Worth the Candle
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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.
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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I read most of this story on another site, binge read really. Twice (the latter one mostly because I only vaguely recalled the story at the time and needed something good to read, knowing it had more chapters I just jumped in from ch1 again)
Although this is most assuredly another self insert story, the litrpg parts of this story are top notch, like a serious, no joke, 10/10, never seen it done better. In fact the entire litrpg system is based extremely heavily on tabletop rpgs (like D&D) and this format works really well for litrpgs (Whereas for video games it was never the perfect fit; and vice versa, video game rpg systems are unlikely to ever be a perfect fit for litrpg novels)
The worldbuilding is also seriously 10/10 god tier never seen it done better outside of legendary novels like say Tolkien's stuff. The world building is actually unique, thought out, and has intriguing horrors ini t. It also has some really stupid horrors in it (like uh, no, I shouldn't spoil it, it was sorta funny but timed after my interest in the story started sagging and made it sag even more)
The characteres are better than your average royalroad novel too. A lot better. They have actual personalities. Although the villains tend have a lot less of it than the protagonist and co.
Grammar is top notch too.
And the story, while the story is a pretty basic isekai thing (with a twist that the protagonist is the developer of the world (from the rpg elements down to the worldbuilding, self insert, I tell you once more)) the excellent worldbuilding manages to keep it unique and interesting, and it's noticably darker too than the average isekai.
But it's not all perfect, because I eventually dropped the story, and the culprit was writing, for example, I will not name names to avoid spoilers, but this is still mildly spoilerific since it's a bad writing example that will give you clues about an event in the story.
When it came time to cull the herd (e.g. kill off one of the mains to induce drama and get rid of characters that had to go) most writers will in fact kill a character that needs to go for some reason, or characters that have turned out to be kinda useless and taking up unnecessary space. (Kamina is an example of the former, the guy was basically fighting simon for the protagonist role, and the protagonist needed to get his turn to shine. Boromir is a good example of the latter. Guy wasn't filling any important roles, we already had Aragorn doing the same things better.)
This author however killed off one of the most important characters instead, worse still, this death completely and utterly fucked up the dynamic of the story, and afterwards the most useless, boring, meaningless character in the entire main cast (one that already has a side character that can fill it's role better, and if that fails, the protagonist could easily do it), gets a shitload of 'development' that's boring as shit, and I've already been hoping it'd be killed off since the chapter it was introduced. In truth the characters entire role in the story was already filled a few chapters after it's introduction.
Instead my favorite character (has the most personality and everything) gets killled off that out of the main cast excluding the protagonist is the most vital to the dynamic and ambience of the story... It also leaves a fuckton of loose ends and kills off actually interesting future plot developments that were teased earlier on.
So we had a perfect candidate for a character to be killed off, an entirely (and I mean entirely) useless waste of space and resources with a boring as shit backstory and nothing really to them, yet the author kills off the character with the most interesting development (and the one with the most time invested into their development as well) which felt basically like a copout because he didn't know how to handle that characters straining relations with the protagonist.
For a story that likes to fuck around with tropes and flip them, this decision wasn't that far out there for the author, but it was just badly done, especially the aftermath. Everyone's best friend and some (in-story) people's favorite person dies. They cry for like a chapter or 2, then they keep going as if nothing happened, but something did happen, and as a reader you can feel that the dynamic of the story is completely messed up because it's missing a vital balancing element (I mean I'd kinda spoil it if I told you exactly what element so I'll refrain from that) and worse still, they are presented with an option to revive this character, to go to (literal) hell to bring htem back and the protagonist at least has every motive to drop everything and do so, and yet... And yet he just acts all mopey and decides to ultimately do nothing about it. It is bizarre that I as some reader would care more about this deceased character than the protagonist, and it broke the illusion for me.
All the seemingly well developed characteres seemed more arbitrary, like they followed the authors whims rather than established personas, when he wants him to be a whimp, the protagonist will be a whimp, when he wants him to go all rambo, he goes all rambo, but only the way that suits the author, not the character itself.
And this way a potentially great story crumbles, the fact that the useless little shit I've hated since it's introduction is still there certainly isn't helping either, because everytime it pops up I'm reminded that it should have been them, if it was an author with any kind of experience, this character would not be here anymore because it's been dead weight for the entire story.
Fortunately, this only happens very late in the story (so late in fact the chapter isn't even available on royalroad yet as I write this, but will probably be available soon) so you can have a blast reading it, but if your favorite character dies, that should be your cue to leave because you most likely will not like what follows.
Anyhow that's it, it's a great story up until the point at which I was so bummed out over an event that I quit the entire thing, and I gave it's ratings based on the good stuff. But I won't forget the bad stuff, I will not be picking this up again, it's been months since I read it and I'm still bitter over it. On the other hand you can take this as a sign of how good the story was, I wouldn't care this much if it was just another mediocre amateur webnovel would I? No this was something more, until it wasn't.
Worth the Candle is the epitome of the LitRpg Genre, speaking as someone who has been reading it on AO3 for months now. This story takes the genre in directions that I haven't seen any other even try. All the while having some of the best character writing in any webfiction ever.
