Ella must enter the Demi-Monde — a virtual world, designed for training troops, in which sentient Dupes (including clones of the world’s most ruthless tyrants) are locked in a continuous civil war — in order to rescue the president’s daughter, who has become trapped inside.“Do you really imagine I will be content to be condemned to live my life — my second life — in a world that is little better than a digital sandbox built for the education of military incompetents and the amusement of armchair generals?”I have to give the author credit where credit is due: he has managed to create a truly complex, terrifying, virtual world that combines elements of fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, historical fiction, historical non-fiction, and political thriller. The premise of shoving history’s most volatile leaders into a computer game together is kind of brilliant, and the premise of an everyday girl thrown into the mess in order to save a hostage was what kept me reading on. I thought it was neat that the Dupes in the Demi-Monde were essentially in some sort of Matrix-like world where they functioned in their daily lives without ever realizing that they were in a program. Some of the action was really intense, and the complexity of the plot and the world was obviously very well thought-out, an epic feat.However, yikes.This is one of those books — and, I imagine, one of those series — that you really have to commit to. For the first fifty pages, I was entirely lost in a haze of awkwardly-capitalized terms and acronyms (Suffer-O-Gettes, nuJus, ForthRight, UnFunDaMentalism, Daemons, ABBA, SS, HerEtical, zadniks — and that was just the Prologue). By page 100 (of 427), I had finally figured out what was going on, but the going was still slow as I sifted through the complicated mix of made-up, partly made-up, and historically-based religions, political parties, locations, and people.Also, I get that the point of the Demi-Monde is to create a place that’s constantly in combat because of differences in philosophies, race, gender, and religion, but the ways in which things were presented in the Demi-Monde were to such an extreme degree that I kept feeling like I should be offended.Ella, the heroine, is a black jazz singer who is constantly being insulted because of her race, which fits with the racism of the Demi-Monde, but the author seems to perpetuate stereotypes by having her also be hyper-sexual, using her ‘feminine charms’ to get her way and having all of the men in the story completely lose all self-control whenever she shows some leg or talks suggestively. It bothered me that as the heroine, her sexuality seemed to be her only ‘weapon.’ Later on in the story, she uses in IM manual to save the nuJus through an exodus, who then give her the title Lady IMmanuel, the Messiah. The obviously Judeo-Christian references didn’t sit well with me; they seemed to be a mockery of real-world beliefs, rather than a simple allegory.Also, cliffhanger endings in first books of a series rarely ever sit well with me.Overall: An intense, complex book for readers who want to get lost in another world of politics and history. And vampires.