vladerag

vladerag

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Leveling up the World

I will start this review by saying two things: it is a sad fact of life that interesting writing ideas are often difficult writing ideas.  There is a reason that so many novels use a fairly basic set of mechanics with usually only a twist here or there thrown in to give the story flavour.  "Leveling up the World" is an exercise in those two concepts.

The stranger a worlds mechanics are the more thought must be put into the worldbuilding and the more there is that has to be explained to the reader.  Furthermore, some mechanics have much larger implications than others do.  Having a mage throw a fireball is, in the grand scheme of humanity, a rather minor thing; having a mage conjure a hurricane is catastrophic to a region, but when looking at the scope of humanity it does nothing that couldn't have been achieved by thousands of laborers working with bronze age tools.

Introducing a mechanic whereby a character can improve objects is, by contrast, something that would have a much greater impact on society.  One would expect even the lowest level awakened in this story to be snapped up instantly by organizations, probably drafted to work on assembly lines systematically improving item after item.  Amateur craftsman could, with their help, create high quality goods with ease.  You could start a psuedo-industrial revolution with this sort of ability!

And so the dissonance between a fairly normal medieval society and such an astounding ability makes the story feel... strange.

Moreover, I am having difficulty grasping just how strong the main character - or indeed any of the characters - are.  They gain power by leveling up, but that is never really enumerated and even if it was it wouldn't matter much because there is no sense of scale.

Could Dallion throw a man across a bar?  Across a room?  Through the tavern's walls!?  How fast is he compared to your average joe?  How perceptive?

I have no idea because I am utterly bereft of context.

One man, who is supposedly fairly weak by the standards of the awakened, could mind control an entire village and unless I have completely misunderstood something very basic to the story, a great deal of people share this exact same ability including the main character.

Again, this has massive implications for human society.  But society is basically... normal.  Am I missing something regarding that character's strength in comparison to everyone elses?  Did I somehow miss a bunch of exposistion?  I feel like I must have...

The sum total of everything I have to say in this review is this: while this story is acceptably interesting, there is a pervasive oddness to it that prevents me from becoming immersed.

 


Savage Divinity

If you want to read my previous reviews of SD, you can find them here:

Edit 2: my first review was positive, my second was negative, and this one is going to be blistering.  Just.  Enough Ruff.  Please, for the love of God, I am begging you: cut the chaff.  For a little bit the story showed flashes of its original brilliance again, but the main character spends more time knocked out then is remotely ok.

I described your pacing as glacial in my last edit, and I was overjoyed when you speed up for a bit, but it was just a piece of ice falling off that glacier to crash down to earth.  Fast and exciting, sure, but the sudden stop was wrenching.

The protagonist doesn't need to spend a month in a coma again.  They don't need another recovery arc.  They don't need more useless introspection.  YOUR CHARACTER NEEDS TO DO THINGS!  I'll be more specific, Rain needs to accomplish goals.  I've had so much exposition on the martial path that at this point I could probably hone my words in this review and cut you with them.

He spent hundreds of chapters trying to learn to control water and never did anything with it, he spent hundreds of chapters expositing about domains but never gained one, he spent hundreds of chapters trying to recover and is still crippled save for a few tricks.

You can skip every chapter from roughly 450 to 650 and not miss a single bit of character development from Rain.  Hell, you wouldn't even miss much story.  Sure, it'd be a bit odd that he was promoted, but aside from his promotion the actual situation in the story is nearly the same.

You don't need to waste chapters on bulat, bensei, jorani, hitsue, vithar, or whatever other minor characters everyone pretty much would have forgotten about it you didn't devote so much time to them.  Here, I'll show you how to be concise:

Rains pov: Bulat earned a lot of money by selling his war bonds and retired as mayor of one of my districts; but now here he was making my retinue again saying that it just wasn't the life for him.

What you devoted an entire chapter too, summer up into a single sentence that - near as I can tell - advanced our knowledge of the world just as much.

I have that I love this story, because it is slowly driving me insane.

Edit: so my original review was very positive, and for good reason.  This update is going to be savagely negative, also for good reason.

