Everywhere Isaac goes people die.
The magician has learned to shrug in the face of death. Not foolhardy enough to laugh, nor fast enough to run, he greets its repeated appearance with blasé resignation. Whether he's collecting arcane artifacts for the mysterious agency known as Arrangement or doing a freelance demon summoning, all of his half-hearted attempts at preserving life seem to go awry.
Blanketed by the shadow of his former master - a magician most believe to be a myth - Isaac just wants to do his job and keep his head low. As he encounters professional witch hunters, a failed feline familiar, angry cannibals, a possessed moonshine jug, and a competitive cabal of necromantic surgeons, Isaac finds that he's becoming very popular with the wrong kind of people.
Book 1: The Albatross Tales - complete
Book 2: The Furious Sons - TBA
Cover by @Guinealove2005 at Instagram - Her business inquiry email is: [email protected]
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I am, in fact, stunned. This is such an intriguing start to a book series that I wish I could devour it in a single session. The writing is great, worldbuilding is neither repetitive or dull and the characters feel like actual characters.
I can only hope that this series will be published physically one day. It's a hell of a lot better (so far) than many books I've read.
Setting: The beginning of the story paints a picture of urban fantasy, down and dirty magic. A little flair of basic magic that people familiar with the genre can be expected, but the good stuff, the effective stuff are the sum of careful planning, bizarre rituals and experience.
Grammar: I don't care, seems good to me. Hasn't broken the flow with weird sentences or anything like that.
Character: MMM! We start off with a medley of characters that set the stage for a typical urban fantasy showdown in the first intro arc. Sets the pacing, expectations and where our MC's morals lie. Nothing that'll make your eyes roll with anything like, "yeah yeah, just another (blank)". No. Just a taste of Isaac makes me excited for future events and I hope this story doesn't get put to the wayside.
Story: SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER! You've been warned thrice, so take it with a bowl of rice.
Familiar with SCP culture? The videogame, Control? We have similar parallels here, but only on the macro level. Our MC is more like an independent contractor with an organization like the one in Control, for those familiar. Our first little outing has Isaac pull off an artifact heist from a demon, crippling said demon for his sins and whatnot. Only to turn around and report to a mysterious organization, turning his ill gotten gains and assigned a new mission we the audience are unaware of.
So buckle up buttercup, 'cus Isaac Unknown rides on the House of the Rising Sun, dancing with creatures that hide in the shadows.
Full honesty here, we agreed to review swap. I figured, with a story of this length, it would take me about a week, but I sat down and caught up in on sitting, and I want more. Let me tell you why this book is damn good.
Subway Chud just has a way of giving you interesting one-off characters that show up. I don't know where he finds them (old books on demonology, burned after using, possibly?) but each mini-arc I find myself fascinated by the character-of-the week. Take for example, one of the rednecks from the vampire arc.
A couple of shrugs before Lee snapped at him with, “What’s the big deal? We walk in, find the snoozing sum’bitch, and stake the shit out of him. We’ve done it before. No big deal. I don’t even understand why we need you, cause frankly, you don’t look like much.”
Something about this pasasge just cracked me the fuck up. Maybe it's because Isaac kinda operates in a weird-inbetween space where people both know about the weird things happening, but also don't know anything at all about them. Frankly, in a sense, Isaac is the same way. The major mystery of the series, Isaac's employer, is basically unknown. Who the hell are they, and why do they want certain things? How much do they know?
And you find yourself asking these questions over, and over, and over, and over again. This is what makes this like a great TV show. Interesting mysteries that are not heavy-handed, nice one-off characters, occasional funny quips. Let's get into the Style, Story, Grammar, and Character Scores
Character: All characters are just so interesting. Maloch, for example, fascinated me. Isaac is probably the least interesting character, and even then he has some very interesting mysteries about his past that I won't spoil.
Grammar: It's fine.
Story Score: Compelling mystery, strung together with weekly monster-of-the-week style plots like Supernatural, Torchwood, etc. Crikey, just super neat.
