AUC1049. The Emperor of Orbe is dead, and of the empire he founded within his lifetime, not a trace remains. Now his son, Zephyrin Aléri, is the political prisoner of his enemies. Will ‘The Golden Gryphon’ live to assume his rightful throne, carrying on his father’s glorious legacy, or is his name fated to vanish forever from history?
A historically inspired reincarnation story with fantasy elements. Updates weekly on Saturdays. Please note that this is a first draft and chapters are posted as I write them.
Cover credit: courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art, 1919P134. (Samuel Prout, Interior Of A Cathedral)
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I will be honest, the first chapter almost lost me. Although, to be fair, reincarnation sequences usually do that to me xD
The early events of the protagonists childhood, the infancy arc, are what really sold me on the story. Characterisation is a huge sticking point for me as a reader, so I was very happy to find that each character had their own distinct identiity and behaved in relation to their established relationships. It sounds basic, but a lot of people overlook it, so well done.
There are errors here and there, but the author and devoted readers seem pretty on the ball about cleaning them up quickly. The author is also open to constructive feedback and criticism, so that's another plus.
Flowery prose may not be for everyone, usually they aren't for me, but I really felt like they belong in this story. Given the protagonists origins, it's certainly thematically appropriate and can add to the immersion of certain scenes involving interactions with nobility or high clergy. It was actally a rather good contrast for the first couple of arcs in the countryside as well.
I actually really appreciate it when authors do fantasy adaptations of historical events or general history. Even though intrigue and politics are not my usual preference, I still really enjoyed reading everything so far and am looking forward to reading more.
The story won't be for everyone, but I think fans of historical adapation to fantasy in particular will get a real kick out reading it.
Oreo (Good, Bad, Best) Review
The Good: the author has an excellent command of language. Likely one of the best on Royal Road. The prose reads like poetry in many places. The tone of the prose is heavily weighted toward emotional descriptions. As others have commented, it might be comparable to a Gothic style. I'm not familiar enough with the style to be able to say how fresh and new this author has made it. I can say that it is refreshing to read.
The Bad: The very virtue previously mentioned of poetic, heavily metaphorical and emotional prose can get thick in places where one might want the story to 'get on with it'. This reviewer does not believe it merits a lower score as it would reflect poorly on what is essentially a byproduct of being a draft, as most of the fiction on Royal Road is wont to be. This reviewer sufficiently appreciates the writer's skill that even the "fat" that may one day be trimmed still has a pleasant flavor.
The Best: The immersive quality of the story, enhanced by such a rich texture via the language, dialogue and characterizations, makes this fiction an excellent read. Keep an eye out for this book when it is released. I predict it will be a best seller one day. A rare literary gem in the Fantasy genre that is more populated with entertaining pulp that true literature.
I started skimming the first couple chapters to get a taste for the style of writing, became hooked, and realized I had to go back and start all over so I didn't miss any of the goodness.
In short, I was sold on this story early. This review is for the first five chapters which includes the intro and all of the infancy arc. But I plan to read through it all when I have more time.
The plot is solid -- has all the reincarnation tropes you know and love. The style, though, is where the story really shines. The story has a mature quality that I rarely see on this website. It feels like it was written by an adult who has been steeped in old-school literary style.
I also really enjoyed what I have seen of the world. There is a fantasy and old school medieval worldbuilding that feels authentic, especially the world's people's devotion to their church. I look forward to finding out more about the religion and magic aspects as the main character grows up.
One minor quibble is that some of the paragraphs can be densely packed with information and the dialog can be a little thick with the accents. But, on the other hand it forced me to slow down and really take in the story instead of skipping my way through. And the accents give the world a more 'lived in' feel, which is always nice. It's not enough to dock any points off my score.
Am currently on the fifth chapter and have not found any major grammar problems that threw me out of the story.
This is a good one, folks. I highly suggest people give it a try.
Disclaimer: This review is part of a mutual review swap.
