Locking Horns, Breaking Teeth. [Minotaur Paladin Rewrite.]
by l nimbus
- Sexual Content
The aliens are here. And they want blood, money and reality tv. They don't particularly care how they get it.
Garok, a minotaur from another world, is summoned to be one of their Boss Monsters. Understandably miffed at being cut off from his gods and powers, he sticks a giant middle finger to that and stomps off to do what he does best: break undead skulls and heal people.
Clair is far from home, fed up with the random bullshit of a world going to hell in a handbasket, and generally not in the best of moods. With a dark past, warrants out for her arrest and a tag-along she doesn't want or need, she's not having such a great day.
Well, neither is Dumrye. Turns out, being tech support for the alien invasion isn't the glamorous job this little droid dreamed of when it joined up with Tiipenet. All those random Earth trolls are getting on its bad side, and a Droidian with a skewed temper control algorithm is something you usually stay away from.
So, with our little band of misfits introduced (we may have forgotten the lonely demi-lich, genocidal redneck and a hyper-responsible summoner-to-be, but, eh, who cares?) lets get on with it. Sounds like all the trappings of a good reality show, no?
[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]
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Reviewing this from advanced chapters provided up to Chapter 12.
Locking Horns is one of the weirdest takes on apocalyptic gamelit I've ever seen. If you described the genre to someone, and without ever reading it, they had to come up with a story based on your description, it might look something like this.
And I love that.
Unique takes on an often stale genre are gems in the rough.
Stylistically, the story lights up in chapters about the Genocidal Redneck. If you haven't met him yet, give it a few chapters. Read this out until this one character comes into the mix, I implore you. There's a humor and a gleeful gory joy to his chapters that's just :chefkiss:
Outside of that highpoint, I would say style is one of the places the author could improve. Some chapters are very workmanlike and rough on a sentence to sentence basis, like he knows what he wants to say but isn't feeling the music in the words themselves.
The pacing is closer to a normal book than webfiction pacing, and if you like that, absolutely give this a try. With well-crafted prose, tight characters, and a sense of grim humor about its rapidly-breaking world, this is book quality on RoyalRoad.
I can't comment on grammar, since I was reading from alpha documents, but I can say the story is strong with twists and turns. It's not one where you read the first chapter and now where everything is going to go, and spend the next hundred chapters watching pieces fall into place.
Finally, characters. Characters are where this story is putting all its chips, and it pays off. Everyone brings their own unique take to this apocalypse, and it lends a real gravity to this world. I can't say much because [spoilers spoilers spoilers] but you'll probably find a favorite to latch onto soon enough.
I'll divide my review into five sections:
I hope that by reading this review you'll have a better understanding of what this is about and maybe give you a good idea of whether this particular work is right for you. One thing I'd like to point out is that my review is mostly based on the parts of the story currently unreleased (up to chapter 12), so it's entirely possible some issues I talk about may disappear entirely.
Getting Caught By The Fister With Her Pants Down
Let me first point out that this story isn't the most polished - there are a few typos, oofed oxford commas, you're-your... but if you're on RoyalRoad, you're not here for the polish.
What this story does have - and in buckets - is humour. As soon as you open up the first chapter, you're bound to notice it. Fortunately, it's rarely 'hit or miss'. In fact, I think the majority of his zingers hit the mark quite nicely.
It does slowly die down within the next few chapters to make room for more serious developments, but those who liked it definitely won't be disappointed thanks to some completely and 100% stellar later chapters.
This is also helped by lnimb's proficiency in the imagery department.
Sometimes the descriptions might not do the best job of describing (an example would the flame-fist rabbit stone thing they encounter once, which I still don't think I can visualise) but when it works, it does do an excellent job of setting the scene or introducing a monster.
I'd also like to point out that it's very easy to see when Papa Lnimb gets right into it. There is no stopping that train when he writes a chapter he clearly enjoys writing. This manifests itself in the form of a few absolutely excellent chapters, which stand out completely from the rest. I think, to any reader of this novel, what I'm referring to is very obvious.
