Ariana Vivoni

Ariana Vivoni

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Reviews
Outlands

This work reminded me strongly of the Chronicles of Amber, which is indeed a very good thing since the world Zelazny builds is one of my favorite. What is more, I really enjoyed the budding romance in this story, even though I am not the most die-hard fan of LGBTQ romance. But there was a certain... fluff that made me chuckle and want to see more.

Now to dive into the strange and thrilling world of Outlands.

The story might be tagged as an isekai but it is in no way generic (no truck-kun here). And this is exactly what I liked. The character that gets transported to the traitorous Outlands does so on his own volition, which is a nice change compared to the rest of the genre. Furthermore, the concept of the Onion-verse is what gave me the Zelazny-feel and I believe that it adds so many possibilities for world-building. The only reason that I gave the story a .5 less than full 5 stars is due to some minor inconsistencies that the author is about to polish in the near future.

I have nothing much to say about grammar. It was nothing but good (I don't dare call it excellent since I'm not a native speaker, but it still gets full marks).

The one thing that made it a bit difficult for me as I was going through the story was the style. If one is a non-native speaker, it might be a little bit hard to follow the narration since at times the sentences tend to get rather long and complex.  There are also some non-common words or expressions popping here and there but I personally liked that part since it helped me learn new things. I believe that the only place where the style is truly a hindrance is the fight scenes - at times, but not always, the long-winded sentences slow down the pace and suck away the tension. But this is something that can be fixed and I trust that the author has the intention to do so.

And finally - the characters. Until chapter 16 we are more or less stuck entirely with Ryou and his mysterious stranger. Despite that, it is never boring. I like the interactions between them so much! Especially the tall, dark mystery-man with a snarky sense of humor is my favorite. Ryou is a bit too much an uptight salary-man as of now, but there are some occasions that show the reader that we might be dealing with a wolf in a sheep's skin here. The dynamic between the two is enjoyable and the budding romance is... gosh, I was reading it with sparkling eyes.

All in all, this work has a lot of potential, and I hope that it continues strong in the future. But don't simply trust me. Go on, read it and see for yourself! 


This Strange New Life

I must say, this story surprised me, and in a very good way. I am usually not the biggest fan of first-person narration or dialogue-heavy works, and this one is exactly that. But man, I enjoyed reading it and continued hungering for more.

Style: As mentioned, it is a first-person limited narration and there is a LOT of dialogue. I usually tend to like a bit more descriptiveness and tagging of the dialogues, but in the context of the story, the minimalistic style was perfect. The characters are described through their dialogues and the author manages to keep them fresh throughout the story without them feeling empty or superficial.

Story: I must say, the world we are exploring through this story is still a mystery to the reader as much as it is to the MC. Yet there are bits and pieces hinting at complex and epic past events that give the story a promising future. The magic system is still a bit unclear in the initial chapters but I like the combination of magic and technology very much. I like how the author is teasing the reader with some flashbacks and difficult terminology that is later given an explanation and helps the reader put the world-puzzle together. And there are so many questions to be answered, so many storylines to be explored, that, if done correctly, it can lead to the creation of a whole multidimensional universe. My only minor complaint, if I ever had any, would be that in her past life the MC was too OP, and even in her second life seems to solve most of her issues with relative ease. No, no, no, we are not talking about a Marry Sue, at least not in my opinion, since there are quite a few indications that the MC is/has been quite flawed and carries some heavy emotional baggage. Just, up to now (chapter 10) everything she decided to do, she managed to achieve.

Grammar: Now, as much as I liked the story, there are some weaknesses in the grammar department. For the most part, everything runs extremely smoothly and that is why when I encountered some tense- and pronoun-switches it bugged me. Still, after polishing it through another read or via a grammar-aid online, the problems should be easily removed.

