Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy

by UnstoppableJuggernaut

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

After his parents died, Alex Roth had a plan: become a wizard. Through hard work, he was accepted into the world’s greatest university of wizardry—but fate had another plan.

On his eighteenth, he is marked as one of his kingdom’s five Heroes, chosen to fight the land’s great enemy. But his brand is 'The Fool', worst of the marks.

Rather than die or serve the other Heroes like Fools in the past, he packs up his little sister, his childhood friend and her cerberus, then flees for the university in hope of refuge, magic and to unravel the truth about his land’s evil.

There’s one small problem: The Mark tries to ruin magic while enhancing skills outside of divinity, combat and spellcraft.…

…that is, unless he can learn to exploit the hell out of it.

*****

This the first time I am writing a web novel type story, and I hope you like it. I like progression stories and I've always wanted to try and write one like a few of the web novels that inspired me.

I'll be updating everyday in April (starting April 1st/April Fool's day) with the schedule dropping to Tues-Thur-Sat after that. I'll soon be starting a patreon if you like the story and want to support it. Shortly after that, I will have advanced chapters available.

Chapters will be roughly 2000-2500 words.

[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]

***

Rating: This story is kind of like a PG-13 movie. There'll be gore and some swearing but not much beyond that. If that changes, I'll warn you. 

Tone: Tone will be a mix of some action-adventure with excitement, comedy, slice of life elements and mystery. I won't be going too dark with this story. There will be mentions of war, some death, grief and violence.

MC: MC is analytical/rational with emotions. He is mostly in control of those emotions. MC will progress in power, eventually becoming very strong. When that happens, I'll add the Strong Lead tag.

Fights: Fights will be detailed.

***

Stuff this story won't have:

- Extreme grimdark content

- Murderhobo plots

- Edgy, anti-hero MC 

- Pacifist MC

- Harems

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Nameless32
Overall
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Story
Grammar
Character

I swear, Mark of the Fool is going to hit trending HARD in the coming weeks. This story is just about everything you want from a good RR story without the drawbacks that normally come from this format. There's great plot, amazing writing, complex characters, and brilliant fights - all wrapped up in one awesome package. Before I get into that, though, here's some things to note.

I'm a fan of the author's previous works, and had the good fortune of being able to read this story before it got posted here. Thus, I have more to work with than the 60 pages currently up, and might reference vague "future events". The author also has a history of completing whatever he starts, which might be reassuring for those cautious of drops.

Now that I've gotten those disclaimers out of the way, let's get right into things!

Like some reviews before this have said, the prose here is good. Like, really good. Some of the best on the site level good. If I could give this section a 6/5, I would. Normally, RR's writing tends to be fairly minimalistic, and a lot of stories with fancy flourishes end up having the prose detract from the actual story. Not this one, though. All of UnstoppableJuggernaut's writing enhances the story, making the story and characters come alive in your mind in a way I rarely see on RR. It's never too much, never too purple. Just the right amount to make your reading experience 5x better. I swear, if for nothing else, read this story for the actual writing.

Of course, that isn't to say that there's nothing else about this story that's worthwhile. Even if you don't care at all for prose, the story and characters more than carry the book on their own. You could say that the plot of Mark of the Fool is a twice-subversion of traditional fantasy plot. He doesn't get the Chosen One Amazing Hero Mark, and he doesn't go out to fight the dark lord. Instead, the MC carves his own path and tries to evade getting dragged into the grand quest as much as he can. Basically, the MC actually gets to drive the plot forwards by himself, and it only gets better in the future.

He's also much more realistic than some protagonists can be. He's rational and clever, but he still has emotions. For a spoiler example (chapter 3):

We can take the scene where he gets the Mark. At first, he reacts negatively, because he doesn't want any Mark, and especially not the Mark of the Fool. However, after he gets some time to process the situation, he immediately starts testing the Mark's capabilities in order to see what he can do with it, and if he's able to exploit it at all.

His catchphrase is even "Think. Adapt," which should tell you everything you need to know about his character.

It's not just the MC who gets to be "an actual character", though. All the side characters are interesting, which is something I see in very few fics on RR. Even the kinda-sorta-antagonist-figure is semi-likeable, when it could have been easy to make them human trash. The banter between the MC and his companions is heart-warming and genuinely funny sometimes, and it offers some nice contrast to the tension of the rest of the story.

Just a warning: There is a romantic subplot, though it's minor and handled wayyyy better than your typical romance is. I personally enjoyed it, and you can rest assured the characters aren't going to do stupid things because they were "blinded by love" or anything.

There is a very slight nitpick I have to give, and it's honestly almost unfair of me to give Mark of the Fool's story score a 4.5 because of this when it's really more like a 4.9. That very slight nitpick is that the beginning takes just a tad longer to get to the meat of things than RR may prefer. This may come down to, as another review said, the "Trad Quality" of the story, because in a bookstore I probably wouldn't blink at an intro twice this length. It's also chock-full of still-interesting moments that I wouldn't mind reading it even at twice the length. I'm just nitpicking because the most likely reason a reader is to pick up this book might take a bit longer than expected to appear.

