- Traumatising content
After centuries of endless wars, the three greatest nations of the continent have come together in peace. As a symbol of their cooperation, they have worked together to establish the Grand Academy of Spiritual, Martial, and Arcane Arts, a place where the best and brightest of each nation can gather on neutral ground and share knowledge, techniques, and cultures. Can the peace truly last, or is the academy just another proxy for the constant conflicts the three nations face?
None of that matters to Lee Jia, a homeless young girl who's biggest concern is surviving the winter. But when she accidentally stumbles into the academy in search of a new place to stay, her destiny is changed forever. Determined to carve out a new place for herself and make the most of her good fortune, Lee Jia dives head first into the world of magic and martial arts.
Fates Parallel is my first serious attempt at writing a story, and a personal love letter to Eastern fantasy and xianxia stories. It's heavily inspired by East Asian culture, folklore, and mythology, with what is likely going to be a decidedly Western artistic license. I try to write every day, with a goal of about 45,000 words per month (~1500 per day). Chapter lengths are around 3000 words on average, releasing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Cover art drawn by my good friend Pennytail.
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The story is good, the cover is pretty bad.
The story following Jia and Eui is cool, it's well structured and while we can be confused on the mc, it's because the mc themselves are confused. We can follow how they grow and it's pretty fun. The systems of cultivations are pretty good, and their interaction is pretty fun.
However the style of the image on the cover is creepy, I'm sorry to say this, but seeing this image really destroy the image of the mc i have. While reading the story i imagine those "cute" girls and then i remember the creepy eyes and fingers of the cover.
It ruins my imersion of the story, i can understand some creative freedom for the artist, but at least respect some basic human proportion. I know the girls are half spirit, but those look like some insect fae-guys with the proportion of the face all wrong, it's too alien for me.
I know it's a pretty long rant for just a cover but it's the first thing someone see of your story, and you want your main characters to be "human" so that the reader can empathise easily with them, this cover make this pretty difficult. Moreover if you want readers the cover is a pretty important selling point, and if another author did not advertise your story, i would probably not have read it (because of the cover).
Fates Parallel is a great addition to the western xianxia genre by a promising first time author who really did their groundwork. It's obvious from the very beginning that this work is a product of love and passion. It's very amateur at the beginning but the author really gets better. It's obvious that he has written works of fiction before publishing here.
But before we get into the advanced review. Message to Author! Please please get a new cover, I guarantee that your discoverability and new reader rate would drastically increase. It doesn't have to be custom or high end but even having a generic anime catgirl on there would help.
Dialogue is a very clear strength in this story. The author gives each character a unique voice that makes every scene readable and flow well even without excessive dialogue discriptors. The banter between characters is great, it really gives the story an attitude that pulls the me into the world. I'm always a sucker for wisecracks and quips.
The action scenes are done well. Quick, clear, and punchy, each battle is well choreographed to show off the characters. The author has done well and kept the battles fairly low power. Be careful not to fall into the trap of xianxia genre and start making high end conflicts purely metaphorical and conceptual.
As for improvement, please pay close attention to the pacing and plot threads. Arc 1 was done really well, just enough different plot hooks and progression that the story moved along while we were introduced to the school and the world around it. Arc 2 however starts to become overbearing in the amount of different plot threads to keep track of. Not only is there a inter and intra personal conflicts, a mysterious past, a young master type, and a hidden expert, there is also a spirit ancestor plotline. It really drags the plot down when the MC needs to take care of so many issues she's never really progressing enough on one plot to keep it satisfying. Xianxia relies on progression to keep it moving.
The story starts of with our MC, a street urchin who gets into cultivator school due to a stroke of good fortune and high latent talent. She adapts well to this new place and quickly makes friends that introduce her to the cultivator world. Sounds familiar? Yeah it's very close to Ling Qi from Forge of Destiny, a top novel on this site. I have to admit that this kind of set up is almost a trope at this point but the author manages to pull it off without it feeling too repetitive. Lee Jia has her own unique internal voice that sets her apart from most other xianxia MCs. Aside from FOD, this is the second xianxia that actually does trauma and PTSD well.
The main plot of this story however is the relationship between Lee Jia and An Eui, two girls bond through shared traumas and develop and warm hearted friendship as they journey through the cultivation world together. Yes it looks like this story is going in a Yuri direction but it's done tastefully. In fact it's done really well. Seeing how two broken girls grow and face their own internal traumas while battling through a xianxia world really is the main attraction in this story. I love reading about internal growth in xianxia because it really shows off the strength of the genre. People gain superhuman powers but it's always the internal demons that keep the characters human enough to relate and empathise with. As of arc 2 this main plotline is shaping up nicely. Some progress, some setbacks, past rivals, new friends. It's honestly shaping up to be a great character centered story.
