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.
There are currently 20 advanced chapters on my patreon as a thank you to patrons.
Join us on discord! https://discord.gg/A4M3CzfWBn
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
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- Story Score
- Grammar Score
- Character Score
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Edit as of 08/18/2021: Woo! 110 chapters in and still quality as ever.
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.
People are super critics for the weirdest stuff on this site.
I am not a super critic. The only times I will write a review is when I feel a story really deserves recognition, because the truth of RR's ranking system is anything less than a perfect 5.0 has a negative impact on the story's rank and I'd rather not do that to people.
Anyways: Are there some things in this story that are not perfect? Well, yeah. Duh. It's a web-serial you can read for free on the internet. There are going to be a few tiny problems you can nitpick. But are any of these problems enough to make me feel this is less than a perfect 5 star story, relative to the other garbage I see all over this website?
This story is fantastic.
It updates frequently and it's well thought out. The characters are interesting. The lore is great. The world building and magic systems are really fascinating. And unlike so many stories on this website: the protagonist is not a murder-hobo. Each chapter also does a good job of introducing another useful piece of information you can build with, which snowballs as the story continues and paints a larger picture of the world at work. There is also no real "filler" to be found, which I've found is extremely common once authors start realizing they're popular enough to make money.
I'm not sure exactly how to describe this story, but D&D meets harry potter, meets something extra... that's probably close. This is all just my opinion (for whatever that's worth these days) but I feel this is a really good story. I recommend it, and I wish there were more stories like it.
The characters of the story feel very flat, with little depth to them. It feels as if I'm looking at actors reading from a script, rather than people who each have their own beliefs, morals, and values. Especially a lot of the humor feels very contrived, rather than arising spontaneously. I can't give an exact definition of why it feels this way, but it feels as if the world is rotating around the main character, rather than the main character being a part of the world.
The grammar of the story is impeccable, with no flaws that I noticed. The style of the story isn't something that is bad, but it doesn't greatly stand out either. There's nothing that I can point out that says "Only this author writes in this way."
The story and world building is actually interesting and engaging. The chosen hero concept has been done to death, but this is an interesting take on it, with the main character actively fleeing from said duty. My biggest complaint is that the story suffers heavily from Assumption Syndrome.
Assumption Syndrome is when a character makes a completely baseless assumption, that they couldn't possibly have guessed without prior knowledge, but they turn out to be right because of plot convience. A good example would be Sherlock Holmes. He walks into theoretical crime scene and sees a wine bottle, and immediately guesses the wine was poisoned by a threatened butler, whose family is held hostage by the local kingpen. There's no way anyone could have possibly guessed all that just from seeing a wine bottle, but he's "so smart", so it's waved off.
To list a couple of such instances in the story.
The main character is attacked by a bug monster, and immediately assumes they must have been the soldier version of their species, and that there must also be a worker version of the species, because of course all bugs are basically ants right? How would a character in a mideval fantasy world even know about ant hive structures?
Another instance is when the main character accidently controls an evil dungeon core and immediately assumes there must be a shadow government organization that is keeping all this hidden. Because obviously the previous heros that went missing had tried the same insane act of interfacing with an evil dungeon core after defeating hordes of monsters, and had been killed off for their knowledge.
If you can look past the many logical fallacies that grace the book, it's a decent read. It's not a litRPG or harem, so it's already unique compared to 90% of the other power fantasies on this site. I don't have a problem with either of those genres, but you have to ask yourself, do we really need another one? Thankfully this novel answers that question with a resounding "No!"
I actually dislike stories like this more than ones that are purely bad. With an obviously bad story, you don't waste your time. Here there is enough good things that the flaws feel particularly glaring.
There are two major flaws that are interlinked to really drag the story down and make for a frustrating read. The story starts with a bang, you have a major threat arise and the MC is dragged into things, but choses to essentially run away in order to grow stronger before being forced to confront the Big Bad. That's great and makes sense in the context of the story. What we get after that though is an inconsistent mishmash of training or experimentation that furthers the MC's goal, with slow tangents about cooking, festivals, or sight seeing excursions. The MC has access to incredible resources that might be able to help resolve his issues with the Mark of the Fool, but does absolutely nothing with them because "he's afraid of people finding out about the Mark." There is ZERO justifciation given for why he might be afraid, even fear of the priests can't be leveraged because they are banned from the school campus by his demi-god of a Chancelor.
