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Mana Artists rule the world, and the path to power is a well-kept secret, restricted to state-approved programs and universities.
Akari Zeller will never be a Mana Artist. Not if society has its way. She's a Bronze with no money, no family, and no connections. But technology is advancing too. And to a skilled hacker like Akari, no secret is safe forever. The dark web holds the keys to true power, advancement, and her only chance of survival.
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Book 1: Web of Secrets
Book 2: Web of Dreams
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Seems pretty interesting and engaging so far and the characters are mostly rational which is a plus for me. I'm intrigued to see more of the magic system as we go. The writing is well structured and mostly flows well.
It's a slow start getting into the actual magic system with some governmental/societal worldbuilding. The hyper-jaded, low class drone trope is a little heavy-handed but if things progress at the same speed I don't think it will be too bad.
It's written better than the vast majority of works on this site; a quality I've only seen (consistently) in works such as mol, and the author FortySixtyFour. Imo the main thing holding this story back from a greater number of RR readers is simply the target audience of royal road itself (shamefully, this includes me) the extremely blatant political implications consistently insinuated right off the bat and throughout the rest of the story (the setting itself) is a HUGE turn off, of course, if you are looking to publish, having a narrow and faithful audience is definitely a route to take; but if you are looking to reach a large audience on RR, these methods are questionable to say the least.
A really good example of this is Thedude3445. This person has their own site, a faithful audience, and a better quality of prose than almost all the writers here on RR, but you don't see the person's works ever stay on the charts.
Basically, if RR really is just a stepping stone for you; I'd try not to worry about topping the charts here. Objectively (and imo) this is a good story.
Mind you, I've only read up to chapter 7; for slogging through such propaganda is something I'd just go to a news site for. The quality of the writing itself is what's barely kept me hooked, simply because the rarity of said quality is a much appreciated breath of fresh air.
I wish you could leave a review without any rating attached, particularly in this case. On the whole the book is decent, but I don't think it's for everyone.
The grammar is fine, no complaints there. The style is... unremarkable? There isn't anything particularly notable about it for better or worse, which to my mind is detrimental. It's better to stand out for your failings than to be unremarkable in mediocrity.
The characters are fine, they're a little too trope-y for my tastes though. They aren't totally bland, which is better than a lot of stories on here, but you also know exactly who they are as soon as you meet them. Which makes the time spent developing their character feel like filler since you already knew it all if not in exactly those words.
I haven't really enjoyed the story. Again, it's fine, but there are just a lot of things that stack up in a manner that I don't appreciate. The world building seems to fall in line with the characters, the author has clearly spent time fleshing things out, but there's nothing novel going on. The central mystery of the story starts out intriguing, but grows significantly less so over time. And then we have the magic system. It feels like a bad mashup of magic and cultivation. The cultivation side of it is touched on, but not deeply enough to be interesting and the magic side doesn't have sufficient diversity to be interesting on its own.
If your magic can only do three things then it's silly to restrict the main cast to just one of the three for a significant length of time, i.e. still a problem in book two. Not only that but then you have diverse effects which get lumped under one of those three things with a lot of hand waving. That's when you know your simplification has overshot in my opinion. I understand what the author was going for with regards to a more limited scope of power being available on an individual basis with the intention of that driving ingenuity, but that's not what we see. What we get is people shooting magic missle at each other, but oh! Some of them are blue and others are red! Blah.
On the whole, for me it was a decent time filler, but I'm probably not going to be picking it back up again. This is definitely a personal taste thing though, I never really got sucked into the similar stories that this draws inspiration from, e.g. Steeet Cultivation or Cradle. All well and good, but not at all enthralling to me.