The Jester of Apocalypse [BOOK 2 FINISHED]

Thus far, the story has followed a young boy, Neave, raised in a cultivator sect, who undergoes a hellish time-loop experience that leaves him very powerful and a little unhinged. However, as suggested by the synopsis, the loop is more prelude than actual story. This makes an early review somewhat difficult.

The time-loop arc is well-executed. Neave undergoes fairly drastic character changes, but they are spread out over a dozen chapters and read as a natural, even inevitable consequence of his circumstances. The action scenes are exciting. While Neave ends up a little crazy, he isn't sociopathic or anything, which is a far too common trope among TR stories.

Only a few chapters have been written outside the loop so far, but they are promising. Various secondary characters have gotten glimmers of backstory and development even these few action-packed chapters, and it seems the author has given some thought to the wider world. Neave is very powerful but not overwhelmingly so, giving opportunities for meaningful conflicts. 

If you enjoyed The Menocht Loop (before the MC fucked off of the mortal plane and the story went to shit), then this story seems to have a similar structure, depth, and high quality of writing. I recommend it if you enjoy any RR cultivation stories, although if you're in it solely for the time-loop then you'll be disappointed.

The Unexpected Engagement of the Marvelous Mr. Penn

rkgoff strikes again with a great mystery novel. Set in a generic Western country a century or so ago, the tone reminds me of the (admittedly few) classic novels I've read: very heavy on the showing rather than telling, and lots of focus on relationships and propriety. The synopsis sums it up very well, although it does sort of make it sound like there will be a massive conspiracy when it says important things are at stake, which isn't really true. In fact, I feel the mystery is secondary to the characters---like many good mystery novels, this one is as much about diving into the backstories of the involved parties and figuring out what set the stage for the crime as it is about actually solving the crime. But still, there's some good action and sleuthing scenes to lighten all the serious discussions and family secrets.

Style: 5/5

I think rkgoff did a good job writing as if they were from the same country and time as the book was set in. This is all the more impressive because the style differs a fair bit from their last story, but it is nonetheless consistent and smooth.


Story: 4/5

I think the actual "mystery" part could be fleshed out a bit more. Some of the conclusions seemed a bit abrupt and out of nowhere. But, this is something I dislike about a lot of mystery novels, where surprise endings are almost required. If you like mysteries, you'll probably like this. If you don't like mysteries, you'll probably like this for the family drama or the romance or the action. There's something for everyone.


Grammar: 5/5

It's great.


Character 5/5

My favorite part of the story. The show-don't-tell style does a great job fleshing out the ensemble cast, and I appreciate that the author stayed true to the characters' motivations, using them to drive the story instead of vice versa.

In particular I'm glad Penn didn't end up renouncing crime and living happily ever after with Eleanor. That sort of thing is all too common in similar plots, but a bit too incredible for my taste.


Dead Eyes Open

A Little Bit of Everything

What do you call it when a vampire, a witch, and a wolf man walk into a story? Normally I'd call it yet another trashy novel in the vein of Twilight/Vampire Diaries/etc, but in this case I'd call it an interesting mystery that has plenty of supernatural thrills but also character development and grounded interactions. The author takes great pains to avoid common tropes, often with plenty of humor at the subversion. But along with the mystery and the comedy comes a fair share of tragedy as well, and it all comes together into a well-rounded plot, told in well-written English. It's a series, too, so you get lots of material to read along with the guarantee of satisfactory endings should the writer ever stop (not that they show any signs of slowing down!).

Apocalypse Redux (a LitRPG Apocalypse)

On a site full of LitRPG apocalypses where power means everything, one author dares to ask: what if the story didn’t entirely consist of power-tripping wish fulfillment and screeds about the inherent stupidity and selfishness of humanity?

