Houndmaster

Houndmaster

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The Hedge Wizard

You need hedges in your life

When Alex M told me about his concept many moons ago, I tried to convince him to turn the story into a raunchy comedy called Hump the Hedge Wizard. Where hedge wizardry opposes the will of the gods and therefore divinity is out to destroy and discipline Hump. However, Hedge Wizards are beings of power and their offspring are born with incredible gifts. As a result, women are constantly throw themselves at Hump, getting him in all kinds of trouble.

I'm glad Alex M ignored my advice and tailored the story to his tastes and not mine. It's much better than anything I could've written.

Lets skip over categories like Style and Grammar. Both are great and will be better if/when it's plugged through a decent editor. I'd rather focus on Story and Character.

It's apparent that Alex spent several months formulating the story instead of throwing ideas at the screen until something came together. This is a rare skill amongst indie authors. Hump's growth and journey from apprentice to wizard is a compelling one and I can't wait to see where it leads him. Every character, including him, is entertaining and has as much depth as the primary cast.

As a beta reader it's hard for me not to give away spoilers, but you're in for some great things, fellow readers!


Wizard's Tower

Every night, before I go to bed, I read for 30 - 60 minutes. Due to managing my own projects and work, I struggle to do much else during the time. Usually, I'll read a story's first 5-10 chapters, something will bother me regarding the tale and I'll move on. This isn't the case with Wizard's Tower. It's taken me annoyingly long to get to this review. Initially, I planned on writing it at chapter ten but that wasn't enough. Now, I'm at chapter 20, and it still feels short. However, the author and I agreed to a swap and at my current reading speed, I'll never finish.

Style:
The style is simple but doesn't act as a deterrent. It keeps the readers' interest but since the prose is written in the first person, I feel it could do a better job of expressing the protagonist's personality and character, making him more than just the story's narrator.

Grammar:
The only reason the story doesn't get a full five here is because of occasional tense slipups. I'm not letting this drag down the overall score, though, since I often make the same mistake.

Story:
There doesn't appear to be much of a plot or story outside of the protagonist being sick of his old life and looking to live far from civilization in a tower. There appears to be a lack of a larger goal or drive for the protagonist. However, we see a fair bit of local politics, bandit shenanigans, creative exposition through education, and the LitRPG favourite of beast waves. As a result, the tale continues to hold my interest. This appears to be a common issue in the web serial format, but unlike most, it doesn't detract from my drive to keep reading.

Character:
The protagonist is an interesting character. However, I believe there is room for improvement for character building through the narrative's tone. Every side character we encounter has their unique personalities and quirks, though. So, we don't get boring copies of bland people everywhere. Everyone feels real with likeable characters and individuals I'd like to punch in the face.

 


Witch's Psyche

There is a diamond in there somewhere

I'll start by admitting that I'm not the target audience for Witch's Psyche. However, since I put time into the story, I thought a review might help the author and anyone curious about the story. In my opinion, Witch's Psyche is in 75th percentile RR stories. It's well thought out but needs a whole lot of work to become truly great. 

I'll start with the positives and work my way down. 

Grammar is the story's strongest category. I didn't come across any jarring errors while reading through the story, and the author appears to have a good handle on the English language.

The story and the accompanying premise is compelling enough. Witch coming out of stasis in the modern-day? I can see there being a market for that. The protagonist adjusting to the current world has some comedic appeal. I wish there was more going on, though because the content meanders and doesn't have much of a direction. Focusing the plot and hinting where things are going instead of a supermarket visit might've been a better idea.

Finally, we get to the characters. They have potential. I'll cover why the potential isn't fulfilled in the next section. It helps the protagonist and the starting cast have personality, though. 

What drags down Witch's Psyche is the prose and writing style. My rating in all other categories would be much higher if not for it. Perhaps I'd have the will to read past chapter 10 too. However, I had to quit there. 
The author repeats words multiple times in the same sentence, let alone a paragraph. Their description of every single move is pretty damn awkward too. 
It was the dialogue that broke the camel's back for me in the end. It's awkward and doesn't feel natural. It's a big issue in a story that's almost completely driven by dialogue.