Characters: I really love the sciency-nerd that is the MC (seeing myself in her, no doubt). And her banter with her A.I. has been very enjoyable. I believe that these two, the MC in particular, are the most rounded characters in the early chapters. I hope that we can get a bit more development from the MC’s cute twin-siblings and parents (I have a soft spot for her mum) later on in the story. But as of chapter 10 I have no major complaints. Maybe my only wish would be for a worthy antagonist, be it even a minor one, that could challenge the MC and her friends/family and flesh them out even more by being a wall they need to overcome.


Remnants of the Dawn: The Complete Trilogy

Before you read this review, I should mention that it was done as part of a two-chapter swap. Therefore, all comments are based on the first two chapters of this work and cannot be taken as indicative of the overall quality or future progression of the story. Still, the chapters are long enough to give a good perspective into the work.

First of all - Style. The narration is in third-person past simple. Since the work is intended to be an epic fantasy, it also carries some epicness in the vocabulary and sentence structure. To be honest, the work might be on the difficult side for non-native speakers, unless they are well versed in archaic English and have a very rich vocabulary. The sentences are long, and due to the epic sentence structure (basically, they give you the feeling of reading an old saga) they are often hard to comprehend on the first read, especially for non-native readers. That being said, the great descriptiveness, as well as the old and worn-out feeling the narration gives, are part of the charm of this work.

Second - the Story. It is a bit difficult to judge from just two chapters. There are some twists, however, they are rather predictable.

The main character obviously dies after being stabbed, slashed, and pierced multiple times. But since this happens in ch.1 this fact has no emotional impact on the reader. We know that he will survive, otherwise, there is no story.

The premise seems a bit generic - the barbarians want to conquer the lands of the Holy Order. Naturally, it is most likely much more complicated than that, but this is what the first two chapters tell you. The work had a prologue that, thank the Muses, is currently being edited by the author. From it, a Tolkien-style worldbuilding of epic proportions was hinted at, so there are hopes for future development.

Third - Grammar. Since I am not a native speaker, and due to the type of language and sentences being used it is possible to have missed something, I will just give it a flat 5. There are no glaring mistakes and Old English is not my forte when it comes to the rules of grammar and punctuation.

Forth - the Characters. I have to say that I am a tad disappointed. All that we get about the main character is that he is tenacious and prideful. Due to the chaotic battle in the first chapter and the relatively quick pace of events, it is hard to get a good picture of his qualities as a leader, his interaction with his men, or any more character traits. As mentioned, the story opens with the end of a long fight and its consequences. Unfortunately, this puts the main character in a rather reactive than active position and makes it hard to flesh out his personality.

My biggest problem, however, would be with the main villain. A story is as good as its antagonist. And although we have been introduced to the bulk of the enemy forces in a rather bloody spectacular manner, the main antagonist's first appearance is rather underwhelming. This is probably due to the chosen setting and the fact that the author is trying to escape the cliche of the evil warlord by humanizing him and showing his weaknesses. However, this, in my opinion, is doing the character a disservice in these initial stages of the work.

All in all, I give this work a 4 on the premise that it has a big vision with a bit of a clunky execution. Still, it has its own specific charm and has the chance to be great in the chapters to come.  

 


Storm Oracle

This is a long overdue review and I need to sincerely apologize to the author.

Now, let’s get down to business. First impression – you take “Neogenesis Evangelion”, mix it with “The Mortal Instruments” and cross it with “Alice in Wonderland” and you get the feeling of “Storm Oracle”. To be honest, I loved the premise! It has great potential and sooooooooooooo many cool points to explore. In addition, the author just electrifies you with the more… steamy scenes (wipes away nosebleed). The overall verdict – a good idea with the potential for greatness.

After praising it this much, you might wonder why have I given the work only 4 stars. I had 2 major beefs with it. I contacted the author a month ago with my concerns and was pleasantly surprized to see eagerness to improve the work. In the extended beef-section you can read my full complains stated at that time and compare them with the work’s current status.

