Jake's Magical Market

A: Amazing, definitely read.

Initially a card-based LitRPG system, Jake's Magical Market was an engaging read. It's two books stitched together, and my only gripe is the massive change in arc and system that occurs between the two books.

Before I picked up this book, I must have seen Jake’s Magical Market recommended a dozen times on the /r/ProgressionFantasy subreddit. It even got a shoutout from Bryce O’Connor, and then, after about ten more people told me to read it, I pulled the trigger, added it to my Kindle, and then I read the entire thing—all eight hundred pages—in a single weekend.

So yeah, I thought it was pretty good.

Onto the premise: our MC, Jake, is a shop assistant in a typical Earth-gets-a-system-apocalpyse scenario. After almost dying right off the bat, Jake discovers he has magic powers, as his starting card is a legendary-rarity time freeze power. It sounds overpower, and it is, it’s absolutely broken. But in a fun way.

As an aside, I feel like I need to go through my book now and rename my MC to start with J. Jake, Jason, Joe, Jaxon, apparently ‘J’ is all the rage.

Anyway, theres a bit of world building, some elves show up to help Jake out, he learns about the cards, how they’re used for trade, how he upgrade them, combine them, et cetera. I liked it, it was a nice change of pace from the stock standard attribute-point system in most LitRPGs, and also different from the normal cultivation and spiritual core system in the wuxia and xianxia novels I read.

Things go well, Jake makes friends, he is super OP because has so many cards. Why other people aren’t just as overpowered isn’t properly explained, which is unfortunate.

What must have originally been book one then ends, and we start book two. Perhaps Mathews decided a single larger volume would sell better, I’m not sure. Book two is a big change of pace, and while its fun to see Jake grow so much, and (spoiler alert) in new worlds, it feels like a bit of a waste to leave all of book one behind. We don’t revisit the shop, nor the friends made in the first book (secondary character development being non-existent is one my other gripes). Even the card-based magic system goes out the window as Jake just happens to be in the perfect position to discover the real secret to magic and exploit that.

It was fun to read, but I can’t help but feel there was so much that could have been done to make the card system deeper or more interesting, rather than just scrapping it and having freeform magic. And on the note about secondary characters, by stretching too much into other worlds and new places, everything except for Jake feels two dimensional. Hell, at one point Jake revealed he had feelings for a female character, she reciprocated, they had some ‘alone time’, and then she left forever. Like, I had no idea romance was even on the cards here, and now in the space of a few pages I’ve jumped from ‘this character is a friend,’ to a romantic interest, to a potential lifelong partner, to them disappearing to another world. Dammit Mathews, flesh it out more, I want to read about those other characters too, so the world feels more alive and less a playground for Jake to be overpowered in!

As a final note on being overpowered, Jake gets a whole bunch of skills (illusion based) in the second book. I won’t go into the details for spoiler reasons, but with those powers he is able to defeat an extremely powerful person on the central world of Ambrosia. Except, the rest of Jake’s team in that second book are vastly more powerful than Jake, and I just don’t understand how to reconcile the power levels across different people. Jake seems to be weak when needed, and then with incredibly quickness learns, grows, and becomes overpowered once again. It’s only happened a few times so far, but if it keeps happening, it’s going to give me Dragonball Z flashbacks.

That said, the second book ends on a great note to set up conflict in future works, and I will 100% be purchasing those books the instant they come out.