Shem is a backwater, a place where ambition gives way to peace and the quiet life.
Sophie Nadash once yearned to understand life and chemistry. Now a disillusioned scientist of middle age, she yearns to set aside pipettes and polymerase forever.
A chance encounter with the Goddess Artemis sets her on the path to becoming an [Alchemist] in the Shemmai village of Kibosh. Freed from the hustle of Earth, she can relax, make friends, and rediscover her love for chemistry through its mystical precursor.
Cover by Roger Creus. Discord link is in the Author's Notes; come hang out with us! Also on the Discord: EPUB versions of all published arcs.
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The technical aspects of Quill & Still are extremely well done, bordering on superb. The grammar and prose are practically flawless, characterization and style are similarly excellent. The litRPG element is distinct and well-integrated in the world. Unlike many litRPGs, the system feels organic to the world, as opposed to: "The world is a videogame, people have classes and stats. Just roll with it."
My problems with this story are (from least to worst):
1. The pacing is too slow for me. The author wasn't exaggerating when saying that the story is slow-paced, so I guess it's on me. It's been 20 chapters and not much really happened.
2. Clarity issues and confusion. The story has several moments where I'm not sure what the conflict/problem is. Others mentioned most of the same moments in the comments to chapters, so it's not just me. While some of them appear to be incidental, others are written this way on purpose. But instead of making me sympathize with the main character who similarly has little idea what's going on in this new and alien world, it makes me as a reader annoyed at the story and the author for choosing to write it this way and making the guide/mentor character terrible at their job.
3. I hate all significant characters and their decisions, actions, and presentation in the story so far. It doesn't help that there are only 4 of those at the moment. Those are: Sophie the MC, Kelly the Guide, Artemis the Greek Goddess number one, and Hephestis the Greek God number two.
Sophie the MC is the opposite of a character I find interesting in books period, never mind as the main character. She's beaten down by her insecurities and horrible job experience to the point of passivity and submission. She's the opposite of proactive, feeling more like she's a decoration that's just along for the ride. There was a single scene where I liked her — someone tried to belittle her experience, knowledge, and education and she finally showed a spark of pride and put them in their place. The rest of the time she spends being delighted at how wonderful everything is, grinning every time Kelly the Guide smiles or does anything remotely friendly, and being tired. I have zero connection to her and every time she expresses joy or wonder at something my reactions as a reader range from "I don't care" to complete opposition. Not great for solarpunk.
Kelly the hot Guide with a pretty smile is terrible at her job and acts with little to no consideration for Sophie being an alien to their whole culture. She starts by dumping encyclopedias worth of info on Sophie, and by extension the reader, and getting angry at her for not sharing info Sophie couldn't know was relevant. That last one is also a good example of a clarity issue because before reading the author's comment I couldn't for the life of me figure out why is she angry at Sophie and not herself. All the while, Sophie comments about how pretty, wonderful, and incredible Kelly is while I'm sitting here and struggling to see any redeeming characteristic in her besides being hot.
Then there are the Gods and Sophie's reactions to and interactions with them. First of all, the story happens because Artemis is garbage of a being, never mind a Goddess. Artemis chills at a pocket dimension that is forbidden for mortals to visit and know about. So, in a show of (in)competence, the Gods put ZERO warnings, fences, red tapes, guarding beasts, or any other methods of keeping the mortals away. And when Sophie finds the place and sees Artemis, the Goddes does the following: threatens to kill Sophie, bully her into apologizing for existing in a place she's not supposed to be in, acknowledging that Sophie's not at fault AFTER hearing her apologize, agreeing to send her to a nice alien world of her general preference, threatening to kill her AGAIN for daring to mention that she may not survive on a different planet without her meds, and finally sending her to a new world.
Hephaestus then remakes* Sophie's body without some of her health issues and sends her away to a new life.
(The body remaking thing may be significantly more important, depending on an aspect of Sophie's character that may or may not be a thing.)
Their second interaction is in chapter 8
where Sophie has to visit a temple and thank them because local traditions say so. After she gives them a simple show of gratitude, which is only appropriate given that the whole situation is Artemis' fault, the Gods show how insignificant she is with magic, driving her to tears and making her prostrate herself as if they resurrected her lost loved one or something.
AND SOPHIE JUST ACCEPTS THE WHOLE THING AND GOES ON. Sure, they're assholes, but they're Greek Gods — belittling, humiliating, and mutilating mortals is their thing so it's all FINE.
My reaction to this book reminds me of how me + discord got a person to try Cradle and them quitting after book 2, saying that they couldn't deal with how the books portrey a grimdark dystopia, seemingly without realizing it.
Let me start with this. Im not a writer, I wish I was. Props to the author for being willing to put something out on a public forum. That take guts and no one can deny it. This story has good and bad...lets start with why I started reading it.
The story has potential. I am curious about the world. I want to know more about this mysterious system.The gods are...interesting to say the least.
