Arthicern

Arthicern

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Minding Others' Business

An adventure comedy worth trying

Minding Others' Business is a comical adventure story not about the party that saves the world from monsters or cultists, but rather the party that does the crummy jobs no one else wants.

In these kinds of stories, the party are the ones who make the story worth reading, and here we have a fairly well thought out group with their own connections and ties. Ranging from a bluff oriented rogue and his kleptomanic sister, to a sociopathic mindmapper, and a naive ranger.

Now the comedy itself is usually fairly spot on, with a mix of the characters' bickering, less than couragous attitudes, and blase regards to the more violent aspects and mortality rates of their profession.

Admitably there are few pacing issues here and there where it feels like the Anjin either played one of their story cards too early, or spent too long focusing on a single joke, when the rest have been fired off in a chain that keeps the laughs coming.

Regardless though, MOB is a fair read for anyone looking for an adventure comedy in a fantasy world.


Conscientia

The path of something different

Conscientia is different from most stories in a number of ways, that makes it something of a unique existence as far as any of the stories I've come across here on Royalroad.

To begin this story follows Eidos an immortal passanger in her own body as she plays observer to the actions of her different host-selves in their journeys across the lands, while being the only part of herself to remember her previous journeys with each path living its own journey and giving differing perspectives on the various inhabitants of the world while slowly hinting at the mystery that is Eidos's undying existence.

The prose of this story is some of the most descriptive I've read and flows in a poetic manner that gives a sense of... epicness to Eidos's story that distinctly compliments the story's fantastical journey.

Despite this powerful prose however, Conscientia has a number of characters written into it that at times can come off somewhat flat or similar to each other.

The main character Eidos herself is probably the best character in the story as her inner-self delivers snarky commentary on the various actions of her host-selves while also taking in and remembering the journeys of each one as she learns more about the world and herself.

I'll admit my issue here might be more because of my preference towards long-term character interactions but due to the fact she's only really interacted with a couple of characters for more than a chapter, a number of the characters come off as quirky one-offs, that while interesting at the moment are kind of 2-D in the grand scale of things since we never really learn much more about them beyond that one interaction.

That said, I also feel that with the last chapter (before this review) where we have a different point of view of a character encountered on a previous path viewed from a different perspective and earlier in her timeline this complaint weakens, and if/when this kind of character interaction becomes more common will invalidate it altogether.

Regardless though I do feel Conscientia is a story that is different enough from the norm that if you like fantasy adventure novels you should give it a chance.


Adventures of the Goldthirst Company

An Adventure anthology that gains a level with each story.

This story starts out a bit rough in the beginning, but as it continues the number of issues each episode steadily decreases as the quality improves bit by bit into a memorable series of short stories following the Goldthirst Company.

-Dragon Veil

The story starts out at the end of one adventure and the beginning of another, with the party formed and personal dynamics largely established. This first episode admit ably has a few issues, being a bit choppy between some of the scene changes, and pushing Semari and Parth to the side for a time.

Past those issues however is a cast of characters that play off of each other well enough for a number of laughs, given their general genre savviness, willingness to sell each other out for their own safety, and general mismanagement of their party roles. 

-A simple job

This adventure smooths out a lot of the issues I had with the previous one, while also setting up the events that'll have greater ripples to the rest of the story.

-Janaxia's History

While it doesn't answer all of the questions left to Janaxia's mystique, (which is a good thing) it does explain her beginnings as a meek but proud girl, and the events that inspired her to become the confident Eldritch wizard of present.

Side Note: Kinnevar is a dark lord whose style is worth remembering. (It's also genetic.)

-Redcastle

This episode while lacking some of the dungeon delving adventures of the previous episodes, instead focuses more on a social adventure, as the party interacts with the various knights and inhabitants of the town of Redcastle, while combating a local demon threat.

This episode alternates between action filled sequences of fighting and a much slower pacing which works because it allows the party to do what they do, while also using the downtime to show a greater focus on the party's interactions, both with each other and others, which as always is where this story shines.

-In closing

While this story does open with a bit of a rough start, it's constant improvement and entertaining characters leave each episode memorable in its own way, and with the party's bickering and occasional bouts of genre savvy munchkinry, leaves a feeling reminicent of a night playing fantasy rpgs (just without the dice praying, and DM haggling).


Sky Sight

The early makings of a good web serial

Sky Sight starts out with a pretty decent introduction in the first arc where it establishes the shift in setting as well as the two protagonists and the stories first antagonist, with each of these main characters being fairly well written.

In fact I had a particularly liking for the story's first revealed antagonist, the child Zero, with her personality frequently flitting between whimsical kindness and cruelty in a way that most of the adults watching her view as monsterous, despite being how a number of precocious children that age would act given the cirumstances thus far revealed.

