Not everyone gets a soul. The rise of industry and mechanization has sent the world's population booming upward, striving relentlessly for the fixed handful of souls that level armies and steer the fate of nations. The remnants of a crumbled empire fight in a grinding, bloody war against their ancient enemy.
Not everyone gets a soul, but Michael must - for he is the scion of a lord, and the soulless cannot hold such a title. For five years he has tried to tempt one of the souls freed by its vessel's death. Five years of pain and failure, earning only his father's contempt. At last, one more opportunity to earn his soul has come.
But not everyone gets a soul quite like his.
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Cover art by Harry Rowland.
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This story has the coolest worldbuilding of any story on Royal Road, hands down. The author creates fictional news stories, Propoganda posters, and missives to war councils. These snippets of lore are made more interesting due to the fact that the world has magic through the use of 'souls', and that it changes the how and why wars are fought. All of this serves to provide a wide lens view to the events the main protagonist is embroiled in that we would never be able to see due to his narrow involvement.
Not that the protagonist's story is any less interesting. His involvement provides a very close look at particular events in the war that could shape it's outcome, though in an incidental way, as the protagonist himself is just trying to survive.
My description does not do the main storyline justice though, so read other reviews or, better yet, read the story!
Finely crafted and for those who enjoy deeply diving into a full alternate universe.
Well crafted language...interesting art...and finally a plot that does not have simple answers. It actually has echoes of the struggles of Frank Herbert's Dune Series as wrong and right change and you see multiple points of view.
Worth it...but do recall it's a slow burn type of book
This story is of a much higher quality than most web novels that you can find. Character depth is amazing, world building is incredible, story so far has been excellent, but all of that comes with a cost. This level of quality takes time. One chapter per week and the plot progression can be a bit slower at times. Now, once this book is completed it won’t matter at all, but until then it should be kept in mind. And you will want to keep pressing that Next Chapter button because this book will keep you at the edge of your seat.
I don’t know how long the book is going to be but right now at 340 pages it feels to me like it’s just beginning.
The basic premise of this story is that souls exist in this world and people can absorb those souls. Souls grant a variety of superpowers. Michael, the protagonist, after years of trying to get a soul finally succeeds, but the soul that he gets is peculiar. No one knows what the soul does and that attracts the attention of a mind controlling, mad scientist that wants to take him as a lab rat. So, Michael has to survive and learn what the effects of his soul are. The story is a lot deeper and more complex but in order not to spoil anything I won’t be going further about specific events that transpire.
Michael is a tortured character, both mentally and physically. His father is constantly disappointed in him that he keeps failing to get a soul, but he himself doesn’t have almost any control over his soul that grants him the power to cut things. So, throughout his life, Michael has suffered numerous cuts for the smallest reasons. The suffering unfortunately doesn’t end once he gets the soul, it only changes the form.
Even though I can see objectively that this story is excellent, I’m not sure that subjectively I like it. I think that one of the main points in this story is Michael’s suffering and his struggle to power through it and eventually overcome it. Every time he stumbles on some small piece of fortune, even greater misfortune follows. Just like with his soul and attention from that scientist. I found myself in constant terror and trepidation, waiting to see how he will suffer next. Every time Michael manages to accomplish something, he is instantly brought back by something terrible. Eventually, he learns how to use his soul and that in theory gives him the option to try and escape his terrible destiny, but in practice I’m not sure if it really changes anything, only time will tell. It doesn’t feel like Michael has any control over his life. It feels like both me and Michael are on a rollercoaster of pain, and we are here just for the ride with no end in stop. It slows down from time to time, giving us courage to continue and hopefulness that it will end, only for it to speed back up again. I’m worried because I can see a faint light of hope at the end of the tunnel but I already expect the inevitable hardships that he will have to go through.
Something that you should keep in mind is that this isn’t really a bad part of the story or that it is written badly. All of it makes sense. No character ever really breaks their characters to push the story forwards. There are no plot holes. His suffering has a purpose and isn’t done for laughs. It’s just that I don’t fully enjoy reading stories like that.
Am I going to keep reading it? Unfortunately, yes. It does the one thing that not many other stories manage to do, makes me feel something. Even though it makes me feel bad things, I still care for Michael. I want to see him be happy. And mostly, I want to see if he will finally manage to grab the reins and do the things that he wants to do, not what he is forced to do, without suffering.
Should you read it? Absolutely yes. It takes a bit of time to get going, but once it’s there, you won’t be able to resist clicking that Next Chapter button.
This story is about Michael's journey to find his worth and purpose in a harsh and complicated world where the principles he has been raised to follow are violated by the people who taught them to him.
He knows what he doesn't want to be: his father, his tormentor, his countrymen blinded by propaganda or uncaring distance. Most of all, he doesn't want to become like the people complicit in everything he has experienced and witnessed. The problem is, though, that Michael doesn't know what he does want to be.
