Since there's only one short in this collection at the time of writing, consider this review tentative. Fair warning, there are also spoilers for the first short written below.
Face is a really interesting story. Although the genres given for the collection don't mention horror, I must say I felt slightly on edge, wondering if this was going to turn into something spooky with Face progressively growing in size throughout the story. It was such a strange concept that I found myself wanting to read more, wanting to find out just where this was going to take us. But at the same time, it leaves us as just the right moment for us to let our imagination be the judge of what happens next.
Some things could be improved though, namely the punctuation and word variety. Although I didn't catch any typos or spelling mistakes, some sentences need an extra comma, and some things could be described with a bit more clarity.
For example, at the beginning of the story, I wasn't sure what paint was being referred to until the next paragraph; I imagined it was paint on a canvas at first. So, adding something that tells the reader that it's paint on the wall would help the story's flow. Also, an example of word variety that could be improved is the repetition of "tea saucer" as a reference of size. It works well, but using a second, different object -- or perhaps a simple measurement of length -- could spruce it up a bit.
Still, not bad at all.
The world needs more non-binary characters. It's nice to see that in Dwarves of Appalachia.
Although the events in the first chapter are rather frightening for the characters, I found the setting very cozy regardless. It's just a small, isolated town with a tight-knit community in a somewhat rural area. The jarring return of magic introduces a neat magical concept of "beings" that I won't spoil the details of, but I found myself particularly fond of. The storyline itself has a tame, slice-of-life style as our protagonists readjust to life in the sky; although I don't think I've hit the "plot" yet, the first handful of chapters give us enough time to become accustomed to the world and characters, so we actually have a healthy chance to get attached to them.
On that note, the characters all feel very unique to the point I could probably point them out without any identifying dialogue tags. They've got clear personalities, all distinct from one another, many of whom are very cute. Not to mention, a certain character is introduced in chapter 3 that I absolutely adore. Job well done in that regard!
The writing style ranges from excellent to somewhat vague at times. There are many moments when the text is nicely written and descriptive with just the right amount of creative flair, but there were also a few moments when I had to reread some paragraphs because something wasn't explained with quite enough clarity, which definitely broke up the flow of enjoying the story. An example of this was in the first chapter:
when the ground and mountain begins rumbling and the forest in the distance was shrinking, I didn't realize until a few hundred words later that the protagonist was on the mountain, and that the mountain was now floating. It made sense when I reread it with context, but said context didn't appear until much later.
(This could by my mistake for missing context clues in the synopsis, but I think the text should be able to stand on its own without it, you know what I mean?)
Typos are few and generally not distracting, but the punctuation definitely needs work. Several sentences bleed into each other when they could be separated by a period or semicolon, and there are a lack of commas in some places where there should probably be one. There were also a few instances of the tense switching from past to present for one or two words before switching back. Between the occasionally vague style and grammatical errors, Dwarves of Appalachia would benefit hugely from some thorough editing and/or proofreading.
Before I wrap up this review, something important I want to briefly discuss is grammar regarding Jamie's gender. As they are non-binary, it can be challenging to use they/them pronouns effectively due to how ambiguous they can be in some contexts (namely, when "they" could be either singular or plural in a given situation). However, I noticed very few instances where I was confused about the usage of their pronouns. It might be because I've written gender neutral characters myself and I'm familiar with the concept, but I still think the author did a fine job in that regard. If you catch anyone criticizing that detail of the story, you can freely give them a noogie for me.
From what I've read so far, Dwarves of Appalachia is a cozy, fun, and whimsical story. If you can look past the technical issues, you'll have a great time here.
I'm going to preface this review by saying I flat out don't like most isekai stories. The genre itself doesn't interest me. However, Demon Heart quickly captures your interest with great writing, a great "portal" transition, and a captivating plot, so much so that I couldn't put it down regardless of my reservations about the genre.
I'm only four chapters in, but I felt compelled to write a review because this story shows enormous promise, and it's one of the first I've read on Royal Road where I actively look forward to every new chapter.
The characters are believable and interesting, and both the grammar and writing style are great. As mentioned above, the story grips you quickly and keeps you wanting more. Big recommendation from me.
Cyber Clash Online is a pretty neat story. I enjoy the concept a fair bit, but it wasn't quite enough to totally draw me in.
Mainly, I didn't enjoy the characters too much. A lot of the dialogue in the first few chapters felt kind of stiff, some of it akin to "gamer talk" you might see showcased in scripted online gameplay at an E3 conference. One example of speech that felt somewhat out of place was during the confrontation in chapter 3; if I was in a situation like that, I would be way too panicky and intense to worry about being flustered over a compliment! Primarily because of the dialogue, I struggled to find the characters totally believable.
However, your mileage may vary. While the characters didn't do much for me, you very well might love them. It's a highly subjective matter and I could certainly be an outlier in this case.
But for some positive: I thought the writing style was pretty good, and the addition of images – for example, the status and inventory screens – added some nice immersion to the story. Plus, the grammar is not bad. I only noticed a couple of typos and sentences with strange wording, but nothing too distracting.
I say give CCO a shot. Although I had a bit of trouble adjusting to it, if you're a fan of the genre, there's a good chance you'll enjoy the story.
Really nice story! The plot hooks you well and keeps you going with a rugged and action-packed story. The lore is quite interesting as well, and I'm really eager to see where it will take us.
