- Traumatising content
The Mystic Turtle.
They stand with the Elder Dragons and the Spirit Dryads as creatures of legend. Timeless. Immortal. They live solitary lives, drawing power from their own soul. They are the hermits of the sea, their power unmatched in the ocean. Yet, this power is not attained easily, for as Thera will learn, the life of a baby Mystic Turtle is full of trials and tribulations...
She will scour ancient sunken ruins, face the dangers lurking in the depths of the sea, and, perhaps one day, grow to become a Mystic Turtle that surpasses even legend.
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I'm just going to say it: I think this story is MelasD's greatest work to date.
I truly believe it, though. I feel like for the past year I've been watching this author leap and stumble and leap again through the countless stories he's started. If you've been keeping up with MelasD 'lore,' you know what I'm talking about. A half dozen fics, and half that again on alts. He's been experimenting, and while I know he doesn't consider his last few to be hits I feel like he's grown with them in the best way.
In Thera, you can almost feel the lessons learned from each story, woven into a beautiful narrative that's somewhere in the vicinity of Shade Touched meets Cradle meets like... National Geographic? It has the lighthearted humor of Violet mixed with the darker moments of Melas and the hint of philosophical oomph from Tian, all wrapped in the dopamine-rushing, survival-instinct-triggering fight-or-die setting present at the beginning of Salvos.
And you can almost taste the vibe of this story in the writing. MelasD says he's prose-blind. I want everyone reading this to go into the first chapter and after finishing it tell him he's lying, because tonally the mystique and reverence transitioning to utter confusion and chaos is a big juxtaposition. And that sort of juxtaposition kind of represents the story as a whole — moments of fun levity immediately followed by intense action or deep, heart-touching moments. It's a giant mixed bag, in the absolute best way possible.
And pacing... guys, he finally learned how to pace! Jabs aside, Thera really did hit the nail on the head in this regard. It doesn't feel like you're rushing straight along or plodding at a snail's pace, but progressing forwards at just the right speed, jumping through the borings bits if need be but taking the time for the big impactful moments to sink in. Story elements are introduced at just the right time, even if they aren't when you'd expect them to be done.
Oh, and characters. Man, I love myself some cute initial protag evolving (character-wise I mean, but obviously this is also a monster evolution story) as they progress type stories. In this case it's even better because Thera (the character) starts out as a literal 0 year old baby, and with each level-up she grows a bit, not only in strength but also mentally. You get to see her animalistic nature gradually tempered (but never erased) by intelligence, and what I love about this story specifically is that the MC is affected by the shit she goes through, but never so much as to be a complete character change. She's still that cute baby turtle, just maybe a little more grown-up and a teensy bit more traumatized.
And yeah, about that trauma — Thera does touch on some heavier themes, man. Not in a grimdark murderhobo everyone-dies type of way, but in a bittersweet, somewhat hopeful tint. Take the first lines of the entire story (paraphrased): "Time: it is a terrible thing... but not to all of us." Between the big fight scenes and litRPG progression hype, Thera takes a moment to acknowledge the cruelty of mother nature, then smiles in the face of it.
(Super vague spoilers ahead)
In the first arc alone you'll find yourself attached to characters and places, yet as they leave you're left not with a sense of emptiness, but of joy at the time you spent with them.
The only scenes that I didn't feel completely entranced in were the short snippets of the elf sideplot that come at the beginning of some chapters, but even they ended up contributing to the story's themes in a way that made me 100% appreciate their inclusion.
Overall, Thera is an absolute rollercoaster of a story. It'll have you hyped as fuck in one scene and then bawling in the next, and it all just works together in an absolutely brilliant way. Full confession time: I don't think this story was written 'for RR,' in the sense that it isn't the super powerfantasy progression trip that some might associate with this site. However, I think that just as the author has grown, RR has grown to be a much more diverse and innovative space than it gets credit for. And in that sense, I 100% think that this story is 'for RR,' because I think that it brings in something a smidge different while still keeping its progression roots in mind.
Please give Thera a try, because like I said this might be the biggest monster evolution author on RR's greatest work yet. It isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be to keep you reading long past the time you should have stopped. I'll see you guys on rising.
1 - Thera
In typical MelasD fashion, this story is named after its protagonist. Thera, a Mystic Turtle with incredible potential, explores a vast ocean. This work is a competent synthesis of what the author has learned through his many stories, applied to a unique premise, and let loose upon the world. This story will hook you; it’s just that good.