Now the second story arc on the otherhand has a few pacing issues here and there where it feels like the fight scenes are a bit rushed at times in favor of getting to the next bit of plot.

But all in all, despite a few hiccups here and there, these first couple of arcs have done a fairly decent job of establishing a setting and events that can be built off into a longer running story, and I am interested in seeing where it can go.


The Abandoned City

A thought out fantasy world, with a lot of moving parts

The abandoned city, is a story taken from the perspectives of several characters, each from a different culture and location in the world, and as such each offers insights and depths to the world that one would not normally see in just a few characters, as they explore the world.

Admitably at times, because there are so many different characters switching about, each with their own sub-plot going on, and that can make it a little difficult to keep track of it all early on, though as the story continues the distance between these characters does slowly shrink.

That said, with such a thought out world and characters inhabiting it, The abandoned city is worth reading for anyone enjoys a fantasy world with deep world-building.


Fracture: Tales of the Broken Lands

A Sci-fi & fantasy driven Shadowrun litRPG

From the second chapter on, Fractured has a very Shadowrun-esque feel to it, with a society riddled with corrupt mega-corporations, and violent gangs running the streets, all explained through the eyes of a jaded protagonist that has been mucking through the shadier parts of the world for years.

On top of this world is a (non-Shadowrun) [System] that is distinctly blended into the setting. The entire world is affected by the [System] meaning everyone has access to stats, designations (Classes), skills, and traits that all have an effect on a character's physical and social standing in the world. 

While Fractured's main setting is fairly similar to Shadowrun, it has aspects that the  have a distinctly more Portal Fantasy feel to it, given how Jack (the main protagonist) is just one of numerous people dragged to Fracture from another world, and how a number of these people take on a profession working for a guild that fights monsters at various sites connecting to other worlds while collecting Relics and Ethos (Exp.) to become stronger.

In the end Fractured is a world that blends together other worlds into its own, and in a similar way this story has taken to blending elements of fantasy and sci-fi into a setting that works and that I want to see more of, both in terms of the story as well as the world building.

 

 


Song of Helheim: Homecoming

Going into this story I had the idea that this was going Song of Helheim was going to be something along the lines of Dishonored meets Count of Monte Cristo. After reading this story I feel that, that description works as an accurate opening, but doesn't quite describe the story in its entirety.

From the beginning the world is set in a gaslamp fantasy of the victorian era, filled with magic, guns, and warfare. But all of this is merely the backdrop to Adrian's story.

Adrian himself, is a military mage who has recently returned home after escaping from a workcamp with his love Isi. From the very beginning he is intent on gaining his vengeance on those who have wronged him, and yet unlike a number of protagonists he doesn't allow this vengeance to consume him. Instead he tries to create a better life for Isi, without forgetting what was done to them.

This leads into him taking command of a new outpost as a lieutent colonel in the Helheim military. From there he and his unit defend their post from invading forces, not in some grand field spanning epic, or overtly tactical gambits, but instead through a series of short but thoughtout skirmishes, that slowly escalate into realistic military operations and battles.

Throughout all of these events we see Adrian trying to reconcile who he is with who he was, and the choices he makes. 

In the end, Song of Helheim is the story of a damaged soldier trying to hold himself together, while still fulfilling his duties to his beloved, his country, and the men who serve under him. And in turn is worth reading for anyone who seeks a tale of duty, vengeance, healing, and war.


Highborn (The Stormforth Chronicles)

A good fantasy story, that needs a bit of polish

Like stories of old, this story begins with a character who is as low as he can be through external circumstance, but still possesses a destiny in his world by being one of the few remaining 'highborn,' magic users the human kingdom has been trying to wipe out for centuries. 

From there the opening act revolves around Destin, the main character, a year into his internment at an orcish prison camp, as he befriends Goddar the dwarf and the two work to escape, in a grand set piece as they lead a small rebellion for the freedom, only to discover even once free the kingdom still wants Destin dead.

At its core Highborn is a good fantasy story for those who enjoy high fantasy novels filled with large action sequences and events that play out in a fantasy world of old. Where magic has been lost, save to the few trying to rekindle its embers, while fighting against the kingdom that pushed magic to the brink of extinction.

I'll admit at times the story does suffer from a bit of a pacing issue, in the sense that a number of the scenes are meant to be these epics of a sort, which at the right time works. The problem though is that this pacing carries over into scenes that are supposed to play out a little more emotionally than the action pieces, giving them a more agressive feel.

At the same time, some of the 'in the moment' character development during these sequences feel a little wobbly at times. Such as how the party all seem to 'click' pretty quickly, without any in depth development between. Adimit ably, this is a habit fairly common in adventure stories, with the heroes rapidly bonding after a harrowing encounter together.