I really love our protagonist, Armless. Something about a hulking, mechanical chimera with a massive swiss-army gun for an arm strikes me as totally badass and awesome, and I loved reading every detail about his amalgamated form. On that note, the writing style is fantastic. Almost everything is described exceedingly well with great word variety and sentence structure, and I think it's definitely the strongest aspect of this story. I was highly impressed by it.
The following portion of the review (in italics) was written before the author fixed several problems with the grammar. It has improved quite a bit and I have changed my star rating to signify that.
However, it is unfortunately marred by several minor issues with the grammar that are prevalent in the first handful of chapters. Sometimes I had to reread the occasional sentence because the wording didn't quite flow right, and I noticed a few typos, missing periods, double spaces, and sentences where adding a word or punctuation mark would have helped the flow quite a bit. There were also a few sudden perspective shifts which caught me off guard due to somewhat ambiguous pronoun usage (for example, switching from a male perspective to another male, while still using the same he/him/his pronouns without any other indication that the perspective had changed), and the introduction of Rika tripped me up a bit since her name was suddenly dropped without Armless having any prior knowledge of it.
It's still very readable, by all means, and it does improve over time; by chapter 5, the level of polish has very noticeably increased. But it was still kind of distracting during the early chapters (the most important ones, to help hook readers!), and could be improved greatly with a bit of extra editing.
That said, I'm still certainly a fan of Sand and Legends. The story, worldbuilding, and characters are all there in droves, and I would definitely recommend it.
This story is hopelessly cute. I found myself smiling during each chapter, and I caught myself wiggling around in my seat with eager excitement seeing the two girls interact. It's fluffy and precious and CUTE.
Not only is it fun and charming, but it's written very well too. As far as style and grammar goes -- excellent. I found a few small mistakes, but nothing that distracted me too much from the writing, and the rest of the prose was good enough to more than make up for it. Both the world and setting are very vivid and inviting, too. The lore is there, but it doesn't get in the way with big hunks of exposition; you learn just as much as you need to know, and other details are slowly explained throughout the story at a steady pace. The writing is also supplemented with the occasional artwork of the two protagonists, which hits just at the right moments to make the scene come to life brilliantly.
The characters and the worlds they live in are very distinct, and I found myself easily picturing the environments they explore and traverse on a daily basis, whether it be home, the marketplace's streets, or a library. I find myself hard pressed to find much to critique in this story so far.
But Beatrice and Emi better smooch, or else!
PS: It's close, but I think Emi would win in a fistfight. She definitely seems like the more rowdy type to me.
Warning for minor spoilers in the review!
For a fantasy story to engage a non-fantasy reader, Aeonica is certainly doing something right.
The first book quickly hooks you with an excellent description of its setting and characters, and the writing style is very pleasant to read. Sentence structure and word choices are great, and although similes and metaphors are used as descriptors quite prevalently, they're still done at an appropriate level and only serve to enhance the reading experience. While the pace of the first handful of chapters leaves little time for us to get close to Nahlia and her world due to the plot, I think it's done on the fly quite well. Plus, I'm only an eighth done the first book; with how it's been handled so far, I'm confident we'll have lots of time to become perfectly accustomed to the setting and characters.
Also, many of the action-packed or suspenseful chapters leave you with tense cliffhangers, urging you to turn the page so you can find out what happens next. I had a hard time putting the story down because of that; not only does the story hook you well, it keeps you interested for the long haul.
However, one thing that stood out to me was Nahlia's lack of reaction to a couple of the more traumatic events that happened early on in the story. It is mentioned in the story how she's been on the run for a long time, which tells the reader that Nahlia has probably steeled herself quite a lot by this point, but I was still a bit surprised to see a lack of emotional response to such events.
I also did see a fairly noticeable number of typos and minor errors throughout the first half dozen chapters, but the author quickly fixed them when pointed out (props!). For now, consider the grammar score tentative until I've read more.
I'm still very impressed with what Aeonica has to offer. I imagine the story is only going to get more spicy from here!
Don't mess with time travel. You just never know...!
When I wrote this review, the story only had a rating of 2.75 stars. I think it deserves more than that. The pacing is very fast (though, I can give that a pass given that it's a short story), but the unnerving setting and description of Adam's fate is done pretty well, and it captured my interest until the end of the short.
It's only 7-ish pages long. Go on, give it a read.
Pretty good story so far! Syl's definitely got her work cut out for her. I especially enjoyed chapter 1's suspense and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.
The worldbuilding in A Galaxy, Alive definitely seems like a very strong point. The maps and titles are a welcome introduction to each chapter, and the exposition regarding recent history gives you a great idea of how the world (and galaxy) operates in this distant future. However, in contrast, one thing I think is somewhat lacking is the description for the settings and other species our protagonist encounters. For example, Yrggians in chapter one: what do they look like? Do they have any unique societal habits we can observe through Syl in her encounters with them? Something called U'kka is mentioned in the first chapter, but we don't get to learn what it is. We do get some description of other races in chapter four, but it still left me hanging until then.
As far as the settings go, I'd love to see more visual description of the cities Syl traverses, and perhaps a touch more at customs and inside her Mum's house.
The grammar and spelling is generally quite well done, though I noticed a couple spots where a comma could possibly be used for slightly better reading, and I noticed inconsistent capitalization of "Console" between chapters one and two. I also got a little bit tripped up when the characters "summoned shuttles;" given the sci-fi nature of the story, "summoning" could be waving one down like a taxi, or blinking one into existence via a console, or something in-between. In the early chapters there isn't any direction to tell you which it is, which had me wondering a fair bit.
All in all it's still a very promising story. Give it a try!