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Morgan Mackenzie had a very bad day. First at work, then at home, and then her bathtub fell through a portal to another world, with her in it. Now she's stuck thousands of miles from any sort of civilization with nothing but the bathtub and a lace puffball scrubby. But she learned magic, so that's sorta nice. Now if only she could find some clothes...
Cover art by SourMonkey and Tox
DISCLAIMER: This story has multiple characters and different points of view. Morgan is the main protagonist but she does not move through an empty world. This is a bigger story than just one main character fighting the monster of the week.
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This is a hard one, because every category has things it does really well and others where it fails and ruins the good parts. It's a classic case of "winning the battles, yet losing the war", because chapter by chapter the story is good. What it does, it does well but the real issue is what it doesn't do: Stitching those chapters together into a coherent whole.
But let's start with the good things:
The grammar is very good with only few minor hickups and formatting issues, but nothing big. Def. much better than most stories here!
In terms of story, style and characters Skyclad starts strong with many creative twists and promises of something bigger. We get to see Morgans first steps in her new situation after her comically absurd entrance. The narration (3rd person limited) sticks pretty close to her and manages to convey her internal monologue well. In addition we get glimpses of the larger world and how the pieces start moving outside her neck of the wood. So far, so good.
The story starts devolving around chapter 20 with the mini-timeskip. More and more characters get introduced here and the story begins to collapse under it's own weight. No, I am not compaining about interludes. I like interludes and worldbuilding in general, the issue is how that affects this story!
From here on, things get rushed and disjointed. Important scenes glossed over or skipped entirely. Time spent on buildup gets wasted because the payoff and conclusion is dropped off-screen. We no longer see growth, just a brief showcasing of the results and the internal monologue (esp. of Morgan) disappears almost entirely or is left for insignificant scenes but not where it matters.
The presence of many PoVs/Interludes only amplify that underlying problem. They are not the problem story-wise, allthough they might be the issue in terms of writing skill. Juggling too many plates will result only in shards for most people, even though it isnt impossible to pull off.
Examples of such problems below (beware spoilers!):
- Blueballing of key moments: Morgan finally meeting people was highly anticiapted by both her and the readers. It got dragged out quite a bit and then she finally rides in on a wave of rock to save the day, gets to meet the Expedition and... cut. The whole "finally meeting people" thing gets summarized in one sentence by a 3rd character. Anxiety/awkwardness at explaining her nudism? Nope. Realization on the Worldwalker situation and how everyone knows about it? Nope. The conversation with Dana? Nope. Excitement? Anything? Nope! There is an entire chapter missing! (pref. before the Lululude "Hello!") where stuff happens that everyone is waiting for and that defines so much moving forwards. Nothing, except one sentence "oh btw that happened but you dont get to see it".
- Post-dungeon timeskip timeline mess: Chapters jumble from Oracle (spoils dungeon conclusion), Morgana (Dungeon conclusion with Deus Ex Machina), General (now, but before Oracle so her chap spoilers the conclusion here too), The Broken (3months future), Zizzy (now), Morgana (now->3month transition with many open questions), Harlot (unknown time) to a few chapters later back to Oracle (shortly after Dungeon) and Zizzy (unknown timeframe... in between somewhere). All of that spread out over 10 chapters with never more than 2 in a row.
- Skipping conclusions: Many examples... we rarely get left off without an idea how it ended, but we rarely get to actually see the aftermath. Dungeon? Deus Ex Machina save by FIRE! Then fastforward weeks of incoherency. Zizzy? Defiler dead, Storm broken, Zizzy maybe(?) dead. What was the "important groundwork" again? Nice worldbuilding but no payout. Oracle? Meets the Fortress and collapses after a True Vision. We never get to see them actually meet or interact. We only get told that he is the champion as he's guarding her later.
