Vowron Prime

Vowron Prime

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Defiance of the Fall

Finally going through and reviewing my favorite stories on the site, and Defiance is chief among them. I was a patron of this story - stopped because I read slowly, and Defier writes unbelievably fast. It's all of amazing quality too. He's managed to weave a beautiful universe together, with believable characters and a real tension that drives the plot.

I disagree with the other reviews calling this story generic. Every story develops a uniqueness of its own after so many chapters, and Defier's universe feels rich, complete, and compelling.

Excellent work, and I hope that the author perseveres and continues on to finish the story :-)


The Menocht Loop

Among The Finest Fictions To Grace This Site

Every so often I come across a story on this site that really shines above others. This is such a story and really should be part of anyone's list of top 5 reads on RoyalRoad.

This will be a long review, covering books one and all of book two up to chapter 86. For those looking for the short version, know that this story is a Masterpiece with a capital M. From Grammar to style to story to character, it excels in all aspects, and I am hardpressed to find any real negatives. It is a nearly-flawless execution upon both the time loop and OP MC themes, so if you fancy those, you really ought to stop reading this review now and go check it out right now.

We start the story in media res, with minimal exposition, getting right into the killing, right into the mind of a hardened, inured veteran of the loop - our MC. The story skips past the zero-to-hero struggle found in most stories, joining the MC once he has already mastered his art to a fearsome degree. Some readers may dislike that. I was personally ecstatic about this, as I find that trope has been beaten to death. No, our MC is OP - even godlike - from the very first chapter.

Does that mean we're stuck with a static MC, unchanging through the course of the 600-something pages written to date? Far from it. Without diving into spoiler territory, all I can say is that the protagonist is acutely aware of what is and isn't real, and treats the two with entirely different weight. While he may come across as a cold-blooded murderer initially, know that there is far more to his character, which we are shown slowly but surely as the story progresses.

And what a story it is! Menocht Loop explores uncharted territory I've not seen from most other time loop fictions, and quite frankly, the unique quality of book two's focus is enough to make you lie awake at night, binging when you should be sleeping.

Book two spoiler below for those who want specifics on what I'm talking about. Be warned, this is a pretty major spoiler, but if you're on the fence, perhaps take a look:

In book two, we see Ian escape the loop. The story focuses on the ramifications of his time in the loop and ascendance to god-like strength, and the socio-political impact that has upon the world. It's incredibly well done, and easily as gripping as the looping events of book one(in my opinion, it's even better).

Each loop layer brings with it its own unique set of challenges, and while I see other reviewers throwing shade over Ian's decisions, I ask that you have some faith in this author. They know what they are doing, and events that appear random or surprising always have a good reason behind them - that are sometimes not revealed until much further on. The worldbuilding and plotting are epic, detailed, and consistent, even if the information is not always spoonfed. The hints are all there, it's up to readers to find them. Having read through all of the content, this I can guarantee.

Minor spoilers below, regarding the execution of the timeloop aspect of the story:

My one comment on the looping layers is that the transitions between then can feel a little jarring - and I suspect this is by design. The instant one ends, the next begins with zero breaks in between, often throwing our protagonist into yet another strange puzzle he needs to figure out. It can feel a little drowning, but I expect that's exactly how Ian must feel, so in that regard, I'd say this feature is a success.

Some of the layers caught my interest more than others, but it soon became clear to me that each and every one of them served a purpose. I feel it's important to call out that each layer is significantly different from the one before it, so even if you're not enthused by the first layer, fret not and power through, I suspect that your determination will be rewarded. (I personally loved the first layer though :D )

The characters are truly a delight. Here again, I can't really mention specifics without spoiling, but every single side character, antagonist, and even the deuteragonist that appears later on(fret not, the focus is always on the MC Ian), feel real, like people you might reasonably meet in such a fantasy world. That's just about the highest praise I can bestow upon characters. Reading about them and their rich dialogue was truly pleasurable.

My only criticism here is regarding how readily some of these characters accept that they are inside the loop. This happens a few times with a few different characters, and there is generally very little denial there in what is otherwise a near-perfect simulation of both environment and people. I think a bit more hesitance would lend these reactions an extra bit of credence.

