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

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Top List #50
Royal Writathon October 2022 winner
Word Count (20)
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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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Reviews
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Zerd
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

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.

Sam Williams
Overall

Incredibly well written, with some large flaws

Reviewed at: Sewer Rat

 I stopped reading when he got raped by a house

That wasn't my only problem with this fiction, but before I say anymore negative aspects I'll address what this fiction does well. It is incredibly well written, not just the grammar but every aspect, the author is truly talented. I also thing it is an excellent and unique take on a common trope.

I had two main problems. Firstly the characters power levels, I think the biggest example of this is the house. Giving a character that large of a gap in power between it and the rest of the party was a mistake. I'm aware it was used to explore power dynamics but it completely drew me out of the story, especially when the power gap was highlighted by showing how easily the house could have killed raven, a character from Uthers original party. (Also I think the way the author dealt with the consequences of the protagonists rape was wrong, the idea that the house and the protagonist could eventually come to trust eachother again seems like a strange avenue to explore, and while ot could just be me, i have no intererest in exploring it along side the author)

My second complaint is how much of the story is consumed by the protagonist being in situations where nothing can be trusted. This took up so so much of the story (at least a significant amount upto where I stopped reading) It is well written so I'm far more lenient but it still gets tedious relatively quickly. I think my problem with this is the pacing of the story is relatively slow, yet the author maintains these long periods of tension that (at least when binge reading) mentally drain the reader.

The_Derek
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Amazing worldbuilding, lackluster characters/plot

Reviewed at: Chapter 246 - Reflection at the End

Overall, not bad. 

An honest reading of the story makes it worth finishing. However there were a few major weaknesses in the overall experience that come down to authorial weaknesses. The piece that makes worth the candle well worth it, and outstrips all the other parts by a massive margin is the worldbuilding. The worldbuilding, or in terms of my review, the style of the world itself, was one of the most interesting and exciting I've read in a long time. For this alone I found the story worth reading till the end. Unfortunately that was the high point of the entire experience. The overall story itself was a little bit haphazard, and mostly tumbled along by author fiat. Definitely with lots of really fun stops along the way, but unfortunatly held together only very loosely by pieces of the previous stop. That along with a fairly lackluster and rushed ending made the overall story just better than readable. Grammar was impeccable, so I didn't find myself ever stuck on simple mistakes. This made the reading experience very smooth. Lastly, and with all honesty I wish I could give a different take, was the character quality. The characters all seemed like they were naturally one dimensional with lots of author exposition as to why they were all special and interesting. Only Juniper read as even remotely complex. The problem is with him, he never had much besides "angsts earth teen dropped off in fantasy world" to make him compelling. Overall this was a fun read, but left me more disappointed that the author failed to live up to the intersting world he created. Would recommend reading till the end but wouldn't get too hopeful for some incredible reading experience. 

Cocop (Cale Plamann)
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

This story is incredibly good.  On the surface it's an RPG about an incredibly crunchy/stat heavy system set in a world that's always on the brink of falling apart.

In actuality it's an almost intentionally disorienting story about the main character dealing with depression and loss.  Now, don't let that drive you away.  The RPG sections are done VERY well and I suppose you can sort of skip over the emotional depth (a good portion of which is done via flashback) if you want to.  That said, as much as I enjoy the RPG portion of the book, the parts devoted to broken people trying to fix themselves are where it really shines.

Style
This lost a half star because some of the book was so hard to read that I simply skipped over parts of chapters.  I didn't take more than half a star off because I 100% agree with the author including those sections.  Its more a testament to the author's skill at creating believable characters that I connect with emotionally and then putting them in positions where they have to confront the stupid, immoral or just bad things they've done in the past.  Some parts of the story seem intentionally disorienting (the lack of chapter numbers and the flashbacks in particular left me a bit lost), but they honestly do a very good job of feeding into the overarching sense of desolation and confusion that serves as the foundation of the work.

Grammar
Very good- nothing else to say really

Story
The story is great.  Flat out.  It's almost a metastory, the story of how a storyteller tells a story and using metaknowledge of that narrative to try to gain an advantage while still always being on the knife edge of failure.  It does a very good job of establishing political elements, stakes, and pacing.

Character
The characters are why you read this.  All of them are broken in some way and the adventure is almost more about them healing than it is about saving the world.  As good as all the other elements of this story are, the characters are what take it to the next level.

Summary
This will probably get buried considering I'm posting it like 6 months after everyone else, but just read it.  It's really good.

Bayesian Fox
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Great story ruined by pathetic MC

Reviewed at: Beached

This novel has some very strong points. It has an array of interesting characters, monumental worldbuilding, meta-discourse and self-awareness. It is a shame that those same virtues are also the novel's greatest weakness because it feels so artificial.

I like every character the author has presented to us (even the MC, to some extent), and I believe he/she did a good job in their characterisation. The characters make the story very enjoyable. The MC ruins it all, as I've said, but I will develop that point later on as it will probably take the form of a full rant.

The worldbuilding is very thorough and pleasant, and I particularly like the descriptions of some places. It does lighten up the reading and foster a feeling of wonder in me when the author shows us the magic in the scenes. Up to a point.  In the last chapters I've been skipping the description because it's simply too much. After nearly 200chapters of force-feeding details to the reader, it didn't feel quite as pleasant as in the beginning.

This novel is also very fond of meta. From meta-narrative, to talking about feelings and subjectivity and SJWness... I also liked it in the beginning, but it turned into an obsession (Amaryliss being the result of it).

