- Traumatising content
Once, the sun shone brightly on Azlant. Until came the Whitemoon, to steal mankind's light and condemn it to eternal darkness.
Valdemar Verney is a sorcerer with a dream: to find a new world for his people to settle, one where the sky isn't a ceiling made of stone. But in the underground empire of Azlant, dissent is never tolerated. Brought before one of the undead Dark Lords, Valdemar is offered a choice he cannot refuse. Meanwhile, the swordswoman Marianne Reynard is given a mission: to investigate a dead cult with a few mysteries left to unravel.
Both are looking for the truth, though they might regret finding it; for many cultists, monsters, and cosmic horrors stand in their way. They'll just have to kill them all.
Cover by Vitaly S. Alexius.
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Good night, dear review observers. Today we are stepping into Voidherald's mind, into a grimdark world of subterranean adventure and mystery.
Do not be alarmed by the apparent earliness of this review - I've done the cover for this book and so Void has blessed me with an excess of future ahead chapters and concept writing many white moons ago that I've been diving into to illustrate this masterpiece with the best of my abilities.
Stylistically, the worldbuilding of this book is DEEP - Voidherald is known for literary Royal Road treasures such as Vainqueur the Dragon, Kairos: A Greek Myth LitRPG and The Perfect Run... but this novel is closest in atmosphere to Void's Never Die Twice, almost feeling like a sequel to that series in its foreboding atmosphere, monsters, zombies and subterranean cities.
The grammar is as always top notch, no complaints to be had.
Unlike Void's other books, which feature plentiful showers of comedy and jokes, this book has a far more serious, grimdark tone with a sprinkle of horror. It has a lot of interesting, unique and original lore built up, a world that feels real just waiting to be explored by the readers.
Void masterfully plays between two different main characters points of view, revealing a majestic, complex story in all of its splendor, intertwining events, people and monsters in an ever-escalating symphony of doom, doom, doom in the deep akin to the sound of coming goblin army from the Khazad-dûm, Moria scene in Tolkien's book.
This novel takes the exploration of immortality and morality that it comes with to its fullest potential. I won't spoil anything, but you are guaranteed to be enthralled by the people and creatures and dark gods of this fascianating universe.
So, delve into this masterpiece and enjoy the depths of Void's imagination!
This story is rather different from Royal Road's usual offerings of computer game-based fiction (with its inclusion of 'Character Sheets') and endless rambling tales assembled from anime cliches -- and that is a very positive thing. 'Underland' is a work of gothic fiction about an unapologetically horrible world, set in the gloomy caverns into which Humanity has retreated following the arrival of the "Whitemoon", a rogue planetoid whose radiance scorched the Earth's surface into a poisonous, uninhabitable desert.
The human city-states occupying the great caverns of the Underland are ruled by magician-priests of appalling power, once-human beings who have transformed themselves into nigh-immortal monstrosities. Their rule is oppressive and brutal, but so far they have been able to sustain a functioning human society, despite clashes with their fellow Dark Lords, conflicts with other sapient underground-dwelling species and the on-going menace of Ialdebaoth, the cosmic horror that created humanity and the Earth, and is still incarnate within it.
All those that live on the Earth live *within* the body of Ialdebaoth, the ancestor of humanity. Its divine Blood is the source of incredible magical power, usable by humans because of their descent from this progenitor horror, and with it, humanity has shaped a weird, eerie technology that unites magic and science. Menial labour is carried out by zombies, reanimated dead humans with cybernetic implants; human sorcerers trade extensively with Strangers, extraplanar beings from unthinkably alien dimensions; half-human college students attend classes at educational institutes run by certain of the Dark Lords themselves... and life manages to go on.
The protagonists of the story are Valdemar, the previously-mentioned college student, and Marian, a bodyguard and combat-mistress from an aristocratic family. Valdemar's teacher is Lord Och, one of the ruling Dark Lords, a lich who has long since abandoned the life of the flesh, but has schemes and ambitions that even the other Dark Lords would consider insane... and intends to make use of Valdemar to achieve his ends.
This is an elegant story in the tradition of H.P.Lovecraft's tales of "cosmic horror"; it presents frightful things which *are* frightful because they are so unimaginably *other*, so alien it physically hurts to look at them.... There's also a quality of horrible indifference; some of the beings in 'Underland' neither notice nor care about human beings, any more than we do ants. It's a matter of perspective. The story also includes constant elements of body horror, well-written and highly appropriate given the nature of the world, and some outright horror, especially if you're disturbed by rats, roaches and other little scurrying things.
'Underland' is better written in terms of grammar, spelling and diction than 80% of online fiction. It's different, it's very creative in its world-building and it echoes a style of writing and fiction that I enjoy a great deal (Weird fiction of the 1890s to 1930s). There's a certain formal quality to the way it sounds....
Unfortunately, 'Underland' is more like a series of well-crafted set pieces than a story, a string of great scenes that don't connect well enough to produce much momentum. The characters -- particularly Valdemar -- are sketches at best, outlines with a few provocative details that are arresting, but never adequately developed. Marian is probably the most fully-examined of the characters, but no-one in 'Underland' is explored sufficiently to give them depth or conviction. Given the unpopularity of 'Underland' on the author's Patreon account (and the failing funds that resulted!), he ended the story prematurely, which of course exacerbated all the previously-noted problems.
I enjoyed 'Underland'; it was a nicely-written novelty and a pleasant surprise to encounter on RR. If you read it as a snippet of a longer work, you may enjoy it very much (as I did), but 'Underland' cannot stand as a complete story.
I'm reviewing this upon the first RR chapter post, but I've read up to chapter 13 (around 42k-ish words)
I love the worldbuilding. I love the style and tone. Every story Void has written so far have been unique in various ways, but this story is like a whole new world (pun intended).