I also really enjoyed seeing Ian's character progression, especially in book two. While his development as an individual is minimal in book one(that's not to say it's absent - it's there), book two really brings forth some monumental changes. Interestingly, we not only see progression from him, but from some of the most important sides as well, which in turn influences his own development. I absolutely loved witnessing these complex character interactions and cross-influences. It felt very real.

On the other hand, I for one absolutely detest wishy-washy, incapable protagonists(both in mental attitude and outward power). This is a completely subjective personal preference, so I hesitate to even mention it here, but in case others feel similarly, read on. While Ian's power was never in question, I did begin to worry about his strength of will in book two. I am happy to report that these concerns were unfounded. I understand why Ian had a period of turmoil, but it was relatively short-lived, which works well for the story, in my opinion.

The story's pacing was absolutely spot-on for me. Action-intensive sequences(there are gobs of them) are generally followed by respite to give the reader a break, yet even these scenes are gripping and memorable. I was never once left feeling as though I had to slog through a passage or a chapter to get to 'more interesting stuff'. It's all interesting, engaging, and has caused me to lose a fair share of sleep lately.

There are some pretty epic twists and turns along the way, some foreshadowed, others less so. Yet even with the 'surprises', I never once found them to be Deus Ex Machina, or something conveniently placed solely for the purpose of moving the plot forward. Even the most surprising twist had me thinking 'oh my god!' rather than 'lame'.

I thoroughly appreciate that despite the nature of the story having shifted quite considerably in book two(even the narration style is different, from first-person present tense in book one to third-person past tense of book two), the transition was nearly seamless, and the tension and mystery that made book one so interesting is still well alive in book two. I know that some readers worry about how a story changes over its life, but with this one at least, nothing has gone off the rails, and book two remains every bit as engaging(if not more so).

That leaves the grammar and style. Regarding grammar, I believe I caught one minor issue, in 600 pages. One. That should tell you about how ridiculously well-edited this story is. The prose may get a polish pass when the author goes to release it officially, but honestly? It probably doesn't need it, such is its quality.

Sentences are beautifully constructed and flow from one to the next. Paragraphs are appropriately sized, and complement rather than detract from the contents, shrinking and growing as the story requires. I saw no occurrences of words being repeated too often, or of paragraphs and sentences following the same structure back-to-back. It's varied, polished, and disappears, letting you get into the story with no impediments. That's about as high I can praise style.

Lastly, I want to talk about the worldbuilding. We get snippets of this in book one, but in book two, things really explode. I don't know how many hours(days? weeks?) the author has put into building this universe, but it shows. Its richness oozes off the pages, and what an impact that makes! You can really lose yourself in the lore and backstory of the world, so if you're into complex, well-thought-out worldbuilding, you're really in for a treat.

So, to close this review, I just want to thank the author for sharing this magnificent gem with the world. It really is a gift we don't deserve. Ignore the naysayers and keep writing, because you've got something truly, truly special here.

 


Shade Touched

Do you have a cat friend? No? Well, this story will make you wish you did

 That is, a cat that's as intelligent as a human, criminally adorable, innocent and curious, and just downright compelling in every single dimension.

This is the chronicle of a beast's journey to becoming something more - a fully-sapient, intelligent lifeform in a world where such a thing is both anomalous and fear-inducing.

I can't say much more without spoiling the story, but this is one of the most well-written, engaging, and fun reads on this site, regardless of your interests or preferences. I myself am an SF/Fantasy action junkie, but this story had no issues capturing my interest and keeping it the entire way.

Character

This story has no real weaknesses, but for me, the characters really stand out as a strength, above and beyond the other elements. This story is really all about the protagonist, our adorable, fierce feline, a stranger in a strange land.

Her development as an individual, from how she uses her superior intellect to aid her chances at survival, to later on when she progresses to higher-level, more abstract thinking, her development progression is just superb. Pacing is perfect, she comes across as more three-dimensional and complex than most human characters, yet she retains a core curiosity and innocence that both makes her lovable and continuously drives her to explore new heights for her self.