Anyways, I've rambled on for long enough, so let's wrap things up. Overall, I couldn't praise this story enough. It's all the best qualities of progression mixed with the masterful prose and characters of a professional. No stat screens in this one, but it doesn't need them to be interesting. Like I said, this will hit trending like a truck, so why not get in now while it's still young? I promise, it only gets better in the future.

Deathless
Overall

Mark of the fool builds more on its character in a single chapter than most royalroad novels do in a book. Its manner of revealing exposition feels natural and flows, slowing clueing us in to details about the world and opening more and more mysteries for us to wonder about.

The authors prose is pretty much masterful, indistinguishable from the kind of work you would find in the recommended section of a book store.

I am excited to learn more about this worlds magic system and the worlds history of the fool.

Henry Furlow
Overall

The main idea of the five marks is intriguing. It is similar to other ideas of 'chosen ones', especially in isekai type stories, but the actual story and plot is much different from those. It mixes the 'chosen ones' idea with a type of plot where it is not normally used.

While there is not enough posted to flesh out the systems(magic/mark/etc.) used in the story it does seem like the basis for a somewhat unique blend of genres.

Errant-Knight
Overall

It's only 4 chapters in but the story already has me hooked. Great pacing and the characters have a lot of depth. The plot is intriguing and I'm very interested in finding out the quirks of our Mcs 'gift' and if he is the only Fool to have figured it out so far or if there is a reason the others have not. 

If the quality of the story stays this good, it will likely become one of my all-time favorites and this site. Highly reccomend giving it a shot.

Nvll
Overall

Amazing storytelling, follow this story

Reviewed at: Chapter 13: Walls and Keys

So far so awesome! Seriously, this is one of the best introductions to a world and characters we could have had. Just look at all the shiny stars I gave it, trust me. The only downside is not having enough to read. 

The story is impossible to put down and the grammar is impeccable from what I've seen. I'm so curious about what will happen to them, I don't usually read chapters right as they're released but in this case I just might. There's just no reproach, and I can't wait to see what else comes out of the author's mind for the rest. 

Consider me hooked :)

Houndmaster
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Mark of the Fool deserves its position in the top twenty, and at least five times its current following. In a span of ten chapters, the author has built a beautiful Universe, plenty of lore and introduced a loveable cast without info-dumping. That alone is a rare talent on Royal Road.

The prose is written in a rather classical style and flows beautifully. The narrative voice paints a beautiful picture of the protagonist's life and personality without overloading us with heavy introspection. The use of language and vocabulary is excellent too, and I can't find a fault in it.

Honestly, I don't know whether there are any grammatical errors in the prose. Not because I don't get English grammar, I have a decent understanding of it, but because the story entranced me to the point that I wasn't looking out for them. This also suggests there aren't jarring immersion-breaking issues, which is a major plus in my book.

Now, we get to the story. As of now, the plot is rather barebones, and the story feels more character-driven. We have the 'hero and his companions' trope in play and what looks like a future in a magic academy, but there isn't much going on besides that besides survival. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. The narration adds tension, the characters are colourful, and the dialogue is sharp. I'm happy to wait and see how the tail develops.

Finally, we get to where Mark of the Fool shines: the characters. We learn to hate Berrick in the opening and love our protagonist's nature. Then we meet the potential love interest, and she doesn't fit the stereotypes in most stories like this one. We got a stone-cold badass who the protagonist occasional pines over. The best part is, she has a Cerberus for a friend. That's right. She has a THREE-HEADED PUPPER. My username probably gives away my bias on this front. I'd like to see more dialogue from the little sister, though. She comes across as a level-headed young woman, and I'd love more character development there.

Overall: It's okay to be a fool. They're awesome, and you should read this.

HomicidalCutie
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Overall: The Mark of the Fool is a promising start to a story that brims with possibilities, expected and unexpected adventures, believable characters, and a complex if not interesting plight for our protagonist, Alex. Having just reached the age of eighteen, Alex inherited a substantial sum from his tragically departed parents, and had big plans to join a mage college and become a master mage himself. Unfortunately, fate, and the “perhaps not so helpful” god Uldar, had other plans.

Discovering he has been “cursed” with the Mark of the Fool our Protagonist determines not to allow Uldar or anyone else to decide his fate. History shows that the Fool often perishes fighting the great evil that summons the chosen Heroes into being. Rather than die fighting alongside a party who doesn’t need him, or possibly even before reaching them for the final fight, this “Fool” will learn to Master the Mark and use it to pursue his goals.

Style: The writing is crisp, fresh, and to the point. Now and then the use of : to connect sentences that didn’t always feel connected, or clear, cropped up but I can only think of two occasions in the six chapters I read.

