The Heart is a Void: Ashes to Ashes

The Heart is a Void: Ashes to Ashes

by MOROSE

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Traumatising content

For Karel, the search for power erodes the sense of mercy.

When a bug traps players in a new, immersive VRMMO, and begins to undermine the system that protects them from experiencing pain in combat, the players scramble to avoid becoming victimised. Some seek to hide or gain protection in Guilds, others seek power at all costs. Rumours of torture and possibly even real death begin to spread.

Many would-be heroes strive to protect themselves and others by becoming powerful mages, mastering the power of the elements, or training at combat with large weapons. While Karel had begun by trying to enhance his mage powers as far as possible, he eventually becomes disillusioned with this as he sees the power of others who use unconventional and amoral means to take advantage of the bugged game. As he explores this new, Free-For-All world, he must turn to cunning and ruthlessness to get ahead.

[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]

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Author
MOROSE

MOROSE

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Royal Writathon October 2022 winner
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Word Count (13)
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Table of Contents
124 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Prologue: For the Glory ago
Chapter 01: Visions of a Dying Swan's Twisted Wings ago
Chapter 02: Boss Fight! The Protagonist Vs. a Chicken that is not a Chicken ago
Chapter 03: Aid dependency - Life passes by like someone else's film ago
Chapter 04: Chaos Emblem ago
Chapter 05: Tomorrow Started (Black Horizon) ago
Chapter 06: Far from Eden ago
Chapter 07: Altitis! The Strike of the Condor! ago
Chapter 08: An Assassin's Path ago
Chapter 09: The Art of The Gank ago
Chapter 10: The Gift of Betrayal ago
Chapter 11: Sacrifice to the Minotaur ago
Chapter 12: The MC gets loot, while the author contemplates the Chicken that is not a Chicken ago
Chapter 13: When you die in a sea of lava, that's amore! ago
Chapter 14: Ambushed! Intense Fight At Labyrinth's Edge! ago
Chapter 15: The Snake Boss Eats its own Tail! MC waits for the boss' HP to run out ago
Chapter 16: Storm the Gates! ago
Chapter 17: MC reads Light Novels ago
Chapter 18: Kill with Power ago
Chapter 19: The Ties That Bind ago
Chapter 20: The Noob and the Pendulum ago
Chapter 21: Where Demons Wake ago
Chapter 22: To the Batcave! ago
Chapter 23: Flying Rat Exterminator ago
Chapter 24: Draugr are bad, mkay? (The Draugr Invasion, pt. 1) ago
Chapter 25: Draugr Olympics (The Draugr Invasion, pt. 2) ago
Chapter 26: The 'I' in Team ago
Chapter 27: The Grey Horde ago
Chapter 28: Alien vs. Predator ago
Chapter 29: Iscariot ago
Chapter 30: Sensei is Displeased ago
Chapter 31: Do you know the way? ago
Chapter 32: Pronunciation Lessons ago
Chapter 33: Trial of Blades ago
Chapter 34: Final Wave ago
Chapter 35: Try spinning, that's a good trick ago
Chapter 36: Bleeding the Wounded ago
Chapter 37: The Replica Cottage ago
Chapter 38: Plants vs. Assassins ago
Chapter 39: Kill the King ago
Chapter 40: Anglerfish ago
Chapter 41: Blood Eagle, James Blood Eagle ago
Chapter 42: Final Answer (The Art of War) ago
Chapter 43: Aura ago
Chapter 44: A Saint's Tale ago
Interlude: HAIL THE BLUE BOX, GOD OF RR! ago
Chapter 45: Cave/Tomb ago
Chapter 46: Reptilian ago
Chapter 47: You Suffer, But Why? ago
Chapter 48: Sacrificial Ritual ago
Chapter 49: Raptor ago
Chapter 50: Fog of War ago
Chapter 51: Throne of Blood, Crown of Thorns ago
Chapter 52: Disapproval is the Real Spoils of War ago
Chapter 53: No Rest for the Wicked ago
Chapter 54: Bestiary ago