Now let's talk side characters. They're great. The author has a real knack for making his characters - even antagonists and ones we've only met briefly - come to life. From their verbal tics to their body language and mannerisms, both of the supporting characters are superbly done. I talk a bit more about this below in the spoiler tag, which contains some spoilers up to ~chapter 10:

Spoiler: Spoiler

 I really have nothing to criticize here. The main and sides are loveable and likable, and the antagonists are delectably hateable. Can't really do better than that!

Grammar

Perfect. I know most of my reviews say similar things, but I tend to only post reviews well-written stories. This one stands out as being a cut above, and easily one of the very best in RR. I spotted perhaps three or four errors total in all of the 25 chapters I read. Sentences flow from one to the next, paragraphing is well-executed, and the prose is clearly written by someone who has a high talent for the art.

Style

This is a tough one for me to comment on, not because it's poor - quite the opposite - but because unlike some other stories that are just dripping in flourish, this story takes a relatively milder approach. The prose disappears, which is among the highest praise I can give to it. It lets you dive into what really matters - the protagonist's adventures, her emotions, her sense of wonder at a shockingly vast world, and I really believe that the perfectly-sized sentences, the right words used at the right times, the delightful interjections, and the varied vocabulary all help contribute to that experience.

In short(or long), it's just perfect, and easily one of the best I've come across on RoyalRoad. This is really an easy, enjoyable read.

Story

Oh boy, the story. How am I going to talk about this without spoilers? It's pretty frikkin' glorious. Don't expect a fantasy epic, because this story isn't that. It moves a bit too fast to be called a slice of life, but Adventure fits it to the T. Adventures are filled with wonder, curiosity, dangers, new encounters, and the hope of fulfillment at the end. This story delivers all of that in spades. In fact, I think Shade Touched captures the very essence of this genre more than any other adventure story I've read on this site, distilling it into its purest form.

There is little drama here, only a genuine, innocent curiosity to boldly go where no scary-but-cute-intelligent-and-innocent-cat-monster has gone before!

Read it. It's worth your time. Especially because you're getting it for free. So be thankful to the author for sharing their imagination with the world.

Because it's a gift.


The Precipice of Power

Note: I'd written this review when this story was still part of its pre-rewrite version. Pasting it here for the new story page.

This story is really something special. It's a xianxia, through and through, but one that attempts to put some new spins on tired tropes, and thus far, it succeeds in this endeavor. Instead of a cold-hearted, abusive protagonist, here we have a brother-sister duo who care deeply for each other, trying to make it in a terrifyingly brutal world. The juxtaposition between their characters and the side characters' more typical xianxia personalities makes for a shocking contrast, one that would go completely unnoticed in more standard takes on the genre.

 Characters

This is the real strong suit of this story. Kiro and Seira are believable, compelling protagonists who you just can't help but feel for. Thrown into a brutal world and treated like objects by their own mother, they support each other perfectly, shining like diamonds in the rough. Luckily their mentor is a similarly-minded character, which is really exciting to see! It makes for a stark contrast with the rest of their clan, who can be summarized as: scum. I'm eagerly looking forward to the demise of their mother along with the clan matriarch. Solid cast of protagonists, antagonists, and side characters. Easily 5/5.

Grammar

Really good! There are a couple of minor mistakes here and there, but the author is quick to fix issues, which is excellent to see. Sentence construction and flow is among the upper tier of what you see on royal road!

Story

For me, it is the interaction between the cold-hearted killing machines who treat humans as tools, and the MCs, that make this story incredibly interesting. We grow to hate the antagonists. We begin to root for our protagonists, and hope that they grow past the evil machinations of their society. It makes for a gripping story, one that feels like it's just getting off the ground. The pacing may not be the fastest of all stories, but I guarantee it will hook you. Even as early as chapter 10, there are some bombshell reveals that all-but-guarantee your interest. That said, it is still early days, so the story's not quite there yet, hence the 4.5.

