Worth the Candle

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.

This work is complete. You can buy the first ebook or audiobook here.

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Alexander Wales

Alexander Wales

Top List #50
Royal Writathon October 2022 winner
Word Count (20)
30 Review Upvotes
3rd Anniversary
Royal Writathon October 2021 winner
Fledgling Reviewer (I)
Table of Contents
254 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Chapter 1 - Taking the Fall ago
Chapter 2 - Thickenings ago
Chapter 3 - Solely Responsible ago
Chapter 4 - Reaver ago
Chapter 5 - Goraion ago
Chapter 6 - Cold Comfort ago
Chapter 7 - Twenty Questions ago
Chapter 8 - Diamond and Iron ago
Chapter 9 - Making Magic ago
Chapter 10 - Sewer Rat ago
Chapter 11 - A Winding Course ago
Chapter 12 - Life of the Party ago
Chapter 13 - Time Out ago
Chapter 14 - ELEVATOR facts ago
Chapter 15 - Whys and Wherefores ago
Chapter 16 - Kindly Bones ago
Chapter 17 - Voting Blocs ago
Chapter 18 - Communal ago
Chapter 19 - Montage! ago
Chapter 20 - Desert Course ago
Chapter 21 - Cliff Racer ago
Chapter 22 - Rolling Need ago
Chapter 23 - Siege ago
Chapter 24 - Like a Glove ago
Chapter 25 - Rocket Man ago
Chapter 26 - Superman ago
Chapter 27 - Fears ago
Chapter 28 - The Impish Inn ago
Chapter 29 - Greychapel ago
Chapter 30 - Plot Relevant ago
Chapter 31 - The Loyal Elf ago
Chapter 32 - Be Still My Heart ago
Chapter 33 - Tenth ago
Chapter 34 - Weik Handum ago
Chapter 35 - Friendship is Magic ago
Chapter 36 - In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet ago
Chapter 37 - Paths ago
Chapter 38 - Don't Split the Party ago
Chapter 39 - Strategic Reserves ago
Chapter 40 - The Feminine Mystique ago
Chapter 41 - Truth and Reconciliation ago
Chapter 42 - A Pleasant Interlude in Kansas ago
Chapter 43 - In Search of a Quest ago
Chapter 44 - Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats ago
Chapter 45 - Keep Magic Weird ago
Chapter 46 - The Market of Blood and Bone ago
Chapter 47 - At Arm's Length ago
Chapter 48 - Doe or Doe Not, There is no Try ago
Chapter 49 - Math.random() ago
Chapter 50 - Copse and Robbers ago
Chapter 51 - Blood in the Water ago
Chapter 52 - Culmination ago
Chapter 53 - A Tiptoe Through the Tulips ago
Chapter 54 - Looper ago
Chapter 55 - Bond Girl ago
Chapter 56 - Vacation Vocations ago
Chapter 57 - Place Your Figs ago
Chapter 58 - Panopticon ago
Chapter 59 - All the Myriad Ways ago
Chapter 60 - Aggressive Negotiations ago
Chapter 61 - Animus ago
Chapter 62 - Drift ago
Chapter 63 - The Chemical History of a Candle ago
Chapter 64 - In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again ago
Chapter 65 - A Kindred Soul ago
Chapter 66 - The Long Night ago
Chapter 67 - A Helping Hand ago
Chapter 68 - Seeing Red ago
Chapter 69 - In Mutual Congress ago
Chapter 70 - Moral Agency ago
Chapter 71 - The Soul of Discretion ago
Chapter 72 - Tripartite Talks ago
Chapter 73 - Amaryllis ago
Chapter 74 - The Mouth of a Long River ago
Chapter 75 - Stats for Nerds ago
Chapter 76 - Date Night ago
