Pillar of Enera is a fantastic read. A world with deep, rich lore that quite literally operates off of the Rule of Cool. Floating continents. Atmospheric rivers. Areas of altered gravity. Megasharks. Martial arts that boost magic. Getting so many Twitch subscribers that God buys a Tier-3 sub and gives you immortality (figuratively).
It's a setting overseen by the HEAVENLY DAO, through which all things are possible, provided it's badass enough. Into this amazing world, which teeters on the brink of another extremely ungroovy Dark Age, enter eight scrappy young heroes, on a quest to discover themselves and their destiny.
Story: 5/5 - A world that kicks ass and chews bubble gum, then files the appropriate ass-kicking forms afterwards.
Characters: 5/5 - Like Brady Bunch, but if they were also shonen protagonists. Wide variance of personality, motivation, and goals.
Grammar: 5/5 - Well Gramm'd
Style: 5/5 - Nice pacing, well-composed prose, and a surprisingly efficient and well-paced dripfeed of L O R E.
5/5 - A world that kicks ass and chews bubble gum, then files the appropriate ass-kicking forms afterwards.
The worldbuilding has to be this story's strongest suit. As a setting, it is fascinating, combining basically every fantasy element you could hope for, and more. We start off at the subterranean Antarctic base of an anciet evil, guarded over by a legendary hero who is a single mother of eight likewise-superpowered kids. That's about chapter 2. It just gets higher from there.
A lot of the more delightfully insane parts of the story are caused directly by THE HEAVENLY DAO, an omnipotent Egregore whose primary motivation is maintaining and perpetuating narratives and 'interesting things'. In short, a lot of things in the setting are the way they are "because God thought it'd be cool."
This can often be a cop-out, but there's nothing wrong with the idea of Gods doing things because they think it'd be cool. The real issue is in the impact such actions have, and what comes after. Too many stories will have things like a magical System 'because the Gods said so', and we never hear of these Gods again (until it's time to kill them with our bare hands), nor does such a world-changing revelation have any real impact.
Pillar of Enera is not one of those stories. The existence of the HEAVENLY DAO is worldshattering, in a very literal sense. Entire areas of the world are rendered unliveable. Nations are overwhelmed as somebody can simply become super popular and good at something in particular, and be awarded literal immortality. Sharks grew larger, and people thought that was pretty cool, so the DAO made sharks obsecenely large. These seemingly random decisions have consequences, and the story doesn't shirk from them.
When strange things happen, the author thinks logically about how that would impact the world, and how technology and culture would develop around these things. What does trade look like when there are no oceans, and are instead literal rivers of water in the sky? What happens when somebody discovers a way to bring back the dead? Are Ninjas super fucking cool?
The author isn't afraid to explore and answer all of these questions.
The plot itself has been a very slow burn, roughly 20,000 wordsI've read so far, and most of it has been scene-setting, and an introduction to our main characters. All 10 of them.
5/5 - Like Brady Bunch, but if they were also shonen protagonists. Wide variance of personality, motivation, and goals.
Yes, 10 main characters. I can't say for certain whether Simon, (a meat popsicle) and Astra (A legendary hero) will continue to be focal characters, but we definitely have at least all eight of the super-babies as viewpoint characters.
You'd expect that it's a lot to take in, and you're correct! It is hard to keep track early on. However, the author manages to juggle eight different perspectives fairly well, and surprisingly keeps their tones reasonably distinct.
They all have their own personalities, quirks, motivations, hangups, and goals. Some are more likable than others, and some are more interesting than others, but no single one fumbles it entirely. They're interesting, and fun to read about.
5/5 - Well Gramm'd
As usual, I have little-to-nothing to say here. There are very few grammatical errors or typos, and the author is quick to fix them. There are a few minor quibbles, but they're both consistent throughout the story, and subtle enough that most people probably won't notice.
5/5 - Nice pacing, well-composed prose, and a surprisingly efficient and well-paced dripfeed of L O R E.
I have no major complaints about the prose. It can be a bit stiff at times, but it's better than most of what I've seen on this site. It flows well, reads easily, and is usually clear, although the dialogue pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Action scenes are described with a cromulent level of detail: enough to get the action across well, but not so much as to bog down the pace.
The main place the story excels is in its distillation of the lore. There is a LOT of backstory to go through, but it knows exactly how to distill things, concept-by-concept, to give us the important framework we need to understand things.
One thing I very much appreciate (although one I feel others may not) is that it respects the intelligence of the reader. It feels confident in leaving some things unsaid, to let the reader come to the conculsion on their own.