Style

There's not a lot of flourish going on here, but I think that is fine for this kind of a story. I especially enjoyed the on-genre analogies that are presented; they are very well done, and fit the narrative beautifully. 5/5.

 In summary, while things are still early days, the edited version of this story(haven't read the previous version) is definitely worth anyone's time. If you like xianxia and are tired of old tropes, try this for a breath of fresh air!


A Stranger in Sorcererstown (The Stranger Trails Saga)

This isn't the type of story you normally see on this site. For one, it 'shows' more  than it 'tells', and the main character of this story is quite a bit different than your normal protag. As a tie-in to the prior point, we don't know the protagonist's background.

We don't get an intro, we don't get a backstory - heck, we don't even get his name! Yet while that might sound like a recipe for a confusing story, it actually lends a perfect air of mystery to The Stranger, as he's called. Let's take a deeper look at what makes this story tick.

Character

The character is by far and away the strongest suit of this story. I say that in the singular because while there are several side characters and antagonists who are all quite well done, the protagonist really stands out as someone special.

What are his motivations? What are his goals? The author gives us glimpses and hints(often dropped through the Stranger's interactions with others) and entrusts, the reader with construct their own hypothesis as to his intentions. I can say that this makes for a very compelling read.

We read to learn more about this powerful-yet-flawed character. Is he young or old? Does he have a terminal illness or not? And how did he get those revolvers?? Everything I've seen so far is building up to some great backstory, and I am sure the reveal will be worth every ounce of anticipation thus far.

Grammar

5/5. Grammar is great, and while I spotted the occasional typo or two, it was hardly worth mentioning.

Style

In my opinion, this is really the only area where the story falls short. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the mystery aspects of the story, but rather the more micro-level execution issues. I often found that the long, complex sentences were at odds with the well-choreographed fight scenes. Instead of lending emotion to these fights, I found the overly explanatory style made them feel just a bit clinical, and sometimes I had to reread a passage several times to understand the exact sequence of actions.

Good news is that this is relatively minor, and can be fixed with a bit of editing. Shorter sentences, perhaps culling some of the descriptions when the guns come out, and I think this will really elevate the story to the next level.

Story

I find that the mysteries around Stranger - especially his unknown motivations - are what will make readers clicking that 'Next chapter' button. I found myself continuously guessing what actions the Stranger would take next, and with every chapter, I found that my guesses were offbase. The MC is powerful, yet does not use that power in any typical way. We see him begin to play all of the powers against each other, setting himself up as a shadowy manipulator, but the fact that we remain in the dark as to why, makes this incredibly compelling to me.

So if you like a good fantasy western and some mystery mixed in with a pretty OP(but not invincible) protagonist who has a penchant for strategic thinking, definitely consider checking this one out!

 


The Courting of Life and Death

Not a combination you'd normally expect. The power over Death in fantasy often goes hand in hand with rotting corpses and necromancy, but this is a little different. Sure, we've got the MC who dies and comes back to something like un-life, but there are none of the familiar zombie tropes here. Instead, we're presented with a richly-built universe replete with a complex system of magic whose workings are dropped via hints and allusions. And the best part?  Everything is original, which makes this a very compelling read.

Style

The author has flair, telling the story with rich and colorful(purple being the only one missing) prose, narrating what is obviously a very complex and well-thought-out universe through a Victorian-esque style. There's a bit of a learning curve, but the unique terms and and style really give the story a sense of depth that is so lacking with most on this site.

Story

Still pretty early days, so it's hard to tell where this will go. We've seen setup for some potentially very interesting events down the line, but the romance is also only just budding between the protagonist Pierre and the heroine Elizabeth. Still, given the richness of the universe and the machinations behind the world's magic, I'm sure we'll see some juicy plot here before long.

Grammar

Flawless. Published-quality, honestly, and the author has a knack for beautiful prose. Sentences and paragraphs flow like a river, and there are pretty much zero spelling and grammatical errors to be found. Easy 5/5

Characters

The meat and blood of a romance story. Luckily, the characters in this one are strong. Pierre comes across as an educated, feeling individual, and Mora has such a sense of depth to her that I somehow found myself rooting for a Pierre x Mora romance. Mora is a truly mysterious, seductive character. Elizabeth, in contrast, feels a bit less well-fleshed out to me, but I get the sense that we'll see more development in that department soon. The author seems to have some genuinely interesting plans for her!

