Bastion Academy Book 1 - Foundations

by Jess D. Astra

Original ONGOING Action Fantasy Sci-fi Cyberpunk Low Fantasy Magic Male Lead Martial Arts School Life Slice of Life Wuxia Xianxia

For Jiyong, Bastion Academy is more than just a school for magic in the heart of the kingdom… 

It’s his chance to pursue the secrets of the ancient ones’ machines and get his family out of the poverty-stricken outer-city. His acceptance letter in hand, Jiyong is sure nothing will stand in the way of his dreams. 

When a street brawl lands him in a coma only weeks into the year, his chances of graduating are all but shot. With an unlikely digital companion, he’ll have to rebuild his magic core and catch up on all his classes, or risk being dropped from the academy at the end of the year. 

But kingdom life is not like the outer-cities, and kingdom kids are far more ruthless about who they’ll allow to climb to the top. Jiyong will have to train hard and fight for every score to make it in this wealthy academy for powerful families, all while supporting his own from afar.

Release Schedule:

Temporary haitus while Book 2 gets underway! Expect new chapters from book 2 in a few weeks.
(Want access now? My Patreon is getting super early chapters of the first draft starting Monday 11/23 9AM MST.)

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Jess D. Astra

Jess D. Astra

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Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
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A fascinating take on mechanical cultivation

Reviewed at: Chapter 29

Overall: It didn't take long for Machina Core to become one of my favorite books on Royal Road. As someone not typically drawn to cultivation stories (preference for western fantasy), Jess D. Astra's writing is extremely palatable, the content easy, quick, and fun to digest. I'd recommend Machina Core to any fan of coming-of-age fantasy. Give it a few chapters and you'll see it's worth your time.

StyleMachina Core is told from the first-person perspective of a teen boy named Jiyong. The prose is typically simple and direct, providing readers with essential information without spending time on too many words. While great for conveying the setting and the characters, it can be a little slow at times. Fortunately, chapters are relatively short, often leaving you with soft cliffhangars that make you want to see what happens next.

Story: Because Machina Core adheres to a good number of common fantasy tropes, it can be seen as a story that's already been told in some ways, though I believe they are spun on their head or explored with interesting depths, which I personally adore and can't wait to see more of. It's very obvious from background details that an entertaining and enlightening climax awaits us and our protagonist of the series.

Character: Of all the reasons why readers fall in love with books, it's a disparate cast of protagonists and antagonists that typically wins me over. As of Chapter 28, Machina Core's heroes (other than Yuri, my personal favorite) don't yet feel like individuals, though I can see room for them to be fleshed out. The villains are almost non-existent, the only real one being a petty bully at Jiyong's new school, so I'm eager to see more. I'm most interested in the backstories of the professors, but they haven't been touched on much so far. As such, I plan to keep reading on and hope to see more from the characters.

Grammar: Practically flawless to the point where I want to thank the editor.

TL;DR: Start reading Machina Core now


Sex slavery is not on par with not being rich.

Reviewed at: Chapter 72

If you are a rich person who thinks that your feelings of wanting to be rich, without being forced into any responsibility that you don't want, hold just as much weight as someone dying or someone else being forced into sex slavery; than you likely won't have a problem with this story and will likely not even notice the other problems in it.

And yes, this actually happens in the story. The main character gets himself hurt in order to get the money to keep his sister from being immediately carried off for sex slavery, which happened because he hasn't been able to send the money to keep his mother alive (and she still needs more money because she is sick). He then blows up at his friend, after she calls him an idiot for going so far to save his loved ones, by asking her if she has ever had to deal with the kind of stuff he has (people almost dying and having to become the family's provider at a young age, etc. etc.). At that point pretty much all the characters get onto him about how he didn't realize that she has problems too (specifically the problem of having to choose between her inheritance and freedom) and he should apologize to her for not recognizing how meaningful her problems were and taking them seriously. He apologizes for how "insensitive" he was and she... accepts his apology and recognizes that he has room to grow.

Do you see the irony there?

As near as I can tell the author tried to make a "underdog triumphs" story about a poor person with a family to support without giving proper weight to the issues that were created. For anyone who actually understands the weight of the situations, suspension of disbelief is completely shattered and parts of the story get seriously disgusting. This is a shame since the "magic nanites" premise, focused on personal application and including tech, isn't bad. But when the main character fights a professional bodyguard/assassin while also fighting a noble scion, and takes them both out despite having earlier lost to a street brawler (and him being a first year student with no formal training in fighting), it becomes clear that the author doesn't understand internal consistency. The MC randomly improves on things that have been done and researched for thousands of years without even having a solid theoretical understanding of the subject matter. Etc.

All this to say that the story has more issues than the really big one, even if the big one is story ruining in proportions.

Honestly, if it weren't for the consistency issues (both internal and in terms of false equivalence of wildly different circumstances) it might be an ok story. As it is, though, accepting the story as is will actively make you less companionate toward real people with real life-or-death problems. For that reason this story is one to skip.


A technological cultivation story?!?

Reviewed at: Chapter 30

Okay so I'm 30 chapters in and I'm in love with the magic/cultivation system. The author has clearly put a lot of work to fleshing out how the types of magic work and is by far my favourite part about the story.

That being said the story although seemingly generic, is a nice coming of age type story of the main character; trying to grow as a person while protecting his family from poverty. However, I feel like I must mention especially since the story is on royal road, it is a slower paced story meaning that if you're looking for a OP MC then you are definitely not in the right place, but if you want a character with some flaws and isn't overwhelming over powered give it a go! 

p.s Did I mention I love the magic/cultivation in the story! Cause I really love it.

p.s.s. I love how people view Ghosts, realistic take on. Well I don't want to spoil it!

p.s.s.s. I don't know what else to say but I need to reach 200 words to post and attempt to spread awareness about this novel. So I'm gonna continue typing words for a bit. Nope I'm still not there so let's keep going.


