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axdaae

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Masquerade

A quick bite of horror with a twist

This microfiction horror piece tells the story of school masquerade ball turned killing spree. The basic premise is that we follow the POV of a (presumed) student as they described the events of the murders unfolding around them. (As the author warns, this fiction does deal with some sensitive topics). It's hard to describe any details of this story without giving away the ending, so you'll just have to give it a read. And trust me, it's worth reading twice. 


Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon

Overall:
Selena’s Reign tells the story of Zephyrin, the sickly son of a renowned warrior and king who is reincarnated into the past after his first untimely death as a prisoner of war. Given a second chance at life, the MC embarks on a journey to impress the Goddess and live up to his father’s legacy. Selena’s Reign is a very thoughtful story filled with cerebral reincarnation scenes and meticulous descriptions. The prose, while dense and somewhat archaic in style, is very purposeful. Chapters are the perfect length - just long enough for progress to be made in the narrative, but short enough to be enjoyed in quick bites.

Style:
Overall, the author’s writing style immerses the reader into a lush fantasy world. I particularly liked the inclusions of poetry and a medieval lullaby to spice up the prose. The story's narration is focused inwardly, tending to linger on Zephyrin's thought process. This gives us plenty of time to get to know the MC, but there are few moments when I felt the side characters were lost as a result. For the first couple chapters we follow the MC as a baby, but since he retains his memories from his first life we are still inside the mind of an adult. The infancy chapters weren’t my favorite simply because our MC had limited ability to interact with his environment which left me feeling a bit detached from the story as a reader. However, he quickly grows up and this issue resolves. One benefit of having the MC maintain his past-life memories is that the author is able to weave world-building into the narration naturally. One personal nit-pick of mine: the POV is third-person limited that occasionally jumps to third-person omniscient. I personally prefer stories that are strictly one or the other, but I have seen more and more writers blend these styles into a “cinematic POV” (which is becoming more popular), so your mileage may vary on this point. All in all, the writing style and world-building blend together well.

Grammar:
Really good! The lack of grammatical errors to trip you up when reading Selena’s Reign is definitely one of its selling points. Like any story, there are a few minor typos here and there, but the author fixes them as they’re noticed.

Story:
The story has a very interesting set-up involving a sickly prince who dies and is reincarnated into the past, which allows him the opportunity to try to achieve his full potential and become the person he was meant to be. Most reincarnation stories I’ve encountered tend to send the character into the future, so I liked this reversal. There's added tension and intrigue in knowing that the MC's actions could affect (or even bring about) the life he’s already lived in the future. So far, it appears that the story is following a traditional hero’s journey. It will be very interesting to see watch Zephyrin’s rise. I enjoyed how the author clearly establishes the cultural norms in this world. We’re given a good sense of how society is separated into a few major classes based on mana/magic ability. It makes me eager to see how Zephyrin’s interacts with his blueblood classmates.

Character:
Zephyrin is a very introspective and reflective MC. Initially, I was worried I would have trouble connecting with his character since his motivation wasn’t revealed right away. I finished the prologue wondering what our MC wants/what his goal is. This was rectified in the first chapter, but it may have been more effective if shown right from this start. Generally, Zephyrin’s reactions are generally stoic and sedated. One advantage to this is that when something does excite him (such as his father’s legacy, his country’s history, or military strategy), we can tell just how important that subject is to him. I think the author managed to more or less subvert the "chosen one" trope. Our MC’s exceptional intelligence and magical ability make sense in the context of the story given the knowledge and skills he still has from his previous life.
The story includes a cast of well-developed side characters. I found the character of Rose incredibly endearing (although at times she reads a bit more like an adult than a child). My one gripe for this category is the lack of a defined antagonist. At this point in this story, I don’t know what external force Zephyrin will be up against. There are some hints at the antagonistic forces our MC could possibly face in the future, but I’m not entirely sure who we’re rooting against. Bear in mind, I'm writing this review as the plot is just starting to kick off, so it’s possible the antagonist has yet to be introduced.

Ultimately, if you like low fantasy and reincarnation stories, you should give this one a try.


The Master of Names

Overall: Master of Names tells the story of a young man in a world where skill orbs are used to create everyday magic. When we first meet Keldon, he and his team are involved in the dangerous job of scavenging for the resources needed to create skill orbs. Keldon has to balance his work-life all while struggling to make sense of peculiar dreams and learning how to control his illegal magical powers.

