As all kids do, Hera wanted to be an explorer. Sadly when she turned 18, she discovered that her stats and lack of skills made her fail the requirements to become one, and she went to work on a bookstore.
That should have been the end of her story. But when she wins a lottery to have her level up, she discovers a hidden skill and a rare one at that. The system gave her dream back, and this time she is not letting it go.
The story is about a world where game-like systems are the norm. Everyone has a level, status, and even skills are a common thing. If your stats are good, you can also become an explorer, someone that ventures inside a place called MAZE, a dungeon of sorts filled with monsters, creatures, and things that the natural world is missing, such as magic and demi-humans.
The story follows Hera, a woman who wanted to be an explorer, but her status were too low to become one. One day she wins a raffle that allows her to level up for the first time giving her the chance to achieve her childhood dream. It's more about how things work and what you can do with them than about power or revenge.
The rhythm might be a bit slow for some, but that is the idea. I want to give sort of a slice of life feeling to most of it.
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So I like the story concept, a LitRPG without directly taking all game mechanics (HP/Damage points) is an instant plus for me.
But the story reads like the Star Trek Mary Sue Fanfic. Stuff like her giving pointers to the other top classmates when because she studied a lot for the role and suddenly has heightened intelligence and other stats makes sense (sort of, at least in the case of Pamela), but it's a bit too much for a seemingly untrained individual to do that to two trained strangers the same place in the social hierarchy the second time they meet. And her always resolving social interaction by crying and people instantly loving her kinda has driven me off the story.
An example would be the scene where she goes into shock over seeing the bouncer that threw her out (and he's trying to be friendly/say sorry that he had to do his assigned job) and Guild lady comes over susses the man out and fawns over her while having an inner monologue about how the experience would be equivalently traumatizing as a life and death fight with a level 2 Boss and that she's such a lovely person etc..
Also, some things about how money is treated don't really jive with me, but that's a minor point and not really relevant to my larger criticism.
But I really do think the characters in the story are/could-be interesting, and I think it would help the story a lot if the foundations for the rest of the social interactions were checked upon. I don't actually mind the pacing, that's pretty nice for a slice of life. But when the pacing is that slow you can't really time-skip people' first meetings and why they should respect/like each other (i get the case in the classroom with the misdirection is supposed to be that, but again that reads like MS stuff. The same with the "leading the class to the correct drill room", which would take social confidence Hera otherwise doesn't show).
Also the Mary Sue stuff might be on purpose. So there's that. Good luck to writing the story further Perizou <3
The pitch about this story is a lot more interesting than the reality of it. What I thought I was getting was a slow-paced, slice of life style story about explorers and a modern society reliant on a dungeon (or maze). What I actually got was chapter after chapter of school life minutia. Want to read three chapters on earning and using the observe/inspect skill in a classroom? No? Me neither. The good news is that eventually the school arc ends and things pick up a little. The bad news is that the author still struggles with meaningful character development and diverts off into incongrous melodrama when they do try to develop characters.
I enjoy slice of life when it is done well, but that life has to actually be interesting or be set in a world that you want to explore the minutia of. The author seems to be allergic to time skips, which are a totally normal convention in slice of life stories. They're supposed to be slices of life. We don't need to see every minute of every day. The setting and characters should be explored through highlights and vignettes.
For slice of life story writing a chapter needs to do at least one of the following:
- Show a facet of the world we haven't seen before.
- Demonstrate a character trait we don't normally see of a POV character.
- Meaningfully change something about the world or a character.
- Advance a narrative thread meaningfully.
- Show a perspective we don't normally see (a different POV, typically).
- Develop the relationship between two or more characters.
Many of these chapters don't do any of these or they do so in only the most shallow ways. In 40 chapters we still know very little about any of the characters and what we do know is mostly just from exposition or clumsy dialogue. Everyone is still just broad archetypes and what we know about the world and game systems is only what has been revealed by classroom exposition.
