The Courting of Life and Death

That. Was. Awesome. I read to the end of book one. So far, it’s excellent. It was a combination of things I never knew I needed, like Cheerios and chocolate milk, tacos and blue cheese, lemon juice and menudo. If I were to describe the story to you, it would Jane Austen in her black period. Pride and prejudice but metal AF. Rammstein but delightfully sensitive. 

It is solid. And I’ll be honest, I put it off. I put it off because, boo hoo, I’m a man, I don’t have time for no sensitive romance. But this romance is metal as hell, death is a character, and Pierre and Elizabeth are both so interesting and alluring they’ll make thoroughly reevaluate your position on the Kinsey scale. 

Okay so, obviously I’m drunk, but I’m going to try and be intelligible for a bit. VMJ’s style is incredibly clean. The dialogue flies off the the page. The characters are fascinating, and occasionally infuriating, but in the sense that you want to slap them across the face and make them say nice things to each other, never in the take-them-behind-the shed-and-shoot-them sort of way. It’s this manifestation of constant tension and face-rending stress of what the characters will do next and oh, hot damn, that’s right, there’s necromancers in this story and it’s friggin relevant and interesting y’all, and maybe dating a necromancer isn’t such a good idea, but he’s hot and significantly more interesting that housecarl daryl in the tower across the way, so you can’t exactly blame her and holy crap what’s going to happen next?! Interrobang. 

God dang I’m pumped and clearly limiting my language for RR friendliness. 

Y’all. This story is a labor of love. It shows from the first word to the last sentence. Even if romance isn’t traditionally your thing, give it a shot. Got a thing for the macabre? VMJ’s got you. Want some sweet and fluffy moments? VMJ’s got you. Want a moment where you look at everything that’s occurred and completely recalibrate and reevaluate everything you’ve read and judgements on the characters you thought you previously understood? 

VMJ’s got that too.

Love it. Not a minute was wasted and I’m coming back for more when I’m sober. 


When Immortal Ascension Fails Time Travel to Try Again

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this story. The cover art is cute and chibi, while the blurb radiates pure chaotic energy. And I’m not exactly a regularl purveyor of the xiaxia format, I’ve read Cradle, Forge of Destiny, and… yeah, that’s about it. 

But I’m very glad I did. 

The first thing that attracted me to Dragon’s MC is that she has a bit of a mean streak. Nothing over the top—she’s not a bully—but she’s rightfully mad as hell to be in the situation she’s in and not shy about expressing that fact. What sets WIAFTTtTA apart is how this characterization is expertly tied into the MC herself. She never stews in her anger. It just makes her more proactive, which is incredibly entertaining to watch. 

WIAFTTtTA is also one of those well-written satires that refuses to trade a good story for a cheap laugh. There are jokes, funny ones—Dragon has a strong sense of comedy and timing—but they never usurp the story itself. There’s also hints of a much larger narrative threads at play, despite the implication that this is a series of tangentially related short stories. I’m on to you, author.

The comparison to traditional publishing I keep coming back to is that WIAFTTtTA reads like a less british, more angry, Terry Pratchett.  

Great stuff. Every minute spent reading this was worth it, and I look forward to reading more. 


Fascinating and personal.

I have yet to understand why certain people feel the need to review something they have neither the faculties nor attention span to comprehend. It’s fine to not understand something. I don’t understand a lot of things. I have very little interest in ever finishing Gravity’s Rainbow, but you don’t see me waltzing up to Thomas Pynchon’s nursing home and slapping him across the face, then offering some bumbling backhanded compliment about how it was technically proficient.

Sorry. Rant over. Let’s move on, shall we? 

Risen is excellent. It is better than 99% of what you will read on Royal Road. It is, by every definition of the term, technically proficient. But I think what some of the reviews are ignoring is that it has a heart as well. Eran is a tragic character for many reasons, but never so far gone you ever want to just quietly stamp him out, as is somewhat common for stories with tortured protagonists. 

Despite only knowing him for a precious few pages, I want him to be okay, despite the fact that his very existence seems to conflict with the condition of “being okay.” 

There are lots of Worm vibes. I take this as one hundred percent positive. A deluge of stories chased after Worm, trying for the that gritty grim-dark superhero tone and falling short. Risen captures much about what made that story so enthralling while dialing back the breakneck pace that sometimes made Worm exhausting to read.

It bears mentioning that there’s also a great sense of scale here. I have no idea how long Risen is supposed to be, but I’m fascinated with the world-building that Zendran seems to just effortlessly throw in and then ignore, leaving you with your hand raised (something this story and Doing God’s Work have in common) and your interest piqued. 