When you start reading Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon, it quickly feels like you’ve been permitted to look through a window into a real world. At first, you need to catch your bearings – the story starts at the end, in a sense; a possible ending in any case. The reign of a powerful but controversial Emperor is at an end, the nation at the mercy of its rivals, the heir to the throne on his deathbed. But then, a reincarnation, and the story starts afresh – the archetypal hero rises from a humble upbringing with a twist – the neophyte has already lived a life, albeit a short one, and must use what he knows of the history of his own Kingdom to make a difference and change how that history progresses.
This novel is clearly written by an author with a love and appreciation for the English language with a rich vocabulary that needn’t meander to get to punchy descriptions. The somewhat formal and flowery style, which is also reflected in the speech of the characters, compliments the setting – further evidence of the author’s creation of their universe as a cohesive whole. The style’s greatest strength though sometimes serves as its one weakness, for even the most knowledgeable of readers may occasionally be sent to the dictionary, something that breaks up the flow of something otherwise exceptionally written. While this can at times make for dense reading, I encourage prospective readers to exercise patience. Not only would the story be worth it, I feel that as it progresses the style is evening out without compromising its distinctiveness, a trend I hope continues until a happier medium is reached.
There is nothing to impeach with respect to the grammar. The work is obviously edited by a capable writer who puts time and care into the story.
The world is exquisitely crafted, with just enough detail to breathe life into it but not enough to bog the story down with endless descriptions. There is a magic system that’s revealed slowly to the reader, cities, royal houses, languages, accents, songs, poetry, well-stocked apothecaries – everything to make the reader feel like this is an account of a real world, a true backdrop to the saga and not merely window dressing for a story that could otherwise take place anywhere else.
The protagonist’s own journey is well positioned for a tale full of intrigue and twists. While armed with historical knowledge, there are a lot of details lost to a history written by its victors. Will he know enough to fulfil his plan of positioning his father not to eventually lose power, or will he make tectonic changes that he couldn’t predict? What are the true purposes that the Goddess had brought him back for a second chance?
It’s refreshing to see something that is set up for the long run that actually promises to pay off at every stage of the story.
The eponymous Golden Gryphon (whose given name is actually Zephyrin) himself takes centre-stage as the protagonist, so his character does a lot of the heavy lifting. This is further compounded by the fact that the story swiftly moves the reader through Zephyrin’s various life stages (including flashbacks to his previous life), which has not yet allowed for any particular set of supporting characters to be fleshed out and then built upon. That said, any characters that are introduced, be it the village priest with a noble upbringing, the fast-talking apothecary or the precocious shepherd girl, each of them feels both like a crucial addition to the story but also as a character that’s alive in their own right. The story would be well-served by a greater diversity of character voices, but there’s time enough for that to develop.
As for Zephyrin himself, at the time of writing the young boy is coming into his own. Cautious by nature and keeping his cards close to his chest (specifically not only his past life but his accumulated knowledge as well), the reader doesn’t know their protagonist all that well at this stage, but nevertheless it’s fascinating watching him slowly take control of his own destiny. In his previous life, he had the status but no power (both as a political prisoner and as someone with a frail body and little access to power), and now he has little status, but power both physical and mental. How does the young boy (or young man), who’s exhibited compassion and care for his fellow citizens, use these tools to navigate his duties to his father and his country, while keeping in mind the mysterious divine plan of the Goddess?
Looking forward to learning more as I continue to read Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon.
Sub-title: One of the greatest start for a story I’ve ever seen, not only on RR, but in all my reading history.
Overwhelmingly captivating. Each sentence is crafted with care and precision, and the vocabulary used is astoundingly rich. Better than most professional books.
Nothing to say.
I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just say the base axioms are neat and very well-exploited so far, with an attention to details rarely seen.
The historical structure of this work gives a sense of unity that is very much welcomed, seeing what the premises are.
The characters are the best type: humans, relatable, and logical in their dynamics.
As flawless as you can get a story to be in RR, this piece of work as an interesting delicate style and common yet well-exploited premises. A must-read.
- Stray thoughts :
The prologue reminds me of The Wheel of Time, something past, distant yet incredibly important, as if you were, from space, peeking at a historical events people shouldn’t have seen. I love it.
Some base axioms of this story are surprisingly similar to one of mine. It’s very fun to see another author’s take on a similar concept, I love it ^^
This goes in my must-read list of things I’ll wait of them to have more chapters. Heck, I would buy the book if it, one day, was published, as this kind of story is what I want to have in my personal library, for my family to read, my cousins, my siblings.
