He Who Fights With Monsters
Access the discord here.
Book I now available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, Audible and in paperback here.
All chapters following book I are available here, but only the first story arc from book I is available here due to Kindle Unlimited requirements.
Jason wakes up in a mysterious world of magic and monsters. He’ll face off against cannibals, cultists, wizards, monsters, and that’s just the first day. He’s going to need courage, he’s going to need wit and he’s going to need some magic powers of his own. But first, he’s going to need pants.
Follow Jason as he makes a place for himself in a world that is strange, yet sometimes strangely familiar. He’ll meet crime lords and aristocrats, gods and monsters on his path from would-be victim to heroic adventurer. At least, he tries to be heroic. It’s hard to be good when all your powers are evil.
Release schedule is 5 chapters per week, Monday-Friday USA time.
Please note: I am Australian and this story is written in Australian English, so there will be less of the letter Z and more of the letter U.
This web novel is also available at scribblehub.com
- Overall Score
- Style Score
- Story Score
- Grammar Score
- Character Score
- Total Views :
- Average Views :
- Followers :
- Favorites :
- Ratings :
- Pages :
Leave a review
Read the story up to 350 chapters and dropped it for few reasons. But let me preface that story managed to keep my attention up to this point so it did some things well.
So lets start few "issues":
1. Dialogues - they are either snarky/witty or some kind of serious discussion about meaning of life or some other inconsequential thing. You will not see every day dialogue or any kind of dialogue normal humans might have. Which brings me to second issue.
2. Everyone is Jason - and if they are not you will not remember them. Honestly it weirds me out, Jason was supposed to be unique kind of character but he "infects" people with his personality just after few interactions. One of the side characters (Emyr) suddenly become more powerful copy of Jason with no prior indication that might be the case. And you will probably find difficult to describe any character that is not Jason or Jason-like, they either do not have enough screen time and/or their personalities are not distinctive enough.
3. Jason himself - I loved his character during first arc, he was perfect example why the Isekai genre exist. The utter confusion and choas when faced with utterly alien world meshed so well with his character. It gave a reason for his character of behaving nonsensically when faced with nonsense world. But then it kept going, Jason actually never changed even though story keeps "stating" that he did. Every event that he faced and the way he reasoned about them screamed kind of teen angst even though it was supposed to be a serious and adult. It was further diminished because no 10 chapters would pass without Jason pondering about his ego.
4. Apathy - I could not find myself to care about characters or events. Story failed to establish a bond between a reader and the characters.
5. Lack of catharsis - simple, for the whole 350 chapters we have not seen any kind of major payoff, not a happy one, not a depressing one. Events that were supposed to be that payoff were undermined by the reasons above.
6. Show not tell - this one is probably my most subjective point. I always felt that story told to how are you supposed to feel and from time to time spewed exposition.
I will start off by saying there are definitely great elements in this story. It was the story Iooked forward to the most for some periods of time. I especially live the way it portrayed group fighting and the strategy of facing the wide variety of monsters as an adventurer.
But I just can't do it. The everyone is Jason problem is real. You can end up reading multiple chapters in a row of Jason "snark" dialogue, and that gets draining when you are up to date and you feel like you wasted a whole update reading that. Second, the storyline, despite the attempts to give an overarching scope, is boring. The moments when this story shines are when Jason is discovering new and wonderous things about the new world around Greenstone, when he is learning about the essence system, and when he is learning the tools of the trade as an adventurer. Shirtaloons ability to envision complex builds for his characters, wacky items, and creative monster encounters is top-notch.
Unfortunately, most of the story is instead spent on drawn out political encounters with egomaniac villains, a mind controlling-esque cult, and a corrupt church. These plotlines completely deviate for the sense of discovery and growth and get bogged down in dumb conflict and poor ethical monologues.
And this problem scales to a 10 when he goes back to Earth.
Anyways, I love the world, but I think I am done with this now.
It's becoming harder and harder as time goes on to keep dealing with that glaring, ultimate, MEGA flaw. At the beggining, ehh, yeah, you could kinda ignore it. And then no, its just Jason, it's like one man's soul is the entire cast. And its mind boggingly awful. It never stops man, I'm on chapter 357. It doesn't stop. Even the children are jason. That's not a joke, a fucking child is talking about political law and systems of oppression and more.
