- Traumatising content
When the world's no longer paying attention, an assassin's job becomes a hell of a lot easier.
In a Seattle dominated by corporations and gangs, Kara stalks the shadows. Equipped with a cybernetic eye and specialized weaponry, killing's a career, and she's a professional. Only one person in the city knows her real name: her older brother Darius, head of one of the most powerful gangs in the city. Between them, the district enjoys relative peace—until an unexpected message from a rival sends the whole city into chaos.
Lost in a web of revelations about her life, Kara is surrounded on all sides by potential enemies. As Seattle decays around them, Kara discovers Darius—the only person in the world she trusted—betrayed her, and shattered her world forever. In the rain-drenched streets, a new contract appears for her brother's head.
On the one-year anniversary of Epilogue, Etzy's back <3
This story is a proto-cyberpunk thriller set in near-future Seattle. As with all my stories, the focus is on characters above everything. This is one of the more-action heavy stories I've written—but as always, expect a lot of dialogue, realistic characters, and complicated drama without easy answers. There's no gore and I don't describe violence in explicit detail, but my stories do tend toward the darker side of life, so please be aware as you dive in.
Chapters whenever I publish them, no specific schedule. I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think :)
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[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]
This story has not been posted or published anywhere else besides RoyalRoad.com, at this URL: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/28525/snipe
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What would you do if you found your entire life, your very concept of who you are, was shown to be an artificial lie imposed on you by the one person you loved and unconditionally trusted in the world? Now imagine you are a trained killer with dozens of murders to your name with the skill and resources to take any action you wanted.
This is the story of Snipe.
There is a firm and primary focus on Kara a.k.a. Snipe in the story. This is interspersed with interludes from other character’s perspectives.
Unlike many other stories on Royal Road Snipe is primarily a story of character development. Not the artificial and superficial “growth” you can find in many other stories full of stat boxes and numbers getting bigger like a video game but in the true sense of expanding interests, motivations, connections, and complexity. In order to facilitate this growth our protagonist starts at a very reduced state.
Initially Kara is almost robotic in her thoughts and goals. She focuses on her job and almost nothing else. At the start of the story she is driven into a deep existential crisis of identity. During the story, while she works to uncover the truth of her existence and find meaning, she begins to grow as a character. She meets Faith who she finds herself forming an instant bond with and it is the start of her deepening complexity.
Faith requires special mention as while she is not the main protagonist, I feel she is almost as central to the story as Kara. Faith is crippled, grew up homeless on the streets, and by almost any measure is completely powerless and weak. At the same time by pure force of personality and perseverance she has carved her own path and set up her own version of power equal to those who had far more given to them in life. Her dialogue is an absolute treasure and she dominates every scene she is a part of.
Snipe is set in the Pacific Northwest of the USA in the near future. Specifically, it is set in a place called “Cascadia” (which in real life is an actual independence movement, you should google it, it is fascinating) with the action taking place in and around Seattle.
One of the most interesting and entertaining things about reading good science fiction for me is seeing how an author will take existing technological trends and advance them into the future. In this respect Snipe delivers. Etzoli has not gone overboard which keeps the story grounded while at the same time introduces advancements in cybernetics, automation (it is illegal to drive manually in the core of the city which now has no street lights as all the cars negotiate directly with each other), and computer technology.
The main criminal organizations at the center of the story gain a significant amount of their money through distribution of an advanced VR system. This is similar to most sci-fi/cyberpunk takes on VR but it fits well in the setting and story.
This is an action driven plot with the focus of uncovering a central mystery. While not a full-on noir “protagonist wakes with no memory” or action flick “protagonist is driven by revenge and will not stop until they get what they want” it has elements of both.
At the time of this review Kara has uncovered parts of the core mystery and motivations of some of the central players but complications and details continue to be uncovered. There is a mix of Kara reacting to information she has been given and times when she takes proactive measures and uncovers information herself.
The action ranges from cold and impersonal sniper kills to full on close combat between multiple actors. The descriptions of the action are always clear and easy to follow, and the outcomes feel realistic and natural. Just because she is the protagonist does not mean that Kara wins all her conflicts. I also really appreciated how Kara does not fall into the cliché of the supreme badass warrior women that seems to be so common. She is highly skilled, but she is not all powerful and her limitations are realistic, allowing her to retain her own character and not just be a dude with a female pronoun.
Etzoli is one of the best writers on Royal Road and her stories are always a breath of fresh air. Snipe both feels like a classic character driven Etzoli work while also bringing more direct action and faster pacing.
