Live. Study. Repeat.
Tal is a sorcerer in a world where they are killed on sight, traveling with a man charged with carrying out the task. Every night Tal must pretend to study his spellbook to maintain his disguise as a Wizard’s Apprentice. If his disguise slips and his charade is uncovered, it will be his death. Seeking answers to mysteries that arose after his parent’s murder, Tal must accept any allies, no matter the risks, to uncover his family’s secret. But when he wakes up one morning to find himself trapped repeating the same day, he has to overcome his challenges all on his own.
This story is an adaptation of a D&D campaign I ran but never was able to complete. I tried to capture the feel of a table-top RPG session —tropes and humor— without relying on the mechanics. This is not a litRPG or gamelit story and no D&D mechanics or system appear in the game. It follows one member of an adventuring party as he deals with the problems with that arise from being an adventurer. Namely, getting roped into adventures. The story has a time loop element, but will eventually move past that.
This story explores the magic systems, the history, and the lore of the world through the lens of Tal's entries in his Spellbook and interludes from other written works in the world.
New entries on Mondays
Credit to JackOfHearts for the cover.
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So every nerd on the internet at some point learns about D&D classes, this is the first time I've seen a Sorcerer forced to mascarase as a Wizard otherwise the Paladin will brutally murder him. This also goes into the theory for how a sorcer gets their magic and learns their spells. All in all a really cool read.
This novel's lovely protagonist Tal is a sorcerer living in a world where sorcery has been outlawed and people who practice it are murdered and skinned alive, as is tradition.
To begin with, learning sorcery for the hero was a challenge, as it required his mom to place him into extremely dangerous, wilderness survival-type situations in which his talents and skills would emerge, but also he would be blessed with hypothermia and other ailments.
Secondly - our newly minted sorcerer must survive by pretending to be a wizard. Lucky he has a wizard's book on hand, which he mostly uses to draw caricatures of people he meets, pretending to be writing down spells.
Stylistically, this story has an interesting angle as it reads entirely from the point of view of Tal's wizard book, into which he logs daily journal entries. The book becomes bound to his soul, so the more he writes into it, the better he remembers events. The book's magic basically blesses him with eidetic memory.
Not mentioned in the description is the fact that Tal is trapped in a ground-hog day like situation in which he is repeating the same day. Slowly, over time the protagonist uses his book to understand the situation better and to also take advantage of it and of his perfect memory, by outsourcing event monitoring jobs - which is a creative and fun take on “the protagonist is stuck in a time loop idea” and is something that I’ve never seen in groundhog day type stories.
Spelling is pretty good, only found a couple of minor mistakes.
The world is full of rich detail and fun bits and feels deep as do the various characters that Tal interacts with from the comrade who is supposed to murder Tal for being a sorcerer to the kids whom Tal recruits for monitoring the loop events. Additional concepts such as - wizards who's daily, mundane job is to magically blow wind on ship sails to make boats go upriver make the world all the more believable.
The puns [such as trying to determine a name for yesterday-today] are creative and hilarious too, which is a plus.
The story hooked me well enough with some humor in the earlier chapters. I may amend or add detail to the review as time progresses. I dislike time loops as a story concept, cardinal sin after Mother of Learning blew up I know, but I tried this story anyways and was not disappointed. Although I disliked Blessed Time, this story made me consider giving MoL another shot at some point in the future, even though initial chapters did not hook me. There's a decent amount of worldbuilding being done to distinguish the setting from a more generic medieval fantasy, which is always a plus. The eponymous (correct use of the word?) spellbook and the way our MC utilizes it keeps the story interesting as well. Even some of the functions which seem remarkably mundane to us readers really help Tal in the loops. The amount of exposition on both the magic system and the world's history are just about right, we're not left in the dark but not bombarded with info either.
Character and Story:
The main character fits a heroic mold done well. In spite of him being the only character in focus until very recently, the author manages to make the events surrounding him interesting enough to keep me engaged. Although the MC is in a tricky situation, there is always some humor injected in to balance out the drama. Fortunately humor and musings of the main character do not obstruct the author from keeping the plot moving along, some popular RR authors can't or deliberately choose not to...
I like how story has addressed how the loop has impacted the MC socially. The fact that people unaware of the loop feel like "NPCs" and the loneliness that ensued really made me think. MCs party members seem to fit very established archetypes, but that is not always a bad thing. Every character has a distinct voice and they don't just sound the same.
The diary entries and first person narration really work in this case. The worldbuilding is fascinating, and it's very clear that the history of this world is something the author has spent a good time building.
I was leery of a jump in time where Tal narrates the past year, but the author has handled it very well.
Nothing more than a few typos here and there, but the writing flows, I'm sure someone with a more technical understanding could get in the weeds about why. Dialogue or narration of the story never feels awkward or stilted.
I was a bit iffy going into this; I'm not a big fan of epistolary fiction. I just feels unnecesarily meta for not a lot of advantage. However, I'm always up for timeloops, and a DM turned author always seems good; there's a lot of storytelling overlap there, so there's a good chance the production quality will be better than a rank beginner.
Which, yeah. This is pretty good.
