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Review

Guild of Tokens by Jon Auerbach

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: https://www.jonauerbach.com/
SERIES: Guild of Tokens
PUBLISHED: June 25, 2019 (Self-published)
PAGES: 422
GENRE: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

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Blurb

She wants to level up her humdrum existence. But her next quest could spell life or death.

All Jen Jacobs has achieved in life is loneliness. So when she stumbles across a real-life game of epic quests on the streets of New York, she jumps at the chance for some excitement and gold tokens. Little does she know that the items she strives to collect hold a darker purpose…

After a particularly harrowing quest pairs her up with Beatrice Taylor, a no-nonsense and ambitious mentor, Jen hopes she’s on the path to becoming a big-time player. But as she dives deeper into the game’s hidden agenda, she realizes Beatrice has her sights set on the Guild, the centuries-old organization that runs the Questing game. And the quests Jen loves are about to put both of them in grave danger.

Will Jen survive the game before powerful forces cut her real life short?

Guild of Tokens is a thrilling new twist on conventional urban fantasy. If you like determined heroines, gritty cityscapes, and vampire-free adventures, then you’ll love Jon Auerbach’s rollercoaster tale.


Review

ALSO REVIEWED AT: Goodreads

Guild of Tokens is a thrilling and highly imaginative urban fantasy tale of adventure, secrets, magic, and betrayal. Set in an alternate version of our own modern world, there are plenty of things that appear familiar and relatable, but even more to discover beneath the veil of normalcy. Within its pages, author Jon Auerbach takes us on a massive and dangerous scavenger hunt for vastly coveted tokens and the truth, presenting an account that perfectly portrays the concept that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, displayed through shocking consequences upon consequences. Transportation portals, relics, heists, risk and peril, this book has a little bit of everything, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun with a story.

Auerbach presents us with a fascinating and complex plot dominated by incredible and unexpected twists and turns. His planning is absolutely astounding, and we’re gradually offered pieces of a grand puzzle that slowly but surely begin to fall into place as the story progresses. What begins as gently wading into the world of real-life questing, quickly converts to diving into the deep-end of a mystifying world hidden beneath our own, one richly defined by history and magic. Emotionally charged and action-packed, the revelations I felt I should’ve seen coming left me stunned and craving more.

In addition to pristine plotting, Guild of Tokens depicts some pretty excellent character involvement and development. We roam the streets of New York City alongside Jen Jacobs, an overworked and under-appreciated game developer at a startup. Oftentimes pitied or taken advantage of, she’s initially hesitant and unwilling to rock the boat, but we witness as she transforms into a strong and self-sure problem-solver the deeper she descends into the questing game. The interactions between characters are organic, complete with sarcasm, banter, and genuine heartfelt concern, allowing me to easily connect with the cast. Each person introduced, no matter how small a part, plays a key role in not only Jen’s progression, but also in the evolution of the story, as well.

The entire foundation of this story is built upon the the idea that magic exists in our world, and a huge aspect of this is alchemy. Everything from convenient focus boosts and strength buffs, to the most important hangover cures, most living things within the city contain some amount of innate magic that can be tapped into. Tying the acquisition of these items to the quests given to beginner questers is a particularly nice touch. I personally appreciated and enjoyed being introduced to and steadily educated on this mysticism alongside Jen, imbuing this story with another immersion factor. I would love to tell you more, but I feel this is one element of this story that you have to experience yourself.

Manhattan is a city we’re all familiar with in some way, shape, or form, but this book details a variant of the city with a secret past that has survived the test of time to completely forge the present. Auerbach demonstrates a rooted and wide knowledge of NYC, and as someone who spends most of her days down in NoHo, I can’t even begin to express how relatable this story’s setting truly is – in fact, my reading notes are aptly peppered with “the struggle is real”. Sharply illustrated, encapsulating the naturally magical ambience of the hidden treasures the city has to offer, everything seems realistic…until it doesn’t, and I thought this was wonderfully executed.

Guild of Tokens is a lively and entertaining adventure, steeped in enough mystery to keep you guessing until the very end. Urban fantasy isn’t a subgenre I necessarily gravitate towards, but this book hooked me from the start. I learned after finishing the final page that this is a collection of three novellas, and while the content flows nicely, it does account for the slight shift in pacing. If you’re looking for something fast-paced and remarkably unique, I highly recommend giving this one a try.

Note: A huge thank you to Jon Auerbach for providing me with a complementary copy in exchange for an honest review.


The Author

Jon Auerbach’s love of fantasy began at the tender age of six, when his parents bought him the classic 1977 animated version of The Hobbit (the less said about the recent trilogy, the better). His passion for sci-fi developed from nights watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and from his dad’s old paperback copies of Foundation and I, Robot.

Jon writes in both genres and hopes to pass on his stories to the next generation, including his kids, who have their own copy of The Hobbit that they lovingly call “the Bilbo book.”

WEBSITE: https://www.jonauerbach.com/

Justine Bergman

Web developer by trade, ravenous reader, excited reviewer, dark fantasy enthusiast, mother of pups, drinker of strong coffee, and player of games. I'm also a contributor over at Fantasy Book Critic and The Fantasy Hive, and I love sharing the love.

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