  • It was at times very confusing. The author has since tried to amend this by providing a Prologue. In that regard, I believe that it is a MUST read to understand the nuances of the story. Bellow I have listed all my complains that I’ve shared with the author before this review, for those of you who want to dig deeper into the reason WHY I’m a bit dissatisfied.
 It is nice to have a mystery in the story that is revealed slowly. But this story has way too much of it to the point you don’t quite get what is going on. We get specific terminology thrown at us as readers without much of an explanation – warp, storm hounds, godstorms, void angels, incaranrium, wonderland. It gets problematic, at least for me. Ten chapters into the story and I still have no idea what the heck a godstorm is, or a storm hound; why are they so dangerous and how can one fight against them. You mention that people with warps can combat storm hounds, but then the whole thing about them being shunned by society seems illogical. If they have special abilities and can fight the monsters they should be revered almost like heroes. Feared – yes. But not so obviously shunned and forced into poverty. The hatred should be a bit more fleshed out and made clear so that we can relate to Piper’s situation.

 

As mentioned before, another problem for me are the godstorms. With so little explanation it takes away some of the urgency of the whole problem. And since they are somehow created by Samael, it diminishes the feel of dread that he is supposed to embody. Yes, he killed some fine people some years ago. And yes, he makes cloud-like monsters that can shoot lightning and leave some magic RPG-like drops when killed. But so what? Is the world going to end? If yes, why is that so?

 

Then we have the incarnarium part. If an incarnarium is a place connected to Wonderland where angels come to be and get incarnated, and Alice is the one controlling Wonderland, how are there more than one? And what exactly is the connection between the incarnated angels and Alice that they get scrapped the moment she throws a tantrum? Yes, Alice is a universal anchor, but still. The system seems highly inefficient in combat if every time Alice is unhappy their fighting power gets incapacitated. And if angels with other anchors like Anahel are more immune to the tantrums, how is it that only she reacts? Are all other bonded angels away? Because there is no other reason why no one besides Malachai storms out to intercept Samael. What about Dantalion? He is also one of the special exceptions, is he not? And again, why do we need the super ineffective super-weapon Ashmedai when one look from Malachai is enough to make the big bad guy stop in his tracks? I know that Malachai is very, very, very special, but at this point it seems illogical to me.

 

I believe that we as readers need a bit more firmness and cleared terminology about the world, its dangers and limitations. Piper, as the main character and a person new to this world, is the ideal guide that can provide this crucial information by actively interacting with the rest of the cast. But here we come to the second large problem

 

  • Some protagonists were acting illogically or were outright waste of paper and cool concept (I’m looking at you, Sajan!). Indeed, one might say that I’m too nit-picky by attacking the side characters, but our dear Piper had me furrow my brow a couple of times too many. For the ones that like to read the long rant version, klick below.
Piper and some other characters behave extremely illogically. I understand that Piper is confused and frightened, but still… I mean, she has either the emotional range of a robot or gets overly emotional over nothing. Let me explain. In the beginning, she repeatedly states how little she trusts Malachai and everyone around her in general. But then she jumps on an unidentified plain with him. Alright, we can say that she is impulsive and a bit of an adventurer. But then she shows almost no reaction to the fact that she is surrounded by angels – the beings she supposedly hates. Good, we can say that Piper is tough and composed, understanding that there are good and bad angels... Unfortunately, the moment she is up to meet Alice, she starts suddenly to act uncertain like a frightened child (a condition she actually should have entered the moment it was clea that there are angels all around her that want to use her for some shady things!) nand then a single word from the Red Queen is regarded as super motivational praise (so easy to change the mood). Then Piper contemplates how bad and secretive everyone is and how surprisingly little she knows about everything! But did she bother to dig deeper and learn more about the Arc? The moment Sajan or Malachai say “we will discuss it another time” she simply agrees without protesting. This is stupid and a clear lack of self-preservation instinct! The fact that she contemplates in chapter 9 how many “wrong” decisions she has made up till bow does not improve the situation. The only decision she made was actually jumping on that plane. From then on, she has been going with the flow without even attempting to gather information and never even questioning what the heck is going on. Some angels want me to enter a fight with some other angels after one of their people lied to me and virtually kidnapped me? Alright, where do I sign in?! After all, we are all the best of buddies, despite the child in the cryo-pod in the basement that has been weaponized for some unknown reasons. (Sorry for the sarcasm, but I just couldn't help it here.) 