- Results without buildup (reverse of above): Why did morgan suddenly want to settle down again instead of searching for civilisation? We dont know. She just chose that valley we never got to see her discover and explore. Why there? We dont know until we get slapped with it much later when her big spire is already done which we never knew she even prepared for until she fired it. No reasoning, no smooth curve of growth, no explanations for her decisions, nothing. But we get a detailed thought process on honey. Yay?
- Total cheesy leftfielding: BTW, the super OP Crystal Titan is you daddy we didnt even know went missing. What a coincidence! Hey, Dana can pull shit out of her behind after mere 3 months of tinkering. Even the Starfleet (Star Trek) would be jealous! Oh, and there is a big leyline Im tapping into for infinite power, which was my plan all along but I never bothered to tell you! Instead I just appeared to do random stuff on a whim. Err... "Instinct" that never guides me wrong because... Deus Ex Machina.
TL;DR: The story is well written on the small scale and brimming with potential and fun ideas. Unfortunately it falls flat on the large scale leaving the reader blueballed and deeply frustrated on many occasions. The awkward pacing and bad prioritization on what to go into in detail and what to gloss over with a quick recap doesnt help either.
It bounces too often between things done really well and things done horribly wrong to give it more than an average mark. A pity - it could've been more.
I still enjoy the story but it feels diluted by too many side plots and characters. By the time the author gets back around to the main character, I've forgotten what was going on with her story.
It seems like many of the characters should be given their own stories in a shared universe. Those characters are interesting and I would enjoy reading more about them. I just want to read about the MC of this story more.
UPDATE: As of the most recent update (Ch. 15), 4 of 17 installments include the main character. The rest is about side characters.
Ok, so I still like the story, I like Morgan and the loofahs, heck I even like a lot of the side characters, they're interesting. The problem is, there's too many of them. And unlike other novels who usually spend like 1 or 2 chapters to them, with this story it's the opposite, with Morgan having 1 chapter in between 2-3 of side characters.
And if the story was releases every other day, or heck, every other week, it's fine. But we have to wait for months for what will essentially be an interlude. We came for Morgan, and we want to see more shenanigans from her. World building is good and all, but not like this, not like this.
As a rule, I don't really mind when stories focus on a character rather than the story. The story sometimes develops from the character, and that's okay. I also don't mind when the story is pursued, with a few - or many - characters giving different viewpoints.
With that said, this fiction tries to do both, in the worst way possible. We are introduced to character after character, each with an entirely unrelated story that don't interlink particularly well. The chapters are all well written, and each character could be a Main Character in their own story - but rather than focusing on a series of events and adding depth to those events by allowing the reader to see it from multiple angles, we just see snippets of each character doing their own thing with no particular common thread other than the fact that they are all from Earth.
Overall, this reads like a number of different books within the same canon in a trenchcoat pretending to be a single book. World building is fine, but it reaches a point where the world is built and a single character or story needs to be focused on, otherwise all you really have is a nice setting for a D&D campaign.
Edit as of Chapter 40:
I've had to drop my rating of the story in a number of categories.
Morgan was the high point of this story, but when we returned to her most recently she felt more like a plot device than a character in the sense that the author needed certain things to happen and just had Morgan be there to do them.
Additionally, the character POV switches continued to be a serious problem for the story's pacing. I normally love a good multi-POV story or well-integrated interludes, but here all of the POVs we visit either feel irrelevant or like plot devices.
The problem is that the author seems to be in a huge hurry to get started with a main plotline and has sacrificed the quality of the individual plot threads to get there faster.
I still have hope for the story, but its definitely faltered after a strong start.
Skyclad is a portal fantasy with the fun twist that the MC's magic needs her to not wear clothes. Its been really enjoyable so far and I can't wait to see how it develops.
The grammar is good, the characters are well-developed so far, and the story is very interesting.