 

I am, but very soon probably will not be, a Patron supporting Savage Divinity.  I say this as a reference so that you, the reader of this review, understand I'm not just reviewing the story you will see here on RoyalRoad, but I am reviewing that plus chapters that haven't even been released yet.  Ruffwriter has a quite significant buffer of chapters between his Patreon and RoyalRoad, so I can only imagine the disappointment that regular readers will experience as they slog through the grind I already have.

 

The pacing is no longer slow for thematic purposes, but downright glacial.  The plot barely moves and the amount of whiny introspection from Rain is downright infuriating.

 

And I do mean that quite literally.  I just read the latest Patreon chapter and ended that chapter actually angry.  I felt my time was wasted and that the main character had gone from likeable to a whiny bitch.

 

That is not language I use lightly.

 

The main character complains in his thoughts incessantly, over everything.  He has from chapter one, but it wasn't a problem when the plot was moving. Now that the plot has been at a standstill for something like 70 chapters, this flaw is all we are left with.

 

Rain never stands up to anyone.  He never takes any position and makes a stand on it.  He just gets pushed along by the whims of others and then bitches about it in lengthy introspection before doing absolutely nothing to change it.

 

His stated goal, his overarching desire, is to live in peace with his family.  But he doesn't work towards that, he often seems to forget about it. If you look at his moment to moment goals and motivations, you'll find that overall he has no real goals and his motivation for his actions is that someone else told him to do it.

 

I just can't take it anymore.  This edit was made on March 13th, 2020. I would firmly suggest that you do not read this novel until 2021, because maybe by then actual things I'll be happening again and you won't have to wait for a new chapter that is just more bitching and moaning.

 

Edit end.



  

First off, be ready for the long long haul if you start this.  This web novel makes a series like the 'Wheel of Time' look short by comparison.  The author has broken it up into volumes and is nearing volume number thirty at time of writing and despite claims that the end is in sight, I am less than convinced.

However, I may not be convinced of it's ending because I do not want 'Savage Divinity' to end at all! 

The worldbuilding is absolutely perfect.  Not only is the world expansive, but it is also extensive in detail.  The logic of the world is clear and the various cultures believable.  Every single element of the setting is perfect and perfectly explained; imaginable, but not intrusive into the reading experience.

The characters are complex and their relationships and interactions are likewise complex and mostly believable.  I will admit that I feel like the protagonist should have told more than a few people to shove off and that I can't imagine myself putting up with the crap he does, but that is just my own personality and not the protagonist.

In fact, the main characters personality is not merely complex but evolves and grows as the story continues, as do the other characters.  A startling feature when most web novels can fail to handle even a single characters development much less the couple dozen RuffWriter so casually juggles.

With characters and a world nigh unto perfection, the closest thing 'Savage Divinity' has to a flaw is it's pacing.  I say it is the closest thing to a flaw and not actually a flaw because I disagree with many of the more recent reviews I have seen on RRL complaining about it.

It is true, somewhere around volumes twenty six and twenty seven the pacing slows down after a critical event, but that is because it must.  As frustrating as it can be to go from intense action to almost none at all, I not only agree with the authors choice not to pull a 'Deus ex Machina' solution to the protagonists problems very quickly - or at all, really - but think that the story will be, far and away, much better for it.

Believable characters having real struggles in a rich and fascinating world will always be better than overpowered protagonists with plot armour running around a cardboard world made for them to strut about in.

This novel isn't good or great, it is excellent bordering on exquisite.  I wholeheartedly recommend it to any and every reader who enjoys fantasy.

This is my fourth review of Savage Divinity.  My first review contained great praise for what I though to be an excellent novel.  My second review called it "glacial" and my third review had entire segments of me yelling that stories require characters to actually do things.

Savage Divinity is not a slow novel. it is a tectonicaly slow novel.  Glacial is not even close to an appropriate descriptor because glaciars move more quickly than Savage Divinity does.  The character's incessant whining, paired with the excruciating pace would be bad enough, but what little progress they do make is wiped from the board every few dozen chapters to be followed by upwards of fifty more chapters of "recovery."

