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Dice Dungeon!

Note: This was meant to be review-swap, but I've been ultra-tardy, so I am writing this review with no expectation of a swap or any reciprocation. This is an honest review. 

There are only 4.5 chapters of Dice Dungeon at the time of this review, so reviewing it is a bit difficult. Keep in mind, we're still in very early game, so it's possible everything I say here will be wrong in a few weeks or so. With that said, DD seems to be taking a familiar trope, Chess with Death (see TV Tropes), and using it to introduce the world and game mechanics. It's a clever twist and I like it, but I think the execution could use a bit more polish. 

Style: 4.0/5.0 

I mostly liked the style, aside from shifting POVs in early chapters. This is the biggest issue I had and it leads to some problems with scene and cohesion. In Chapter 1, for example, we start off with a texting scene that suddenly swaps from the perspective of one character to another without rhyme or reason, and the scene does not resolve organically. I think this improves over time, particularly once the cast is all in one place (at which point the POV goes more omniscient), but it is still jarring. 

The prose itself is pretty polished and works well, though I would reconsider some of the word choices here and there. Overall, it's an easy, breezy read with relatively tight prose. 

Grammar: 4.5/5.0

Grammar is mostly fine. A few minor mistakes here and there, but this is perfectly readable and serviceable. There are no errors that detract from understanding. 

Story: 3.5/5.0

I like the twist in the premise that justifies the use of game mechanics. I think this is pretty clever, though I don't generally read isekai or litrpg--I'm not the best judge for uniqueness, here, so I suggest the reader use their own judgement.

The story is still early, though, and despite the high stakes, is at present strangely lacking in tension. The ingredients for high emotion, such as fear or panic, are there, but they are not utilized in a way that transfers the feeling of danger to the reader. Things just seem to happen and the protagonists roll along with events, not with fear and panic, but cool aplomb. Only one character seems particularly distressed, but this is told in that same distant POV as the rest if the story, so the impact is somewhat reduced. 

With that said, though, the author does many things right: there is a big problem to be solved or avoided, and they land in a very undesirable situation. There's a bit of mystery here, too, and a world to explore. There's been a great deal of thought and work put into this, so that is to be applauded. Overall, the ingredients for a rollicking action-adventure story are there, but they don't seem to be quite clicking in exactly the right way yet. 

Character: 3.0/5.0

I can see that some effort has gone into differentiating the three friends and demonstrating their closeness. However, this effort is done in that same distant POV again, and we never linger in each character's thoughts or feelings; we're told it, and the distant viewpoint simply continues to observe and describe with few exceptions. It's difficult to connect with these characters, because the narrative insists on distance; we can only observe, not participate, at the emotional level.

This approach certainly has strengths, as it allows nearly equal play of all three characters at once when they are together (without POV switching, as limited 3rd would require), but there is a tradeoff here, and we've not quite seen enough of anyone to be invested. It's still early, though, so all this might change! 

Another issue I had with characterization is that everyone just seems too cool and competent, especially for teenagers. Only one character, as mentioned, exhibits distress, but this clears quickly. This made suspension of disbelief difficult. 

Overall, I think DD has promise, but this promise has yet to be realized at the 4.5 chapter mark. Readers who enjoy isekai and tabletop gaming might want to give this one a whirl. 

Final: 3.75/5.0, rounded up to 4.0


The Psysword Chronicles (HIATUS)

Note: This was meant to be review-swap, but I've been ultra-tardy, so I am writing this review with no expectation of a swap or any reciprocation. This is an honest review. 

I'm bit torn about The Psysword Chronicles. On the one hand, the mechanical aspects of writing are top-tier; I'd say the quality of the writing itself is nearly the best I've seen in terms of polish on RR. On the other hand, the story and characters feel incredibly standard and generic, and I found myself mixing up the names of the two female leads more than once. It's a bit of a mixed bag, though I suspect this might have been designed to appeal strictly to fans of the genre. I would also like to note here that I am not a big isekai or anime fan, so I am probably falling well outside of the intended target audience. I've tried not to let this bias my review, but I mention it here because, obviously, I'm only human. Some bias might have slipped in!  

