J P Koenig

J P Koenig

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Reviews
ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture

This story is a rare gem on RR, with interesting characters, a fully fleshed out techno-punk world, unique style and great story.  This review was written after finishing "The Social Media Killer".  I haven't finished "Trials of the Cybermancer" yet.

So the cyberpunk world of ATL reminds me of BioShock:Infinite, a place that was polished and posh, with the grit and dirt starting to wear off the shine.  The worldbuilding is well done, and the background characters consistent and colorful.

In addition, the grammar and writing style spot on.  I didn't notice any glaring errors in spelling or grammar, and the writing is descriptive without getting too wordy, and the style is practiced and engaging.

The real shining point, for me, is the characters.  The MC, Morgan, is an unreliable narrator.  This was a neat surprise a few chapters in, and has made for a fascinating dynamic as the story goes along.  He mostly lies about himself, which leaves you wondering what, and why, he is lying even when it has little to do with the current story arc.  His two friends, Karinna and R8PR, are also fully fleshed out and multi-dimensional, and have their own strengths and weaknesses that add depth and flavor to the story as it progresses.

Finally, with the story itself - the episode that I have finished so far was well plotted, perfectly paced and engaging.  It is a mystery that runs at the pace of an action/thriller, and the author did a great job of keeping the tension going even when the MC, who is very much an antihero (his motivation is to watch tv and eventually leave town), has to be forced into doing something by circumstances.  Despite the MC's initial apathy, the story never lost focus and never stumbled, keeping the reader going along while the MC got his feet under him and started moving.

All told, I think this is the highest I've rated any story I've reviewed to date, because I couldn't think of a single thing to critique in the negative category.  The author hit all the right notes and has been consistent throughout.  I'm looking forward to finishing the next episode, and following along with what comes after!

Overall, 5 out of 5, would read again.


The Lost Redeemer

Great pacing, constant tension

This story is far and above the usual RoyalRoad level of quality.  The plot is complete, complex and well paced.  The grammar is perfect, or so close as to not notice.

Style:  This is a tough, gritty fantasy where the author sets the stakes high and keeps up the pressure on the characters.  It is very well executed.

Grammar: As I said above, the story is very polished from an editorial point of view.  There are no run-on sentences, the grammar is perfect, and everything is coherent.

Story/Characters:  The story is well executed and interesting.  The main characters are introduced in believable, sympathetic ways that immediately draws your interest.  Motivations are complex and realistic, and the entire story lives in the gray area.  There are no (at least to the point I've read so far) truly evil or flawlessly good characters.  Everyone acts according to what drives them, and do so in ways that fit the character.  This makes the story engaging and a joy to read.  I have noticed a lot of tropes, but the author immediately starts to subvert the tropes almost as soon as they are introduced.

I also enjoy that this fantasy is not using generic tolkien-esque races as shortcuts, and took the time to develop its own world with its own species.  At the same time, despite the differences in the species, their interactions and how they squabble and war with each other is all too human.  It gives the sense of wonder you would expect of fantasy, along with a fresh take on the genre.

From the worldbuilding, unique races and magic system, to the complex, flawed but believable characters, this story has kept me on the edge of my seat, chapter after chapter.  I have paused only long enough to write this, and I'll be going right back to reading.  I look forward to the journey the author is taking me on, and where it will go in the future!


Superhuman Princess

Superhuman Princess is a solid story, a kitchen-sink story that seems to have a little bit of everything.  There are some very serious structure and dialogue issues, and needs a very thorough edit.  I must also add that this is not normally the type or genre of story I generally like to read.  But despite its problems, I have to say of all the stories I have bookmarked, I look forward to new chapters of Superhuman Princess the most.

The Good

Let's start first with the good.  The author has a truly fresh, different take on the Isekei/Portal genre, where the main character is on Earth from a different dimension, not the other way around.  Elissa doesn't know any of this, and is merely trying to learn as much about her own power as she can as she grows up.  That in and of itself is enough to make the story interesting, but every time you turn around, new and fresh ideas bubble to the surface.

The worldbuilding is complex and deep.  The author has peppered every chapter with references, tidbits and snippets that give a surprising amount of depth and color to the story, and draw me back again and again.

Also, the characters each have a solid voice, a good background, and generally stay true to their motivations.  Some of the side characters and minor villians are fairly one-dimensional, but are usually dispatched in one way or the other so swiftly that it doesn't detract from the overall story.

The Bad

Okay, in all honesty, despite how delightful I find the story, there is a lot of bad here.  This is obviously the raw, alpha version of the story, and as such, needs a lot of love and editing attention.  There are rampant grammar and style issues, dialogue issues, and pacing issues.

First of all, characters overreact and over-dramatize quite frequently.  The default reaction is harsh, immediate judgment.   Since this is almost always in favor of the 'good' guys that we are supposed to like, it can sometimes feel good to see someone get their comeuppance.  But a lot of the time, it feels, well, rushed.

