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Qing’s Quest by Henrik Saetre | Book Review [4.4/5]

Qing’s Quest 1: A LitRPG Adventure Fantasy

The Trail of Tales

Character Development
Plot
Writing Style
Pacing
Worldbuilding
Enjoyment

Summary

Average Reading Time: 15h 17m @ 200 WPM

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if life were like a video game? Well, Qing got to experience that first hand when he was suddenly pulled from his bed in his yellow silk pajamas, and forced into an entirely new world. Only, this new world is filled with real horrors – the walking dead, demons, and even the devil himself.

Armed with nothing except desperation and whatever he can scavenge from the world, and granted the ability to level up and gain skills, Qing must try the seemingly impossible – Save Elrydisan. With each boss monster he defeats granting him an hour to return to Earth, he is motivated.

Will it be enough to survive this hellish world, and make it back to Earth? Or will he perish and become just another corpse for an adventurer to encounter and loot?

Find out in Qing’s Quest by Henrik Saetre!

4.4

Where to Read:

  • Amazon (Available on Kindle Unlimited)

Due to the nature of book reviews, there will be some spoilers from Qing’s Quest by Henrik Saetre in this review article. I will strive to keep major plot points a mystery, but what you consider “Main Plot Material” may differ from my definition.

To help mitigate spoilers, I’ve implemented a system to combat them. Important plot information has a special spoiler tag added to it to hide small bits of spoiling text. When you hover over this text, don’t panic, your cursor will disappear to make reading it easier. Moving your mouse away will restore the cursor. A spoiler looks like this: Spoiled text example.

Another form of spoiler avoidance I utilize is the collapsable block. It looks a little something like this:

Spoiler Example

Clicking on this will expand the hidden content and spoil it.

If you use a screen reader or view this review on a mobile device, these solutions may not be effective. You have been warned.

Qing's Quest by Henrik Saetre Book Cover
Source: Book Cover

Qing’s Quest Synopsis

Qing is a hardcore gamer who has played hundreds of video games in his twenty- two years on Earth. Little does he know, his life is about to forever change to the fantastical when he is spirited away to another world called Elrydisan. This new world has been stricken by the undead, and Qing is forced to fight for his life against this supernatural threat, or perish. He can only go back to Earth for one hour for each “Boss” he defeats.

He is tasked with “Saving Elrydisan” by an entity simply known as “GG”, who grants him access to quests and gives him the ability to level up, just like in the video games he played. Each level grants Qing newfound power, and access to skills from multiple classes. These skills let Qing exhibit feats of strength that the natives of Elrydisian have only legends to tell of.

Can Qing make it back to earth against all odds? What is happening to Earth while he is on Elrydisan? Read and find out!

The Main Characters


Qing Baker

Title: Earth Champion #73,842

Qing Baker from Qing's Quest by Henrik Saetre
Credit: Henrik Saetre in Midjourney Art Compendium

Qing is the titular twenty-two-year-old protagonist of the story and a hardcore gamer. He is a Chinese-American man and his personality can be described as fearful, but courageous, with a love for his family back on Earth. He is willing to fight to protect those that he loves.

During the events that take place in Qing’s Quest, he uses his knowledge of strategy games, MMOs, and various other video game genres to overcome adversity.


Role: Militiaman of Shadowgrove

Rowan Frost

Rowan Frost is a Seargent and a member of the Shadowgrove Militia which is tasked with the safety of the citizens of Shadowgrove. His personality is Stout, and no-nonsense. He is first to run headfirst into danger despite his fear, and fight for what he believes is right.

In fact, Rowan’s sense of justice is the reason Qing survives his first few hours as he hobbles from injuries as he makes his way to the walls of Shadowgrove, chased by a dozen or so zombies. With mace and shield in hand, he is ready to pound some sense into those who would break the law, or those who stand against his sense of what is right.

Rowan Frost from Qing's Quest by Henrik Saetre
Credit: Henrik Saetre in Midjourney Art Compendium

Kaela Chambers

Role: Militiawoman of Shadowgrove

Kaela Chambers from Qing's Quest by Henrik Saetre
Credit: Henrik Saetre in Midjourney Art Compendium

Kaela Chambers is a moderately attractive woman (in Qing’s opinion) and a spearmaster of the Shadowgrove Militia. She is a mirthful family-minded individual who cares deeply for the safety and well-being of the citizens of Shadowgrove.