All in all, it is written succinctly, and the lore dumps never feel much like a dump. It probably helps as well that the lore is so interesting.
All in all, Pillar of Enera is a fantastic story, and one which I'm looking forward to reading much more of. It's definitely worth checking out!
Ceres's Chaos is a grim, but scrappy sci-fi story about a scrapyard mechanic, trying to survive in an uncaring world. Boasting a rich, detailed universe, it doesn't get bogged down in misery like many other 'dark sci-fi' stories, but follows the daily life of Ceres, a military orphan with a penchant for repairs.
He goes through his daily life in the slums of a backwater planet, doing his best to get by and trying to find a way off the planet. Based on the prologue and the description, there's also a potent second-act-twist in the works, although we've yet to see it come into play.
Story: 4.5/5 - An expansive universe with character-driven plot, but a few sticking points.
Style: 4.5/5 - Good flow, solid prose, with only a few small issues
Grammar: 4/5 - Decently Gramm'd, with occassional tense/grammar issues.
Character: 4.5/5 - Decent characterization, although the MC is a bit too much of a scoundrel
4.5/5 - An expansive universe with character-driven plot, but a few sticking points.
The universe of Ceres's Chaos is exceptionally in-depth. It's not a matter of simpily having the overall politick of the setting thought out, nor its it a matter of having a rich history that barely matters to the story.
Every part of the setting has detail put into it, from the vidcons that Ceres plays, to the socioeconomic factors that give rise to sponsored riots as a pro-sport / method of legal arbitration, to the logistics of neural interfaces (or as they're called in-setting, nerval jacks).
It makes the universe feel alive, but it's not without its drawbacks. There are a few aspects of the story, a few technologies or details that could do with a bit more research, which took me out of it a bit, but unless you're exceptionally well-read or it happens to cover one of your subjects of expertise, it probably won't bother most people.
The plot itself is interesting. We have an immediate actiony prologue, which introduces us to a mysterious entity or substance, before immediately plunging into the daily life of Ceres himself, who is trying to eke out a living in the slums of a podunk planet, looking for a way out.
The story, in contrast to the breakneck pacing of the prologue, is very casual, going through Ceres' daily routine, focusing more on character drama as he deals with the people around him, and tries to figure out his own ambitions. It's clearly setting up for a big twist/change of pace, but it seems like it is taking its time to get to that point.
4.5/5 - Good flow, solid prose, with only a few small issues
The story flows pretty well, and the prose is competently written, with a decent vocabulary. It can be a bit loredumpy at times, and an occassional rough or oddly-phrased paragraph, but overall, no big issues.
4/5 - Decently Gramm'd, with occassional tense/grammar issues.
Decently gramm'd. There's few typos, and the grammar is by-and-large fairly correct. However, there are a few occassional grammar issues, or incorrect tensing of sentences that can sometimes pull you out of the experience.
4.5/5 - Decent characterization, although the MC is a bit too much of a scoundrel
The characters are all fairly unique, with interesting personalities and quirks. There's a heavy focus on Ceres, the main character, and his search for meaning amidst his daily efforts to survive.
Ceres is a scoundrel, which is pretty par for the force in a grim sci-fi setting, but is hardworking and dedicated. To me, the acerbic nature is a bit much at times, with Ceres being casually rude even to people he's grown up with, or even to authority figures, often with little consequence (so far).
This doesn't detract much from the story itself, though. The other characters all have unique voices and motivations, with a wide array of personality types and goals. The dialogue is pretty smooth and clear, although it tends to become a bit more cheesy during tense scenes or action.
Overall, Ceres's Chaos shows a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing how things pan out once we get into the larger meat of the story! Definitely worth a read!
Awakening the Angel System is best described as a romp. It's fast-paced and irreverent in the brutality of the world. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk dystopia, where The Demons have driven humanity into underground megacities. But the darkness and cruelty of the setting is blithely accepted.
The author doesn't brood or wallow in the misery, but celebrates it with levity and charm. When you have to kill a home invader to survive, it can be a little scary, but then you cart the body off to sell it for parts and splash some bleach on the floor. When you have to leave home for a bit, give your 8 year old sister a piece so she can magdump any bad guys that come by. When a strange, angelic woman fucking bodies you with the world's tallest elbow drop, you make do. C'est la vie.
It's a world with magic, giant robots, spectral busty anime babes, and a LitRPG system. You're on RoyalRoad. You know this is what you're here for. Let's get right into the nuts and bolts.
Story: 5/5 - It's a kitchen sink setting that is coherent and realized, with a multi-threaded plot.
