The Dungeon Challenge
The Dungeon Challenge beckons.
Katha was taken, offered to the Challenge in exchange for mercy for the villagers of Reach. And now it’s up to siblings Malco and Reva, her only friends, to get her back. They’ll need the power of Archetypes. They’ll need levels. And for that, they’ll need to risk their lives.
In their way stands a perilous journey, deadly traps, and terrible monsters. Omnipotent Godtouched plot in the shadows, and older conspiracies come to light to threaten the land itself.
Larger than life, older than time, the Challenge itself lies in wait. It plays for keeps. You don’t get another try.
The Dungeon Challenge is my first stab at gamelit. A chapter a day for about a month and then Mon-Wed-Fri.
Art by the wonderful Cáti Daehnhardt @catidaehnhardt
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It's an interesting setting; I just wish it had a better protagonist.
The setting is... well, it's unclear to me whether the characters are actually NPCs in a MMORPG, but if not, it's a portal fantasy which has that flavor.
The twist is that the world has (either actually or as part of the game's backstory) a means for NPCs to gain PC-level power, which the PCs have turned into a death game for their amusement.
Which... is interesting, maybe? I think too many authors don't understand how making the setting an MMO lowers the stakes and changes the nuances, but the nature of the setting is ambiguous enough for me to care about what's going on, at least.
The issue is the protagonist.
His first appearance gives you pretty much everything you need to know about him. He's the kind of guy who will get in fights to protect his sister's honor, despite never having bothered to learn how to fight or physically train, despite his sister having to end up saving him, and despite his sister wishing he wouldn't.
He's a good-hearted low-wisdom character who will resolutely evade any attempts by people who care about him to protect him, leading to the people who care about him getting hurt when he screws up.
His all-heart no-brain "I'm going to save everyone, even though I don't know how!" thing just got frustrating after a while. The pointlessness of him flailing around in a death game without actually seeming to even know what he wanted (besides "save everyone!!") just eventually felt pointless to me.
Grammar: No mistakes noticed here.
I'm usually not a fan of first-person perspective, but the more intimate perspective works well for this story. Action and environments are described clearly. Characters can sometimes feel a little underdescribed - they might get a brief initial description, but I think the author could find little ways to remind us of character's physical characteristics to keep them fresh in our minds. The prose is straightforward and effective, not overly flowery.
Actually, really, really gripping.
I'm not going to lie; the first couple of chapters I read, I thought this was going to be a sort of typical, video-gamey dungeon delve kind of story. The writing quality was better than usual, with good pacing, but I wasn't expecting too much in terms of plot or setting.
However, stick with it, and it slowly reveals a really intriguing world - one of constant danger, roamed by powerful, capricious, malevolent individuals called 'Godtouched' who are not shy about abusing their power over others. As you might expect from a dungeon delve story, the way for normal people to gain fantastic power is to run through the gauntlet of the eponymous 'Dungeon Challenge', but Godtouched are individuals who are born with this power, without having to earn it. Their existence is a mystery - they only appeared relatively recently, and it's implied they changed the world greatly when they did. They are an oppressive force within the story, ever-present, violent lunatics that really makes the setting feel truly dangerous. Actually feels like a bit of a combo between a dystopia and a fantasy novel.
The story itself focuses on the sacrifice made to appease these Godtouched and their violent lusts, a mysterious young girl named Katha, and the attempts of her friends Malco and Reva to retrieve her. It has delightfully solid pacing, taking its time to actually get to the Dungeon Challenge itself, revealing lore about the world as it gets there, through the character's confrontations with the Godtouched. By chapter 14, we have just gotten to the beginning of The Dungeon Challenge, and I am actually very interested to see how it goes.
Characters - particularly Malco, Reva and Medrein - feel complex and real. But even side characters, who we don't see too much of, are written well. In particular, a good job is done with the Godtouched. They really do feel like dangerous people, when they appear - like life is a game for them that carries little risk, and everyone else around them is a plaything - and the author does a good job of making every encounter with them feel subtly on-edge, even when they're not doing anything particularly insane at the moment.
The story is primarily told through the perspective of Malco, a young man given good reason to be angry, but the story does not indulge his anger - things are more complex than he thinks they are; the world more gray than he thinks it is. This is definitely (at least, as of now) not a power fantasy fiction - all the characters are vulnerable, but Malco perhaps most of all.