“Apocalypse” comes from the Greek word for “revelation,” and the best apocalypse narratives remain true to this etymology, using world-changing events to examine society and human nature. RR apocalypses tend to lean more into the “widespread destruction” angle. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love a good action story as much as the next person. But those stories tend to have uncomplicated people and social dynamics that can’t support complicated plotlines, leaving powerups and fighting as the only ways to advance the story.

By contrast, wilderfast makes some interesting worldbuilding decisions that aren’t only a refreshing departure from the usual tropes, but also lend themselves to a more nuanced picture of society, with plenty of room for complex arcs and character development.

From the synopsis, I expected wilderfast to have a rather dim view of humanity. And yes, characters do some amazingly stupid shit. But they also do amazingly heroic shit, clever shit, and just average shit. Even while writing about the end of the world, wilderfast manages to balance extraordinary events to hold my interest with grounded mundanity that makes the characters relatable.


Style: 4/5

The style is solid. It isn’t transcendentally evocative or anything, but it wouldn’t be out of place in a commercial fantasy novel.


Grammar: 4/5

Again, grammar and spelling is pretty good. Rarely there are misplaced letters, and occasionally the word choice is seems slightly wrong, but it doesn’t interfere with readability.


Story: 5/5

This is where the wilderfast really shines. He has made some tweaks to the standard LitRPG apocalypse narrative that fix a lot of its weaknesses. Instead of monsters suddenly arriving and ending civilization as we know it, monsters must be intentionally summoned by people. This means that society crumbles slowly, leaving lots of room for commentary on current mores. At the same time, this commentary never turns into outright satire—the story remains sincere and serious. For instance, Isaac, the protagonist, joins a university research group that studies the system. They have to work with a government representative to ensure animal rights guidelines are being followed in their experiments on summoned monsters. It would be all to easy to depict this representative as an out-of-touch snowflake, or as a cold, ends-justify-the-means Frankenstein type. Instead, he’s… consummately reasonable.

Another departure from common tropes is that Isaac doesn’t solely pursue personal power, nor does he have a detailed plan based on his future knowledge. While these tropes often create exciting situations in the first dozen chapters, eventually the character becomes too powerful, and the situation is sufficiently changed from the previous timeline that future knowledge is no longer reliable, which can lead to drastic changes in the story’s tone. wilderfast opts for a more slow and steady approach, with Isaac building lasting relationships and taking time to relax instead of singlemindedly pursuing his goal. I think this will lead to a more enduring and consistent story—if you like the first few chapters, you’ll probably like the next thirty.


Character: 5/5

We’re a bit early in the story for me to say for sure how well the characters are fleshed out, but so far it seems that the main cast will be fairly complex, with lots of showing and not too much telling. Isaac seems a bit too well-adjusted after having lived through the end of humankind, but there are hints that he is less stable then he appears. I hope the author expands on this in future chapters, and given how he’s written the story so far I fully expect that he will. (Edit: literally as I was writing this review, a new chapter was released that deals with this.)


I wouldn’t be surprised if this became one of the defining stories of the second-chance-apocalypse genre. It is well thought out enough to almost be a deconstruction of the genre, but remains earnest and relatively uncynical. It has plenty of commentary without being preachy or moralistic. And most importantly, it’s got great action and interesting characters. I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

Loopkeeper (Mind-Bending Time-Looping LitRPG)

Loopkeeper a "time-loop mystery" story, similar to Mother of Learning or Reroll. The main character finds themself in a time loop that ends in a catastrophic event, tries to stop it, and ends up in a tangled web of plots and intrigue. The major difference in mechanics is that it is relatively easy to gain the permanent ability to retain memories of the previous loops. This means that each loop differs wildly from the last, as dozens of people (including some in positions of power) are loopers. As such, there is much less of a looping feel to the story---even if there are a few events that remain constant, so much changes that the plot feels more linear. This allows for a lot more character growth and long-term plans.