Chapter 55: In the Court of the Crimson King ago
Chapter 56: Bat Signal ago
Chapter 57: Shadow of the Bat ago
Chapter 58: Throne Room Mystery ago
Chapter 59: Coal Canary Robin ago
Chapter 60: Boss fight! A King With No Crown ago
Chapter 61: The Night Grows Pale (Queen Boss Fight, Part I) ago
Chapter 62: A Damned Kind (Queen Boss Fight, Part II) ago
Chapter 63: The Invocation (Demon's Gate) ago
Chapter 64: Will you forgive me for living? ago
Chapter 65: The Mask ago
Chapter 66: The Trigger ago
Chapter 67: Sherpa ago
Chapter 68: Alice in Hell ago
Chapter 69: A Charming Fairy-Tale ago
Chapter 70: Gadsden Rattlesnake's Venom ago
Chapter 71: Schoolyard Ghosts ago
Chapter 72: Edgecator ago
Chapter 73: School of Rawk ago
Chapter 74: Lutye ago
Chapter 75: The Man Who Laughs ago
Chapter 76: Chapter 1 Re-Write, Now More Exciting, Short and Attention-Grabbing ago
Chapter 77: Ite, mouse est ago
Chapter 78: The Mysterious Courtier Appears ago
Chapter 79: Out of the Den ago
Chapter 80: The Road Less Travelled ago
Chapter 81: The Mink Shall Inherit the Earth ago
Chapter 82: The Approaching Curve ago
Chapter 83: Burial Plot ago
Chapter 84: Leap of faith ago
Chapter 85: House of the Rising Sun ago
Chapter 86: So sad, her eyes ago
Chapter 87: Doorway to the Heart ago
Chapter 88 ago
Chapter 89: Candlemass ago
Chapter 90: Only the Vultures Will Come to See Me Hang ago
Chapter 91: Disturbing the Priest ago
Chapter 13?: The sound of the demon bell (Part I) ago
Chapter 13?: The sound of the demon bell (Part II) ago
Chapter 92: IH8 ago
Chapter 93: John ago
Chapter 94: SO MUCH I ago
Chapter 95: End Transmission ago
Chapter 96: The Impassive Eye ago
Chapter 97: Colossus ago
Chapter 98: Iron Fingers that Ply ago
Chapter 99: Hail to thee, blithe spirit! ago
Chapter 100: The Tao of Writathon ago
Chapter 101: Heavy Metal (Is The Law) ago
Chapter 102: Away from the Sun ago
Chapter 103: Serpent in Paradise ago
Chapter 104: Maricha ago
Chapter 105: Mechanism ago
Chapter 106: Endymion ago
Chapter 107; How? ago
Chapter 108: Another Candle Burning Down ago
Chapter 109: Crazy Eye of the Pyre ago
Chapter 110: Painbringer ago
Chapter 111: The Apocalyptics ago
Chapter 112: A Noble People ago
Chapter 113: The Overlord ago
Chapter 114: Your Cameo ago
Chapter 115: The Stage ago
Chapter 116: Ashes of Eden ago
Chapter 117: Gardener of Misery ago
Chapter 118: Just Closing Doors ago
Interlude: The Blue Box Returns ago
Chapter 119: Opposer ago

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Reviews
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Rezonance
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Grammar
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Overall: The Heart is a Void walks us through the POV of Karel(MC). Trapped in the VR game he used to play casually, he must become stronger to survive, especially now when pain is a real thing in the game! If you love the LitRPG genre and enjoy great action scenes and awesome character dynamics, give it a try, you won't regret it!

Story: What I love about this story is how easy it is to get sucked into it. Great combat scenes and fun interactions keep the story exciting without the feeling of overdoing it. Karel goes through different situations requiring different methods to resolve each issue (Not gonna spoil too much), making the story unrepetitive and insightful. Plus, it really gets into the meat of things quickly, so there's no ramp-up period!

Style: As for style, it showcases similarities to LitRPG classics that we all know and love, so we can jump right in and start the journey together. The detailed stats and familiar system screen make one feel at home. Action scenes are vividly described allowing the reader to actually picture the combat, and world-building is similarly strong as well!

