The synopsis summarizes the premise of Bloodshard: Stolen Magic perfectly, so I'm not going to spend much time on it and go to the nitty-gritty of my spoiler-free review.
The story is pretty much a murder mystery coated in a fantasy painting. As such, solving the mystery is what drives the story and the characters. Whodunnit, Whydunnit, and Howdunnit are the central questions that the story wishes to answer. And guessing alongside our MC Astesh, is quite a joy. While there are slums at some points, for the most part, the author lays enough breadcrumbs for the reader to continue the hunt and turn the virtual pages. I, for one, actually read half the story in one night because I wanted to know the answer to the riddle. And rest assured for the reader, all three answers will be answered. While some other aspects need more elaboration, those coming for the murder mystery will be more than satisfied.
Though the pacing can at times be rather slogging. Likewise, the ending and final confrontation with the villain are of lesser quality compared to the parts before.
But the story's also set in a fictional fantasy world. Time not spent on character development/relationships or the mystery is time spent on world-building and exploration. And boy, is there a lot. Astesh's homeworld is brimming with lore, tidbits, and customs, and a mystery not completely related to the murder that feels much bigger than the story of Astesh. The hints regarding the world's backstory are fascinating and would invite readers to come back to a sequel to learn more about the world.
But this fascinating world can, at times, hurt the story as finding a balance between world-building and mystery solving is difficult, and the author doesn't always hit the landing.
Astesh is an MC who is most certainly different from the usual MCs one finds here in similar novels. They aren't interested in learning magic. They aren't interested in getting more powerful. No, they just want their life back and continue their small existence in peace. It's so realistic and what most normal people would do in Astesh's situation and just a fresh breeze from all the power fantasy protagonists. While Astesh does learn magic and get some power, this isn't a power fantasy. It's about our MC trying to find their lot in life, their place in the world, and going against that which seems natural to one. Astesh is a classical anti-hero. They are scared, timid, and way out of their depths. And while there are moments where I wanted to smack them in the head, their behavior is never out of character. And Astesh grows. By the end of the story, I can definitely say that Astesh's journey feels complete.
Besides Astesh, we also have Pelys, the deuteragonist of the story, and the complete opposite of Astesh. He's direct, confrontational, and extroverted. As such, he fulfills those roles that Astesh is incapable of. Like Astesh, he's a rounded and complex character as well, and when the story ends, his story feels complete as well.
The side characters are all unique and fascinating. The biggest issue would be that there are perhaps too many of them, and not all of them can get explored as much as they would deserve. A problem that's most noticeable with the antagonists and Pelys' companions.
Bloodshard: Stolen Magic is, from a technical standpoint well written. But it's noticeable that it was written during the writhalon. The story at times lacks focus. Especially, the later parts could benefit from more meat, as it's often the case with marathon stories. And the lore can at times be suffocating. At times, it feels like an avalanche of lore gets thrown at the reader.
Nonetheless, that the story still is of better quality than the average on RR, despite being written during the writahlon, speak for itself. And I've to say it again. It was a good read.
I noticed zero issues here.
All in all, does the story need an edit? Yes. Do I recommend it? Hell yes.
Solarite tells the story of Lea, a 17-years old girl with mental issues living her life in a seemingly paradisaical suburbia somewhere in the US. And like with any other paradise (or suburbia for that matter), there are some snakes. So far, the story, besides setting up the characters and mystery, has done mainly two things: showing us Lea's everyday life in a town that is too idyllic to be true, and chronicling her struggles with her anxiety and other mental issues, and how it strains the relationships with others.
The latter is done extremely well. Lea is a fascinating and charming, but also rather flawed character. Her struggles feel quite real. What also needs to be praised is the discrepancy between Lea's perception of the world thanks to her issues (especially her family) and the actual reality.
The former part on the other hand, feels like too much. Establishing Lea's everyday life is important, but some scenes could be cut without the story losing much.
Lea as stated is an interesting character. The side characters so far are lacking and mostly defined by their relationship with Lea. There is one other character who can stand on her own, but Momo's pov was sadly only half as interesting as Lea's.
