Red Mist

Charming, Dahling, Charming

So far, this is wonderfully charming. I really enjoy the mix of society, druidry, and possible espionage that's starting to brew. 

The one thing I stumbled on for a few chapters was the relative sizes of the creatures involved. However this eventually gets addressed, so it's a small quibble. I highlight it as it was an early source of confusion that took me slightly out of the story. 

Style: The style is entirely readable, and there's a lot of charm to the worldbuilding. I've not read Redwall, but it seems like this would be a good inheritor of that tradition, mixed with a bit of Jane Austen.

Story: It's early days, but there's a clear conflict brewing within Freya, and there are general hints as to the direction things are going. 

Grammar: Clear, readable, totally solid. The Austen-sequel-language pastiche is solid, with a few exceptions where more modern phrasing sneaks in, but this could be a stylistic choice. I didn't notice any typos or grammar errors (though that is admittedly not my strong suit).

Character: The characters are clear and distinct. Freya obviously has the most developed character so far, and it's justifiable. Holly and Abigail will hopefully get a few more defining features in the near future, to bring them closer to Freya in terms of depth of characterisation. 

I had fun with this. Before I knew it I was all caught up on the posted material, which is a good sign! 

The Dream Knight (LITRPG Portal Fantasy)

The title of this review is referencing an old pop song, feel free to ignore it! Now, on to the review!

I love the title of this piece, but I don't feel it matches the cover art of the story very well. The title primes me to expect something a bit more surreal, while the cover says "low-magic epic fantasy". The story itself is, so far, in between those two extremes. 

Style: The story is written in a readable style, though in some places style takes a back seat to communicating information to the reader. It's not usually to the level of full on infodumping, but the worldbuilding could be incorporated more smoothly (though it does improve as the story goes on!). 

Story: The story is fun. The LitRPG elements are solid and easy to interpret and there is a nice diversity of powers for the characters to play with. I'm looking forward to seeing what else the Dream Knight class can do. 

Grammar: Generally solid, though with a few missing words or confusing word choices. Also sometimes the characters say things they don't have a reason to say in-character in order to convey details to the reader. 

Character: The characters have clear goals, which is good. They are understandable, and the protagonist shows signs of being likeable. Occasional word choices (like characters giggling when beaten and bound in prison) undercut the character effectiveness in places, however. 


Beneath Within

Overall: I love fantasy stories with politics and diplomacy and general social manoeuvring, so this sort of thing is right up my street. Because this is that kind of story, I think a bit more on the Families would have been useful (particularly in the library chapter with the convenient banners hanging about to cover some of this information). I think most if not all of the ingredients are present, but the story might need to simmer a bit more for the flavour to really come through.

Style: This story is written in a very readable style. There are a few instances where word choice made sentences harder to process (I had to reread one three times to figure out what was meant), but overall the story flows easily and is very accessible. 

Story: Over the first four chapters there are some hints as to what the larger story might be, but with the POV shifts most of what we get are hints, and bits of worldbuilding. I do enjoy the hints that are present, however, and the main conflict with two of the characters is very clear. 

Grammar: Overall very good. There are a few formatting blips here and there (missing space between lines, that sort of thing) but those small errors are very much in the minority. 

Character: I like the POV characters introduced so far, though readers should be prepared to move between POVs frequently. There is a nice diversity of viewpoints, though moving between 4-5 viewpoints over 4 chapters leaves less time to really get to know each individual character. The basic personality/nature of each really comes through, however, and it will be interesting to see how the characters develop or what depths they reveal as the story progresses.

There are some quite good lines so far! I'm putting the ones I particularly liked behind a spoiler tag:

Daress had read enough to imagine herself wise.

Leliana gave a smile like a wall


The Grand Game

I came to this story after there was a sizeable backlog of chapters already posted, so I skipped over the issues others have raised about chapter length. I didn't notice them being short reading it all in a binge. I really enjoy this. It's fun, it's got dungeons and monsters and a bit of cleverness on the protagonist part here and there. It does what it needs to.

Style: prose is solid. It doesn't take a lot of chances, but it's readable, clear, and does what it needs to, usually.

Story: I like the premise, I like the detailing (skeletal bat familiar, good sense of the geography of the dungeon, etc.). It scratches that TTRPG itch to an extend. 

Grammar: Totally readable, with just a few minor errors. I've read (and graded) worse.

Character: The protagonist is enjoyable to go along with. Could there be more depth to some of the other characters? Sure, but we're also pretty tight in the protagonist's POV, so that often has a flattening effect anyway. 

Conclusion: Read this if you want a light, fun read that hits the gaming button. The progression elements make it satisfying, and there's enough fantasy furniture around that it's also fun and, if not a ground-breaking fresh take, still evinces an identifiable authorial voice.