For a slice of life story, we should have a better idea of these character's interior lives by now. Some of the shallowness is likely a consequence of following such a linear narrative instead of having chapters which are mostly contained vignettes. Characters don't have a lot of room to grow and be expressed because there are such narrow constraints on what we see in the chapters. What expression we do get is in the form of somewhat forced conversations and background exposition.
From a world-building perspective, there are two major issues that are really getting stuck in my craw:
1. The economy doesn't make sense. From what we know Explorers (and any other Maze or magic-based role) brings in an obscene amount of money compared to most civilian professions. This should make for a much less equitable society than what we see. Not exploring this in the slice of life is a missed opportunity. If society isn't as inequitable as can be inferred from what we have been shown then that needs to be explored as well. Why isn't it? Is wealth being redistributed somehow?
2. The secretive nature of the Explorer's Guild. It appears that most things are kept secret from the general populace. How the system works, what is in the maze, how powerful and rich explorers are, etc. This is tyrannical as written and the limited information would really only be secret to those families and organizations with no explorers/other leveled up people. This would cause huge class stratification, which is another thing that could really be explored in Slice of Life and hasn't been.
I think the author really wanted to do more of a secret parallel world kind of thing with this story. The choices above make more sense if you think about the Maze being totally unknown to regular people (muggles) and Hera winning her level up as her letter from hogwarts moment. That might actually work if the Maze was totally secret, but that isn't how they have set things up.
We also need to talk about the author's clumsy use of melodrama. Characters go from joking around to breaking down into tears at the drop of a hat. There are mean girl characters that seem to have no real motivation or charecterization and simply show up from time to time to provoke characters. Some of the interpersonal relationships make no sense. For example, Bonnie and Blue are so awful to each other that their friendship is toxic at best and in the real world mutual friends wouldn't invite them to the same events. Everyone has deepseated trauma that isn't important at all until suddenly we get a chapter of them spilling their guts and having a very special bonding moment. It doesn't work. This kind of melodrama needs to be earned and not dumped in an attempt to round out the incredibly flat characters. There are ways to write in this kind of drama and emotional moments, but the way it is done here is incongrous with the rest of the story. It makes the moments either eye-rollingly cringey or so over-the-top and out of sync with the rest of text that it misses the mark and becomes bad-funny.
Moving on to more technical concerns, MAZE desperately needs some editing passes by the author. There are a lot of parallelisms, puzzling word choices, and overused phrases. There also seem to be continuity errors. It certainly looks like the author is improving with practice, but review and editing would help them a lot. Even just pasting their chapters into Grammerly or Hemmingway for a quick sanity check would go a long way towards improving the flow and catching the most egregious problems.
I'll close by saying that this story is so close to being good. I know I've spent a lot of words dumping on the story here, but it really does have promise and the author has grown a lot over 80 chapters. Unfortunately this story has foundational problems. It really needs the author to sit down with it and re-write at least the first 30 chapters or so with their current skill level. While doing so they should take the opportunity to fix some issues with the setting and flesh out the characters in ways that aren't so hamfisted or at least better telegraph their emotional problems. Moving forward they need to put a lot more effort into editing their chapters. By doing this I think they will be able to hang on to a lot more readers through the first arc as well as set themselves up for a stronger story down the road.
Originally posted 19/10/2020
It's been about, I say, 7 months since I touched this story. I left it off somewhere in the 30s and decided I would come back to binge it at a later date.
It has been that date, and I have caught up to chapter 115 as of this review.
I guess I'll go for the easiest things, and go into the real meat of my issue with the story.
To start off with, I don't really have any major complaints with style, but it isn't that good. Mainly mediocre and I've read a lot of stories that flow better and that are done. It just feels off. I give it a middling 3 stars.
Also the grammar. Eh. The author needs to go through his story over a course of a week or so, and fix his mistakes. I noticed a variety of issues such as run on sentences, syntax issues, misspellings, and straight up wrong words. It's not excessively prominent, but you're basically guarenteed to notice if you aren't speed skimming the story, at least one instance of it every couple of chapters or so. It's why I give it 3 and a half stars.