Style: 5/5 - The prose itself can be a little shaky, but it reads well and flows well, and there are TONS of little touches to give it that oomph.
Grammar: 4.5/5 - Decently Gramm'd.
Character: 4.5/5 - Characters are a bit anime (read: over-the-top and a bit stereotypical), but are charming and written with varied voice and actual motivations.
5/5 - It's a kitchen sink setting that is coherent and realized, with a multi-threaded plot.
Like I said, it's like Shadowrun meets Birdy the Mighty, and that can only be a good thing. Our hero is just trying to get by, looking to find a good job to take care of his sick younger sister, when he has a seismic Meet Cute moment that leaves his body devastated.
He encounters a mysterious angelic figure, who was accidentally responsible for his injuries. Through some fancy magic, she fuses into his body to heal him from the brink of death and becomes a spectral passenger in the process.
The main plot follows him trying to pay her back by helping her get revenge on a mysterious figure, the Smiling Man. However, that's the main plot in the same way that 'Defeat Ganon' is the main plot of a Zelda game.
Things happen, and plots intertwine, and the story goes through its beats in a very natural way. The main character is forced to change his plans, but does so in ways that still retain his agency, different from many stories which see the MC constantly yanked this way and that.
The setting itself is, in a word, fun as hell. It's got giant robots, floating anime babes (a bit too egregious at the start, but she calms down as time goes on), magic, and cyberpunk stuff. What's not to like? Despite the apparent dichotomy, it all manages to blend together in a rather seamless way.
5/5 - The prose itself can be a little shaky, but it reads well and flows well, and there are TONS of little touches to give it that oomph.
The prose is perfectly palatable. It's nothing fancy, but it doesn't really need to be. It's a romp, like I said, and the easy-to-read prose lends itself well to the fun and the flow. There are a few stumbling points, but the author is quick to fix things when pointed out.
However, what really sets it apart are the little touches added in. There are blurbs of radio chatter, conversation, lore, and what-have-you added to the start of each chapter that really make the world seem alive, and keep you aware of the other parties making moves behind the scenes.
Many chapters have doodles or art. Characters are depicted, set pieces are depicted, and it really helps to sell the immersion. It demonstrates a level of care and attention to the story that helps to set it apart.
4.5/5 - Decently Gramm'd.
I usually don't have too much to say in Grammar, and this one is no different. One thing I've noticed is that (at least for the first couple chapters) the author often neglects commas when writing multi-claused sentences.
They are quick to correct typos and grammatical errors, but that was one thing I noticed relatively early on in my reading, and it kind of messed with the pacing and readability a bit.
4.5/5 - Characters are a bit anime (read: over-the-top and a bit stereotypical), but are charming and written with varied voice and actual motivations.
Look at the cover. Look at the description. You know what you're getting. It's anime. Are the characters anime as hell? Yes, of course they are. They're bombastic and can be a bit stereotypical, but that doesn't mean they're without depth. The characters all have their own agency, and they take action apart from the main character, which is, for some reason, rare in many stories on Royalroad.
The world doesn't spin around the main character's actions, which is nice. So, yes, the characters can be a bit stereotypical on the surface level, but if you're willing to look past that, there's a lot to see. And if anime antics is a dealbreaker, I have to ask why you're even here. You saw the cover. you saw the banner. You know what you're getting into.
In short, Awakening the Angel System is an entertaining read, set in a a world like a blow pop: a hard, rigid veneer of a dark, gritty, world, with a bubble gum core. Bad stuff happens, but you roll with the punches, then blow them away with a [Wind Slash].
As others have noted, 'Horizon of War' is an Isekai, but don't go into it expecting the standard Isekai fare. If you're looking for power fantasy, look elsewhere. However, if you're looking for a well-reasoned take on a regular person being shunted into another world, you're in the right place.
In many respects, the fact that the main character comes from another world is largely irrelevant. There are no cheat skills or big magical powers, nor does he instantly revolutionize the technology level of the setting or dramatically change their culture.
That being said, what the story tries to be, and what it does well, is to be a set piece for a fantasy world, with a more grounded, realistic take on things. We've learned that elves and beastfolk exist, albeit only by name, but it's unclear whether the setting even has anything resembling magic. Considering this is 10 chapters in, if magic does exist, then it clearly is relatively rare.
It's surprisingly refreshing, and its down-to-earth nature leads to some oddly comfy moments as we follow the life of the protagonist.
Story: 5/5 - Well-researched, realistic world with many things going on besides the main plot. Interesting events lead to an engaging read.
