A modern desert fantasy, featuring a linguistic magic system (Actual incantations?!?!)
Releases every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Currently writing volume 3.
(Previous Name: SToYA -> Desert Company)
Volume 1 - Retrospective
When Izdaha Saya receives a sponsor letter to compete in the Dineh Kazaàd, a high-stakes fighting tournament, she jumps at the chance. But the tournament is more than just a test of skill and bravery. It is a battleground for corporate greed, corruption, and the future of the three desert nations.
As Saya and her fellow fighters converge in the notorious Kazaàd company 'Al-Wa,' she soon discovers that the tournament has been corrupted by those seeking to profit from its brutal spectacle. Some are motivated by greed, while others seek revenge against the system that has oppressed them.
Against this backdrop of violence and avarice, an Azu girl, a boy from the slums, and a noble of an eastern kingdom struggle to find meaning in a world that seems determined to crush their ideals. Here in a small tale of many, they search for the courage to fight for their principles.
Volume 2 - Fistic Fiesta
The Piyesta de Kadayawan is afoot in Buhanggilog, and the people are looking forward to the festivities!
But to the local gangs, it’s a time of diplomacy and conflict. The death of José Pérez has left the Kamaong Batikan squad grieving as they attempt to search for a new leader. At the same time, the Buhang government seeks a new president from the rajahs of each prefecture.
As rival factions jockey for position, the nation hangs in the balance.
The nation searches for leaders, but who is ready to take up the torch?
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- Style Score
- Story Score
- Grammar Score
- Character Score
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Desert Company is a profession of the author’s love for languages, and in that regard the author has managed to spin languages into a terrific fantasy world blending multiple cultures, customs, and even created a magic system based around languages - and, as someone who can understand Chinese, layman Tagalog, a little bit of Arabic, and manga levels of Japanese, I must first say I am extremely biased. This is exactly my type of story where the worldbuilding feels exceedingly genuine and personal to the author, and it shows through the writing. However, as with any story, there are major issues that I feel need to be addressed, and I’ll do my best to mention all of them below-
Style score: On a technical level, I feel the story’s about perfect with the writing style. Descriptions of scenery and setting are pretty and imaginative, obviously heavily inspired by real-life cultures, but the vocabulary helps disguise it all behind a veil of magic and fantasy. The writing flows at all times, and sentence structures are varied enough to keep me engaged throughout. Action is also written in a rather fantastical manner, swordplay and magic both intermingling in a poetic form, and is a delight to read through and through. I didn’t expect anything less, though, knowing how much the author loves the art of linguistics.
On a more emotional level, however, I think the writing style is too matter-of-fact. Many times, the characters are simply doing this, doing that, and it doesn’t particularly evoke any emotions in the reader though it evokes plenty of senses with its fantastical writing style. It’s a bit of a strange thing, but oftentimes it seems the writing is beautiful simply for the sake of being beautiful - take for example a certain scene in chapter 4. Something terrible happens to one of the main characters, and knowing how good the writing style is from the past three chapters, I naturally expected a rather powerful, emotional shift in the narration to properly reflect the events of the story. But that didn’t really happen. The story just breezes over it with a few lines, never long enough to let either the reader or the character in question reflect on what just happened, and then after that it’s smooth sailing with the plot again. It’s not until much later in the story (chapter 16 and 17) that the author addresses what should’ve been addressed in chapter 6 at latest, and by then it’s too late. The story has already moved on.
This happens a few more times across the twenty-one chapters I’ve read, where the writing style is certainly pretty and undoubtedly good, but the actual emotional weight behind the good writing just isn’t there… And I think the reason why ties in with what I’m going to talk about in the story and character section. For now, I’ll rate the style at a comfortable 4.5/5, because I think the problem doesn’t really lie in the style itself. It lies in-
Story and Character score: The worldbuilding and the characters. Both of these elements are undoubtedly good again, first and foremost. The blend of real-life cultures combined with the generous usage of modified vernaculars make the world feel real. Bazaars are crowded, bustling, and well-lived in. People from different parts of the world have their own verbal tics and customs. Architectural designs of streets and buildings vary depending on the location, not one identical to another. Characters move around on ships, travel on foot through deserts, and take flight to the skies with a particle brand of magic dependent on the very linguistic systems of the world - the foundations of the world the author has crafted to near obsessive levels of detail.
Personally, I love it. It was fun picking apart the differences in speech and dialogue between characters, and it always felt like the story demanded attention if I wanted to get the most out of it. It’s all made even better when you understand some of the made-up words, because it challenges my brain a little and feels rather rewarding when I get a word right. It’s like playing a minigame in my head, though I know other readers might not have the same experience as I did. The story’s a far cry from most stories on this site in that regard, where the world is distinctly the author’s unique world, and nobody else’s.
… The problem, then, is this - it feels like the author is having way too much fun with the worldbuilding, to the point it obscures the overall plot and the themes of the story.