I rarely give a flawless full-stars review, but this more than deserves it.
The only thing I could see lacking to make this one of the best story of all time (for me): a romance, a good one ^^
The choice of cover art is apt. This work is a luscious literary envisioning of the grandest of pseudohistorical fantasies with stylistic nods to manga inspirations dotted within the more explicit debts to the classic works of the eighteenth century.
Whether the plot can stand up to the stylistic flourishes of the author, of course, remains to be seen. At 13 chapters in, the plot so far is relatively simplistic. But the characters and setting are drawn with enough bravura that one could almost not notice.
The author's style owes little to anything written in the last two hundred years. His inspirations are, I would judge, Dumas, Dickens, Thackeray and their ilk. Although his imagery draws on modern genres, the style is pure classical. It's extraordinarily rare to find an author with the confidence - and vocabulary! - to pull this off, these days. The only one that comes to mind is Umberto Eco. Stylistically, this is the finest work I've read on RR to date.
Essential to the the style is the author's use of grammar and vocabulary which are exceptionally good. I rarely rate an RR work at 5* for grammar as most authors (myself included) don't make much of an effort to use grammar in a creative form, rather seeing it as a framework for a story. If it's correct, we're happy enough. Elliot has made grammar his bitch.
If the work so far has a principle weakness, it is in the story. I'm absolutely certain that there's a plot here that will unfold and, if it's half the density and intricacy of his command of language, it will be a doozy. But, so far, the plot is largely non-existent and what there is is linear and predictable.
The cast is well-drawn with sympathy. But I think here is where the Japanese influence is most closely felt - particularly as there seems to be a strong link between outer appearance and inner qualities. The sumptuousness of the world contrasts strongly with the sparsity of the characterisations.
It's worth saying though, that the same characters in a different piece of writing might well come across rounded and believable, and it's possible that it is just the contrast that leaves them feeling flaccid.
This fiction is hard work. Another comparison I could draw is with Tolstoy, I think. If you enjoy something like Anna Karenina or War & Peace you'll have no trouble with the Golden Gryphon. If, however, you prefer your fiction on the lighter side you will, most likely, give up on this work within the first six chapters.
It is, however, also beautifully crafted. Some of the descriptive passages are... self-indulgent. In a different context I might be suggesting that there were some darlings, here, that urgently need putting down. But I can also see an argument that the richness of the descriptive passages is part of the style and appeal of this fiction.
As a final note, in the encounter between the MC and his deity, I am very impressed by Elliot's ability to capture a sense of the divine far more completely and effectively than most other fantasy authors in related genres. The result is quite... Catholic. And it's hard not to see some thematic nods towards Thomas Aquinas and other early Christian apologists, which put me on alert for allegory. But this feeling eased off as the narrative progressed.
Heyo! I wrote a review of this story many months ago when the story had around twenty chapters. I liked my review. Then, I accidentally deleted it.
So, now that the story has a lot more content, let me give it another go.
Narration can be read in a lot of ways. One of the struggles of a writer (at least, in my experience) is trying to figure out how the dialogue and narration will be read. For example, did you read my review title as mocking the author's choice to use obscure words just because it's different? Or, did you read my title as self-deprecation, acknowledging that it's not the author being silly, but me just not smart and no understand?
Now that I've established the ground work, I wanted to say that the narration was fine. It read like butter on the inferior side of my gluteus maximus. So, Author-Chan, don't worry about it and just keep writing.
That being said, not everything is perfect in the story. Another challenge for writers is the balance between plot and realism. Now, when I say plot, in this case I'm referring to leading a story in an entertaining direction. Thankfully, Elliot-senpai seems to have a good grasp on scenario writing, meaning that he does generally create thrilling scenes. However, he does not always (from what I can tell) create characters and scenes based on entertainment and plot. They are-
Before I finish that thought, I want to point out what sets the novel apart from everything else I've read on RR. It has the single best world building. Truthfully, I've only read around fifty stories thoroughly on RR, but what I've seen written is so much better than everything else I read or thought was possible on Royal Road, that I have nothing to compare it to. Selena's Reign has very conprehensive world building. From, language, to historical counterparts, Author-nim has plowed the road and planted lettuce for us to enjoy.