She accompanies Rowan and Qing to the Cemetery on their mission to find out where the undead are coming from. She ultimately develops feelings for Qing, which she acts upon shortly after defeating a pack of undead wolves. Unfortunately, she is bested in combat by a traitor within Shadowgrove and loses her life.

Her death serves as the spark that ignites Qing’s will to do the best he can to protect the citizens of Shadowgrove.


Character Development Breakdown

  • It is no mystery who the big bad antagonist is from the very start. I was hoping for a plot twist but ultimately was disappointed.
  • Some cookie-cutter characters, particularly the posse that follows the antagonist.
  • There are so many references to games I played during my childhood that I was taking a trip down nostalgia lane for 90% of the book.
  • The Main Character’s taste in music is nearly identical to my own.
  • Qing has believable motivations for getting back to Earth.

Qing is Extremely Relatable (To Me)

To start, one of the strongest points that Qing’s Quest has to offer is character relatability. So many stories in the fantasy niche tend to dive so deep into their world that my ability to relate with a character becomes difficult. This is due to the cultural divide created when you set your story in a fantasy world with magic. After all, I’m fairly certain we can’t cast firebolts or open portals back to town in the real world (Though I sure wish I could! Rush hour sucks!)

This book has no such divide – Qing is from our world and a gamer who likes rock music. He is literally like millions of other people on this planet, and thus, by definition, is infinitely more relatable than someone like Lucan from The Elder Lands, who is the son of a knight set in a medieval world living under a monarch. That isn’t to say that The Elder Lands is a bad book, (It’s not) but the fact of the matter is we don’t live in a feudal society anymore, so we can’t intuitively relate to a protagonist from that period very well.

I personally relate to Qing on so many levels it’s not even funny. This fact allowed me to experience scenes as though I were the protagonist because Henrik wrote this book for people like me – people who grew up playing video games, but also have a love for reading. The fact that the LitRPG system he created was inspired by literally my favorite PC video game series ever (Diablo) just cements Qing’s Quest as the most relatable book I’ve ever read, and I don’t say that lightly.

Believable Characters

Henrik does a phenomenal job creating believable characters that develop personalities that complement and contrast the main character, Qing. Qing starts off as this kid who knows nothing about the world he is thrown into, and must suddenly face the threat of bodily harm and even possibly death.

The supporting characters see him initially as a helpless refugee and try to help him just find a place of shelter. As Qing evolves, and displays an unnatural pace of growth, their perspectives of him slide towards suspicion, and they even show some level of hostilities. Hell, they even think he may be a raving lunatic based on the descriptions he gives to them about the quest and information about an impending invasion. Realizing this, Qing listens to the instructions of two militiamen assigned to keep watch on him, while doing his best to show he isn’t someone they need to be concerned about.

In fact, the mission to visit the cemetery to find the source of the undead stems from the town of Shadowgrove trying to validate his claims that he was awarded a quest by some celestial being he can’t talk about. These reactionary views on Qing’s actions feel organic, and I would expect to react similarly to Qing if I were in their position.

Sub-Par Antagonist

I really wanted to give Qing’s Quest a solid 5 for the character development category, but I just couldn’t because the main antagonist (of this particular book), The Stygian Bonecaller, is such a cookie-cutter villain. For all the dynamics involved in this story and how good the good side was, the main antagonist was just…ugh. Not only that, but Henrik Saetre tried to hide the main antagonist’s identity for most of the book but dropped one too many hints too early, and I discovered the Bonecaller’s identity far sooner than I should have.

At least he took after Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. Unlimited power, and all that, I guess.

Plot

  • The Protagonist follows the typical “Hero of the story” trope.
  • There is a substantial plot-twist that I completely did not expect

Somewhat Bland Plot

Qing’s Quest is the story of a twenty-two-year-old gamer thrown into a fantasy world and forced to fight for survival. If you’ve read Japanese Isekai or watched anime like Grimgar of Fantasy And Ash, then that is basically the same premise. But instead of goblins and other fantasy creatures, you have zombies, skeletons, demons, and vampires. It’s more like a Curse of Strahd setting instead of a Heart of the Goblin King setting.

