There's no way around it: It's bad. And it is particularly harmful to this story, for it to be this bad. Run-on sentences, commas where there should not be, missing punctuation, etc. It improves a bit as the story goes on, but it *really, really* hurts the story, really early on.
Let me elaborate. The grammar here is not the worst I've seen on RR. But for a story like this, which is already inherently confusing for a variety of other factors, it is vitally important that a reader not be distracted from the plot by the poor grammar. And I found myself CONSTANTLY distracted from the plot by poor grammar. The number of times I had to re-read lines in order to figure out what was happening was too many to count.
Even having read through it, I'm not sure whether some of my confusion is because of the plot, or because of the grammar confusing me ABOUT the plot. IMO, this is the number one thing that must be fixed about this fic, ASAP.
It starts off with an interesting hook about two characters in a divergent timeline. Okay, interesting hook. But some chapters jump to introducing a bunch of new characters that, quite frankly, I have little idea why we are following them yet. That might be something that becomes elaborated on in the future, and maybe it could be interesting, but right now, combined with the grammar issues, it just added too much to my confusion factor and I found myself becoming disengaged during these chapters. Following Sid and Cavalier over a more long-term basis helped to keep me engaged.
Okay, let me put it this way. I think you can expect readers to tolerate a certain amount of ambiguity, mystery and confusion in a story. I think it can even be a good thing. But there's only so much confusion readers will tolerate before becoming disengaged. Doing things like:
1. Leaping very quickly into the action, without much of an introduction
2. Introducing a whole bunch of characters at once
3. Focusing on characters where it's not immediately apparent how they're relevant to the overall plot
4. Having strange slang where the meaning of the words must be inferred from context
5. Having a strange, confusing plot in general
6. Jumping back and forth between multiple POVs
7. Having bad grammar
All of these things add to the overall confusion level of the reader, and too much confusion can cause a reader to disengage. Each on their own, done right (with the exception of 7) can be an interesting device. But this fic does ALL of these. After fixing the grammar, I think t he next thing you need to do is just put yourself in your reader's shoes, and ask yourself: Where do you need to slow down, and explain things a bit more, so that the general overall confusion of the fic doesn't end up overwhelming readers and causing them to disengage?
I actually liked the stylistic choice in chapter two, where the text aligned itself to the source of the action (for at least a little bit), but it didn't seem to get used anywhere else but there.
In general, it's told in a 3rd-person POV, focusing on a particular character's perspective each chapter. If you hack your way past the grammatical flaws (not an easy ask) I think you can say that description levels are usually alright. Sometimes the physical characteristics of people in the environment feel underdescribed. It would probably be easier to evaluate this once the grammar was fixed, because needing to reread lines so often really damaged my abiility to form a picture in my head of what was happening.
This seems like it could be the author's strong point. They do a decent job of conveying distinct personalities with their characters with just a few lines. None of them have really rubbed off on me yet, at this point - perhaps because the switching of perspectives means we haven't spent enough time with any one particular character, yet.
Please, please fix the grammar. It might seem like I'm harping on this, but it is the number one biggest factor impacting your story at this moment, it makes everything else more difficult to evaluate, and it can be such a relatively simple fix - it requires no structural changes to plot, style or characters. The author does improve as they go along, but right now it makes the earlier chapters a real struggle, and that's when the whole foundations of the plot are laid. The biggest problem is punctuation and comma usage - generally, other rules of grammar are followed and spelling is correct.
Warning: While I will try to avoid them as much as I can, this review will contain some spoilers.
Mostly good. I noticed some slipups here and there, but not enough that I decided to start making notes of them. Probably could benefit from a once-over on each chapter just to catch grammar mistakes.
Third person narrative with focus on a different character each chapter. Usually when I consider style, I consider the following points:
Inner thoughts: The inner thoughts of the focus character each chapter are described, but sometimes in a rambling, strangely tangential manner. I can't quite tell if this is meant to be part of the ambience or not.
Environmental descriptions/Physical descriptions of characters: I found the descriptions of the physical characteristics the environments the characters are in, as well as the descriptions of the characters themselves, to be a little sparse. It's not ignored, but I sometimes have trouble picturing these characters and where they are. The fantastical elements are given good description.