Grammar-wise, there's nothing to say here. It's good and does its job.
The biggest issue was the style. Reading the story on my notebook actually hurt my eyes thanks to the font. I would really recommend that author would choose a bigger one. Besides that, the story is written in a distant style as if an omniscient narrator is simply narrating Lea's life. That is imo wasted potential as it creates a barrier between Lea and the reader, even though the inner life of Lea is of utmost importance, and she should be interesting enough to immerse into her (I'm not saying to change from third to first person, just to be clear).
All in all, it's not a bad story. The highlight so far is definitely Lea's struggle with her mental issues and how she perceives the world.
Reaper of Cantrips is a melting pot of genres that manages to combine seamlessly so far. We have a supernatural horror story in an urban fantasy setting with a blend of space opera setting and a budding teenage romance brooding. None of the elements seem out of place and manage to create a holistic whole. The story itself builds up a few mysteries and questions regarding the backstory of our MC and the first big mystery seems to unfold force Pan to play detective.
The characters are relatively fleshed out, some have more depth than others, but considering at what stage the story is, it did a good job so far. Something that already shines through is the complex web of relationships the characters seem to have caught themselves in. If there's one aspect that annoyed at least me is that despite being college-aged, the characters sometimes behave as if they were ten years younger.
The grammar was fine and didn't find many if any mistakes or issues.
But what can hold the story back is its style. The story springs often from one head to another without warning, leaving the reader confused. As such I often felt lost when trying to piece together who was now speaking or letting the viewer see through their lenses. Something that also worked against the story was that the feelings of the characters were often told. Especially during the first action scene, it slowed the pacing down. I would suggest substituting tells with body language to allow a more immersive reading experience.
Overall, it's a fascinating story with a unique setting, good mystery and lore and complex relationship between the at times too immature characters. But it needs some polish
Children of Nemeah is a dark fantasy/horror mashup taking cues from european folklore. It combines interesting myths in a seemingly standard medieval Europe setting, but not without shrouding the world in a mist of intrigue and wonder.
While the world is interesting and the characters possess enough charm to want to follow them, the biggest problem is that the story starts too early, which is all too common with many stories. Chapter 4 which starts the confrontation with the first changeling works better as a hook than the previous chapters. Starting with the fight, using it to introduce the characters, and following up with Chapter 6 which gives us the first big mystery and "game changer" would allow for a better flow that keeps the readers engaged imo.
And boy was that a surprise. It was unexpected and introduced a new paradigm into the story. Anyone who wants to try out the story should at least read until chapter 6.
Grammar: I didn't encounter too many problems here. And considering that this is part of the Writhalon where quantity is more important, some leniency should be expected.
Style: For the standards of Royal Road, the prose is more than acceptable. And as it's again the Writhalon, I expect the author to edit the sections once the month is over. The only gripe I had was that the pov switches between Siegfried and Rick overlapping and at times I got confused whose POV it was. T
hat being said, since the author wants to make the story publishable, there are a few areas where the style can be improved:
- Emotions and mental states are often told instead of being shown. That prevents a deeper immersion and connection with the characters. Instead of saying that a character was surprised or felt a deep anger, body language and thoughts would allow to convey the same and create a connection to the characters.
- Less adverbs. Instead of them, stronger verbs allow the story to be more dynamic.
- Said, ask, or body language suffice most of the time as dialogue tasks. Others are unneeded.
It's still early, so most characters had only room to show a few character traits. But what was shown made them likable engaging enough to want to follow their story. Especially Siegfriend was a fascinating fellow. That being said, it didn't feel like Rick had only just started out and met the cast for the first time. The way they interacted gave the impression that he had at least been with them for a few months.
All in all, the story shows promise, but the earlier chapters were weaker than the later ones. It's a mysterious world with a good mix of fantasy, intrigue, and horror, and from what I've read, it would seem that the characters are going to change and develop quite a bit in the future. Likewise, the author has shown the intent to edit and improve the writing, so whatever critic I have made might soon be invalid.