Character: 4.5/5 - Realistic, motivated characters with their own agendas
Style: 4.5/5 - Good descriptive prose, but sometimes hard to follow action.
Grammar: 4/5 - English as a second language. High-level vocabulary and word choice, but a few grammatical errors and odd uses of tense which might impact readability and flow.
5/5 - Well-researched, realistic world with many things going on besides the main plot. Interesting events lead to an engaging read.
The world is excellent. Well-researched, realistic, and historically sound, for the most part. 'Many things going on besides the main plot' is a, perhaps, vague way of phrasing it, but to be specific, the main character is not the only moving piece in the setting.
There are other groups, factions, and characters with their own agendas, taking their own actions, and affecting the world in big ways. In fact, in many respects, the main character is rather reactionary, largely doing things he is told or suggested to do by others, at least until chapter 7 or so.
A great deal of care is given to the setting, not just focusing on the larger events, but also going into the intricacies of daily life and routine, and focusing on the minor things that many other stories take for granted. It's a refreshing change of pace, and lends a very 'comfy' feel to the story, even when the intricacies involve being roadsore, cold, and miserable.
4.5/5 - Realistic, motivated characters with their own agendas
Most of the side characters have their own motivations and goals. The main character himself has a few driving desires, and his idiosyncracies (especially with regard to hygiene and living standards compared to his past life) stand out.
That being said, a few of the characters are relatively flat or one-note. However, this is still the early plot, and a lot of these characters tend to only show up for a chapter or two. I imagine the more deeply-realized characters who will stick with us for longer have yet to show up until the story really kicks off.
4.5/5 - Good descriptive prose, but sometimes hard to follow action.
The prose is highly descriptive, and the slow care that's given to daily life really shines, and makes the setting vibrant, and comfortable. The mix of daily life with the more textbook-sounding descriptions of the larger events of the setting makes it read much like a historical depiction of events interspersed with diary entries.
That's not to say the prose is diary-like, because there are some stories which literally follow the structure of a diary, and this is not one of them. However, it does feel like a glimpse into the character's life. in many respects.
That being said, some of the stylistic choices of voice and tense can lead to action being somewhat hard to follow. A lot of this may derive from the fact that English is not the author's main language, but some of it may just be stylistic in nature as well.
4/5 - English as a second language. High-level vocabulary and word choice, but a few grammatical errors and odd uses of tense which might impact readability and flow.
English is not the author's first language, but you may not notice it from a casual read. The author commands an impressive level of vocabulary and depth of description in spite of this. However, there are a few grammatical errors, a few signifcant enough to give pause.
More prevalent are some odd tense choices or mismatches that can stymie the otherwise smooth prose. Overall, it's still a sight better than most of the stories on here, but it is still noticeable.
All in all, Horizon of War is shaping up to be a well-researched, comfy glance into the psuedo-historical life of an ordinary person in the oft-replicated 'quasi-medieval fantasy setting'.
This story is an interesting spin on Isekai, and as a first work, is extremely commendable. The beginning is a bit rough, and it could do with some editing overall, but it has a strong foundation and shows promise to be a contender for a great story in the days and weeks to come.
Let's get right into it:
Story: 5/5 - Interesting plot, intriguing setting, refreshingly unique take on the progression genre.
Style: 4/5 - Prose is decent, but a bit shaky. Has some issues with pacing. Action scenes can be a bit hard to follow. Shows promise overall, however.
Grammar: 3.5/5 - Could benefit from some proofreading sweeps, but still readable.
Character: 4.5/5 - Character motivations and backgrounds are given thought and fleshed out, but pacing can cause character whiplash.
5/5 - Interesting plot, intriguing setting, refreshingly unique take on the progression genre.
The story is intriguing, and engaging. Right away, we are introduced to the main character and his friend, and they are both Isekaied by a mysterious moistened witch. The main character finds himself alone save for a polite, but murderous old man, and discovers that his friend may be in danger.
The events of the plot flow well, the course of the larger story is well framed, with an almost immediate call to action. The lore has thought put into it, and the world so far doesn't seem contrived, as it does in many other stories.
The [System] that drives progression is relatively unique, in that manifests physically in the form of a mysterious notebook, apparently applies only to select few, rather than all people in the world having access to it, and eschews most 'stats' and 'skills' for more of D100 style Skill List, which independently level up as he takes action, and present branching boons as he hits milestones.
4/5 - Prose is decent, but a bit shaky. Has some issues with pacing. Action scenes can be a bit hard to follow. Shows promise overall, however.
The style is, frankly speaking, pretty rough. It's written competently enough, and it's clear that thought has gone into what is being said and how things have been worded, so the foundation is there. The author just needs to get on the grind and find his writing legs to really bring out that diamond beneath the rough.