Style: 4/5

Marrow's prose is quite good, and spectacular by RR standards. My only complaint is the interruptions of skill checks. There are low-key litrpg mechanics, where everybody has a few skills that affect their ability to perform specific tasks or feats. Sometimes characters are influenced by skills without it being mentioned, and sometimes there are "skill-check" paragraphs where a skill is explicitly checked and either succeeds or fails. Not only are these skill-checks inorganic, but they don't appear consistently or in a consistent format, and their mechanics are never adequately explained. If no skill checks occurred, I'd be happy with a hand-waved explanation of how skills work (I'd prefer this, in fact). But the skill checks do occur, promising a concrete system behind the litrpg mechanics, which isn't delivered.

Grammar: 4.5/5

It's great. Very few typos, and always understandable despite any typos. All dialogue uses single quotes, which makes it a little less readable for me (edit: apparently this is common in British/Australian English).

Story: 5/5

I've touched on this in the introductory paragraph. Lots of interconnected mysteries, and the story is still in the "more questions than answers" phase. The main character is kinda stupid, and at times I feel like I'm way ahead of him. Of course, most of the things I think I have answers to haven't actually been anwered by the plot yet, so I might just be way off base with my guesses. I'll return to this point after more of the story is written---it might be a goldmine of dramatic irony, or it might just be frustrating.

Character: 5/5

As mentioned in the introduction, there are a lot of looping characters, which makes interpersonal relationships much more feasible than in most loop stories. Marrow takes full advantage of this with several fleshed-out characters besides the protagonist, and lots of different factions with different agendas.

In conclusion, while Loopkeeper shares several characteristics with other loop stories, it has a different feel from most, avoiding some of the pitfalls of the genre. Even if you don't normally enjoy time-loop stories, give this one a try.

Daughter of the Lost

When I come upon a story on RR with such a short, poetic synopsis, there are two possibilities: either the author has lyricism and subtlety that will uplift their work above the vast majority of RR stories, or the author has such an abysmal command of the English language that they can't write anything longer or more grammatical. Luckily, Daughter of the Lost is in the former category. The story follows the sixteen-year-old Zira. Per her nomadic people's tradition, she sets out into the world on a journey of self-discovery and also just normal discovery. The setting seems to be midieval tech, with a modest amount of magic.

Grammar: 5/5

The grammar is impeccable. That's all I have to say about that. (Why is this an entire category?)

Style: 5/5

Vulgarian writes really well. They balance inner monologue with external events and descriptions of the scene. I've never been good at picking out well-used narrative devices in reviews, but Daughter of the Lost is chock-full of 'em. My only complaint is that the interludes are told in third-person present, which in my opinion should be reserved for shitty book adaptations of action movies. But I imagine the author wants to match tenses with the first-person present of the rest of the narrative, and I doubt many feel as strongly as I do about it. (For all those interlude-haters out there, interludes are rare and only ever comprise part of a chapter.)

Character: 5/5

This is the strongest aspect of the story, I think. Vulgarian brings the excitements, fears, and insecurities of a teenager to life. Zira's emotions cause her to do stupid things, and also lead her to surprising opportunities. Other characters have their own secrets, biases, and personalities as well.

Story: 4/5

I rate this as 4/5 because, so far, there hasn't been much of a plot. This story definitely seems like it will have a leisurely, slice-of-life pace, but it's also possible that it's just slow to start and will speed up later. I can't tell. So far, Zira's only motivation is "go forth and see some cool shit," which, while relatable, does not lend itself to a complex plot. Given the quality of the story so far, I can only imagine the author has planned some plot arcs to match, but so far there hasn't been much.

Worldbuilding: 5/5

Even though this isn't an official category, I feel like it should be. Vulgarian has definitely done a good job with this, from the small things, like setting a scene, to the big things, like coming up with cultural traditions and magic systems. While Zira's mission may not drive the story forward, it definitely lends itself to worldbuilding, and I'm excited to see what she'll discover next.