With all of that said though, Highborn is still a good high fantasy novel in the style of the older fantasy novels, a genre you don't see too much of these days as everyone leans towards more modern fantasy styles, making it a treat for fans of the older styles. And while there are some flaws here and there, I do think if the author polishes up the grammar, and works on a few of the rougher scenes, this story can be something greater in its final version.


ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture

A good series that's missing the first book

Atl stories is a series of 'episodes' or short books set in a PG/ PG-13 Cyberpunk world, while following the protagonist Morgan as he's dragged into a number of mysteries.

(At the time of this review only the Social Media killer is on Royal Roads, but for those who like the story, there are a few more 'episodes' on the story's main site.)

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Now while I do like this story, I feel I should point out what I consider to be the biggest issue of the story, something I think can be tied to roughly half my issues with this otherwise good story.

The first 'episode' feels like the second or third story in a series, which can make it a bit difficult for new readers to get into.

What I mean by this is that there are a number of points in this episode that make refrence to past events in the stories context, that seem to come out from nowhere. And whenever one of these moments pops up it feels like you skipped some important chapter that was supposed to tell what's going on. Such as why everyone keeps connecting Morgan to strange events, or why everyone expects him to get involved. 

(Note: Through story notes and Author comments, Morgan has been involved in the odd side of things for roughly a year, and has built something of a reputation.) 

Now on the note of the protagonist, in the beginning Morgan comes off as a bit apathetic with the way he complains about things and acts like things take too much effort, these things together made my first impression of him fairly negative.

That said his interactions with the other members of the main cast such as Karina and R8PR, do somewhat save him on this front. In all honesty I prefered the scenes that had them interacting with Morgan, to the ones where he was on his own or doing his own investigation, just because him came off a lot more sympathetic with them around. The only thing really missing in those interactions was the iconic refrence of R8PR refering to humans as meatbags. (Not Karina though, she doesn't deserve that. Morgan however is free game.)

As far as the story itself goes, it's good to a point, but occasionally it feels like it's trying too hard to fit the harder rating of some cyberpunk stories into the PG setting. For younger or high school level readers, this is an alright thing for introducing them to the genre without dumping them into the gritty deep-end, but it can cause a bit of dissonance for those used to rougher stuff, when a scene feels like it's is trying to be grittier than it actually is.

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Taking all of these things into account, I think atl stories from the retrofuture, is a good story for young adult readers, looking for a lighter cyberpunk story. And while the story itself isn't very newcomer friendly at times, it is at least worth giving a chance.

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Final score: 3.75 / 5


Defiance of the Fall

A good Survival Wuxia story, and a Lite Lit RPG

(This is meant as a constructive review, for a fairly good story)

As a survival / Wuxia story, the style and pacing works well with the themes. 

Admitably, for a lit RPG I feel like the system is a bit lite. Almost like it's less of an RPG world and more like the RPG system is how the Wuxia world measures everything. Which makes the whole system seem tacked on at times. It's not a bad problem per say, but one that feels a little distinct at times when the only real game element is a stat or quest page popping up every few chapters.

For a minute there it looked like more was going to happen with the 'settlement system', almost like Zac would build up a survivalist encampent to make his day to day easier, but all its really been used for so far is to improve his Wuxia training, so I feel like that falls back into the main issue of being more a tool for the Wuxia elements than an actual system.

The only real problem I have with this story itself is... As a survival story, I understand that a solo-protagonist is kind of a given, but at the same time I feel like half of a character's... well, character is how they interact with others. And this lack of interaction compounded with the near non-stop fighting/ training/ survival at times causes a sort of action fatigue, from never giving a proper rest after a long action / survival sequence.

Early on there were a few points that fleshed out Zac and his past by having him give opinions on the people he was camping with, or his thoughts on his family. Given how he's spending days on end alone, I feel like bringing these memories up more often could help flesh him out more throughly, as well as giving a slight break to help keep away any fatigue from the longer survival scenes.

With that said, I will give bonus points for both making the SYSTEM apropriately d***-ish in its few interactions after taking the world over, as well as having Zac be a little deeper than: "I'm a loner in a video game world and must survive. The best way to do this is to shove my hand in a blender until I'm resistant to everything!" 

Both problems tend to get glossed over in most stories by saying it's the 'logical' way of things working. So its nice to see those pitfalls avoided for once...

Overall Score:

My personal enjoyment: 3 / 5 Stars

I liked it, but since I came for the Lit RPG elements I didn't love it.

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Estimated enjoyment for others: 4/ 5 stars

Over all, it's a good story especially if you're a fan of Wuxia or Survival fics.