The Infinite Labyrinth
(Book 1 "Shanghaied" & 2 "Shortcuts" now complete - Book 3 "Secrets" now on-going)
Georgian Era Steampunk alternate history meets litRPG!
For Jonas Sims, this is a great day in the summer of 1818, the occasion to have a peek at the coming and goings of the Professionals, those blessed ones who are able to travel the Zones of the Infinite Labyrinth, and share his wonder with his best friend.
For Jacques Deschanel, tier seven Professional, it is a great day, when the plans of his master Napoleon Bonaparte are coming to fruition, and a decisive blow is struck by the French Dominion against the British Empire.
For Amanda Cowen, Imposing Knight of the British Scouts, it is a terrible day where she finds that scoring a victory does not win a battle, let alone a war, for which she was not supposed to be on the frontlines.
For nearly twenty years since they've opened, the Gilded Gates of the Infinite Labyrinth have brought power and wonders to the subjects of King George III. Fueled by the resources from the place beyond the Gates, the modern age is in full swing across the British Empire. Crystal marvels adorn the streets of London while Aether-powered Skyships patrol the skies. But today, the Gate slams closed, and the Empire tetters on the brink of destruction.
And so, for six people that were in the wrong place at the wrong time, their life crumble. What replaces it is the endless perspective of being a Professional, acquiring extraordinary Skills, strange Items and seeing their potential grow with each trial. It is up to them to turn misfortune into achievement, to find themselves, and to break the stalemate. Even if no one counts on them, they have to push forward, because now, there is no longer any turning back to their old selves.
They have to find their peers, and break open the barriers.
The Infinite Labyrinth is a litRPG that explores different takes of some themes from my main series, Silvergates. It's a hard, crunchy litrpg. Expect blue boxes everywhere, and the system itself is very mathy and ripe for optimization (I use a spreadsheet and a wiki to give me the details - warning, spoilers if you haven't caught up to the current story chapter).
It started life as a serial. I prepared good worldbuilding, with enough details and background for lots of different potential story arcs, but as I wrote, I realized the main story needs to have a definitive end. So, there are four or five books, depending on how the story goes.
The publication is going to be irregular, as I'm writing part-time. I'll try to have at least one chapter a week.
The Gore tag was added because there are a few scenes with some light gore.
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(as of chapter 15)
This story takes place in an alternate history of the early 19th century in Europe, Napoleon has not been defeated and there is a lukewarm war between England and France. Both countries have access to portals that lead to a huge fantasy world (the 'Infinite Labyrinth') where valuable resources can be found that changed the world. Normally only people with an adventurer class can enter but a group of youths from London is locked in that world after they fled from a French surprise attack on the portal. They form a party and have to fight monsters to survive while knowing almost nothing about the Labyrinth, at the same time they need to find a way home.
Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style by an omniscient narrator. The main storyline follows the party of six with Jonas as the main focus (and only internal POV), blue boxes are shown for everybody though. Interludes show what happens to certain other adventurers and politicians on both sides of the now-closed portal. The LitRPG mechanics have not been explained much, but this is intentional, as the youths here know nothing. Those (pretty complex) mechanics are shown in detail in the prequel which basically depicts a 'Labyrinth for dummies' training, but even from the glimpses here they are good. Descriptions are okay but there could be more. Grammar is good and there are few typos; it's hard to believe that the author is not a native speaker, as the prose is better than in many other RRL stories, although sometimes there are strange phrases (which could also be British English?).
Story: By now, the group works together like an adventuring party, has defeated some monsters and has leveled up a bit. Their working together went rather flawlessly and even though there have been dangerous moments their struggle did not feel as exciting as it could have. I can't assess yet whether the pacing is quick or normal (level 10 came easily but I think that's only because successful adventurers reach levels in the hundreds or thousands). The Labyrinth has a very MMORPG-like feeling, with many different zones of various difficulty, "lairs" and a loot system where a dead boar drops armor. This will make it familiar to readers but on the other hand it means there's not too much novelty. A nice addition are the author's notes which sometimes give information about those side characters that also existed in our world's history; these are only snippets with no importance but it's still interesting.
Characters: The story has six main-and-secondary and some "other" characters. There have been some hints to the background and personality of the main six, not so much that they feel real yet but they are a diverse group and will probably turn out fine.