The Diary of a Transmigrator

I only started reading this out of boredom; from the tags and summary I expected a bog-standard, mediocre RR story. However, I was very much pleasantly surprised by the high standard of writing and thoughtful treatment of common RR tropes. Yes, the story features a seriously OP, gender bent, isekai'd-by-a-morally-bankrupt-god MC, but these tropes aren't just used for their familiarity; LeftOfEarth has made sure they fit the story in a natural way.

Style: 4.5/5

Overall, the style is close to the standard set by commercial, mainstream writing, which means it's far above average for RR. It is mostly written in 1st person past, with a plethora of other characters having their viewpoints represented in 3rd person. While many chapters have POV changes, they are clearly delimited, and the chapters are very long so the shifts don't feel too rapid. Nor does the main character's narrative feel drowned out by side characters: all the 3rd person bits are directly relevant to the main story. LeftOfEarth has an extensive vocabulary but doesn't show off. Occasionally a sentence will approach run-on status, but overall the sentences are perfectly fine, if longer than the average RR story's. My main gripe is the usage of exclamation points when describing action sequences. It's like using lots of dramatic music in a movie: the scenes should speak for themselves; you shouldn't have to tell the reader what is exciting and what isn't. This is especially true for this work, since it's well written and doesn't need to resort to such cheap tricks. IMO, if all exclamation points outside of dialogue and onomatopoeias were taken out, it would greatly improve the action scenes.

Story: 4/5

So far, there are a couple of overarching storylines. They are well developed---perhaps overly so. LeftOfEarth shows events from lots of different characters' viewpoints, and while this does a good job of showing the complexities of the situation, it does mean that time progresses rather slowly. In more recent chapters, the action has slowed down even further. Personally, I don't mind the leisurely pace, given that the writing is so high-quality, but I could imagine some readers would be turned off by this.

Grammar: 5/5

There are maybe one or two typos per chapter, and considering the length of the chapters that is really impressive. LeftOfEarth has a great command of the English language, but doesn't bludgeon you over the head with it; sentences are interesting and varied in structure, but always manage to get the point across concisely.

Character: 5/5

I was wary of the gender bender tag because I generally see it used by male authors to avoid writing a story with an actual female MC and/or as an excuse to write lesbian erotica from a male perspective. This story treats the situation much more thoughtfully. (I have a few more thoughts on the topic, but they're mildly spoiler-y up to chapter 10, so read at your own risk)

Saf is trans but repressed because their dad is a hypermasculine asshole. They realize their situation gradually, and continue to struggle with their identity even after acknowledging it to themselves. I'm not LGBTQ, but I think LeftOfEarth's treatment of the issue is respectful and nuanced. Saf's trans-ness doesn't overwhelm the story either---it's a story that happens to have a trans MC, not a story that's all about how the MC is trans.

Saf has human feelings and, unlike many isekais, actually thinks about their past life beyond the first few chapters. Unlike lots of RR stories, Saf doesn't "enlighten" the Arcadians with Earth technology/morality, which is a definite plus. Morality is discussed, but in a reasoned and evenhanded way, without the author overly biasing the situation in Earth's favor. Characters other than Saf are well fleshed out, too---there are no one-dimensional villains, nor are there one-dimensional heroes. Characters are constrained by their ingrained biases and societal duty, so that no one is perfect, nor can they always act as they would in an ideal world.