Style Score: This is the only place I am going to have to give a slight ding, and although this tendency does fall off a bit, I wish it was something that the author fixed. Occasionally, the narrator makes assumptions about the type of assumptions the reader makes. It's a little jarring, and it could be fixed very quickly by ommitting one or two words. When you edit your text, just make sure you're not making assumptions about our assumptions about the world. "Obviously" in narration usually indicates you might hav some more 'splainin to do.
Overall: 5/5, read this book, crikey.
Unrelated request of the author: I come from a family where motorcyles are a big deal. Harleys were popular choppers for a while, but less-so now. I'd probably use the term "chopper" instead of "Harley-Davidson", or at the very-least "Harley" when you described the bike-gangs bikes. Lots of people who ride choppers prefer things that are not Harleys rn, since HD is kinda going through a weird re-branding. This is a very specific complaint, and did not impact the score of the story at all.
If ever something on this site deserved 5 stars then this would be it.
Very well-written story. I saw a few typos and extra space, a line break, etc. out of place, but mostly nothing seriously distracting. 4.5/5 for grammar is a fairly harsh rating, just so everyone knows.
The style works really well for the occasional POV shift, there is never any confusion. Overall narration is spot on in terms of voice and objectivity, Isaac's personality comes through quite nicely.
Descriptions are grizzly and juicy! There is a good balance of serious stuff and levity, which I appreciate. Too much grizzly goings-on makes the story boring.
The story itself flows extremely well - there is a lot of focus on Isaac and his various misadventures. There isn't a lot of info getting dumped onto us at any point. The narrative is smooth and continuous. By the time we get to more characters and world-building, Isaac is already an interesting character.
If you ever watched Supernatural or Constantine - this is very much the flavour, but a different cast and characters. It isn't derivative of the show, it still manages to be original and exciting.
Character-wise, well - Isaac is neither OP, nor flawless. He is easy to root for and has clear flaws. He hurts people - not the murdery way - and there is an interesting emotional journey there.
The other characters slowly come to life through the story, all quite quirky and interesting.
I definitely recommend.
Just read this book already. You can thank me later.
I came across this story by pure coincidence--I just happened to cross paths with the author on a forum and liked his book cover. A couple weeks later, I think I'm addicted.
Let it be known that I have a very short attention-span. Most stories don't grip me immediately and I usually give up without even finishing the first chapter. I'm also easily distracted so if a story can't keep my attention, I forget about it. Isaac Unknown, however, is both attention-grabbing and unforgettable. It has hooked me in and refuses to let me go. I often find myself thinking about this story throughout the day, wondering where it will go.
The biggest reason, so far, is the author's writing style. Rarely have I come across someone posting their work online who writes with such fluency and a strong understanding of flow. Every sentence seems to be meticulously thought out; every paragraph has a purpose, and not once have I been bored. This is one of the best-written stories I've read this year, and that's saying something, considering that my favourite books of the year so far are Brent Weeks' The Blinding White and Sarah J Maas' Crown of Midnight. I haven't really read much urban fantasy since the likes of Percy Jackson, Darren Shan and Mortal Instruments back in my teen years, so I don't really have much to compare this to (genre-wise), but I still feel like I can say that Isaac Unknown is exemplary.
Onto grammar. I give one star in this category to stories that are barely legible. Two stars for stories that have too many errors to keep track of, but I can still understand them to some degree. Three stars to stories with some spelling and grammar mistakes that occasionally take away from the story. Four stars for stories with infrequent mistakes, and four-and-a-half stars to stories with no mistakes. But I reserve five stars for writers who have a strong enough understanding of grammar that they can use punctuation and sentence structure to further enhance their stories. Simply put, this author is deserving of those five stars.