Grammer: Great grammar. No glaring mistakes whatsoever.

Character: All the characters in the story are enjoyable to read, with actual personalities and tendencies in each of them. MOROSE's writing allows the reader to build an attachment to each character, bringing out a spark in life to the character than only enhances. Coupled with the character progression perfectly executed, the story makes you feel how much a character is going through. Karel is also quite a complex character with different sides to relate to, and I think that is particularly the reason why the story is so enjoyable

 

Angel Wings Of Witches
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Thrilling action and paradoxical chickens!

Reviewed at: Chapter 79: Out of the Den

The chicken that is not a chicken was really funny, so I read on. It does not disappoint!

Style and Story: Action-packed story, I found the fight scenes impressive and easy to visualize. However, it also has many comical or philosophical moments. I also loved the great poems, realistic swordfights, the creepy Replica cotage, the dark spin on Alice in Wonderland around Chapter 70. Author can write many style, but deliberately focuses on the game and action to create great scenes.The fights are a highlight, the MC also strategises a lot and is cunning. But sometimes it is just fun, like when MC does WWElike epic chokeslam to a guy in labyrinth arc or fights the Sensei who is always disappointed! It has deeper layers of complexity, if you are up for a challenge, but on surface level fights and action is great. Overall, I liked this story very much, and it's probably one of my favourite ones so far. You should definitely read it if you like this genre + evil MC! It has many things that make it stand out, the characters are well-developed and the action was very cool.

The early blue box parts are very good, v evocative imagery and it shows the MC's evil side. The MC is good at playing psychological games and will sometimes betray people, and I like how they also learn from enemies like the chicken that is not a chicken and Hashin guild. They mostly don't hold grudges, no romance or harem so far. Just strategy and smart themes.

Grammar rating: The English is v good, lots of elegant language and the grammar is also good. No complaints about it!

Characters: MC becomes the smartest character I have seen. Most other characters die soon lol, but they still have details that distinguish them. Some of the dialogues later on are amazing, like with Lutye brothers or Mysterious Courtier. I also like the blue box character in the interlude, and of course the great chicken! All of those characters have a good sense of humour, I also like how MC will adjust English to talk to non-native speakers sometimes, many details and subtle stuff so it is re-readable as well

scarecrow.author
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

This story grabs you by the face and demands that you keep reading.

It starts with an epic fight between two guilds in an awesome setting; a tournament. I personally love this kind of things.

Then we go back in time and in a different pov where we follow the story of the opposing mage. It's interesting to see how this seemingly good fellow ended up with such a sinister bunch.

The fights so far are all great and the author is really detailed, keeping track of stats, dozens of skills, health points and mana points.

The story is interesting although kinda slow. There has not been an inciting incident yet at this point although I can see it coming soon. This is a great thing if you like longer stories, which most people do 

Prose and grammar are solid. Nothing too crazy but it has nice and interesting word choices where it counts.

The author has done a great job with the characters. They all feel unique so far and show emotion. I can see the change in Jarius' character chapter by chapter.

 

All in all, a really creative piece of literature that I would highly recommend. Great job!

Everseas
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

A fast-spinning story that doesn’t let you go

Reviewed at: Chapter 09: The Art of The Gank

This is one of the best examples of why I love LitRPG stories. It’s fast with a lot of action and the time is not wasted on endless conversations or descriptions.

STORY - It might not be the most unique story, but it does not have to be. Just as I enjoy reading books with dragons, I also enjoy those with interesting and good progression LitRPG. And this one delivers that head-on.

STYLE - is very much adequate for this kind of story. There is a good amount of conversation and the narration is to the point and not wasted. It shows that the author is very skilled and talented, especially at describing fighting and action scenes. 

CHARACTERS - are all well developed and easy to relate to. They are one of the biggest reasons why I am enjoying this story as I can picture them clearly and wish they can continue to grow and advance. There is enough ambiguity about them, making them certainly not boring and predictable. And I appreciate that a lot.