Respawn Condition: Trash Mob is one of the more unique stories I've encountered on RR. It tells the story of a being who seems to be doomed to respawn as the random enemy unit in a dungeon.
What's immediately noticeable is the writing style of the story. Our MC narrates the story in a diary-esque way in an attempt to remain at their wits end. And I gotta say, the prose is quite beautiful. The train of thoughts of our MC makes at times for interesting read, and it flows well most of the time. And it for sure is unique.
In terms of grammar, there's not much to say. It does its job well enough. There were a few mistakes here and there but nothing that should trow one out of the story.
What holds the story back is the pacing. While the reader is warned that it will be a slow burn, it doesn't change that the pacing is glacial. The story is slice-of-life-esque and our MC seems to be a Ted Mosby-esque type who gets strung with the trivial rather than getting to the point. While it helps to give our MC more charm, the nature of the story also results in a lot of repetition. There is progress but it only happens in pieces. As others had mentioned, there's some fat that can be trimmed.
That being said, it is abundantly clear that there is a method to triviality.
With each new cycle, new questions arise about the setting, the dungeon, the MC, the hero and his party and one has to wonder if our MC is struck in some cosmic horror karma hell.
When it comes to the characters, outside of the MC, most so far had only been bit characters. Our MC is quite interesting, despite having to go through this hell for who knows how long with not much else to do, they try to enjoy the little things in life and stay optimistic. Character development is glacial as well, as death acts as somewhat of a reset for their progression. But what is of particular note and amazingly done is how the reincarnation affects the mentality of our MC. While the MC is aware of their ego, they, despite claiming otherwise, get mentally affected by their new identities. It's like an actor getting more and more into the role they play and risking to forget they are not the character.
All in all, I would say that those who are reading this because they want to see how someone reacts to being reincarnated as an enemy unit over and over again, will enjoy this for sure. Those who are here for the setting and mystery will have to ask if they will be able to continue despite the pacing. I'm rather positive that there will be answers and that the payoff will be satisfactory, but it'll take a while.
Death in Siberia tells a fascinating story about a land entangled in a seemingly endless war in a world where women have become myths and fiction. The story captures the brutality and horrors of war in an amazing way. There's no real glory to obtain, no real progress to be made. It's gritty, seemingly useless and just a waste of life and resources. It would be absurd, a comedy if it weren't for how depressingly shitty the lives of the soldiers that are bred and raised for combat are.
That this has become a world without women is quite symbolic for the world of Death in Siberia. It's a cold, hypermasculine world driven to its logical conclusion.
At its core, Death in Siberia is 70% a war thriller about the life of our protagonist in what is basically a future version of Stalingrad or Verdun, and his attempts to escape this hellhole. It's full of suspense and wants one to turn the next page (figuratively).
The other 30% are a first contact-esque story with him meeting and trying to understand the possibly only women in existence and all the conspiracy that surrounds it. There are a few nice twists that give new significance to previous scenes.
The story itself takes place in a future version of Russia and through bits and pieces one learns more about this russian dystopia. The world building is solid and drip fed to the reader. As such, the world slowly expands as one reads further without seeming to overwhelm.
As for the characters. We have a slew of different personalities and world views, which is quite amazing, considering almost all of them are clones. Our protagonist Alexei is well done and the different aspects of his character as well. Later revelations about his character also further explain a few seeming inconsistencies such as his behavior around Lena which is more understanding than one would expect from a character whose only exposure to woman is 19th century russian literature.
The female lead on the other hand, is more divisive. She seems to swing between savvy and hopelessly naive. Her complete misunderstanding of Tolstoi's Anna Karenina is quite good metaphor for that. Her adherence to female stereotypes is rather baffling as in a world without women there wouldn't be any reasons for them to exist in the first place, especially since she too grew up in a society that seems to adhere to manliness as an ideal.