The story is clearly thought out and written so well that it paints the scene vividly. The first five chapters are focused on introducing us to the main character, with events that shows off his smarts, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. They create room for character development, while foreshadowing events yet to be written. The MC himself is far from your average cocky underdog that most online stories seem to create. He's nuanced, has the right amount of humour, and even relatable to some extent. Even the minor characters have their own unique flairs and come to life when they interact with each other. Dialogue plays a big role in this, and the author absolutely nails it in that regard. Every human character reads like someone that a reader has likely met, while every non-human character comes across as a larger-than-life being who you can't stop thinking about.
Honestly, I just can't rave about this story enough. I feel incredibly lucky to have found it, and I can't wait to see where it goes. I'll be updating this review as more chapters are released, but I don't think it's possible for my rating to drop. This author knows what he's doing. And I, for one, am absolutely loving it.
Seeing the total amount of views sitting at 5.8k currently is very disheartening. I told myself I didn't want and hate reviewing but this novel deserves more then it currently is getting.
To start it off, the main premise of the story is Isaac as a unlucky star of death. Though with what other info we have of him is left unsaid until further on into the story. The magic system, specially, death magic/black/evil etc, is what really makes the story so interesting. Issac does various jobs/quest and the type of detail and energy brought into describing it and the Isaacs thoughts leave a impacting yet longing for future chapters.
Furthermore, each character being introduced has a smooth transition into making it feel like an everyday encounter. For example, walking to the park. When the story describes it, its in a lifelike manner not superfluously detailed each sentence. Though my most favorite thing of the novel is how the characters present themselves; each have their own thoughts and feelings not overly played or underplayed.
Old school dark supernatural shit. At this point there wasn't really much main story but I can tell that its going to be good. Author knows what hes doing.
This is all I'm going to write since there hasn't happened much either way. But apparently you need at least 50 words to post this. See how useful this restriction is RoyalRoad?
This story oozes style and confidence in its writing. It has such fantastic atmosphere. Description is a strength, and it really is enjoyable at every moment. Such beautiful nitty-gritty details really pulled you into the scene.
There's plenty of mystery, fun and wits here. The first story makes me think of Preacher (s1) a little bit, take that how you will. Isaac as a main is clever and surprises the reader with all his tricks, which is very entertaining. Dialogue felt a little much at the very start but recovered quickly and I was sold.
I really like the magic I've seen so far. It feels properly witchcrafty as well with a kind of physicality to it, rather than circles and magic words. I find it a refreshing change to what I usually see. There is no over-explaining of anything and I love that. I like when the writer trusts the reader to figure it out themselves and just shows how the world is. Important to note in this is that you still never feel lost. Everything is shown correctly for the reader to grasp it.
You might not like it if you aren't into gore, fight scenes were frequent and gruesome enough but the blurb does warn you. So be prepared for that! I had no problem with this personally, but I thought I'd mention it, as I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.
It's a great story which I will be continuing to read beyond the chapter I'm reviewing at. Honestly pretty flawless execution. Can't fault it, and had a great time reading. What more can you ask for?
I hope you read it and enjoy!
Magician for hire with a mysterious past goes through various adventures, it reads like a detective TV series(case of the week, but with enough continuity that you can actually feel the plot coming together), magic in this story is more occultism/horror story and less Harry Potter, so it's a bit underwhelming if you're used to high fantasy, with most of the actually useful spells needing prep-work and rare ingredients(to be fair the story is good at making the readers reevaluate their standards: Think a single basic zombie is weak? Then you haven't been curbstomped while the bastard practically ignores point-blank gunfire and never gets tired or hesitates)
I'd like to preface this review by saying that the author reached out to me, told me we had similar ideas and themes in our novels, and proposed we give them a try together.
I'm very, very glad he did this.
Isaac Unknown: The Albatross Tales is, well, undoubtedly the most enjoyable work of fiction I've had the chance to sink my teeth into in years. Frankly I'm a bit taken aback, because I've had a certain preconception about the majority of the work to be found on Royal Road - not that it is bad, but that no matter how good it is, it's work done by an amateur or hobbyist author. At least, those are the stories I tend to read on here, both for enjoyment and for review swaps: fictions made by people who maybe don't have a lot of experience, but they have a great deal of passion and creativity and drive to create something great.
