Pirates of the Milky Way

Awesome like "Firefly". A must-read epic space opera!

(as of the end of book 5, "Solar Storm")

In the far future, the human part of the galaxy is divided and at war. On one side there's the Star League, a totalitarian system with a powerful intelligence apparatus that meddles in human rights violations and the subterfuge of their own AI system. On the other side is the Planetary Republic which, as a representative democracy, has its own shortcomings but at least they try to be good. Outside of those huge factions is the independent planet Lute, founded on the principles of freedom, home to space pirate companies. One of those is the Ultima Mule Company of Captain Raleigh and his crew, who privateer against the League's ships to fill their coffers. At the beginning of the first book, they board a transport only to find out that the "valuable cargo" is something very different than they expected. And so it begins, the tale that spans the stars...

Style/Grammar: The story is a soap opera taking place in space. As such it is told in third-person style by an omniscient narrator, but as internal POVs from a large number of people. Some are short glimpses that show one scene to flesh out the background info or add a different perspective of an event. Others make up the regular cast: Captain Raleigh, some people of his crew, the Big Bad leader of the League, bureaucrats and spies from the secret service, people from the (anti-League) Resistance, small-fry people that live their lives but are caught up in the big events...
Word choice and the descriptions both of the events and the surroundings are great. Grammar and spelling are very good.

Story: As it is normal in soap operas, there is not one single storyline, but a large number of those. While it might be a bit difficult at times to remember all the names, the many storylines interact, then drift apart just to converge again. A side character from storyline D will meet a character from storyline B, then after a while something happens that makes them end up in storyline A; at that point the reader notices that it has been their own storyline all the time! The main storyline is beyond doubt the one following the Ultima Mule Company and their exploits and the other overarching plotline is the war, but there is so much going on that those take the back seat in some of the books.
One thing that is unique to this story is how the AI systems are working, each faction (League, Republic, Lute) has their own very powerful and almost omnipresent AI that governs the life of their respective people, from communication over administration to steering the spaceships, but still remaining rather neutral towards their humans' behavior as they are programmed that way.
While there are some very dark secrets that the readers learn about rather quickly (thanks to the POVs from bad guys or victims) and some not so nice developments affecting the people, most of the story has a rather light-hearted vibe with many lovely or humorous scenes and an overarching direction towards "good". At the same time, some plots are a bit predictable in their general outline due to this.
The science in this story is secondary, there are things like teleportation and life-like androids but all that is only as background for the character-centered story. The pacing is good, in the individual storylines it can be quick but due to the large number of storylines the overall background plot is progressing rather sedately.

Characters: Lots. The reader quickly finds out that some of them are clearly the good guys and some are clearly the bad guys, but there are also "other guys" and guys that change from one side to the other, making this story very NOT black-and-white. Most of the regular characters are presented in a rather fleshed-out way that gives the reader a good way to imagine them in your head, but without laying bare everything about them. You will love many characters and at times you will even root for people that stand on the "bad" side because they are so well done. It's not visible at first glance, but over time the author narrates character development for some people that is expertly done and really impressive.

I'm sure there are people who will not become fans of this story, either because of the multi-POV /multi-storyline style or because of the (mostly bad) surprises that sometimes happen with the death of sympathetic characters. But for me this is an awesome tale on an epic scope, with the same lovely mix of diverse characters, exciting action (both on a personal level and on an interstellar scale), a bit of romance, fun and lots of adventure that I remember from the regretfully bygone Firefly series. It's been a while that I added a RRL story to my favorite list but this here made it.

CORE: The Volcanic Dungeon

Harem-heavy and rambling-heavy dungeon core story

(update as of chapter 2.20, old review was at chapter 1.27)

Style: The story is told in first-person style by the rock that became a dungeon core, not 'live' but much much later than the events happened. It feels like the story is being told at the fireplace on a long winter evening (by a slightly addled grandfather). This feeling is mostly brought on by long comments about trivia or musings about storytelling which often turns to rambling. The descriptions are lively and the word choice is good.

