Solo Leveling, Vol. 1 (novel)

Narrated by Ki Hong Lee
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Pub Date 13 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 26 Jul 2021

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E-rank hunter Jinwoo Sung has no money, no talent, and no prospects to speak of—and apparently, no luck, either! When he enters a hidden double dungeon one fateful day, he’s abandoned by his party and left to die at the hands of some of the most horrific monsters he’s ever encountered.
But just before the last, fatal blow…
PING! [Congratulations on becoming a Player.]

E-rank hunter Jinwoo Sung has no money, no talent, and no prospects to speak of—and apparently, no luck, either! When he enters a hidden double dungeon one fateful...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format, Unabridged
ISBN 9781975325886
PRICE $25.98 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (AUDIO)

Average rating from 16 members

Featured Reviews

A wonderfully unique take on the world of gaming, made even more accessible thru a well narrated Audiobook! Imagine you woke up one day to gates of monsters, goblins and magic!! Imagine if you became an elite hunter!! Imagine if you were able to level up your real-time skills like in a video game!!! Welcome to Solo Leveling.

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I absolutely love this story. I can’t wait to listen to more. The narrator is a fantastic fit. As a gamer, the idea of secretly leveling up is fantastic. The story is engaging, and action packed. There is a hint at potential romance, but so far, the boy is clueless which is good. Not every book should have romance. I like the idea of real life hunters closing gates by killing bosses. One can make a profession out of hunting. They are respected as well. I just really love the story and the characters.

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There needed to be more world-building, since I kind of jumped into the world that seemed like ours but with hunters and gates that were not explained. A fun writing style used to explore interesting ideas that made this an enjoyable read, I will be looking for book 2.

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The audio on this book is fantastic. Actor Ki Hong Lee does a great job with the audio. I like that the inflections and cadences feel Korean. It fits well with the book and I'm glad that the company chose a Korean narrator. The story itself is great. I am desperate to get my eyes or ears on volume 2. I enjoy the characters and way their story is being told. The whole time I was listening to it, I was imaging what a great Kdrama this story would make. The story has similar gory fantasy vibes to the drama Sweet Home, which was also adapted from a web story.

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A quick disclaimer: While I haven’t read the Solo Leveling webnovel or manhwa, I’m a long time reader of fan-translated Asian LitRPG/Isekai/SFF webnovels. I’m familiar with the tropes and the general pitfalls of these kinds of webnovels a reader new to this genre may not have. This review will be written from that perspective. As an aside, as a long-time reader, reading an officially translated audiobook version was a very weird experience. Not bad, per se, but like the feeling of two very different, separate worlds intersecting in a way that makes you think, huh. that shouldn’t happen. I’ve seen the cover of the Solo Leveling manhwa for years, though I’ve never picked it up. Seeing the audiobook up on NetGalley really was the final push to pique my curiosity and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Sung Jinwoo is the world’s weakest hunter and man with a frequent flyers card to the ER room, but makes up for his weakness with clever thinking and a sheer willpower to not get murdered by interdimensional monsters in a pseudo-videogame. Naturally, after he’s given the power to “level up”, quite literally, his hunting abilities, it’s quick work for Jinwoo to drastically get stronger a la video game stat points (STR, WIS, AGI, etc). Solo Leveling takes place in an alt-universe modern-day South Korea, where magical portals leading to “dungeons” filled with malicious monsters that threaten humanity. Simultaneously, certain humans have been awakened as Hunters, people with the magical abilities to kill these monsters. Hunters come in various classes, and of various power levels that cannot be changed (cue entrance of our protag). Built around this are various international Guilds and government-funded Hunter Associations to handle these portals. All in all, think the classic RPG video game elements and you’ll have a pretty solid idea of the worldbuilding. Book 1 of Solo Leveling focuses primarily on Sung Jinwoo’s development – how he got these leveling skills and his initial explorations to figure out what the hell is going on. Naturally, there’s a lot of focus on the System (aka the RPG UI interface) he interacts with as he learns. We don’t go too heavy on the guilds or really into other supporting characters, which might read strangely to Western readers unfamiliar with webnovels, but keep in mind the full story has 240+ chapters and we’re only getting the first 12 or so! Having read neither the fan translation nor the original Korean, I unfortunately cannot comment on the quality of the translation. The most I can say is that thankfully, the character’s names are still formatted <Last name><First name> and not localized (a personal massive pet peeve). The narrator, Ki Hong Lee, is Korean-American so there’s also no worry about having to suffer through badly pronounced Korean. Perhaps my only complaints with the audiobook edition are that there Chugong really really likes their onomatopoeias. There’s a lot of “shkk” and “grrrr” and ‘skrrr” and the ever present “Ding!”, that all get read aloud. Which, when narrated, I surprisingly found annoying. The other part is that every time Jinwoo opens up his stats page or levels up a stat, the entire stats page gets read to you. Which happens about once a chapter. In-text, I think most readers would simply skim over this kind of information, but over audio… Man, I really don’t need to hear what this guy’s INT stat is every single time (SINCE HE DOESN’T CHANGE IT). Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. This first volume is pretty standard material for an Asian LitRPG webnovel, but it’s laid the groundwork for some potentially really awesome stuff to come. The audiobook was an odd but enjoyable experience I’ll definitely be checking out the manhwa while I wait for book 2.

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