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In the wake of an attack by a divine beast, the world blinked and transported Jessica Kim from Denver and her life as an accountant into the Sect of Coldsteel, replacing the now dead leadership. Can she get the support together to build the school back up and running while providing support to the refugees left by the divine beast? Will she be able to use her knowledge of the scientific method to improve the sects standing with local clans?
Sect Leader came out on Mondays and Thursdays.
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Straightforward modern-person isekai into classical period, a genre I really enjoy. Plus a cultivation world with all the possibility for dramatics and tension. Further, our newcomer is thrust into a leadership role in a desperate position, creating all sorts of possibility for ruthless political opponents and their out-witting.
Alas, the interesting setup has little follow through on the promised tension. As the blurb asks:
Can she get the support together to build the school back up and running while providing support to the refugees left by the divine beast? Will she be able to use her knowledge of the scientific method to improve the sects standing with local clans?
The answers appear to be "yes, pretty easily" and "not necessary because not really a problem."
I don't demand dystopian and dysfunctional cultivation sects. But this story has no problems that aren't solved by the protagonist being more or less competent. Nothing she does is all that revolutionary, mostly because it doesn't need to be in order to be good enough to fairly quickly restore the sect towards what it was before the disaster that brought the main character unto the scene.
Jessica, our MC, is transported to a xanxia world as the leader of a sect that just had it's entire leadership destroyed. She then tries to use her business management experience to re-form and reform the sect. Since I love xanxia worlds, isekai, and economics/trading in my stories, this all sounds great. The problem is the way the author works within this premise makes no sense.
First, as a dying act, the last sect elder summons Jessica to be the new sect elder, and bestows his cultivation power upon her. Why did he decide to summon a random person to lead the sect? Surely bestowing power on one of the senior disciples would be better?
Second, Jessica accepts this position without thought of it being a trap, or even of the alternatives. She seems to take on the mantle of sect leadership immediately, even though she was effectively just kidnapped. As of chapter 17, neither of these questions have even been asked, let alone answered, in the story.
The other major problem I have with this story is the characterization of the protagonist, Jessica. Jessica is repeatedly characterized as a competent, rational businesswoman, both in- and out-of-universe. And to his credit, the author has added character moments to demonstrate this in the story (following show, don't tell). However, at least for me, all of these moments have actually had the opposite effect.
In the first chapter, Jessica is attempting to guess the type of a 50/50 mixed bowl of candy by taste, and is recording her success rate to check how good she is at guessing. So far, so rational. However, her success rate is 11/20, and she concludes that her guess is better than random. Statistically speaking, a success rate of 11/20 is well within the range of random variation of random guessing.
While this is a minor nitpick, it exemplifies Jessica's character as a whole. While she act competent and rational, her conclusions always seem off, and she never asks the obvious questions about her situation. Put simply, she seems to be a person who thinks of herself as being rational and competent, when she is actually just average at best.
I’ll give points for the originality of the way the MC gets isekaid, I’ve never seen it before, and the transition between the real world and the murim world is very smooth.
There are some minor issues that do unfortunate add up and hamper the flow of the story. First, there are quite a lot of repetitions and tense changes. These aren’t as frequent in the later chapters, but are very noticeable at the start. Also, the author sometimes forgets to close the “ ” at the end of a line of dialogue, so it makes it hard to separate between dialogue and action.
However, these issues get less frequent as the story goes on, so I believe a second edit could get rid of it entirely.
This following point could very well be a stylistic choice but this story reads like a translation, due to sentence structure and certain word choices. The dialogue is also very un-organic. I have seen all of this in Chinese translations, but the thing is, it could very well be intentional. And I’m not talking about terms like “elder sister” and the whole sect system; that is to be expected on the genre.
To me, a European reader, this story I hard to get into because of the prose but I think those readers who consume way more Chinese Xianxia than I do will not have this issue.
Doing it because I can't got to the point where I can't put up with the aunties nonsense anymore. They rest of the story isn't bad and the aunties were interesting at first but it devolved into the aunties weird is law. If they weren't that common in the story I'd put up with it but they come up as often as the main character seems to come up.
They're magically stronger than an elder of another sect and their weapon of choice is a sandal and its actually strong. Which yeah was funny but not as an actual weapon
Overall I think the author has a fun premise and characters are interesting, but this story needs some polish to help bring it to its full potential. I do recommend reading it, but with the caveat that if feels like this is an early draft.
Style: Sometimes there were moments of genius beautiful writing, and other times there was constant word repition or sentences that I struggled to parse. The parsing issues are more on grammar, so that is where I took off the most stars. The style itself (word repition and choice of description) does seem to get better as the story continues.
Grammar: This is where the story is at its weakest. Some sentences were worded in such a way that I struggled to figure out what information the sentence was trying to convey.
Story: Cool story and I'm interested to see where it goes.
Character: I debated between a 4.5 and a 5 here. I think the characters are interesting, but some of the weirdest sentences happened to be around character thought process, which made it hard to understand what exactly the main character's motivations were. I think, with a clean up of grammar and sentence structure that this score would go up.
This is a story with an interesting premise that doesn't toss the premise aside for standard xianxia BS after the first handful of chapters.
Unfortunately, this story is written to promote a philosophy of "rationalist" thought that cultishly considers itself objectively correct. It has mostly manifested in a series of technically adequate fiction by different writers where the main character of whichever story always comes up with better ideas and newer more effective ways of doing things that nobody else ever thought of and there's never a good reason nobody else was doing those things. Also the main character never has to hear someone tell them they can't do something they want to do and come to accept that it's impossible.
All that is to say that this story could have been a neat low-conflict xianxia sect-scale story, except that it's tainted by being a piece of propaganda pushing a philosophy that the story contorts to support at every possible point.