If this is your first introduction to Etzoli I urge you to also look up the rest of her work on Royal Road, she is a prolific and highly talented author.
I also wanted to take this time to plug Etzoli’s Patreon. I have supported many artists over the years but in all cases all I really got (beyond the pleasure of supporting the artist) was access to a Discord channel and early chapters. If you support Etzoli you still get that, but you also get access to a blog she is writing before each of her releases. This blog is part “learn what is happening with Etzoli” and part directors’ commentary and her thoughts on writing. If any of you reading this are also authors, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Snipe is an action-packed existential mind twist addition to the pantheon of Etzoli. I can’t wait to see how it will all turn out in the end (hands off Faith!).
Snipe, as befits all Etzoli works, is a character driven dive into psychology, drama, relationships, and great storytelling. This was more of an action thriller than the usual fare, but with the many stories under her belt, she's shown she can switch genres without losing her skills. I eagerly look forward to the next story from this masterful author.
Snipe is, unflinchingly, an Etzoli story. And, if you've had the pleasure of reading one of her works prior to this, that means something. Take it as an assurance of quality, of characterization, worldbuilding and storytelling. But also of deliberately dangling plot threads designed to haunt readers and endings that put imagination to the test, that leave you to determine what comes next.
It's not long, actually striking the exact length at which I wish it were longer, if only to explore the characters and world more, yet leaving me able to see just how perfectly woven it was, and why it made sense to keep it at that length.
It isn’t a read for everyone, per se, but should easily please even those who aren’t total fans of character-driven stories, with it’s tight plot, unique storytelling, high stakes and critical examination of current human nature and trends.
This isn’t just aquality story by RoyalRoad standards, this drifts out of that and into the lists of professional, published fiction in terms of quality, Etzy's knack for characters and her unique charm. In fact, I would be sorely dissapointed if this wasn’t published in one way or another, simply for the sake of obtaining a copy myself.
Yes, that good.
Right from the get-go, Etzoli gripped me in this world sliding towards dystopia, inserting themes and moments that alternatively bound me to the characters and provided spot-on societal commentary the depth of which I never expected on RoyalRoad.
Take, for instance, smartphones. Useful, nice to have. If you're like me, you probably rely on yours a lot. Then take the people who are glued to theirs all day long, forgetting the people around them or just not caring as they immerse themselves in games, social media, websites, etc. Etzy took that, built on it, made it make sense, and just inserted it as a theme. Not a driving point in the story, a side themes for the reader to explore on their own.
It's the moments like these, seeing the multi-layered wordcraft she so effortlessly plays with, that sell me her stories.
That aside, Snipe took all of three chapters to hook me. The first, while good, didn’t quite wind up and deliver the punches the rest did, once more and more of Etzoli's memorable, flawed, and painfully, gloriously human characters came to life around me.
I was very much enamored by the setting, the carefully constructed plot exploring gang wars, the memories and mindset of what was essentially a child soldier grown up, all woven into a very personal story of betrayal, trust, and snarky neo-hippies.
From the start to the oddly satisfying, yet so Etzoli ending, Snipe held my attention captive. And now, after it is all said and done, I realize it was well worth it. I read it. I learned from it. I took away lessons and themes, watched a better author than myself craft her works of art.
It was worth it.
Etzy has a way with words. No point in even arguing that. Tight prose, clever turns of phrase, dialogue that is just delightful to read, perspectives that flow and mesh together without so much as a bump.
Her style is immersive, and to me, captivating. Events happen smoothly and naturally, lacking is forced drama or contrived, empty interactions. Her pacing and chain of events stay fresh and keep moving at a brisk pace, staving off boredom while revealing new ideas, building on previous encounters and bringing about new revelations.
While this style wouldn’t be suited for say, action-heavy stories, power fantasies, or a lot of RoyalRoad's works, this, again, slips into professional territory. I could easily picture Etzoli writing a thriller, be it crime, legal or otherwise.
I have never claimed to be any great expert on grammar, since I don’t understand the nuances or it, and often outright ignore many rules (which I've never even researched, to be honest.) But, throughout all of Snipe, I found a single instance where Etzoli's fingers slipped and inserted an incorrect letter in place of another.
A single mistake. That's all I found.
Her prose is great, and, as I said above, she has a way with words, building and turning them for maximum effect and immersion.
That's really all I have to say for this section.
