Although this is a 4 star review, I do plan to point out a few things I didn't particularly enjoy or thought could've been done better. Anyways, let's get on with it. As most RRL reviews, I won't hesitate to be subjective (Yes, that was a slight bash against some RRL reviews).
The style - I have a few problems here such as the lack of details given about the surroundings. Perhaps I may have accidentally missed them but I was often left without any solid foundation on which to base my imagination. Of course, the general feel of the story guided my image of the places somewhat but I would’ve preferred some more details.
Something that’s quite good, something that I have trouble with, was how the author always adds in a little something to the dialogue. Instead of talking heads,
“Hi” he said
“Hi” she said
The author never failed to add in a little more spice into those conversations.
Oh, and another thing about the conversations, they always felt like they had life in them. The cheeky characters, have cheeky dialogue. The annoying characters, say annoying things. Most of the text is talking so it’s a good thing it’s done well.
But, here come a few gripes from me again. I personally felt like many of the chapters were a tad too long. It was difficult to maintain focus on the chapter as I wondered about how long I had been scrolling. The chapters are basically all over 5k words from at least chapter 1 to 16, which is as far as I read. I will admit that I skimmed just a paragraph or two every once in awhile which could be the reason why I might not have gotten the details of the cities and stuff… A plus side to this, is of course that not a single chapter felt like it was deprived of content. Though, that doesn’t mean that things couldn’t have been cut out. Condensing earlier chapters could have helped the momentum of the story. My eyes and brain didn’t fail to notice how masculine the main male character was as I was reminded again and again throughout the female MC’s various thoughts about him… It’s not a big problem as it goes away later so nothing that bad. It was just a little repetitive, though I assume the problem wouldn’t have been so big if I read the fiction weekly rather than binging it.
Story - The world of Of Astral and Umbral, is great, it’s huge! The world isn’t explained all at once and neither are the traditions and workings of any single place, so I was left a little bit confused but I enjoyed it because it felt like an actual world. In usual fantasy settings, there’s usually a taboo here and there or something like that but in Of Astral and Umbral, it extends into traditions, culture, laws, etc. It really feels like the characters are living in an already established world. This, I give a thumbs up. But, of course, with a world this large, the early chapters were a bit hard to digest with the multiple levels of gods, monsters, talking dragons, types of mages, etc. The only problem I really have with this aspect is that we, the audience, have no real gauge of strength between characters. Is a demigod able to compete with a lower god? How strong is a Dux class beast really considering the amount of times we see them defeated without a problem? I can understand that they’re strong because other characters comment on it but I have yet to actually see its strength.
The main conflict isn’t entirely clear, as of chapter 16 ofc, but it often results in the two main characters constantly testing the waters. It’s a bit frustrating with the slow pace as they refuse to communicate but isn’t too bad since it makes sense with some of the established rules and the personalities of the characters. The actions of some of the gods being kept secret also leave a few interesting points to explore.
Grammar - The easiest part. It’s perfectly fine. Nicely done. Pat on the back.
Characters - Oh my favorite part!
Let’s start with the character we spend the most time with.
Arianna. She’s an interesting female protagonist. She’s strong, hotheaded, self confident, seclusive, but is overall a seemingly decent person, despite her constant threats to kill people. She’s family focused and would do anything to protect her brother despite how much he annoys her, and sometimes the audience. Her past is revealed early on, but a huge mystery surrounds her. Her personality is very different from what I’m used to seeing on RRL as she takes on the brooder role that often the males have but is also snarky and doesn’t back down from anything. Arianna also is lot more open to flirting. Considering it’s natural for people to enjoy flirting and such, I found it a bit jarring when reading about her interactions with the male protagonist. Her usual cool personality tends to feel a bit overshadowed by her constant blushing and admiration of the male protagonist’s features. I won’t deny that there are many valid reasons for her to be like that, one being that the male protagonist is a Incubus, but I still found it to be hurting her character more than it helped.
Darius. He’s the brother of Arianna and totally annoying but hilarious in a way. I never found myself wishing he’d stop acting as he did since I found it funny, since his attitude felt very much true to that of a sibling and that gives him a little boost. He’s extremely childish but those traits give me lots of hope for him in the future. His potential to grow is ridiculous.
Nalithor. The male protagonist who is an Incubus and a god. I very much prefer to see the story through the eyes of Nalithor, not because Arianna is uninteresting but because whenever he interacts with Arianna, he’s always flirting. I’m not to the part where I can say that there is only one true main character, so I still hold onto the belief that both of their perspectives are equal, just that one is used more than the other.
I think that when the characters get past the flirting bits are when they are at their best. I was enjoying the writing of the story and that’s what kept me going until chapter 16. Although my focus in stories is usually the characters and they’re what keep me reading, I never really felt a connection until the revelations of chapter 16. After reading that chapter, something just clicked. The chapter had a strong feeling and kept that atmosphere throughout the chapter. When I finished, I just thought, “Wow. Now that’s a payoff.” Looking back on it, I feel like that’s when the story really started to hit its stride. I read a bit of the next chapter, and all the characters just felt different to me. The things revealed in chapter 16 just lent a whole load of depth to the characters and I was shaking a bit after reading it.