 

And then we have Sajan – the director of the Arc and a human making him the perfect one to explain everything to Piper. From the text I gather that he is most likely Anahel’s anchor (but this is not very clear). If that is the case, who can be better than him in explaining stuff about anchors, warps, angels, pulling swords out of living people, little comatose children that can create super-weapons by dreaming? But what does he do? He says Malachai should explain stuff, despite knowing how loose-lipped our dear playboy is. Why do we even need Sajan then? Is he just for decoration? And the whole super secret about Alice… who in their right mind wont carefully explain to the new girl what is expected of her and just throw her in in a sci-fi setting and expect everything to go well? I have a feeling that the whole staff of the Arc are some sort of sick pranksters that keep stuff secret only for the thrill of seeing Piper’s “first time ever reaction to human experimentation ad alternate reality”.

 

To emphasize again, the work is entertaining. And the author has shown willingness to improve. Still, adding the so much needed prologue does not make up for the fact that it would have been better for this information to be integrated in the main text. I understand that it is a lot of work. Yet, I also had to judge the overall quality of “Storm Oracle”. Therefore, I stay behind my 4 stars.

My suggestion to you, potential readers – go through the story and judge its merits from your own experience.

I wish the author the best of luck.


Requiem

The Japanese cousin of RWBY

As a modest fan of anime and manga and a big admirer of Japanese mythology, I must say that I was intrigued by the premise of the story. Though, it reminded me even more of RWBY than any other anime/JRPG out there (and that made me even more hooked).

Like any story still in the making, this one too had the usual triumvirate of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. I will explain in a second what I mean.

The Good: The richness of the world. I loved the different yokai and the author’s rich imagination while describing the setting. The characters were also colourful and have potential to grow.

The Bad: Not so much bad as a bit disappointing was the pacing of the fight (based on the first 5 chapters). In general, the work does good job with the overall pacing of the story with arcs of action and peaceful narration. But then, in the middle of the first BIG fight, we are snatched out of the action to listen to Ryn’s thoughts on how tough the entrance-exam of their mercenary group is. Totally unnecessary. If it was needed to explain this, just make the prologue in two parts – one from Yuno’s perspective and one from Ryn’s. Like this we could dive into the story with clear knowledge of Yuno’s “problem” and Ryn’s slight mistrust in him which would have made the following fight even more impactful.

Still, this is a minor thing and I could live with it. But here comes the final point.

The Ugly: The descriptions of the fight scenes. They feel unengaging and lack suspense. It feels as if someone is trying to describe me a fight scene from an anime. To put it bluntly, it is too descriptive to the point it gets boring. And this is a problem, since fight scenes are the bread and butter of this work. I believe the problem stems from the desire of the author to show us every single detail of the setting, combined with sentences that are waaaaaaaaaaaay too long. In a fight I don’t care whether the ‘white-haired Revenant’ thrusts his sword in the ‘chest cavity of the skeletal monster’ (not exact quotations here). What I want to see are short sentences. Powerful verbs. Ellipses. Bones breaking. Blades piercing. I want to know that Yuno is not simply a robot I’m watching perform some mundane tasks.

To conclude, this is a good read for the fans of the genre that enjoy complex lore and nice gory monsters (I hope the author can draw some of them for us!). With some polishing the story can and will shine even brighter.


The Calamity of a Reborn Witch

I really wish I had this book as a hard-cover edition to put in my library. Usually, I like to make separate comments on story, characters etc. but this time I think that there is nothing much to say. This work left me speechless. I believe this is the most beautiful implementation of the English language I have read on Royal Road until now. The prose is not flowery and over the top. Every word has its place, meaning, and function. A handful of carefully chosen words evokes feelings and images better than lengthy descriptions. There is a small chase scene at the beginning of the story that I loved. The pacing was perfect and one could feel the tension. I could breathe with the character, run with her feet, and my heart was beating together with hers. The whole work just pulls you in and does not let you go for chapters and chapters.