Like the unfortunate heroes of Grimgar, Qing can, and often does, experience mind-shattering pain. Unlike those heroes, though, Qing can undo all damage with a level-up. Other healing methods exist, but have significant limitations, preventing Qing from always coming out on top of long, drawn-out fights. In this regard, Henrik Saetre keeps a somewhat okay-ish balance between Qing and the Elrydisan natives.

So yeah, the plot leaves a bit to be desired. Luckily, a few interesting things in the book help keep it from being a dumpster fire. It’s bland, but it isn’t bad.

Hero Trope

I’m not going to pretend that the hero trope is some new, amazing thing. It is a common path trodden by tens of thousands of books, but for good reason. It works well, especially when phenomenal Character Development and an incredible writing style are such strong points for this book. But for me, personally, the Hero trope is tired.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy this book. Quite the contrary – it’s now one of my favorites. But it didn’t earn that spot for its plot.

[Major Spoilers] Do Not Open For End Of Book Spoiler

Writing Style

Henrik’s writing style is absolutely amazing, and unlike anything I’ve encountered thus far in my twenty-something years of hobby reading. It is a blend of nostalgic references, high fantasy action adventure, and sensory descriptions that utilize all five senses. It contains well-written character dialogue and has an interesting enough story that the rest carry the book to greatness.

References & Video Game Inspirations

Qing’s Quest references, or draws inspiration from:

  • Diablo,
  • Final Fantasy,
  • Dungeons and Dragons,
  • Total War games,
  • World of Warcraft,
  • and many others that I’m sure I didn’t even pick up on

I was firmly set in a familiar, yet fantastical world. After all, I played enough Diablo 2: Lords of Destruction that my 52X CD drive laser literally burned through the data layer of three copies of the game, forcing me to rebuy the game to just keep playing. I’ve no idea how many hours I’ve logged in that game, but that, along with the fact that I managed to level several level 95+ characters in hardcore should be evidence enough that it was a lot. I was a middle schooler at that point in my life, so I had a lot of time on my hands.

Thank god CD drives aren’t the industry standard for games anymore.

In fact, this book helped me realize that what I desire from books is a bit of nostalgia peppered into a deep, engrossing story. That is what Qing’s Quest was for me, and what ultimately propelled this book toward the top of my favorite books list.

I want to highlight a specific moment in the book that absolutely blew me away, which will be put into the spoiler block for those who don’t want to ruin the surprise and genuine joy of the moment.

[Spoiler] You’ve been…

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Pacing

Qing’s Quest started a little bit on the slow side, but as the foundational stones were laid out, the keystone was carefully lowered into place, and things flowed naturally after the first ten chapters or so. Funnily enough, the pacing lined up well with how ARPG games typically start slow and progressively get faster and more epic the longer you play. Given that this book is the first book Henrik has published, I’m very impressed with this fact.

Not much else to say here.

Worldbuilding

The LitRPG System

The LitRPG System takes inspiration from ARPG video games, in that it allows level-ups, skill selections, and attribute allocation. However, the inventory system is a bit unclear in its appearance, with only vague descriptions like this:

He needed a healing potion. Breath gasping, he opened the inventory. Only a single green antidote potion greeted him.

Saetre, Henrik. Qing’s Quest 1: A LitRPG Adventure Fantasy (p. 271). Kindle Edition.

It’s Not Prominent Enough

The vagueness of these sorts of descriptions leaves a lot of questions on what Qing has in his inventory. Sure, there are prompts that tell us when an item is added to it, but I don’t recall a single scene that actually goes through his inventory other than to pull out a specific item or state an absence of said item.

For a good portion of the book, these elements are in the background, and we don’t even get to see much of them until Qing levels more and unlocks “new features”. Each of these features enhances his capabilities, and they seem fairly balanced, but as a reader, they felt a bit rough around the edges in how they are presented, especially if a person is unfamiliar with video game design concepts.

For example, for the first few levels, Qing can’t even assign his attribute points where he wants them. A level-up is simply an all-around boost to his capabilities. This is a missed opportunity to define the system in a clear way.