2 - General Thoughts
A system governs this realm, empowering all living things, and forming dungeons. However, the actual LitRPG mechanics play a pretty light role, with levels simply corresponding to size and strength, with species-specific skills being unlocked at certain level milestones. It's a refreshing break from the deluge of statboxes that I've grown wary of.
I’m extremely excited that this story is from the perspective of a turtle, simply as it is one of few creatures who remain capable within water or on land. This uncommon versatility has already proved indispensable to combat, as well as making it possible for Thera to travel through dungeons, which is a huge boon for progression, assuming she survives.
Additionally, I’m delighted to explore a marine environment from the perspective of Thera, as the creatures and structures found differ vastly from the typical fantasy fare. Even setting-specific natural disasters are shown, specifically a hurricane, and the disastrous effects on a local aquatic ecosystem caused by one. The tranquil peace underwater is near illusory, in that it can be shattered in a blink of an eye, seemingly at random.
2.1 - Style
Through fluid perspective changes, MelasD fleshes out this world slowly but surely, a fitting pace for a story about a turtle. The third-person omniscient narration is a perfect choice for this story, as there is much happening around her that Thera cannot comprehend, at least not in the early phase of progression.
The tone is callously indifferent at times, which is reflective of the ruthless world Thera lives in, where Nature's most primal law reigns supreme : Kill, or be killed. However, hope springs eternal, and no situation is so bleak that Thera cannot find a silver lining.
2.2 - Story
From her humble beginning, one egg among hundreds, desperately fighting to reach the relative safety of the ocean, Thera has come a long way. However, there is no time to look back, as the way ahead is lined with danger at every turn, and complacency breeds stagnation, an ignominious fate for such a majestic beast.
As of yet, there is no particular overarching goal that is pushing the plot forward, besides day-to-day survival. Thera is still exploring and growing stronger, and she needs to establish herself before tackling any issue at scale.
During an exploration of an underwater dungeon, Thera met the first creature who could legitimately be considered a friend. I’m quite happy that the story is at the point where Thera is beginning to work together with others, in pursuit of a common goal, as there will always be bigger fish in the sea...
2.3 - Technicals
Polished prose and grammar are on display throughout this story. Narration is consistent, and formatting is impeccable. I haven’t noticed any errors, and while some may slip through, they don’t impact the story being told in any meaningful way.
2.4 - Character
While Thera is clearly the main character, the accompanying cast is not left stranded in her wake. From Luna, to Mors, and even a nameless starfish, attention to consistency and detail produces vivid characters who have a meaningful impact on the narrative.
Additionally, psychological characterization is developed magnificently in this story. The thought process of Thera is dynamic, and slowly evolves through the story. However, it’s done in a transparent way, making individual growth multifaceted. Not only do I have Thera rising in level to look forward to, but I also am excited by her developing psyche.
A form of dialogue has been introduced in the main storyline, a type of magic telepathy that allows creatures to talk with each other. As this premise expands, more and more creatures will eventually be capable of interacting with Thera, or at least understand her, instead of defaulting to fight or flight responses. This premise is effectively a guarantee that more side characters will be introduced, because the main barrier between the creatures is communication. Surely the creatures who flee Thera wouldn’t be scared of her if she could just tell them that she wouldn’t hurt them, right…?
3 - Conclusion
I could sing this story's praises ad nauseam, but I'll attempt to keep my applause succinct. Thera is a masterpiece of Monster Evolution GameLit, written by one of the most preeminent authors in the genre. I simply cannot recommend this story enough.
I’d like to thank MelasD for writing this amazing story, and answering the many questions I had while writing up this review.
Notice: I have read the chapters on patreon so I know a bit more than what is available here.
Like most other works from MelasD the way this is written is different from his other works. For example this being in third person omniscient.
I feel refreshed to know that MelasD tries new things and doesn't just make a copy from his previous works.
I am loving Thera's story, it's quite light in the LitRPG aspect only showing the bare basics of them. Which is level and skills and that's it, and I love that.
I am loving Thera, both the story and the character. I laughed a lot of times because of the information that is given to us because this is written in third person omniscient.
There are some dark moments in it, but if you ever saw a documentary about turtles this shouldn't be anything new for you. But suffice to say that nature is brutal.
I can’t say much about grammar since that isn’t my forte, but if there are any mistakes they are minor ones. They won’t make you want to drop the story for example.
However even with those times Thera is an amazing read.
Another impressive story from MelasD. He just finished the first story arc and started a second one, so it is time for me to rate it and write a short review.
The main protagonist is a cute little turtle and we can follow her struggling to survive the first minutes of her life, finding places to stay, enemies to fight and a friend. There are levels and skills but no giant stat tables, which is a nice thing and the pace of the story feels just right to me.