If you enjoy LitRpgs, if you enjoy table top roleplaying, if you enjoy fantasy, or if you enjoy deep characters and complex character progression, then you simply cannot pass over this story.
Read it now.
Despite its seemingly hedgy premises, WtC is a great read. The beginning can be of lower quality but the real value of this story becomes apparent when the different magic systems interact the complex Universe gives out glimpses of itself in a relatively "realistic" way (the author is following the "rational" style of writing) and when you discover what drives the story forward.
The characters are well fleshed out and very diverse, with heavy cultural influences from their world.
You probably will not find any story with a similar setting be it in the nature of the world or in the way the characters approach the quest/levelling system.
And last but not least, the author and community are also super nice!
Expected standard fantasy fare of whisked to a magical world with game-like elements and got a surprisingly deep introspective story about life, grief, and love. Highly recommend it because the story flows well and the moment of reflection is tastefully done.
Since almsot everyone already elaborate how good this fiction is, i will write the flaw that i see in this story from my own perspective. You may not agreed to this but this is what i saw.
1. Info dumping
This is quite critical aspect for story to make sure that the reader felt compelled to know more about the world, character and lore of the sory instead of felt being forced with info. This is where this fiction failed quite few times. I would said sometimes the info is being well written into the story while sometimes i felt being forced to read. This make the story is quite boring to read at that times.
2. Phycological aspect of MC
Now, as I read along, I can see that the MC done a lot of thinking, questioning everything in this world like a mature adult. So when it comes to death of his friend, suddenly he became a edgy, selfish and spoiled teenager that think the world is revolved around him. It really, really hard to sympathize with teenager losing his best friend when you know out there, some one there is losing his family and has bleak future becaused his country is in war. Not to mentioned, the jaring feeling between this two personality.
3. Magic system
SO MANY praised the magic system when i felt this ones is the aspect that failed the most. The magic system is a mess and all over the place. The reason is the law governing the magic is not well explained. There is the sentence where the princess said the magic is already demystiquefing. If this is the case, why there is so many unexplained law of the magic. Does you can do magic with oly the will? Warder done it with the ritual, while skin magic done magic with art? Gem magic need to be understood that it is operate using light? if understanding the principle can help MC learn the magic, why he cannot learn about elemental magic since surely the TEENAGER who knows so many thing would know about the principal of element. Why there is no resurrection if you can create soul. What does define death? Why can't you catch soul and put back on the body? There is so many thing can be explored about magic and the MC is busy thinking about the stat. The magic system is so flawed, dude.
4. D&D system is confusing
This is where many will not agreed with me but i am saying this as someone that never played D&D game. The way he explained D&D sytem making me think D&D game is one hell boring and confusing. This is fiction, not complex mathematic question. I always skip the D&D thing since it is confusing and bland at the same times.
So yeah, i do think other reviewer is over exaggarated this story. It is good flawed fiction, that's all.
It's cerebral without being dry or verbose. It's insightful and thoughtful. Tropes are explored, and either used to good effect or subverted. Characters are realistic, sympathic, three-dimensional, and highly believable.
And the world build is complex and extremely intriguing. The author clearly has both a high IQ and and EQ to be able to construct such grounded scenarios with so many moving parts in a believable fashion despite the fantastical setting, while at the same time creating so many realistic characters with distinct personalities and motivations.
It really is a masterpiece and you're missing out if you pass up the opportunity to read it.
What would you do if you found yourself transported to another world? What if being in this world gave you access to strangely game-like super powers? What if this world spent most of its time trying to kill you, and only your quick thinking, analytical strategy, and a handful of stalwart companions was the only thing keeping you alive as you attempt to fulfill a series of quests in the hopes of gaining answers, and perhaps a way home? And, strangest of all, what if this world seemed eerily familiar, because so much of it was based on the roleplaying campaigns you yourself had designed?
Recently, I had come to the conclusion that so-called LitRPG, or Progression Fantasy, or Gamified Portal Fantasy, was a genre I did not enjoy. While the idea can be fascinating, and some of them could be decently written, all too often, I mostly felt like I was just following some nerd oggling stats and brushing over descriptions of generic fantasy tropes for pages and pages, explaining to me how something as bog-standard as a potion worked as though I'd never heard of a video game before, trying to impress me with how cool their magic system is when it really just boiled down to the standard White Mage/Black Mage set I've seen in literally every JRPG since Dragon Warrior. Rarely did the tropey characters hook me, and rarely did their adventures feel like anything more exciting than reading a slightly more narrative take on a strategy guide.
Worth the Candle manages to take this premise and elevate it. It is by far the best-written example of the genre I've read, not only from the quality of the writing, but in the sheer creativity of the world and the depth of the character exploration.
The teen protagonist finds himself quickly teaming up with two gorgeous women early on, but their relationships are not anywhere close to the typical harem shenanigans. They feel like actual developing relationships between somewhat sketchy individuals who are trying to work together for common interests, but don't just immediately fall into their stereotypical roles, and have to learn how to trust one another, organically over time.