However the bad, I tried to read to chapter 33 but I fizzled out around chapter 21. I think describing this story as a slow burn is very innacurate. Its like a glacial movement. In 21 chapters the author has written 2 days. We dont get introduced to alchemy until roughly chapter 15? This is a slice of life before anything else and its not a slice its a buffet. I wanted to know so much more of what we were getting into and instead I only know not to be late to the refactory and that you cant be forced down any life path. I dont want to critique this to death however I think Id like to quote the author. This story has so many instances of using "ten words where one would have worked".
I am sorry I wanted to like this story but the pacing and narrative path meandered to much.
Still props to you author.
There is not a lot of stuff that is objectively bad about this story.
There are no big grammatical blunders (that my non native eye could see) and the writing overall is descriptive and colourful.
The world/setting is creative and interesting and has a cool new take on the isekai+system (like seriously, this is super good and allows me to ignore my issues with the story for way longer than I would normally).
It is a slow burn, but that is not inherently a bad thing if an author can make it interesting.
My problem with the story mostly comes from the characters (and the dialogue) which should normally be the core focus of a slow burn:
Everything following here is highly subjective and I would encourage everyone to at least give the first 5-10 chapters a try regardless of the following (harsh) words.
The characters just feel weird (meaning unnatural) in the way they behave and talk. Weird and silly characters definitely can have a place in some stories, but in this story there is a conflict with the angst and seriousness that peeks out from time to time.
The characters in this story are (accomplished) adults, but none of them behaves like it. It feels more like a bunch a teenagers.
So everyone is giggling around and no one can hold a serious conversation for more than 2 sentences (hyperbole)...whenever a situation approaches something like a normal adult conversation, it gets interrupted either by jokes or by angst and drama (like some unresolved trauma from our mc for example).
The switches between offended-joking-serious-immature-professional happen so fast and drastic that it gives me whiplash and make the mc and her friend look hysterical or bipolar.
I could accept these characters, if they were a lot younger or if the overall setting of the story was less serious...but here it feels like they miss the mark.
Any given part of this story is enjoyable to read. It's well written, descriptive, and just solidly done. However the more I read the less I'm enjoying. The story doesn't just feel slow, it feels like it's deliberately stalling. As of 28 the MC's guide and friend has helped them choose a life path and set them up with a workshop and loans for the equipment they'll need. Chosen which of the dozen classes available to them they'll commit to for probably years. Including a significant change to the MC's body for the third time this story. And all this within their second day on the planet!
However they still haven't explained anything at all about the system that's being used. What are feats vs skills vs attributes vs any of the other parts of this system that's now bolted to them. Apparently you can't directly direct someone on what to pick in this system or it fights you, but you can neglect to tell them what anything they're choosing means so they have to let you "advise them".
And the MC goes along with this seemingly in no small part because they are the thirstiest character I've read in a long time. Any female is described primarily and frequently for how hot they are. It hit the creepy point pretty early on. And while the writing has pulled back from that since then I'm not sure if this is a temporary shift because there hasn't been a new woman for them to leer at for a while or real improvement, but I'm hoping for the improvement.
Given we've had time to explain the rate of average meat production and why there are teens bussing the tables you can see the lack of relivant setting details isn't because there was so much else to go over. While there have been a lot of info dumps so far, I'd say that's the majority of what's been written in fact, very little of these have been actually relevant to the MC and their immediate life.
The setting is unrealistic, requiring not just a lack of bad actors but a surfit of good ones. But honestly it's no less realistic then all the stories wherein apparently everyone in the world is just waiting for the ability to shoot a half dozen moderately painful fire bolts a day to go full on Reaver. In most stories the improbable utopia would be an issue, but in this one it's just a tool that removes conflict. And that's fine since the story seems to want to focus on the setting and the day to day life of the main character. I don't know how sustainable this will be, a story without any source of conflict doesn't seem like it will fit the medium. But people may enjoy it as a way to decompress.
I hope the writer and their audience continue to enjoy this story, but it's just not for me.
I'm still reading. The story I think has its fair share of flaws which other reviewers had adequately cover, but I'd like to voice my take on two major issues with the story that could affect whether you (dear prospective reader) may contemplate in considering whether to read this story.
One, is that there seems to be no narrative weight to any of the protagonit's actions. On the spectrum of slice-of-life, this is on the far end of insignificance. It's almost as if someone write a travel guide for this fantasy world, and then had to re-write it to insert an audience stand-in and an excuse for her to go around and learn all these things for the travel guide. It's very lighthearted in that sense.
Two, the story comes across as a little preachy at times. It took me a while to figure it out, but that seems to come from two things.