Communicating feelings is perfectly normal, but the MC has been stuck with his for 200 chapters. He's such a simp that he would let his crush beat him up (three times), reject his feelings in a way I think is cruel, etc.. he doesn't learn. He's supposed to be a thinker, and even though he knows what's going on he does nothing. He believes he was raped, gets confused because it felt good, then gets mopey and try to find somebody to complain/cry. I'm disappointed, because he can't ougrow his patheticness. He's died several times, or often nearly did, he's been on his adventure for years now. He's supposedly fighting to save the world, blablabla... He should be more mature. If he were the same 17yo nerd as in the beginning, sure, but after 200chapters? (yes, I repeat it because it's important)

If Juniper was less of a scrub, I would probably be continuing reading this story. I don't find it interesting to read chapters full of commiserations when he's got the brain and the power to deal with his problems. It's a shame most MCs are like this nowadays. Lots of powers, lots of ethics, lots of 'smarts', but they lack the guts to be enjoyable. They're weakwilled and underwhelming everywhere but presumably in combat, where they must win or the story can't advance.

FrozenFingers
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

NeverEnding Story + D&D + PUBG + Unnecessary Stuff

 A good beginning based on D&D mecanics, al little bit of PUBG and some delusion. But as the story progresses it becomes more and more an ode to the dead freind of the protagonist and their D&D sessions.

What stars with funny and interesting problems and psychological elements becomes unreasonable especially considering the age of the protagonist. From the was he behaves and acts he should be alteast in his mid 20s.

This total over the top fixation on his friend Arthur, barly a word or emotion about his family. In my opinion Arthur must have atleast filled the roles of mother father and lover all together to pe this prominent in the protagonists thoughts.

PepsiSucks
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Self aggrandizing on a biblical scale

Reviewed at: Chapter 189 - B-Side

VERY MINOR SPOILERS CONCERNING STORY STRUCTURE AHEAD:

Imo they're not even spoilers, as they will be concerning story structure. And one very vague reference with no chracter names or details and it is further marked at the end. That being said, I think reviews should review the story and inform the reader. And I also don't think I can do that by only giving you my opinion with zero context.

Okay, that said. Here we go.

 

 

Have you ever wanted to read a story about characters that are self aware that they're in a story.

And then comment on that story. That they themselves are in.

And then have the motivations of those characters be determined by the fact that they are aware that they themselves are in a story.

And if that wasn't meta enough for you.

The characters eventually get into situations that very explicitly parallel other relevant situations that they were in while they were not self aware, and then understand that already meta af thing within the context of the first meta af thing which is that they are all self aware characters within a self aware story.

AND IT GETS MORE META THAN THAT LATER BUT I WOULD HAVE TO DO MAJOR SPOILERS SO I WON'T TELL. BUT I PROMISE IT DOES GET WORSE.

NOT MAJOR SPOILERS BUT KINDA BIGGER MINOR SPOILERS

Needless to say that it's all very exhausting, and this author beats the trope of self aware characters monologueing about "what their place in the story is" to death. Then their answer for beating the trope to death, is to continue to beat the trope to death while setting up cheap conclusions. (Very very cheap). Then when those conclusions are cheap the self aware characters criticize the cheap conclusions, (Yes, it really is that stupid).

What finally did it for me was after a particularly cheap conclusion where that Arc's bad guy's motivations, which were also meta in nature, were contextualized by the self aware characters, in a setting where they compared his gripes to other gripes that they themselves had about the general gripes of other people's specific gripes insofar as that Arc's bad guy's gripes.
(Yes, it really is that stupid).

If this review is exhausting for you then this story will be 10^10000 times worse. I promise. The only reason I stuck with it as long as I did is because I'm a sucker for the "Will they won't they thing" and this author did that kinda okay for a little while and I was hoping that the spark would come back but I just don't care anymore. I'm done.

If like, 90% of the meta stuff was cut. It would be a halfway decent story. Right up until it "subverts your expectations" in the cheapest way possible, and then preaches AT you for wanting something better. 

vkg313
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

I just want to point out that this story is good, but it has major flaws.

Grammar was good - 5 Stars.  There isn't much to say about grammar unless there's something wrong.

Character - 5 Stars.  The characters were all 3D and interesting.  They didn't fit any regular molds and felt like people.  Also had extensive character development, which was really nice.  There was also more to learn about each character, and they weren't always likeable.  All in all, the author did an extremely good job in this case. 

They Style and Story score is where this novel take the hit.  The author made this into a DnD campiagn, that constant throws the characters from one mess into the next constantly without rest.  Honestly, that was fine, until the story got "meta".  Now every character knows they are part of a campaign and try to constantly analyze every action they could possibly take and their possible lack of free will and servitude.  And it's really constant.  And slowly gets annoying.  It's like the characters forgot that they could leave the MC at any time to get rid of their connection to him. 

It becomes tiring to read, and I eventually stopped around chapter 82 or something.  It leads to there being less doing and more introspecting.  It even gets irritating to hear the MC constantly talk about their gamer sheet.  Making a story "meta" like this tends to kill it.

All in all, decent read, but get harder to read as you go on

Karolus
Overall

The Story is not worth the candle

Most of the reviews are high praise, but I am personally not seeing the merit of the story. It's hard to find a point to start my nitpicks, but I will get my big complaint out of the way. The MC is a mess. He is a broody, bipolar, prick whose character is defined by what the author needs him to do. The author spends a lot of time talking about the MC and his roleplaying group, but the MC never once feels like a real GM.

The MC is thrust into a world that seems to obey some game rules and doesn't immediately begin to munchkin the fuck out of the mechanics. The MC complains that he doesn't know what all the rules are, but even with his limited knowledge he should be trying to break the system in his favor. This is done really well in a handful of Isekai or Portal novels, but Fimbulwinter is my favorite example (in that the MC immediately starts looking for a mana cheat).

I could go on to complain about gamifing relationship. Or about the hamfisted, emo nonesense. Or about a hundred other things.

Glaurung
Overall

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.