Story: The worldbuilding and history were artfully introduced and never felt like unnecessary exposition. The plight and goal of the Protagonist are well defined—but, and this is my only “grief” with the story, 

his adaption and “overcoming” of the Mark’s drawbacks happened shockingly quick. Like…within minutes of discovering he even had this “curse” (as all Fool’s of the past no doubt perceived it).

 

To me, this delivered a premature “easy out” to what was the biggest conflict and hurdle our Protagonist is likely to face, at least as far as the first arc.

Is this being nitpicky? Possibly, and hopefully, other forms of conflict and setbacks will arise, but it did deflate my expectations of a more gradual progression of learning what the Mark was, how it worked, and how to overcome and even turn it into a benefit. Just thinking of the missed possibility here, only makes this sting all the more, hence this is the only area that does not receive a perfect score from me.

Grammar: Minor things here and there I barely noticed. Grammar is not my strong point either, but nothing that distracted me from the read.

Character: Alex, our Protagonist, is a solid optimistic, “self-made” ambitious young man. He is self-assured, as much as he is conscious of the responsibilities he faces as a young man looking after his younger sister, Selina. Theresa, his childhood friend (and likely romance partner), is a confident huntress, who is also confident, assured, and spirited in a way that makes you want her by your side in a fight. There is also Brutus, but I’ll leave that drawn-out surprise for the reader to discover on their own.

They are all very well presented, though I do wonder if they border on the edge of being “too perfect”. Looking back, I can’t really think of a flaw found in any of them. Perhaps Alex is a little too “smart” for his own good? Not really a drawback, more like what you expect for someone who taught himself a spell on his own to enter a mage academy.

Overall, this is definitely a story I will come back to enjoy, and I wish the author the best of luck finishing it so that I and many other RR readers may enjoy the journey herein.

Disclaimer: Please ignore my rambling comments and thoughts. Each story and its content is the work and property of the author, who knows better than I or any other reader the things to come and the careful planning of things not yet seen.

WWFire
Overall

Solid start and smooth as drinking water

Reviewed at: Chapter 8: The Chosen

First of all, I'm really chosy when it comes to selecting new novel to follow. It gets worse when I'm starting to get used to RR's most common troupes: dungeon cores, LitRPGs with subsystem, dungeon crawling, apocalypse (which most definitely has zombies... or more dungeons), half-assed isekai meeting this god/goddess; to mention a few.

This novel has dungeons, yes. But so far, no overboard information on it. Though it's implied that the MC will be going to a dungeon next, I will trust the author to bring difficulties and not just "a slime, kaboom! level up!" kind of overused plotting. (Also, Im biased against slime. Fite me!) 

Great powering concept as variation from the classic "hero parties" with an additional classification of "The Fool". Something that put intrigues--at least to me--as a reader to explore how the MC can cope with it. Great use of word choices and so far, the author delivers fluid characterisation without punishing the side characters' intelligence

Vitaly S Alexius
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

This story reached top twenty fictions on RR in only a week so you know it's amazing, for it was chosen by the reader masses for greatness, uplifted from countless other works that have been submitted this week to Royal Road. Within it lies great, incredible potential that I can't wait to enjoy more of it whenever UnstoppableJuggernaut releases more chapters, rising even higher. I believe that this novel will 100% will be number one of this month's trending! Being an avid reader of the author's previous novels I know that this book will not hiatus and will keep giving us more chapters to enjoy until it is done.

The best thing about this book is its core and its heart - a rational protagonist that hooks you in and makes you fall in love with the world. It's not an easy task to write believable, rational protagonists with feelings that don't turn out to be machine-like and UnstoppableJuggernaut handles it with skill of an established, talented writer!

This novel reminds me of the Shield Hero manga as it explores similar tropes, but in an original fashion.

In the Mark of the Fool, its hero Alex Roth is a boy who wants to be a wizard. He is studying hard to get to but alas he is blessed with the attention of the gods - earning him the Mark, which changes his life. Alex Roth does not enjoy the Mark as it comes with a flaw which doesn't allow him to do magic and also shoves him into a Hero's quest as the most useless of the hero's group - the fool archetype, the one that’s treated with a fetch-boy by the heroes and disdain by the people of the world.

However, as he is a rational, determined hero he does not give up, instead choosing to find loopholes and exploits within the power of the Mark of the Fool. His motto "Adapt, Overcome" resonates with me as a reader as I am often faced with life challenges myself and have to adapt and overcome to solve whatever problems life throws at me.

Give this book and chance and you too will fall in love with it!

straybone
Overall
 

This fiction is well-written. I like the power mechanics introduced so far and how the story hooks you through its simplistic design. The characters feel real, too, so it's a plus for me. I'm not one to do very long reviews, but it's a nice story deserving its place in the best rated section.

Cool start. I haven't seen anything incoherent or stupid yet. Keep pumping out chapters, keep the plot pace going, I'll keep an eye on your work.

For reluctant readers, here's a basic description : there's a bit of Zelda and Shield Hero (but only a tiny weeny bit) for the backstory and a tinge of The Gilded Hero for the main character's goal and base powers so far. It's good.