Epic (Kostick novel)
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|Genre||Fantasy, Computer games|
|Publisher||The O'Brien Press Ltd|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (paperback and hardcover)|
Epic follows the life of a boy named Erik Haraldson and his involvement in a game called Epic. Epic is a virtual game, but is considered by all the inhabitants of New Earth as much more. A generic fantasy game, Epic echoes World of Warcraft and Everquest, but the entire population of New Earth play the game, as its rewards directly affect their income, social standing and careers. Epic is used to control violence, which, in their society, is illegal and is treated with extreme severity. A growing injustice has emerged in the world, as the game of Epic has progressed to a point where, since the game's currency is used as money in the real world, it is nearly impossible for poor people to actually advance in the game, unless given money by those who inherited wealth and powerful equipment, or finding treasures. Poor citizens of New Earth play their entire life, slowly building up their characters to try to become powerful enough to go to a university to study Epic, or - if they choose - to study fields of real life. If a community wishes to redress a perceived injustice, they may challenge Central Allocations or C. A., which is a powerful, select group of nine individuals that controls all of the world's resources and funds the most powerful characters in the game world. All of the members of C. A. are extremely rich, which results in them having nearly unbeatable characters in the game, especially to the great number of weak players in the game. The challenges are held in a special arena where the various players can attack each other. The challenges are simply a fight to the last man between the two opposing teams. If you win against the Central Allocations team, then you get what you want, be it a new law, a medical procedure, or a material object. If you lose, though, then you lose everything your character owns (including items and money) and you have to begin all over again. Dying in the game outside of the arena where challenges are held also yields the same results, so dying is a disaster, meaning that however many hours you have played are completely wasted, and you have to begin again from scratch.
The story opens with Erik determined to obtain revenge for the unjust treatment of his parents. Unknown to Erik, his father, Harald, was exiled because he hit another person (Ragnok, a future member of Central Allocations). Ragnok was trying to assault Harald's wife in a way that is never explained fully in the book, but seems to have some sexual implications. Having escaped from exile, Harald had hidden in a small out-of-the-way community with his wife, during which they have Erik. In order to help his local friends, Harald challenges Central Allocations hoping to remain unknown to them, but his character is identified and he is exiled once more. Before these events, Erik had become fed up with the game, squandering many lives of his avatars in fighting Inry'aat, the Red Dragon, who guards a massive treasure hoard. Most of these attempts are spent trying to figure out a quick way to defeat the dragon. As an expression of his discontent with the world, Erik had gone against convention in making a human female avatar, which he named Cindella and had deliberately chosen an almost unknown character class, swashbuckler. He put all of his ability points into beauty, which most players consider a waste, as beauty has no benefit in battle. This, incidentally, is the cause for the bland, gray characters that predominate in Epic. But curiously, the tale takes a twist and Erik inherits much wealth from his investment in beauty as the game itself begins to respond to his unique avatar. As a result and freed by the plight of his parents from having to play the game in the usual, risk-avoiding grind, Erik dares to dream he can kill the red dragon and with its wealth, challenge the power of C. A.
With his friends' help and one of his strategies from studying Inry'aat, the red dragon is indeed slain, and as a result Erik and his friends become some of the richest and most famous characters in all of Epic. Each of the group gains about four million bezants, which amounts to more wealth than they could earn in over one hundred thousand years of normal play. This victory propels the teenagers into a series of unexpected encounters including with an evil vampyre; the Executioner of C. A.; a sinister Dark Elf and the Avatar of the game itself. The Avatar and the vampyre play a central role in the plot, as they are the opposing sides of the persona that the game itself inexplicably developed. The Avatar represents the game's desire to end its existence and save the people of New Earth, while the vampyre reflects its desire to simply continue existing. They balance each other out in the final conflict of the book, leaving Erik to revolutionise his world by ending the game of Epic.
Awards and nominations
- Epic was shortlisted for the Children's Book Award 2005 by the Reading Association of Ireland.
- It was awarded a place on the International Board on Books for Young People honours list for 2006.
- A UK edition was published in 2005, which was shortlisted for the Lancashire Children's Book of the Year 2006.
- Shortlisted for the Sakura Medal 2006, Japan.
- International Youth Library White Ravens Collection, Special Mention 2006.
- A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year 2007.
- 2008 Capitol Choices’ list of Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens.
- A New York Public Library book for the teen age, 2008.
- Shortlisted for the Isinglass Teen Read Award 2008 - 9.
- Nominated for the Beehive Award 2009.
- Shortlisted for the Georgia Peach Award 2008.
- Shortlisted for American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults 2008.
- Soaring Eagle Book Award 2008-2009 Master List.
- Shortlisted for the Nutmeg 2010 award.
- Shortlisted for the Farniente Prize (Belgium), 2013.
The book was followed by two sequels, making the Avatar Chronicles a trilogy. The sequels are Saga and Edda.