It's kind of a cross between Lovecraftian monsters and the typical types of Lich/Vampire/Necromancer fantasy/urban fantasy stories, but set deep beneath the surface of a world in which they live in a kind of magical dark early renaissance period.
It's very dark, but not dark in the edgey way that everyone complains about. Everything makes sense in the context and lore that is gradually built up.
There are two written character POVs. I was a little skeptical at first because I generally avoid multiple POV stories on RR, but the character he chose as the alternate POV has been very interseting so far, and the story arc she's following has kept the pace up.
The main character has a ton of drama built into his backstory which drives the first bunch of chapters and created some instant conflict and struggle, which I adore. He's very focused on his goals and will take any route he can to achieve them.
Both the main charactesr are great, and the side characters are also incredible. The world is filled with those who have gained immortality through various means and their psyche and the psychological results of their immortality and power have started to be explored. There are no "weak" characters here. Everyone is struggling to be great in their own endeavors.
I'm not going to go into grammar. It's flawless, as usual.
I can't wait for more people to get in on this story. I was sad when Perfect Run ended, but I'm so glad that this was the story picked for his next fic. It's already great, and I can only see it getting better as the story progresses.
I had to come and see myself, what the hype was about
now i’ve found a dark fantasy I can’t do without
it’s full of monsters, magic, and compelling characters
it has hooks to pull in a broad range of new readers!
The style is dark and quite fantastical, intense and fun
and it moves at a pace that should feel nice for anyone
it’s an easy read and it will leave you wanting more
it’s gritty but the characters know what they’re fighting for
The story is unveiling now, around the fourth chapter
it's set around a seemingly friendly necromancer
the history around the characters is intriguing
my curiosity has already started piquing!
The way the dialogue unlocks the world around so fast
it feels like there’s already so much lore that has amassed
when this really gets moving, I’ll be right here to see
this will set the bar for upcoming dark fantasy
The grammar is just perfect, but then what would you except
the author is a pro who has earned a lot of respect
there’s no issues at all there, so just enjoy the ride
it’s a style the author rocks, it’s true and bonafide
The characters are great, they feeling fleshed out and full of thought
we’re sympathetic to what their big decisions have wrought
they interact in ways that feel organic, fun, and real
without interrupting pace, we find out how they feel
Overall, i’m so excited to get into this
this is a dark fantasy no one will want to miss
clearly it is destined for a quick trip to the moon
it’ll be a big it by tomorrow afternoon
Having finished Underland, I have to say that I really enjoyed it and I hope it finds the success to allow the author to write more in this world.
Underland is a dark fantasy/horror series that leans a lot into body horror, which is right up my alley. While well-received, the story doesn't seem to be as widely read as some of the author's other work, which is really disappointing.
I love the style; I would rate this a 10 if I could. The vibe is out of this world (literally) and I would read just about anything in this style.
Overall a great story. Very cool all the way through, there's always more to learn as the story goes. There are a few places the pacing seems a little rough, but I kind of chalk that up to the author deciding to cut his losses after this volume due to the story not making enough on patreon.
As usual, nothing here to be able to call out. Grammar, spelling, editing are all great.
Main characters are good. Valdemar is an interest protagonist, but the standout here is Marianne for sure. A great POV character with a different take on things, and the two are well balanced to give us halves of the same story.
Side characters are solid but I find myself wishing some of them had a little more space to grow and thrive. Hermann and Och are special standouts here, but a lot of the characters are very good.
Another start to a great novel once again by VoidHerald. To start with, the description is very intriguing, especially the mention of a conflict already brewing. Makes me really interested to read more. So far, the setting is also quite interesting to me as well, I find it something that is done before but also has its own spin to it in your work.
An excellent start to a disturbing story; Void Herald has once again brought us to another world, with a different kind of normal. This one asks us how far are we willing to go, and what do we take for granted? Underhand is dark, cruel, and disturbing, and I'm looking forward to exploring it more.
If you've read the author's other works, you know he does a fantastic job and that this is definitely going to be another amazing story that will make the top 10 (probably higher). If you haven't read it, then you're an uneducated reader, no offense.
As for this story, it is apparently about a necromancer and a swordswoman trying to figure out a way to find a "place". The setting of the story is literally the underworld, where necromancy is legal (but only by license) and many other types of magic usually relegated only to the villains of traditional fantasy fictions are approached in an innovative and intriguing way.
So go read it now!
Detailed and rich characters and world. There is also plenty of mystery and potential in the story seed, main characters and side characters. All exciting stuff! The different aspects of the magic system are interesting to see and get explored in more detail. Grammar is on point and the style is descriptive. Overall a lot of fun to read.
So what is it? Another solid story by probably one of the few people who actually finish stories entirely on Royal Road.
It's also a book about forbidden magic being rather less forbidden than normal. That was the hook which captured my imagination. I was also looking forward to seeing how societies filled with the undead work. There's a lot of those attempted, but few manage to stick with it for very long.
And so we come to the reason i'm reviewing this today. It's by one of the few people who actually finish stories, and I have seen that it is now finished. I hadn't noticed who wrote it until now, daft I know, but short stories just aren't my bag normally. I'm actually only reviewing this now as a counterpoint to those reviewers who regularly praise stories being completed.
What I have read was good. I was thoroughly enjoying what I thought was the prologue. The world building left a lot of mysteries and the story was pretty much all mystery. Those getting quickly cleared up was an excellent pace for a prologue or even a first book. Knowing that pace likely continues for the entire story however feels like it limits potential. I know i'll likely get drama and good characters from the provenence, but quantity is it's own quality when it comes to world building.
Like, if Beethoven exclusively wrote mobile phone ringtones, they'd still be solid bangers right? Hour long symphonies were probably the right choice though. At least to my taste.