But this work has not only an interesting main lead but also a nice assortment of villains that one just loves to hate. It is true that this is not the first work that includes tense family relationships but the author manages to take these archetypes and give them a life of their own. Honestly, there was a moment where I wanted to rain the wrath of God over one particular family member.

Another thing I like is the new take on the transmigration/re-birth story, hence the title of this review. And although at moments I had a bit difficulty of understanding whether we see a memory or a premonition-memory that has been averted and turned into an alternate history, I really liked the concept as a whole. This might sound a bit confusing to you, dear future readers, but it is mainly due to my lack of ability to explain the situation better without spoiling everything. All I can say is – just go, read, and see for yourself.

At the point in the novel I’ve currently reached (Chapter 9), I can’t predict any future developments. But I can very confidently say this. The story made me want to continue reading and exploring the world together with the main character. It was a beautiful start and I intend to keep going. So, to any potential readers – give this work a try and you, like me, will be kidnapped in the world of Lafeara where schemes and political strives collide with magic and mystery.


The Merchant Prince Book 1: Returning Home

“The Merchant Prince” is a budding story with potential, that is for sure. Following the journey and struggle of Augustus as he prepares to navigate the political intrigues of his world was a delight I have rarely experienced these days. Since it is relatively early in the book, we still don’t see many hard-core fantasy tropes like magic. Instead, we are given solid and immersive world-building and a plethora of characters that promise to develop in intriguing ways. I loved the setting and deep thought the author has put in their story, detailing religion, commerce, customs and so much more. This pulls the reader in with both its similarity to our own world and the masterfully interwoven unique alternate reality/fantasy elements. Strongly influenced by Renaissance Italy and the journeys of Columbus, the story has built a stable foundation for its further development.

The work’s style is very descriptive with emphasis on details. The pace is slow but the author notes himself that it is intentional. Besides, there are solid hints that major turbulent events are waiting just around the corner. Although there are some repetitions and odd word choices (take this opinion with caution, since I’m not a native speaker), there are no major flaws that disrupt the reading process.

The characters have potential and are multi-layered, possessing a delightful number of flaws. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that they are poorly written, on the contrary. They are not the flat one-dimensional hero, villain, good boy, girly love interest types of protagonists. No, they can be nice and righteous and then in the next moment act like jerks making me agree with them, support them, and criticize them. I loved the experience. It has been some time since any characters made me feel this way. They were like real people, or at least how I imagine real people in Renaissance Italy would act in these circumstances.

As a conclusion, if you want to immerse yourself in an intellectual, well-built fantasy where brains and schemes are even more important than brute strength, I highly recommend “The Merchant Prince”. For me personally it was a true delight reading thus far and I’m eagerly awaiting the next chapters.


The Dweeb Prince and the Eight Cursed Princesses

This story is a lighthearted, enjoyable read, and a way to leisurely pass your time. I am a big fan of “Once upon a time”, “Grimm”, “RWBY” and “Shrek” and really like seeing the good old fairy tails being re-told in a modern/alternative setting. This is one of the things that made me enjoy this work. Do not expect, at least as of yet, monsters and creepy villains. Instead, if you like a bit of hearth-warming fluff and some nice main protagonist with a lot of promise, this is the read for you.

Style:

I must be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of first-person narration. That being said, it fits the genre of this work perfectly and it is very well used, to the point where I did not even notice it. The fact that the author changes the narrating perspective helps the reader gain a better understanding of the motivation and characters of the different protagonists. Now, you might ask why the 4 stars if I liked it. To be honest, I had a huge feud with the first arc, especially with the bold decision of the author to add extra chapters. I won’t tell you to skip the extras since the author has put a lot of time and effort into them. However, be prepared for a bit of a narrative plunge that luckily recovers very fast in the regular chapters. The second arc really shines and hooked me up to the story yet again.