Worldbuilding: 6/5

I don't know where else to talk about worldbuilding, so I decided to list it as a separate category. 6/5 was not a typo. LeftOfEarth does a great job of portraying the different cultures and races of Arcadia. While they use many standard fantasy races, they add their own unique spin to each. The nonhuman races are clearly separated from humanity in both culture and biology, but are still relatable and sympathetic. The various nations of Arcadia interact with each other in a variety of complex ways, with each government having their own biases and political climates. LeftOfEarth also sprinkles in a few hints at aspects of Arcadia that aren't further explored, which creates a great sense of depth to the world. For instance, they invent race-specific idioms, and proceed to work them naturally into conversations rather than showing them off as examples of how exotic their characters are. As another example (mild spoilers about chapters 2-3),

Saf talks to a bird while resting in a bloodfruit tree. The bird is pretty stupid and nothing much results from the conversation. A few chapters later, we learn from another character that only one creature, the aura bird, can survive in bloodfruit trees. LeftOfEarth never explicitly connects the two events, but we readers can, which a) makes us feel clever and b) makes us feel like Arcadia is self-consistent and extends beyond the narrow bounds of the narrative.

 I'd add more, but it would be too spoilery. Suffice it to say that we see lots of really cool ecosystems and societies; whenever the plot stagnates, it's in the service of fantastic (in the "otherworldly" sense, not the "really good" sense, although it's both) world building.

In conclusion

I'm very glad I gave this story a chance, and suggest that you do, too. The summary isn't particularly compelling (and arguably the first chapter isn't great), but that is in no way representative of the rest of the work. This is an original, skilfully written story that will appeal to any RR reader.

The Persephone Variant

The Persephone Variant is, unsurprisingly, a variation on the Persephone myth. With SUPERPOWERED SPACE VAMPIRES. Shockingly, this amalgamation of sci fi, fantasy, and mythology actually works really well. The author has clearly done a lot of world building, and we've only seen a small part of it. So far it has been inventive, cohesive, and surprisingly plausible, considering the aforementioned space vampires. The author has made sure that the three genres support each other instead of clashing. The vampires use human-like robots to harmlessly simulate their normal feeding experience. The planet is tidally locked, with the habitable dome on the light side ruled by Demeter, and the dark side ruled by Hades. These interconnections between normally distinct genres make the story feel cohesive rather than just a kitchen sink of cool ideas.

The story is very well written, with few to no typos, and a good balance of description and action. The characters are relatively standard right now, with the cast including a plucky heroine, a tortured, edgy male love interest, and a few spiteful rivals. But while they might be tropes, they're well written ones, and as the story continues I think they will become more distinctive. 

The plot so far is hard to assess; not much has happened yet. I'm happy to see that the sketchier parts of the Persephone myth have been avoided---no abduction, no trapping Persephone in Hades via pomegranate. It appears that the story is headed towards some kind of school arc, which could be good or could be really awful. I'll update this part of the review at a later date.

The Great Core's Paradox

When I read this story's summary, my first thought was "Oh, it's a Snake Report ripoff." And indeed, as I read through the first half-dozen chapters, I noticed many similarities: a tiny snake worshipping an imaginary god, trying to survive in a hostile underworld filled with glowing, poisonous mushrooms, told in conversational first-person replete with hyphens of questionable grammaticality.

Of course, given that The Snake Report is a great story, similarities aren't necessarily bad. Furthermore, this story stands well on its own. Despite the small number of chapters released so far, we already have seen significant, interesting worldbuilding (while avoiding infodumps). The story is well written, with no typos that I noticed. The story does a good job of portraying the system as something mundane to the world's inhabitants rather than "other," which is difficult but, I think, important to a good, realistic (insofar as it can be) litrpg.

Given that the story is still in its infancy, I don't think I've read enough to give it 5 stars, but that may change later. I am mildly worried that Paradox will not be so cute when they become more powerful. Currently their zealotry and vengefulness are mostly funny, but that will change if they start massacring humans in the name of the Great Core or something. The story's tone seems to suggest a sympathetic MC, so I hope that the MC remains sympathetic. Of course, if Paradox is meant to be more of an antihero or villain, then that's fine, although I personally wouldn't find the story as enjoyable.

All hail the Tiny Snake God Great Core!