Unfortunately, there are times when the opposite is true.
Some chapters seem to meander around a plot point as if it was a chore (the classic and very tropeish 'but how did your world survive without magic all this time' scene comes to mind), which I assume ended up like this because it was a chore.
Another minor gripe that I've picked up is in the dialogue or, rather, its formatting. Sometimes, it's a bit hard to tell who's talking and when, but each character has a style unique enough to find this out via contextual clues.
In conclusion, however, I'd say that detracts nothing. In fact, it serves as a pretty lovely vehicle for what comes next.
The Gamer's Last Gamer Moment
Obviously, the story here is incomplete. It'd be quite demanding to walk into a story twelve chapters in and demand a complete plot package, though. However, what has happened so far is an excellent setup to what could be a great epic.
In short, a black female and her gamer tagalong get isekai'd into their own world, along with everybody else.
However, it wouldn't be a complete isekai without the classic litRPG elements, like the 'status screen' or the 'shop'. Which, of course, everyone can access. Naturally - and this is a great story beat - civilisation decides it had a good run and mostly ends. Now, we have the two characters wander around some of its remains in a classic example of a non-isekai isekai.
There are also giant AI corporations which like committing various atrocities for "the viewers'" amusements and all that shebangle.
Either way, wherever the story feels like going is entertaining to watch and lnimb's given me little reason to think that'll cease any time soon, especially now that I've read the last two (backlog) chapters.
Another strength for mere here is the worldbuilding - overall is also very well-done here.
You have open-source Monster Wikis, chat rooms where people shitpost about dragons, people buying metric miles of dynamite via status screen for use in their silly antics... unirregardless, lnimb's perspective on what happens to the world after a non-isekai isekai is as interesting as it's fun to read.
Some of the time, the story takes a bit of a darker turn. I'm a big fan of turns like these and the ones here were all executed and presented very well. However, some of the softer scenes don't work the best. That'd be probably my only of-substance gripe here.
To conclude this section, I'd like to point out the complaint isn't anything major and is clearly outweighed by literally everything else lnimb has done right with the plot. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does with it in the future.
'Succibi from the fifth hellscape'
In this story, lnimb mostly lets the characters interact and naturally form the plot from there.
Considering his characters are very entertaining, this is a strength.
Somehow, this characterisation extends beyond those named, minor or major - as you could probably see from the very first chapter, effort has been put in to give almost everything in the planescape its own quirks and personalities. Obviously, this makes for a great read and adds quite a bit to the overall humour.
However, I can't really comment much on character development here. They had too little time to develop so far, after all. I'm also not an expert on character analysis, so I'll leave the readers with what is simply my opinion, which is quite simply that I really really liked all of them.
john cena nae nae
I'd say the legendary reviewer's escape into writing was a triumph. I'd recommend giving it a read to see if you enjoy the style and story - if you do, you'll probably not be disappointed by what's going to hit this website soon.
Locking Horns Breaking Teeth (LHBT) is the second incarnation of a story author I nimbus has been working for some time. This is a story's had a while to stew, and that's going to inform my score.
Big picture, this is clearly a passion project. It's fun for the sake of being fun, it's over the top. and it seems to feature someone's favorite D&D character.
LHBT belongs to a the LitRPG subgenre, which incorporates video game rules or elements into the world of the story. In this case, the feature has become a pretext for joining elements from various spec-fic subgenres.
Main character Clair belongs in a mad-max post apocalyptic story, Garok in a high fantasy, Dumrye in a dystopian sci-fi satire, Jack is pulled straight out of a chop house horror.
The question is whether those pieces fit together effectively. The characters play off of each other fairly well, and each one is individually creative and well thought through. In that way, this story has the feel of a Tabletop RPG, where multiple players bring their own vision to the game. On the other hand, that means the party as a whole doesn't seem to have the directed, cohesive design which is the advantage and purvue of the authorial.
I've got a somewhat decent sense of what folks are looking for in their serial fiction now, and let me tell you: I think most RR readers are going to love this story. It's got action, wacky highjinx, weird monsters, and holds on to the human drama.