It's so bad, you can't understand how bad it is and I'm left shocked on why. The author, has done something, that I feel immense, and I mean immense, sadness for. It's rare, but, he's gotten worse at writing as he's written more.
Go back to the beggining, sure, rufus was philisophical and so was henry and everyone seemed to have a bit of a wisdom chip on their shoulder but it wasn't so blatant or over done. They were all teachers and jason was brainless. Sophie, jory, belinda, thadwick, clide, they all felt like seperate enities. I have to come up with a new term just for how awful this has become:
Slowly everyone is just a melodramatic theater actor copy, without the emotional connection of it all, jason. That guy that won't shut up about how he's sinned and gets emotional over killing and suddenly presses people down with aura when he gets angry and then waxes on and on and on about philisophy. On how hard it is for him to kill and see all the dead. Mix theater nerd, with edgy character, mixed with classic "killing is wrong" MC. That is a fine personality, nothing wrong with it...on 1 person. But there's no normal people left and all of them are like this. ALL OF THEM. It's like listening to an insane man talk to himself. All I want from the story I've invested patreon money and nearly 400 chapters of my time in, is for jason to stop interacting with himself. Please, just, no more pointless melo-drama from every character.
Normally, I'd be upset at the amazon and taking down chapters thing. This time, no, buy book 1 on amazon and ignore the rest of this story. Do not invest your time. You will only be disappointed.
Others have talked at length about the shortcomings of this story, so mine will be merely a ranty update of sorts.
I slogged through this story's Greenstone arc and the ensuing Reaper Trial because I thought there was a silver lining. Surely enough, the fight against the Builder gave this story an overarching narrative and measurable progression. Some of the side characters also seemed to finally stop being muppets. That's when the break came [Spoiler Alert] and Jason reached Earth, which basically reset this story.
'Fair enough' I thought. Maybe shirtaloon will now put to use the experience and feedback he has gathered. Fat chance. What has ensued is essentially Greenstone 2.0, where Jason again engages factions vastly beyond his power and they either start bending over backwards or become stereotypical villains, who will be dispatched without tension. The family side plot also becomes boring real quick and usually involves either 2-4 people snarking at each other or Jason mouthing off about his emotional butthurt and being an indignant prick. If anything he became even more immature and obnoxious, which is, on the few occasions this story shows self-awareness, explained away by the magic words 'psychological trauma'. It's ok if he's an ass because he has a trauma. It's ok if he lashes out at neutral parties, because trauma. I detest how that term is used for justification inside the story, as well as a meta tool to explain character stagnation (or even degenaration).
For me, shirtaloon once again has squandered a wonderful opportunity to evolve this story and it's protagonist and I'm tired of waiting for pay-off. I regret not heeding the early signs.
Edit: I haven't had the time to update this review so it is still as of Ch. 222. Editing as I forgot to give spoiler warnings and spoiled other RR stories. My bad.
For Shirtaloon, this story started incredibly and has managed to garner and maintain a lot of attention becuase it can be so incredible at times. I write this both as a review, and because it's difficult to step back and look at your own work objectively so I'd like to point out some easy areas to improve.
Overall this is a very fun story. It has been on the front page of Popular This Week for months now for good reason. That said, there are a few things keeping it from being a great story or, at times, good. Those things are, in order: the lack of character development, the lack of a believable villain/ plot, and the static nature of the main character. Many reviews get caught up in the minutia of these failings and fail to reinforce the fact that this story is still worth a read especially if the author shores them up.
The MC's character development will be covered last. Here, I want to focus on the side characters. In few words, the side characters are not developed.
The beating heart of every story is its characters. Gintama is a comedy with the barest hint of a plot for hundreds of chapters and it's listed as the greatest comedic manga because its characters are full of such life, depth, and diversity. The first Pirates of the Carribean was such a hit not because of its rather cliche love story, but because Jack Sparrow was such a compelling supporting character. Also note later installments in that series were worse because Jack became the main character and the driving force of the series was lost.