This is really, really good, and I don't say that lightly. Of all the stories I've read through on RR, this is only the second that I've actually decided to follow. It may start out slow, but stick with it and you'll see that it is definitely not your typical Gamelit. It really deserves more attention. Absolutely give it a chance.
It's a good read. It's well written and the characters aren't one dimensional but there are some overused cliches like a scrawny village boy having a bully and having a mysterious childhood friend whos is mysterious because she is. Some typo's here and there but I'm not really picky about that.
The reason it's frustrationg to read is the mc, he is the "I'm going to save everyone no matter what and no matter what they do to me or others" type. Keep in mind that he's in a challence designed by psycho's to kill as many of the challengers as they can for entertainment. It's why I cant watch animes anymore.
I've only gone over the first chapter, but I was extremely impressed by the author's (Elecham) elegant prose, snappy pacing, and vivid imagery.
The relationship between the adopted siblings is shown, in touching fashion, through their words and action that hint at an intriguing backstory and sets up the plot to come.
The fight scene is swiftly paced without being sparse and action-packed without being overdone. Elecham is obviously capable of delivering vivid action, and I'm sure there is much more to be anticipated in the subsequent chapters of this story.
As another reviewer mentioned, Elecham's prose is tight and efficient. The narrative is not laden with purple imagery, yet it delivers a clear and colorful picture of the world and what occurs within it.
Disclaimer 1: This was initially written as part of a review swap. This doesn't affect my ratings.
Disclaimer 2: The Overall Score represents the quality of my experience(as a reader), while individual category ratings are from the perspective of a more analytical critique.
BLUF: A rather well-written, tense, and action-friendly story where the standard gamelit formula is completely overturned, centering on characters with NO LitRPG-style stats up against, among other things, people who do have those benefits. Does take some time to get started, but by the time you've hit chapter 8-10 you'll know that it pays off very well.
GRAMMAR: Servicable, with minor typos and other oddities here and there. Readability was only minimally affected(but appears to get slightly worse after chapter 10).
STORY: Suffers a little from drag in terms of early pacing, in my opinion, but it makes sure that even in those moments we're getting something for our time. There's also a fairly sudden ramp-up from "typical-ish fantasy" to "Dear god, that got dark really quickly", not just in level of violence but in terms of the grimdark level of the lore, and I really like that. I couldn't call it completely unpredictable, but there's a few solid twists here and there to keep things interesting.
CHARACTER: I feel like a few characters could've gotten slightly better developed, but the main character and his half-sister feel like rock solid characters to center the story on. I guess maybe I would've liked a little more deliberation on why the horse breeder's son is such a meanie; there's enough to get the point, but it seems perhaps a little exaggerated given what's there. Both the main character and his father get some extra tokens of character development a little later on that helped fill in the blanks very well.
STYLE: Environmental details are minimal, in a very good way. I feel as if this author and I would agree a lot on personal doctrine, and the way combat is described is very to the point. I, personally, as a man of violence would've liked maybe a little more attention to detail, but what's already there gives a good picture. The one very minor problem I had was that it was a little hard to keep track of characters at first, possibly due in part to a relative lack of distinction between characters when initially introduced. Pace has improved dramatically in chapters 11-14.
NOTE: review slightly updated to reflect reading more chapters.
I love the dialogues! some times they feel sloppy and purely bad but others are masterpieces, the characters are well written but there is no interesting mystery yet in the story but I like it. I did hope some points in the story were slower and others faster but now it's too late to change them, so I hope that is the case for future chapters. Just one piece of advice a little bit less detail and more reflexion in the mc mind would be good.
It's fun, it's interesting, there's constant tension, something important happening; Not dull for a moment. Real dangers are involved and our characters are often walking a knife-edge. Sometimes they get out unscathed, and other times they suffer the consequences for their mistakes (or just bad luck). Really, I don't have much bad to say about the fiction. Wholeheartedly recommended, give it a try.
The style has been consistant so far, and I personally find it enjoyable. It's tagged onder "gamelit", but don't let that scare you off, it's pretty tame in that regard. It reads more like high-fantasy; no blue screens. Action scenes are quick and sharp, people react by instinct, the scenes aren't super-long slugfests. In general, the descriptions are there, but not the focus, and not overdone. It leaves enough to the reader's imagination. I quite liked the riddles/songs that appear later on, too.