The world is great, nothing new, really plays on the traditional cultivation setting. We have 3 types of cultivation: mana, soul, and body. All are separated by 3 different political entities and now are now coming together to train a generation of talents to do all three. It's a good set up, it's obvious that these world so far is only a small backwater compared to the real world. While the cultures of the different countries are shown, most of the story so far revolves around this cultivation school. No greater worldbuilding has been really done yet but some interesting seeds have been planted and hinted towards.
It's top tier. Readable, clear and doesn't break any immersion as far I can tell. Great stuff.
The story is carried by a good cast of interesting but somewhat cliche cast. There's the noble, the jock, the nerd, the young master, the emo girl. The author uses these tropes to introduce these characters but brings them to life slowly as the plot allows. Each side chracter has their own unique voice and interests that keeps them easy to keep track of. It's not brilliant but the dialogue and banter between the cast keeps things fresh and fun.
An Eui is the main character's roommate (oh god they were roommates). She's an interesting girl but the only thing I would complain about is that her backstory was revealed a bit too quickly and comprehensivly. I would of liked her backstory to be fleshed out a but more. Who was she before the sect really. What was she like before she was all dark and murdery. Her parents, siblings, friends. All that kind of stuff. There's a lot to be told there and I want to see more of that.
Lee Jia, the MC is someone I wanted to hit last. She's a conundrum, a paradox. She's this happy go lucky girl that's suprisingly bold and naive for a street urchin. At times the mask slips and we are the person underneath and it's awesome. She has a lot of interesting peculiarities and contradictions about her that makes her a really interesting character. As a street urchin, she's a bit too good at some things she does. Many other commenters have noted that she always seems to have skills that's incongruous with her identity and personality. While I don't want to go too much into spoilers in a review, let's just say I hope the author makes her more than she appears. I have theories and if the author manages to pull at least some of that off I think that this story can go from good to great.
This story has honestly been a great piece of work. It deserves all the love it can get and more. As a reader I'm a sucker for female MCs especially in the xianxia genre. The dialogue is excellently done, the setting is well thought out, the magic system is an interesting twist on the tropes that most veteran readers would appreciate, and finally the MC is a great exploration of trauma bonding and psychology. Did I even mention the fast update rates and meaty chapters? It's a really great work and has the potential it be top 25 on this site. Keep on writing author you got a gem on your hands.
Full disclosure: I have access to draft chapters, so I've read up to the current latest draft chapter, Ch. 47. My review is based on the entirety of the thing that may not be currently available to public readers.
Overall, this is a lovely story, steeped in the tropes of its xianxia/wuxia genre - with many of its staples and traditions - but with their own touches, twists and inversions. The general vibe I get from other xianxia content is world-ending, city-destroying battles of epic proportions - here, things are lower to the ground as the characters work their way up and realise how low they truly are on the food chain.
I have read some complaints about the start being 'contrived' or 'convenient', but it definitely seems like that starting bit could have been fleshed out to the tune of an entirely different tale - a story the author didn't want to write. We're here for some cultivating action in the setting's most interesting place, not roaming the streets and the wilderness for fourty chapters trying to get there.
Speaking of the setting, I quite like the worldbuilding. There's some simplicity on the surface, with three nations inspired by real-world Asian regions, but with some complexity that slowly comes out over time. The melting pot of cultures and practices, the meeting of different people and methods of cultivation, the rumblings of a secret plot greater than it all ... maybe I've said too much there ;)
As far as characters go, I think Lee Jia's a bit too trusting for her background around the start, and some of the side characters could get some time in the limelight. Apart from that, I love Lee Jia and An Eui's relationship - it feels a bit quick at first, a relationship of convenience that accidentally evolves when they stumble on a 'new' way to cultivate. I'd give a 5 star for characters except for my problems with Jia's maybe too trusting nature early on.
As for side characters, Seong Eunae has some really interesting issues going on both with her attempts to be seen as something other than her noble station and the reality of her 'importance' to her family that I hope to see elaborated on further. Dae's a super-cutie, Takeda seems pretty cool (though I'd love to learn more about her), and the Xin Wei + Guan Yu pairing is lots of fun every time they're around. All the instructors are quite interesting too - I wonder what sort of stuff they could do, if shit got real?
Honestly though I really love the fight scenes. The pacing and direction for them all flows together really nicely and you get a sense that everything and everyone has some part in the scene. There's lots of parts in the story where you might be inclined to think Lee Jia is a bit 'mary-sue', learning everything so quickly, but then she bites off more than she can chew and barely scrapes away with help, or at some cost. As cruel as it sounds, I look forward to seeing her getting beat up in battle! Seeing the other characters fight as well is fantastic, and how they work on their own cultivation and strategies.
