We at FanFiAddict want to thank Steve Caldwell (aka The Bookwyrm Speaks) for his review of Path to Villainy: An NPC Kobold’s Tale.
Villains aren’t born, they’re made.
Witt was an ordinary NPC—a non-player character in a video game. As a kobold skald, he sang songs to empower heroes before they entered the local dungeons.
Every day was a fresh start. Every day Witt woke with no memory of his previous encounters with all those so-called heroes. And every day he forgot the countless beatings and deaths he took at the hands of the murder hobos he valiantly buffed.
But when all of those memories suddenly come flooding back, he only wants one thing:
As a lifelong gamer, and that means starting with Pong in the mid 70’s as a kid, I can honestly say that gaming has always been a huge part of my life. I discovered books like the Guardians of the Flame, which is built around college students playing a tabletop RPG, getting sent to the actual fantasy world of the game, when I was in high school. I consider LitRPG and GameLit the natural progression of books like that. It’s amazing to see what the writers of these fairly new genres have created. This is what brings us to Path to Villainy, a stand alone novel dealing with a main character no one would expect, and who takes a path that you could never imagine.
For a fairly short story, this one packs in a lot of character and world building. Witt is an especially engaging character. Starting as a humble NPC bard, who’s only job is to cast an enhancement spell on adventurers entering the local dungeon. Witt coming to terms with the fact that the “heroes” he’s helping every day aren’t who he thought they were, discovering that he had been murdered countless times by those he was helping and awakening each time with no memory of it, is kind of heartbreaking. His awakening to the truth of what happened to him, and realizing he isn’t alone in this, is so well done. His decision to take the path of villainy is so coldly rational, so methodical, that his eventual fate, even with setbacks, feels completely natural. It’s not often a single minded obsession can feel relatable, but with Witt, its just so well done that it is completely relatable. The secondary characters are such a wonderful group of characters. Witt’s fellow kobolds go through their own growth as Witt’s actions unlock their potential within the world’s structure. They really help enhance Witt’s story.
The world building is fairly standard for a fantasy LitRPG, but with some interesting little tweaks. While there are the standard fantasy races such as elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, trolls, orcs and the like, there is not the usual good/evil alignment classification. There are heroes of all those races, NPC races like Kobolds and various monsters. An NPC breaking his programming like Witt is unheard of, and the depths of the world we see because of it shows us parts of this kind of world you wouldn’t normally expect. Its just a fun world that the author created, with some of the things you’d expect to see kind of turned on their head.
The narrative work for Path to Villainy is handled by Alex Knox. I was unfamiliar with his work before listening to this one, but I’m happy to have discovered his work. He has a very pleasant narrative voice and excellent pacing. He creates such individual voices for each character, so much so that you are never confused about which character is speaking. He definitely helps bring the story to life.
I love a story told from the perspective of someone unexpected, and Witt is about as unexpected as it gets. I loved the twists and turns involved, and the path to villainy that Witt takes. I think this book will obviously appeal to fans of LitRPG, but I think that fans of books like Orconomics and other comedic fantasy should definitely find something to love in this book.