The setting is a world where the common people live under the boot of "Godchosen", e.g. mysterious, reckless, unbeatable people with "levels". The MC is a town-elder's son, and he sets off on a long, hard journey with his sister to try and rescue their other, adopted sister. The only way to do that is to participate in a terrifyingly dangerous dungeon challenge, that's being held in the capitol. There, they have to solve puzzles, survive traps, fight monsters and interact with other challengers of various loyalties and hidden motivations. So far so good. There's also rich mistery/history behind everything that we get tidbits of.
Not much to be said here. Pass. Everything seems to be in order. I haven't really found any mistakes, so it can't be too bad. Easy to read, effortless to understand, but doesn't feel dumbed down on purpose. It's a nice balance.
The characters are pretty varied. There's history behind them, they're not just cookie-cutters. Even the MC's best friend is someone he used to bully and strongly dislike. They have their motivations, opinions, and every character is working to strive forward in their own manner. They're not dumb, or incompetent, and stay true to themselves. The dialogue specifically feel really well executed. The MC isn't perfect either: he's reckless, overconfident, holds grudges and is rash. But also earnest and persistant, competent and quick on his feet. It's an enjoyable perspective to share.
It starts out as a classical hero's journey with a physically wimpy but mentally tough kid who will become powerful and hopefully remain kind and compassionate in sharp contrast with the current assholes on the top of the foodchain. I was sold at the second paragraph already :D
Present tense, first person narrator. Really well-done in my opinion. The one point of view character makes it easier to follow, and even the internal monologues and flashbacks are written fluently, it was easy on my poor sleep-deprived brain through the whole time.
Classic high fantasy and hero's journey as I have written above. It doesn't feel like overused tropes at all, I think the best word for the story would be streamlined. No weird tangents, no long polemisations, just an enjoyable, well crafted plot.
Besides the occasional typo, impeccable.
The main character is equal parts relatable and punchable, just like a teenager protagonist should be. He is smart, tough, has a presence of mind, but he is also not infallible, and has his angsty moments. The other members of the main cast are also believable and organically written, the favourite of the readers will probably be the main character's cool sister, Rev.
Overall it is a well-written story. It's based upon tested and true templates, but it has enough unique twists and ideas to keep it fresh and interesting. I can recommend this novel to everyone who is looking to have some fun.
I'll preface this review by saying I'm not overly familiary with gamelit. That said, I've enjoyed the story thus far. It's simple, but neat. The prose doesn't overtax itself—the writing is tight and to-the-point. I don't know if first-person, present-tense is a feature of the genre, but I did find it a little jarring.
So far, Malco is a bit bland as a character, though his half-sister and adopted-sister are both intriguing.
Overall, I quite enjoyed what I've read so far. I look forward to seeing how the story progresses.
The Dungeon Challenge is an intriguing story with slightly dark undertones, told through the perspective of it's main character. Though it contains elements of GameLit, it did not feel, at all, like the cliché carbon copies one usually finds among the genre. It is, by all means, an original and entertaining work that is well deserving of praise.
Style: As many stories told through a first person perspective, The Dungeon Challenge mainly focuses into the main character's perception of the world around them. Though it may have a slow start, that i perceive as world building, the pacing picks itself up comfortably as you read more. Soon i found myself immersed into the story, though unfortunately, i lack the free time to binge it. I find it, however, that dialogue could use some improvements, as it’s quality throughout the story tends to vary by a lot.
Grammar: I'm not a native english speaker, so take anything i say with a grain of salt. The grammar is solid, with very accurate use of punctuation. There are a few typos(very few), but that is to be expected. It's normal that a few typos go by unnoticed until someone points them out. For instance, i have noticed the usage of "blond" to refer to a female character's hair, when the proper usage for females is "blonde" with an 'e' at the end. But that's really minor, since both are homophones; the only difference being blond is for males and blonde for females.
Story: The Dungeon Challenge does a good job with showing, rather than telling. It has a slow start, though. It didn't really catch my attention until a couple of chapters in. In fact, i would say that it was only at the end of chapter 4,
Character: As a story that works with a first person perspective, it does a good job of making the reader understand the feelings and inner conflicts of it’s main character— sympathizing with him, even. It also does a good job conveying the side character’s emotions to the reader, albeit sometimes requiring some extra focus to understand them. I didn’t notice much character development as of yet, but then again, that is something that happens slowly throughout the development of the story.
Overall: The Dungeon Challenge feels like a breath of fresh air into what is a heavily overused and more-often-than-not repetitive genre. I’m eager to see where the story is going, and hope to see more action in the future. Though I have to say it’s kind of sad that there is no romance tag… I usually like romance in these kinds of stories.