Next would be the story. Here's where the bunk of my issues will be, in this part as well as the character section. The basis of this story is good. There's this MAZE that's been there for most of human history that gives levels, skills, etc. you know the general thing with litrpg stories. I like it, but there's little tidbits that ruin it or just dont make sense.
Things off the top of my head:
-Somehow they hide the excessive power levels of explorers from the public (this objectively shouldnt be possible since the maze has always been there and thus there should have been power trippy users trying to rule the world etc etc in the past so there's no real reason how they could get away with this)
-for some reason they hide the vast majority of MAZE knowledge from the public but there's major companies that benefit from materials in the dungeon??? Also major issue is how they even succeed at doing so when people can and will leak shit like this for people to know? WHY would it be hidden for no reason, and not just really lackluster excues of "people panic"?
-economics? Why can an explorer start making months and even years worth of MCs employee salary when starting off on the first layer with monsters that have been in the starting room for, what, hundreds of years being exploited by explorers all that time???
-lack of actual thought put into how a magical maze dungeon with thousands of rooms and materials would affect and transform society beyond just "ha we have mana crystals to power our streetlamps". Why were guns invented if people could just become superhuman (question thought about by MC once and never brought up again. Could have easily used this to segwey into people searching for weapons and tools they could use without risking their lives trying to go into the Maze.)?
There's a lot of stuff thats either skimmed over or just world convience for the author.
But despite the issues I generally still like this dungeon that has multiple layers and rooms that all house their own mini worlds with their own physics and things to discover.
The last thing though.
The last thing however. Is the characters.
I should preface my view on the "characters" with this disclaimer. I'm not the most social person in the world. So if you asked if I could write a convincing character that has their own personality and feels real I probably wouldn't be able to do much. It's the reason why I basically very rarely have problems with characters in novels. It takes very little to satisfy my low bar.
This novel fails to achieve that. Where do I begin?
The fact that the MC is a bland unlikable MC? The fact that her friends are weird 2d cutouts of stereotypes? The fact that every other character that comes in is basically a glorified NPC seeking to give information? The author really needs to fix that, it's not compelling or even believable that the only time unrelated characters pop up is to give some kind of info to the cast and then either go away or literally have a "zoom out" moment to speak and just say something along the lines of "they talked a bit more throughout the night".
But I'm hesitant to even give such advice because when I DO see regular interaction it feels so god damn forced. I cannot for the life of me recall in any of the 80 or so chapters I went through a moment where there was a normal interaction that didnt feel off in some manner. It feels like the bonding is superficial.
Speaking of bonding I want to return to the main characters for a second. Author if you're reading this, GENERIC BAD FAMILY PROBLEMS IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO CHARACTER BUILDING.
God I can't believe that the authot would think that the best idea to come up with a character that has room to grow would be to give them some generic family trauma, and then proceeds to set the backstories of like 3 of the main characters including the MC as such. It's not even made believable either, every time the subject came up I would physically cringe and roll my eyes and then proceed to skim over their 3 paragraph long infodump about why they have this deeprooted trauma over their parents being asses. It's also really blantantly obvious the author is just using the family issues as a plot point for the characters to grow and get closer to their friends as a result too, so it's even less believable and more annoying to see since it's always in the back of my mind that this is just a leadup to the main cast becoming more tightnit.
Speaking of which a few more tidbits about the main slew of characters before I finish off with the MC
-the bonnie and blue cat and dog relationship is horribly done. I say this as someone who actually harasses and makes fun of friends of mine. If I was in MC shoes I would have told them to either finally stop or they can find someone else to party with. A lot of comments by bonnie sound genually hateful and this is something that in general needs to be reworked.
-saying we'll "talk about this later ok honey?" does not equivalate to a heartfelt moment. It's also done numerous times and loses its emotional impact. Either don't bother with trying with convincing concern between friends or try better.
