The Butcher’s Masquerade By Matt Dinniman
Book/Novel Author: Matt Dinniman
Book/Novel Title: The Butcher’s Masquerade
Attention. Attention. The gates are down. The hunters are loose.Run, Run, Run. A lush jungle teeming with danger. Savage dinosaurs seeking blood. A fallen princess intent on vengeance. A mysterious, end-of-floor celebration for the top crawlers, dubbed “The Butcher’s Masquerade.” The sixth floor. The Hunting Grounds.As the remaining crawlers battle for their lives, a new, terrible threat looms. Outside tourists are finally allowed to enter the game, and they are here and ready to hunt. Among them is Vrah, a famed and veteran hunter, intent on collecting the biggest trophy of her career.But their prey is far from harmless, and this season they are fighting back.Dungeon Crawler Carl and Princess Donut return in book five of the acclaimed litrpg series.
This series continues to be utterly fun and action packed, while also providing pretty great character work and a surprising amount of pathos (although it shouldn’t really be that surprising, considering the start of the very first book is a tragic event on a global scale). Seriously, I never realized how badly I wanted to see an Allosaurus perform ballet with a group of Velociraptors dancing along 🙂
If you’ve read this far into the series, you know what you’re getting. This is another great installment. The author is still funny, enough so that I laughed out loud at a couple of spots, even. There are twists and of course some ‘Carl tricked ‘em again’ plot armor moments, but that’s unavoidable. I will say one thing that really impressed me about this book, however. Many writers of litRPG can come up with a compelling world, but around book 3 or 4 the story gets too big for them. In this case, the story still feels firmly under control and headed in a cohesive direction. Another thing is that many times an author can feel compelled to start making their story mean something more, have a little more at stake….unfortunately this is the point where the weaknesses in the authors writing starts to shine through and their lack of polish starts to be a problem. For Matt Dinniman, however, I feel like the pathos in this book is real and believable. I’m invested in Carl and Donuts struggles, and the slow reveal of Carls past and motivation feel much better done than I usually expect in this genre. There’s a plot twist at the end that has me truly sad, and the decisions that were made (and will be made) have a real weight to them. I’m impressed!
Not certain how Matt keeps all the threads straight but they can spin a yarn. The ending was unexpectedly good.
Absolutely mind blowing ending. And middle. And beginning. There were so many ways this could have gone wrong, and they did. A lot. Our MCs were facing horrific odds, terrible information, diabolical schemes, and some very nasty venereal diseases. Still trying to figure out how they got through, but wow.
I thought that the the lingering entanglement with Beatrice would have gone differently, or at least get more coverage. Otherwise the book is everything I thought I would get and more. The author is really hitting his stride on these and I cannot recommend this series enough.
Warning: Heavy spoilers follow. I imagine by now anyone reading a review of a book in this series is already invested, so maybe this isn’t that high of value. But maybe this feedback might be meaningful to the author. I enjoyed this book overall, but it didn’t grab me quite as well as some of the prior books. I think there was a little too much crammed in, which didn’t really give a lot of the characters enough time to grow and breathe properly. In particular, I think the entire dinosaur plotline was a distraction (which ended up being on the non-sensical side most of the time), and the narrative would have been better served fleshing out the relationship between Carl and Signet better prior to the finale. I also don’t think the entire plot line of a bunch of quest items getting handed to Donut only to just get handed back to another character for… nebulous reasons… really paid off. I understand -why- foreshadowing those items mattered (and *that* particular bit was awesome), but the justification for doing it by having Donut hold them was pretty weak given how big of a deal everyone made out of it. In many cases, I think one of the challenges that this series will start to encounter is that things are continuously being set up for later books (I suspect the entire dinosaur plot is this), but the fact that a lot of it doesn’t always pay off well in that book can lesson the impact of the immediate action. I’m hoping that as the series goes deeper, we start to see more time spent progressing and resolving plot threads versus spinning up new ones (outside of whatever the floor-specific narrative is). Another example was the entire Donut/Zev plotline, which (while it was hinted at previously) was presented as a big reveal, but not quite fleshed out enough to really understand how any of it possibly could have worked given what we know. I understand that the narration intentionally excludes things, but this was definitely a case where having some better retroactive exposition about what actually happened (like what we got with the mirror communication in the last boo) would have helped. I realized that stacked up, this all sounds pretty critical. But I did still have a blast reading this. Minus things getting a little muddy at the midway point, I was invested all the way. Matt’s writing is brisk and engaging. After my first time through the series, I immediately reread it. This is great stuff, and I am extremely excited to read more. A little extra editing in the subsequent entries could really elevate the series from “great” to “genre defining”.