And a less than perfect grammar score because I am a picky S.O.B and sometimes the commas aren't where I like them. The 99% of readers won't even notice, I'm just weird.
A fantastic story that I already recommended to all my friends!
This story was fresh and I greatly enjoyed it. The writing was smooth, the sentence structure allowed smoot reading without have to backtrack to reread a sentence, with very very few spelling errors. I got this reference from 'Beneath the Dragon Eye Moons.' This story really should be higher in the rankinds!
An imperfect story but worth reading if you like a side of Sapho with your cultivation. While the character's decisions occasionally feel forced by the needs of the story more than driven by their established characters I think the emotions that drive those decisions feel real enough to make up for it. If you want your protagonist unbound by emotional baggage and unrestrained by society this one may not be for you, but I'm enjoying it and would recommend at least giving it a shot.
Edit edit: Things are seem to be getting significantly better on all fronts. Shit has potential, but this could just be a performance blip. To clarify, I don't actually mind the MC being extremely talented, having awesome friends or anything along those lines, I merely dislike her not having to strive for it and having it all land in her lap, effortlessly. The recent chapters are a move in a good direction, shit happens, she almost loses her girlfriend, and realizes that the world of cultivation is, unsurprisngly, a shitty place to be. There's also more moving quesitonable pieces on the board, like Do Hye (manipulator/experimenter) and Yang's family/sect/whatever, the latter of which seems to be cannon fodder and the former seems to be final boss material. I'll take another look in another 20 chapters to see if things keep up. That said, I'd still like to see the MC act more like her background would indicate, but we'll see.
Edit: I've caught up to the most recent chapters. Most complaints are still valid, however, I will say that pretty much everything about An Eui and her dual cultivation / yin yang-esque bond with the MC is fantastic. I still feel like An Eui would make a far better protagonist and it'd barely change anything about the premise. I mean, would you rather read about how a naive girl gets everything from the beginning and becomes invincible, or about a girl who lost everything, has literally nothing, and is desperately trying to evade her fate of self-destruction and pursue love (I'd be surrpised if it isn't yuri at this point)?
Now, I've only read the first nine chapters. For all I know, things turn around in the next twenty or so chapters and it suddenly fixes everything, who knows?
Let's break everything down.
Style: Generally good. Nothing that really sticks out as a problem.
Grammar: No major issues, but I'm not really a grammar Nazi and wouldn't notice it unless it was a glaring issue. There are some minor mistakes that I may have overlooked, but nothing that would detract from the reading experience.
Story/Characters: I'm going to combine the two, since all my complaints originate from these two items.
Alright, so basically the story supposedly is about a homeless vagrant who gets a much-needed lucky break, and finds herself situated in some sort of a magic school/cultivation sect/martial dojo school filled with nobility. Ostensibly, it should be about a girl that was shat on her entire life seizing a rare opportunity and clawing her way to the top. Instead, she becomes an instant Mary Sue - she's immediately accepted into a school for cultivation despite having robbed her way in, never suffers a single misfortune, is loved and helped by basically everyone, is ridiculously talented in everything, and she befriends a fucking princess (who doesn't act like one), a disciple of a master mage (who will help her with everything, whether it's learning how to read, cutlviate, or whatever), and a skilled martial artist, in only the first few days. Pretty much no one has an iota of distrust or holds bad intentions toward her, other than the only good character, who should honestly be the protagonist, An Eui. The MC even has an obligitory Mary Sue backstory with naivety and trust permanently set to maximum to everyone she meets (despite being a homeless orphan who went through some shit, who should be mentally mature and distrusting at least).
Then, there's other problems, like the intro - honestly, before I started reading, I was imagining a short-term Mx0-esque scenario, where a non-cultivator has to fake it until they make it and disguise themselves as the person they robbed the token from. Hell, anything else would be better than 'sure you're unawakened, a homeless orphan and have zero background and importance, and you robbed a noble of their position, but you have mystical Mary Sue powers that directed you here, so whatever, you're in'. I mean shit, it feels lazy as fuck.
There's other issues too, like Lee Jia's saintess tendencies and scathing naivety that I can bloody tell is going to become a major thing, both of which are my pet peeves. Awful character, awful depiction of an orphan, and awful omnipotent protagonist with no serious struggle or conflict in her path. At this point, the only way to save things, aside from a rewrite, is to kill off the MC and replace her with An Eui, the objectively best and only readable character.