There's a good mix of exploration, discovery, narrative, and mystery. The MC is clever and resourceful, not a jerk, while also having some character flaws. The supporting cast is quirky without being zany, like any good party, and they fit into the setting well, which seems like a homebrew world that still follows basic DnD conventions.
The central conflict, that of him being a disguised sorcerer, is quickly replaced by him trying to escape the time-loop. I'm sure it'll come up again; it's not like it's really gone, per se, but more that it's less important now that consequences don't seem to last more than a day.
That is something this story does that follows a lot of other time-loop stories; the loop seems to be just one day. I really did like the longer loop in Mother of Learning. Well, maybe it'll change eventually.
The epistolary feeling of the story fades out after the first few chapters, too, which are quite expository; when the backstory starts coming in, it's written more like normal narration, although the conceit still does show up at the beginning and ending.
He's just starting to explore his surroundings, and I enjoy exploration in stories. The book seems to have more secrets to be discovered, as well.
He hasn't actually died yet, despite getting quite close a time or two. I'm honestly not sure if he'd survive it, given what I know of standard DnD; if the condition of his soul is carried over from restart to restart (with his magic training), him dying might pull it out of the material plane entirely. Which could be interesting, honestly. Well, chances are he'll just wake up at the beginning again.
All in all, this story is solidly above average. The epistolary conceit is a bit annoying, but fades into the background fairly quickly.
Story started somewhat interesting, but it is often goes away from that to flesh out some inessential details.
There was also weird skips of important plot point, with little to none explanation afterwards, and while it is okay for a diary format, it leaves reader in confusion.
Also, despite implying protagonist training in loop, there is no progress in his abilities.
One of the pleasures of amateur fiction is the prevalence of risky, experimental ideas that professional authors avoid for the sake of job security.
The holy grail of "amateur" fiction is when an experimental idea is done well. In this case, we have a first person narration via journal, which somehow comes off as exciting.
To be fair, this isnt a new idea. It is common in HP Lovecrafts works as well as other early authors, from whom this webfiction takes literary inspiration, but rediscovering an "outdated" style is still a feat.
Lastly, the mc is explicitly good and tries to do the right thing. That said, mistakes happen and the MC is FAR from perfect, but thats just life. All i promise is that the mc wont make you regret getting invested.
The main character is a scholarly young Sorcerer/Wizard who has a lot of complicated problems to solve. The Dragon Blood Sorcerers recently attacked an important town, and he and his adventuring companions are likely to have a role to play in what could be a very nasty war. The most powerful organization on the continent is the Wizard's Tower, which has found a way to weaponize the bones of Sorcerers, and therefore tries to kill any Sorcerer they can find. Our Hero needs to conceal the fact that he is a Sorcerer, especially from the Paladin he is travelling with, who might kill him if he found out. He needs to find out who murdered his parents, who were investigating an ancient global catastrophe called the Flood, which destroyed most of the world centuries ago.
But important as all these problems are, none of them immediately matter, because he finds himself trapped within a mysterious time loop, which only he seems to be aware of. It's a good thing he has a powerful, possibly sentient Spellbook to help him. It's just his luck that as long as he is trapped in the timeloop, he has to wake up every morning with the worst hangover of his life.
It is one of the few time loop stories done right. The character interactions are funny enough and the world building is splendidly done. The most interesting thing about this story though, the thing that got me hooked, is the exploration of the magic system that is quite complicated. It displays that doing magic is not as easy as it seems, there is a lot of hard work involved for that kind of power. This makes magic all the more satisfying,which, combined with the mystery surrounding the loop, makes for a very interesting read.
Not once have I skipped a paragraph for having too many boring descriptions. There isn't too much exposition, and the action is dynamic enough to keep me reading. No fake cliffhangers, or other cheap tricks, I keep reading because I like the story. This whole journal thing makes it feel like someone is telling me a story, which is a very uncommon instance of actually good first person narration.
Grammar: I caught some typos even in the month-old chapters (Btw, I love the new edit suggestion feature. Good job royal road!) I would suggest using some browser plug in like the LanguageTool.
Character score: Out hero... Tal, that was his name. It could be mentioned more often, but maybe I'm just bad at names. Anyway, he is not some complicated character with thousands layers of depth (As fur as I can tell), but he is a good fantasy hero, and pretty nice narrator.
Story: Time loops are always nice for power progression. Having the one-day-long loops makes it harder to do a lot of things during this short time frame. Hiding the sorcerer powers is also well executed so far. There are also many secrets I look forward to seeing... Like, is Tal a vegetarian? It's not unheard of in fantasy worlds, but mostly for elves. I have nothing against it, but if that is the case, it should be established in the story. Or maybe he just like fruits.
Overall: The best thing I read in the last six months. Thank you!
This story has a style that some might find off-putting, getting very close to what I would call a diary type of writing. Or, should I call that a spellbook style of writing? Is there any difference? I don't care. Maybe there is.
Anway, such a style doesn't encompass doesn't the whole story, readers still able to get a view outside of it in some fashion. It's still much more descriptive from my perspective but whatever. I like it and that's all that matters here.
Characthers should be experienced at one's own leisure. So... go read it. 5/5 from me.