Action: It's usually clear what exactly the characters are doing, no real problems here.
However, I feel like I have to mention another point here, just because it is the single largest thing that drew me out of the story.
Dialogue: The year is 2108. And yet, all the characters seem to use slang - and even make pop culture references - circa the year 2021. I don't know about anyone else, but this was a huge, glaring sticking point to me, because so much emphasis seems to be put on the manner of speech. Why would people 80 years in the future use the same type of slang that people in 2021 did? And as for the pop culture references - you could make a couple of cutesy references to modern day stuff as 'classics', if you gave a sense that the world actually was populated by a more updated form of fictional media. But that's not really done. When cultural references are made, it's to modern-day stuff, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. I think, in general, the author could do more work in making this story that takes place 80+ years in the future actually FEEL futuristic. Other than the presence of (never really explained in detail) plasma energy - I don't actually see why this story couldn't take place in, say, the modern day, or like, 10 years in the future, instead of 80.
The plot revolves around the sudden appearance of strange aliens through a hole torn in the sky, anticipated on social media by NASA posting that aliens do exist - although I thought it pretty appropriate that nobody really knew what to think about that, or even whether or not to believe it.
The aliens themselves are mysterious and horrifying: They have as of yet made no real attempt to communicate, they kidnap people, and their presence seems to be having stramge environemental effects on the world. The setting seems like a 'soft' dystopia - the government isn't actively going around gunning people down, but nobody really trusts anything they say, and for the most part the government doesn't even really seem all that interested in communicating to people what their response to the aliens is. So a lot of the focus so far has been on our younger cast trying to figure out exactly what the authorities know, and what could be behind the disappearance of one of their parents. It's an intriguing plot, and I like the setting, but it is fairly early on in the story - the mystery is just ramping up - so I can't say much more than that it has an interesting hook, as of right now.
None of the characters, as of yet, stick out to me, and that can be both a good and bad thing.
What I mean by that is: None of the characters stick out as being particularly badly characterized, or inconsistent, or unrealistic, etc. That's a good thing.
However, none of the characters really stick out from each other in terms of distinct personalities, either. They seem to me to be all pretty similar boisterous teenagers. The internal focus helps to distinguish them, but as of right now it's not easy for me to list ways in which they're different from each other personality-wise. There's some hints that Phoenix has a bit of a crush on Alex, Alex is a bit more feminine, Andy seems - maybe - a little bit more cautious or even cowardly? But none of it is super strongly defined. Overall, I'd say the characters aren't a weakness of this fic, but neither are they really a strength.
The most appealing part of this fic, to me, is the mysterious and sinister nature of the aliens, and the apathetic, soft-dystopia nature of the setting where nobody really believes or trusts the government. Plot is the biggest strength of this fic, followed by setting - which would be stronger if not for the strange way folk culture seems to have been frozen 80 years in the past. The writing style (minus dialogue), while it can seem clunky at times, occasionally reaches a nice 'ambience' of poetic description. I think the author definitely has a lot of talent, but more experience writing could refine it into something great.
English is not the author's first language, and they make a LOT of grammar mistakes. I will say that despite this, what is happening in the story is usually pretty clear.
A very sparse style. Environments and people are rarely described. (Although this probably helps with keeping the action in the story clear, since the author might have struggled with a more dense style.) Chapters are short and bite-sized. The author has a very dramatic, excitable style of writing, using multiple exclamation marks. Sometimes they make odd choices to break out of the story to explain things. I will say that, at the least, the story was CLEAR - I wasn't confused at what was happening in it, or WHY it was happening.
So far, the story has followed the father of a family of trash-pickers and he and his friend try to desperately come up with the money to pay for his wife's hospital bills. Since each of the chapters is so short, not much has happened yet - they decide to gamble with what savings he has to try to come up with the money, against a shark that plans to essentially turn them into slaves via a rigged game of poker. Each round of poker is very dramatized and given a cliffhanger, so this poker game has so far consumed the vast majority of the action. It's definitely a motivating hook, so I give points for it, but honestly very little has happened yet.