Epilogue, my first Etzoli read, set a very high bar for its characters. It had sheer quality, depth and a life the likes of which I rarely find in my preferred genres of fiction. It set the tone and expectations for future works, something not easily overcome.
Snipe surpassed that. Handily.
Rarely have I seen a cast so diverse and alive, glorying in their imperfections, their strengths and flaws. From the meanest street thing to to the richest scientist, these people, words on digital paper, command attention and respect for their creator.
Before I go further, I'd like to point out that Etzy has a somewhat different version of diverse than the norm. Instead tossing in a mish-mash of ethnicities, interests and stereotypes (I'm looking at you, tech-savy Indian male and resourceful Japanese teenager), she instead puts in effort. Finds diversity among the scum of the earth. Among gang members, thugs, drugs dealers. Even among the homeless and the rich.
This is no simple task, but Etzoli rises to the occasion with imagination and enthusiasm to spare.
Take Kara, for instance. While she's the normal, less extreme of the characters in terms of speech or even habits, you are reminded that you are seeing the world through what might be the mind of an active sociopath, albeit a less violent one than usually portrayed in many fictions. Flawed, imperfect, lethal and just beginning to break away from her brother, she's a learning, growing character, contrasting at times to other, fully formed characters.
Like Faith, for instance. The moment she entered the story, I was immersed even deeper by her unique charm, unwillingness to let crippling injuries slow her down, even unload her emotional baggage onto other people, instead chosing to help them, at her own expense. And always with a snarky comment or a crooked smile.
The villians of story more than had their own reasons for doing what they did, and were both believeable and in-depth. I continue to see less and less of this on RoyalRoad, and the reversal from the trend was satisfying.
Make no mistake, characters are both Etzoli’s and Snipe's strongest suit.
You've likely heard me say something about a journey being nothing without the characters before, if you've read my other reviews. Well, you got both the journey and the characters, this time around. And they are pleasing, to my tastes.
Also, I know some of you will groan at multiple POVs and flashbacks, but I have to point out that they were well structured, and served a purpose with as little interuption to the flow of the main story as possible, instead helping build on that story with small revelations and new insights within.
For example, how Kara's own mannerism and interests increasingly forced Darius into teaching her about weapons, right up to him bringing her into the gang, and leading to her life as an assassin.
The characters are deep, always a joy to read, and very much satisfying. To the point I’m willing to beg Etzy for a sequel, just to read even more of them.
Rarely has a book felt so worth it to me, upon it's completion. Snipe lacked for nothing, and delivered everything it promised. It was emotional, cold, critical and hearth-warming in turns, sometimes mixed together. While not heart-wrenching like Epilogue, it more than lived up to my expectations, cementing it’s place on my Favorites list and on my Reread-in-about-a-year list.
It was, unashamedly, and Etzoli story.
…She really should copyright that phrase.
My only complaint is that we had the wrong main character.
Hah! Just kidding. Kara was a great protagonist and fascinating to follow. Etzoli's character development skills continue to stay at goddess-level, and far outstrip most authors I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Faith snuck up on me. I don't normally like snarky know it all characters, but Faith isn't really that. She's got real vulnerabilities and far more depth than I expected.
Incredible work. I can't wait for the next one.
How? How are all these stories so good? Etzoli keeps writing, I keep reading, and she just doesn't stop.
Snipe is a fantastic, fun little adventure. The duo of Kara and Faith is one of the most fun pairings I've ever read. I wish there were more, but what's here is already incredible, and the ending was more than enough.
Thank you again for everything you write.
A happy ending from the butterfly? Impossibru!
Etzoli's style already encompasses high writing levels of prose and grammar. Her list of characters and changes of PoVs also includes lots of consideration. Now about the story, the reason why you should read this... Well, let me tell you a bit and see if this is something you enjoy. (Expect lots of dialogue and drama).
Initially, we have Darius and Kara. Seemingly siblings. Kara being an 'assassin' that snipes her victims by his brother's orders.
Darius is part or leader apparently of an organization that erases people for the sake of certain ideals.
Kara finds that Darius deleted something precious to her. Or maybe he deleted a nightmare she experienced, a memory of an event or a full manipulative brainwash of whatever are kara's true origins.
In her difficulties, kara has to search for the answers, she meets another girl at the same time someone appears to impersonate her. This new girl has an incredible personality.
Now that's just the tip of the story. The cast grows by every chapter. The plot twists in unpredictable patterns. This is another story that people must read with a lot of popcorn by the side. An amount enough for you to not search for it twice.