-The main cast of characters have their annoying tendency to infodump as well. Using bonnie as a extra late lore dump with "haha it's from teachers class REMEMBER" for 5 separate occasions is NOT ok. This also happens to some of the others as well. Recommend fixing.
-get rid of Anaya. Mean girl plot was one of the weirdest and unbelievable things in this novel. I cringed at how generic it was.
Finally the MC. Honestly, how do I sum this up. I feel like the author wasnt able to write a convincing nor likeable mc. "Shy" does not equate to highly emotionally dependent on anyone who shows a hint of kindness. (Also why does the ancient apple guide give a shit about her, this random explorer number #3596? Realistically, he wouldn't be emotionally attached to the MC when she's just another explorer whose come to be taught the explorer role in the hundreds of years he's been doing this. Feels really like "MC special")
She's both bland and annoying but what really seals the deal on her not being the right fit is despite how she says that she grew up wanting to be a explorer, that she is literally anything but.
You have this vast open mazes with psuedo world/rooms inside of them that despite being around for hundreds if not thousands of years, that she does not want to explore.
It comes as a afterthought whenever she does decide to explore, and even 115 chapters in we have not seen her actually once decide to do her actual role and try to explore thins despite it being her whole childhood. In a world fit with exploration and things to be found, we have a hermit whose too busy fixated on Helena to actually do what she said that she wanted to do as a child.
This novel as a whole needs a do over. Scrap the cringy drama plots, both family and anaya. Redo the characters as a whole, make the population actually aware of the magical maze thats been there throughout history, and give us a world that's actually been impacted by a magical Maze that's been around for 1000's of years. Actually do a better job of giving solid info on how the maze works thats not random new info thrown at you 100 chapters in.
But most all, redo the MC HEAVILY. She's not enjoyable to read and even worse she's not the character that can take the reader on a journey to find stuff that hasnt been seen before despite her insistings otherwise.
Overall 2.5/5 stars
Edited on 11/23/2020:
Fixed grammar issues and elaborated a bit more.
I truly hate school. And for some reason I read 31 chapters that covered 3.5 days of classroom b.s. seriously, it's a slog. It makes me wonder if the author has done anything else in their life. Because school seems to be all they write about. Or "a soft smile." Most overused phrase ever. Expect it at least 3 times a chapter. Ughh, I seriously want to shoot myself now. Not to kill, just so I can focus on pain that isnt coming from my bleeding brain.
Was I harsh? Yup. Fuck school
30 chapters in and they're still training :/
The summary doesn't make it clear but this story is a school life tale. As of chp 31 we haven't seen anything but a few days of learning and training, barely a week in total IIRC. And we've at least an entire month to go. So if you don't like school life stories, go look elsewhere.
If you don't mind the lack of action, this is a story with good grammar and few typos (very important for me as a non-native speaker given that I always have to translate in my head and errors can really throw me out).
The main character is relatable, not the very best at everything she does for the first time in her life but reasonable competent for a trainee. I approve!
The side characters are beginning to be fleshed out, and the antagonist is at least hinted at.
Given that it's just a hint yet, you'll not be surprised to hear that the tension is very low. It's more a slice-of-life worldbuilding story than a drama.
Good for a relaxing read :)
It's an ok story about a woman with 2 OP skills. She's in a modern world (read: computers, tv shows (Xena)) with a dungeon. That might sound ok and it is, but the writing style is atrocious. It's not as bad as a translated wuxia, but it's close.
The syntax is below average and the characters don't breathe or live. The have about as much personality as cardboard.
What's slightly irritating is the ham-fisted way the author attempts to show that their MC is cool or woke. Two dudes fighting and then making out. Look, there's an assumption that non-assholes are fine with displays of affection from queer people. There's no need to prove it. Plus, the whole interaction felt forced. The author needs more time and practice to solidify their style and flow.
The story needs a re-write/2nd draft.
P.S.: The goddess Hera is a right ol' bitch. It's an odd choice naming the very friendly MC after the evil step-mother of Greek mythology.