Chapter 77 - Lies and Damned Lies ago
Chapter 78 - The Sacrifice ago
Chapter 79 - Rule Zero ago
Chapter 80 - The Princess and the Pea ago
Chapter 81 - Musings on the Elder God ago
Chapter 82 - Aboard the Lion's Tail ago
Chapter 83 - The Familiar and the Foreign ago
Chapter 84 - The Party Line ago
Chapter 85 - The Great Train Robbery ago
Chapter 86 - Headwater ago
Chapter 87 - Down And Out ago
Chapter 88 - The House of Solitude ago
Chapter 89 - The Face of a Place ago
Chapter 90 - Head of House ago
Chapter 91 - An Open House ago
Chapter 92 - Shades ago
Chapter 93 - Bottle Episode ago
Chapter 94 - Grayscale ago
Chapter 95 - Time Enough ago
Chapter 96 - A Portrait of the King as a Young Man ago
Chapter 97 - Rapping at my Chamber Door ago
Chapter 98 - Letter 15 ago
Chapter 99 - Enough Rope to Hang Yourself ago
Chapter 100 - Immanentizing the Eschaton ago
Chapter 101 - PPROM ago
Chapter 102 - The Adventures of Valencia the Red ago
Chapter 103 - Contract ago
Chapter 104 - Consolation ago
Chapter 105 - Notes ago
Chapter 106 - The One-Hand Warder ago
Chapter 107 - Name of the Beast ago
Chapter 108 - The Dream That Skewers ago
Chapter 109 - The Veil of the World ago
Chapter 110 - Bubblegum ago
Chapter 111 - Peer Pressure ago
Chapter 112 - Egress ago
Chapter 113 - A Hell of a Time ago
Chapter 114 - The Meeting of Minds ago
Chapter 115 - Communicative ago
Chapter 116 - Therapy ago
Chapter 117 - Beast of Burden ago
Chapter 118 - Breaking Loose ago
Chapter 119 - Depths ago
Chapter 120 - Deceptions ago
Chapter 121 - Maddie ago
Chapter 122 - Raven ago
Chapter 123 - Medieval Stasis ago
Chapter 124 - Fight Club ago
Chapter 125 - The Remnants of the Past ago
Chapter 126 - Ever Onward ago
Chapter 127 - Full House ago
Chapter 128 - An Open Book ago
Chapter 129 - Schemata ago
Chapter 130 - The Abject Despair of an Uncaring World ago
Chapter 131 - A Cypress Waits ago
Chapter 132 - Uskine Nervedah ago
Chapter 133 - The Critical Path ago
Chapter 134 - Safe Mode ago
Chapter 135 - Holding ago
Chapter 136 - Krinrael ago
Chapter 137 - Darili Irid ago
Chapter 138 - Stats for Nerds II ago
Chapter 139 - Piece of Mind ago
Chapter 140 - Commingling ago
Chapter 141 - Monty Haul ago
Chapter 142 - Sound and Silence ago
Chapter 143 - Manifold Paths ago
Chapter 144 - Skewered ago
Chapter 145 - Freshman ago
Chapter 146 - Terrors of the Black Age ago
Chapter 147 - Good Vibrations ago
Chapter 148 - Sing For Your Supper ago
Chapter 149 - I Have to Hand it to You ago
Chapter 150 - Than One Innocent Suffer ago
Chapter 151 - The Mind's Eye ago
Chapter 152 - The Time to Talk ago
Chapter 153 - The Temple ago
Chapter 154 - Above From Below ago
Chapter 155 - Mome Rath ago
Chapter 156 - Mome Rath II ago
Chapter 157 - The Bird on the Fence ago
Chapter 158 - OP ago
Chapter 159 - The Dome Away From Home ago
Chapter 160 - On the Merits of Oblivion ago
Chapter 161 - Reimer ago
Chapter 162 - Deus Ex ago
Chapter 163 - Level Heads ago
Chapter 164 - House of God ago
Chapter 165 - Politics, blah, blah, blah ago
Chapter 166 - Brownian Motion ago
