Worth the Candle

by Alexander Wales

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity
  • Sexual Content
  • Traumatising content

A teenager struggling after the death of his best friend finds himself in a fantasy world - one which seems to be an amalgamation of every Dungeons and Dragons campaign they ever played together. Now he's stuck trying to find the answers to why he's there and what this world is trying to say. The most terrifying answer might be that this world is an expression of the person he was back on Earth.

Note that this work follows a slightly different update schedule than most, posting several chapters at once every month or two in big batches, which helps me maintain quality and not burn out trying to push out words about as fast as I can.

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Alexander Wales

Alexander Wales

Top List #50
2nd Anniversary
Word Count (18)
Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
Taking the Fall ago
Thickenings ago
Solely Responsible ago
Reaver ago
Goraion ago
Cold Comfort ago
Twenty Questions ago
Diamond and Iron ago
Making Magic ago
Sewer Rat ago
A Winding Course ago
Life of the Party ago
Time Out ago
ELEVATOR facts ago
Whys and Wherefores ago
Kindly Bones ago
Voting Blocs ago
Communal ago
Montage! ago
Desert Course ago
Cliff Racer ago
Rolling Need ago
Siege ago
Like a Glove ago
Rocket Man ago
Superman ago
Fears ago
The Impish Inn ago
Greychapel ago
Plot Relevant ago
The Loyal Elf ago
Be Still My Heart ago
Tenth ago
Weik Handum ago
Friendship is Magic ago
In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet ago
Paths ago
Don't Split the Party ago
Strategic Reserves ago
The Feminine Mystique ago
Truth and Reconciliation ago
A Pleasant Interlude in Kansas ago
In Search of a Quest ago
Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats ago
Keep Magic Weird ago
The Market of Blood and Bone ago
At Arm's Length ago
Doe or Doe Not, There is no Try ago
Math.random() ago
Copse and Robbers ago
Blood in the Water ago
Culmination ago
A Tiptoe Through the Tulips ago
Looper ago
Bond Girl ago
Vacation Vocations ago
Place Your Figs ago
Panopticon ago
All the Myriad Ways ago
Aggressive Negotiations ago
Animus ago
Drift ago
The Chemical History of a Candle ago
In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again ago
A Kindred Soul ago
The Long Night ago
A Helping Hand ago
Seeing Red ago
In Mutual Congress ago
Moral Agency ago
The Soul of Discretion ago
Tripartite Talks ago
Amaryllis ago
The Mouth of a Long River ago
Stats for Nerds ago
Date Night ago
Lies and Damned Lies ago
The Sacrifice ago
Rule Zero ago
The Princess and the Pea ago
Musings on the Elder God ago
Aboard the Lion's Tail ago
The Familiar and the Foreign ago
The Party Line ago
The Great Train Robbery ago
Headwater ago
Down And Out ago
The House of Solitude ago
The Face of a Place ago
Head of House ago
An Open House ago
Shades ago
Bottle Episode ago
Grayscale ago
Time Enough ago
A Portrait of the King as a Young Man ago
Rapping at my Chamber Door ago
Letter 15 ago
Enough Rope to Hang Yourself ago
Immanentizing the Eschaton ago
The Adventures of Valencia the Red ago
Contract ago
Consolation ago
Notes ago
The One-Hand Warder ago
Name of the Beast ago
The Dream That Skewers ago
The Veil of the World ago
Bubblegum ago
Peer Pressure ago
Egress ago
A Hell of a Time ago
The Meeting of Minds ago
Communicative ago
Therapy ago
Beast of Burden ago
Breaking Loose ago
Depths ago
Deceptions ago
Maddie ago
Raven ago
Medieval Stasis ago
Fight Club ago
The Remnants of the Past ago
Ever Onward ago
Full House ago
An Open Book ago
Schemata ago
The Abject Despair of an Uncaring World ago
A Cypress Waits ago
Uskine Nervedah ago
The Critical Path ago
Safe Mode ago
Holding ago
Krinrael ago
Darili Irid ago
Stats for Nerds II ago
Piece of Mind ago
Commingling ago
Monty Haul ago
Sound and Silence ago
Manifold Paths ago
Skewered ago
Freshman ago
Terrors of the Black Age ago
Good Vibrations ago
Sing For Your Supper ago
I Have to Hand it to You ago
Than One Innocent Suffer ago
The Mind's Eye ago
The Time to Talk ago
The Temple ago
Above From Below ago
Mome Rath ago
Mome Rath II ago
The Bird on the Fence ago
OP ago
The Dome Away From Home ago
On the Merits of Oblivion ago
Reimer ago
Deus Ex ago
Level Heads ago
House of God ago
Politics, blah, blah, blah ago
Brownian Motion ago
Beached ago
Hollow ago
The No Sleep Club ago
On Treating With Dragons ago
Blood is Thicker Than Water ago
Respec ago
Passions ago
The Blade of the Self ago
High Concept ago
Warrens ago
The Erstwhile Manor ago
The White Room ago
Hilbert's Paradox ago
Dumbest Entad ago
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ago
Painless ago
Transgressions ago
The Further Adventures of Valencia the Red ago
Mirror Room ago
Paladin ago
Penndraig's Rules of Order ago
Common Law ago
B-Side ago
To Know One's Onions ago
Overwhelming Violence ago
Cooldown ago
Coda I ago
Coda II ago
Family ago
Notes II ago
Second Degrees ago
Prurient Interest ago
Nearest and Dearest ago
Feeling Blue ago
The Aviary ago
Star Pupil ago
Where the Streets Run Red ago
Open Veins ago
A Bloody Mess ago
Parallel Lines ago
An Elevated Monologue ago
On the Merits of Eternal Suffering ago
Orison ago
Push and Pull ago
Gilding the Lily ago
Spilled Ink ago
The Endless Toil ago
Glass Houses ago
Post ago
Bureaucratic Melees ago
A Dragon's Roost ago
A Grueling Calm ago
Homecoming, Part I ago
Doecent ago
Targets of Opportunity ago
Clerical Errors ago
A Lost Friend ago
We're Here, We're Deer, Get Used to It ago
Runination ago
Fires of my Heart ago
Homecoming, Part II ago
The Fel Seed Incident ago
The Road ago
The Palace ago
Hellfall ago
Department ago
Tartarology ago
Heck if I Know ago
Interval ago
More Dakka ago

