Booklist is a prestigious publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books for all ages. It is geared toward libraries and booksellers. In a starred review, Sally Estes wrote:
Kostick was a designer for the world’s first live fantasy role-playing game in England, and his expertise is evident in this gripping first novel, set on New Earth, where violence has been banned for generations and conflicts are settled in the fantasy computer game Epic. Getting ahead in the real world means winning in the gaming world - and everyone plays. The unjust treatment of his parents by the Central Allocations committee, which ruthlessly rules the planet, sets teenager Erik and his friends on a perilous mission to challenge the committee and put an end to Epic. Erik’s fantasy persona has been killed in a battle with a dragon, and he must prepare a new gaming identity. This time, he is a beautiful female swashbuckler named Cindella the sailor, and as he undertakes a dangerous struggle against the committee, he is threatened by death in both the fantasy world and hardscrabble reality. The action is nonstop, it’s easy to keep track of who’s who, and the story flows seamlessly as characters move between worlds, maintaining their individuality in both. A surefire winner with a sequel in the works and a third planned.
Kliatt, a bimonthly magazine, publishes reviews of books recommended for libraries and classrooms serving adolescents and young adults. In a starred review, Paula Rohrlick writes:
On New Earth, violence is forbidden. All conflicts are resolved through a fantasy role-playing computer game called Epic, which is controlled by the autocratic Central Allocations Committee. When 14-year-old Erik's parents are threatened with exile--"reallocation"--he and his friends come up with a desperate, daring scheme to battle the Committee in the virtual arena and win. They must fight not only a powerful dragon in the game, but, unknown to them, the members of the Committee, who are vying for power with each other behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Epic is evolving on its own and revealing unsuspected depths, and the real battle turns out to be for control of New Earth's society.
Fantasy fans, especially fans of role-playing games, will appreciate all the detail Kostick (a teacher of medieval history at Trinity College, Ireland, who also designs fantasy role-playing games) supplies in both the worlds he creates in this first novel. There's lots of swashbuckling action in the game--even a vampire and a pirate ship--which is of course the most fun, but there's suspense in the characters' hardscrabble, vaguely Scandinavian farmer-like lives on New Earth, too. Readers will be eager to continue the adventure in the sequel, Saga.
Epic is the game of all games: occupation, income, housing, and even power for heat and light are all dependent on players' skills in the arena, and death is serious but not fatal. Originally a virtual reality game intended to entertain space travelers, it has become the legal and economic foundation of a society that prohibits all forms of violence and dissent. Central Allocations administers justice and favors via its virtual champions, who have the best weaponry and magic and who are literally virtually unbeatable. Stung by a series of inequities, high-school student Erik decides to take on the system. Discovering that Epic has evolved as the society it supports has begun to fail, he realizes that the only option is to try to end the game forever, which leads him into an ultimate battle against the game's own consciousness. The storyline becomes predictable, and characters are two-dimensional in their clear commitment to good or evil and their lack of growth. The premise is engaging, though, and the book emphasizes action, which is enhanced by interesting subplots about treachery and the consequences of absolute power. Readers may therefore find themselves rooting for the youngsters, and the nicely constructed gaming framework will likely ultimately draw teens.
Bowker's Books In Print has the following summary:
On New Earth, a world based on a video role-playing game, fourteen-year-old Erik pursuades his friends to aid him in some unusual gambits in order to save Erik's father from exile and safeguard the futures of each of their families. Generations ago, violence was banned on New Earth. Society is governed and conflicts are resolved in the arena of a fantasy computer game, Epic. Everyone plays. If you win, you have the chance to go to university, get more supplies for your community, and fulfill your dreams; if you lose, your life both in and out of the game is worth nothing. When Erik, seeking revenge for the unjust treatment of his parents, dares to subvert the rules of Epic, he and his friends find themselves up against with the ultimate masters of the game: the Committee. If Erik and his friends win, they may have the key to destroying Epic?s tyranny over New Earth. But if they lose . . .