I have come to hate the characters.  I hate how they behave, I hate how they whine, I hate how they never seem to grow or change, and I hate their constant pseudophilisophical rambling introspection.

I have come to hate the story.  Every piece of development takes a score of chapters; a single pointless meeting can stretch from five to fifty chapters of preperation and return.  And then, immediatly after that all the development is rolled back so that we are right back where we started.

I hate the style.  The constant asides to animals, the unending monologues; this web novel is so far up its own ass that its peering out of its own mouth.  It pretends depth but frankly is about as deep as wandering through the hallmark card section of a local drug store.

Do not start reading this.  It isn't worth it.


Doing God's Work

Hilarious, Dark, and Utterly Delicious.

It is not a new idea to imagine the heavens as a corporate dystopia.  The idea of angels or devils working a nine to five shift has been explored in many different works and with varying degrees of drudgery.  I, personally, have often found them to be too much mired in the mundanity of corporate culture.

An angle, after all, should still be an angel even if it has to work at a desk.  Surely, in my mind at least, the humour would come from the justaxposistion of a powerful, glorious being having to fill out paperwork and getting dumped on by their supervisor.

Doing God's Work takes a less comedic - although that doesn't make it much less funny - route, wherein the various gods at work in Providence aren't as resigned to their fate as serial comedy might have them.  Because make no mistake, although this has comedic elements it is not a comedy.  In fact, it is downright grimdark in places.

I'll be spoiler free here, but there are some very difficult moments in this fiction.  It will pull on your heartstrings and hard, even though you are following the very cynical and jaded Loki on his day to day mundane work.

Of course, mundane in this context involves answering prayers to God, so mundane might not really be the right word.

Either way, this is a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows as you move from drudgery to horror to humour and back again.

All of the characters, for the most part, are taken from the various gods throughout human history, only slightly updated for their new corporate life.  As a result, they all have interesting characters and relationships almost by default so long as the author is capable, and make no mistake Csuite is very capable.

You can almost feel the centuries of weight each of these gods is lugging around with them.  The pure exhaustion mixed with the bombastic personalities from their myths.

It is, without a doubt, a fantastic story that I recomend anyone and everyone read. 


Melas

The thing about "reincarnation in another world" stories is that they often rely on a gimmick of some kind; a unique selling point that makes them different from the others.  They rely on this because the genre is oversaturated, and many web novels and light novels have set the bar low.

In some ways, the first chapter of this novel could be swapped with the first chapter of nearly any other reincarnation novel and the casual reader would be hard pressed to note the difference.

However, I think that this novel's USP is a good one and as a result it is worth a look at.

So obviously the character dies in a truck related accident (hail our lord Truck-kun and his unknowable ways) and ends up in front of maybe God.  She died because of God so he grants are a request for her next life, to which she responds that she wishes to be the greatest magic user of all time.  So far, so generic, however the next part is where things diverge because magic is illegal in the world she is reincarnated in.

On the whole, this throws a twist into the usual formula and the author has thrown in a couple more twists as well.  I will stop talking specifics here because this is where it matters, things are bent enough that it doesn't feel like every other reincarnation story, and that makes it worth reading.

The only real problem I have is that the protagonist constantly talks about how mature she is with her adult mind, but is actually only occasionally mature.  You would think that someone planning to be a lawyer would know that you can't make everyone happy but this girl simply can't handle the idea that someone doesn't like her.

Someone calls her out for her use of illegal magic in a catastrophe and instead of saying, "we can talk about this after we escape the giant death monsters," she runs away.  When confronted with some random ass who doesn't like her because he thinks she is weak, instead of laughing at his frankly ludicrously childish philosophy, she agrees and tries to prove herself instead.  When working to escape from a horrible situation, she simply cannot seem to wrap her head around the idea that people near her could get hurt.

I wouldn't mind her inconsistency in the maturity of her actions if she didn't bring up his mature she supposedly was all the time though.  Most people would not have the level of maturity to act properly in these situations, but since she brought it up...

 

Tl;dr good story, worth a read with a slightly whiny protagonist.  (Perhaps deservedly whiny though)


Ciarra the Cold

Turns out that it's smut, and you can't even read it!

