Intrigue, Action, and Philosophy

Let me be blunt: Godslayers is one of my favorite stories I've read this past year. I'm a beta reader for it, and whenever I see a new chapter I get incredibly excited. It has fascinating worldbuilding, compelling characters, and very tantalizing themes.

Allow me to first address style and grammar. A lot of stories on RR suffer from a lack of editing and a lack of basic understanding of the conventions of writing. It seems a low bar to say that a story has competent spelling, grammar, and style, but sadly a great many stories do not clear that bar. Godslayers, I am happy to say, clears with flying colors. Very competently written, very easy to read, and very fun to read.

The characters are delightful, each with their own unique psychology and worldview. The author happens to have quite a lot of expertise when it comes to psychology, and that really shows in how each character is interrogated for their drives, behaviors, sociocultural context, and relationships with the other characters. There is a lot of understanding of the human mind on display here and it is used for richer character interaction.

The story is very engaging both in the moment-to-moment beats of the godslayers performing operations and in the broader scope of the invasion. The story has a lot to say about societies, culture, individuals, and the role of religion. There's so much to chew on here, and so much more kept just out of sight. Whether you appreciate it for the surface-level story of the godslayers and their war against the gods or for the deeper story of the themes and implications of these interactions, there's a lot to love.

Highly recommend, 10/10.


Isekai Harem Anime w/ Extra Nerdiness

This is one of those stories that is either Really Your Thing or Really Not. If you like magic-as-computer-code, in media res, and harem anime where they get right to the fucking instead of teasing three seasons of will-they-won't-they, this is probably Really Your Thing. If you dislike those three, it's probably Really Not. Oh, and if you enjoy learning new words then you'll probably get at least some mileage out of this story. "Dentition," now that's one to chew on.

However, the absolute best recommendation I can give is that this author is at least half the reason I use em-dashes in my story, and em-dashes are just objectively the best.

Beneath the Dragoneye Moons

tl;dr: Some neat twists on progression litrpg, an interesting perpetual source of conflict in the form of a restriction skill, and the occasional delightful delve into the ethics of medical practice.

If you're a fan of progression litRPG, this does a few interesting things with the genre. The protagonist begins her journey as a healer rather than a traditional combat role, and relies on a mix of medical knowledge from her past life and the boosting effect of a very restrictive skill. The System of this world is fascinating for how it seeks to "balance" skills: the more you restrict the scope of a skill, or the more restrictions on yourself you accept, the more powerful your abilities will be. It rewards specialization, while also having a handful of stat mechanics to prevent hyper-specialization (i.e. dumping all your physical stats to become the world's best mage).

The world is about what you expect from any classical fantasy story: you have your better-than-everyone-else elves, your crafting-obsessed dwarves (though there is at least one refreshing twist when it comes to the dwarves), a human nation based on Rome (including reproducing the vast majority of Roman biases despite the game-changing presence of magic), and various non-sapient monstrous races to be slaughtered for XP. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as if you're at all familiar with fantasy you basically know what to expect from this world and don't have to learn a lot of new concepts aside from System-related concepts. The worldbuilding is very digestible.

Elaine's Oath is probably the most interesting part of the story: it forces her to heal those who need healing, and it prevents her from causing harm unprovoked. This, combined with her general demeanor, keeps the story from being a classic murderfest where people are just seen as XP (I quite like that kind of story, but it's nice to see the opposite as well). It forces her into unique and unusual situations, often creating interesting conflict.

There is plenty of "number go up" in the story, as it is progression litrpg, and it's always exciting to see her class-up and get new skills and stats. I also enjoy the healing scenes, dealing with plagues and patients and various medical problems and medical ethics problems. 

Hive Minds Give Good Hugs

tl;dr: It's really good, read it.

Do you like bugs? Do you like in-depth analysis of alien biology? Do you like hive minds, and the good hugs they give? Then please, let me introduce you to Hive Minds Give Good Hugs. This delightful story about a nerdy entomologist stranded on an alien planet is chock-full of fascinating science fiction and complex dives into topics of psychology, philosophy, and even sociology - but of course, the main draw is definitely all those adorable critters she meets, eats, and learns about.

There's so much mystery to solve in HMGGH, so much that every chapter brings fresh new clues to be analyzed, and the scope of the story continues to evolve. If you like spending a lot of time thinking about the material you read, I cannot recommend this story enough. If your interests lie more on the character side, I assure you that there are plenty of fun character moments to go around even with the extremely limited cast size. Evelyn is adorable, she's intelligent, she's just fascinating to watch.