The second arc has just started and I can't wait to see, how the story unfolds. It is a little gem to discover and I can definitely recommend it.
Can we just rename this sub sub genre after melas at this point? I mean, constant hits coming from the guy.
You get what you always get--- a thorough look at something as it evolves and becomes something greater. Good writing, amazing character development. It's never confusing to see Melas put out another great hit.
There's a progression of skills, tense combat, unique enemies, and the slow growth from sentience to sapience. There's good pacing between battles and more calm sections where Thera grows comfortable with a new status quo.
However, she occasionally makes suicidal decisions. Running out of air, and diving deeper towards a light. Listening to a lecture for too long and running out of air again.
There are also the occasional needless dramatic non-cliffhangers. Barely winning against a stronger enemy is fine, but why would she have to fall unconscious afterwards, just so that her ally can recover her from drowning in the next chapter? There is no difference between that and dragging herself to safety to fall unconscious, because we know she cannot die here, and there are no lasting consequences for almost drowning. As a cliffhanger it fails, because there is no mystery about what happens next.
And my final gripe is that the expositional elf highschool sections are almost entirely redundant. "The sea is dangerous" "Dungeons have higher concentrations of mana" "Magic storms exist". Thera already perceives most if not all of that. The additional world building that Thera would not be aware of is marginal. My only hope is that the elves actually affect the story later on.
Despite all my complaints, this is a solid, well-grounded story. Well worth a try, to see if it hooks you.
Similar to Salvos, this is a litrpg with a nonhuman lead, although based on a turtle it looks like it will take a very different path.
The writing is good and gives a strong sense of Thera's personality and feelings and keeps everything moving.
I am definitely interested in seeing where this one goes.
The story premise is fairly interesting: A mystic turtle hatches into an unknown world, heads off into the ocean, faces some hardships, and evolves along the way.
As of this review (early parts of 2nd arc), the story has progressed a bit, but hasn't provided a proper long-term goal. The MC seems to be mainly at the whims of the environment, without much (if any) personal agency.
On top of that, the setting hasn't been explored in any depth (and/or hasn't presented any unique aspects), and the amount of other characters for the MC to interact and communicate with has been very slim. In fact, loneliness and a search for companionship seem to have been the main theme so far.
The story of the MC is occasionally interspaced with short fragments of side-story of a land-based elf going through education. These seem to serve no actual purpose to the story, aside from being a vehicle for exposition. This is made worse by the fact that this exposition doesn't actually contribute anything, since all the information is already readily apparent from the MC's perspective.
The 'system' used is fairly minimalistic, but serves its purpose well, which is a welcome diversion compared to the overcomplicated mess put forward by other stories.
The grammar is good, although the writing suffers from thesaurus syndrome (ie: picking the most obscure synonyms possible instead of using plain language, usually in an attempt to seem more sophisticated).
All in all, the story is alright, but not one that really caught my attention or interest.
Anyone else sad that Azarinth Healer is wrapping up right now? I know it's torn into my soul.
From Thera, I see another version of it. Of a curious turtle ready to adventure. To grind. To kill. I'm so EXCITED for the later chapters of Thera's therapeutic journey.
This is what we need people! Single-minded grinding until Legendary status is reached! And this book looks to be going in that direction.
MelasD is back at it again with another amazing monster evolution story. Personally, I haven't read any of the backlog past Chapter 1.08, but I'll do my best to give a fair review from what I've seen. I've really enjoyed what's been posted so far, so I'll make my first non half-assed advanced review.
The grammar is functionally perfect, and I don't have any problems with it: nothing really to say in that department.
The story so far has been captivating, and it's really nice to see that MelasD has been sprinkling in a lot of story/world background as Thera navigates her newfound world. The pacing on the story seems just right, and it feeds me my little dopamine hits at just the right time to keep me interested, but not overloaded.
It's a little bit difficult for me to judge the main character after only nine chapters, but so far none of the characters have been one-dimensional at all, even at the very start. For example, the "novice village guide" in Mors isn't all about simply helping the MC for no reason at all, a trope that occurs in LitRPGs a lot. Instead, Mors has its own ideals, wishes, and thoughts about her situation. In fact, Mors could be seen as almost capitalising on the arrival of Thera for her own gain, with Thera's safety and happiness being a side-benefit.
I can't really be one to judge the style of the writing, *cough cough* especially if you've read my works ;-;, but the language effectively communicates the characters' emotions and viewpoints and describes the world around the characters in an interesting way, which is functionally perfect from my perspective.
All in all, I'd highly recommend you check out this story. Super fun read so far.