Jose has realistic and sympathetic motivations - wanting to take care of his wife and still hang on to money to provide for his son's future, even if he isn't the brightest of guys. His friend Antonio seems a little inconsistent - at one moment chiding Jose for taking a risky bet, and the next, wanting to make a risky bet himself. Yanlei comes across as a believable, not over the top, sleazeball.
I think it's definitely an interesting plot hook. However - putting grammar aside - the author's stylistic decisions to make every moment of the poker game super dramatized and full of tension has caused it to drag on for a little bit. They seem to want to end every chapter on a cliffhanger, but I don't know how this is sustainable once we move past the poker game, especially at the chapter lengths we're given. The short lengths and clarity do mean that, at least, the story is easy to digest. Overall, the plot is this story's strongest point, and I think the characters could be compelling as well once we see more of them, but the style really hurts the telling.
Grammar: Just to get this out of the way, no mistakes seen here.
The author's style is incredibly descriptive and detailed when it comes to environments and action - you never have a problem understanding what is going on or where the action is taking place. The story is told in third-person perspective, and there's a lot of switching between characters who are the focus of action, at least for now. It's handled pretty well, but that's something inherently difficult to write. Especially at the beginning of the story, when these characters have only recently been introduced. I think that what may help with this switching perspective focus is a bit more detail on describing the physical attributes of the different characters. If a reader can clearly picture how these multiple characters look (and you do need a bit of repetition, at least when first establishing the characters, to get people to remember, I think) then it becomes easier to read when the focus is switched back and forth between them.
And one more thing, that I myself have only recently come to understand, and definitely need to pay more attention to myself in my own writing. The author frequently engages in large, long paragraphs. These long paragraphs are gramatically correct, and often stylistically sound.
However: my advice would be, break some of these larger paragraphs up. For whatever reason - and like I said, I kind of just recently realized this myself - these paragraphs, which I think would look fine in print, become difficult to follow on a computer screen. My theory is that it's just the simple fact of how far a book normally is from your face, vs how far a computer screen normally is from your face. I much more often find my eyes slipping, or accidentally skipping lines, in these large, digital paragraphs than they do for large paragraphs in print. I think more frequent breaks helps with this, to make the work more readable in a digital format; and often these large paragraphs can be split once or more.
But these are just friendly points of advice, for the most part the author's style is very descriptive and fun to read, making scenes feel clear and vivid in your mind, to the point where I think with a little editorial tweakiing this could be a professional work.
This work reveals its secrets slowly (which I like), so by Chapter 14, what exactly is going on in the setting is still a little mysterious. It seems the earth underwent some massive calamity that involved seeming physical impossibilities, like an asteroid crashing down to earth and yet simply remaining towering there, and a host of other events that evoke religious apocalyptic prophecy. Now what's left of humanity is besieged by strange creatures called 'Marked'. Many interpret this disaster as religious in nature, but there is some doubt and uncertainty on the part of a few characters about whether this might all be alien, rather than divine, in origin.
So far - up to chapter 14 - it has been a story about the human struggle for survival in this grim, post-apocalyptic space. I will try to avoid spoiling everything, but, at least it seems to me, chapter 14 settles the ambiguity - this is definitely a religiously inspired setting. The writing in the first arc definitely has me intrigued as to where it's going, even if I the pacing is slow and measured enough that I'm still very much in the dark about what the larger picture might be.
I'll sum up my thoughts about the characters as this: So far, at least, this has been very much a story about a world, rather than necessarily about characters in that world.
What I mean by that is, characters feel real, their dialogue is natural - and while we've zoomed in a little bit on a couple of characters so that you know who is probably going to be the focus moving forward, so far the main focus has been the setting over necessarily dwelling on them. As the first arc is the "setup", I think I can predict that this will probably change moving forward and there will be some characters that we spend more time with and get more insight on. But, at least for now, I'm still much more invested in the world than in any of the characters.
An extremely well-written, bleak, religiously inspired post apocalyptic world, the writing quality leaps and bounds beyond the typical fare on RR. It's hard to say yet what the overall story is going to be like, but the first arc definitely got me curious enough to give this work a follow. If you're looking for something different from the gamelit/litrpg/isekai offerings on RR, this is defintiely a very worthy offering, and I hope that stories like this can be successful here.
So, at its core, this fic has a really interesting idea.