Readers invest themselves into the lives of the supporting cast in order to be dragged along with the author's script. The emotional investment in stories - on Royal Road especially - come from our investment in characters that are actually at risk. The MC in most stories is protected by plot armor so it's the plights of the side characters that tend to draw us in.
Now that we know why it's important, what do the people in this story want? Elspeth Arella wants the power to leave Greenstone, but why? What are her goals? Why is leaving Greenstone going to facilitate those goals? Rufus wants to be a powerful and successful adventurer and has been traveling with his buds the lion man and the flame witch to do so. WHY? Just because his family are good adventurers? What's the end game? Why did Gary and Farah get with Rufus to begin with? Why are the two staying together after Farah's death? What motivates these people? What are their long term goals? Hell everyone but MC is supposed to be religious but we never see any of them pray, we never see tender moments of them alone. All we see is vengeance and when they talk about MC.
How do I FIX this?
Easy. Just ask youself what the characters want and then make them talk about it, or act with THAT GOAL in mind. Have a scene with Rufus talking with his parents about why they're still in Greenstone so long after Farah's funeral and about what his future plans are. MC is too weak to fill the spot in his team at the moment so have him discuss going back home and rebuilding his team with some new characters that MC can join later at an opportune time. Have Arella do something that doesn't involve the MC. Have Gary discuss with Rufus whether they should remain a team and WHY. If there's some hidden backstory component then hint at it. (oh Rufus you know I CANT go since youre secretly a prince and Im your roAYAL retainer) He had a life before now, it should be calling him back by this point.
Lack of a Villain/ Plot
If main and side characters are the heart of a story, the villain is the lungs. The villain is the one who breathes life into the little interactions between characters and creates the urgency that drives a story forward. It can't be something as intangible as monsters or the big evil cult because those aren't problems that can be directly addressed by the MC.
Immediate - The villain creates urgency by doing something that needs to be addressed NOW. The cult is going to the end the world, but it's a big world and we have time for a few rooftop barbies before then.
Close to Home - If a villain isn't somewhere that the MC can challenge directly, then he's the villain of someone else's story. The big bad is, suffice to say, difficult to reach.
Just as good as the MC - This is the kicker. The villain needs to win. If the villain never wins there's no sense of risk, of danger. Even if it's something small, a villain has to prove themselves by triumphing over the MC in some way. Cyclostomata and Chad never do.
A good example is the Joker from the Dark Knight Rises. He is immediate: from placing timed bombs next to loved ones or running to ferrys filled with explosives at each other, he isn't a problem that can be solved later without massive consequences. He is close to home: Batman can reach him with his two orphan fists. He is better than the Batman: Batman loses to him. When the Joker creates Two-Face Batman loses to the Joker so completely that he needed to do something completely outside of the Joker's expectations to win. He had to sacrifice his own image of a hero to be a hero.
THAT is a villain. A character that can challenge and inspire the MC. Every hero needs his demon lord.
Luckily, adding one also fixes the other half of this issue, plot. What are the MC's goals right now? Get stronger? Who is he trying to beat? Oh he's trying to protect? Do some pushups every morning. No I want to know what he's working towards. I see a lot of rising action but not even the foggy outline of a climax. What will be the apex of this story arc? He gets so strong he can endure the monster flood? Why should we care? The plot so far hasn't been imporant because the MC has been in the 'adjusting to a new reality' phase. But he's almost bronze rank, it's time for Thanos to come knocking at the door.
How to fix?
Make a villain. I wish I could offer more actionable advice, but the flavor of the villain is heavily tied to how you want your story to develop, so it's all on you. Have some fun with it!
The Main Character
I saved the best for last because it is the easiest to fix. A lot of your readers have been getting frustrated (based on the other hundred reviews here) by the fact that your MC has stagnated. Let me explain, and this has two sides to it. Your MC started as a snarky, quippish guy who was just adjusting to his circumstances and it was done beautifully. I probably got past the first page of his character before recommending this novel to everyone I know. The issue now is that he hasn't changed. As I mentioned earlier, he has passed the adjusting phase of his tenure in this world and he still acts like the snarky, quippish guy who was using confusion and witticism as a defense mechanism. The other side of this, and likely the one everyone has issue with, is that your side characters don't react to this realistically. All of them are either awed by his gibberish, or don't react at all.