If the author can work on their style, I believe they might end up with a real gem in their hands.


Mark of the Fool: A Progression Fantasy

Mark of the Fool deserves its position in the top twenty, and at least five times its current following. In a span of ten chapters, the author has built a beautiful Universe, plenty of lore and introduced a loveable cast without info-dumping. That alone is a rare talent on Royal Road.

The prose is written in a rather classical style and flows beautifully. The narrative voice paints a beautiful picture of the protagonist's life and personality without overloading us with heavy introspection. The use of language and vocabulary is excellent too, and I can't find a fault in it.

Honestly, I don't know whether there are any grammatical errors in the prose. Not because I don't get English grammar, I have a decent understanding of it, but because the story entranced me to the point that I wasn't looking out for them. This also suggests there aren't jarring immersion-breaking issues, which is a major plus in my book.

Now, we get to the story. As of now, the plot is rather barebones, and the story feels more character-driven. We have the 'hero and his companions' trope in play and what looks like a future in a magic academy, but there isn't much going on besides that besides survival. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. The narration adds tension, the characters are colourful, and the dialogue is sharp. I'm happy to wait and see how the tail develops.

Finally, we get to where Mark of the Fool shines: the characters. We learn to hate Berrick in the opening and love our protagonist's nature. Then we meet the potential love interest, and she doesn't fit the stereotypes in most stories like this one. We got a stone-cold badass who the protagonist occasional pines over. The best part is, she has a Cerberus for a friend. That's right. She has a THREE-HEADED PUPPER. My username probably gives away my bias on this front. I'd like to see more dialogue from the little sister, though. She comes across as a level-headed young woman, and I'd love more character development there.

Overall: It's okay to be a fool. They're awesome, and you should read this.


This Quest is Bullshit

It's rare for me to come across a story on RR where I regularly check back to see whether there has been an update or not. As always Nixia has put together an exciting story with colourful characters and a flair worth noting.

Style: The story has flawless pacing, and I love the light-hearted tone used in prose. It transitions between light-hearted and serious when needed. 

Grammar: No errors here. I believe the author has a skilled beta reader behind the scenes combing through every chapter. At the same time, I've had a peek at his first drafts a couple of times, and they're bloody clean.

Story: This is the only category where I'd rate the tale poorly. It works for a Light/Web Novel but considering Nixia's level of writing, you find yourself looking for more. There is a lack of conflict and driving plot besides the quest. At the same time, the level up and travel-the-lands aspect has some entertaining bits to it too. I love the controversial speeding ticket. It gave me a good laugh. I don't know why there are some sods on this site bitching about it.

Characters: I love each and every member of the party. They have their individual voices, ambitions, painful histories and unique personalities. Nixia does a fantastic job of building chemistry between each of them, and I like how he puts them through the wringer to display how they're growing as a person. It's not the stat increases that count but the friends you make along the way.


The Courting of Life and Death

I'll preface this review by disclosing that I'm not a fan of gothic settings or heavy romantic themes. However, the author had little trouble winning me over with beautiful writing, haunting imagery and intriguing characters.

Style is the story's strong point.  I'm a big fan of dialogue-driven prose and in my opinion, The Courting of Life and Death has some of the best dialogue on all of Royal Road. It's not just what said, but what remains unsaid as well. VMJ captures the charm and language of court with a finesse I someday hope to master.

The Grammar is bloody excellent. Engrossed in the chapters, I didn't come across any and for that author gets the rare and flawless five-star rating.

Even though the Story is bloody amazing, I felt it suffers from pacing issues at times. This looks like a classic case of the author being in love with their lore and world and wanting to share it with the reader. However, this doesn't detract too much from the story and I managed to look past my usual issues with the genre and become fully immersed. (It did take me a bit longer to dive in, though. If not this review would've come a lot sooner.)

