AuriusFull disclosure: As I write this review, I’m sitting at a game convention. I spent the last week helping my daughter put the finishing touches on a couple of costumes she’ll be wearing here. I may have actually been the worst possible audience for Aurius.

Aurius tells the story of Jacob, a 15 year old boy who loves the video game Aurius. He likes the main character, Garrett, so much that he spends months lovingly handcrafting a detailed costume, including learning to work stone for a pendant and getting someone who can do metalworking to help him make the right kind of sword. Jacob is on his way to a yearly convention, and he’s so excited to hang out with people who understand him and share his passions.

Jacob, wearing his Garrett costume, magically and accidentally enters the world of Aurius where he pretends to be Garrett. He goes through the adventure, realizing that real life—even in a magical kingdom—is a lot grittier and harder than a video game. He learns that he would rather be Jacob than Garrett, even though he’s a hero in Aurius and does in fact save the day. He goes back home, realizes that costumes and video games are stupid, and it’s time for him to grow up and call his girlfriend Tina, who we’re told was very good for him. He’s going to apply to college and work to get his driver’s license now that he’s grown up enough to put this stupid fantasy world behind him.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Definition of “Grown Up”

The contempt for people who are passionate about hobbies that the author obviously doesn’t care about was painful. And, since I share some of those hobbies, it felt personally insulting. There are plenty of fully functional adults who play games and dress up in costumes and go to conventions. I really disliked the idea that Jacob was left with the false choice of pursuing his hobbies that obviously matter to him or dealing with the “real world” of college, job, driver’s license, and girlfriends. There is no hope of him being able to find a balance, and it’s clear that the correct choice is to turn his back on his passions.


We never actually meet Tina—Jacob got into a fight with her before the novel opens, because he wanted to go to this annual convention, but it’s the same weekend as their first anniversary of dating. Ironically, the reason it’s the same weekend is that they met at the convention the year before. However, Tina has apparently grown up enough that she doesn’t want to go this year. It’s very clear that Jacob is making the wrong choice by going to the convention instead of skipping it and taking Tina out to dinner or something. We’re told how good Tina is for him, but we never get to see it. What I do see makes me think Tina doesn’t actually accept who Jacob is. She wants him to be someone else, which I guess is why she’s good for him.

Serina is the “princess” of the video game. She’s the beautiful, sweet, perfect girl who is the object of Garret’s affection—and therefore of Jacob’s affection. He totally objectifies her, seeing her as too weak, fragile, and sweet to deal with life, despite how she handles herself. There isn’t much to her, although I’m not sure whether that’s due to Jacob’s viewpoint or the author. Eventually Jacob realizes that he loves her as a sister, not as a girlfriend. She was never girlfriend material—he was just infatuated with this fantasy idea of the perfect girl.

Kalista is the scantily clad thief who joins the party. Jacob was always annoyed by Kalista because she’s confident, sometimes to the point of bragging, and most guys like the more sexual character over the sweet and modest Serina. Eventually Jacob becomes friends with Kalista, who isn’t nearly as sure of herself as she appears.

Jacob is gets distracted by trying not to get distracted by a barmaid’s cleavage.

Body Image

Jacob realizes that he’s kind of chubby as he compares himself to a drawn video game hero. He doesn’t exercise enough, he’s not tan because he stays inside. As he goes through the adventure, he becomes more fit. He also starts to grow a bit of a beard. In every way, he starts to become a man, leaving behind the flabby boy. When he comes back into the real world, he’s disgusted by his flabby body and vows to change it.

Graphic Violence and Death

Jacob is held captive by the villain and graphically and extensively tortured. It goes on for pages, and it’s pretty intense for a book for younger readers. He’s repeatedly whipped until his back is tatters and he’s lost all will to live, although in the end he finds the strength within him to rescue himself.

There’s a lot of fighting, and Jacob doesn’t easily learn to kill. At first he kills accidentally, although he eventually learns to fight. He can kill monsters without much problem, but he has trouble killing people. The villain sees this as a weakness. After Jacob escapes from the torture, for a while he kills people without remorse or emotion. Eventually he regrets this. When he finally kills the villain, which was undoubtedly required to save the world, he has regrets because maybe the villain actually had good intentions in killing and torturing and trying to take over the world? I don’t know.

A named character, Morrie, dies. He’s a husband and the father of two young boys. Jacob, familiar with the game, knows he’s going to die but can’t figure out how to stop it. He feels responsible for this, but eventually the widow and the boys convince Jacob that it’s ok that Morrie died.


Kalista is obviously a sexual character, leered at by people in the world and also by players of the game. Thayer, another guy who joins their party, is surrounded by women and obviously enjoys it. There’s little doubt what goes on when he gives women a private tour of his airship. It turns out he’s not such a bad guy, though.


Although his friends drank, Jacob never did. His first night in Aurius, alcohol is more or less forced on him and he gets drunk. He gets a massive hangover. By the end of the novel, he’s willingly drinking wine, but not to excess. This seems to be another sign that he’s a grown up.


This book is philosophically opposed to many things I value, so it was a painful read for me. I guess it’s an ok adventure story, and it’s occasionally interesting to see how the real world of Aurius is different from the game world of Aurius. The torture scenes are too graphic for most kids under 12, but I’m not sure the story would appeal to older readers. The characters did a lot of yelping—it was how they responded to pretty much everything—which eventually became kind of unintentionally funny. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone, but if you believe that video games keep your kids from growing up, maybe it will appeal to you.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Aurius by Catherine Fitzsimmons
Published in 2011 by Brain Lag
Read ebook provided by the publisher

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