3.5/5 - Could benefit from some proofreading sweeps, but still readable.
A few notable typos, somewhat common grammatical errors, and an occasional odd tense or turn of phrase. The author seems receptive to feedback and corrections, however. Could do with a bit of proofreading or editing, but nothing unsalvageable.
4.5/5 - Character motivations and backgrounds are given thought and fleshed out, but pacing can cause character whiplash.
The characters clearly have a lot of thought put into them. They have deep-seated beliefs, motivations, and clearly feel the push/pull of having multiple goals, motivations, or dreams they want to fulfill, which might be at odds with each other.
However, the pacing, which is mostly a factor of the author's still coming into their own, can make the development or decisions seem kind of whiplashy. It's clear that the author has the character's motivation and mental state at point A, and wants it to inevitably lead to point B, which is a completely natural progressional endpoint.
However, the pacing means that the character can often take one or two massive lunges towards point B rather than a more flowing, natural course that may take a bit longer to reach that point.
This may not sound like a great endorsement, but believe me, it is. I would take a dozen stories that have great foundation and shaky execution than I would over stories with flat, contrived characters who are written competently and paced normally.
In short, I won't lie, the story is a bit rough now, but I think the author shows a lot of promise. Once they've gotten some experience in and upped their technical skills, this story has a great foundation to become an intriguing, unique ride.
Minute Mage is a fun, easy-reading LitRPG, a celebration of the most addictive qualities of LitRPG, namely: numbers go up!
It offers a few unique twists on classic LitRPG action, as we find our hero desperately trying to survive in an unforgiving wilderness, desperately raising his stats. If you're a fan of number-crunching and grinding, then you'll feel well at home.
Moreover, it is an easy read. I don't mean to say that it is juvenille or low-quality. Instead, what I mean is that the prose flows well, and the pacing lends itself to naturally entice you to read further. It's addictive, in a sense, in way not entirely related, yet not entirely unrelated to the thrill of numberings going up.
Story: 4/5 - Fairly straightforward, standard LitRPG formula, with a few interesting twists.
Style: 4.5/5 - Prose flows well, tried-and-true style of action fantasy.
Grammar: 5/5 - Very Well Gramm'd
Character: 3.5/5 - Standard Characters, consistent voices, although actions and reasoning is a bit contrived at times.
4/5 - Fairly straightforward, standard LitRPG formula, with a few interesting twists.
The story is, in all honesty, fairly standard LitRPG fare. It's not an isekai, which is a point in its favor, and the world itself seems largely consistent. The plot is fairly straightforward: Arlan is thrust into an unusual class, and strives for ultimate power.
There are a few interesting notes, especially with the various interludes taking place in the Underworld. The Demon society is easily the most interesting part of the setting. The story hits all the comfortable notes, and the accessible plot makes it easy to keep reading through. However, things can be a bit contrived. Without getting into specifics or spoilers, there are a few things that work out too well or in an usual way that can temporarily take you out of the action. Nothing too grevious or unforgivable, though.
4.5/5 - Prose flows well, tried-and-true style of action fantasy.
The author shows a lot of care in making sure that the [World System] is consistent and that the numbers make sense, which is something that many LitRPG authors don't really dedicate much headspace to. This is mostly to its benefit, although the pacing can occassionally get bogged down with the main character explaining the exact formula used to arrive at X value, which isn't strictly necessary.
However, the style is probably one of the better strengths of the story, as it's an easy, enjoyable read, the story flowing well and guiding you to read more. I spent an afternoon reading the story and was surprised to find that I'd made it halfway through the (at time of writing) 110k word story.
5/5 - Very Well Gramm'd
As usual, not much to say here. Few, if any grammatical errors or typos. Those that are found are quickly corrected by the author.
3.5/5 - Standard Characters, consistent voices, although actions and reasoning is a bit contrived at times.
Unfortunately, one of the weaker parts of the story, but again, nothing to condemn it for. The character's rationalizations don't always make the most sense, and some of their decisions are pretty questionable.
This isn't so much a complaint that Arlan makes foolish decisions (although many of them are), but that some of the internal rationalization of his choices isn't particularly consistent.
As a character goes, Arlan is fairly neutral, with his main motivation survival and the pursuit of power. It could simply be a Maslow's heirarchy type of situation, but he unfortunately doesn't have too much in terms of personality besides caution and ambition.