Chapter 167 - Beached ago
Chapter 168 - Hollow ago
Chapter 169 - The No Sleep Club ago
Chapter 170 - On Treating With Dragons ago
Chapter 171 - Blood is Thicker Than Water ago
Chapter 172 - Respec ago
Chapter 173 - Passions ago
Chapter 174 - The Blade of the Self ago
Chapter 175 - High Concept ago
Chapter 176 - Warrens ago
Chapter 177 - The Erstwhile Manor ago
Chapter 178 - The White Room ago
Chapter 179 - Hilbert's Paradox ago
Chapter 180 - Dumbest Entad ago
Chapter 181 - To Sleep, Perchance to Dream ago
Chapter 182 - Painless ago
Chapter 183 - Transgressions ago
Chapter 184 - The Further Adventures of Valencia the Red ago
Chapter 185 - Mirror Room ago
Chapter 186 - Paladin ago
Chapter 187 - Penndraig's Rules of Order ago
Chapter 188 - Common Law ago
Chapter 189 - B-Side ago
Chapter 190 - To Know One's Onions ago
Chapter 191 - Overwhelming Violence ago
Chapter 192 - Cooldown ago
Chapter 193 - Coda I ago
Chapter 194 - Coda II ago
Chapter 195 - Family ago
Chapter 196 - Notes II ago
Chapter 197 - Second Degrees ago
Chapter 198 - Prurient Interest ago
Chapter 199 - Nearest and Dearest ago
Chapter 200 - Feeling Blue ago
Chapter 201 - The Aviary ago
Chapter 202 - Star Pupil ago
Chapter 203 - Where the Streets Run Red ago
Chapter 204 - Open Veins ago
Chapter 205 - A Bloody Mess ago
Chapter 206 - Parallel Lines ago
Chapter 207 - An Elevated Monologue ago
Chapter 208 - On the Merits of Eternal Suffering ago
Chapter 209 - Orison ago
Chapter 210 - Push and Pull ago
Chapter 211 - Gilding the Lily ago
Chapter 212 - Spilled Ink ago
Chapter 213 - The Endless Toil ago
Chapter 214 - Glass Houses ago
Chapter 215 - Post ago
Chapter 216 - Bureaucratic Melees ago
Chapter 217 - A Dragon's Roost ago
Chapter 218 - A Grueling Calm ago
Chapter 219 - Homecoming, Part I ago
Chapter 220 - Doecent ago
Chapter 221 - Targets of Opportunity ago
Chapter 222 - Clerical Errors ago
Chapter 223 - A Lost Friend ago
Chapter 224 - We're Here, We're Deer, Get Used to It ago
Chapter 225 - Runination ago
Chapter 226 - Fires of my Heart ago
Chapter 227 - Homecoming, Part II ago
Chapter 228 - The Fel Seed Incident ago
Chapter 229 - The Road ago
Chapter 230 - The Palace ago
Chapter 231 - Hellfall ago
Chapter 232 - Department ago
Chapter 233 - Tartarology ago
Chapter 234 - Heck if I Know ago
Chapter 235 - Interval ago
Chapter 236 - More Dakka ago
Chapter 237 - Long Story Short ago
Chapter 238 - A Certain Kind of Longing ago
Chapter 239 - Old Sins Cast Long Shadows ago
Chapter 240 - The Long Haul ago
Chapter 241 - Long Shot ago
Chapter 242 - A Long Row to Hoe ago
Chapter 243 - Long Memory ago
Chapter 244 - Long Pig ago
Chapter 245 - Long Live the King ago
Chapter 246 - Reflection at the End ago
Epilogue 1 - The End of the World ago
Epilogue 2 - Princess! ago
Epilogue 3 - There's No Knowing Where We're Going ago
Epilogue 4 - The Ongoing Adventures of Valencia the Red ago
Epilogue 5 - It All Depends On What You Mean By Home ago
Epilogue 6 - The Narrator, the Angel, and the Devil ago
Epilogue 7 - Multitudes ago
Epilogue 8 - Nevermore ago