Our author, our auteur, does not fall into this group.
Much like the eponymous Isaac Unknown, I would venture that our auteur has studied extensively beneath a masterful and potentially diabolic master. From the first chapter I was interested, but every subsequent section of storytelling is like the lash of a lover's whip - dark, harsh, stunning, and absolutely delicious. A man once said a quite famous quote about staring and abysses and morality, and should it hold some speck of truth, Isaac Unknown: The Albatross Tales is as much an abyss as the Empire State Building is just 'a building'. That is to say, it's pretty damn good.
Imagine, if you will, a gastronomical offering from your local Five Guys' Burgers and Fries location. A burger, if you will. You reach into your crumpled brown paper lunchsack and lift it out - only to notice it is absolutely soaked with fatty, cholesterol-infused grease. Brave of heart and sturdy of veins, you open wide and munch a huge bite out of it.
It is delicious. It is everything you hoped for and more. And what's more, every subsequent bite tastes better and better.
This is the fiction I am attempting to sell you on. Style is the grease, the story is the burger, and you are an avid patron of grill-spots that would stop the heart of the timid, squeamish, and/or frail. Style oozes from this story. Style drips from it. Style reaches out and slaps you on the face and calls you a naughty name before spitting in your open mouth, and you thank it. From the description of black magics to the locales, the worldbuilding to the storytelling, it's absolutely... What am I feeling? What word would be most apt?
I believe I shall choose luscious.
It comes at you in unrelenting waves, the author's intimacy and, by god, CONFIDENCE in his readers allowing for worldbuilding, descriptions, and scene-setting that constantly keeps you in thrall. Take those Dresden Files books off your shelf and throw them into a burn barrel, then print off a shoddy, bootleg .docx of Isaac Unknown: The Albatross Tales to read whenever you're feeling in need of dark and witty modern fantasy, because it makes all predecessors look amateurish and mediocre by comparison.
Oh, did I mention it's got some genuinely good humor? I've been told I'm funny before in my writing, but often I'm not trying to be. Isaac Unknown is not so flippant. There is a consistent and insidious dagger of mirth both black and grey driven as a knife to your ribs, snuck there by the writer's metaphorical quill. I found myself genuinely smiling and chuckling multiple times in my read-through, especially around Chapter 19 and onward. Anywho, that's enough about Style, which this fiction has in spades. Let's move on to Grammar.
There's nothing wrong with the grammar. Word choice is excellent and frankly I have seen the phrase 'rankled' used at least three times so far. This is a positive accolade, in my opinion.
One small issue that I'd have to put here? There's one point where an accidental line-break cuts a sentence in twain. It's around Chapter 20 or something, if I remember correctly - eventually I got so used to hitting 'next chapter' in my rush for more to consume, they all blended together.
Ohhhhh no, here it comes, my single 4/5. How horrendous. God's hammer doth come down to smite thee, oh dear auteur.
No, but really, the story is amazing. It's riveting. Every miniature-arc (they're almost episodic frankly, with some call-back in later 'episodes') is so absorbing and full of bravado and intriguing content that I couldn't help but read until exhaustion gripped me and I was forced to retreat to the confines of my bed.
I disagree with this choice, this episodic nature. Sure, it allows a great deal of flash-changes to new scenes and a constant introduction of new content with extremely little downtime, but even this early I could feel it becoming formulaic. See my diagram below for elucidation.
PROBLEM -> ISAAC SHOWS UP-> PEOPLE DIE -> ISAAC SAVES HIS OWN ASS -> ISAAC GETS A NEW 'THING' (Companion, Item, Ability, Contact, Etc) -> ISAAC LIES ABOUT IT -> LEFSKE IS A FUN AND COOL GUY
Bam. I've laid out for you the barest minimum of Isaac Unknown: The Albatross Tales for you. Read this flowchart again during downtime between new chapters - it'll tide you over while you wait for content.