The dialogue itself is serviceable, but some of the characters are rather exaggerated and tropy in ways that can sometimes stretch realism. The one exception are the demons, which are charming and interesting, owing in large part to the unique idiosyncracies of their world
All in all, this story's best strength is that it's fun. It's a fun, easy to read LitRPG romp, and an excellent way to pass your time!
What a ride. One thing is for certain, this is certainly a unique piece for RoyalRoad. It may relate to Gamelit tangentially, and is technically an Isekai, but don't come into this expecting any of the standard tropes you might expect.
Instead, In The Service of Lady Scarlet is a poetic, tragic journey through the mind of a madman. Written in a unique diary format, we follow the life of an unnamed Pawn, who chronicles his daily life, before things take a more sinister direction as our loyal Pawn contends with terrifying glimpses of sanity.
It's macabre, genuinely disturbing, and tragic, qualities which are quite rare on Royalroad.
Story: 4.5/5 - A twisted tale of madness, duty, and revenge that is engaging throughout, but stumbles a bit at the end.
Style: 5/5 - A fantastic, unique diary style, poetic with an amazing command of the language, especially for somebody for whom English is a second language. Grimly fantastic tone.
Grammar: 3.5/5 - Jarring transitions between solid, flowing prose and borderline broken English.
Characters: 5/5 - A fantastic study into the mind of a madman, with a handful of supporting characters, each of whom is relatively fleshed out.
4.5/5 - A twisted tale of madness, duty, and revenge that is engaging throughout, but stumbles a bit at the end.
The story itself is fantastic. At its premise, it follows the life of a servant for the enigmatic Lady Scarlet in her castle, but at once things seem wrong, and his descriptions of objects make it clear that not everything is as it seems.
The story expands and shifts as events unfold, and truths make themselves known, into a poetic tale of lost love, ruin, and despair.
The one flaw of the story is its ending. Mind you, I don't have a problem with the ultimate destination of the ending, although those who always prefer a 'happily ever after' ending may find it unpalatable. No, my issue is more the last few steps it takes to arrive there.
The climax comes at the very end, and the final end result is signalled multiple times through the last few chapters, presented as an option many might find unfulfilling, and then executed exactly as stated.
This is a vague sort of complaint, but imagine, if you will, a heist movie where they say "We're going to set up a birthday party for the head guard to distract them, then we'll sneak in the back and steal the diamonds."
In typical heist movie fashion, they spend the first twenty minutes of the film gathering the crew, planning the heist, going over the parts of the plan, calling the caterers for the birthday party, etc, laboriously planning the job.
Then they go to the bank, and they execute the plan exactly as they planned it, nothing goes wrong, and they walk in, grab the diamonds, and walk out.
It's unfulfilling. Not because the ending itself is bad, and not because the ending itself is not a sunshine and rainbows ending, but because we know exactly what we're going to get, and the tension deflates because we're expecting a twist or sudden change that never comes.
However, this is, largely a correctable issue, and perhaps is more of a style complaint than anything.
5/5 - A fantastic, unique diary style, poetic with an amazing command of the language, especially for somebody for whom English is a second language. Grimly fantastic tone.
The style of this piece is superb. It's a diary format, with an extremely unreliable narrator, and soon we discover that it is a split perspective narration, between our main character, and a mysterious intruder who starts leaving cryptic messages in the diary for our main character to find.
The slow development of voice and drip-feed of sanity reminds me of Flowers for Algernon, in all the right ways. The prose itself is often fantastic, eloquent and flowing in many spots. There are a few shaky points, but that's mostly the grammar, as touched on in the next section.
English is not the author's first language, and it sometimes shows through, but there are other sections that show such an expert command of the language that you wouldn't expect that to be the case.
The madness of the main character is conveyed well, and the unreliable narration leaves you constantly unsettled, and on the edge of your seat.
3.5/5: Jarring transitions between solid, flowing prose and borderline broken English.
I actually have something to say in this section, which is rare. The grammar on this story is VERY hot/cold. It seems as if many of these chapters were written for the Writeathon, and some of them have received editing passes. This difference is very clear, where the edited chapters flow smoothly, display a strong foundation and a powerful command of the language.
However, the chapters that have received less love, while stylistically similar to their bretheren, have numerous and clear typos throughout, a few strange or incorrect word choices, and various gramattical issues.
I expect this will likely be resolved over time, as it seems largely to be pre-editing issues. However, do note that you may see an exceptionally well-written chapter and click the next button to wonder if you haven't changed stories somewhere along the line.
5/5 - A fantastic study into the mind of a madman, with a handful of supporting characters, each of whom is relatively fleshed out.