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This story is a bit strange to review for me. I read it for 1.6k pages, which is longer than many published trilogies, yet I didn't enjoy it for most of that stretch. It kept my interest by wanting to find out what happens next but after 10 or so chapters with minor plot progress I gave up.

It is too focused on characters and tangents of thought. There were entire pages inside () that you could just skip and miss almost no content. Why is that in the story at all? There is also a lot of focus on things that happened before the story started, which bogs down the pacing and is in most cases only tangentially relevant to where we are in the story.

It boils down to me not wanting to get through the writing, character thoughts and digressions to get further in the plot and world (the parts I enjoy).


Highly overrated, lacks the feel of "magic"

I've read up till chapter 64, and i have to say that it's a well written story, with likeable characters, and an interesting world setting, but...:


1. The story is incredibly rant-y in almost every chapter, there's way too much meaningless drivel, unneeded math and the MC staying inside his head for unrealistic amounts of time compared to the different situations he/they experience.

2. At first i liked the idea of the breaks from the present to the past, (to the D&D POV's) but it gets tiresome very fast, and completely breaks immersion all the time. Also most of the "breaks" are overly long, and feels like a poor tool for exposition and for the MC to remember something that is vital to a given situation.

3. For a story with such an interesting and different world filled with unconventional magic, there's no feeling of wonder, or "magic" in any of it. It's all framed inside a system, and feels even less mystical and magical than a video game would feel like. It all comes too effortlessly to the MC, and there's no mysticism in it. It's too clinical and too bound by rules of tabletop and math. Personally it has no impact for me whenever he "learns" something, it's just boring and contrived.


Spoiler: Spoiler

5. The story is incredibly predictable, and there's too much "telling", and too little "showing"

6. For having a rational and logically thinking MC (who honestly has far too much knowledge, about way too many things for his young age, especially since he's not supposed to be a genius or anything like it), he keeps committing enourmous mistakes all the time, and for someone who've been playing as a DM for countless rpg sessions, he has no sense of wonder or adventure when it comes to the magical systems he learns to use, and the ones he learns that exist.

He doesn't experiment with ANY of his skills, he doesn't try to combine knowledge or abilities, he doesn't adapt a specific "style" of using what he has. He's flat and uninspired in his way of doing things, and completely bound by, and set in his knowledge of tabletop earth knowledge.

6a. And so is the narrative and the whole "level up" mechanic. There's too many boundaries set in place, fx: If he learns something to a specific degree or level, he has to progress further in specific stats to further improve them, meaning he would never be able to master all the skills he accrues throughout his journey/the story, because everything has limiters tied to his level, and level cap. Which means, he can never "train" or use the experiences/knowledge he accrues from different plots, and outcomes, to further or improve his abilities. UNLESS it's in the frame of a level up and adding points into something. 

So basically he can't grow or evolve.


This was a lot of negative i know that, but i feel this has unrealistic reviews and an undeserved rating. It's basically been "hyped" too much. I DO recommend it for people who play, or have played tabletop RPG's, and who like stories that puts everything into "boxes" and rules. This just isn't for me, i'm more into the "show" not "tell" kind of stories, like: a Practical Guide to Evil, or Mother of Learning.


heavy on introspection and theorycrafting, in a good way

Depression, suicide, relationships, insecurities, group dynamics, grudges, delusions, teenage issues, moral dilemma... this novel got it all. Man this made me reflect on things i encountered in my life more than i expected.

I like this novel because it focuses a lot on what is going on in the head of our MC and that dude is thinking a lot and what he is thinking of what other people could be thinking what he might thinking because the GM might be thinking... and we get to hear all about it. 

Sometimes the ruminations gets a bit much, but later on in the novel it gets better. 

The interpersonal stuff here is what i am missing in many other novels and this novel jumps right into the thick of it.

The worldbuilding is complex, manifold, hexagonal, interesting and sometimes literal xD big plus indeed

i can recommend this if you like convoluted thinking present in all decisions made at any point^^



Started reading this on Ao3 a few years ago. Can't believe it is finally finished.

The conceit allows for a lot of interesting world building. Exclusions mean that the hero can't win the same way every time. Started off as a bit of LitRPG but dropped that when it no longer served it purpose. Very introspective.

Author uses the story as a sort of sounding board for moral reasoning and ethics and I am guessing to work through there issues depending on how far or how close the DM is supposed to be to the author. The ending was satisfying and well forshadowed and very META.


Excellent and unique, with hills and valleys

Reviewed at: Epilogue 8 - Nevermore

Now that it has been complete for a few months, I want to offer my full thoughts on WTC.