The Characters make the story shine like the seductive night-time star this story is. Each of them has their own voice and personality and gets the reader well truly invested in their plight. 


Reborn on a Systemless Earth... With a System

I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this story.
I'll be honest, a part of me had second thoughts from the get-go. First, the system got me intrigued, then the character grabbed my attention. When the protagonist tried to wage war against the horrid monsters known as cosplayers, I knew we were onto a winner.

The best part of the story has to be the character. He starts off naive and clueless enough to grip the reader's attention. As a result, the story gets full marks in that department. 

As for style and story, personally, it starts a bit slow. However, that's not always a bad thing. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but I think that can be fixed with a strong hook.


Blessed Time

Holy Time Reset, Batman!

I am writing this review after beta reading the author's manuscript. The review might contain criticisms which are no longer relevant by the time CoCo posts the later chapters on RR. 

Time reset stories are hard to execute. Most authors use it as a crutch to excuse their protagonist's rationale and excellence at tasks a newbie wouldn't display. More than often it leads to poor character development. The heart-rending events that will have moulded the protagonist's personality has already happened.

Blessed Time doesn't suffer from such a problem. We get to know the protagonist before he gets his time reset power and the heartbreak of the situations that forces him to use it. Every time he goes back to the beginning, Micah is not only smarter and has higher skill levels but the events that force him to use the reset also helps him grow as a person.

The above paragraphs justify my reasoning for 5 stars in story and character, so I'll skip typing out these sections—I'm on my phone and have neaty fingers.

Style:

The story suffers from some pacing issues. Early in the story the author uses a few time skips but the build up to them could be a lot better. They feel a bit sudden at times which might jar readers.

Grammar:

Its surprising how clean CoCo's first drafts are. I cant fault him too much in this section as he is bound to do some heavy edits before the story is published on here.


Healer

Nothing wrong with a selfish protagonist.

Originally I was going to rate the story a little lower but the number of 'selfish MC BOO!' reviews pissed me off. There is nothing wrong with a selfish protagonist, especially when you have a rough idea of the future. I'm sure almost everyone on this website lives in a capitalism driven nation, selfish is the way of life.

The author establishes his protagonist is a selfish individual within the first two chapters. He gets the much-coveted time reset trope but instead of using it to become all-powerful, he wants to get over the tutorial phase and use it to set up a healing shop/business in a city. That's a great concept and I'd love to read about a dude getting rich using healing magic and using that to conquer the tower instead of fighting his way to the top. We have enough of the latter. 

Author, you're doing a good job of writing a selfish and very real protagonist instead of the boring do-gooder Mary Sues, good job.

The reason I wanted to rate this story lower is because of how a supposedly practical protagonist suddenly turned stupid.

Spoiler: Spoiler

I'd advise the author to go back and retcon the aforementioned issue as it will piss enough readers off to drop the story.


Summoner's Journey

Subverts tropes to provide something great

Minionmancers are one of my favourite archetypes. However, almost everyone either makes them 'OP' from the get-go or uses the Necromancer archetype. I'm glad Antillar doesn't. Instead, he's put together a compelling slow-burning story where the protagonist isn't the isekaied one and the world can't be judged through a screen of black and white. It forces the reader to accept gray possibilities like reality.

Style: Summoner's Journey reads more like a standard novel rather than a web serial. I love the pacing and over-all style. I intend on buying it when the author takes it to Amazon.

Grammar: No errors that I noticed. The story read like a smooth sailboat on the wild seas of life.

Story: The world-building and character development are amazing, but the overarching plot takes some time to rear its head. I'm a big fan of the magic system as well. I'm glad the author steps away from the same swill everyone else utilises.

Character: Probably the best part of the story. Great narration, great character development, intriguing protagonist and side characters are more than just 2d cardboard cutouts. They have the third dimension! Hell yeah! 

Conclusion: Read this please because it gives me hope for the genre.