Style: 5.0/5.0

I have no complaints about the style. It's incredibly consistent and gets the job done: no frills, with every word in order as necessary, and nothing more. I like this style of prose, so I enjoyed the reading experience itself immensely. If I absolutely had to nitpick, I'd say that the three main characters sound the same when they speak, but it seems like this is a deliberate decision because there is at least one side character with a very distinct voice. 

Really, just a nice, smooth reading experience. Top marks here!

Grammar: 4.5/5.0

Grammar is good. I've noticed a few errors here and there with comma splices, but they're few and far in between. No complaints here, either! Very polished and professional presentation overall. 

Story: 3.0/5.0

First, the good: the worldbuilding is done well. There is clearly a geography and culture, and I appreciate that the author has a bit of a conlang going on, though it is limited to single words. It's clear there's been some effort put in here, and that's something I always appreciate in any kind of fantasy or sci-fi story. There is also an element of mystery that gets introduced early on, and I think that was a good call to make.

With that said, I find that the story makes me feel...okay? I don't feel particularly turned off by it, but I'm not particularly excited by it, either. 

The story itself is entirely serviceable, but it feels like I've read this before: Boy falls into another world because he was chosen, and immediately has special powers. His sidekicks are two pretty girls with opposite personalities. This is a very generic setup, and I feel like I've watched or read this type of story many, many times in my childhood--and I don't really read or watch isekai, either! It feels like the isekai version of "farm boy goes on an adventure and becomes a hero", and I have pretty much the same emotional reaction to this setup that I do to that setup. It's tried and true for a reason, yes, but it still feels very well-trodden. 

In terms of the way the story is presented, here too, we don't really deviate from the basic recipe: we start with the summoning and move immediately into exposition. There's no real hook in the opening chapters, just movement from A to B along with some dialogue meant to explain things to the MC. This is entirely adequate, but it doesn't get my blood pumping. 

As I've said, isekai isn't my wheelhouse, so I don't really know how this could be made more interesting while still adhering to genre tropes. I feel like maybe starting in media res somewhere further into the story might be better; what if we were dropped right into the middle of a battle? Or a tragedy? Or something with more emotional oomph? Maybe doing so would cause mass confusion, but maybe it would make things more compelling, too? It's hard to say, but I feel like this is something that could be a really raring adventure that's just hamstrung out the gate by the first two chapters. 

Characters: 3.0/5.0

I will say the biggest issue I had with Psysword is with the characters. The MC, Kendrick, doesn't quite make sense to me. He's been dropped into a new world with 

amnesia, but rather than being incredibly distressed or resistant to his new state of being, he decides to risk his life fighting Big Evil for a bunch of strangers. Oh, it also turns out that his summoners were acting illegally or some such, and are not real professionals about it. This is...somewhat alarming, so it's odd that he goes along with it all. This is a bit of a headscratcher for me! 

I don't really find his motivation convincing; he's up against monsters, but he's willing to do it because...? There's no real carrot and there's no stick, so I'm really baffled by his behaviour. 

The two female sidekicks are a bit of an issue too. I often found myself misremembering who was who--they feel pretty generic. It's a bit disappointing because the author has managed to create a very interesting side character with much fewer lines later on, so I'm not sure why these two have been made to be so bland.

With that said, it seems that other reviewers have said that they have distinct personalities, so perhaps I am missing something here. Even so, I'd say that overall, the characters just didn't work for me. 

All in all, I'd say that the The Psysword Chronicles is perfectly serviceable isekai which caters to genre fans. The author is skilled, and knows how to write, though they occasionally lean too heavily toward tried-and-true tropes. 

Overall Rating: 3.88, rounded up to 4.0


The Painter: A fantasy psych thriller and epic

Note: This is not a review swap.

The Painter is definitely not standard RR fare. It is set in a fantasy world but does not have typical fantasy focus; there are no farm boys-turned hero or lost princesses or dastardly dragons. What it does have is a nameless man living with an unutterable loss in a slow-burn psychodrama set in the aftermath of a personal tragedy. 

Style: 4.0/5.0 

The prose is simple, smooth, and very readable. I like the simplicity, and the author does not torture syntax or belabor description to good effect. It tells the story in the right tone, and delivers content rather than window-dressing, which is precisely what prose ought to do (in my opinion, of course). 

There are, however, some issues with shifting viewpoints. We are in the third-person limited but occasionally the view dips into the omniscient then dips back. This is very distracting.