I covered this already, but the individual characters are fun and well thought through. The struggle is the hoops that we have to jump through to put those characters together, it's a real stretch.
I like Clair, she's got an actual character arc. But she doesn't really have a goal or motivation yet. Garok's got quests, but is tougher to get excited about. So far his main personality trait is vocalizing his backstory at length and trying hard to remind us that he's people too. Jack doesn't appeal to me yet.
Again, each individual piece is pretty creative. I like some of the smart way the author handles the game system elements, I think the monster designs are pretty great, the idea of a 'cosmic reality tv show' could be very clever.
It all depends on whether those pieces fit together neatly.
Significant issues in the first 9 chapters (but there are still plenty of items to address later on). The author took a risk on leveraging lots of terse incomplete sentences, and while it's possible to pull that off (I try that shit all the time), I don't believe that we got maximum value out of it.
Lots of issues with sentence structure, apostrophes, comma usage, spelling and homonyms.
Normally I'd say this is no big deal, all the story needs is an editing pass. My concern in this case is that this IS the editing pass. So I'd really expect to see fewer of these issues.
Overall I'd say the fiction is very good along the RR scale and I want to thank I nimbus for sharing it with us. I do think it's held back from greatness by a combination of factors: first is a need for editing, second is the way the ingredients in this mix currently undermine each other a little bit.
Personal Verdict: If this was just a story about Clair, I'd read it wholeheartedly. But I think LHBT has a lot of appeal, and brings a little something for everyone. So give it a try.
This is part of a series of reviews where I read the first 50 pages of the book and give a verdict on if I wish to continue reading.
And with Locking Horns, not only did I want to keep reading. I actually kept reading. It proved a hard book to put down as I blew past my initial goal of 50 pages for the review.
If you're looking for a good system apocalypse fiction, stop, because you've found one. Locking Horns executes marvellously on the premise and feels realistic in a way system apocalypse novels something don't. Sure the decisions people are making are absurd, but they feel like the sort of dumb choices real people would make if a system apocoplyse happened. Giving us a glimpse into the life of those responsible for the apocalypse further distinguishes Locking Horns from its competition. Seriously, check it out.
I'm going to have to give this to the characters, particularly our titular minotaur, in a short span the author manages to give us a strong indication of his personality, beliefs and history without a single moment of it feeling like an info dump. Which makes for some excellent moments when he runs into other characters and we the audience know what to expect while other characters are still in the dark.
Honourable mentioned to the quality of the writing. Things flowed smoothly, and the language was unobtrusive, and on occasions quite clever. I've particularly enjoyed the various beginning of chapter quotes for their combination of world building and entertainment value.
Least Favourite Part:
My only real complaint about the opening of Locking Horns is that at times it can feel unfocused. Nimbus has a large cast he wants to introduce, which necessitates a lot of perspective hopping. And while it is well executed, almost every time we switched perspectives I wasn't ready to give up the previous character's narrative yet, which meant I spent the first few paragraphs (or heck in the case of mid chapter POV changes the rest of the chapter), sulking and less invested that I'd otherwise be.
Feeling was particularly strong when we finally have what feels like the two perspectives we've been flopping between all stitched together and another new perspective was introduced. Argh. Granted it was a good chapter, and by the end I saw how it was all going to fit into the narrative but it was still driving my a little crazy. My hope is once the cast is all together the POV switches feel more natural as everything is intimately related.
Every so often I found Clair's reasoning for particular decisions a little unclear, but nothing immersions shattering.
Overall, Locking Horns is an excellent read, and easily one of the best examples I've read in its genre. Give it a shot, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
My first advanced review, and I'm glad it's for a story like this.
This is an advanced review that also analyzes advanced chapters up to number twelve. I will do my best not to use examples that involve spoilers. If I happen to do so, I'll cover accordingly.
If you're looking for an apocalypse-type story with Litrpg mechanics, then I highly suggest giving this one a try. This is a story that pulls some familiar concepts and turns them into something of their own while also adding unique additions. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
I don't have much experience with reviews, but I'll break it up based on the different ratings.