Early on we’re introduced to the main plot point of the story, which is ‘ten people are chosen every year to participate in a fight-for-your-life tournament’. It’s a good enough hook for a first chapter, but as the chapters roll by and we switch between main characters, I started to get a little confused by what was actually going on in the story. The Dineh Kazaàd tournament exists for an unknown, unexplained reason. A genocide happened before the events of the story which seems to be pretty important for one of the side characters, but the vague wording makes it so I don’t really know what happened there. There’s a complex magical system at work during fight scenes, but what exactly are Saharic particles apart from their properties and their possible usages? What is their relation to the linguistic system, which everything else in the world seems to be derived from and built around? It feels strange to me that a world so detailed and so meticulous doesn’t properly give context to the plot elements that are actually relevant to the story, making for a rather confusing read the further into the story I am.
Putting aside the worldbuilding and the premise of the story, I found myself… not really knowing why characters are doing the things they are doing. The female main lead has a desire to participate in the tournament because she admires the winner of a previous tournament, and that’s about all we get from her. Suruj is a passive character who gets dragged and sucked into things without ever making any active decisions of his own, though at least his reasons for working with the other two main characters make sense because of what happened in chapter 5. Kwazhak is the most active of the three main characters, but even then his exact motivations for wanting to rebel against the tournament feels weak, since it’s all simply told to us that the tournament caused suffering to him in the past. It’s an easy trap for stories with multiple leads to fall into, where because the focus is split between three characters, it’s much harder for the author to make the reader care about all three of them equally - and I think this story has this problem, too. Couple that with the almost overloading amount of terminology and lore being naturally woven into the narration, it feels as though I never could find a solid footing with the ‘core’ of the story, and I think that’s the root cause of the lack of emotional weight underlying the brilliant writing.
There’s too much worldbuilding, too many characters from different backgrounds, too much information. The scale of the story is too big from the get-go, and it never stops getting bigger and bigger... and all the while I’m still struggling to relate to any of the main characters because they’re written brilliantly as story characters with smart dialogue and unique characteristics, but not as real Humans I can feel for. For this reason, I’ll have to rate both the story and the character section a 4/5. They’re right there on the precipice of being perfect, but the almost excessive worldbuilding and the lack of character ‘cores’ hamper them from being such.
Grammar score: Because some of the character dialogues are intentionally written in ‘broken’ English to insinuate different dialects and slang, I’d spent more than a few moments staring long and hard at the dialogue… but I’m happy to say that, grammar wise, there’s nothing that majorly detracts from the reading experience. At least not anything that an English second-language reader like me could pick out. 5/5.
In Conclusion: The worldbuilding and the writing style used to deliver it is the best thing about this story. Though the blending of certain customs and cultures may seem strange at first glance, it’s obvious the author has thought everything out to an almost obsessive degree, and it shows with the vibrant vernacular that makes the world feel truly unique to this story. However, underlying it all is an unfocused plot with characters that seem to serve as accessories to showcase the world, rather than to serve as the lens which the readers view the world through. These are problems that aren’t immediately detrimental to the story, but as the chapters roll on by it’ll become more and more prominent - and I would absolutely hate to see such a brilliant world fall short in the plot and character department.
Still, as it is right now, this is a story I’ll keep on follow and favourite, and I don’t usually favourite stories. What is good about the story is truly outstanding, and I don’t think anybody can deny the amount of time and effort the author has put into making the world feel real. For readers who like familiar yet not-so-familiar high fantasy settings with a heavy focus on languages and detailed systems, Desert Company is definitely going to be the story for you.
... And I don't care that my ratings for the four sections don't add up to 5 stars overall - it's 5 stars for me.
The Small Tales of Yahmajo Alautl is a great place for anyone who enjoys languages and the mixture of multilingual people. Even better, it is done in a fantasy setting where we quickly come to follow our heroine Saya as she prepares for a tournament with her Grandmother.
We see how large the world is in a timely manner when she goes through the city and we take different points of view on what is happening in the world.
Overall I think this is a story to keep your eye's on. The author is growing quickly and has a thirst to improve. They also have an obvious handle over multiple languages as proven within the story. The magic system is well thought out and makes sense, giving you that slight chill when you read them aloud, only adding to the impact of each spell when used.
There are a few errors here and there but nothing I would fault the author too heavily for, especially when they are improving as fast as they are, within a short time I am sure they will cover over these minor things quickly
I saw the title by chance and wondered if the author just wanted to use some fancy letters or really knew how they should be pronounced. Fortunately, it's the latter.
This story might be not for everyone. The language barrier is something which can scare away people, just like the fact the author chose a multiple protagonist storytelling. But for someone who can understand (even if just some of) the words, or intrigued by an alienated feeling brought by the foreign languages spoken, this story is a treat. The author clearly has a love for lingustics which can bring joy to like-minded fellows.