If you like good science fiction, read this. If you like a good mystery, read this. If you like good character work, definitely read this. HMGGH is one to watch, I promise.

Vigor Mortis

Sometimes a family is a famous metal thief, an illusionist con man, and their soul-devouring inhuman abomination of a daughter.

This is a story for all the edgelords out there who always dreamed of consuming the vital essence of their foes and raising them up as zombie minions, except it's a cute girl doing it so we can really just set aside all those pesky moral implications (note: moral implications may not entirely be set aside and may actually be a core theme of the story). The protagonist, Vita, is a girl with a typical tragic backstory who discovers that she actually has a cool superpower! It's soul-eating. From there she has to navigate the complex intersection between her desire to eat as many souls as possible and all those humans who don't want their souls eaten and seem to think her doing so is some kind of blasphemy against the Mistwatcher, the eldritch god who levitates the floating islands.

Vigor Mortis has a lot to say about monsters and people, and the blurred lines between them. The various monsters whose viewpoints we see (including the protagonist) all have fascinating mindsets that develop over the course of the story, and they all feel real and in many ways relatable. Each character feels very alive and coherent, and their interactions are half of what makes Vigor Mortis so compelling when you dig into the meat of it.

The other half is the puzzle aspect. Vigor Mortis is full of mysteries about the setting, its history, the magic system, and the protagonist's own nature as the holder of a superpower that shouldn't be possible. Unraveling those mysteries (and speculating wildly in completely the wrong direction) is a genuinely enjoyable time and the story is just packed with clues to build with.

An excellent read, one that sucked me in and wouldn't let go. Even now, 90 chapters in, I'm still itching to dig deeper into this world and watch these fascinating characters uncover more vital clues that will finally let us solve the big mysteries at the heart of it all.

Or maybe Vita will just eat everything. I'll be happy either way.

Only Villains Do That

Only Villains Do That is a fascinating read like few others. This book was chock-full of exactly the kind of elements that attract my interest, and I blitzed through the whole thing in just two days. As an overview, I'd say the key strengths of this work are the focus on strong characterization, the detail-oriented worldbuilding, and the emphasis on the gritty realities and sociopolitics of a fantasy medieval setting.

I'll start with characterization because it is by and far the most compelling aspect of the work. The protagonist, Omura Seiji, is a fascinatingly engaging piece of dogshit. He's an ass, and he knows it, and he justifies it through sheer force of misanthropy. What sets Seiji apart from most cynical misanthrope isekai protagonists is twofold: the world does not bend to accomodate his cynical asshole attitude, instead reacting as real people would to an unrepentant piece of shit; and he begins to regret his nature and want to do better and be better, rather than feeling justified in his shitty personality and doubling down.

The other characters in the story also have sufficient complexity and depth to hold one's attention when Seiji isn't the focus, from the sadistic yandere goddess Virya to Seiji's stalwart companion Aster who spends much of her time protecting his ass from the consequences of his actions and keeping him from sliding too far into the Dark Lord persona forced upon him by the circumstances of the story.

The story itself is an interesting twist on the isekai formula. By now subverting isekai has become about as cliche as playing it straight, with everything from Overlord to Re:Zero reframing the basic structure of an isekai fantasy adventure (and indeed, one could compare Seiji to Ainz with a bit of perspective shifting and a vastly decreased power scale). In that regard, OVDT has a pretty classic plot: a man from Japan is summoned to another world to take part in the war between Hero and Dark Lord, only he's summoned to play the part of the Dark Lord instead. Where OVDT gets interesting and unusual is its intense focus on the people caught between this manufactured war, and the cruelty of the divine entities who treat this neverending struggle like a game. The cycle itself is Seiji's enemy more than the poor naive Hero tricked into being his ostensible opponent.

As befits a story that cares so much about the everyday people caught up in this grand conflict, there is a depth to the worldbuilding that far surpasses your generic pseudo-European fantasy kingdom. The flora and fauna have been designed with great attention to how they would influence elements of society from the economic systems to architecture, food, clothing, and culture. The author has succeeded in creating an alien world that truly feels alien, even for all the familiar elements still present. Indeed, those familiar elements - such as animals straight out of Earth - actually increase the sense of alienation, as their presence on this world is explicitly artificial.

To delve too deep into the worldbuilding would spoil some truly great twists and some rib-ticklingly funny jokes, but suffice to say the author has really shown their work when it comes to matters of sociology, history, and the myriad facets of life that shape the structures we exist within.

I eagerly anticipate the next book in the series, and I hope you give this story a chance.