The idea is that there is this consortium of (interdimensional?) aliens, called the Eightfold. The Eightfold take over/use planets for their own devices (it is implied some of the Eightfold, called elders, 'feed' on new species somehow), but before they arrive, they culturally acclimate the planet to their arrival by manipulating and mind-controlling/inspiring artists to create the presence of The Eightfold in popular culture.
This is actually a pretty unique idea for an alien invasion. The Eightfold essentially would be gaslighting entire species, who would presumably not be aware of their slowly encroaching presence until it was far too late, because everyone who might be alert to their presence would just come across as a loony who was taking entertainment far too seriously. And it sets things up for a lot of fun psychological ambiguity, since you don't really know if the character we're seeing things through is insane or if the Eightfold actually exist.
However - the author has intentionally tackled a very difficult challenge to write about. There's a lot of complexity, here:
1. Are the Eightfold real or not?
2. The main character, Simon, roleplays in a game that takes place in the Eightfold universe. The narrative sometimes switches back and forth from describing things from his perspective, to describing things from his Eightfold character's perspective.
3. Simon also experiences dreams about what the future might be like should the Eightfold invaade.
4. Many characters are also introduced at once (the other members of Simon's (TWO) roleplaying groups.)
Switching the narrative back and forth from dreams, to RPG game (that we don't know how real it actually is), to real world, with many characters (each member of Simon's RPG group is essentially TWO characters, the character they are in the real world and the character they are in the RPG), all while communicating the psychological ambiguity of whether Simon is just insane or whether the Eightfold is real, is something that would be a real challenge for any writer.
And the author here struggles with it. Transitions between these different realities are often sudden and jarring, leaving the reader very confused. Even when we're not transitioning from one reality to another, scene transitions within one reality are sudden as well - within the breath of two sentences, we might suddenly go from Simon talking to someone from one RPG group, to knocking at the door of an entirely different one we had just heard about. His RPG teammates are not given much attention, making it doubly confusing to track what's going on because, as said before, each one of them is essentially TWO characters.
And there's other complexities. The Eightfold themselves are not monolithic, they are composed of many competing factions. There's subtle concepts, like something called vulgar sorcery - which is essentially a form of compulsion, except the victim can resist with psychological trickery, making it a subtle and drawn-out form of magic - which go critically underdescribed. All of this complexity, combined with the necessary psychological ambiguity, and the jarring transitions, can make things VERY confusing.
My advice? Go much slower when introducing these concepts. Confusion is inherent to your story because of the psychological ambiguity of the Eightfold's existence. You want readers to be feeling THAT confusion - not confusion over scene transitions, confusion over transitions from one reality to another, confusion over characters that are given very little description, etc. You want readers to be able to enjoy the inherent ambiguity of the story, which means you should try very hard to reduce all other sources of confusion - make everything else crystal clear. Otherwise, the confusion readers should be feeling over whether the Eightfold exists combines with and gets drowned out by other sources of confusion, making everything a muddled mess that can be difficult to read.
It's a very interesting idea at its core, but such a challenging one to tackle, that I almost think the author should cut their teeth on more straightforward stories first - gain more experience as a writer with simpler stories, learn to find your voice when describing scenes, characters, action, etc - and then come back to a more challenging project like this. I give lots of points for the basic idea and the attempt made, but this is something that even well-established, professional writers would struggle to do justice to, I think. Right now, the story often feels disjointed, jarring or muddled, especially at the beginning. More experience as a writer - or lots and lots of heavy editing with very good editors - would really be needed to do this story justice.
Grammar: No mistakes noticed here.
I'm usually not a fan of first-person perspective, but the more intimate perspective works well for this story. Action and environments are described clearly. Characters can sometimes feel a little underdescribed - they might get a brief initial description, but I think the author could find little ways to remind us of character's physical characteristics to keep them fresh in our minds. The prose is straightforward and effective, not overly flowery.
Actually, really, really gripping.
I'm not going to lie; the first couple of chapters I read, I thought this was going to be a sort of typical, video-gamey dungeon delve kind of story. The writing quality was better than usual, with good pacing, but I wasn't expecting too much in terms of plot or setting.