And even if you are not into linguistics, the story can still keep you entertained. It reminds me a bit of Dune with its alien yet familiar world approach, although the political struggles are not in the forefront - as of Chapter 19, at least.
Wow! The story starts with a girl, named Saya, who lives where the dunes are and has a rugged life. She wants more in life and to compete in a completion! Then another character is introduced, Surjur, who has these energy powers and is found out, and then forced to travel with these Al-Wa soldiers, to work for someone. During his captive, he meets a girl (unknown so far), and hopes to escape from the clutches of these soldiers!
I have read up to seven chapters, and hope to read more! I enjoy reading the characters, the interactions could be better, but the detailed world and different languages are outstanding (though sometimes I have no idea what they are saying.)
Style: I enjoy the flavorful style the author has given to the story and know when to grasp the reader's attention. Each scene is developed well and is never boring.
LIKE WHEN SURUJ'S FAMILY WAS BRUTALLY MURDERED. WHYY! That scene seriously spiked my emotions, because I was least expecting it, so well done.
Grammar: I barely spotted any grammar mistakes.
Story: The story is fantastic, and even though I am confused about where it's heading, I am actually not mad and eager to read more. I love how the characters meet each other and have to work together to escape. My favorite part of the whole story is the language and the worldbuilding. I applaud any author who can do a well-developed world that isn't earth and build their fantasy with so much effort in naming and knowing the language; Wander Natamaru builds an excellent world that is like no other.
Characters: The characters can use some work. Natamaru has stated they know the characters did some work. Suruj's and Saya's personalities are great in differences, although I do think Saya needs more depth in her personality. Also, the characters' interactions need some work to advance the growth of their friendship or whatever it may be. In addition, I read how the characters react to a situation and follow through, which is great by the way, but the author doesn't show what these characters think of the situation like if they panic, and might die or something
I am grading this story a bit harsher and pointing out elements that need to be worked on more than other stories, because I find this book can have more potential than it has right now, and I want Wander Natamaru to succeed and get noticed by their storytelling in the best way.
If you are looking for a WONDERFUL magical world filled with fun language and interesting world-building, this story is for you! The story needs more notice and definitely watch out for this one!
Desert Company centers around the Dineh Kazaàd, a high-stakes competition surrounded by mystery and controversy, and the sinister Kazaàd company 'Al-Wa', which gathers ten fighters from around the world by choice and force. Will those seeking to overthrow the tournament get their way?
Style: Perspective switches smoothly between characters. The pace is solid and exciting, if a little verbose. Many times the same information is repeated multiple times with different wording, slowing things down. There is also occasionally some strange use of words (ie: "inoculated"). (Hopefully this review is out of date and a round of editing/condensing has elevated the story to its full potential.)
Not really a flaw, but the deluge of hard to remember names can be overwhelming. Dialogue can also be intentionally hard to read at times, simulating in-world language barriers (“Yu bi supiikin’ Galag while yur asleep. Sori zat mai Galag isn’t gud. Ai raik kerubin.”).
Story: The worldbuilding is deep and satisfying here. An extraordinary care has been given to mapping out every facet of this fantasy setting, evident in the names of places/people and the different fictional languages. An entire magic system has been created around 'saharic mastery', with its own spells and vocabulary. The Dineh Kazaàd (the tournament) provides the backdrop which drives the narrative.
Grammar: Easily readable. The minor mistakes do not detract from the story.
Character: A rich cast of characters each with their own motives, personality, and history. As with the setting, it's obvious great care has gone into fleshing everyone out (as is important in multiple POV narratives).
Conclusion: I recommend Desert Company because of the excellent mix of worldingbuilding, action, and intrigue. The story is gripping and the lore extensive. It's a fun read.
A story deeply rooted in the author's love of language and history. It is a chronicle following Saya primarily, as she moves through a land that the author's richly tailored into an interesting blend of multiple cultures that blend as much as they compete. The world is very large, and Saya's story may only be a very small part of it but the author writes it full of life.
Have you ever come accross a game, with an extremely steep learning curve? I've played several like that, and thoroughly enjoyed them. But it was hard to get into them at the beginning. I have several other games like that, which I tried to get into, but the enjoyment level, simply did not match the steepness of the learning curve. I'm sure they're fun, and great games, but given I'd need to spend hours and hours, slogging through tutorials, and walkthroughs, I eventually decided I'd rather give up and try something else.
This story is rather like that. You can tell the author obviously has a lot of passion for the story they're telling. But its such a steep learning curve right from the beginning with tons of words that mean nothing to the reader, but which are meant to give depth and meaning to the world. Sadly, after trying to slog through several chapters of this, I finally gave up. It might not be fair. At a different time, in a different mood, perhaps I'd have been willing to give this story a bit more time. But at the moment, I'm looking for some light, entertaining reading, not some super dense world building.