I guess I just really admire it when an author is able to bring a character to life.
Overall, although I found it hard to get through some parts of the story as the beginning was a bit slow and it relies heavily on conversations to pull the story through, it’s truly unlike anything I’ve read on RRL. Chapter 10 is when the fiction starts to feel a bit different and chapter 16 just brings it home.
If you’re looking for a romance where both parties are equal in the relationship and it doesn’t feel like one is the “alpha” or a large world with tons of things happening or great banter, writing, flow, secrets, characters that are interesting, I’d recommend this.
I honestly didn’t know if I liked it that much in the middle of 1-16 but, as I have said before, I enjoyed it in the end (chapter 16).
OMG AUTHOR! WHERE ARE THE STATS? How am I supposed to gauge how strong they are or how many shots the ships can take? Ahem. As I’m told by a certain someone, cough cough, VR done right doesn’t need stats… shots fired. I’m joking, not trying to yank anyone’s chain here. I also needed somewhere to start and I think that ^ will be good enough for now.
Style – D-Do I really have to write about this part? A-As you can see from the rating I g-gave… I-I think it’s good…. Honestly though, the style is very consistent and, like another reviewer has said, is good for building up events. It’s certainly info-dumpy at times but is never quite unbearable. The descriptions of places aren’t what I would call vivid but they’re enough. A story like this is supposed to be carried by characters and maybe the world…. There’s an issue I have with this but it’ll be addressed lower down in the review.
Story – Eh, what can I say? It’s just as another reviewer has already said, almost everything goes right for the characters. I can’t argue about what will happen to them in the future (anything past chapter 19) but I can say that so far, there hasn’t been any scenes that have had me on the edge of my seat. Everything they do makes sense, it’s a game they play for funsies so of course these events would take place. No real plot holes so far to tie down the story but that’s because much of the plot, other than the main cast wanting to create their own dominion, has been revealed. There also aren’t many conflicts as most problems end up being solved within the next chapter but the author states he/she has been planting seeds in each chapter. Still, the story is still in its infancy so this score isn’t exactly accurate.
Grammar – Almost perfect, so close to perfect that I don’t care about taking off half a star. The mistakes are minimal and have no affect on the overall story or flow.
Characters – Huh? What’s that? There’s a big space between this one and the rest of the categories? Yeah, don’t worry. I’ve noticed. The reason why this is apart from the other is because this is the story’s main carrier, other than the setting, and it has the biggest problems. As far as I have gotten, all the chapters released currently meaning 19, I can hardly remember the characters. I know of Aero/Mark, Ivan (If I don’t have a slash that means I either forgot their in-game name or I’m not exactly sure who they were), Nova, Regina, Sid, and Lily.
Now, you might be wondering, ‘Isn’t that your fault?’ Well, yes, under normal circumstances that is. The problem here is that too many characters are introduced all at once. That doesn’t mean that all of them have to be developed as I understand that in MMOs, many players are needed for these player groups but one problem is the feeling that none of them are actually important. There’s this one girl, forgot the name, April, maybe, that joins the Temple Wraiths, their group. She seems like an important piece at first, something akin to secondary protagonist, but has no real essence or role so far. Her personality, at least to me, is unknown. She seems to be nothing more than the newbie who’s there to show how skillful the main group is.
Aero/Mark, who I assume is the main character, isn’t really delved into either. None of the characters are. The only thing I know about him is that he’s a uni student who is into the VR game. He has a uni life but it isn’t focused on much. Mark and the others seem to have personalities yet, I can’t qui?et understand them nor can I feel their connections. This, in a way, may sound very crass but maybe the author relies too heavily on the characters already having an established relationship or the author remembers their old teammates from other MMO games too fondly to feel the need to describe them to us, the readers. If the author used their friends from MMOs as examples, then the connection may not be very strong. The author may accidentally skip the parts where they interact and those friendships form. The group already starts out knowing enough about each other, and that’s not an issue in real life but in a story, it’s a big issue. Readers need to see more of it, more of the growing relationships.
As the author has stated in one of the chapters author’s notes, slice of life may be as important as VR. Slice of Life isn’t a genre tagged but if the author were to add it in, connections between characters is key. The author has shown the results actions in the game has had on the real world but not enough quite yet.
I myself have never actually played an MMO for longer than 2 hours so I can’t relate. As this is a story, the characters’ relationships should be more explicitly shown as the readers won’t be able to experience that strange connection that random people just have with each other.
I know I’ve probably restated something in those last few paragraphs but I’m too lazy to delete’em.
Here’s some advice I could give the author. To flesh out your characters, show some of their quirks or the like. More interactions, more body language. As said before, the cast may be loosely based off of real people from video games the author has met but they should only work as an outline. Conflicts, conflicts, conflicts. Everyone in life has some sort of conflict and these guys should too. A good excuse, a really good one, is that the story is told in a limited third person view from Mark, I assume. This give?s the author time to add personality to the characters as Mark slowly learns more and more about them. Mark doesn’t know everything, and he shouldn’t know everything. This is a wonderful opportunity for the author to show how Mark sees them and in turn, also tells the readers about Mark as a person.
