Toby Ziegler

Toby Ziegler

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Leaves of Terranthir

Come for the Author, Stay for the Story

@Rhaegar is an accomplished and immensely popular author on Royal Road. Reading his announcement of a new story brought me here. So many people know his Azarinth work, yet few remember Ilea started alone and afraid in her pajamas also...

An author's past work or reputation cannot substitute for a good story, however.

This is the kind of story you'll find yourself yelling at the character on the screen. Like watching a horror movie and telling the group not to split up, I found myself shouting suggestions, then "NO!!!" as life and death and discovery happened in the pages before me.

Such is the style of the story, drawing you in, to experience with Adrian his self-doubt; his learning; his growth; his life. When you imagine yourself in Adrian's bare feet, you realize the story is progressing close to what it would be if your chair-bound, paunchy body were there instead. Real-world slouches, such as many of us are, don’t just start out slaying mythical beasts like Conan the Barbarian immediately. We have to build up to it. And survive.

Adrian is a well-thought-out character, only getting deeper and more complex as the story progresses. Coupled with good grammar, this makes for a great read: If you're willing to let the story grow as it should.


Kobold Whisperer

A Kingdom-Conquering Love Story

From Merdon's beginnings as a reluctant hero to their entire group's rise in both power and responsibility, this is an engaging story full of real characters. Merdon and Sarel begin a trend by managing to see each other as real people, rather than as separate races. It is a heartwarming facet of an adventurous, often gripping story.

While the style is sometimes slow, and sometimes wordy, these are only minor drawbacks in the shifting perspectives for the story's telling and easily overlooked. The story itself is a thoughtful progression of plot and story arcs and set within a complex, very real feeling universe. Well done, author!

From the rules of magic to the politics of the land to the creatures inhabiting it, the universe of the Kobold Whisperer deserves special mention. Everything fits together in realistic ways with reasonable explanations, where they can be known, at least. Even the kobolds’ non-traditional appearance has a purpose and is not just a random author’s decision. The sub-cultures are rich and enhance the plot and story well.

The weakest point is the story's grammar, but even there it shines well above the average offering on Royal Road. With the well-developed and engaging characters found here, anyone fond of fantasy should be well rewarded by reading this story.


The Cursed Witch (Book One)

The arrogant princess at the heart of this story is learning how to live outside a palace at the same time she is learning how to tap into and grow with her potential for magic. While the points of view change and are often unreliable narrators, the plight of the princess is central to all else.

The princess is sometimes relatable and often not, but all the characters are deep enough to feel real, rather than monochromatic. If anything suffers from lack of depth, it would have to be the setting itself; the scale of travel and size of the known world seem both off and undersized.

Nothing negative detracts from the enjoyment of the story, however, and I find myself looking forward to the posting of each new chapter. If you enjoy fantasy kingdom intrigues or deep characters, you will likely enjoy this story as well!


A Coder's Guide To Magic

I so want to give this story five stars. Unfortunately, it has not yet earned all of those stars.

Otto wakes up trapped in a tower with no memory of anything beyond going to sleep in his normal bed last night. Standard isekai entrance.

Before the first chapter is over Otto discovers a magical instruction manual and casts his first spells. I found all of this interesting, but presented in a choppy, almost bullet-point manner. The dialog is often confusing, with transitions between speakers often only separated by an extra line space. The characters often use several lines of quoted sentences to express what is typically found in a single paragraph--usually with only contextual hints at who is speaking.

Hopefully without spoiling anything for you potential readers, the magic system is complex, but is actually the nuts-and-bolts of how the system is built. Where a common mage might know how to cast a fireball, Otto learns the language used to construct a fireball spell, which he can then call, "Fireball." A normal magic-user never learns anything like this.

I like this. I like the coding approach to magic, even if it is bulky and complex. What I have a harder time with is Otto's attitude toward the simple task of reading a magic instruction book. He is so desperate to escape, he ignores the fact he is in a perfect environment to take as long as he needs to learn everything in the book.