My only misgiving is regarding the style, and the way the story shifts to other POVs for multiple chapters at a time. While those POVs are interesting, Morgan (the MC) 's story has been by far the best part of the story, so I hope that the focus stays on her as the story goes forward. I recognize that the author has stated that the story has multiple POVs in their disclaimer, but its still a bit jarring to get shunted from the compelling story of the MC to new side characters that I don't really about.
There are too many characters.
I legitimately can't remember if some characters are from this book or others, there's a succubus who I'm 90% sure is from this one, but there's also an oracle, but I'm pretty sure that's from somewhere else. Now this isn't a "World Keeper" esque problem where the characters are forgettable because they have as much spice as a sandwich on white where the only filling is more bread. No this story just has far too many characters. There have been at LEAST 5 perspectives that we've switched to more than once, and, for the most part, they're all off on their own doing their own thing, and the narritives don't meet up well except in 2 cases. The only 2 cases where they actually meet up are when the naked girl meets discount iron man with added war crimes, and when the mute girl and the general. Other than this the individual stories have no effect on each other. Big fuckoff storm coming? Who gives a fuck! Oracle dead maybe? That hasn't been brought up in at least ten chapters! Every chapter is masterfully written, and the author seems to genuinely enjoy the story, but it's gotten so ADHD that even someone with ADHD is struggling to keep up.
Frequent momentum breaks from characters that never have time to take on a personality of their own left me inscensed and wanting to skip through everything to get back to the main character. The inturleds and perspective changes are good and expand on the world as a whole. Author claims its a book with multiple chacters, which im all for, but it would great to see them focus on a main cast of characters instead of introducing many and depriving other characters time to really develop.
I really like the concept; the hook, if you will, but the novel collapses under the weight of its own ambition. Every paragraph is thick with descriptive bloat. This is bearable up until the cast of characters begins to expand as well. The more characters a novel adds, the higher the difficulty curve is to engage the reader. Here, there are simply too many and the author's skill level doesn't match their ambition.
The premise of the story is interesting, and brings a little of fresh air to royal road's sword and magic genre. Chapters are well written, great grammar and flow between paragraphs. However, the overall novel is heavily unbalanced with the current premise of Morgan as the main character. Yes, I am talking about the lack of chapters focused in who is considered the MC. This has already been shown by other readers and also you have said it in your author comments. I am against the current delivery of the story and its overall flow. At this moment, world building has been completely stripped from Morgan’s point of view, understandable due to the protagonist situation, but has led to consider Morgan as nothing more than a flat character more interested in watching the world burn than growing as the main protagonist. This dissonance between perspectives and lack of grow from Morgan's side is heavily impacting the flow of the novel. I understand that you want to create an epic narrative following the same recipe given by George R. R. Martin, however, the narrative is heavily disconnected. I am not against multiple POV novels, but from what I have read (up to chapter 25) there is no real connection between all POV. The quick and large number of used POV has thinned out the backbone of the story rather than helping in creating a solid foundation. I would advise to reconsider the current delivery. Remember that most books making use of multiple POVs always stay with a character during multiple chapters instead of tumbling between them just to explain things that will be necessary in the future. Plot has to be built slowly rather than trying to blurt it in one go, this makes impossible for the reader to empathise with the characters, making the reading more like a chore rather than an enjoyable experience. As such, I found the little purr ball more relatable than most of the characters presented (all hail Scrubby). I will probably leave the novel, for the third time, and come back in a few months when I have nothing else to read as I am a little oversaturated of this kind of narrative. Do not feel down as this story has real potential, but think about what you want to deliver and how it affects the readers.
The world feels artificial, as if it is just there to facilitate the plot rather than a living place that the story occurs in. To move the plot forward the story relies very heavily on random encounters, prophecy, and stupid choices that conveniently work out. Every new chapter is rife with "okay, I guess that's a thing that can happen?"s and "did anything the character do really matter?"s.
The characters feel more real but every decision they make is presented as being inevitable or unavoidable. The lack of agency tends to erode the reader's investment.