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Having read and enjoyed Matt Forbeck’s books before – one of my favourites being magic heist story Vegas Knights – I was keen to check out the Minecraft Dungeons prequel, The Rise of the Arch-Illager. Though I must admit I don’t have any particular interest in vanilla Minecraft (though I’ve tried, several times, to see what all the fuss is about!), I enjoyed the brief time spent in top-down dungeon crawler Minecraft Dungeons earlier this year – so the combination of author and game were enough to pique my interest.

The Rise of the Arch-Illager is the story of Archie (yep, that name’s a little on the nose, isn’t it?), a tiny, weak Illager who’s bullied and threatened not only by Villagers, but by other Illagers too (Illagers being, essentially, evil Villagers in the world of Minecraft). When fleeing a village whose inhabitants – bar one, who kindly took care of him – drive Archie away, he happens upon an Orb which bestows incredible power upon him, setting the stage for Archie’s revenge upon all those who’ve made his life a misery for so long. But who’s really in charge? Is it Archie, or is it the Orb? And if it is the Orb, can it be stopped?

Forbeck’s book is pacy and written in a light, engaging style. Though aimed at younger readers, there’s enough here to keep older fans entertained too. Archie’s story isn’t as black and white as you may expect, nor are the Minecraft world’s heroes or ‘good’ villagers as benevolent or noble as you’d anticipate. Though Archie’s journey does initially feel like it’s full of coincidences and happenstance, this is dealt with and explained satisfactorily – if briefly. The climax seems to arrive far too soon, however – and a promised showdown does somewhat fizzle, with the Epilogue taking us to the start of the game, rather than teasing an ongoing saga for the book’s characters. It’s far from essential to enjoy the game – nor is it necessary to even play the game itself to enjoy the book – but it’s quite a fun diversion while it lasts. It’s certainly made me want to do some more Minecraft Dungeons-delving.

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