The side-characters are decent, with sections wherein they have rich characterizations, and a few other sections where their character voice is much more casual, and seems a bit off. This, I think, is another editing thing, see the above section.
However, the main character's voice and characterization is fantastic, as is that of the Intruder. The journey that each of these characters takes, and the development they gain along that journey really shines, as the tragic, dark tale unfolds.
In short, while it may be short, this story is a wild ride that will hurt you in all the right ways.
I went into Mother of Exiles not knowing what to expect. The first chapter starts off in a standard fantasy fashion, a court in a strange place, with strange terminology, and strange abilities. It is at once exotic, enticing,and mysterious, in the questions it poses.
And the very next moment, we are in a retirement home, experiencing the slow and wasting existence of our protagonist in a way that is so heart-wrenchingly evocative of Aida's hopelessness, so raw, so tired that it makes me want to call my grandparents, and fear for my own mortality.
It's excellent writing, and it only gets better from there.
Story: 5/5: Fantastic, compelling action, amazing worldbuilding, excellent delivery
Style: 5/5: Evocative imagery, painfully real emotion, accessible jargon
Grammar: 4.5/5: Well Gramm'd
Character: 5/5: Deep, real characters, raw character interaction, mature and realized personalities.
5/5: Fantastic, compelling action, amazing worldbuilding, excellent delivery
The story is, in a word, fantastic. It's fantastic in that the quality is superb. The plot draws you in, the detail is in-depth without being pedantic, and the pacing is well-executed. It's also fantastic in that it evokes fantasy. In a world of endless "No, but listen, my elf forest kingdom is TOTALLY cool" and its ilk, Mother of Exiles excels with a bizarre, unique set of locales, peoples, and cultures.
As a worldbuilding exercise, it's delicious. The plot is still in its beginnings, but there are so much to explore that I can't wait to see where it goes next.
5/5: Evocative imagery, painfully real emotion, accessible jargon
The style of this story is fantastic. The prose can get a bit harried when describing environments at times, but during action, it doesn't miss a beat. It's interwoven with multiple viewpoints, both of which are unique in the perspective and voice offered.
Speaking of unique, the world of Mother of Exiles is extraordinarily so, and so thick with new terminologies and new ideas and concepts that you would imagine it would be easy to get lost in it. However, it is here that the author truly excels, introducing us to concepts and terms at just the right pace, so that we never get slammed with a lore dump, that all exposition happens in-character, while simultaneously keeping us just lost enough that we are begging to know more.
The inclusion of a glossary that updates over time is also brilliant. It's useful for those who might forget what a term means, but it also changes as we go to reveal only information we know, rather than spoiling future plot points, or burying the lede as some stories tend to do.
The descriptions in this story are fantastic, painting images not only of the locations themselves, but of the sensation, the emotion, the feeling of the places. It's surprisingly uncommon for fantasy stories to describe the texture and consistency of the air, but such a detail really puts you into the moment, and was quite welcome.
4.5/5: Well Gramm'd
As always, my grammar sections are relatively brief. There are a few typos, mostly inconsequential, but there are a few segments where the prose stumbles a bit, grammatically, as if a sentence was partially rewritten. Overall, fairly smooth reading, though.
5/5: Deep, real characters, raw character interaction, mature and realized personalities.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of the story, which is certainly saying something, given how strong the rest of the story is as well. There characters are beyond well-written. This is one of the few stories on this platform to evoke such raw emotion, whether it be Aida's loneliness and despondency from the start, or Hassani's tense, bittersweet conversation with her family.
These are real people, living real lives. Even the Valeer, who is incoherent and barely seems to recognize the presence of others, or the Ferals, who speak only in sign language are uniquely characterized. It is fantastic all-around.
In short, Mother of Exiles is one of the best fictions I've read on this platform to date, and is well worth a read if you have any taste to speak of.
Fantasy Empire is a fun adventure romp, filled with charismatic, quirky characters, tables galore, and an expansive setting. If you're a fan of the Isekai genre or of kingdom-builders, you know what to expect.
The dialogue can be a bit corny at times, and not every joke lands, but it's a light-hearted adventure, and is competently written.
Story: 5/5: Well-established lore, bit of a basic premise with a twist or two
Style: 4/5 - Lighthearted and quirky, but also dangerously cheesy.
Grammar: 4.5/5 - Well Gramm'd
Character: 4.5/5 - Fun, if cheesy, characters
5/5: Well-established lore, bit of a basic premise with a twist or two
The lore of these worlds is the strongest part of the story. There is a deep history to the world interesting mechanics and cosmology, and relevancy to the characters, which is surprisingly rare in a lot of fantasy stories. The delivery of the setting's details can be loredumpy at times, which is a bit jarring, but definitely not the worst offender of this I've seen.