Another issue is that speech tags and action beats are conjoined together incorrectly in a way that impacts both flow and standard style rules. This sort of thing tends to distract me a lot and undercuts the professional presentation and mature tone of the tale, so I lopped off 1 whole star here. 

Story: 5.0/5.0

I appreciate a good, psychological slow-burn. I think there is a good story here, though I imagine it moves more slowly than most RR readers are used to or expect. Personally, I like it; I liked it a whole lot, and I would have liked it even more if the author had gone even *slower* and really let the emotional elements breathe. With that said, I do half-suspect that the author's pacing is actually perfectly good for the intended effect, and I just love angst in my stories, ha! 

I don't want to go into spoiler territory, but Part 1 sets the emotional tone, problem, and mystery needed for the rest of the tale very nicely. We're still a bit early (Part 1), so it's hard to say whether everything will fall into place or not, but I currently have high expectations for how this story moves forward. 

Grammar: 4.5/5.0

There are a few grammar errors throughout, with the most prominent being comma splices. Most readers probably won't notice. 

I will say I'm still bothered by the weirdness of speech tags being rolled in with action beats (without commas), ha, but I didn't double-deduct for that! 

Character: 4.0/5.0 

Overall, I like that the painter is a mystery for a good bulk of the first arc. It suits the theme.

However, one issue is that he seems like the sum of his problems rather than a person with problems, and it's hard to say who he is behind his problems. A lot of his behaviour does seem to stem from his issues, but take away the issues, and who is he? How has his character previous to his issues made him who he is *with* his issues? He felt a bit generic in his pre-tragedy flashback, and he feels a bit generic still. One other issue that stems from this is that his emotional trajectory from tragedy to present day feels a bit...hm. Forced? Inorganic? It's a bit hard to put my finger on it, but it did feel a bit off. 

Even so, I do think that the author did a good job around how a man might act in the aftermath of a great loss, and I expect there will be more to him soon. I liked that he *is* an ordinary man and he acts like it; he doesn't smart off at stronger people, and he is always aware of his limitations in his interactions. Really, he is a believable character, it's just that at present, he doesn't seem to have much character aside from his emotional turtling. I imagine this will improve as the scope of his interactions with the rest of the world widens!

Overall, I found The Painter an enjoyable read. I meant to read only one chapter, but I went ahead and binged up to the latest update. I highly recommend this for people who want an exploration of another world grounded in something very familiar to ours, and lovers of slow, sad literature. 

Early rating: 4.5/5.0 (May change depending on story developments!)


Weaponsmith : [A crafting litRPG]

Adorable Characters with a Side of Pathos

Updated 16/02/2022 with disclosure.

Disclosure: This is a review swap, though I have written this review as honestly and impartially as possible.

Look, I don't even like LitRPG. I haven't watched any anime for something like 10+ years and I'm probably the wrong demographic for this, but I still found this fic adorable. You hear me? Adorable

Style: 3.5

The author has chosen to use the limited third-person point-of-view in the present tense. It's a very odd style choice, since the POV and the narrative tense are mismatched: the present tense as narrative tense is often matched with the first person POV because it gives a sense of presence and movement (i.e. action) while preserving mystery. Think The Hunger Games for stories that do well with the present tense. 

This story is a slice-of-life, so the POV in the third person fits (slow-moving), but the narrative tense doesn't. I think this would have been served better with a third-person limited POV and simple past tense. Even so, the style is very readable and I don't think most readers mind it at all. 

Aside from the strange POV and narrative tense mismatch, it's clear the author puts thought into creating and maintaining a certain mood and atmosphere. It's quite cozy and cute, even when the things happening are not quite that. 

Occasionally there are shifts in the narrative tense (accidental ones) and for some reason in later chapters the author repeatedly refers to the MC as "the man" (though his name has already been established), which I found odd. However they don't necessarily detract from immersion or enjoyment in the story. 

Grammar: 4.0

There aren't too many basic errors, but I would say there are some higher-order errors around placement of phrases and clauses. They're pretty consistent, but I think most readers would not notice them and they don't detract from enjoyment or understanding. I've noticed the author is very responsive to comments and corrects errors very quickly, so this is a very good sign. Later chapters have fewer errors and overall the quality of the writing in this regard seems to be improving. 