Overall, the spell experimentation is interesting and I enjoy the world, but the MC is a bit of an idiot and it's made explicitly clear that while he's crowing about how great the pie he just baked is, people in his homeland are suffering and the other heroes are facing extreme challenges. This undercuts any attempt at making the MC seem admirable or brave, he comes off instead as a foolish coward squandering resources that could be used to resolve the threat to his home. A perfect example is that he pushes himself in his potions class to get approval for self experimentation so he can analyze a substance he has. When all he had to do was just ask his professor to do it for him, there's no justification given for why he should be afraid of her finding out about the substance and in light of the experiments SHE is performing, his worries amount to nothing at all.
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.
Review just after finishing chapter 6
The first thing you can tell is that this author has been writing for a decent amount of time. The saying 'It's not the stories that make the author good, but the author who makes the stories good' holds very true in this case.
The style of writing is very good with a strong use of alliteration, similes, metaphors and personification to expand on the setting, the characters and how they are feeling at any given moment.
The heroes plot I'd say is common in the anime/manga world but has been done differently, and very well I might add, which pulls the reader in. I enjoy the ends of chapters the most, as the author has written the chapters with a soft cliffhanger each time, making the story a page turner. The grammar is very good with 1 or 2 grammatical errors up till this stage which are usually highlighted in the comments for correction.
The MC is very likable I'd say, ruthless enough to get revenge, jovial in situations, logical yet hard-working. Very well-rounded with no overpowered abilities out of nowhere. Everything the author has done fits.
There was one section in chapter 2 that could be reworded as it sounds confusing but, as a reader I got the gist and it didn't really impact the readability all that much for me.
Despite this, I'd recommend this story 100%. Some of the best-made chapters I've read on this site.
(My bad for any grammatical errors, did not proof read :) )
Short Update - Review just after finishing chapter 19
I've found myself disliking the story and characters more and more as the story has gone on. I think the premise is still very good and I'll continue to read to see where it ends up, but there are parts where I was like "this is so boring and irrelevant can we just move on".
Hopefully it picks up.
Update - Review just after finishing chapter 43
Okay, so it picked up. :)
More of the story is now solely about things occurring around the MC, with enough mention of the side-characters to let you know they still exist and are doing things of their own.
I still have issues with some of the character traits and pacing of the story. However, it has vastly improved from Chapter 19 up till now. I'd say this is due to the fact the author was doing a writathon, and may have had to speed up writing in some areas.
It is still very good but, certain areas of the story could be revisted before publishing.
Overall, I like where the story is going and I feel like pacing is going to be key to how this 1st book/iteration of story is depicted; as well as the satisfiability of this arc's ending for readers.
I can at least say that the story is technically well written and readable. The main issues start cropping up once you get into an examination of the Fool's powers. He gets tripped up by self doubt and a cavalcade of all his mistakes when he tries edging in on the other heroes skills. Otherwise, he can preternaturally demonstrate mastery of skills. Fools are generally referred to as the hearts of the team. Basically Brock. From here, the world building shifts into taking a dump on the Fools. For some reason, everyone is just an absolute ass towards them. Heroes, betray them. Populace, deride them. It's like rising of the shield hero.
The issue comes up that the protagonist circumvents and ignores every restriction in no time flat. It taps into every aggrandizing trope from the rationality sphere as fast as humanly possible. It's as if the author fears that having some sort of handicap last more than one chapter will drive their audience away.
In summary, it does a bad job of being a rational fic by tapping into all the worse attributes of the genre.
(as of chapter 39)
I've watched this story soar to the heights of RoyalRoad within days during the Writathon and now I finally had time to read it. 'Mark of the Fool' is a worthy addition to the top percent of stories here and I enjoy it immensely. It is not only a nice read with interesting subversions of some common tropes but an excellently written piece of literature as well.
Plot teaser: Alex just wanted to go to wizard school and care for his little sister, but then Prophecy/Fate/whatever struck and branded him with the worst variant of "You Are The Chosen One" mark available, the one whose bearer is mostly useless, usually killed and sometimes even a traitor according to the old stories. Instead of Answering The Call, he nopes out of Dodge and tries to be a good wizard student while keeping his mouth shut about that whole "saving the worl– tiny backwater region" stuff. Well, not completely shut, because there is clearly something fishy going on. Do the old stories err? Or worse, do they LIE? Come in and find out!