Grammar:

Nothing glaring. A few strange word-uses and sentence constructs that do not disrupt the reading experience. The author is not a native speaker, yet shows remarkable eagerness to improve, which can only mean that this work will only get better with time.

Characters:

I really like the main character, which is actually quite rare for me (I am always a bigger fan of side characters somehow… go figure). His reactions at times, his sarcasm, and a bit awkward sense of humor were very enjoyable. I hope that the story does not turn it to the conventional, one-dimensional, drooling-girls harem we know from the anime and manga series since the princesses have some typical anime traits. Still, the author manages to give them unique characters and deeper motivations, so let’s hope that the good trend continues. I like the problems that the author discusses, disguising them as character traits and conflicts – free will, irrational (or maybe not) phobias, school bullying.

To summarize, get yourself a cup of hot chocolate, find a fluffy blanket, and start reading the tales of Prince Dweeb and his princesses.


Transmigrated into a Noble's beaten son

As the title says, this work was an enjoyable read. I am a sucker for underdog-protagonists, so the main character was immediately to my liking. What is more, the whole story reminded me of one of my favorite web-novels – “Trash of the count’s family” (TCF, 백작가의 망나니가 되었다). What gives it even more light novel-like feeling is the nice art accompanying the chapters, which gives the reader the chance to dive even deeper into the story and connect with the characters.

The grammar has no major problems and I have no intention of analyzing punctuation since I am personally currently waging war with the commas. The writing style is good but needs some polishing. Still, there is nothing that would be a major disruption of the reading experience.

Overall, the premise of the story still seems a bit generic, but it has a whole book to grow. Even at this early step, we have interesting worldbuilding, a hint of meaningful past and future conflicts, and a very warm and relatable cast. I liked how the authors described the magic system of this world and how they gave the protagonist the brains to be able to attain magic on his own (hurrah for an MC with brains, instead of only browns, and without an all-powerful cheat ability!). I was a bit baffled at the mixing of eastern and western elements (one of the protagonists wears a kimono in what seems a western-style environment), but on second thought, if used well by the authors, it can provide an additional flare to the world-building. Maybe the said character brought the exotic style from one of his journeys? Only the future will tell. And since we are on the topic of characters, it is a bit early to judge them. I would have liked a bit more/harsher interactions between the MC and his family to flesh out their personalities. Nevertheless, I find the character of the MC’s mother very intriguing and would like to know more. There is some hidden mystery there that will, no doubt, have a great influence on our protagonist.

To conclude, if you are looking for a nice read, the little brother of TCF is the thing for you.

 


The Courting of Life and Death

An amazing, breathtaking story trough a magical world! Every line reviles a mystery. Every chapter brings you deeper and deeper into the realm of Clandestina, to the point you don’t want to let go. Masterfully combining magic and medicine, it is a true delight to follow the main protagonist in his highly illegal and equally deathly courting of Lady Mora. If you like a world with full-blooded characters, complex lore and high-stakes gambles (I mean, how much higher can you get than offering your life to the Mistress of Death!), this is THE read for you. And don’t make me start about the cute love story! Still, to be honest, I was sometimes tempted to root for the cold and supernatural lady Mora than our sweet female lead. But, somehow, I get the feeling that the dolce and cute Lizzie is more than meets the eye.

I addition to the organic merging of Western-European folklore with a Versailles-like setting, the author manages to immerse the reader in the narrative through her impeccable style and grammar. This is definitely a promising work, worth investing your time and adoration.

My only, let’s call it “wish” since it isn’t really a critique, would be for the author to add a bit of a French and Clandestina dictionary bellow the corresponding chapters to clarify the “special” words used in that particular chapter. My knowledge on the subject was enough to understand the meaning of the phrases, nevertheless, it would be a lot easier for the readers that are not well versed in French and don’t wish to go back to the “Lore” page to decipher which day of the week we have (I personally suck with remembering the new names for months, days and such).

But enough ranting. With all that being said, just go and start reading immediately! The journey will be worth it.