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Starts off strong, fades quickly.

I really liked this story for the first 40 chapters or so. Then things started grating on me.

  • The trope where his companions get random power ups in order to keep relevant.
  • The increasing levels of obsession with trying to game the system and the endless discussions about narratives. (far too meta and immersion breaking)
  • The MC becomes increasingly sociopathic in trying to manipulate higher levels of loyalty from his companions.
  • Mary kept keeping things from the group for 'reasons'. 
  • The endless whining about his cheat level ability to gain aptitude in basically everything isn't fast enough or good enough.
  • The crowning moment of "nope nope nope I'm outskies" is when he meets God and whines about evil and suffering. It's not so much that I mind objecting to suffering per se, since I'm whining about my suffering from reading this story. It's the hypocritical nature of it. He wishes to erase suffering from the world and clone his ex girlfriend while keeping his current one, while also complaining about his budding harem. I'm sorry but if you don't want to hook up with someone, all you have to do is say sorry not interested and move on with your life. Then there's the preoccupation with everything being a Clue or that his piloting skills should come into play and I just find myself thinking. "I don't actually care about any of these characters, I don't care where they end up, so I should just stop reading and put myself out of my misery. "

Spoiler alert, this story is apparently going to be at least 160 chapters and a million words. 

In short, this is one of the best written, near perfectly edited stories with characters that will constantly talk about the nature of reality and narratives and will bicker endlessly. As of ch 79, I don't think the story or characters have progressed that far. 


Monumental, impressive, VERY long, RationalFantasy

Reviewed at: Targets of Opportunity

Currently at the end of the published story, chapter 221, Targets of Opportunity.

I had read Alexander Wales' stories before. None of this caliber. As he's very obviously in the "capital R" Rationality circle, I think he'll understand when I say: I would be honored to meet the man who is able to contain at the same time (apart from many others) the likes of Bethel, Amarillis and Juniper. Never after HPMOR had I found such protagonists, so full of life, reflection, sensitivity and sheer intellectual power, while still being human in the fullest possible sense of the world. And that's just on the character front, which I understand to be the lowest part (I give 4,5 stars for it), mostly because of LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters making FourLinesAllWaiting (I really missed some characters that are absent for long). Sorry I can't make the TvTropes link work, but you know where to search.