So I'll preface this with the fact MAZE is currently a slower placed story that's focused and likely will continue to be on discovery. It revolves around Hera, a character who couldn't make it as an adventurer ('explorer') due to her natural stats. There's a lot of focus on backstory, in depth details on her as a person, the side characters are often fleshed out very well and it's a slow build out of mediocrity into adventure. If you're looking for adventure and action out of the gate this story probably isn't for you; nearly fifty chapters in and just finishing training.
That said if you like well fleshed out characters and secondary characters, detailed world building and that building feeling of pursuing your dreams after you gave up on them then this may very well be what you enjoy. I'm enjoying it immensely.
If you go into this story expecting thrilling battles and swift plot progression you are not going to enjoy what you find.
This is a story about a girl who was basically rejected from Hogwarts getting lucky and being accepted when adult life was worse.
It is about a pair of fresh eyes learning about magic and monsters, and a new set of friends who are generally more prepared for this than she is.
The Pros: Interesting system, where the magic exists and the system just measures and presents information. It means things are a lot less strictly numerical, which leaves a lot of room to grow.
The main characters 'cheat' is late game OP in a way I haven't seen in other fiction before. I do love me a new build.
Intriguing world: A world where a system is an engrained part of life is pretty unique. The balance issues seem to have been worked into how the world functions rather than simply ignored. I am curious where it is going.
Cons: Some of the characters feel a bit flat. A few are great, I love a couple in her immediate friend group, the two main teachers and even the bitchy classmate. However occationally everyone comes off like a 2d anime character or cliche, and like an anime everyone not immediately relevent to the character is rarely mentioned. They could use a bit more soul? This seems to be improving as the story goes on though.
Very slow paced. 32 chapters in and we are still very early into the training arc. I am enjoying it so far, but I can understand why some others might despair at it. This is perhaps one of those rare times when it might be better to have more tell less show.
As the title suggests, I found this novel average. It has its good parts and its bad parts.
One of the aspects of the novel, that I really liked was the system the author created. Compared to most litrpg novels, it doesn't give the user power, except the attribute increases on level up, but mostly records the person's progress. Everyone has to work to get new skills, and once they have a certain mastery they get the skill. Another good part of the system is the fact that it adapts to major achievements of the people, like it did with the roles. The attributes are a flaw as we have no comparison, and have no tangible effect on the person.
The grammar is, also, a good part of the story. It has some minor slip ups, like a change in tense, every now and then, especially in the early chapters, but nothing consistent.
The pace is on the slow side, which might be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on everyone's preference. I found it too slow, as by chapter 180 the MC has only reached the second layer out of the 25 that have been discovered.
The world building is lacking, in my opinion. So far we only know of 2 layers, 3 if you count the glimpse of layer 25, one city on earth and two organisations, one of which basically by name. This far from enough for 180 chapters, if you want to have some depth in your world.
The characters in the story give me mixed feelings. Some feel very flat, for example leo, alex, mark, Tom and Rurir. For the rest of the characters, while they have some depth, i didn't like their character. Hera and Helena feel too childish, I found Blue too easy going and not taking most things seriously. The whole first kill situation was a nice try to give the MC depth but it was handled poorly. For all the importance it was given, it was forgotten by an advice of blue basically saying "it was a simulation, you didn't kill anyone", and then it wasn't mentioned after. The story needs a more serious mentor character, who would also give the MC a reality check. If it feels bad for every intelligent kill then I don't see her surviving without plot armor.
Finally, there many resources the author had, that were not used correctly. The best example is the explorer's relic. It is one of the things that is original in the story, yet it is never used or explored. 180 chapters in and the MC used once to find a frog. I expected the MC to experiment on the limits of the only thing that distinguises MC's role from the others. Another example, were the role quests that were meant to help the new explorers learn their role, yet when they aren't ignored, they are finished in a stupid way. The first with a walkthrough and the second by someone poimting her towards a "secret".