Violet and the Cat

Quality work that deserves more attention

I'm absolutely shocked that this fiction hasn't gotten more attention. While I've only read through chapter 8 so far, I'm already fascinated by the narrative, and impressed by the writing. If you like a fantasy adventure with interesting characters, good prose, and near-flawless grammer, then you should be reading this. And you'll have plenty to read: the chapters are longer than any of the most popular RR fictions except Undermind, and this story is publishing a chapter every single day!


Style: 4.5/5

Falsificator writes really good descriptive prose. The reader is told all sorts of small details, such as the chalk dust in the cat's fur, or the way the cat leaps from a fence, that help immerse them in the scene, yet the description never goes on for so long as to bog down the narrative. I also really like the author's treatment of the character's emotions. First of all, the characters have emotions, and they affect the narrative in meaningful ways, including getting in the way of the characters' goals, which is more than can be said for a lot (most?) of RR fictions. Furthermore, Violet's feelings are described beautifully. The vocabulary used in the story is well-balanced, being neither too dull nor too complex, and it fits the 11-year-old Violet well. (In the beginning of the first chapter, the word "anthracitic" is used, and I was a bit put off because I had never heard the word (it refers to a particularly hard type of coal) and it seemed like an unnecessary word in the context anyway, but that's the only time the vocabulary has seemed odd to me.) Veering into more personal opinion (not that the entire review isn't subjective), the whole story has a sense of whimsy that reminds me pleasantly of childhood books like Winnie the Pooh or Alice in Wonderland, with a sense that anything is possible, and, indeed, utterly logical. Yet, there is still a sense of very real and serious stakes. One issue I have with the style is that there are lots and lots of analogies; I'd argue there are too many. Many of them contribute to the impressive descriptive prose, but there are also a bunch that either don't make much sense to me, or feel out of place. To give one example, in chapter 8, Violet feels "strange and unique, like she was an overburdened electrical wire about to throw an arc." This seems like a kind of nonsensical analogy to me, although it's certainly possible that I'm just missing the point, but it also seems strange that an 11-year-old in a sheltered village would have firsthand experience with sparking wires.


Story: 5/5

The world-building has been pretty spread out so far, with the author sprinkling it in naturally and avoiding infodumps. But the glimpses of magic and demons that have been revealed are really interesting. For example, the demons seem to have a weird split personality alternatively threatening horrible death and begging for mercy. The effect is terribly menacing, but it also raises lots of questions, and I'm eager to see how this will be developed as the story goes on. Another thing I like is that the cat usually explains magic with analogies, which gives structure and some general sense of the constraints and rules of magic, without taking away its mystery. The story has felt well-paced so far, which I think is due in part to the author's willingness to spend time on the smaller details of Violet's journey, such as packing for her trip, which gives the reader more time to get to know the characters, and provides meaningful content between the more dramatic plot points.


Grammar: 5/5

This story's grammar is among the best I've seen on RR. I haven't found a single misspelled word so far. The author seems to consistently not hyphenate things that should be hyphenated (I could be wrong though; I'm not an expert), and often improperly punctuates dialogue with periods instead of commas, but these extremely minor errors never interfered with comprehension or took me out of the flow of reading, and I only noticed them because I was looking really hard for anything that could be wrong.


Character: 5/5

So far, the two characters that have been focused on are Violet and the cat. Violet is an 11-year-old girl who has grown up in a superstitious, sheltered village, and the story's voice does a good job of reflecting that. She acts her age, even when it's detrimental to her goals, which is a rarity for RR stories. The story is written in a sort of narrow, focused way, without much focus on the bigger picture, which I think is a good fit for a story written in the viewpoint of a child (and it also makes for a nice air of mystery to the story). The cat is not too human, displaying qualities that most humans would find odd or even morally wrong, which makes its character more interesting. The character interactions are also well done, with legitimate, if minor, conflicts between Violet and the cat. So far, there haven't been any other well developed characters, which I don't think is a problem given the genre.


TL;DR: this fiction is among the best on RR in terms of reading experience, story, characters, and world building, and you should definitely give it a try.