Basically, this story is the literary equivalent of "playing a MMORPG without reading the manual", it's interesting to watch the noobs find their way. I, as the genre-savvy gamer watching from out of danger, am having fun. The good writing quality and the uncommon era the story takes place in are a bonus.
Last chapter read: 118
This is a mixed bag for me, parts of the story get very low points (the fights and grinding), the greater contextual world story is much better but in terms of text is just 10% (by feel, not counting words).
The experience reading the first 20 chapters probably is different from reading the next 100 - because the fights that make up quite a sizeable chunk of the chapters are repetitive and boring. Imagine an RPG fight narrated in text form. Not to mention that what makes sense in a computer game does not translate well to the real world. For example, when characters manage to almost leisurely talk to one another while fighting off vicious beasts, or the literal use of number-based game mechanics for a real fight (a game is inside the computer, but this story is supposed to be in real life). It gets even worse when you read the 200th such "fight" consisting of not much more than effect names and "damage" and other numbers.
The characters mention several times that their life is much more meaningful, that they are there for one another and not for something non-human (like production goals). However, their daily world as shown is based on the "Lit" in "LitRPG" quite literally is the one of a withdrawn MMORPG playing nerd. The fight narrations would be what you see on a Twitch stream e.g. in Wold of Warcraft, including the relaxed chatting that can only happen because there is not really a large creature biting into your leg and you can dispassionately watch your "health" numbers and bar. Their daily life is just an eternal - and as it looks hundreds of years long or more - level grind (even with their "adaptation" cheat). If that is "the (more desirable) life" the reader must have it really bad in real life to be able to empathize with our heroes' statements.
Another problem that may be more subjective and may not an issue for other people is that at least for me getting early exposure to the high-tiers greatly reduces the enthusiasm for following low tier fights. What I mean is, when I see that likely future opponents (e.g. the Zulu guy) of the main characters (team) are many orders of magnitude (and I mean it) higher than them, also having the same "cheat" as our heroes, there is no way for them to ever close the gap. Unless heavy plot devices will be deployed at some point. Either way it's no fun - either they will never face one another, then why mention it, or I can foresee terrible plot twists to justify them catching up.
When I already read about tier 20 when the most anyone in their world has achieved is tier 7 (apart from the Zulu guy), and they spend ages (i.e. many many chapters) in tiers 2 and 3 (and remember, those tiers are not linear, it's hundreds of years even with the "adaptation" cheat and constant and extremely boring and monotonous and quite literal "level grinding" to get there, as heard in the interlude story of other far older "adapted") then my already low pleasure of reading one boring numbers-based and perfectly predictable fights one after another while they are tier 2 or 3 plummets into the negative.
On the bright side, there is a larger story that carries the team story by providing context, a real story to look forward to, and motivation and opportunities for future interesting interactions and developments. However, much of the text and all of the fights are exceedingly and increasingly boring and unreal (how long can you watch someone level-grind on their Twitch stream?).
So, first of all, this is one of the better stories here. Especially for people that like litrpg.
The story is great. Highlight of this story, for sure. Based on the real history and actually believable. Didn't see any major plotholes and major reason for reading till the last chapter.
Grammar is fine. Especially for non-native english speaker. Respect to the author!
Litrpg part is original, interesting and believable. Won't spoil it, as it is fun to discover it complexity and details.
Characters are fine. There is developments, no cardboard characters. But it's hard to invest in the characters. Third point of view really hurts this for me.
And ... the main reason, why it's only 4 stars for me (and its main part for most people). Combat. Yes ... action could have been better. With less boring fight etc. But my main complain is, that it's not believable. This chill conversations in the middle of the fight... zero talk about weapon training , like literally no one mentioned it and ... the main insult, is full disappearance of pain in fight, while it is major plot point outside of them. Such a shame, imo.
As a conclusion, great believable world, story, litrpg and characters. With good grammar. But with mmorpg fights. That like 40% of the story, if you exclude status pages.
But author is improving and later combat does get a bit better ( but still no pain). So I will recommend this story. Especially for anyone loving litrpg.
The author has also written one of my other favorites on RR, Silvergates, so check that out too. First time I picked this one up, I didn't get very far. I think I was just in the mood for something different, but when I gave it another shot a few months late ... wow I got sucked in. Read through the whole thing in a few days. Thanks, pandemic! lol
Seriously, though, the story description tells you the basic about the period, so I'll spare you a repetition of that. I'll says the system is interesting, not as OP as some, which is a refreshing change. The characters progress steadily and gain loot, explore zones, dungeons, make discoveries, etc. It's a good read. Add in the political elements between the different powers of the world and the context for the story is starting to get filled out as well.