The story itself, that is, the active plot of the story, is fairly standard, with a few interesting twists. Engineer gets isekaied, meets some friends, learns about some cool prophecies, and decides to establish a kingdom using his advanced knowledge.
However, in a bit of a twist, he wasn't the only one who was isekaied, and some shady merc with ambitions was also brought over, with his own designs on kingdom-building. I've not seen too many kingdom-builders that are directly adversarial in this way, and it's interesting.
4/5 - Lighthearted and quirky, but also dangerously cheesy.
This was one of the weaker points of the story for me, unfortunately. It's not enough to write it off, but a lot of the dialogue comes across like it's trying a bit too hard. The prose itself is great, there's a nice balance of detail and action, but the voices of the characters themselves sometimes feel like they don't fit quite right, or the occassional joke will just not land, sometimes in a major way.
It's not bad, per se, but it's a bit noticeable, especially early on.
4.5/5 - Well Gramm'd
There are a few noticeable grammar errors, a few odd word choices or typos. Really, at a base level, it's more of a 3.5/5, but the author is also quick to jump on mistakes pointed out, judging by the comments, bringing the score up.
4.5/5 - Fun, if cheesy, characters
The characters are a bit cheesy in their dialogue and internal thoughts. I'll get that out of the way first. It's a dealbreaker for some people (especially if the comments are anything to judge by), but not for me. Once you get beyond that, however, the characters are easy to read, and play off of each other well, while also having their own motivations, histories, struggles, and personalities.
They're all big hams, but they're delightful hams, and it's fun to read, even if you might cringe occassionally. It's a welcome reprieve from one-note characters or walking cliches that are so common on this site.
Daggers, Dames, and Demons is a rare breed of story that aims to be several things at once, and succeeds at all of them.
It's an urban fantasy with a rich, well-conceived cosmology and developed world. It's a character-driven story with fantastic, deep, and engaging characters. It's a romance with a natural, organic progression and touching moments. It's an action story with plenty of fightan' and a bit of shootan'.
It follows the story of Lydia Grace, who accidentally the whole summoning ritual and becomes bound to an Incubus. Thankfully for her, the Incubus is less of the ravenous, orgiastic type and more of the bishonen stoic type who smolders at her respectfully.
They soon find themselves on a cross-country trip where they encounter monsters, mystery, and two (2) flavors of Illuminati. This is a bit of a reductionist description, but I think it gets the point across. It's a hell of a fun story, and an amazingly written one to boot.
Story: 5/5 - Rich, developed world with interesting features and cosmology, engaging plot.
Style: 5/5 - Excellent prose, developed character voice, shifting POVs which are managed superbly
Grammar: 5/5 - Very Well Gramm'd
Character Score: 5/5 - Believable, developed, living characters
5/5 - Rich, developed world with interesting features and cosmology, engaging plot.
The basic plot beats of the story are dynamic, keeping the action going without being overly intense or dragging on. The flow is masterfully managed, weaving between lore and action without ever feeling unnatural. The setting itself is great, and has a ton of fun room to theorycraft and a lot of interesting implications. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into it, and it shows in the execution.
5/5 - Excellent prose, developed character voice, shifting POVs which are managed superbly
The first thing that stands out about the style is the fact that the point of view alternates between Lydia and her bound demon. The style of narration for each of them is distinct, with different sentence structure and word choice to reflect the differences in how they think.
The story itself exudes class at every turn, with image headers at the start of each chapter, and very tidy formatting. The prose is engaging, easy to read, and intelligent, without being overly simplistic or purple prose (Although the demon can edge into lavender a bit at times).
5/5 - Very well Gramm'd.
Grammar sections rarely have much to say. No errors to speak of, clean sentence composition. Good job.
5/5 - Believable, developed, living characters
The author really knocked it out of the park with the characters. Each character has a developed voice, their own personal motivations, thoughts, and dreams. They are all nuanced, deep characters that feel alive, rather than simply meeting a few criteria as is often the case with stories on Royalroad. They are, for the most part, all interesting to engage with and learn about.
The one exception I'd make is Lydia's friend, who is kind of a Gary Stu who can do no wrong is just great in a myriad of ways. I'm not sure if he's being set up for a heel turn down the road, but the constant reiteration of how great he is was a bit of an eye roll. Not enough to mark this down on points, however, especially because we don't see too much of him.
All in all, this is a fantastic story, and if you're a fan of daggers, dames, and/or demons, you're sure to have a great time.