GRAMMAR - I did not find any issues with the grammar. This does not mean it’s perfectly edited, but it can tell you that if there were mistakes, they did not preclude me from enjoying the story.

Everyone who likes LitRPG will find something in this story to enjoy. For those readers that are new to the genre, I recommend this story wholeheartedly as I believe by reading it, they will find out why so many people enjoy it. 

Wandering Brain Spasm
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Before I jump in, it’s only fair to mention that this review is based on the first four chapters and the prologue. As this series is nearly a thousand pages and ongoing (I think that deserves an honorable mention on its own!) my thoughts obviously only reflect how the story starts. With that said, The Heart is a Void: Ashes to Ashes is an incredibly well thought out, meticulously detailed world that immerses its readers into the adventure right from the start.

Style: There are some clever story-telling elements at play here that are very subtle, but have quite an impact. In the prologue, specifically, there are two action-heavy scenes. The first is a PvP fight sequence, and while it’s loaded with stats and action on both sides, it felt a little mechanical, as if the battle had no actual stakes. The second action sequence happens outside of normal gameplay and is presented very differently. It feels organic, no one is overpowered, and without spoiling anything, there are actual consequences. I think juxtaposing these two scenes against each other to show their differences was intentional. And if it was, it was brilliant. Overall, the style fits the story and is executed in a way that fully immerses its readers into the world.

Story: The first few chapters spent a good deal of time building the world one block at a time between character interactions, quests, and a handful of entertaining fight scenes. It was information heavy, but I think it fits the style of storytelling. The author is obviously building to something and the first chapters are the necessary groundwork for what is to come. By the end of chapter four, the driving conflict is established and there’s a nice hook to keep its readers clicking the “next chapter” button. Based on what I’ve read so far, and the impressive amount of chapters already published, I would hazard that The Heart is a Void: Ashes to Ashes is quickly headed into epic territory with an underlying grimdark theme.

Grammar: There’s really nothing but positive things to say here. Five well-earned stars across the board. This is a finely tuned story and the absence of grammatical errors really helps the immersion.

Characters: Although the story follows the main character Karel, I still don’t have a complete feel for his character yet. There was a small glimpse of emotion in chapter one with the sable, but it only left me more curious about his personality, character arc, and how it relates to the anti-hero and villainous lead tags. This is the only area in the story that I found myself wishing there was more detail. The other characters are only starting to be introduced, but so far they seem to have distinct personalities.

For fans of virtual reality and litRPG genres who enjoy attention to detail, fully fleshed out systems, loads of action, with some clever humor sprinkled in, this might be your new favorite. I know this review is already too long, but I also want to give recognition to the author’s commitment to their craft. The sheer amount of work and time spent on building this world is remarkable.

Cloudfall
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Style: The author is using the third person narration style. He was able to portray the expressions, actions and thoughts of the characters in a great way. One thing is certain, it really fits the novel perfectly.

Story: It's based on an immersive VRMMO's bug that undermines the system securities and begins to trap players making them experience real pain. One of them is the MC, Karel, who quickly followed the ruthless aggression way to gain power and protect himself from the bug. The storyline immediately grabbed my attention and the story itself is not disappointing at all. A beautiful take on the RPG genre.

Grammar: Top quality. As far as I read, I didn't find any grammatical error that could affect the flow of the story.  This shows that the author really devoted tome into this project. Great job by the author. 

Character: Only read a few chapters, but from the little I've read, the characters are well written. Characters are the heart of a novel. They bring life into it, and these characters really fit their role. The MC in particular,  he's a fun character to read if you don't mind a little ruthlessness. 

Overall: This is a great novel. Recommended. 

Karmic_Backlash
Overall

I started reading the story and was a little turned off by the hard line LitRPG style, almost being a play by play of a player playing an game (how many times can I say play?). But it's obvious from the strict adherence that the author has a good grip on his systems he plans on using.

I should note, my review comes from a very early part of the story, but I do plan on reading this from time to time just because it's so well executed.