Story and Character: 5.0 and 4.5

I'd say story and characters really shine. I've noticed some reviewers say that the story is too slow, but I don't agree with this assessment. The character work is being used to lay groundwork for future story work and it's done very well. 

In terms of story, we are essentially getting an exploration of internal growth (I suppose you could say it is man vs. himself, if you want a simple go-to) for the first bit, since the Hineni is trying to change into a better person. There are already some hints early on as to what the Obscura wants from him and the larger political maneuvering of the gods, and it's likely the internal changes are neccessary for the plot to move forward once the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Foreshadowing is parcelled out at a fair rate and the relationship-building is center stage.

At the time of writing, we have a good idea of who each of the characters are as well as their strengths and weaknesses. 

The only weakness I see is that Obscura can sometimes be disconcertingly young. It's not often and I can see she's meant to be quirky in a fish-out-of-water way, but there are times when her behaviour strikes me as simply being from cognitive immaturity rather than stemming from godly arrogance (I would have pegged her as between 14 to 16 based on some of her behaviour). I'm not sure if this is intentional, though I do get the impression both Hineni and Obscura are pretty young. She has enough darkness to her character that she feels more like her own person than a stereotype tsundere, but there are times when I think the character beat ventures too far into "cutesy child" territory to really work with her inherent viciousness. 

(I'm actually divided on whether I want a 5.0 here for character or a 4.5. Be warned, I might come back and update this later.)

Overall: 4.25, rounded up to 4.5. I highly recommend this to people who enjoy slow character-pieces and slice-of-life with the potential for something more. It really is very enjoyable (look, I was going to write this review at chapter fifteen but I read until the latest update. I'm a picky, cranky old person, so listen to me), and you should definitely give it a go!


Skyrates?!

Monty Python and the Unholy Rails

Updated 16/02/2022 with disclosure.

Disclosure: This is a review swap, though I have written this review as honestly and impartially as possible.

Skyrates?! Is extremely unusual for Royal Road. As it says on the tin, it's an absurdist fantasy with its own lexicon, which is both a strength and a weakness. It's unique and quirky, with real Monty Python and the Holy Grail vibes. 

Style: 4.0

The style is completely unique and totally consistent. The author does an excellent job at characterization and worldbuilding through diction and syntax (and not in the least because of the consistent use of its own internal lexicon), but its strengths are also its weaknesses.

I deducted 0.5 for its density--because of its unusual use of commonplace-words and relatively complex structuring of sentences and paragraphs, there is a higher-than-average cognitive load on the reader. Some of the deliberately absurd sentences require multiple passes to understand (think of that time you were in Gr. 7 and you used to sit around the lunchroom doing rounds of, "I know that you know that I know that you know that I know..." etc., etc. The intent is obviously humourous, but in combination with everything else that's going on it can be a bit too much). 

I also deducted 0.5 because the internal lexicon is occasionally very sexual without rhyme or reason. Whereas I don't see anything inherently wrong with sexual things, it sort of has to make sense. (See spoiler tag.)

For example, the horizon is consistenly referred to as the whoreizon, but there doesn't seem to be any reason behind likening the horizon to a whore--at least, I don't see the connection. In conjunction there are casual references to male and female genitalia as part of the lexicon*, and it's a bit odd since I don't see why these words are replacing the usual/mundane ones. There is also copious use of the word "thicc". I assume there is a reason for the sexualized imagery but I couldn't figure it out--it was just sort of there for no discernable reason. Keep in mind, I don't find sexual references in and of themselves funny--sex is just sex. Whoo-hoo, biology! It was just kinda there and weird to me. 

*I'm thinking of a specific chapter and section here, but I can't quite recall it. You'll know when you come across it, though. 

 

Grammar Score: 5.0

It's as close to perfect as humanly possible. You might find a few typos, but that's just part of the human condition. 