Overall, Worth The Candle is the best finished story of significant length I've read in my years on this site. It is also one of the most inconsistent good stories on this site. There were many aspects which I took extreme issue with, and I think entire sections of the book are average to below average in quality. 

This is made up for entirely by not only some of the best technical writing on the website, but a unique and fascinating world, excellent use of themes as a guiding structure, and a beautifully crafted story which is at the same time often unpredictable yet entirely natural and logical. The first 100 and last 50 chapters are not just some of the best webnovel writing I've read, but some of the best writing in general.

That statement is perhaps inviting the question of my thoughts on the middle portion. It is certainly not universally bad, there are excellent moments and story threads that I found compelling. That being said, I quit this story four times in the space of 80 chapters, and there were reasons for it.

The pace slows down significantly around the third to halfway point, which is not a problem on its own. In keeping with the D&D theme, the party has stopped being railroaded so much and is sort of doing their own thing. The problem lies in the fact that this just does not jive with the rest of the novel and its themes. The most compelling part of the story is the overarching plot and the mysteries behind it, and the main characters are at their most interesting when directly interacting with that plot. The story meanders here for a long time, and much of the character development of Juniper and Grak, in particular, though the rest of the crew as well, takes a steep nosedive from its earlier quality.

The grammar is as close to perfect as you will get online. Any mistakes were minor and not repeated, and a majority of chapters had no mistakes at all that I noticed.

The story is the shining star of this novel. It is difficult to express my thoughts without spoilers, but the philosophical aspect and meta-narratives carried through and executed beautifully, 

as well as the most satisfying ending in literary history,

 make this plot stand out as untouchable. The overall story has twists, and is sometimes unpredictable, but it's so well designed that it doesn't actually matter if you guess what's going to happen, it doesn't detract from the experience in the slightest. This novel could have been a 6/10, one of the best technically written LitRPGSs with decent characters, but it is instead a 9.5/10 because of the masterclass in plot-centric writing that Wales provides.

I would be remiss if I did not mention some aspects of the book which might make people uncomfortable, which are not spelled out in the available tags. There is rape in this book, on multiple occasions,

both of and by the main character,

 and while it is certainly treated with respect and weight, there are elements that give me pause. That the author, who is to the best of my understanding a man, leans on rape as a device for conflict and character development on three major occasions and I believe two minor ones, is somewhat disturbing.

This is compounded by the fact that early in the book it is easy to get the impression that the author is bad at writing female characters and leans heavily on tropes - this is not accurate, but the impression is deliberately created and that fact is not revealed for a significant chunk of the novel. I got squicky vibes for a long time, and while that's proof of excellent writing given its intentional nature, sensitive people or people with traumatic experiences might want to avoid it or at least come in prepared.

This book contains Hell. Not metaphorically, not abstractly, it's a tangible part of the world. It's scary. Those who have read UNSONG will have the general right idea, though not quite to that extreme. If you will have issues with graphic descriptions of torture and mass human suffering, do not read these sections. 

Stylistically, the author is known as part of the rationalist fiction community and it shows at times. If you hate this style with a passion, the book is still readable, but parts will be annoying. If you like it, it's even more fun! 

There were no distractingly common crutch words or phrases, sentence flow and dialogue were mostly natural, and physical descriptions were grounded and not too flowery, except at the times when it's weird on purpose.

The narration style is a bit odd, but you mostly get used to it. It's first person past tense, but sort of outside the context of Juniper, except in particularly emotional moments where the writing tends to withdraw into his head. This works within the context of the story, but it took some adjustment for me.


To cut it short, this comes off great at the start, but then starts getting really emotionally edgy, and frankly just uncomfortable. The world is the best part of it, for the most part, but the character lackluster.

Also the dwarves are completely messed up, blunt doesn't mean emotionally dead bird people.


An interesting take on the genre held back by cumbersome writing

Reviewed at: The Chemical History of a Candle

As of now, I stopped reading Worth the Candle at chapter 63. This is not a full drop, I will maybe continue it later as I am still interested in the story. The thing is, while the world is interesting, I had the impression to be in a constant fight with the heavy writing.