Gods are a prime example of both of these. On the MC's side, being a little flippant as he usually is, perhaps with a snarky comment under his breath or some such is what I would expect. That, or being actually speechless. 'Jason hit his knees, the absolute presence of the being in front of him pressing down on his body with more force than he could handle. He gaped, shocked by the sheer force one entity could possess.' I liken it to a waterfall, or loud thunder. No matter how ironclad your morals, or stiff, your spine, when you hear thunder loud enough to shake your bones and vibrate deep in your chest you pause for a second just to admire the force of it. Waterfalls the world over are a tourist attraction because they allow you to feel that raw energy at proximty and when you're there you stop for a moment and admire. Snarky charaters still pipe up with that 'man that would clean my dishes way better than my wife' kind of vapid nonsense but they still pause for that all-important moment where they're human before they're snark.
On the other side, Gods shouldn't care about Jason. I'm sorry but nothing he has done should have earned him more than a passing glance by now. Greenstone is a backwater with nothing going on. Divine presence there at all borders on the improbable. Imagine being an entity strong enough to be tasked with overseeing a philisophical portion of sentient beings' reality and you have cosmic beings even stronger than you trying to blow your house up. So basically you're a dude and someone started burning your house down. Well in your living room you have a bunch of cats fighting the - let's say - rats that work for the cosmic being. These are you gold and silver rankers in big cities. And in your backyard you see one sickly rat with a couple ants on it, and one of those ants is standing on its hind legs while the rest don't. 'Neat' you think, obviously too busy defending reality to really care about one ant. Do you go over to that ant and thank it personally for all the hard work it did fighting a rat that looked like it was already dead? No, your damn house is on fire who has that kind of free time? That ant was Jason. Gods dont care.
Lastly, you don't need to tell us that something is having an effect on Jason. We've read enough of his character to be able to see it when it happens. So rather than "Jason was, for once, silent. He had no words to say and Sophie was shocked when a bit of that mask fell away." you can just describe what happens like "Jason stood, quietly, admiring the simple beauty of the fireworks. Sophie spared him a quick glance, her worried frown giving way to a small smile as she saw rare sight of his unblinking eyes and open mouth."
How to fix?
This is the easiest one. A villain is a foil to the MC and will change him naturally as you write them both. Honestly exactly like your title implies. Hell, name your villain Abyss, that'd be fun. Also as you grow your sidecharacters you'll naturally flesh out your MC too so this one will literally fix itself once you address the other two.
FINALLY, AS THIS IS A REVIEW
Many stories aren't well written enough to have their issues wrapped up in a neat little bun with three little bullet points. Not many stories truly are cultured enough to include an appropriate Nietzsche quote. It is a rare story that has both of these and updates practically daily. Just know, prospective reader, that if you pick this one up, the story does suffer from the little issues that any story would if its author was required to output material as quickly as this one, pending edits. I say it is worth it. And, if you're an elitist that only touches stories from out of golden geese and dusted with diamonds, read the beginning.
UPDATE: My BOY the LION MAN has been given motivation, goals, and depth. Im so happy
When I started this story, it was amazing. A good litrpg reincarnation story, with pieces of humour interspersed. I liked the system of essences and awakening, and the story was funny.
However, the quality started lowering as the book went on. At first, the author started to portray Jason as someone who would bow to no one. That was ok. The one thing which irked me about how the story was going was the fact that Jason faced no consequences whatsoever.
The story was still enjoyable, with Jason doing good things, and gaining power. But suddenly, as soon as Jason rescued two beautiful women from an evil crime lord, the story stopped being about a man reincarnated in a strange world and finding his way, and started being about a brilliant social manipulator being fawned over by everyone. The gods themselves pay attention to him, and the story loses all direction. After about chapter 100, the story becomes a meaningless blend of slice-of-life chapters and the main character being praised for his amazingness.
The first half of the story is worth reading, but only if you can handle the sadness induced by seeing what such a good story was reduced to.
