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Dawn, a country girl, wants to follow her dreams of being a wise woman instead of a wife and mother. But in her village young girls have no choice but to take the path decided by their parents. When her parents try to arrange a future for her that collides with everything she ever wanted in her life, Dawn decides to act. She has to make hard decisions, follow an unconventional path and give up everything she knows for an uncertain future.
Accompany her on her way and see what she can make of herself.
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The story is fairly well written. The world building is deep. The society is richly complex. The characters and their actions believable (though sometimes infuriating). The plot initially is well-trod, but well-executed.
Then there's a major tonal shift (somewhere around chapters 8-10) and we have some problems appear.
The first portion strikes me as well written at a very high level. It's a coming of age story in a strongly patriarchal rural society. But even though it's a coming of age story, the first portion feels as though it's written for adults, not teenagers or children.
The second part has a very different tone. In some respects, it reminds me a lot of Alice in Wonderland: bumbling from danger to incomprehensible danger, and getting out of the danger for little reason other than that the protagonist simply can't be killed lest the story end prematurely. There's a little Disney princess-ish bit as well in so much as the protagonist both (a) instantly befriends a dangerous mountain lynx and one of the plucky non-human locals, and (b) tries to fulfill a classic heroic role (impossible tasks with insurmountable odds) even though she doesn't tick any of those boxes and all she wants to do is live in the wilderness and train to be a wise woman. This new tone, besides being rather inconsistent with the first part, seems to lessen the story, which now strikes me as fairly childish (notwithstanding the viscera and leering bandits).
So, a strong start, but all in all, fairly mediocre.
That said, I do feel obliged to rebut some of the other reviews written of the story. Incidentally, this also helps me discuss some of the more interesting aspects of the story.
I think it's a misrepresentation (possibly even a gross misrepresentation) of the first several chapters to describe the protagonist as an "irresponsible, selfish, and naive girl who doesn't understand the world and wants everything for nothing. When her parents arrange for her future, after she's shown again and again that she is too immature to make her own way, she flips out and runs away." To the contrary, the author makes it very clear that while the protagonist may not be a paragon of good behavior, she is still a fairly well-behaved kid. Further to the contrary, her parents take issue with her showing any self-determination and work to cabin her from making any choices. While she may not know much about the world (it's very rural), she does know that she wants to be able to make at least some of the choices that determine her life. Nor is she selfish who wants everything for nothing. She is not hankering to go off to become a great hero or mage or some foolishness. She wants to be a "wise woman," which is some sort of healer who makes potions with wild ingredients. She even semi-starts an apprenticeship from the village's existing healer as a show of her commitment, but her parents have no interest in her doing so. The first several chapters are rich with very subtle nods that show that the protagonist is mature, intelligent and working hard to find any measure of self-control in a society that sees her as little more than a broodmare that (in so much as society cannot lead her to water) is too unruly.
I think this is most clear when the protagonist has a heart to heart conversation with her mother to better understand why they won't allow her to make her own choices. In short, it boils down to: I got to choose my own classs and married a merchant for love, but he died in a terrible accident (well, bandits) and was left penniless and only got by because my parents took me back in and your stepfather married me. So we won't let you do that. First, just because a bad outcome occurred didn't mean that the initial decision was bad or wrong (the proposed husband could just as well die in an accident). Second, her parent's decision is remarkably shortsighted. The proposed husband being so much old than the protagonist means she is likely to be widowed in her 30s or 40s. Idiots. Third, ignoring the fact that sometimes even with good decisions shit happens (see "mom" above), self-determination very well means the right to make your own decisions, even if they are poor ones. And that's the whole premise of the story. Finally, it'd be another thing if the parents had good reasons and tried to talk the protagonist into it, rather than forcing her. E.g., maybe the village can only ever support one wise woman and the current one will be around for decades yet. E.g., maybe there's a shortage of eligible bachelors. Instead, her parents' reasoning is obviously flawed, but in any event, don't care because the protagonist is little more than property in their eyes.
Perhaps it strikes a little close to home for me. My mother was a teenager in the 70s and remembers her mother discouraging her from going to college because she'd just get married and have kids. My mother ultimately went to law school and became an admirable litigator in her own right. Of course, New Jersey isn't this particular fantasy world, but the story is (obviously) written for a modern audience and, as intended by the author, I felt strong indignation in the first several chapters towards the protagonist's parents.