Now finally: -sometimes unnecessary. For the uninitiated, the battle between plot and realism is harder than just always writing something entertaining. If you abandon realism, you're left with this feeling of wrongness. It's not supposed to be like that, so it's not fun for it to be like that.
That all said, I think Elliot Flanders-senpai sometimes forgets that subjects everyone finds boring will be boring to read, no matter how in-depth and realistic it is. If he wrote about a navy captain, I wouldn't enthusiastically pass over one of my feces. However, I think I would be interested if that captain had a daughter and was struggling trying to escape war and military service to see her.
Finally, I recommend reading the novel. I do not call it a masterpiece, because not everyone will enjoy it enough to read all the way through. However, I did enjoy it. So, if you dare, go forth, read, and google what loquacious means.
The genre of "re-do" fantasy brings to mind trope laden trudging through bland, uninspired rpg settings. This story breaks the mould with extremely strong writing, characters and world building. Great attention to detail is put into every line and paragraph, drawing a vivid picture of world which seems as real and neuanced as our own, but with enough fantastic twists to elevate itself.
Fans of history will find a lot to love here. The dialogue especially is a treat, if at times a little overwrought. For fans of the 're-do' genre the premise is different enough from the generic to be intriguing.
I have had the pleasure of communicating directly with Mr. Flanders about some of the deeper themes embedded in "Selena's Reign", so I am in the unique position of not having read all that has been posted but still knowing too much.
"Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon" is a masterfully crafted work of art. Truly. From the meticulous construction of each sentence to the vast amounts of research put into every single chapter and beyond to the forethought invested in the full story arc, you will be hard pressed to find a better work of literature on the RR platform. The world building in this book is incredible including gloriously described landscapes, the creation of at least the sounds of an authentic language, political backgrounds and world events that mimic real historical moments, the construction of a thematically important religion, and the requisite fantasy magic system you would expect in such a story.
My one great consternation with the story is how frustrating I find the main character, a young man named Zephyrin. Having discussed his character at some length with the author, I understand the purpose of this frustration, but, nevertheless, I personally struggle to engage with the story because Zephyrin is so difficult for me to relate to. Zephyrin, a prince of great importance, begins the story dying as a young 20-something. He is then granted the opportunity to return to the world as an infant in the care of peasant parents, but still retaining his memories of his past life. Zephyrin displays a certain cognitive inflexibility throughout his infancy and childhood (at least to the point that I have read) that makes me want to smack him upside the head for lack of better language to describe my feelings. His goal is to alter history, specifically the events of his father's life, and because of this hyper-focus, he misses all opportunities to really live and connect meaningfully with some of the other fantastic characters sprinkled throughout this story.(Insert some earth-shattering commentary about how this applies to our own personal lives.)
At this point, I will discontinue my line of thought to prevent accidentally spilling spoilers.
I absolutely recommend this story. It is not a binge-read book. This is the kind of story I could see an AP Lit teacher assigning their high school students to read. But it is definitely worth a look.
Just an overall amazing story. If you like fantasy, historical tales, political ones, reincarnation, stories with any depth to them, you will give this a try.
Style: My favorite part of this story is basically all of it. The style, the writing, the prose, is perfection. The author has a fantastic grasp of language, from how he writes dialects, to prayers, to desciptions, and songs. It's a joy to read.
Grammar: No issues seen, grammar is perfect.
Story: A reincarnation story that begins with death, and then another chance at life. There's a high presence of religion and otherworldiness that brings its due amazement. A mix of isekai and re-living, though before the first time our protagonist was born.
Character: The characters (and world) all feel very real and well-built and well-rounded. I love Zephyrin. He had a chance to return to life and took it. The Presence is also a wonderful well, presence, and being. Rose is wonderful and I love her interactions with Zephyrin as well. The author's prose shines when the two are together and one can compare and contrast them.
Again, I implore you to read this story, at least two or three chapters, and by that point you'll be pulled in and unable to tear away from the rest of the story.