As for the other characters. There were mostly solid. My only gripe would be that we saw too little of them. In the vacuum of book one, I would recommend writing more chapters from the perspective of the side characters and especially the antagonists. Some of them are really fascinating, so fleshing them out more would make them even better and give more emotional attachment to them and their conflicts.
The grammar was good for the most part. There were some grammar issues, especially in the later chapters, but nothing a second read-through shouldn't solve.
The biggest issue the story had was clarity. More than often did I lose overview of what was happening or who was who, especially in the later chapters with the fight scenes. I had to read chapter or scenes a few times to make sense of what was happening, and the found myself scratching my had as why the antagonists were acting the way they were in the later parts of the story. But as before, a second edit should solve that issue as well.
All in all, Death in Siberia is a griping and thrilling story about war (and masculinity ?). It takes place in a beautifully thought-out world with a cast of fascinating characters, and with some editing the few issues I had should be solved. Fans of the gritty and nitty will love this.
I've literally no idea what this story will be about at that point as I barely finished the "Reincarnation arc" but reading the narrative of the MC was a blast. The system is for sure creative and probably my favorite Isekai system out of the way too many I've seen so far. My only manko would be that parts are often summerized instead of fleshed out, and told instead of shown. At one point the MC enters a landscape that's described by as MC Escher meets Salvador Dali and I was like, why don't you describe it, because I for sure would love be shown such a vibrant and reality defying landscape.
Besides that, there weren't too many issues so far. It's cool to have a protag who is middle aged and had a family life. Also, Bill Gates was cool.
Monarch of the ancients takes place in a fictional world that combines fantasy and modern/futuristic technology. It's a fun world that begs to be explored and from what I've read so tells an amuzing "Seven Mysteries"-esque story (those who watch anime know what I mean). There's intrigue and mystery and all the elements to tell an interesting plot are there. The characters so far don't stick out too much and and live within their trope borders but they sure don't distract from the story. Plus, imo you can never go wrong with a scythe-wielder.
So, plot and characters are given the okay. The same cannot be said about Grammar and Style. The author often switches between past and present tense and mixes the narrative voices frequently. Another problem is that the dialoge is often forced and on an "As you know"-basis, telling the characters things that they already should know. Sentences are often in the same format and start with the same word in a row. That diminishes the atmosphere, which sometimes lacks tension, even though there's action in the story.
All in all, I can see a good story here, but it needs some heavy editing.
Tales of the terrace republic is a world heavy with worldbuilding and science. Those who searching for stories that focus on these aspects, which I assume fans of scifi and space opera tend to do, will definitely not be disappointed and swallow every bit of the story.
Style: Now, if you're not so into extensive worldbuilding, then the story might be too much. The reader does get bombarded with world building and science, especially regarding the nature of gravity environments. And for sure, the ships are certainly well explored. But it is not easy to digest, and the reader can easily feel lost. Another issues is the abbundance of adjectives and sentences that tell the reader the feelings of the characters instead of showing them. Like wise, the sentences are often structured the same way, even starting with the same word multiple times in a row.
All's clear here.
The characters definitely take a backseat here. We got to see what Murphy's leadership is like and that he's an outside of the box thinker, but besides that, there aren't much insights into his character or believes. Something that could help migate this is showing what his life was like before he got sent to his dead-end post. It's mentioned that the position is usually for those who screwed up one too many times, so it would be a good to see what made high-command decide to reassign Murphy. The other characters are little more than footnotes so far.
This is a story for science and space opera nerds. Like, if you think you belong to this group, then I've zero doubt that this story will be perfect for you. Though some polish is nessecary.
Merticore takes place in a world where science and fantasy mesh and where all kinds of different genres meet. It's a RR chop suey and quite funny. Though how well connected and integrated they are is something one has yet to see.
The style reads nicely and there not many issues. Same for Grammar.
As for the characters, our MC Ian is many things. But intelligent, he is not. He's a knack for making stupid descisions and questionable judgement calls. It will be fun to see it blow up in his face. Besides that, he or the other characters don't feel remarkable to so far.