 See, the first problem is that I skimmed the synopsis, and didn't notice the "amoral sexual sadist" bit.  I mean, the DubCon descriptior gave me the idea that sex would probably be at least somewhat prominent in this story, but I heavily underestimated it.  It is smut.

Or it would be, but RR has been pushing to get rid of smut on its site, so where the smut scenes would be are links to a different website that allows that kind of content.  Fair enough, anyone can follow a link and I am always looking for websites that might have interesting web novels on them, so I went to the site.

Not only do you have to register for the site just to finish reading a chapter, the registration process is by email invite.  Given how ugly the site was, I gave up here rather than risk my spam folder being inundated by crap from a shady smut site.

It isn't worth the effort to read.


The Menocht Loop

A loop is only as good as its protagonist

*minor spoilers*

This story is on the better side of average, that is for sure.  It isn't bad, but it isn't nearly as good as "Mother of Learning."  Instead of getting sucked into this novel, I found myself becoming less invested the more I learned.

So the question I had to ask myself was, why?

The answer is that I don't like the main character, Ian, very much.  Actually, I don't like any of the characters very much.  I don't hate them, but they all disapoint.

While I love the author's style with the shifting point of view, that glimpse into the minds of the supporting characters fails to make them likable or interesting.  In fact, it serves to make me wonder, "why are you such an idiot?"

This doesn't matter much in the time loop, because obviously the main character can't form meaningful relationships when the world resets every so often.  But outside of the time loop, characters baffle me with their idiocy and their casual, unneccesary, cruelty.  I mean, the Crowned Prince (a ruler of a country) risks war and spends billions to aquire Ian's services when he emerges from the time loop with incredible power.

But he has nothing for him to do!

Worse still, Ian isn't willing to do much either.  He has no goal, no point, and that wouldn't matter if anyone else had a plan, but no one does!  All he wants is to never be bound by an oath, but why though?

Did he never realise that contracts - whether mundane or magical - are simply a part of normal employment?  Can he not see the obvious problems with having a walking nuke not have some kind of agreement with the government?  Does he think that he is unique or does Ian realise that every single powerful practioner is in the same kind of situation?

Why is his mom such a consistent asshole? And his Aunt too, for that matter.

Why is the Crowned Prince such a complete idiot?  How can he justify spending billions, altering his international policies, and making certain that in the future there will be a war with a larger and more powerful country, all for someone who refuses to do much beyond laze around his palace!?

It has become more and more distracting as the story has gone on, and I can only hope it improves in the future.


Shade Touched

*minor spoilers*

After the Isekai and Reincarnation subgenres became popular it was a natural evolution and exstension of them to have the character be born as a non-human instead of a human.  After that, the idea to remove the Isekai and Reincarnation parts and just have an intelligent monster was a simple leap to make.

I have read more than a few, and honestly, they often have an interesting first few chapters and then become more like each other as the monster interacts with people.  The reason for this, I think, is that for the most part monster protagonists have no personality beyond, "survive and gain power."

Meanwhile, "Shade Touched" gives us Shadow the Shadeling who ends up being a little smarter than her siblings.  What does she want?  Power?  Survival?  Shiny objects?

Well, I can't say she doesn't want survival, and she tries desperately to help her siblings do so as well.  However, Shadow also spends a lot of time picking up shiny rocks and shells because they are pretty, or spying on a squirrel and wondering what they fluffy tail feels like.

Later, her life changes dramatically when she encounters what she calls the "Thinkers," and it is absolutely adorable.

But...  Well, there isn't a lot going on in many ways.  Shadow is still a little too simple to really understand her goals, but she honestly doesn't need a goal yet.  The reason I gave this a lower score in style is simply because I think a few sections from the point of view of the people she meets - and them having a larger reason for taking her with them - would go a long way to make the world feel a lot more stable and less like it is drifting.

In addition - and I never expected to say this - but I think this would have benefited a great deal from being a litRPG.  Quantifying Shadow's changes and growth would really help the audience understand how much she has grown from her former self.

Regardless, Shadow is an adorable little murder machine, and really, doesn't that describe all cats?


