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- 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very good- nothing else to say really
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.
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.
This will probably get buried considering I'm posting it like 6 months after everyone else, but just read it. It's really good.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.