However, stick with it, and it slowly reveals a really intriguing world - one of constant danger, roamed by powerful, capricious, malevolent individuals called 'Godtouched' who are not shy about abusing their power over others. As you might expect from a dungeon delve story, the way for normal people to gain fantastic power is to run through the gauntlet of the eponymous 'Dungeon Challenge', but Godtouched are individuals who are born with this power, without having to earn it. Their existence is a mystery - they only appeared relatively recently, and it's implied they changed the world greatly when they did. They are an oppressive force within the story, ever-present, violent lunatics that really makes the setting feel truly dangerous. Actually feels like a bit of a combo between a dystopia and a fantasy novel.
The story itself focuses on the sacrifice made to appease these Godtouched and their violent lusts, a mysterious young girl named Katha, and the attempts of her friends Malco and Reva to retrieve her. It has delightfully solid pacing, taking its time to actually get to the Dungeon Challenge itself, revealing lore about the world as it gets there, through the character's confrontations with the Godtouched. By chapter 14, we have just gotten to the beginning of The Dungeon Challenge, and I am actually very interested to see how it goes.
Characters - particularly Malco, Reva and Medrein - feel complex and real. But even side characters, who we don't see too much of, are written well. In particular, a good job is done with the Godtouched. They really do feel like dangerous people, when they appear - like life is a game for them that carries little risk, and everyone else around them is a plaything - and the author does a good job of making every encounter with them feel subtly on-edge, even when they're not doing anything particularly insane at the moment.
The story is primarily told through the perspective of Malco, a young man given good reason to be angry, but the story does not indulge his anger - things are more complex than he thinks they are; the world more gray than he thinks it is. This is definitely (at least, as of now) not a power fantasy fiction - all the characters are vulnerable, but Malco perhaps most of all.
This is really, really good, and I don't say that lightly. Of all the stories I've read through on RR, this is only the second that I've actually decided to follow. It may start out slow, but stick with it and you'll see that it is definitely not your typical Gamelit. It really deserves more attention. Absolutely give it a chance.
Environments and characters are described well; I thought that some of the more destructive magic could have afforded to be described with more gravitas, but I never felt as if I had a difficult time picturing what was happening. Conversations flow and feel natural, overall it is pretty competently written. The magic system is very video-gamey, as expected of Gamelit; there seems to be some hints of lore for why this is, which I hope the story gets into more later on - this seems to be for the most part a more classically written fantasy, so the Gamelit elements can feel a bit jarring, with the video game elements there without explanation. Characters, even though they might be very competent, don't feel pointlessly overpowered, which is nice.
It's an intriguing story, and well-focused so far: A thief pulls off a seemingly mundane heist, and ends up as the scapegoat for the death of a ruler and lots of political intrigue. The mystery helps in keeping the plot interesting; the stakes are reasonable and don't get blown up in magnitude way too quickly. I'm a little confused by the recent introduction of the princess; it's not exactly clear to me what the motivation behind her being used as a scapegoat is, or why she thinks her only option is to go and find the thief herself - to prove to people who certainly know they were lying about the cause of the ruler's death that...they were lying about it? Either I missed something, or the princess is kind of an idiot. I've given it a read over several times, and I'm still a bit puzzled about the explanation behind what's going on with the princess and her brother, and why she thinks this is a good plan (Chapter 8.) Since its seems like such a big moment in the story, it might be worth taking a look at rewriting that to clarify things.
No mistakes noticed here; pleasantly easy to read.
The author does a good job of giving side characters personality, which is something I always appreciate, because it makes the world seem more alive.
The main character, the master thief, kind of comes across as a hypocrite - he sympathises with the poor and downtrodden, but doesn't really seem to feel that much torment or guilt that dozens of them get tortured and killed because of the actions he took. I don't know if that was intentional, but it does make him seem a little callous and insincere. (Which isn't a bad thing, if that's what you were aiming for.) He vows revenge on their behalf, and does get some on the people who torment them, true, but I would think it would be a pretty heavy thing to see people you sympathize with get tortured by the dozens because of something you did.
The princess, by this point I don't think I've seen enough of her to really get a feel for her personality. (Honestly, the crone she talks to is way more entertaining than she is, at least by this point.)
