Blog Tour (Book Review): Perception Check (The Mages of Velmyra Saga #1) – Astrid Knight


Today I am delighted to be joining the Escapists Tours blog tour for Perception Check by Astrid Knight. I was super excited to read this one as a keen D&D player (although usually the words ‘perception check’ are a cause for concern and rolling dice), and I had a lot of fun with this book and can’t wait to continue the series.

Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

Book Summary:

Her favorite tabletop roleplaying game is real, and her kidnapped childhood best friend is trapped in a far off land. Will she be able to save her? Let’s roll initiative!

Violet Spence wants nothing more than to have a normal life. After witnessing her childhood best friend get abducted by monsters, that’s easier said than done. At twenty-three years old, Violet cannot seem to move past that fateful night ten years ago. Her only solace is Mages of Velmyra, a tabletop roleplaying game filled with goblins, fairies, and all-powerful magicians. But of course, that’s all fantasy.

Or so she thought. As it turns out, the land of Velmyra is very real and the home of the monsters that took her best friend.

With the help of her friends (and the creator of the game itself), Violet must navigate the once-fictional creatures and powerful mages of Velmyra to retrieve a set of ancient relics—all in the hopes that the journey will lead her back to her friend. But for Violet, fighting monsters and magic workers doesn’t seem nearly as terrifying as confronting her own demons. And she’ll soon realize fighting the battle within herself can be just as tough as those fought against demigods.

Perception Check is the magical first installment of the Mages of Velmyra Saga, great for fans of Dungeons and Dragons, Critical Role, and The Magicians. With endearing and hilarious characters, an exploration of mental health and trauma, LGBTQ+ representation, gut-wrenching twists, and a whirlwind of an ending, you will never want to leave the world of Velmyra.

The Review:

Be still my nerdy heart…

“As obvious as a bunch of ren faire cosplayers on a city bus. And there’s no comic con excuse you guys can use.”

While you can see the TTRPG influence (particularly if you are a player yourself), it is only one element, and Perception Check does a fantastic job of using that element and turning it into a multi-faceted adventure and emotional journey – and that is why it works so well regardless of if you have that experience or not. The sheer heart of this story, the exploration of trauma, and dealing with your emotions even if it’s just letting yourself experience them, and the coming together of different personalities in a situation and world that applies varied (and unusual pressure) is captivating from start to finish, and it lets Perception Check hit home in spectacular fashion because for all the action and fantastical element, this is a an incredibly human and relatable story.

    As you might have guessed, this was very much a character driven story – and what characters! Knight has taken all those elements, that emotional depth, and created a cast of diverse, well-realised characters. Violet is a fantastic POV character to be our gateway to this story, and this is where we see the characterisation at its best and most layered, because there is no shying away from her past trauma, or the struggle she has with finding normal, and the flaws and cracks around that. But, at the same time, she is so much more than that. She’s such a driven character in her own way, and so amazingly relatable, that you find yourself rooting for her right from the beginning even before Knight has fully pulled us into the story.

   While Violet was the star of the show, the entire cast of characters has the same depth and emotional complexity, and Knight has a way of making you want to shout at some of them, even as you are drawn into their personalities and place in the world. It’s honestly hard to choose favourites, and even ones like Jackson who had me wanting to shake him at points are absolutely fantastic, because we get to see the different sides of these characters and find points to relate to. I adored Melandrich, but I think after Violet my favourite is probably Kai – even though he was also a character that took me a little while to warm to them.

   The relationships in this book are just as beautifully done as the individual characters themselves, and it was that wonderful blend of a party coming together and nerdy friends hanging out together (with a healthy dose of the messiness that is real life, really bringing it to life). Violet may be our POV and protagonist, but this is really an ensemble effort – and it works brilliantly.

    The worldbuilding was also brilliant, and for the most part sparing – in the sense that we had everything we needed, with the feeling that there was so much more to learn and uncover, which is one of my favourite feelings to get from worldbuilding. I also really enjoyed that we got to see both sides of this world, from their life on Earth, to the ins and outs (and food) of Velmyra – and I loved how you could see the influence of each world in the other, and I enjoyed the pop culture references and ended up snorting with laughter more than once (and appreciated that it felt very much like when you sit around the table or on discord and make real world comments and connections in a D&D game). As I said above though, Velmyra is very much its own world though, with lore and flavour, and magic and Knight does an excellent job of creating a thoroughly immersive experience in this world and leaving you wanting more!

    The plot pulls the book along nicely, and while there is action and peril, the pacing is steadier, and I felt that really encapsulated that this is an adventure – a journey on more than one level. Which you also feel in how information is revealed, and I liked that there were breadcrumbs and hints that you could follow, adding that wonderful feeling of mystery and exploration. There were a couple of places where the exposition felt a little clunkier, but for the most part it felt very organic as the characters learned more about the world so did the reader. The writing itself is accessible and flowed really well, and one aspect I really appreciated was the careful balance between humour (and this book made me laugh as much as it made me feel) and emotional drama, and action.

Perception Check is absolutely the book for you if you love D&D and fantasy. It’s also fantastic if you’ve ever spent a rainy afternoon (I live in Scotland…these are more common than sunny ones) trying to imagine what it would be like to be dropped into a different world and into an adventure – it’s probably not as glamourous as we’d hope, and I loved that aspect of this book. Excellent characterisation and a fascinating world, but what stood out for me about this book was its heart and that has stuck with me since finishing it. ALSO, THE ENDING! I can’t wait for the next instalment in this series and look forward to seeing where Knight takes these characters and this world in the future.

Astrid Knight is an author and storyteller with a love of fantasy and all things strange. A graduate of Adrian College, she has served as a contributing writer for anthologies such as In the Wake of the Kraken and Welcome to Simmins, Detective Spencer. They are also a co-founder and player on the RPG Twitch channel, Atlaran Adventuring Company. Perception Check is her first novel.

Social Media:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | Website | Goodreads

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | Walmart

Prize: An eBook or Paperback copy of Perception Check!
Starts: June 9, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: June 15, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

You can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s