Style: The author employs a third person limited style that leans heavily towards a cinematic POV. Often, our MC will walk out of a scene and the narration will linger for a moment on the side characters. This technique is nice, since it allows the readers to pick up on bits of foreshadowing and irony that the MC doesn't know. The author uses nice setting descriptions. My only complaint is that the background characters sometimes feel like a faceless mob, but this improved as the story went on. The narration is mostly dialogue-driven, which keeps the scene moving along at a good pace. My only gripe is that the dialogue for some characters uses too many accent flourishes (erry'body, 'er, 'cha etc.). These just aren't my cup of tea unless used very sparingly as I find them distracting, but some readers may enjoy them. 

Grammar: The grammar is fine and doesn't impede the story. The author has been editing and updating so I'm sure it will continue to improve in time. There are a few moments when descriptions and character movements are unclear due to the grammar errors. But overall, it's easy enough to read.

Story: This is a character-driven story which I love. The plot develops slowly and is interspersed with many opportunities for characters to chat and get to know each other. There is also an interesting magic system that is well incorporated into the world, characters, and overall plot. The story is a bit of a slow-burn, and it takes until chapter 6 to discover the MC's main goal and launch him on his journey.

Character: Our MC's major conflict is his inability to use the skill orbs that everyone else relies on. I found the Keldon's optimism and work ethic very endearing. I do wish Keldon's ultimate goal was hinted at a little earlier on. There is a cast of well-developed side characters. I was worried at the beginning that background characters weren't fleshed out enough, but this improved once the first plot point kicked off. 

Give it a read!


I Have to Text my Ex, or the World Explodes

I Have to Text My Ex or the World Explodes tells the quirky story of a young man caught in a time loop where his world is repeatedly destroyed by a meteor until he figures out the way to stop it. The narrative is fast-paced with quick time jumps. Instead of building scenes towards a punch-line, the author tosses witty one-offs in rapid fire. The humor-style is very tongue-in-cheek and filled with genre in-jokes. Some readers might find jokes like xxbox, GD Dragon, Elbert Ainstein, and Dinosaurland cheesy, but in a story that doesn't take itself too seriously, I found them endearing. 

What's interesting about this story is that the audience knows the solution right away. Both the title and the narrative make it clear that, while the MC is hell-bent on trying to physically destroy the meteor, the solution is to confront his ex-gf.

Only a few chapters into the story, the MC figures this out as well. At this point the story transitions into its real plot: Andrew and his evil ex-girlfriend (a fate worse than the end of the world).

For me, one of the weaker aspects of the writing style is the usage of 4th wall breaks. It's a tricky technique that, if done wrong, can pull the reader out of the story completely. Unfortunately for me, the fourth wall breaks on top of the already sarcastic style didn't blend. Additionally, the author plays around with styles, jumping from light-novel description to litrpg. Your mileage may vary in how fun you find these switch-ups, depending on how these individual subgenres appeal to you. 

The author gives a very clear sense of characters upon each's introduction. Andrew's manic energy drives the story forward despite the somewhat thin plot. Most of the characters fill a predictable role for the genre, but I think this is done intentionally to explore genre tropes. 

There are numreous grammatical errors in each chapter, but the author has taken the time to go back and clean up these typos, so I'm sure this will improve over time. 

If you're looking for a chaotic, fast-paced romp like the summary describes, it's worth a read. 


Poisoned Chalice

Good Start with a Likeable MC

As of this review, only the first 4 chapters are out, but they've been really enjoyable so far. You can tell the author took her time with the worldbuilding. The MC Ziyan is fun and spunky. She's just modern enough to be relatable, but still fits in her surroundings. I'm very glad to read a xianxia on this site with such a fun female lead. 


Faraway land

This first impression is based off just three chapters. The concept is intriguing, with a main character who assumes a new life in a sci-fi world after his untimely death in his home world. It is evident the author has put time and thought into the story. However, the writing style holds the story back. The introduction/prologue is confusing. We pick up in the second chapter with no clear indication of how much time has past or why the character has embraced his new identity as Julius. Additionally, the POV is jarring. First person present tense is difficult for even the best writers to manage, and in this story the author often slips into a screenplay style of description that leaves the reader feeling disconnected from the scene. I like the overall setting, but I also think it could be fleshed out bit more to help the reader and characters feel more grounded in the world. Thanks for letting me review your work and I hope you continue writing!