I like it. I generally like alternate history, so having a dash of that in the mix certainly adds to the appeal. Oh and the author has a solid grasp of the English language, fortunately, so the text is mercifully spared the usual RR assortment of misused words, misspelled words, absent words, broken punctuation ... well you get the idea. There are probably a few typos, but I can't recall any so they must have been few and far between.
A few reviewers have mentioned the "American arc" and said it is too different or something. Ok, it's not on the other side of the Portal, so it's not dungeon-diving, and if you are in the story for nothing-but-dungeon, then yes its going to disappoint. OMG the characters live in the world outside the dungeon. A shocker, certainly. More shocking, some of the events require travel outside Britain. I found that whole arc actually a nice side-story as it gave more depth to the world, introduced some interesting new characters, and more importantly, made logical and necessary explorations of some of the mysteries of the portal. I'm not going to say more, because [spoilers], but this is one of the few times I'll say don't let the nay-sayers turn you off of this story.
Which brings me to a last point. I don't know if the author was a European or British history major, is just really well-read on those topics or what, but the author adds comments and notes fairly frequently that show a good deal of knowledge and backstory about some personages mentioned who existed in the actual history, with explanations, sometimes, of how and why their lives took a different path in the Infinite Labyrinth history. Delicious alternate history geek gold. I love that stuff.
Give it a try, if you are in the mood for a alternate British Empire, some poor folks sucked into a portal, and following their adventure as they seek to find a way home...
Another subcategorie of LitRPG : stories in historical or alternate historical periods. This pseudo Georgian era tale use an interesting period, These last years we had the Téméraire novels from Naomi Novak with intelligents dragons, and especially from RR “Age of Victoria by alstonsleet recently published on Amazon.
The synopsis give a good idea from the tale. I will give my attention to this well-written tale.
I started reading this story on a whim. Next thing I knew I was 50 chapters in. It is very clear that the writer has a plan for this story and the world feels more real for that plan. Also, I am a sucker for alt-history, and the writer shows a solid understanding of the history he is playing in. The characters fit and react to the world very well. My only issue is that the grammar has a few small issues. Nothing big, just tense and plural issues, easy to read right past. Check the story out, it is fun and the system is interesting.
This stories claim to fame is it's setting, which feel ok for a bit, but despite making a point of bringing in historical figures, trivia and mores, feels like a patina over the mmorpg style litrpg at it's heart.
And that part of it just feels so dull. The story's writing is ok, but everything feels low stakes and bland. Characters has at most one defining feature, if any, nothing seems like it's all that threatening. Really does feel like an MMO.
Edit: it is getting better as it goes along, and therefore upping it's rating
this is a great story so far love the way everything is more or less
An excellent beginning and what is shaping up to be an exciting adventure. Historical setting should make for some fun. The system so far seems fully designed rather than cobbled together on the fly. Some grammar and tense issues in the first few chapters so far, hopefully they don’t get out of hand and the proofreading improves. The two young male MCs seem well developed so far and I think we can count on the other four in their six person group getting fleshed out as well, as we have already gotten background allusions on one. Looking forward to more.
Edit: New Review at end of book 2 Upgraded to 5 stars
The characters have developed more fully but there is still room for a bit more. We are getting glimpses that there is more to the team but nothing that really makes them stand up and scream "I'm a real person not just a figment of someone's imagination to play a role in a story." In book two there is really only one time we have to worry about their lives and it's not really discussed much as far as impact goes.
The history behind the story is phenomenal and very in-depth; Vincent has 100% done his homework and I love the afterwards on the chapters that discuss the relavent history and divergence.
The story line is really amping up. We know that there is a clear goal and story arcs that have been plotted out. There are some clues as to where it is going but nothing definite that will let us glimpse too far. We know certain confrontations are coming (I'm looking at the Zulu here) and I for one am excited to see what happens.
Grammer and Style are always well done. Book 2 was a bit more rushed but that's understandable as it was part of the writathon (should a published book be desired some restructuring would be needed and a few more in depth dives but I think the author already knows this).
For a webserial this is hands down one that I binge once a week.
The story was engaging to start with but the American arc was just such an unrealistic break in story logic. That killed it for me. Hopefully it gets better. The changes to history from the new technology was well researched and nicely done. I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes