Book Review: “Dragon Ops” by Mari Mancusi

Cover of "Dragon Ops" by Mari Mancusi.
Cover of “Dragon Ops” by Mari Mancusi.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Dragon Ops” by Mari Mancusi! I actually read one of her past books years and years ago called “Gamer Girl,” long before I started this author website. After discovering recently that she wrote more books since then, I was curious about “Dragon Ops” and decided to read and review it! Here’s a quick summary so you know what it’s about:

“Welcome to DRAGON OPS, the world’s first augmented-reality video-game theme park. Set on a once-deserted island, our three beta players-classic gamer geek Ian; his adventure-seeking sister, Lily; and their too-cool-for-gaming cousin, Derek-have been lucky enough to score an invite to play before the fully immersive experience opens to the public.

But once inside, they find themselves trapped in a game taken over by a rogue AI dragon called Atreus, and suddenly the stakes go beyond the virtual world. With no cheat codes, guidebooks, save points, or do-overs, they’ll need all their cunning and video-game hacks to beat the game? and survive in real life.”

Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The overall story made sense and I enjoyed it for the most part. I enjoyed the idea of the main characters following quests, figuring out how to navigate the world of the park around them, and trying to do what they could to save the day without potentially dying in the process.

However, there were some awkward attempts at humour scattered throughout the book. Most of them were just fine, at best. However, the poop-related humour felt shoved in because it was supposed to be a book for a middle-grade audience. It didn’t flow with the rest of the story and I think it would’ve been better without them (or, at least, less of those jokes). I get that it’s a part of kidlit, especially early reader or younger demographics. However, this book relied too much on these jokes and should have gotten rid of them (or at least not as many as this book had).

Character Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Derek served no purpose in the book but to be the annoying cousin and a dude in distress with no other development. The rest of the characters (Ian, Ikumi, and Lilli) were fun to read. I enjoyed reading Ian and Lilli’s sibling bond with each other. Both of them had their clashes in the beginning, but banded together to save the day and do what needed to be done when the pressure was put on them. I also enjoyed learning why Lilli developed a resentment for technology and games, which was revealed later in the story.

I also enjoyed learning more about Ikumi and her background. It’s a pretty tragic backstory that I won’t spoil details of here. Overall, she was an interesting character that needed a little more time to flesh out her backstory, but what was given made sense and worked with her well.

Worldbuilding Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have to give the book kudos for properly explaining the differences between virtual reality and mixed reality. Given that these are newer, still-developing technologies that a lot of people have yet to grasp, I think the explanations were needed. I also enjoyed the aspect of having an entire augmented reality amusement park as well.

The fantasy land depicted in the park was also fun to read about as well. There were aspects I wish they went more in-depth with, outside of the territories and lore surrounding the main bosses of the game/park. However, it makes sense that the worldbuilding focused more on that than anything else. It was the most relevant part of the worldbuilding to the main story. I still wish there was a bit more worldbuilding about why Atreus in particular is evil, and how he became so evil to begin with. Additionally, I want to learn more about the rival organization to the one that made the amusement park.

Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!

This was a fun read. Though it may be lacking in worldbuilding and have too much potty humour for some readers, I would still recommend reading it if you want to read about a virtual reality amusement park and the amusing shenanigans of being stuck in one.

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