First, the fantasy society is presented as a utopia, which (I think rightly) is often criticized as extremely difficult to make into a good story and so is often derided as a setting. I had to go look it up, and the only utopian stories I've historically enjoyed are the Culture series by Iain M. Banks and the Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer. But, I would argue, neither are purely utopian and because of that avoid the pratfalls of the setting. (Not a single Culture book is merely self-contained within the Culture about people living their lives in Culture utopia; they're all about how the Culture's utopia rubs up against other cultures because, naturally, Banks couldn't write a book like that. And Terra Ignota both (a) goes to length to explore the flaws of the utopia, and (b) is about the downfall of the utopia.) While the setting here presents an interesting small fantasy community, presenting it as a utopia doesn't seem like it's doing us any favors for maintaining suspension of disbelief. Perhaps it's cynical of me, but I have to think that either the characters or the story (it's unclear) are glossing over whatever flaws do exist.
Second, the protagonist is quick to judge and deride her prior society as flawed and then to praise the new one as a prosocial utopia. Now, while the former does seem to be rooted in the protagonist's trauma, and there's probably several different ways to take the latter, mine is that such a position rankles with sheer arrogance. Like, really, it comes across (especially with the utopian themes) as either a political exhortation for reform (Marx comes to mind) or the bait a charismatic leader would use to establish a cult-commune (this one neat trick will save us all). It's just too good to be true especially given the speed at which the protagonist seems to reach such a conclusion, however tentative. Even if the protagonist were trained in one of the relevant social science (there's no indication that she is), she's been there less than a handful of days. I could get that she could conclude "that's nice," but I don't really get how she could so quickly conclude "that's wonderful." Maybe I'm being a bit nitpicky because of my sociology background, but it's an uncomfortable burr to the story.
I just can't get into this story. The writing and grammars just fine. The characters feel very.... blah to me. The god takes offense at her mentioning needing meds, then sends her to a world where she has a horrible reaction to the plants? Everything has to be named in such a weird manner. Just feels like a lot of over complicated fluff and very little actually happening. I don't really care for the way Kelly who's supposed to give her a tour treats her. Just not a story for me.
I've been asked to give my thoughts, so here's my two cents:
For undiscerning readers looking for the type of comfortable, no-stakes fantasy utopia setting that Quill & Still peddles, it scratches that itch, with chapter after chapter laying out the author's utopian wish-fullfillment fantasy. If the setting and premise hooks you, you'll enjoy it despite its flaws as the author packs a lot of interesting and thoughtful ideas into the story.
Not being hooked, I bounced off the story like a mixed metaphor off a truck.
Normally slice of life stories are carried much by good characters, humor, and interesting subplots that spout up like rabbitholes. In this story, the characters are one of its weakest points, with most characters defaulting to generically helpful + quirky and the dialogue leaning on the info-dumpy, soapboxy side. The MC and the plot feel like vehicles for delivering the worldbuilding rather than something that can stand on their own.
Fundamentally, it's a story written for a niche and can be an enjoyable read if you're looking for said niche.
Transmigrating to another world isn't always about fighting to survive or transforming the world with technology; sometimes it's about becoming a part of a new community and culture, making friends, and building a peaceful new life together. Pastafarian's writing is technically adept, highly original, and deeply human, and reading Quill & Still is a joy. I can't wait for more!
Quill & Still is a relaxing, hopeful story of a woman entering a beautiful world, where kindness and community drive a story (so far) free of existential threat or dramatic author knife-prodding.
If you enjoy a slow-paced story of self-discovery, of First Friends and mad science for personal fulfillment, then Qull & Still is right for you. We've got vivid descriptions of delicious meals, the kind of gorgeous ambient worldbuilding the author is known and loved for, and some just really nice, interesting concepts that work quite well together.
Style-wise, Pastafarian's writing can sometimes get a bit dense, but I'm not taking marks away for that! It's meaty, chewy, in ways that can be appreciated at a casual skim and at a slower, more careful rate of enjoyment. There's lots to soak up in the details, but you won't find yourself lost for forgetfulness.
Grammar is impeccable. Did you know that it's 'You've got another think coming', not 'thing'? I didn't! But now I do. How about that? You're either rolling your eyes at me and thinking, of course it's that, what would another thing even mean? What's the other thing? Sheesh. Or you're going No way! Lemme look that up...
Ultimately though, it's the characters this story lives off. Everyone feels really enjoyable, and Sophie has a lot of very relatable traits. She encounters strangeness and adopts her world-view to incorporate this new information, works with the careful precision of a scientist with no less of the range of emotions you would expect from someone with her age and lived experience.
It's been a while since I left a big long review, but I really, really love Quill & Still and I hope you enjoy it too. It might say some warning about review swaps up on this review (I can't remember!) but suffice to say this one's all me. I just love this story! I'm rambling now, of course, but ... go read it? It's real good.
Much love, and share your kindness, Traveler.
An excellent story. The world building is fantastic, the system intigration is very well done, and the nuances of the story are varied and subtle.
if you are looking for an OP MC, wicked cheat skills, and bloody mayhem... this is not for you.
If you are looking for slow burn (but not to slow) slice of life in a refereshingly interesting world, with a realisticly, emotionally mature MC who actually has to LEARN to intigrate in the new world, than this story IS for you.