 

In summary, though we've yet to see a whole lot of romance, the worldbuilding, the style, and the grammar all work together to create a truly novel universe in which this surprising romance is set. Once we see the romance build, I'll bet you will be fully engaged, and perhaps a bit horrified, in this romance between a dead man and a living girl.


Among Giants

Bad things happen to good people

Note that this review is for the newly-edited version of the story!

This story is really something special. It's a xianxia, through and through, but one that attempts to put some new spins on tired tropes, and thus far, it succeeds in this endeavor. Instead of a cold-hearted, abusive protagonist, here we have a brother-sister duo who care deeply for each other, trying to make it in a terrifyingly brutal world. The juxtaposition between their characters and the side characters' more typical xianxia personalities makes for a shocking contrast, one that would go completely unnoticed in more standard takes on the genre.

 Characters

This is the real strong suit of this story. Kiro and Seira are believable, compelling protagonists who you just can't help but feel for. Thrown into a brutal world and treated like objects by their own mother, they support each other perfectly, shining like diamonds in the rough. Luckily their mentor is a similarly-minded character, which is really exciting to see! It makes for a stark contrast with the rest of their clan, who can be summarized as: scum. I'm eagerly looking forward to the demise of their mother along with the clan matriarch. Solid cast of protagonists, antagonists, and side characters. Easily 5/5.

Grammar

Really good! There are a couple of minor mistakes here and there, but the author is quick to fix issues, which is excellent to see. Sentence construction and flow is among the upper tier of what you see on royal road!

Story

For me, it is the interaction between the cold-hearted killing machines who treat humans as tools, and the MCs, that make this story incredibly interesting. We grow to hate the antagonists. We begin to root for our protagonists, and hope that they grow past the evil machinations of their society. It makes for a gripping story, one that feels like it's just getting off the ground. The pacing may not be the fastest of all stories, but I guarantee it will hook you. Even as early as chapter 10, there are some bombshell reveals that all-but-guarantee your interest. That said, it is still early days, so the story's not quite there yet, hence the 4.5.

Style

There's not a lot of flourish going on here, but I think that is fine for this kind of a story. I especially enjoyed the on-genre analogies that are presented; they are very well done, and fit the narrative beautifully. 5/5.

 In summary, while things are still early days, the edited version of this story(haven't read the previous version) is definitely worth anyone's time. If you like xianxia and are tired of old tropes, try this for a breath of fresh air!

 


The Calamity of a Reborn Witch

Not Your Typical Reincarnation Story

When you think Reincarnation, especially on RR, you think power fantasy, leveling, blue boxes, and monsters. This story replaces those tropes with medieval magic, political intrigue, secret identities, and thick, juicy plot, and the execution is masterful to boot!

We start with a car accident, but even there we have a shocking twist(that I won't spoil), which sends us into our fantasy world where Carina's memories meld with the downtrodden daughter of a down-on-their-luck noble family. The author does a phenomenal job at developing the protagonist while also crafting truly despicable, hateable antagonists. Dramatic emotions abound.

Story

At chapter 16, this story is already going places. The author does a great job of maintaining tension in every scene, making this story quite the binge-able read. Coupled with the rich universe and worldbuilding, the plot moves at a brisk pace. At this point, events are building up for what promises to be very exciting upcoming events.

Grammar

Excellent. I only caught occasional typos here and there, but this is among the best writing on this site. It is always a joy to read a story from someone with a mastery of the language.

Style

This is where I have the biggest issues, though admittedly they are still quite minor. Exposition abounds, and while exposition can be used to more-efficiently deliver information, I feel that the narration often falls into the "show don't tell" trap. Dramatic tension that has been beautifully built up is then lost in several paragraphs of explanations of various histories and names that don't have immediate relevance to the scene at hand. I feel like many of these passages could be dropped, postponed, or be shown via character actions, instead of told by narration. Still, there are times when the detailed exposition does pull it off, so this is more a matter of fine-tuning the existing prose rather than a major overhaul.