The world building is great. I have always had a fascination with stories about authors interacting with the worlds of their own creation in a more grounded way, and this is an interesting take on it, where Jun recognizes some aspects of the world, but the world is different enough he's still thrown for a loop. Three books in, the world feels large and a live, and definitely distinct from the Standard Fantasy Setting I've long gotten tired of. Moreover, their are numerous magic systems at play throughout the setting, and its always interesting to see a new kind of magic, and all the clever magical items that get revealed throughout the adventure.
Another nice touch is Juniper's frequent recollections of his time with his friends, their DnD sessions, and the tragic death of his best friend months before his sudden fall into this fantasy adventure. These flashbacks act as both a way to expand on Jun's backstory, but also ruminate on the nature of storytelling, dungeon mastering, and campaign building, and literary symbolism.
I'm having a hard time thinking of anything to complain about. The first Book of the story, about 14 chapters, did actually turn me off a little at first, because it does start off as a pretty straightforward "dungeon crawly" trek through an interesting, but kind of gamey arc. Even here, though, this was about the time I was realizing I didn't like LitRPGs very much, so that bias was probably sinking in. I'm glad I pushed through and kept reading, because Book Two is where the good stuff really starts to hit.
Otherwise, some people might not enjoy how much the main character spends the story analyzing his situation, and characters discussing how to min-max his gamey level-up powers. I admit that was part of the tough sell for me at first, but after the first Book, I feel like it doesn't come up nearly as much as in other LitRPG stories, and certainly doesn't feel as intrusive.
This combination of great worldbuilding, rich characters, and ruminations on storytelling, all written with a literary quality above the usual LitRPG/Light Novel fair I've read previously, has elevated this to my top three web serials. Check it out if you like a good fantasy story, and definitely check it out if LitRPGs are your thing.
Like many others, I've read the entirety of Worth the Candle as it has been published on other sites. I hadn’t found the time or energy to write a review for it, but now seemed timely with its fresh appearance on RoyalRoad.
The author very much has a keenly developed writing style and voice. They know what they want to say and how they want to say it. It is by no means beautiful prose and can tend to verbosity (intentionally so), which can make certain portions a slog to get through, but it is still thoroughly well-crafted It can be off-putting at times as well, with the author’s voice overshadowing the characters, but this problem becomes lesser as the story goes on.
Well. This is by far the strongest point of Worth the Candle. The author has gone to tremendous lengths to build an incredibly fascinating world that dominates the story. The entire world and how it integrates with a LitRPG system is intricately connected as each new facet is exposed my appreciation for it grows further. In particular the exclusion system is just so perfect for LitRPG novels. All of those stories with how the protagonist finds one bug/trick to work the system would certainly have a problem in Aerb. It's not merely the system though. It's the world's political system(s), the various races and their cultures that have been developed, the profound impact of history. Everything is realistically interconnected and lovingly developed like the GM Joon is. This is, of course, not the most surprising as the author readily admits that it is a self-insert story. But it is still a transcendent example of the peak of world-building.
The story of Worth the Candle is also very well done. Early on it establishes some major goals for the story and its protagonist and it does a very good job of working with those. It is a story that is very much woven into an exploration of Aerb and its system as the main cast searches for answers, much like we the readers do. Tropes and clichés are explored, subverted, discarded and played straight, all to the benefit of the plot and keeping the reader thoroughly entertained and intently reading.
Worth the Candle can be incredibly slow-paced at times, however. It veers off into digressions and side stories about the things the author (and thus the protagonist loves). The world, philosophy, tabletop gaming, character backstories, everything can and will get a story that may be only very tenuously connected to what is currently going on. While the vast majority of these are quite interesting alone, a few are quite tedious and even the interesting ones can be quite distracting from the main story. This problem seems to be inherently part of the author's writing style and is unlikely to change.
I give it 4/5 Stars.
The characters are wonderfully diverse, in every way. We have diverse personalities, sexualities, appearances, relationships, etc. As the story goes on, we also see some serious development for some of the characters and it almost never feels out of place with each of their arcs. This becomes more something noticeable later on in Worth the Candle as the author becomes better able to create different voices with nuance. Early on, as I mentioned previously, while the author presents different personalities and a very diverse cast, they struggle at times to truly separate them from their own. Even the characters who are portrayed as being more emotional and motivated by whims become absorbed into the cold rationalism of the author and protagonist. This can make the characters hard to care about as more than vehicles for the author to write the story and world. It also dampens the emotional high points that could otherwise be quite moving. While eventually the author manages to make the character voices readily distinct, the author still lapses, with it becoming less and less common as the story goes on.
Altogether, Worth the Candle is certainly worth your time. It particularly caters to the rationalist crowd, but it is much, much more. It is, most memorably, an example of a LitRPG world done right, something that is quite rare among the vast sea of LitRPG. All of the other elements of the story are at least well-done, despite their problems and make for an eminently readable story. For now, I rate the story 4 stars, with it being just some continued growth in the handling of characters away from 4.5.
It is the SUPERHOT of web serials. It's the most innovative LITRPG I've read in years.
This is by favourite book of 2018 and 2019 and one of the few stories I've read twice.