Story: 4.5

I can see the story taking shape, but it's a bit hard to track. It looks like a classic story pattern with

Sir Broderick chasing after his donkey while he himself is chased by law enforcement by dint of deliberate and partially nefarious misunderstanding

 

but I'm not sure about the pacing here. I'm reviewing this after reading chapter 11, but thus far the characters have not moved toward the central plot after the inciting incident. I don't think the author should cut anything, to be clear, because it's obvious that they're getting all their ducks in a row, but because it's a chase story, it feels like it should be moving a bit faster. I'm not sure how I would balance this myself, but we have recently had another character with stakes in the skyrate chase introduced in the previous chapter (chapter 10), which is a late introduction. With that said, I think a part of this perception is because this is in web serial format, but this work wants to be read like a real novel. 

Character Score: 4.5

I think I have a clear understanding of who the characters are, but the absurdist style makes it difficult to differentiate their characteristics at times. Sir Broderick is very consistently well-fleshed out, as is Pamela. Dr. K (I can't spell his full name, sorry, lol) is beginning to take firm shape as well, but I expect this will improve as the story moves forward. One thing the author does exceptionally well is to give each character a unique manner of speaking and interacting, and I think over time the differentiation via dialogue alone will become extremely evident. (It's possible I can't quite grasp the characters because I'm just dull, as well--I find I get very distracted by the style choices). 

Overall: 4.5

In conclusion, Skyrates?! is extremely funny and well-written at the technical level (and here I refer to mechanics and higher-level structuring as well), and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy works such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail or even Terry Prachett. 


Ducal Juhasz

Interesting premise undercut by mechanical issues

Updated 16/02/2022 with disclosure.

Disclosure: This is a review swap, though I have written this review as honestly and impartially as possible. 

Ducal Juhasz is a unique work with an intriguing premise, but it's hamstringed by issues around style and grammar. 

This story takes place in a fantasy world with strong Western vibes, though we quickly shift focus to what is essentially a gang-war between, let's say, some unconventional people (if we can call them that...)

Style: 3.5

I've seen some reviews here that really liked the style, so I might be an outlier here. However, I found the style difficult to read and parse. 

First the good. 

This work utilizes a wide vocabulary and occasionally dips into some very lovely imagery. There is care taken in setting the scene, particularly as Jack makes his way to the city in chapter 1: 

...Past lone, crippled trees reaching like dancers this way and that.

With that said, there are some areas of difficulty. 

First, the prose is occasionally unnecessarily dense to the point that the meaning is sometimes completely obscured or changed entirely. Some examples behind the spoiler tags: 

Suddenly, the feather illuminated a soft, orange-yellow like maize, and spread that illumination to the blood-ouroboros.

This literally means that the feather lit something soft and orange-yellow which may be like corn or really is corn. The "like" is not attached to create a compound structure so it's pretty ambiguous. We also don't know what the feather lit up (if it wasn't corn) since the object receiving the illumination is not stated here, only the adjectives describing it. The word "illuminate" is also repeated in two different forms in the same sentence. 

The arms, emaciated, held in oversized hands, with long, bony fingers, a wiggling, writhing, slimy grey worm, the size of a Human infant, with a ribbed body. It screeched and cried, and pierced our ears causing a mighty, migraine-inducing pain.

I'm not sure what is being described here, because the nouns that start plural are suddenly all treated like they're singular. Have we shifted the subject? But if so, where has this been indicated? I'm actually not quite sure what I'm supposed to be visualizing here.

Second, there is an over-abundance of commas. Even when they are being used in a grammatically correct way, they can occassionally obscure what the main clause is, thus hiding the subject or point of the sentence. This also dovetails with issues around grammar, because the commas are sometimes used incorrectly. 

Third, the same style is used for all of the POVs. If written in the third-person, I wouldn't be too bothered, but the style remains the same regardless of whose perspective we're in or what's happening. Disconnectedness uses the same prose-style as connectedness, even in situations where stream-of-the-consciousness would suit better. This is a small quibble, though, and I've not deducted from the rating because of this. 

With that said, I've noticed the style seems to be improving substantially from chapter 7 onward. The number of commas have dropped appreciably in that chapter and the flow of each sentence is much smoother. I may yet update the rating of this section! 

Grammar: 2.5

This work has clearly been proofread and given a lot of love, because I detected no typos whatsoever. However, there are consistent and repeating errors throughout this work.

The two biggest issues are comma-use along with the incorrect punctuation and formatting of dialogue. Whereas the latter did not impact understanding substantially, the former did; I found myself re-reading certain passages repeatedly. For some passages, the meaning still escapes me, so I consider this to be a serious issue with the writing. 