On the story front, I again have never encountered such a detailed worldbuilding. Mentioning Tolkien is mandatory here, but just to say Tolkien is diminished. I could only say, Alexander Wales spends time on staging / worldbuilding in the way that JRR Tolkien spends on fictional languages. But loose threads are few and far between. It's narratvely very satisfactory for arcs to have a beginning and an end, and as much as the author plays with expectations and post-everything, he sticks to the adequate formulas at the adequate times. Meaning, he's just a very, very good writer and narrator, on the level of Scott Alexander. I've spend quite a few sleepless nights reading obsessively this fiction, not being able to unglue myself from the screen. And now that I'm "finished", I just crave for more.

I'm not sure what RoyalRoad means with "Style", but supposing it means "ellegant, decorative", what can I say? It's both the best riff I've ever read on fantasy themes and narratives (and drinking from the most sources, probably), and the best written. A real-world editor wouldn't have let anyone except an acclaimed writer (say, George R.R. Martin) to run this long. But the fiction needs it, and Wales does it better than Martin.

On grammar and language, because this is an advanced review, I can only say: I'm spanish/english bilingual, with deep culture. I don't need a dictionary to read most general or technical works, just very specific old terms when reading Shakespeare, let's say. Alexander Wales forces me to check a word about every few chapters, which is frankly ridiculous for me. Best of class, much better than both standard curated bestsellers AND academic works.


I've been following this for a while. It's nice to see it on another platform where it can get more exposure.

This is a pretty neat story. If you are a fan of DnD and other such dice-rolling adventure games that require a game master, you will probably really enjoy this. 

I think by far what keeps me reading this story is the characters. These are some of the most authentically crafted characters I have read in a fantasy story. This genre usually is more known for plot and worldbuilding than it is for nuanced characters. Not so with this story! I would argue that the characters are the real shining stars of this story.

The world building is good, don't misunderstand me. It can become a bit cluttered at times due to how complex the world is set up to be, but that is ok because it is merely the stage and props with which the characters bring the story to life. 

Continuity is good. Logical coherence is also good, and of critical importance considering the premise of the story, so kudos to the author on that.

This story has authentically portrayed romance with a twist that I will not spoil for you.

There is abundant action and adventure into new and interesting lands. There are a seemingly limitless number of species. So if you only want the classic human, elf, dwarf trio with maybe an allowance for a few others, this is not for you. All the races in this story are original to the author except for humans. So I hope that interests you. There are creatures inspired by those in other fictions, but none copied directly that I have found so far. 

Also, I know some really hate stories with a "person pulling strings behind the curtain" character that guides the journey of the MC, and this story does have that, BUT it does it in a way that I personally think adds to the story and is very directly and consistently addressed by the main characters such that it is a valuable plot point as well as a character development tool. 

I don't want to give too much away. It's a good story. I say give it a shot.

It does deal with some heavy and unsavory topics like canibalism, suicide, etc. So be ready for a not so light-hearted read. I personally do not reccomend for those under the age of 10.

You can find this story on https://archiveofourown.org/works/11478249/chapters/25740126


A unique take on LitRPG

I've read a lot of LitRPGs, and Worth The Candle is the best of them.


The first chapters of Worth the Candle will be very familiar to most readers on this site, and seem very similar to other stories. The main character, Juniper, has a special ability that makes him grow stronger faster than everyone else.  There are standard blue menu boxes and skill pop-ups all over the place.

However, if you continue to read the story, the levels, skills and quests eventually take a backseat to excellent worldbuilding and lots of character development. 

Juniper travels to many different locations in Aerb throughout the story, and the author makes every city feel like a place where people actually live. There are explanations about how the local government works and descriptions about the most important parts of their economy. The side characters have distinct personalities, interesting backstories and motivations that exist independently of Juniper.

 If you are a fan of LitRPG, this story has everything that you enjoy in the genre. There are level ups, detailed and creative magic systems and awesome magical items. If you aren't a fan of LitRPG, I would still recommend you give Worth The Candle a shot. A complex plot, immersive worldbuilding and multifaceted characters are waiting for you if you do.


Phenomenally innovative and moving

As another immigrant from AO3, I've read all nine hundred thousand and change words of Worth the Candle that have yet to be released here, and there's one thing I feel comfortable spoiling: it's fucking great.