Well-written, competent Gamelit fantasy with an interesting mystery plot and a world that feels well-imagined and alive. Biggest downside right now is the somewhat clunky introduction of the princess. But it's worth noting: While in other stories, such a puzzling introduction of a second major character might be a breaking point for me, but here the story is otherwise well-written enough that I could ignore it to move forward with the plot.
Edit: Changed "LitRPG" to "Gamelit" since that seems more accurate with how the genres are described on this site. (Sorry, I am a bit unfamiliar with these genres and where their boundaries are!)
No mistakes noticed here.
Told from the perspective of an anthropomorphic cat sidekick, who often looks down on the humans he interacts with, it's a series of vignettes in a nostalgic alternative future, each loosely connected. The reading is smooth and often funny, though sometimes I think that more room could be dedicated to the description of environments; though hard to do when all the text is written as a sort of acerbic inner dialogue of one of the characters. It's fun to read, even if it sometimes feels a bit under-described.
Each chapter is a self-contained story of bounty hunting or related adventures, sometimes loosely connected, sometimes revealing a bit of backstory about the main duo. They're each entertaining yarns - though the one criticism I would have, is that it feels like many of these chapters could be expanded to about twice or three times their length, giving a bit more detail to the story.
Even side characters, with the little bit of dilaogue we see from them, tend to feel interesting in their own right; the author is good at implying a lot of backstory to characters that we see only glimpses of.
Our main character is Lee the cat sidekick/pilot partner of the bouny hunter Ali; the story is told through his perspective, and he's cynical and disdainful of humans, though not to the point that he's unwilling to work with them. Ali, on the other hand, seems at first glance shallow and hedonistic, but there's a bit of depth to her character that we get a glimpse of from time to time - though I wish it was more often, as I feel that as of yet the only character that you really end up knowing well is Lee himself.
I might have worried that a work that focuses on space bounty hunters might be a little derivative of other works, but Kitty Kitty manages to have an ambience all its own, like the eighties colonized deep space (although sometimes it feels as if it's now on the verge of the decay of the nineties.) Sometimes it doesn't make sense, but ambience is the king in this kind of story. Each chapter being self-contained means that the story comes in bite-sized chunks that are easy to digest, even if sometimes you wish you got a little bit more out of a particular chunk. Definitely a solidly fun sci-fi; Cowboy Bebop with more eighties nostalgia and whimsy and less drama.
I'll just get t his one out of the way first. English is not the author's first language, but they write understandably in it, and the grammar is for the most part fine - but there are definitely times where you can tell that english is a second language for them. It's hard for me to evaluate how to rate something in these circumstances, so I'll give a 4.5/5 since it's understandable, but be aware of this as you're reading.
I am not that familiar with the isekai genre, I just know the basics: A character killed in the 'real world' that gets resurrected in a fantasy world that often follows video game fantasy tropes. Oddly enough, very little attention is paid to the character's former life in this work, leaving it as somewhat of a mystery to be revealed over the course of the story, which I think is a good choice.
The story so far follows the MC, who wants to become some kind of all-powerful villain, on fairly typical "beginning of adventure" stuff so far - completing a quest to steal a monster's eggs, dealing with a loan shark, etc. Some attention is paid to his temporary companions, so they feel a bit more like actual characters. The real interest comes from the MC himself, who is a bit mysterious and seems to be a little mad. He has three 'spirits' in his head which seem to have connections to his past, but it seems so far exactly what the extent of those connections are are being left to the future to be fleshed out, which is a bit of mystery that can serve as a hook to the story. Funny enough, as soon as they were done with the first adventure 'arc', the story seemed to immediately get more interesting to me - the MC seemed to take on the role of a journeying magician, making dark deals with unfortunate souls in return for magic items, which is definitely much more interesting to me than the monster-quest stuff.
It's hard for me to evaluate this. The MC is "trope-savvy", in that he's well aware of the typical pop-culture stereotypes of the genre, and expects them to apply to the world he lives in. Unfortunately, this leads to him making a LOT of references that, to be honest, fly completely over my head. A lot of times I just have no idea what the MC is talking about with real-world references. It definitely hampered my personal enjoyment of the story, but perhaps if you are more familiar with the cultural milieu that the author operates in, it will be more understandable and enjoyable to you, so I didn't take points off for that.