There are very few negatives. Broadly speaking, the author has a tendency to write a word like “garbed” when a word like “clothed” would work just as well, but I’m not going to complain about a fiction bringing up the average vocabulary a few notches when most RR stories have the opposite problem. I’m also unhappy with the fact that, at the time of this review, there are only 80 something pages. How dare you, author. 

This is not an overly dense story, and once you give it some time, it’s a page turner. All Risen asks of you is a little patience over the first few chapters as it gets going, and if you give it that, it will reward the investment tenfold. 

It won’t hold your hand. But that’s part of the fun. 

Can’t wait to see where this goes. 

Rise of the Firstborn Mage

I wasn't really quite sure what to expect going in. I've read a lot of “magic school,” stories, and most of them either end up spinning their plotless-wheels endlessly and impotently within the trite and tried confines of the arcane classroom, or devolving into the quasi-shounen mess so many RR stories tend to inevitably veer into.

I'm very happy to report that Rise of the Firstborn Mage is neither. 

The voice is VERY Jane Austen / Charlotte Bronte in the best way. Word choice is excellent, flow and dialogue match up quite well. Better yet, arguably unlike Austen, Briizy is very good at evoking a sense of sensation. The feelings of the protagonist in the midst of a storm in the first chapter is invokes all five senses beautifully and viscerally. 

There's a great sense of world building. Briizy is always throwing in tidbits that make you want to know more, but never enough to fully satisfy the mystery—as it should be—and certainly never enough information to qualify as an info-dump. 

The characters are all interesting and clearly have their own issues and secrets, and I look forward to seeing them fully explored.

There's a lot of withheld and understated  tension for the main character especially, and I can't wait to see where this goes as the story progresses.

Doing God's Work

Came for the Premise, Stayed for the Mystery

I’m not sure what I expected from the reviews, some sort of smarmy Douglas Adams / Office Space hybrid—but this is really quite a bit better and more complex than the reviews let on. It’s also full of intrigue. There are notes of David Foster Wallace in here, as well as Kafka and a sprinkling of John McCrae. I think the biggest dichotomy between what I was expecting and what I got is there are far more dystopian overtones that are played completely straight than initially expected. Yes, there are elements of parody, and many of the characters are built on framework from existing mythologies, but it’s got a much more legitimate, “what if these characters were real people?” vibe without reaching for the typically glib, “Hurr hurr Zeus can’t keep it in his pants,” typical low hanging fruit.

It also loves to raise questions, wait for you to raise your hand, then leave you awkwardly standing in the corner. Maybe I just have a personal thing for being casually disregarded but I really do prefer it when stories don’t spoon feed.

But the best part so far is the specificity of scope. I was kind of expecting this to be one of those floaty, multi-viewpoint affairs, but so far, the story has mostly been about one character and their attempt to navigate their celestially mundane existence. It’s a much stickier POV than you usually see in this sort of story, which results in an incredibly unique read. There are underlying mysteries by the dozen, and questionable motives, and more delectably gray characters than Raymond Chandler could shake an empty bottle at. 

I like it. 

Anyway, I’m a bit hungover right now and want to savor this story, so I’ll come back here to update with an advanced review when I finish.

Where the Wind Goes

It's the best sort of story to drunkenly stumble upon. World building is fantastic. But more importantly, the author clearly has a talent for prose and symbolism, as well as particularly cheeky title drops. Usually, I go to royal road for my wish fulfillment, and to traditional publishing for my brain nourishment and mental recharge. This story manages to fulfill both needs effortlessly, with an extra shot of whimsy on the side. Dialogue is rich and believable. Dialogue tags, however, can get a bit silly in a few instances, but I won't be so petty as to bemoan someone bemoaning something. I kinda have to give kudos just for using the word bemoan. On some level I forgot it existed.

I digress.

Both lead characters are likable and interesting.

The amnesiac angle is played well, interesting and mysterious without falling into the many, many, (many) possible cliches that can make that particular trope trite and tiresome. I'm invested and excited to read the rest. Best of all, as the author has said the story is already written and is just being posted over time, so the rest is all but guaranteed. 

I'll drop an advanced review on reread when I'm sober and not half asleep.

Hands Held in the Snow

I promised to come back and review this story when I finished it and when I was sober. But having finished the story, I can only fulfill half of that promise, for reasons that will become obvious when you, dear reader of reviews, finish the story. Which you should. It’s great. If a quick go-ahead is what you’re looking for, by all means, go ahead. One of the best romance stories I’ve read in recent memory. Go on, get to reading. Click on chapter 1. It’s right up there. Shoo.

