  • 09-10-17

1 to 100 in 3 seconds

I started this book with low expectations. But as time passed I could not put it down I want more I want more from this author I want to see what he can make in the next book. if you're new to LIT RPGs this is probably not the book for you. but if your long-time reader I recommend this one hundred percent.

8 people found this helpful