There were some other style problems that I notice a lot in stories on this site - a bunch of characters get introduced at once, and their physical description isn't given enough attention, so it becomes hard to keep track of who all these characters are exactly, or a bunch of characters that you were just introduced to interact in conversation and it becomes difficult to keep track of who's speaking. I think in general the author could pay a bit more attention to painting the scene and the characters of the world, so the reader has a clearer picture of what's happening in their mind.
Temporary characters, or side characters, are given a little depth, love interests, backstory etc. so that they seem a bit more like real people.
However the character that we definitely spend the most time with - and the one we spend most time seeing the world through their eyes - is the MC, our aspiring trope-savvy villain. By chapter 22, it's...still a bit hard to get a handle on him. A lot of his past is left mysterious (intentionally, I believe, for the mystery to be revealed later: it's not a bad thing), and more than being simply an earth nerd thrust into a fantasy world and taking advantage of genre awareness, he does seem to be genuinely a little mad on top of that. Other than thirsting for power, he doesn't really seem to act much like a villain, so you don't have to worry about him being a completely unsympathetic MC.
One thing I do wish is that we got to spend some more time with the spirits he talks to in his head. They're important characters that are vital to his success, who will presumably be sticking with us for the entire story. We've got to see enough of them that we can tell them apart by personality, but I would really like to see them expanded upon, get some more depth added to their personality, know more about what exactly their relationship with the MC is like.
An Isekai adventure with a trope-savvy MC who aspires to be a legendary villain, I think where this story gets the most interesting is when it doesn't dwell on references, and instead the author spends time expanding the backstory of side characters, emphasizing the mystery of the MC, and having story elements that are a bit more folkish, like in the later chapters when the MC trades his magic to unfortunate souls. I personally felt a bit alienated by the references just because I was so unfamiliar with them, but if you're more familiar with this genre and what the author references the story will probably be more enjoyable to you. The author takes things at a good pace, not rushing through the introductory arc to the story, and introduces the more fantastical elements at a good pace so that they're easy to understand, even if there's still a lot of mystery left behind some of them.
Warning: I will try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I may drop some information here or there.
It seems like a bit of an oddball at first - a YA dystopia/historical fanfiction crossover? And early on, I thought the dystopia half of the combo was strong enough on its own, and wondered exactly why the historical fanfiction had to be part of the equation. However, the historical fanfiction side is usually played for laughs, and I came to appreciate its presence in this fun little story.
Basic rundown is: The dystopia part - while very real - is tongue-in-cheek, a nightmare world where people have to engage in constant musicals about their emotions, compelled by a chip installed in their heads, or face arrest. Art is elevated, science is looked down upon, and we follow the high school experience of Marie Curie, a girl with little artistic talent but passion for science, as she's sent to one of the top "Art" schools in Musical Land as part of a social experiment.
Although it's a dystopia novel, you don't have to worry about things becoming too dramatic (at least, that's my impression as of Chapter 12), it's definitely on the more lighthearted side of dystopian settings. Historical references to famous figures are usually played for laughs as well.
The writing style is straightforward, smooth, focusing on life in high school through the eyes of one character. No real flourishes or anything to the writing, but the focus makes the fiction easy to digest.
Grammar: No mistakes noticed here.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing some historical references as I'm reading this - are there parts of Marie Curie's personality that are references to her real life counterpart? Why is Willam Shakespeare a conspiracy theorist? Was the real life Sigmund Freud so pissed off about science? Poe as a gloomy goth is obvious, but I do wonder if I'm missing some more subtle references. Anyway, characterization is much like the writing style: Straightforward, simple, and easy to digest.
This is a smooth story that I think I can tell the author is clearly having fun with, even if it does have some more dramatic/serious moments about dealing with poverty/high school bullying, etc. The basic concept is, again, very tongue-in-cheek. The straightforward, unembellished writing style serves the story well, I think - keeping things simple and focused, the author doesn't get tripped up in prose or descripton or switching between perspectives. It definitely got a chuckle out of me a few times, and I appreciate how easy it was to settle into the world. Not a masterpiece or anything, but definitely a fun story that's easy to get into.