He's searching for purpose in a world of conflict and moral dilemmas, and as he is shaped by his experiences he too begins to shape the world around him. This is the heart of what makes Michael such an engaging narrator and what gives a sense of progression to his character and his role in the story. Every dilemma he faces and decision (or lack thereof) he makes—be it for better or worse—is earned, and the reverberations of it become turning point in his life.
Power shapes the user. Bearing a soul, the metaphysical source of power in this setting, fundamentally changes how you interact with and see the world. And the greater your soul, the greater your power. The brighter you are, the dimmer your surroundings appear. The concept of power, and the often warping and corruptive nature of it, means every action has heft and narrative consequence. If your power changes reality, how do you see reality? If your power changes people, how do you see people?
More than that, TMarkos also explores how power grants choice and agency, and with it responsibility and moral burden—if you have the ability to exert your will then do you have responsibility for those who cannot?
Grammar, structure, and prose are perfect—chapters read as professionally edited and proofread. Plot pacing is perfect and chapters are snappy, emotion packed and leaving me wanting for more.
The snippets of WWI-II themed diagetic in-world propaganda and newspaper clippings that come with every weekly chapter are the final cherry on top that elevate this novel above the majority of professionally published novels I've read this year, and out of this world for RoyalRoad.
MC is not evil. Qualifying that statement would require defining what evil is, which is a deeply philosophical rabbithole that I can't get into without spoilers. The author's prior works delved a "little" into the nature of good and evil, power and responsibility, but this latest story cranks that up to 11.
I don't normally recommend judging a book by it's cover, but in this case the artwork is spot on. The multiple arms holding tools hint at the notoriously philophical surreal metaphysics typical of eastern myth, while the plain young man in medieval garb hints at a coming-of-age western adventure fantasy.
If you were expecting a normal story, you came to the wrong author.
If you're the type of person who reads ancient greek philosophy or old myths for fun, you'll think this is a masterpiece. If you're the type who prefers action to introspection, this story is incredibly boring. That's why all the reviews are either very positive or very negative.
I can't justify a more in depth review until the story is finished, but I am extremely impressed by the prose, pacing, and artful storytelling thus far. If I had to point out a fault, it set's the bar on itself too high, so anytime it's short of amazing it feels off.
My only consistent criticism thus far is awkward/truncated/ommitted scene transitions and a lack of spatial awareness. The author has improved dramatically on this front, and seems to succeed 50-75% of the time, but this remains his most noticeable weakness. Given that most authors NEVER get this right, I consider this excellent progress.
An excellent editor would help, but that would slow down the writing process. I would consider finding a good editor after the book is finished. A normal editor wouldn't work - most only look for obvious grammer issues (of which I've found none.)
I love this story! The concept is fabulous and very well executed. Well written and does an excellent job of staying true to the characters. This is one of the few books that if it ever gets published I would love to have in paperback form.
Thanks for sharing your talent!
From the beautifully fleshed out history and world setting, to the unique challenges and philosophical lessons imposed upon an entire cast of compelling and distinct characters.
This story is somewhat of a masterpiece in my personal opinion. Like the scratch to an itch you didn't know you had. The sprinkled humor and sense of novelty perfectly balance the harsher truths and grim realities that unfold as our protagonist finds himself very far away from the isolated and suffocating life he once lived while under the shadow of his abusive father.
The scale and weight of every choice grows at a steady pace, making every sliver of power and every accomplishment feel well earned. The supernatural elements bring enough action and wonder into a world that is oddly similar in style and technological advancement to the superpowers of the late 1800's as it bleeds into the early 1900's. Handmade propaganda pieces occupy the author notes, as well as a few docs that breakdown the lore and common education of those who live in this world. All of it serving to further expand and deepen the story's complexity and richness without detracting from the actual narrative itself. Across the board an incredible journey so far. Definitely worth picking up.
Tl:dr--Top tier story, it feels like it shouldn't be on royal road because of the thought, quality, and work put into this story.
Grammar first: No issues here, don't think I've even seen a suggested edits in the comments.
Character: I think it should be a 5 but I've been bloated by about 20 different stories juggled around. Micheal and the people around him definitely act and react as real people are, different wants and needs mesh together. Some of the side characters I don't really care about, but I bet they'll be revisited in the future, rn there's not really any longstanding member of the cast.
Style: DAMNN, this author makes you feel like the setting is real, war is looming, conscription and propoganda is actually made and posted on the story. The begining tangents add a lot to re-emersing onself back into the story.
Story: Super interesting power system, there are layers and sections if power still undiscovered. The system is so unique because it feels based of South-Asian religions. Its refreshing to see a heros arc story, its a new pace some people probably won't be used to.
My verdict: Read this like a short-novel, the pacing seems fast otherwise. Study the sentences and power system if you're confused, there's a lot to unpack sometimes.
A series that focuses on moral and ethical dilemmas without being preachy. Story is focused on well-written characters and engaging interaction. Action is satisfying and world building is excellent, the author goes the extra mile of including in-universe news articles and propaganda posters. The writing is strong, errors and mistakes are virtually non-existant.