Good, could be compressed

Reviewed at: Chapter 68

Good book. Well written characters, even if the main character is a frustrating hormonal teenage boy. But while he's frustrating to read about, I also see how things are pushing his growth. He's an active character as well and not passive. Cho is the least developed so far but he seems interesting, Yuri seems cool as well. Big bad meanie bully is a comically evil character but I've known teenagers to be that needlessly cruel so he's not an awful depiction. Hanna is by far my least favorite, but that's probably just my personal biases against the rich and "boohoo my family is bad because we have too much money" type. The rest of the characters are also good but I won't mention things cause spoilers.

My only major complaint is the reading experience. The chapters feel less like chapters and more like pages. I feel like you could compress the first 68 chapters down into around 25ish chapters, and it would feel much better to read. Less interruptions of needing for pages to load, less awkward mid action cliffhangers that feel more like the text just got cut off randomly. That sort of thing.


This is wuxia, but without "spirit power".

This is post-apocalypse but without zomies and madness

This is magic world but without mana

This is a story about martial arts, but Bastion surrounded by huge automated anti-air turrets.

But also this is a story about boy and how everyone helping him, including plot armor.


Cons: nice good read in slice-of-life and struggle of teenager cultivator in magic world full of nano-machines. Worldbuilding is done ok, world is fun, style is passable, characters... Characters almost not. They are predictable, MC is Mary Sue cry baby, inconsistency in everything except worlduilding.

Few examples:

MC is nobody without actual training and enough food to eat, got beaten by random thugs, but... He beat shit from elite guard of monarch(?) family member.

He doesn't have access on superior metal, but his beaten after many rounds bot, with missing legs, ammo, energy SOMEHOW win against century-old elite "techno-cultivator".

Author introduced few characters(his friends) and then... Forgot about them.

Dormitory have keys and passwords on entrance, but another students SOMEHOW sneaked inside without any trace. And no investigation was ensured even after they got beaten.

Last dozens of chapters is about love story between like 12 years old.

Girl got disowned by family, but jumped in new family-less life happily.

Etc., etc.

If Author works on these parts, then story will be great, right now most points from setting.


A Lot of Promise, Hopefully it Keep Growing

Reviewed at: Chapter 12

Style - Not overly flowery but not super unique either, but not a bad thing. The author knows their stuff, and it makes the chapters easy to read. But something seriously bothers me though. Almost every bit of dialogue is preceded or followed by an action. Whether that be a nod, or movement, or something that could be just cut out completely. Just say "said". I know you wanna break up the dialogue so it's not just two characters standing there talking to one another, but it got a little much sometimes. "Said" is invisible to readers, don't be afraid to use it. 

Story - I think the whole mecha/robot magic aspect of the story is really cool, and could definetly make for a solid premise. Like the other review said, there's a TON of setup in these first few chapters. All dealing with the massive world and magic system, and developing the plot at the same time. I really think you could do with breaking it up by giving the reader little crumbs of information without dumping all this stuff on them at once. 

Grammar - This is easily the strong suit of the story. Easy to read with a few errors here and there. Great job! 

Character - Now, it's still the early stages of the story, but the characters, as they are right now, are good. Not great, they can develop into that later, but they're good. Their dialogue is a little wonky sometimes, but I already mentioned that. But the protag is endearing, and that seems to be par for the course in these cultivation novels. He wants to train to be the strongest, and sometimes that's good enough. 


A lot going, a lot sitting

Reviewed at: Chapter 6

I have read up to and including chapter 6.

Style: There is not much in the way of unique style. It is very plain and not wrong. The author clearly learned some basic writing rules and utilizes them at points, but also fails to do so at other points.

Story: There is A LOT of setup in the first few chapters, with hints at deeper and more meaningful storylines already running in the background, but it seems almost too much to follow. There is also a ton of exposition going on, especially about the magic system which seems to be very complex and well-thought out, most likely to set up the cultivation aspect of the work, but the system is so massive in its scope that the blocks of detailed explanations could use some trimming. There is an attempt to show rather than tell, but nobody can show this much with any semblance of grace. A shallower learning curve or a severely pruned magic system would have helped the work flow just a bit better.

Grammar: No significant errors found. The language is not bad but not quite poetic or elegant.

Character: there is a lot of family tragedy going on, social dissonances and a general difficult-lot-in-life underlying most aspects of the characters and the world. They interact with each other in a slightly stilted manner but overall, there is little negative to say about the characters.

Summary: There is a lot to find in this work, so much indeed that keeps dropping it's notes on what it sets out to do. A bit more focus could set this story and these characters on a great path forward. It remains entertaining and interesting and the characters are worth following, even if they are very well prepared to tug at our heartstrings a bit too heavy.


Worth the time.  Need fifty words so.....Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.Worth the time.


I don't have much to say as I am not a good judge, but I've read, and reread the whole thing since I've been facinated by how the whole novel is written and its pacing as well. Though it wasn't my cup of tea, it was fun to explore.

Definetly a must read for people who are into this kind of things.


Is building up but good so far

Reviewed at: Chapter 4

The protagnist start as an young man seeking to provide for his family and get the money to enter bastion. The story start slow at first and start to build up as you read it. The grammar is good and make the story to easy to understand.

Right now, i see promise with the story, my review will change over time as i progress through the story.