Sure, there are instances where Henrik does a better job of explaining things, but it seems like he wasn’t entirely sure how much detail to go into without derailing the story, or even how he wanted the system to work, which I get. But the first book of any series is an important establishment tool to capture an audience. Faltering with the genre-defining feature of the book now is asking for trouble in later books that build off of the system.

Like, even after I finished the book, I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of what Qing’s user interface looks like. I can make inferences, that it takes inspiration from Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 because of the myriad of references to those games, but I don’t know what the different tabs look like. All I remember is that the skill tree has tabs from all of the classes that are available. But for a reader who doesn’t get those references, I feel like they’d be quite lost trying to picture how it looks.

How it could have been Improved:

I think the biggest problem is that all of the descriptions of the interface are text-based. There are no pictures to reference, which makes visualizing the interface difficult for people without the background context of a “Diablo-like UI” design. Had Henrik included pictures of the interface mockup, I feel this entire point would be moot.

The Elder Lands by B. Salem does this, and I clearly understood what Lucan was seeing, because it was a direct representation. There are images embedded that allow readers to accurately picture the same UI in every case.

At the very least, adding an additional 10,000 words scattered throughout the book describing the UI with a few “UI management scenes” would serve to clarify this system a lot. There are already 183,451 words in this book, what is 10,000 more?

The Scenery

Qing’s Quest takes a lot of scenery inspiration from World of Warcraft, and I can clearly visualize what I’m reading in my head. It’s seldom even a question.

That must be Shadowgrove.

Moonlight filtered through the clouds, revealing the village tucked protectively against a rugged cliff to its north, a natural defence. On its three other sides, a tall azure palisade surrounded it. The unusually tall wood had the colour of Mediterranean coastal water, and the logs bristled with orange thorns, like gene modified monstrous stems of azure roses.

Saetre, Henrik. Qing’s Quest 1: A LitRPG Adventure Fantasy (p. 24). Kindle Edition.

This scene instantly makes me think of Teldrassil and Razorfen Kraul from World of Warcraft. This is just one of many such prominent locations within Qing’s Quest that are distinct and well-described. I don’t want to get into too many examples, as that will spoil a lot of the book’s progression, but expect more of things like this in the book.

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Overall

All things considered, Qing’s Quest is a fantastic entry in the LitRPG genre. It was really refreshing to read something that was both nostalgic and novel at the same time, and I’m still shocked at just how relatable Qing ended up being to me. I wasn’t expecting that, given the LitRPG Genre, but here we are.

Of course, this book isn’t without its flaws. The plot hamstrings the momentum a bit, and it is a little too predictable at times. This may stem from my deep experience in the games being referenced causing a lot of parallels to be drawn, but I am a bit biased in this regard, so take that with a generous heap of salt. Also, the main antagonist was a weak character narratively, feeling a bit too obvious and a touch too shallow with simple motivations.

But if you can look past its weaknesses, you are in for an incredible read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this book, and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series. I hope you feel the same!

Pick up Qing’s Quest by Henrik Saetre

Qing's Quest by Henrik Saetre Book Cover

Now that you have an idea of what Qing’s Quest is about, you can get lost in this epic LitRPG Adventure for yourself!

I hope you enjoy Qing’s adventure as much as I did!


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Comments

2 responses to “Qing’s Quest by Henrik Saetre | Book Review [4.4/5]”

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and write up such an in-depth review! Reading it put a huge smile on my face in several places! And I really get your point about the system. Feel like you got a really accurate insight into the issue, and how it could have been improved. It is indeed my first foray, and feel I have learned so much.
    Hope to get a chance to hear your thoughts on book two some day and see how it stacks up.
    And if you’d like, feel free to go to the link in back of the book, sign up to the email newsletter and you should get the art compendium for the book. If you’d like to put in the images for Qing, Rowan, and Kaela I made, feel free to do so 🙂 They are Midjourney generated to be as close to my view of the characters as possible.

    And thanks again for the review. Really appreciated it!

    1. Of course, I really enjoyed this book Henrik! I’m definitely excited for book 2 to see where the story goes from here. I’ll take a look at that compendium and update the images!

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