Are they gone? 


We have two-hundred words to fill, so let me wax poetic for a bit. I loathe and love romance as a genre in equal measure. Romance stories generally make me happy. They’re something of a guilty pleasure. They’re more often than not designed that way. But it is the cynical formula of romance that I loathe. And it is a formula. In the first act, two characters of varying genders, orientations, and preferences are drawn together by either the whims of fate or their own machinations. They fall for each other. In the second act, often pointless and trite challenges arise, causing turbulence and eventually breaking our two lead characters apart. And then, in the saccharine third act, they come back together, previous problems discarded, and love conquers all. 

This story does not follow that formula. 

Which frankly, surprised me. It’s ballsy and unconventional. It’s also delightfully deceptive. The characters are completely infatuated with each other within the first third of the story. Which was strange, as, in my mind, it didn’t leave many places for the story to go. I was honestly expecting fifty chapters of fluff. 

I did not get fifty chapters of fluff. 

The problem was with my perspective. It’s romance. Generally you go in expecting characters little more than functional archetypes that can be boiled down to a single word. Smart. Mouthy. Bookworm. Aggressive. But TheDude doesn’t write archetypes. He writes characters—fully fleshed out individuals that can easily pass as actual people. They have lives, and outside pressures, and family influences, and responsibilities, and dreams. 

It’s so easy, for the protagonists of an average romance to simply throw everything away, not caring what they have to sacrifice. Because at the end of the day, those protagonists have no agency. They were always going to follow the formula, as that’s what romance as a genre so often is. 

This is not that story. 

This is better. 

What a great story, man. Damn. I was not prepared. 

Oh, right, I was supposed to be doing this by category. We’ll call the word hemorrhage above the Story/Character section. 

Style is fantastic. It's pleasant and whimsical. I was a bit concerned from the prologue that it would be told in a semi-omniscient POV--which, if you can pull off, more power to you--but the author immediately swapped to a well handled third person limited as soon as the story began in earnest. The language is carefully chosen (seriously, what website am I on all of a sudden) to paint beautiful pictures of cities and landscapes. And people. 

No issues with the grammar. Barely noticed it, which means it’s functioning correctly, some minor quibbles with dialogue early on, but that’s more likely a preference issue than an objective one. 

In short: It’s a great story, it’s unconventional, and it’s absolutely going on my yearly reread list. Thank you, author, for taking me on that journey. If you have time to point me to another story of yours to read next, I’m all ears. 

Borne of Caution

Excellent and well thought out. We have some poignant trauma, some solid motivation, characters that are actually interesting and not carbon copies of each other, and a unique viewpoint through the MC. It doesn't fall in the classic fanfic traps of demonizing, dominating, or tritely regurgitating the canon content. The MC, while logically at advantage due to his background, is capable of losing. This means actual stakes and dramatic tension and all sorts of wonderful things.

Some quick bullet points:

+ There are no arbitrary jumps in power or unnecessary pandering.

+ I did not cringe at any given point.

+ The author did not make me feel bad for liking Pokémon by making unnecessary allusions to slavery.

+ Gardevoir was, mercifully, left alone.

+ MC is believably disturbed about his situation without beating the self-pity drum to death or spending days exploring the depths of his own naval.


the story is now at parity with the FanFiction, a03, and spacebattles versions, which means I'm out of chapters. And yes, I liked the story so much that when I finished I immediately went to check all of those.

Read it. Totally worth your time, even if you're not traditionally into Pokémon or Isekai. 

Mother of Learning

Read the title. You already know what it is. You see it at the number one slot. The Daddy of all daddies. It's perfect. I've read it twice. I've dreamed about it at least three times. It's the GOAT. I've read at least a hundred time loop stories, (I'd say hundreds, but I'm not sure there are that many) traditionally published and otherwise. This is the best one. Hands down. 

Chasing Paradise

This is for the first six chapters of Chasing Paradise. 

It's pretty great so far. There's no immediate power up, and though things are suggested through quest screens nothing is handed to the MC. Things go badly for him reasonably often, and he's obviously still getting his legs in this new world. There's a good amount of tension. No glaring typos and dialogue is formatted correctly

If I'd like to see anything, it would be slightly more variance in the paragraph sizes. The vast majority seem tend to be a similar length, which can lead to some monotony in the format (though not the content!)