Style: The story is written in a consistent third-person limited with a personality that mirrors its characters extremely well. It pulls us deeper into their morals and perspectives concerning situations and inner reflection. There is also a dry sense of humor to it that is fitting despite the bleak setting the characters find themselves in. It actually feels like it belongs there. A lot of times with these dark settings the humor can fall flat or feel forced, but that is not the case with this story (this is attributed much to the characters as well, but we'll get to that later).
I am a big fan of balance between show and tell. I've never really believed in strict “show don't tell.” This story achieved this balance in ways that mix with actions, dialogue and so forth. Many sentences that might be straightforward actually have multiple purposes instead of just one. I can't express enough how much I appreciate such variety in writing.
Imagery is plenty descriptive without being too flowery. The only parts I sometimes had difficulty with were the monsters, whereas the setting gave me the feeling of foreboding that was necessary. It's quite literally like being in an open wasteland, but it applies to everywhere – even though you have a clear view in all directions, something can pop out because of this new reality being so unpredictable. Something might appear on the horizon moving at a speed you know can't be outrun and instills a feeling of dread. Something else might lurk quietly beneath your feet, biding its time.
If the monsters themselves received a bit more description akin to the setting...oh man, talk about desperation. The only other concern I had would be tension of battle scenes with the monsters due to the narration maintaining some of the humor being out of place, whether it be from excessive expletives or a snarky comment. It can take away from the intensity that should be felt in a desperate fight for survival. Other than that, heck yeah! Good stuff! thumbs up
Story: Having reached chapter twelve, it is understandable that the overarching plot hasn't been fully revealed, but we are getting plenty of important sub-plots along the way that contribute to the world building.
The system put in place doesn't flood paragraphs with explanation and the reader isn't overwhelmed with blue boxes. Ahh, this is refreshing. The Litrpg elements are introduced little by little, giving us just enough to understand how it works in general and letting the true abilities of the characters take over. The reader is provided with a basic description of how certain abilities work, and the actions take over from there. This keeps the plot going along nicely. What I'm saying is: mechanics sit in the background and plot takes over.
The Sysnet, which is like a form of the internet, is a captivating addition for a story like this. It provides a Wiki, chat rooms, etc. and additions are made as the story progresses. This is a big part of the author's unique additions compared to the typical flood of blue boxes.
The different perspectives through the story are a huge contribution to the world building. It's a nice touch to see some of the inner workings behind the scenes of the entertainment being provided to viewers at the expense of humanity. There are also a number of locations through personal involvement and indirectly by the characters that give us a broad view. Very well done.
The only parts that didn't ring true enough for me were some of the slower scenes at the conclusion of missions or serious moments of reflection for the characters. But the main bulk of the story is so solid that these bits do not heavily detract from the story at all.
Interaction between Garok and Clair is strong, and I can really feel the emotional connection building between the two. I believe it is because they've had some time to understand each other a bit, and so has the reader. The focused journey with Clair and Garok is enjoyable. I'm excited to see how they coordinate in combat and how far their trust in each other can go.
One more thing. The high risk for the characters in this story is palpable. The threats are very real and don't give that sense of plot armor to any character. None of them. And readers will see why I say this when the advanced chapters become available. The author has given us some nice hints as well, and it's nice to theorize about them.
Grammar: I will exclude the early access chapters with this part since, well, they aren't through their full editing stages. Haha.
It is pretty solid throughout. A few misspells, some pronoun usage and parts added with frequent commas can mess with the flow, but it is negligible. We aren't expecting perfection here, considering how this is a work that doesn't have multiple editors to help the author like a published work.
The style makes up for it in a lot of ways. The only time I might backtrack is to see if I missed a hint somewhere or if a certain choice of words felt very purposeful. Which is a good thing, because it made me want to read deeper into something.
Characters: This is one of the story's strongest assets. These are the types of characters that give a nice, giddy feeling when you wonder how they will interact as others show up.