Now, of course I'm exaggerating... a bit. But so far, 26-or-so chapters in, it's been exactly that for every 'episode'. I would kill a man for some further cohesion other than him using a new trinket like a damn Metroidvania to solve a newly arisen problem. I want to feel like a greater story is happening, and not just the tiny slivers we've received in the way of
the witch-hunters, the fly, Arrangement's blind-eye to Isaac's shenanigans, and the Black Tarot Cards
. I want to feel like I'm reading a fiction, not just a comic book throwing some bite-sized, amuse bouche-style tantalizers at me. There's such amazing worldbuilding here, so much to dig into and enjoy, that I am almost offended that the author has seemingly relegated a truer overarching story to the sidelines to instead give us fictional finger-food.
I will be more concise with my needs; no successful hostage-taker has ever gotten away with a list of vague demands, after all. Firstly, for the pacing being so punchy and fast with the 'episodes', the plot arcs themselves feel slow. We see reference of some interesting artifacts in the first episode - the first few chapters, even. We don't see them really be referenced again until almost 20 chapters later, despite their apparent rarity, importance, and danger, and value. It feels like Isaac has a nuclear bomb in his pocket and only even remembered the damn thing a few HUNDRED chapters later.
Secondly, there is no secondly. That's it. That's all I want. I want to feel like I am reading a STORY, a freakin' BOOK, not just a series of short-stories which have been linked together. I want to invest myself into Isaac's world not just as far as whatever his next escapade is, but as a whole being - I want to feel like I am a part of the grand machinations of the world, and mostly, I want to feel like this is going somewhere. Even if it's to the end of an arc and not the end of a book, there is no clear goal or checkpoint for our Isaac, and that is a serious issue for serious readers. It's easy enough to pop in for a few chapters and read an episode, but for someone like me who likes to really draw out the essence of a fiction and consume it wholly... It will pose an issue if this listless drifting continues.
I'd love to edit this into a 4.5 or even a 5 once I feel like this ship has a captain, but for now we're lost at sea with a myriad of shanties to keep us from panicking.
Brilliant. Isaac is alive. He shows development. He obviously is not just two-dimensional; he has facets, ideas, ideals, dreams, nightmares, hopes,and loss. He is a robust individual who shows intelligence and quick-wit in the face of danger, but does not come out unscathed or with masteful expertise; instead you find yourself rooting for him in every scene, a tragic antihero who does his best but only brings death in his wake. In fact, there's only one minor character I can think of that he's met on his adventures that didn't meet a gruesome end, and she was unimportant even in the episode she featured in.
Side characters aren't quite as three-dimensional, but in my opinion, that isn't a bad thing. They're interesting enough to be enjoyable, and they do have their depth, but Isaac is the protagonist and he needs to be the focal point - he's the star of every scene even against demons, constructs, ambassadors, witches, vampires, hunters, and everything in between. His allies and friends and enemies all have a certain sense of intricacy that implies that the auteur could tell you more about them if you really asked, but more often than not you don't need to - you get everything required from them and then move forwards. Perhaps this is why Isaac seems to leave people dead behind him - so that side-characters can be introduced and disposed of quickly?
Clever. Very clever. I see through you, SubwayChud. ;)
Go read this. No, I hear what you're saying, I know everyone says something like that. I want you to know that I would personally go and tell real, living people, in the flesh, to read this fiction. I would chat up attractive men and women at the club and inform them, in my smug self-assuredness, that I was reading this. I would offer it for review at a book club. I would share it on my Facebook and let all my edgy little friends know that this fiction is the bomb. Hell, I'd speak to my close, nuclear family and say 'Wow, I've just read the most amazing thing the other day, I think you'd really like it'.
Please. I beseech you. Some people are willy-nilly about their 5* ratings; they are not wrong to do so, because they are passionate and optimistic and loving. They want you to know this story is pretty good. I am not these people. This fiction is my new standard I will be, quite unfairly, holding other fictions to going forwards.
Well? What are you waiting for? Chapter 1 - Asphalt Devils is right up there.