The worldbuilding is meticulous and expansive, reconciling a wide range of ideas into a coherent, interconnected whole. Part of the premise is that the setting is built from many worlds invented by the protagonist, and the depth of thought shows. There are throwaway lines that could serve as seeds for stories in their own right, dozens of species, and more forms of magic than you can shake a stick at. 

Worth the Candle is technically an isekai, but Juniper's relationship with the world he now inhabits is a crucial part of the story. Some parts are played straight, others subverted, but it's a more serious exploration of the genre than anything elsewhere. The characters themselves are all as compelling as they are flawed, and to paraphrase one of them, it's beautiful to watch the cast struggle against and overcome their weaknesses. 

Honestly, I wish I could forget everything and dive back in to experience the whole thing all over again, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay to fiction in any medium. That's unfortunately impossible, but fresh readers can and should savor this story.


Great but for one flaw

Reviewed at: A Kindred Soul

So one of the best stories I have read in a long time.  My one complaint and reason I stopped reading for a while is they sometimes get stuck discussing what ifs and theory to the Nth degree.  I'm all for it but it just got to be too much for me.


I like it, it start off kinda slow, with flashback in between chapters. But it still interesting to read. So, no problem there. 

One of the thing that I found interesting is author gave little clue here and there which if you didn't really think about it, it would feel not that important. But will be proven wrong when the pieces start to come together and you can see it have significance for the later part of the story. So there's that.


The MC is not too powerfull even tho he have this game interface to help him get stronger that no one else have.


I don't really know what to say anymore, all is great and I'm having a good time, the style is really interesting, I guess you could say it's a new take on fantasy genre. 


Other than that.. it's on the later part of the story that I have complain about. Well, not really, but you just have to hear me out, i guess?¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So, after the story progess more, there so many Drama.. 

But that's the thing with people, right? People are complicated, or is it feeling that are complicated? Nvm

Even tho I didn't really like it that much with so many drama going around at later chapters. At least it feels more realistic this way, and that's probably rare in this website.

So. Props for author for the great story!

I so much enjoyed my experience reading it.




exploring a massive world with a lot of different locations. But you're not skipping through each one as though you can forget them. Each part of the stpry is important and might come back in the future.


its been a long time since i've read a story with characters that seemed this 'real'. Not just exploring their feelings, but the why's and motivations behind those feelings. 
Thank you


Love the Story, Love and Hate the Author

I started reading this on AO3 shortly after the one with the Actual Cannibal, and the ultimate aftermath, which was the one part of this i really hated, but mostly because i was attached to a certain character.

I thought then, and i still do, that it was a misstep, fridge-stuffing someone for the sake of just developing MC. It rather undercut the sudden waking call he received just one chapter earlier, for the sake of culling a character who's outlived their purpose in relation(s?) to MC, and we haven't really been given time to process that, not counting the wait between chapters. Did the author just hate that character? It felt like they did, making MC repeat how he could not undo what happened, felt like they grew tired of writing for that character. I'm still hoping that event does get somewhat undone, regardless, albeit with consequences, perhaps by the hand of an other party just to show MC/s that the world doesn't revolve around his/their Narrative, at least not completely.

But that's just my opinion. I'm not writing this, La Mort de le jepsen or no.

The story is good though, very well crafted, from the characters to the worldbuilding, magic systems, game system, everything was well thought out and original in a way that literally no other work on royalroad can ever equal.

Especially not those particularly popular and prolific authors with questionable grasp of the language and really narrow vocabularies, who've been uploading near daily for half a decade, and who wrote more than half of all the top rated fictions, you know the ones. Full offense intended, I don't care, cos cthuluraejepsen is just that good and I love this story at least as much as i personally hate its author for hurting me with his writing. Which is a compliment of sorts.

This is a story where even the fucking GAME SYSTEM is original, and the way it's handled is just--ugh. And the character work . . .  there are plenty of character defining moments and introspection on the part of most characters that I actually like to read, rather than just skip past due to the inanities of most inexperienced writers.

I can write more but I just realized I won't have the time to do this story justice. Ah well. I'm no Jun, Arthur, or Tiff so . . .

Anyway, story is good, its got substance and meat and I respect the author even though I hate him.

My profile pic is me flipping him the bird.


Definitely one of the best stories out there

 Really glad to see this on RR, read it on Archive of our own ages ago, definitely going to be re-reading it, some people wont like it, but I highly reccomend at least giving it a shot, in my own oppinion its one of the best storie out there.