Clair is a no-nonsense woman with a borderline paranoid focus (and rightfully so). The world is full of unfathomable dangers, and she has the small details taken into account for when the myriad of problems show up. Her narration has plenty of that dark, dry sense of humor I mentioned previous, and it fits so well later on with the characters she meets. She sticks to her morals and has such a believable coping mechanism to bad situations. Also, you know those main characters in stories that will grudgingly put up with the nonsense of irritating side characters, and won't deal with the issue until a ton of chapters later? Well, that's not Clair. She isn't having any of that nonsense, because it decreases her chance of survival. Thank you, Clair!
Garok...Garok! The minotaur. Some people have come to this story after reading the author's other work with this character (from what I've gathered). I can see why people love this minotaur cleric. Considered a runt among his kind, and a healer to boot, this character is one of the most interesting I've read about on the site. He is pretty straightforward with his speech, and his own humor is a great compliment. There are a few moments in the story I won't spoil that really got me into his character, and they involved beliefs from his own world that he applies to the new one he now finds himself in. It's also interesting how the author took into account the terminology Garok doesn't understand and how he interprets explanations of technology. It isn't necessarily something new you see in stories, but the way Garok deals with it is fun. What a solid, enjoyable character.
We don't have quite enough development with some other characters, but they are shaping up quite nicely. We are fed snippets so far, and we have a grasp of their role, but they could easily change. And I wonder about the ramifications from their potential actions.
Okay, wow, this review was longer than I expected, but I got pretty into it. There is plenty to like here.
If you are looking for an apocalyptic-type story with some Litrpg mechanics, then I highly suggest giving this one a try. You won't be getting the flood of blue boxes like in some other Litrpgs, and I believe this story is stronger for it. The focus is on the characters' own abilities, world-building and a plot with hints thrown in from varying perspectives that allow the reader to construct theories.
There is a lot to explore, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the overarching plot plays out.
I understand why this is no longer called the Minotaur Paladin. It's because there is more to the story now.
What you've got here is a but of a multiverse driven story about a mysterious system that is literally made to build up whatever creatures the system can get its hands on.
And how it impacts earth and one Minotaur.
I am dreadfully dumbing this story down but that's because I want to stress the point of how awesome it is.
The characters are colourful, the world has twists and turns and is so damn eventful! This story has something lots of stories lack.
Life. It has life. And I advise you read and enjoy along with us.
Joke title aside, this is the story of some no good cheating bones, a literal office drone, the end of the United States as we know it, and an ensemble cast stuck as the entertainment of the supposed overlords. Rather like we all are, I suppose. Dance puppets dance!
An incredibly fun, inventive cast, solid writing across the board, and a great melding of traditional DnD style fantasy and absurdist satirical sci-fi, this is a grand adventure. Though it's only getting started, it promises to be an epic tale and I, for one, do trust skeletons.
I may not have one, but that's another matter. As this updates and more content comes flowing in, expect a longer and more detailed review when it's due and proper.
l Nimbus has recreated an already great tale and somehow made it even better!
It’s important to note here that Nimbus is a prolific commenter and regularly posts on the RR forums. He is incredibly active on this site and is, in my opinion, a true asset to the community.
He is also probably the best review writer here on RR. An example of his work can be found here in his in-depth guide to reviewing:
Now enough of the back story, onto my review of LHBT!
Nimbus has a distinct style of writing. You either like it or you don’t. I personally really enjoy his visceral, grimdark storytelling.
Easy 5/5 from me here!
RR stories have, on the whole, poor grammar. This story is an exception to the rule.
LHBT has very few errors and Nimbus is quick to fix them once they are pointed out.
Again, an easy 5/5 from me here. And honestly, I’d probably make this higher if I could just to show how much better it is from the vast majority of RR works.
Dropped a half star here (4.5 / 5), perhaps unjustly. Mostly because I have read the original story and so the scenes no longer have that allure of the unknown.
That said the story is still AMAZING!
I would also like to point out that the world system and the ability to ‘buy’ changes to the world as a whole is super novel and one of my personal favourite parts of the story and world-building in general.