Like a lot of crap on Wattpad, and to a lesser extent Royalroad this whole thing reads very juvenile and young adult, there's so much magic instant trust, and very little competiveness, distrust, hostility, manipulation, conspiracies, struggle, killing, conflict, or anything of that sort of depth that you'd expect to find in an adult novel, especially one taking place in as chaotic a place as the crossroads between three hostile kingdoms who should be playing tug of war with her to either turn her into a tool, or to merely kill her to deny their enemies. Instead, both the world and the characters bend over backwards for the sake of the protagonist and have none of the tone that the stated setting should, kind of like in pretty much any interchangeable dystopian young adult novel like Divergent or the Hunger Games (aka a shitty version of Battle Royale for children). The characters, for some reason feel sameish, like they all have the same, or similar character traits and values and, for some goddamn reason, are basically all nice. There's no promised Xianxia vibe where fights are life and death, people die like dogs, and the world is generally, survival of the fittest. Read I Shall Seal the Heavens instead if you're expecting decent Xianxia, it's much better than this dreck.
Honestly, it's a damn shame, the setting, worldbuilding, and the (western/eastern) cultivation systems are interesting and well done, but the readability is hampered by sameish characters that seem roughly as deep as a puddle, and a plain bad protagonist. Better luck next time. Some advice? Never write lawful good aligned protagonists, ever. They're pretty much impossible to make readable or likeable for any mature audience.
Edit: To clarify, this is barring those intentionally depicted as broken individuals, like Emiya Shirou. Not exactly a work of art or the epitome of good writing, given the medium, but he's an extremely interesting and well-written character who is depicted as having superficial emotions and a singleminded desire to replicate that sole strong emotion he had when he was rescued from certain death by his adoptive father. He has zero sense of self-preservation, a low emotional range, never laughs or cries, and is willing to do basically anything to become a hero and essentially exists to protect people (barring Heaven's Feel). As a parallel, the main antagonist is literally the exact same as him, but reversed in direction.
It's an Xianxia Academy novel, first and foremost, which is why I compare it to Forge of Destiny. Definitelly has better magic system, and in my opinion has noticeably better written characters.
It has a really good magic system, probably my favourite on my platform because of how well it goes together. Main characters are the primary "cases" of experiment that attempts to join 3 separate schools of cultivation together, which allows for the magic system having a lot of lore, lot of mystery, and a lot of pieces coming together.
First book has a lot of obligatory standard stuff to go through from the genre checklist, but the the book two is a lot of better.
The two main characters are likeable and well made, but what is more rare about this book is the fact that secondary characters are really well written. Far beyond the standard of this platform.
Fates Parallel tells the story of two young women who find themselves greatly out of their depth, relying on each other to watch the other's back while they navigate their way through the harrowing trials of cultivation, friendship, and most chilling of all, the public education system.
STYLE: I love the liberties the author has taken with the traditional xianxia/wuxia settings. Combining many different takes on cultivation, as well as the cultures surrounding them, into a cohesive world, Fates Parallel provides the reader with a rich setting to sink their teeth into. I realize that's more setting than style, but it's one of my favorite parts of the story, and I have no complaints regarding this category.
STORY: In terms of plot, Fates Parallel honestly knocks it out of the park. The usual avoiding of spoilers aside, the twists and turns of the story are fun and engaging, and will sweep you up into the lives of our two main characters as they carve out their place in the world. I've seen some complaints about a few plot developments resulting from the characters' spur-of-the-moment thinking, but those decisions are in line with the characterization we've seen so far, and I trust the author to resolve these plotlines just as well as they've handled the rest of the story.
GRAMMAR: Not much to say here, I haven't noticed any glaring or consistent errors in the writing. One of the smoothest reads I've had In a while, which I appreciate immensely.
CHARACTER: God damn, these girls gay! Good for them, good for them. All joking aside, I like the way the author has handled a budding romance between traumatized youths. There are parts which feel slightly rushed, but that's largely due to plot-important developments which clear up any misgivings I had about these characters. Every character has their own voice and motivations, and I never felt like the characters acted a certain way simply because the author needed them to. Favorite characters: Jianmo, An Eui, Hayakawa Kaede.
I feel this story is highly underrated seeing as it doesn't even have 500 followers at the time of this review as it is easily much better than a lot of the novels usually on Trending.
It's a novel take on the xianxia genre with different countries practicing different forms of cultivation and an academy which aims to combine them. Some political intrigue sprinkled on to the fan-favourite academy arc.
The main strengths of the story are the 2 lead characters who are very well written in my opinion. No complaints with grammar and the plot doesn't slow down after the initial arcs which is a recurring problem in some novels.
One of the main characters does come off as too naive/forgiving/trusting and there is a good in-story explanation for this halfway through the second arc (if you can last that long). Looking forward to how she continues to grow.
Overall, a really good novel which if it keeps up in quality could very well end up becoming a RoyalRoad staple.