Commas are used very generously, and this leads to multiple errors, including but not restricted to: 

1. Comma splices (conjoining two independent clauses with a comma only and dropping the coordinating conjunction);

2. Incorrectly demarcated essential words and phrases;

3. Incorrectly demarcated non-essential words and phrases;

and

4. Incorrect use of listing commas (especially using a comma when there are only two items or actions, not three or more--this is not a list!)

For dialogue, speech rolling into a speech tag has been punctuated with a period. A comma is used on occasion for speech that terminates into action. In both instances, a new paragraph is frequently started whenever someone speaks, even if the speaker is the first to speak in that paragraph. This one's very inconsistent, and I don't know what rule of thumb is being used for this (it seems random). These issues occur consistently throughout the work, and occasionally it obfuscates who the speaker is and who the speaker is speaking to. (Also, they are errors.)

There are other errors as well, such as the base narrative tense slipping from the simple past tense to the simple present or simple future tense, incorrect word order which changes the meaning, and the incorrect use of vocabulary.

In particular the word "lest" is often used incorrectly, which is extremely distracting. This work also has constructions like "it t'was" (as noted by another reviewer) which means "it it was." This is nonsensical in terms of meaning, though I imagine it's meant to emulate dialogue; however, I think conventionally the usage is to simply start was "'twas" (ex. "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house...") Also note: The apostrophe sits on the outside. Another one is seeding "for" to get constructions like this:

 I knew I couldn’t possibly ready myself, for, for the deliverance of awkward and terrible news one can only do it. [Emphasis mine]

I still can't parse the function and intent behind repeating "for" this way. I thought this was an error at first, but this is used throughout the work so I can only conclude it is deliberate--but what is the intended effect? I have no idea!

Grammatically, it's certainly a dud. There's no reason to have this preposition standing alone between commas. 

There were some other incorrectly used words as well, but I'll leave it here since these are the only ones that are repeated. 

I do applaud the use of archaic language to convey a certain tone, but my opinion here is that the usage must be done correctly! I found myself utterly thrown every time I encountered "lest" and "for, for"!

Story: 5.0

I think this is the strongest aspect of this work. The story kicks off quickly, and once the action starts, things continue moving. There are multiple plot threads that are introduced in a coherent and logical way, and I find the worldbuilding happens gradually in a way that complements the plot. I have no complaints about the story being told or the way it's being built: pacing is good, there are no info-dumps, and in general, everything makes sense. I realize the last part does not seem like praise, but it is: there are many stories where things simply don't make sense, but this one really does

This work takes an intriguing premise and runs with it. I'm rather curious as to what 

the Mother

really wants and whether our heroes are actually the heroes! (Haha, probably not?)

This work also has some conlang, which is a big plus. Really, just an awesome job at worldbuilding. Kudos!

Characters: 4.0

I'm a bit divided on the characters. We know the protagonist, Jack, fairly well by the time we're in chapter 7. He's introduced really nicely in chapter 1 and I find his cheer and sense of humor rather delightful. He's got a very unique voice and manner, and the Jack POV is really well-done overall.

Unfortunately, the supporting cast are not quite so well-drawn. We know what the characters tell each other about the other characters, such as Santiago and Vidal. However, the prose and narrative don't always work cohesively with the dialogue. 

More below the spoiler tag!

For example, if we take Vidal, we can see by the way Jack describes him that he's meant to be somewhat rougher around the edges, but the chapter that is written in his perspective still uses the same high-brow style of writing (including elevated and archaic vocabulary) as Jack. This is a bit jarring because they are very different people with very different backgrounds, but they sound the same.

This is also spoilerish, but Jack's one of the Ascended. He's way older than he looks, which is likely why he uses archaic language. Vidal should not be using any archaic terminology whatsoever unless these terms are simply not archaic, but then I have to wonder why this style decision was made in the first place! 

The dialogue between them states that Vidal speaks in a simpler way, but this is not demonstrated through the use of syntax or diction. Vidal speaks like he was raised in a lower middle-class family, but he's one of the scrabbling working class. I don't demand the use of accents or anything like that, but I was really more able to tell the difference between speakers based on their attitude, not based on the way the dialogue was written in terms of the prose. 