Garok is our loveable minotaur paladin ripped from his homeworld and forced start all over again. Albeit with a severe downgrade to his power due to the loss of his connection to the Three (his world gods). I love seeing titbits from Garok explaining how his old-world few into its current state of decay. And the differences between Earth and his world (the Autumn scene was perfect.
Clair is our other MC. She is a typical Nimbus female lead (the opposite to most RR female characters, with few exceptions). Clair is strong, decisive and has a spikey personality which slowly grows on you over the course of the story. It’s also worth mentioning that she is a lesbian and that Nimbus is very open about her sexual preferences. I’m glad to see some non-binary characters on RR that are actually well written. So that it makes sense, rather than “hur-durr I like girls, sex me”.
tl;dr Clair is awesome.
Characters is an easy 5/5 from me.
If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me this far, onto the end of the review!
Nimbus has created a deep and varied world with some tantalising teasers making me wish he would hurry up and write more.
100% recommend that you give this fiction a try if you haven’t already. You wont be disappointed!
p.s Nimbus, you da real MVP here. Thanks again for being such a great guy <3
I didn't read the description for the story before I start to read, which I tend to do when I go in planning a review. All I knew was that there's a minotaur and that minotaur is also a paladin.
Little did I know this was a chaotic mix of genres all jammed together into this fast-paced action-adventure story. An RPG system invades modern-day Earth, bringing stats and monsters to the world, but it brings in a whole bunch of fantasy creatures in from other worlds, including our titular minotaur protagonist Garok.
The story in its first ten chapters primarily follows Garok, the fish-out-of-water paladin mistaken for a mindless monster and completely unfamiliar with the technology and culture Earth has, as well as Clair, a human woman who's thrown into an ongoing apocalypse with only her wits and gumption to save her. The two meet and the hijinks quickly spiral out of control.
There's a lot of promise in the story, with good characters who have good dynamics with each other. I was worried about a POV overload when the first two chapters had three separate POVs, but aside from Chapters 1 and 10, it stays very stable with just Garok and Clair, something I quite enjoyed. I don't know how that holds later on but I assume it doesn't expand too much larger.
The writing style is decent, and a few of the chapters have some legitimately great-written moments, but there's a lot of long, uninterrupted stretches of block paragraphs that don't have a particular rhythm or flow with each other. It's nothing dealbreaking and it was solid enough, but it was the weakest part of the story for me personally.
There's also an action scene in practically every single chapter. This is probably a plus to most readers; I wasn't as much a fan of it, but if you like fights, you're gonna like this.
A lot of the craziness was just starting to set in by the end of Chapter 10; I mean, the chapter there involved some zombie gophers in a side-plot, and that isn't even getting to the increasingly crazy paranormal antics going on in the main plot. I recommend anyone interested in fantasy-action and system-type stories check this out at least through these opening chapters, because it's got a lot going on and it may very well appeal to you.
This review applies up to chapter 15.
Having read some of the author's work before, I expected high quality coming into Locking Horns, Breaking Teeth. Luckily, I wasn't proven wrong. This is shaping up to be a great story so far, carried largely by its charming cast and prose that oozes with personality.
My favorite part of the story. The author has a great talent for putting a lively, energetic, almost colloquial energy into the story which is uncommon in published works, but is perfect for a serial like this. It blends well with the characters, particularly Clair, and elevates the story a step above what it would be otherwise. The humor, which is frequent, lands more often than it doesn't, at least for me, which is also admirable.
The grammar is solid, but not perfect. I spotted some errors here and there, but from the comments it seems that the author is actively dedicated to fixing them, so I suspect this will get better over time.
The story's a pretty apocalyptic LitRPG take. Nothing ground-breaking, but definitely solid, and it serves as a good backdrop for the characters. I particularly like the intricate mechanics of the buying/selling system.
Clair and Garok are both good characters in their own right, but they're even better when put together, their different personalities and experiences complementing each other. I suspect this will only improve with future chapters as they are given more character development.
Pick this up if you like LitRPG, fantasy, or sci-fi. You won't regret it.