It's not clear however how the other reviewer would improve the story. On the one hand, if the protagonist simply accepted her parent's "wisdom" in both selecting a class and a husband, there would be no story whatsoever or it would be a very different one ("16 and Pregnant in Magical Fantasy Land"). On the other hand, if the protagonist were a better-behaved child... well, then what? The author's made clear that the parents' decisions regarding class and husband have nothing to do with the protagonist's behavior and that the parent's are post hoc rationalizing why their decisions are for the best. So now you have a paragon of good behavior still stripped of any self-determination and faced with the same dilemna. Given the very rural setting of the story, the sneak-and-escape routine is her only alternative. Frankly, the difference between a good kid and a perfect kid is too little to complain about in a protagonist to dock a bunch of stars.
Since my last review we got a 14 more chapters, so I thought that it would be good to update this one (I will leave the old one at the bottom tho).
A quick Tldr: Its a good story; there is a system but the chapters are not 30% system messages and status windows; the pacing is good, there is definitely progress but at the same time not too fast as well;
I recommend giving the story a try.
Now to the review:
So far the story is a great read. The writing flows nicely and there are no big grammatical mistakes that would make me stop reading (not a native speaker tho, so take my observation here with a grain of salt).
For my personal taste, there are probably a bit too many thoughts of the mc written out, which sometimes breaks the immersion for me, but that is just personal preference.
The pacing is quite good as well, so far it doesn't feel like the story is stagnant, even tho it is on the slower side.
The system is also not overbearing (meaning that you don't have system messages every other sentence).
The mc is not op in any way and definitely has (or needs) some plot armor to survive the dangerous situations she finds herself in. Personally, plot armor doesn´t bother me too much in a fantasy setting, but it is there.
(Also, her not being op is just a guess...so far we don't have a lot of references)
The mc is a bit childish/naive, wilful, and very inexperienced but after the chapters so far also had her learning moments, some character development, and she became a bit more mature.
Her actions in the story so far feel believable, given her character.
I have to say tho, that I don't really like (or dislike) the other characters. They feel a bit bland atm and give little opportunity for intelligent interactions or conversations. BUT we are still only a few chapters in (and even fewer since we met her new companions) so it´s probably unfair to judge them right now.
So, is this story perfect? No, but above average for this site and definitely recommendable for anyone that likes litRPG and fantasy.
OLD Review (Chapter 6)
So far this story is pretty good and above average for this site.
The pacing is good so far, it doesn't skip a lot of progress in the first chapters but it also doesn't feel stagnant or slow.
The writing also flows nicely and I didn't notice a lot of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors (I am not a native speaker tho, so probably not a great judge)
Characters feel believable so far, maybe a slight bit too stuck in their roles sometimes.
Stepdad is the mean Stepdad; Mother is the meek, indifferent mother.
But like I said, still to the point that it is believable so far, especially considering the society that is portrayed in the story.
Personally I am excited to read more of this story and would definitely recommend that you check it out.
But slight trigger warning:
The protagonist (or women in general) really get treated badly in the society of this story. There was no physical abuse so far, but it is very clear that women are second class.
So if that is something you can't or don't want to deal with, you probably should stay away.
(Oh, and just to be clear: This story is not "man bad, woman good", It's a story that happens to play out in a medieval patriarchy, but that is not the focus of the story so far...just a challenge for the mc)
The story is well written, well paced, and technically well done. The plot however...
The MC is an irresponsible, selfish, and naive girl who doesn't understand the world and wants everything for nothing. When her parents arrange for her future, after she's shown again and again that she is too immature to make her own way, she flips out and runs away.
What follows are a number of life and death situations and things miraculously working out. Add a deus ex machina pet and great secrets hidden in civilized areas for centuries...
Plot armored Marry Sue in other words.
It might even work, if the MC was more likable. But IIRC her first action was abandoning her babysitting job to just walk through the forest with not a single thought to the children she was supposed to watch or the problems she caused others by not doing her job. Or the costs she caused her family by ripping her dress during her journey in the forest.
The story does make a point of how the child considers her punishment for that unfair and her father uncaring, so there is certainly room for character growth.
Her growth as person might even work, if not for the deus ex machina and things just happening in her favor.
Catch 22. Either element on its own could be part of a good story, but together it just doesn't work. At least for me.