Style: MotF is told in third-person internal style from Alex' point of view. That way we learn his thoughts, which are usually rather smart. The phrasing is very good with a great use of literary devices and smoothly flowing sentences that make the scenes flourish in the reader's mind. The world-building is done excellently, there are lots of smaller details fleshing out the lore, the mechanics and the (side) characters. At the same time, there is no needless bloat, UnstoppableJuggernaut really manages to walk that thin line of perfection IMO.
Story: Young man gets special power, leaves home, goes to wizard school, meets people both friendly and unfriendly. While this may sound like every third story on this site, MotF is anything but. The rather strict rule of "no fighting" enforced by his special powers is throwing a full spanner set in the works while the "no magic" rule is setting those works on fire. Alex does not only have to navigate the usual obstacles of a "school story/arc", at the same time he has to overcome those additional difficulties. Aaaand it has to stay a secret, no biggie. Concerning the thin line between "not good enough" and "too perfect", it feels like Alex is succeeding a bit too easily in his "this should be impossible but it works" moments, finding successful workarounds very quickly.
The pacing is a mix of normal and slow: Many things are happening, yet it does not feel rushed, but rather sedate because of the many world-building details. According to the comment section, this seems to annoy the "I want nothing but power-levelling"-crowd; I like it the way it is, with good lore.
Oh yeah, there's the coming-of-age stuff as well; it is presented rather marginally as hints and short moments and feels natural, not as extensive as in other stories. It's enough to be noticed as a sub-plot and creates some interesting moments, but it is clearly a minor thing instead of distracting from the main storyline.
Grammar: Excellent. I noticed some missing spaces next to text in italics (a known formatting problem when copy-pasting to this site) but barely any other errors.
Characters: All are complex and feel natural. Alex is a smart young man, he plans ahead and thinks things through instead of rushing blindly ahead. His mantra of "think, adapt" is helping him tremendously in overcoming the stuff the author throws at him. At the same time, he has a full set of personality, from worries to delights, from strengths to (slight) weaknesses. While Alex has only few faults, he is not a Gary Stu, just a resourceful guy a bit ahead of the curve.
The central characters of his inner circle are done excellently as well. We don't know their inner thoughts but their behavior is smart and sensible, with full, natural-feeling personalities. If I had to point out any fault at all, they come across a bit too mature for their age; perhaps I am just too used to stupid kids to realize that some youths are more mature than most... On the other hand, that everybody is so sensible makes them feel a bit too interchangeable, there is no real conflict going on between them. I can't even say that this is bad, because the story is focusing on other conflicts, it's just something I noticed.
There is a large amount of other side characters introduced as well; all of them, from the regulars to those met only once for a short scene, are behaving like a normal person would, with emotions and quirks and different personalities.
tl;dr: Who should stay away from this story: Power-fantasy fans who evaluate progression by "amount of enemies killed" or "(level/stat/...) numbers going up"; people who prefer quick-paced, right-into-the-fray stories without any side-tracking; people who hate everything that is not fighting or looting; people who like one-dimensional OP MCs.
Who should absolutely read this story: People who love characters with real personalities; people who love world-building; people who prefer brains to brawn; people who love to dive into a complex creation of excellent literature and still enjoy a nice read.
It's kinda okay-ish but feels like a lot of wasted potential. Keeps dragging on waaaay too much. Some parts are really confusing as to what is going on and how we got there.
I am biased for this cause I hate the trope but sister and childhood friend are annoying and mostly useless... the eureka moments the child causes makes me go like: are you serious dude? You sure you got a brain in there?
if you like that trope you probably gonna enjoy it more than me. Grammar is good. Some details are intresting. I like the power the fool gets but the other heroes feel kinda lazy compared to it... like there is a theme going on and than the fool... so far it makes no sense why he is part of the hero party or why his power is so different from the others. I didn't read that far but there seems to be foreshadowing for another trope I hate so I'm out of here.
Also if that proves right it will make look one of the most retarded decisions the mc did seem like a good choice. Problem is he had no way of knowing it so it will just be dumb luck. From someone with the Think Adapt motto i'd expect a bit more.
I really like the premise for this one and I'm looking forward to how the author continues to deal with it. That said, the characters all feel a bit off. I think it's part dialogue and part decision making but I'm not much of a fan of how they interact. I also think I just do not share a sense of humor with the author at all.