MAZE - The Endless Quest

A Good Foundation For A Unique Labyrinth

Dungeon exploration and adventurer litRPGs are ubiquitos among the stories on Royal Road.  As a result, it really is not enough for a story in this subgenre to just be acceptable.  To be succesful, a web novel must stand out from the crowd, espcially as many reading this kind of story are becoming burnt out on them.

Relatedly, there are many stories in the subgenres that tend to dive into the dungeon diving as fast as they can and quickly try to power their protagonist.

MAZE differentiates itself immediatly by its much slower pace.  One hundred chapters in, and the main character has just recently reached level three.  There is a great focus on training and preperation before the protagonist is even allowed to enter the MAZE in the first place.  The protagonist, Hera, is taught skills that will help her survive in the MAZE alongside the rest of her class, providing a foundation for her to begin her dives and friends to help form her first party.

More importantly, to me at least, is that at first Hera ends up with two skills that make me worry that she is overpowered.  I am not a fan of instantly overpowered protagonists usually unless there is a good reason. So I was worried when our heroine got two unique skills.

However, it soon became clear that everyone who tries ends up with unique and rare skills.  In her class, multiple characters emerge with unique - or at least uncommon - evolutions of their skills.  So Hera doesn't feel like she is overpowered and instead that she is just a tad more unique than her team mates.

Of course, this does actually bring me to a few complaints of mine.  Basically every action, according to their teacher, can be a skill.  Every skill, it seems, can evolve.  Given that there is a library free for the main character to visit - that would presumably have information on at least the common skills - I simply cannot understand the rush.  It blows my mind that anyone wouldn't take advantage of that mountain of knowledge to improve themselves before risking their lives.

Admittedly, it becomes obvious that her team mates have reasons to rush and she wants to help them.  That doesn't bother me much, because they do have practical reasons for pushing ahead.  But before she knows this, her actions simply confuse me.

Still, this is a small complaint.

The important point is that this story has set up a foundation that has a fairly unique world.  And, honestly, that is a good reason to give it a shot.  


Horizon

Could use a style editor, in my honest opinion.

Most readers can freely ignore this review and many might think I am nitpicking, especially given the fact I did not finish the first chapter before I decided to write this.

From the reviews and comments I have read, this appears to be the third draft of this web novel - at the very least of this particular chapter - and from the bits of the original I have seen, the current draft is much improved.  It is, basically, readable although there are still slip ups in the grammar apparent within the first few paragraphs.

Still, for an ESOL novel the grammar is perfectly acceptable.  I don't find perfect grammar in novels written by authors who have english as their first language, so it is easy to excuse errors from an author who has english as a second language.

So why did I stop reading so quickly?  Because a grammatically correct sentence is not necessarily a good sentence.

It is difficult to put into words the issues I saw.  While I could explain for each individual case what is wrong and why, the basis for my thoughts is not a codified thing like grammar.  In fact, calling anything I noticed wrong in any particular way wouldn't really be accurate.

In one of the first paragraphs, for example, the author has two or three sentences where he has lists.  The author uses "he" something like nine times in a row.  There is not technically anything wrong with it, but it just feels wrong.

 I'll probably stick this in my "read later" and try it in a slow week.


Threadbare

Could have been one of the best, but became merely mediocre

This story isn't what it looks like.  I came here for the adventurs of a little girl and her stuffed bear golem and I got a small taste of it.  Just enough of a taste to whet my appetite for more, before the whole thing is thrown out the window for a rather commonplace story with relatively average characters.

Honestly, the premise carries it far enough that I may have rated this a four or four point five even after that colossal disappointment.  However, the fourth wall breaks and terrible puns are nothing short of brutally painful.  It is difficult to even describe just how unpleasant the references and puns were; the word "torturous" comes to mind.

The facts that the gods are just big jokes, (Rando/RNG as the god of luck?  Really!?) is awkward and immersion breaking.  Interrupting a tense and important battle for a spleef reference is like slapping the reader across the face.

It comes across like it was written by an adult who has the sense of humor of a nine year old, and honestly does not come close to deserving the high ratings it has been given.

This story is merely, "ok"