I knew I would love it when I realized halfway through chapter 2 that the "Chicken that was not a chicken" was in fact, not a chicken. When I realized what it really was I had a big dumb smile on my face. That was all I needed to know that the author really knows what they are doing and is more well read then what the genre might suggest. Over all, amazing story that I will definitely keep up with.

Josh Wells
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Overall: The Heart is a Void: Ashes to Ashes is a positively thrilling novel! Each chapter is jam-packed with lots of content, and the story does not shy from jumping right into the action. This gets a 5/5

Style: The style of the story is flawless. Each sentence flows very well from the next. As a personal note, I really love the paragraph lengths. They seem longer than what I am used to seeing but for me, that is really a good thing. They carry enough weight to immerse me in the scene without getting exceedingly long.  This gets a 5/5

Story: The story is fast pace. There is also plenty of litrpg elements present. I would say that the story follows lots of common tropes, but there is definitely enough variation there to keep you interested. The chicken that is not a chicken is definitely fun. Thos gets a 4.5/5

Grammar: No issues with grammar! Sweet perfection. This gets a 5/5

Character: The characters are great! I had no problem feeling for them, though they seemed a little two-dimensional at times. Largely though, I had no problem and thought the characters were all quite interesting to read about. This gets a 4.5/5

I'm excited to see where this goes! 

Nilonyan
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

As usual, I like to get the technicalities sorted first!

-Style 4.5/5, Good worldbuilding, good choice of words, and damn is the action and fight scene great! I love the fact that when reading the action part I could vividly imagine it, but in my opinion you should split some of the bulky paragraphs, it's fine in all honesty, but sometimes it's just too thicc.

-Grammar 5/5, I don't have anything to say really, because there is no issues whatsover, it's clear and concise!

 

Now for the creme de la creme.

I frickin love it, the action, high octane, and pretty much nail-biting action scenes since the prologue is just great. the start is strong and pretty much gave me the gist of what this VRMMO is all about! especially the chicken that is not a chicken chapter, it was enthralling and weirdly funny for me on how much of an asshole the boss is! haha!

Now for the character though... they're a tini-tiny bit dull in my book, Karel especially, I feel like he could have been fleshed out more on being character, but nonetheless, it's written wonderfully and nicely by the book!

 

Overall it's great and I am excited on where the story will be going!

 

Sincerely, The Fiddling Cat.

Ciao!

James Tadhg
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Here we have Cael in a VRMMORPG, where the stakes are raised by a bug in the system. I've only read to the beginning of when the bug takes place, so I can only comment on how the story starts out and where it might lead. 

I do think it might benefit the author to introduce the bug a bit earlier in the story, but what we get before it happens really did scratch that MMO itch for me. Even though shopping for spells and items isn't technically moving the story along, I did feel my inner MMO player scream with delight at all the options and possible combos and builds. I think the author has this part down really well and doesn't need any advice from me on that front. 

One of my favourite moments from the story so far is a small one: Cael gets to test out his new Spark spell and is bothered by how painful it looks on the first creature he casts it on. It happens quickly but it tells us a lot about him, and I hope we see more character inflection like this going forward. 

The chicken that is not a chicken needs to be mentioned as well, as it's the most entertaining quest in the first few chapters. Definitely some fun creativity there and I really enjoyed reading about that short encounter. 

Grammar is mostly strong. There are a few sentences here and there that should be reworked for the purpose of flow, but there really isn't anything here that breaks immersion. 

My only other suggestion would be to lower the amount of [bracketed spells/skills] that are mentioned in combat. This is another thing that scratches that itch for me, because I love skills/spells, but it can make longer combat sections feel a little more like a play by play. I think it would be awesome to have more colourful descriptions of skills we might already be familiar with, or even of ones we might not know, and have Cael occasionally ask at the end of combat what a particular move was. I understand not everyone will feel this way, though. As I said, it really does bring that MMO feel to life, and the author is quite good at designing them and coming up with cool ideas. 

All in all I think this is a very good start to an MMO gone wrong. Check it out!