Like a pair of knit socks in a puddle, this story could have been worth sticking with if it weren't for what it's soaked in.
Real men suck the cold out of the air and transform it into qi—making the air around them warmer for others in the process is just a side effect.
The 'summoned to be a sect leader after a disaster struck the sect' is something new that I hadn’t seen before and piqued my interest. Overall the story feels a bit like a franchise/sect management game, an approach which has a lot of potential and has been a fun read thus far.
An accountant is summoned from another world to become the new sect leader and the last remaining (injured/dying) elder sacrifices himself to bestow his cultivation core upon her, immediately making her strong enough to be the new elder. Resulting in a strong MC that has a lot to learn. Thanks to her Korean heritage and background story, Jessica (the MC) is not without martial arts training, but for the cultivation she has to rely on novels she's read and a young but intelectual member of the sect (An Yong) to guide her way.
As the remaining elder, Jessica's task is to rebuild the ColdSteel sect, by recruiting new members and helping develop the approximately 200 or so remaning students her sect still has. All while worrying whether the divine beast that caused the disaster would return to finishe the job.
Between the intellectual An Yong, the sandal throwing aunties, to the ambitious Grace and others, there is a varied and interesting cast of supporting characters that are relatable and likable. The MC is a mixed bag however, tending toward preachy and idealistic at times—something the author lets her get away with.
I was also particularly disappointed the way a certain arrogant young master’s temperament makes a 180 degree change after certain events. Though justification is given for the change toward the MC, the sudden consideration given toward lower ranked sect members feels a bit out of character if he normally kills people for the slightest of accidental missteps.
The style is light and easy to read for the most part, but there are issues rangring from occasional awkward phrasing or odd word choice and occasional uses of present tense in the narration to paragraph spacing issues in some chapters where sometimes using the 'reader preferences' settings to 'force indents' helps and sometimes it doesn't.
From missing punctuation to missing words to not quite correct dialog punctuation, there are a handful of errors in most chapters, but it’s not to the extent of annoyance, and overall the grammar is good.
Ok, so as I learned from the author, this story is for the "Sun Went Out Propmt Contest", so he was working with an 8k to 40k length story.
Also a note ahead of time, this would be my first cultivation story I read so I am going in as a blind reader, that said, let's get on with the review:
Grammar: I would like to begin with grammar. The grammar in this story is numerous in places, but very clean in others. I don't know whatg the deadline would be for the contest, but I feel a once over or a proof-reader could have helped out quite a bit. My main complaint would be the use of the word "cold" in the first chapter, for-- besides the use of coldsteel-- it was used 9 times. It most definitely was noticable enough to pull me out of the story a few times, but to be fair, this type of problem doesn't come up in the other 4 chapters.
Style: As this is a cultivation/ isekai story, I wish it would have gone into so more details of both. The world "cultivation" is thrown around a lot and I have no clue what it was refering too. I think it was meant to be a word for the magic system, but the magic system is barely explained. I think some more details in that aspect would have gone a long way for me.
The same with details of Jessica's earth-life. We no extremely little about her other than she its edibles and she lives in Colorado. I think both are useless facts when dealing with being an accountant in medieval...um...china? Yeah, the world is never explained either, but apparently there are dragons. In fact nothing is really explained: Qi, the ranks, how Jessica was summored, why Jessica was summoned other than the fact she has math skills, nothing that I wanted explaination for was explained. Again, to be fair, between the time crunch of a deadline and the limit of words to be used, this is extremely excusable and I don't take it as a factor in the rank. As I said, this story has a lot of potential to go further than 40k words
Story: Speaking of explaination of cultivation, my understanding of the word would mean to grow, or raise a farm of sorts, and I got a real kick of watching the intricacies of the economy of the Coldsteel School. A lot of pain-staking detail went into this aspect of the story and it really shows.
Character: I think Jessica is a perfectly suitable blank slate of a character. She doesn't really react to much in the story other than her hair being mussed up and her love of tripping out. Most things that happen in the story she picks up quickly with little trouble. I think if the author went to a bit of details of her life on Earth, while she was on Earth, would have made the story a bit more lush, but again word limits and time restrictions, so I won't hold it againt him.
Overall this story is a pretty decent and, as I've said before, is hurt by the contest itself, I think with out the dampening of the contest rules, this story could blossom into an excellent story!
It's a fun story and I rather enjoyed it, it's not been to complicated so far in a way that I've always preferred. It has some formatting problems for a few chapters but I'm assured that these will most likely be fixed. For now I'd recommend it, for people who want to read something lighter.
The story starts with sort of a basic isekai setup and explores the various logistical things a 'sect leader' is supposed to handle. I personally haven't read stories with such a premise, and it did manage to interest me with its content. The biggest issue for me was the writing style which needs some polishing to bring out the overall distinct story that lies underneath.
Style: The writing style is felt simplistic and was one of the weaker aspects of the story for me. In some parts, I was confused by whether the character was thinking or speaking out loud - which is not something that I usually encounter in web fiction. Because most tend to use italics or ' ' to separate thoughts and dialogues. Apart from that, I thought that were other issues with how the characters were portrayed and scenes were composed. But not being an experienced writer myself I couldn't really figure out exactly where it was going wrong. Of course, these are things that can be fixed with editing.
Story: Definitely different than other Xianxia novels, because it is not exactly about cultivation but more about managing a sect. So more of a 'kingdom building' story, which is not something I have seen up to now, so it definitely interests me.
Grammar: There were grammatical inconsistencies here and there but nothing too major. Some errors broke my immersion though.
Character: The characters also didn't feel well developed to me and none showed any characteristics that made them memorable. That doesn't mean the characters were badly written, it's just that they weren't anything special. The protagonist and her situation are interesting but many of her reactions felt rushed and naive.