I couldn’t exactly find the words I wanted to say up there ^ but I hope those were able to be of some use. Mark is like a leader to them, have him become someone they choose to talk to about their real life problems.
Kay~ Another thing. I sometimes am not sure if the narrator is supposed to be third person limited or omniscient. Advice I can give here is to try and make comments without saying “I hate you” he thought. Try going something like, he hated him. He hated the way that pesky little rat acted each day. It’s telling and a very ba?d example but when someone says, he thought, that’s also telling. Add in some bias to descriptions and such. If Mark hates school then it the narrator should mention something about Mark hating it or how dreary it all looks.
Overall – Sci-Fi isn’t my genre, I’ll say that, but, over time, it sorta grew on me. The start was hard to get through, however, after that the battles became interesting, though I could do with less of them, and the wording/word usage was wonderful, unlike this review. Ah, something that I want to mention, you use the word said a lot. So much so actually, that it disrupted the flow a bit. I’m not saying that you need to fix this but it’s just another minor nitpick.
This is the real Overall.
Overall – I’d give the story a chance, especially if you’re into VR space fictions. The characte?rs need work but aren’t unlikable, the story isn’t quite clear but is getting there, the style is easy to follow, and grammar is great. As a young fiction, It’s very much worth a read.
YEAH! You read that title right! I finished/caught up with, one of the stories on my bucket list. YAY! Alright.
As of chapter 19 I am writing this, probably horrible, review.
Seeing as I have no true talent for or experience of writing reviews, Edge here shall be my first test subject.
As a bad tale spinner, I particularly have a bad style (so take SOME of this with a grain of salt). However, I enjoyed Edge's a lot. The paragraphs are long and descriptive but no so much that it hurts the eyes or makes one want to stop reading. The descriptions are nice, able to give enough for the reader to understand and leaving out just enough for the imagination to fill.
He stays consistent on the tense and the point of view switches are few and easy to follow. The way he frames his words also make it enjoyable to read.
It's an interesting premise of a young boy being forced to battle a disease to which there is no cure for. It presents a good conflict, understandable, and not exaggerated. The fantasy aspect of the story so far is tame and a little dull but with time, I believe he can make a true world.
The story so far isn't quite clear, but it keeps the reader interested with mystery. The MC has no goal for the early chapters but obtains one later when he is "reincarnated."
Honestly, I've never been quite good at this part of the review in particular....
Decent. What else is there to say? Sometimes there's the occasional misuse of there, their, and they're, but it's a minuscule problem, one easily ignored. The words used are spaced out and varied, unlike mine, making it a smooth read.
I have to say that this is the biggest problem I have with the story. There are no problems with his characters, they're fine and all are likable. However, the problem lies with how many of them are developed and how much time the audience gets to spend with them.
Since the story is mainly written in first person, everything that is seen is through the eyes of Braxton, our main character.
Braxton is what one could call, a fun loving young man. He's bright, cheery, always wearing a smile, and loves to make out of the world remarks. But, that's just a mask to hide what he really feels. Under the pressure of a deadly disease that takes away the functions of the human body, it places great strain on all of his relationships.
His mother loves him but can hardly afford to take care of him herself.
His friend, whose name I forgot, is a true friend. He enjoys Braxton's company, despite his disabilities, and sticks with him throughout his middle to high school years.
Kinslee is a girl who enjoys sports and puts up with Braxton's outrageous comments. She's kind, caring, supportive, faithful, and easygoing. Almost like the perfect woman. The problem is we, the audience, never really get to see much of her or any of the other characters for that matter. Kinslee's relationship with Braxton is time skipped, passing right over any of the tension between them, the sweet moments they shared, the actual development of their relationship together.
That is the main problem I have so far with this fiction. The characters haven't had enough time. I would usually give this a pass, since I understand authors wanting a slower paced story for proper build up and I also understand that he doesn't have many chapters out yet, however, the fact remains that Braxton is no longer in his old world with all those characters.
Now, this by itself isn't a problem. The author obviously wanted to show us that Braxton was a human, a person, before he left his old world and that he had people who cared for him. It works, it's not the most effective but it's able to pull a little bit of the heartstrings (No I did not cry and no I did not just lie there).
The dramatic and emotional moments fall a little short due to the lack of knowledge, attachment, and time the readers have with the characters. It's easy to understand the pain one would feel from losing a loved one yet, it's harder to invoke emotion when there is no attachment. It's easy to grab sympathy but harder to TRULY empathize.
That won't stop me from scoring the characters a 4 out of five, as I enjoyed what little interactions they had with each other (even if some felt a little awkward) and the possibility for future developments with the new world Braxton is in.
There might've been more I wanted to say about the characters but I've already spent enough time on them.
Overall, I give this my seal of approval. The author has shown himself competent and is looking to improve. That by itself is a sign of a bright future for any story.
ON TO TIDAL LOCK!