As said in the title of the review, Worth the Candle takes a novel approach on the LitRPG genre. I can’t say too much without spoiling things that I don’t want to spoil. What I can say is that instead of being based on video games, it’s based on tabletop games. This will have a heavy importance, in an interesting way, in the relation between the Juniper (the MC), and the world.

While the world seems mostly coherent, one problem I have with it is that I can’t say how technologically advanced they are. On one hand they have guns, helicopters, planes and elevators, on the other they have swords, bows and medieval cities. Yes it's a magical bow, but a magical gun should still be superior to a magical bow.

On a side note, how can Amaryllis create guns out of sweet nothing ?


The characters are correct, if a bit generic in my opinion. I mean, a princess, an elf, a dwarf. Really ? While it can be explained by the worldbuilding, it’s not the pinnacle of innovation. At least they seem to evolve over time.

Also, yes, we understood that Juniper played tabletop games. No need to repeat it at least four times per chapter, it becomes tiring.


Now come the true problem, the writing. It seems that I am taking the counterpoint of quite a few reviews here, but this review is mine so here we go. As I am not a grammatical expert, I am not able to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. If I had to explain this with feelings : It doesn’t flow, you have the impression of constantly grinding stone. Just take a random paragraph in a random chapter to try to read it casually.

If I had to take a guess I would say the ponctuation is not good. Some phrases have way too many commas in it, making an understanding of what refers to what difficult. Also, some critical information to understand the action is hidden in weird spots. Like in the middle of a descriptive paragraph. The consequence is that the reader can never relax his reading.


Conclusion, I will just repeat the title of my review : an interesting take on the genre held back by cumbersome writing.




This part is not in direct relation with the review. It’s to explain how I rate books.

I don’t like the 5 stars rating system. Every site that relies on this system tends to heavily overrate, whatsoever the media (book, movie, series, video games…). I largely prefer notation on 10.

I also don’t like the advanced review system. In my opinion, different books should be noted on different criteria. If I take an example, if an extreme one, why should I rate poetry based on character score ? Make no sense. Moreover, as a reader, I put a lot of importance in worldbuilding, and there is no score on this particular criterion.


Here is how I score out of 10 :

- 10 : Masterpiece

- 9 : Favorite

- 8 : Highly recommended

- 7 : Recommended

- 6 : Enjoyable

- 5 : Readable

- 4 : Painful

- 3 and below : level of garbage (I rarely rate this low because I am mostly smart enough to not read them to begin with)

There is a huge gap in my mind between a 6 and a 7. You have to understand that I don’t actually recommend reading a 6.

I rate softly on RR, meaning that if I have a doubt between two notes I will take the highest of the two.


So, how does this translate on the Royal Road 5 stars system ?

- 5 stars : 8 and above. As you can see, the full five stars cover a lot of range quality wise.

- 4,5 stars : 7 (Recommended)

- 3,5 stars : 6 (Enjoyable)

- 2,5 stars : 5 (Readable)

- 2 stars : 4 (Painful)

Here you go. You now know how I rate novels.



Too much background and pointless chatter

Reviewed at: A Hell of a Time

Starts out quite good, but becomes a bit of a slog. There is tons, and I mean tons, of backstory and talking about what the characters are going to do versus them actually doing stuff.  I found that despite so much of the story being about the characters, the characters themselves aren't particularly compelling. 

If you are interested in game theory, world building, or lots of character interaction then this is your story. If you want the plot to move along at faster than a snails pace (with tons of flashbacks, irrelevant background info, and world building) then find something else.

The story was compelling enough to keep me interested for a while. But then it just became an extremely boring read that I was doing just to get to the good parts.


One of the best written, in depth books that I have ever read, the author is an actual genius for being able to write something as good as this. This is a novel less about the litRPG high-fantasy context but more about interpersonal relationships as well as the inner machinations of the main character.

Worth The Candle is in my opinion not for children, so stay clear if you're under 16.


Excellent writing, deep worldbuilding, philosophical musings, action, adventure, a diverse cast of characters, interesting magical system(s), and deliciously long.  The ending kind of went off the rails a bit, but not necessarily in a bad way -- just the most complete wrap-up ever, intentionally nothing left hanging. 10/10 would recommend.