Go blind and enjoy it. Although expect Etzoli's wings to vary from lighthearted to darkish or even abyssal in certain points.
I'll just say that I snipped my pizza with this. Thanks for the meal. I can't wait to see how it goes.
It's the same as above just with the specifics and a conclusion, to justify it.
Story: Very good, and the relationship between the characters has me hooked for the most. 5 stars.
Chars: I love kara, but fate shines in my eyes. Etzoli is a genius in dialogue so is her style. 5 stars.
Grammar: I can't do anything here, like I only found what I called 2 errors, which I asked in comments, and I was smacked by author-sama (obviously not like that, but they were things on purpose, like 'repeat clients' which I thought would be better like ' repeating clients'. But anyway, I can't even find a non-subjective mistake in this. 5 stars.
Lastly: A conclusion:
Go blind if you enjoy: Relationships-interactions between the cast, a lot of varied and complex dialogue, lots of characters, plot twists, good grammar, good flow, long chapters...
Don't try if you: Don't have time to read a chapter with a complete plan (bigger than the norm). Want to read a lot of magic. Want a lot of details of the world or don't like drama or mystery, I mean it has a drama tag.
Neutral: I can't say how the story will develop so until the chapter of my review it's very good quality. I love it right now.
Conclusion long version:
Etzoli's stories shine in the reactions, interactions, twists and plots that move with drama and characters. Superb writing and flow. The only downside is that you will not find that many details about the world, most of her works are contemporary like this one taking place on the photo in the city of the cover, but you can expect an incredible detail-ship in the characters which are above the average 3d, a mysterious and dramatic setting, and unexpected plot-twists.
Read with popcorn.
Uhg, this does not deserve to be on RR. I come here to find long 4000 page stories that read like a wow raid live stream that's been transcribed in excruciating detail. What do I get instead? A fast paced cyberpunk story that won't just end sometime after the character is half-way through defeating the fourth Big bad.
I mean, come on. If I wanted to read something exciting and engaging, I'd read an actual book. Who does this Etzoli think she is, trying to differentiate herself from the hordes of the grimdark isekai works with quality and nuance? Don't think I didn't notice the lack of misspellings and grammatical errors. It really throws you out of the story if you don't have to stop every other paragraph to figure out what "gashhjer" is supposed to mean. She also uses proper indentation like this is a Strunk/White fanfic!
Bottom line, if you come here to read stories that have just enough pull so that you can stave off thinking about the nightmarish hellscape your life has become for one more minute, only in the brief moments between screen and sleep thinking when the last time you talked to some one who cares about you was, but not so much that you'll be inspired to share and create something of your own like I do, then give this a pass.
I love stories with interesting and deep characters, this story definitely provides that in spades. The technologies are well thought out and definitely believable, providing just enough of a peak into a possible future to be exciting.
Clearly the author knows quite a bit about how tech really works (sysadmin in the bio, so it checks out) though I find the lack of dns problems in this story disturbing :D. One of the most honest representations of hacking I've seen, though obviously not totally honest because that would be boring and the characters would have to spend way too much time on it.
The style flows really well, a great balance of purple and biege prose. I really enjoyed the way different characters perspectives were interlaced, it's not easy to do that without it being jarring for the reader.
Grammar was overall quite good, there were a few errors here and there though. Some spelling errors, a few too many "ands" in some sentences, and a couple of awkward to read ones. Overall though very solid, a single pass by an editor would likely reslove most of these.
Story was very well paced and planned out. It's really nice to find something on Royal Road that actually has an ending. There were some cool little plot twists that kept me engaged. The ratio of action to story was really well done and the action sequences always served to move the story along.
Characters were just brilliant, I really wanted to get to know them. They were very believable and brilliantly developed. Snipe is a journey of personal growth, for Kara primarily but for some of the other characters as well. In essence, it's the story of a teenage girl reaching adulthood and taking her first steps out from under the care of her older brother.
I'm not sure if this book is published but it should be.
My Etzoli shelf is growing. She's written another one I must have for my library. I came for a thriller on the streets of Seattle, stayed for the strong character dyamics and character building. Kara's story of self-discovery, growth and independence struck very close to home for me, and without getting too personal I felt like Etzoli had written something I've actually been through. It touched me, and I'm glad I read this story. Thank you.
Well worth reading for a fun time with great characters and excellent pacing. This story really captures the wondrous curiosity of a new world. All the characters feel very real and all the motivations and actions make sense. It really balances having fun exciting moments without needing anyone to hold the idiot ball.