 

Overall, Ducal Juhasz is a unique little work with a lot of potential. If you're not the type to be bothered by an excess of commas, you are likely to enjoy this work--it's quite particular, and I've not stumbled on anything similiar to this on RR yet. 

Final score: 3.75, rounded up to 4.0


Dragon, Knight

Female lead is completely insufferable.

Plot: 2.0/5.0

It seems like the leading male character, Volsten, is going to sell the leading female character, Xyra, to someone. They are on the road still at the point that I stopped reading (chapter 7). There doesn't seem to be anything more to the plot by chapter 7. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I have no idea where this story is going and there is no hook or mystery to keep me reading beyond this point (chapter 7). 

If there were any hints or clues to the overarching plot, I might have stuck around, but unfortunately, it's been a bit of a grind because of the characters.  

Characters: 1.5/5.0

Volsten, the leading male character, is at least interesting. He's extremely unlikeable, but there are hints as to some redeeming features. With that said, he's obviously a grown adult so I don't feel too interested in his inevitable redemption arc--I mean, he's exactly the sort of guy who's going to die in a ditch somewhere with a sword in his gut from an angry husband. I doubt he'll stay that way. With that said, my prediction is that a substantial portion of his romance arc is going to be invested in redeeming him into something resembling a decent human being, which is very typical. If I were rating Volsten alone, this section would get a 3.0/5.0, because the author handles this archetype in a readable and interesting way. 

Unfortunately, the leading female character is completely insufferable. I understand that one of the goals in fiction is to develop characters until they become more tolerable, but Xyra has no redeeming features. I find I am simply uninterested in reading more about her, and I feel like this story would have been more interesting if Volsten had simply done the thing that he had threatened to do when he met her. At least then we'd have a rolicking picaresque adventure story with a Very Bad Man as the main character, rather than...I'm actually not sure what to call this. The Whiny and Whinier show? Xyra clearly lives in "Too Stupid to Live" territory, and I really can't get behind that. Sometimes not being bright is a character trait, but this has been dialed up to eleventy. 

On another note, I found the side-characters quite interesting, and the way they were characterized said a lot about the setting. This is clearly an application of authorial skill, so I gave this section another 0.5. It's too bad this doesn't really translate into leading characters! (I especially liked Sully!) 

Setting: 2.5/5.0

It seems like a pretty generic medieval fantasy setting. There's nothing wrong with that, and the world-building is subtle enough to be enjoyable, but I found the place itself to be nothing to write home about. I'd say completely average, so 2.5/5.0. It's not bad, but it's not good. 

Grammar: 4.5/5.0

The writing itself is technically good, with very few grammar errors. There are no errors that detract from understanding. I would recommend one more proofread of already published chapters, and maybe one more go over future chapters before they are published. Overall, the writing is both readable and enjoyable. 

Style: 4.0/5.0

Stylistically, I would say this is pretty solid as well. The prose gets the job done, and matches the setting without being overwrought. There's nothing particularly unique about the style though (for example, there's no mistaking anything written by Guy Gavriel Kay--so by this I mean there are no features of the writing style that make it immediately identifiable for a long-time reader), so I didn't give it a full 5.0 stars. There are also some sections that read a bit awkwardly (but they can probably be smoothed out during an editing session), so that dropped this score another 0.5 points for a total of 4.0. 

Overall: 2.9/5.0, rounded to 3.0/5.0

A note to the author: I think you have the technical skills for a really good story here. Honestly, your writing is technically better than a lot of the really popular stories on RR, but your weak areas are really weak. My suggestion would be give some hint as to the over-arching plot early on. This can be done either through foreshadowing or through the use of a prologue that starts at an exciting point in the future (and I rather like this technique the most). For characters, I think your biggest issue is Xyra. Character development is a laudable goal, but they can't be too unlikeable out the gate or the readers will just not stick around. As for setting, I think a stronger plot and characters can really make up for this one, so I wouldn't worry too much about it at this time. I really wanted to like this story a lot since it's one of the rare non-LitRPG stories here on RR (and I really do not like LitRPG), but I really, really can't read another chapter with Xyra in it. Sorry. 

Of course this review is my own opinion, only. I'm not exactly the next G.R.R. Martin myself!