Second of all, things get resolved far to swiftly and simply.  Villians are barely introduced before they are vanquished, when the conflict could be drawn out and dramatized for longer.  How characters deal with a situation is what makes a story great.  The main character(s) need to fail, and fail, and fail again before suceeding.  It is seeing how they grow and learn from their failures, how they overcome setbacks, how they surmount the insurmountable, that keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

In this case, with extremely overpowered characters, there need to be extremely overpowered villians (maybe not in terms of raw strength in this case, but in other ways that affects the MCs).  I've read to Chapter 24 at this point, and it looks like the villians introduced in this chapter have a great opportunity to be exactly that.  I'm looking forward to a real threat being introduced.

TL;DR

Read this story!  Seriously, it's a pleasure to read, with unique, fresh ideas that are a joy to explore.  There are serious issues in the structure, style and grammar, but the story is absolutely good enough to ignore these problems.  

Superhuman Princess is my guilty pleasure that I look forward to, and I will follow along until the end!


Highborn (The Stormforth Chronicles)

Highborn is a delightfully written story, a classic fantasy tale of a nobody becoming somebody, of magic being discovered anew and villians who want to suppress that magic (and thus, the main character).  This review is written as of Chapter 9.

The Good

The characters are well rounded and well thought out, and give the impression of complexity and depth despite adhering to (mostly) classical fantasy races and their tropes.  The main character is a human who has magic ("highborn").  He befriends a dwarf who mines in a mountain, and teams up with an elf who is an archer.  There are some twists on both racial tropes that I won't spoil, because they are interesting and fun to read, and give the story some freshness that high fantasy often lacks.

Additionally, the story is coherent and the plot has a strong direction.  The pacing is solid, keeping things interesting even while worldbuilding and setting up the conflict between the main character and the villians.  The author does a good job describing battles, and keeping up tension.

The Bad

There is very little bad here.  The grammar is solid and only very minor mistakes.  There is the occasional lack of coherence in transitions between chapters and in some dialogue.  It's pretty clear this is the author's alpha version of the story, but all of this is easily fixed with a first-pass edit.  It did not detract from the story at all.

TL;DR

Great story, excellent characterizations, fresh take on high fantasy.  Minor edits needed, but very well written overall.  Highly recommend giving it a try!


Canaan: My World To Live

This story is beatifully written and described, almost cerebral in its musings.  The story is very much an isekai/portal story of a character getting dropped into a fantasy world, with LitRPG-lite elements (no stats so far, but with some elements of LitRPG genre).  But unlike most stories like this, the author has created a true fantasy world rather than using a generic pseudo-Earth world.  Indeed, the entire world has its own cosmology, economy, and political organization that is unique and well described.  The people and creatures that populate it are unique and interesting, and the magic system is lushly detailed.

This story is a little heavy on info-dumping, with an entire chapter devoted to it at the end.  It also does need a little work on dialogue, and the author could kill two birds with one stone by revealing some of this info in dialogue between the MC and the natives of this fantasy world.  But the writing is so well done that this minor criticism is easily overlooked in light of how interesting the story is.

The MC is a whimsical, light-hearted person who laughs easily and is unapologetically feminine.  I know this is an odd thing to say about a female MC, but so many stories have a female MC that acts like a man with boobs, or an angsty teen who is angry that she isn't treated like a man.  This MC seems to embrace who she is while not having any trouble kicking ass when needed.  This is refreshing and interesting, a perspective often lost in this genre.  She actually reminds me of Delta from "There is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns" dungeon core story here on RR.

Aside from her light-hearted demeanor, the MC still needs to show (as of this reading, Chapter five) how she will grow as a character.  She figured out how to use magic easily, and is really overpowered against the foes she's faced so far.  We don't know much of her background or what drives her, so I am looking forward to reading more.

The last thing I'd like to mention is that there are japanese light novel influences throughout.  From the names and spiritology (is that a word?) to the stylized dialogue that emphasizes confusion in the conversation, the influence is clear and strong.  I have noticed even over the first few chapters that the author is really finding her voice. 

I expect that as the author gets more practiced and deeper into the story, all of the minor criticisms I've voiced will be improved, and the things that are great about this story will mature into a compelling, great novel.


Saoirse

This review was written after Chapter Two was posted. 

The Good:

This story has a strong start, leaping right into the action and setting the stage for the story to come.  The author did an excellent job of introducing the main characters without doing a lot of expository info dumping.  The action sequence in the first chapter flowed smoothly, and I had no trouble following what was happening.  Dialogue was strong, and the main character is already fleshing out into a complex person.

The Bad:

Not much bad.  There were a few minor grammatical errors (mostly run-on sentences) in the first chapter.  Second chapter needs a line edit.  I spotted a bunch of grammar errors that would be an easy fix.  None of them were bad enough to pull me out of the story.

TL;DR

Strong writing, good start to the story.  Worth adding a bookmark to follow!