They story starts strong, first 100 chapters are gold. After Jason survives his 10th no win situation and some how gets an upgrade everyime. Fight scenarios start to lose the thrill when you know the outcome. The best part of the story was the witty dialogue, but after the MC goes back to earth it feels forced. Also everyone on earth is either dumb or weak, making it even less believable. But some how have been dealing with magic for hundreds of years... the story just goes so far down once Jason goes back to earth.
A lot of the characters feel set up just to make the MC look better. Making them seem forced if not fake. Don't flow well making it hard to connect with characters. So when they die it doesn't really matter because you just don't care.
Worst part is this was suppose to be a fantasy novel, but after main character goes back to earth the story becomes a PC/political hack show. Heavy on the judgment on who is politically correct and who is wrong. If you don't agree with authors views on politics which seep through every time Jason talks. Capitalism is evil and socialism/communism are gods gift. There is no difference between the earth section and watching CNN, poor story lots of judging.
There is only one part that is abhorrently done in this novel and desserves criticism, and it takes away from everything tremendously. The main character, is from Melbourne Australia. His every conversation uses ridiculous, never ending, repetitive, amount of slang thats SUPPOSEDLY Australian, Im from Melborune yet never heard anyone say most of whatever he says.
On top of that, the above criteria still holds true, is his use of references, every conversation will have him referencing something from the modern world, even if 90% of the time it does not fit the context. His friend could be tortured, and on his way to rescue them, he would stall every conversation to several degress just to include his never ending arsenal of references.
At first you can handle it, its horrible, and its there, but you can enjoy other parts of the story, anything that doesnt require speaking is done mostly well, although character-reader bonds are non existent, its very hard to connect with a character given that even if they are not the mc, they still speak poorly and have some elements of his speech in theirs.
Then comes earth arc. EVERYONE SPEAKS LIKE THE MC.
One of the worst arcs ive ever read in any novel. A 12 year old girl, a mother, a bouncer, a professional investigator, militraly low and high ranking personnel, they ALL USE his cancerous speech elements of irrelevant slang and references. Can you imagine it where nearly every chapter would have a conversation, 5-10+ lines of just talking about a tv show, no matter who you speak to?
Unfortunately, as other reviewers have already said, with each arc the story gets worse, everything in the universe orbits around the MC, Jason, and the current
arc is just beyond boring.
What's more, I feel like the stakes are simply non-existent, as whatever happens in said arc won't matter,
because Jason and his closest family/friends want to leave Earth for the 'magic world' anyway. There are also many inconsistencies within the Earth arc, like the media going above the governments' heads and spreading propaganda as what can be considered 'apocalypse' happens. The govs just seem to take it for weeks or even months. Seriously?
The repeating morality of 'I can't kill because other people will see me as bad' is also obnoxious, Jason has already gone through that, different world, different rules and mindset, plus these people are often at the level of superman, if you expect peace within a society of magically empowered humans, you must be nuts.
Overall, with this and people talking like Jason, and doing everything around Jason, as if they had no goals on their own, the story's rating has gone down from great to beyond mediocre.
Standard isekai/gamelit fare. Interesting system. MC starts amusing, which gets a bit more irritating the more often strawmen are propped up to soapbox at. There's also a weird throughline that any kind of group or organization will be revealed to actually be evil/greedy which only Jason who is apparently the one always correct in every decision triumphs over. To be incredibly pithy, considerations like "save ten now or one hundred later" actually are "save ten now and then also the one hundred later, because obviously no one actually should ever consider larger ramifications since things will work out just fine." The few 'good' bits of personality are overshadowed by the sheer unnecessary aggrandizement of everything else he does. Its very much how a person who describes themself as an 'honest straight-shooter' thinks they are like, except actually they're a dick and tact/manners are pretty fair and reasonable things. Being frequently obtuse/lolrandumb is a teenager or friend in-joke thing, adults doing it is offputting, weird, and concerning when done to every stranger you bump into.
And then we are back to Earth and go through the same book but reskinnedt- learning the Magic World because he's teaching people, learning about these orgs which have always existed (#WeUrbanFantasyNow).
So at this point, its basically gone the way of Legend of Randidly Ghosthound in that it recycles, repeats, and drags out events to milk that sweet sweet patreon monies.