Character

Another strong point of this story - perhaps the strongest. Carina is an awesome protagonist. Not your usual lead, she shows a great capacity for strategic thinking, economic planning, investing, and knows how to play the game when it comes to medieval politics and nobility. And the antagonists? Wow. I want to see them all die horrible deaths, such is my hatred for them. To be able to elicit such a strong emotional response from a reader is truly an accomplishment. In fact, even the side characters have real depth, and not one feels two-dimensional in any way. Easily 5/5 stars here.

Coming into this, prior to reading the synopsis, I thought it would be some kind of romance by the title and cover.  What I got was a beautifully-written medieval fantasy story about political intrigue, magic powers, secret identities, and more. Well worth your time to read, this fiction crosses genres to create something truly special.


VIEWPOINT-BLOOM

A Journey from the Darkness into the Light

What would it be like for an individual blind from birth, never having known sight, to suddenly be given that gift? How would they react, would they even be able to make sense of the influx of new information assaulting their senses? Would it jive with their mental image of the world? How would they deal with it emotionally?

VIEWPOINT:BLOOM explores this very scenario and does so masterfully. From the very outset, we are put in Chitra's shoes. We live the life of a young, blind Indian girl as she experiences her world, we cry with her as she goes through loss, and laugh with her as she experiences happiness. The author's storytelling is masterful, and soon we begin to feel a palpable sense of tension and excitement: how will Chitra react when she can finally see?

It's an emotional rollercoaster, it's a thriller, and it's a VR adventure story, all wrapped up into one delightful genre fusion, the likes of which I have not seen on this site.

Story

Instead of your usual straight-to-vr story that is a dime a dozen on royalroad, here we get deep, meaningful backstory into Chitra's life, and in her case, entering VR is so much more than 'checking out a new game'. It is a transcendental experience of a blind girl being given sight for the first time, and the weight of this impact comes through beautifully thanks to the amazing storytelling. Easily 5/5

Style

No complaints here. Sentences flow well, paragraphs are short, and you lose yourself in the story, which is about the highest praise I can give to Style.

Grammar

Perfect. I may have seen one or two minor mistakes, but grammar is among the very best on this site.

Character

This is definitely a strong point of this story. Chitra's character as a blind girl is so well done, you will relate to her even if you feel like you have nothing in common. Her mother, father, and supporting characters all have believable depth, which all comes together to support the rich story being told. Very impressive work here.

In summary, this story is worth anyone and everyone's time. Whether you are a VR fan or not, if you like good fiction, you owe it to yourself to give this a chance. I did, and I have to say that I was blown away. Thank you, author, for sharing your story with the world.


Blessed Time

Time loops are hard to pull off. On the one hand, they can trivialize the story if the protagonist can simply undo everything bad at the flip of a switch, or they can get mired in repetition and become boring when the story relives past events. I'm happy to say that Blessed Time walks that tightrope and does it well. The author paces the various iterations just about perfectly to both keep your interest and have you looking forward the rewind sequences. And the nature of the MC's powers mean that rewind decisions have a huge amount of impact and weight.

Story

I love where this is going. We may only have seen one time reset thus far, but things are definitely building up to something epic, and while it might be some time before we get there, the worldbuilding and plot progression make for a very compelling read.

Style

Excellent! CoCo knows just how much time to spend on pacing to keep the core timeloop aspect of the story engaging and entertaining. If you've read any of his previous fictions, you'll know to expect excellence here.

Grammar

Perfect, as usual. The author's first drafts tend to be very polished, but this one has editing on top of that. Some of the best writing on RR, you will have nothing to complain about in this department.

Character

We're seeing steady progression here. Initially, Micah was a bit lackluster; just a kid trying to figure things out. But he's learning and he's becoming more and more cynical. Can't wait to see how he is on the next loop, fingers crossed that he eventually becomes a cynical old man in a child's clothing!

Overall, this is a highly polished, very enjoyable timeloop story that I'd recommend to anyone.