Transition and Restart, book one: Arrivals

This is a slow, unhurried story with multiple viewpoints.  It is different from most things you will read, very reminiscent of older, classical writing styles.  If you like a slow-burn story where you get to know the characters well, this one is for you.  If you are after a fast-paced action story, you might want to move on.  There is action, and it is well written, but it isn't the focus.

The Good:

The writing style is beatiful, using multiple POVs to build the story over many chapters of varying lengths.  The feel of the story is that of an old-school sci fi mystery flavored with Japanese culture.  Also, I picked up this story after the line edits were complete, so the grammar is flawless.

The Bad:

It is a slow start and hard to get into.  The characters, at first, blur together and are hard to follow.  Little is explained (a trick I love, so not disparaging) but everything is learned as the story progresses.  However, there is little to 'hook' the reader from the get-go.

TL;DR

Slow start, but great writing and unique style leads to a great reading experience.  Definitely worth a read!


Magikind

Classic ScFi with Antihero

This sotry is very much a classic sci-fi adventure, set in a wildly different time where the world is unrecognizable, it is so different.  I came into this review unsure of what to expect, and received exactly that.

Overall, the story is interesting and well described.  There are no major flaws or illusion-breakers that ruin the story.  I had some issues with characterization, which I'll describe, but overall the story is good, the plot is solid and the world is imaginative and interesting.

The Good

The style of the story is excellent, and consistent.  It is described in a clean, well-desribed manner that is easy to follow - similar to my own writing style.  If you're looking for chapter-long descriptions or pages of text before anything happens, this isn't the right place for you.  If you like a story that moves you along and makes you eager for the next paragraph, this is a good fit. There are no grammar issues, definitely one of the better authors on RR for that.

The Bad

The supporting cast is amazing.  Well thought out and interesting, with clear motives and aspirations.  I struggled with the main character.  I found him to be a bit of an anti-hero with a huge chip on his shoulder.  However, the author doesn't do much to explain where he's from, what he's been through, or why he is doing what he is doing.  For chapter after chapter, we see the MC annoying/angering/combatting other characters, but we have no idea why he is the way he is.  That leaves him a bit one-note.  The frustrating part is that you can tell the character has some amazing backstory just waiting to be revealed, but we don't even get clues.  

I struggled hard with that, because the only thing we had to work with - the MC's interactions with others - left me really disliking him.  Also, his best friend, although we don't learn they are best friends until much later in the story.  The author could have revealed bits and pieces of the MC's past, his motivations, and his goals, even if the MC didn't share with other characters.  This would have gone a long way with the likability/sympathy factor from the reader.  I'm really hopeful the author works on this soon.

TL;DR

Highly imaginative scenario, solid story and plot, great grammar, solid characterizations.  Some issues with how the MC is presented, but absolutely recommend that it be read.


After Megiddo

Old School Scifi in the Best Way

Before I get on with any of my own commentary, I must start with READ THIS BOOK.

The author's writing style is strongly reminiscent of the most brilliant old-school scifi epic novels I've read.  The story is epic in scale, with the grandiose visions of fantastic, far-flung and futuristic worlds brought down to the human scale with flawed but relatable characters.  The detail work of the worldbuilding is simply astounding.

The characters all have story arcs that the reader can empathize with, as they wrestle with who they are and what their place is in life, while they deal with the circumstances they find themselves in.  The dialogue is sharp, well written and engaging.

As far as grammar and writing on the technical level, it is perfect, or so close to perfect I didn't notice any errors as the story carried me along.  The level of polish in the writing gives a professional feel, without any of the issues common to RR authors.

The Good:

  • Masterful Worldbuilding
  • Interesting Characters
  • Great Story with depth and complexity
  • Beautiful style

The Bad

  • Couldn't find anything wrong to put here

TL;DR

Seriously, go read this book!


Song of Helheim: Homecoming

The Good

The Song of Helheim: Reparations is an excellent read that draws you in from the first few paragraphs.  The story of Adrian and Isi is engaging, the wrongs against them egregious, and the narrative is strong.  The dialogue flows smoothly and doesn't feel stilted at all.

I'm impressed by how much depth the characters have, and how the author has been able to convey a feeling of history and complex emotions so quickly.  I can empathize with all of the characters, and none of them are your typical one-dimensional stereotypical characters.  It is certainly many levels above the standard Royal Road offering.

The Bad

There is a bit of info dumping early in the story, and the chapter that describes Helheim and its history needs some serious revision.  It was hard to follow and didn't flow smoothly.  Also, one of the first combat scenes that described muskets being loaded and reloaded needs another pass for clarity.  The author found his groove with the battle scenes quickly, however.  Lastly, there are some scattered errors, including some mispellings, grammatical errors and missing words.  They are infrequent enough that they were jarring when I came across them.

The Takeaway

I strongly recommend reading this story.  The pacing is great, the story is entertaining and the characters are believable.  It's also nice to see a fantasy story not set in medieval PseudoEngland.