In short, Otto is an idiot. Soon, his idiotic decisions start getting people killed. It makes it hard to like Otto, and difficult to root for his success.

As a coder, Otto should be a problem-solver. That's what writing code is really all about. If the author can clean up the dialog and description issues, then have Otto act with more forethought and deductive reasoning, this story has a five-star potential. I will keep reading with my fingers crossed.


The Runesmith

An Interesting Crafting Approach

I must say, beginning life in a magical universe as an adult in a five-year-old's body is a difficult challenge for most isekai. Many will only remember the main character was an adult when in need of some adult-like behavior or knowledge. The author seems to be mostly avoiding those pitfalls with a system and environment which allows ten-year-olds to act like full-grown adults. The system lockdowns preventing some of that sort of over-powered advantage are definitely interesting.

Grammar is an issue, and some editing polish here could really elevate the story. Better character interactions would go even further.

This is a promising story I am enjoying and will continue to read. The crafting instead of or in addition to combat is nice, and the interaction with the main character's previous skillset is particularly well done. If you can overlook some grammar and stiff character development, you can probably enjoy it also!


The Dungeon Calls for a Sage

The story builds on a combination of Archimedes' arrogance and desperation to survive. The ancient dungeon's mind knows tricks employable by even a spanking new dungeon can use, and so pulls out all the stops live another day.

The building progression and preparations for avoiding the inevitable doom approaching combine with the dungeon's quest to understand in interesting ways.

When the discovery of how the world really works is made, the story starts to fall apart instead of coming together for a new motivational arc. The story seems to get too caught up in character abilities and needs to get back to character interactions and motivations.

Spoiler:

The author could benefit from more advice about how to make interesting traps and logical dungeon floors, but I have enjoyed this story regardless, and if the author can manage to write more, I would love to continue reading more as well.


The House Witch

Characters drive this story. The new chef has a secret, and his methods of food production are almost comically difficult to hide. The supporting cast are given just enough time in the spotlight to get a sense they are real people with real hang-ups and real motivations.

The main players are interesting and full of complex flaws and motivations. Along with bits of humor and drama, it makes for one entertaining chapter followed by another.

The magical system and character motivations interact to produce a story I will gladly continue reading. If you are in need of a reading experience similar to a good cup of hot cocoa, you need look no further.


Accidental dungeon

Promising Premise, Dismaying Delivery

I knew I was in for a bumpy ride from the first pages. Despite the sometimes jarring grammar and the often speech-like dialog, I found myself interested in the story. So I read it all the way to the end.

If grammar is an issue for you, you should probably pass on this one. Likewise, if character development and natural dialog are important to you, keep moving on.

However, if you can overlook these basic storytelling elements, the author's tale of what an immensely powerful wizard with memories from his modern society beginnings does to cope with being accidentally absorbed by a fresh dungeon core can most certainly work for you.


Restart Again

The first volume is no longer on Royal Road, so I will focus this review on volume two. Volume two does a good job of reminding the reader of the important take-away moments from volume one.

By this point our main character has a fairly pronounced case of PTSD and is having lots of trouble trusting and relating to the world around him. If not for his loving apprentice/sidekick Lia, he'd have nothing to live for.

The side characters of the story keep everything interesting and moving, as the plot heads to a finale with interesting twists along the way. I am enjoying the story, and the character growth in all the players will keep me reading.


Old Man's Adventure

When Frank discovers the system can be gamed, the old man goes all out. He's not building a character class, so much as pushing everything as far and as fast as it will go. This old man quickly becomes younger in outlook than many of his fellow survivors. In fact, other than some depths of experience to call upon, Frank doesn't really seem like an old man, somewhat short-circuiting the titular premise.

The story is interesting and the grammar is well-done. The litRPG elements are abundant and complex, with our survivors having to discover everything themselves. No tutorials here.

This is a good story I am enjoying reading and I am interested to see where it goes. If you like litRPG, this will likely make a worthy addition to your reading list.