Story: Like many other stories on RRL the dungeon core starts out weak and dumb before getting useful abilities and training its monsters to become better. The dumb decisions brought on by the lacking intellect lead to comical situations but without becoming cringey.  What I don't like so much is the early and copious introduction of sexual undertones. The MC as a dungeon core is a sapient (or at least sentient) rock, i.e. a sex- and genderless thing. Still it often rambles about how attractive his monsters are and how it likes being licked or being placed in a lap, even though it should not be able to assess something like that. Oh yeah, another related thing: almost all monsters (except for a skeleton and some golems) are female in a shameless way of harem building.

Grammar: Very good, only very few typos.

Characters: So far we only got to know the dungeon core (who at the time of telling is old, powerful and educated), a 'mentor' and the dungeon's monsters. The former is portrayed as simple and flawed but getting better quickly. The latter are shown as developing their own personalities and compassions, but all of them are fixated on their master; this is expected as dungeon mobs but it's too much and too pining for me. Some adventurers have been visiting the dungeon, most of them are dead now.

I came over from 'the Queen's Hound', another of the author's stories, and like that one 'CORE: the Volcanic Dungeon' paints nice and funny scenes that I read happily. In the first version of this review I wrote that I really hoped that the dungeon core would stay a non-human character following its own path (and morals) instead of becoming another fake-human blending into human society and concentrating on harem-building and whatnot; But the second already came to pass. It's still an okay story but it's not as unusual and captivating (regarding the dungeon core story genre) as it could be and the rambling is by now bothering me (I liked it in the beginning).

The Nothing Mage

(as of chapter 37; old review was at 24)

Even though the test for Declan's aptitude for magic came back "0" which got him disowned for being a disgrace, he somehow is able to wield something which can only be called magic, hurting a noble in the process, forcing him to flee. Both to escape punishment and to learn more about that strange power, he sets out to one of the Towers (i.e. a mage college) where it is found that he indeed does have magic, but of a variant that has never been seen or even imagined before. A very dangerous variant that kills everything living it touches Spoiler: Spoiler

Can Declan, under the watchful eyes of an excited researcher magus, learn not to be a 'plague on legs'? Or will the growing rumors about the cursed 'Nothing Mage' throw a wrench in his plans?

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style by an omniscient narrator following Declan (and one short scene shows something elsewhere which is important for world building but not really necessary). Word choice is rich and the descriptions are very good, making for very smooth reading without being boring. Grammar is excellent and I don't remember finding any typos!

Story: Classifying this story into a genre, this would be the often seen combination of coming-of-age story, school life (but heavily modified) and adventure: The MC travels to the Tower, finds friends, finds opposition, studies magic, then danger looms... The pacing is a bit slower than usual, the MC's progress is quite fast but other parts move rather slowly. Now and then there are timeskips when he practices for weeks. Except for the uncommon way magic works (like colored light, different magic elements have different wavelengths), how this story develops is not too surprising. But that doesn't mean it is boring, as the storytelling is very good!
The thing that suddenly had so many readers cry out, rate the story 0.5 and apparently drop it in chapter 24 is, as you probably read in all the other reviews, that the male MC suddenly kisses his male tutor. While I confess that I was very surprised because I (like many readers) didn't see it coming and while I (like many readers) think that it was an unnecessary plot point, I don't see where the problem is. It was one short kiss in an emotional moment and apart from some later thoughts of "what happened in that moment?" there haven't been any further homosexual occurrences in the story (except for hints to a lesbian romance).

Characters: As the narrative style shows us Declan's inner thoughts and turmoil, the readers get to know him well quickly. He's a youth who has strengths (smart, very good with theory) but who is also guarded and self-reproachful with an unnecessarily grim outlook. While his characterization is very good, it's a bit much and I'd like to give him a kick and tell him to get his sh*t together. The other people are described and characterized well enough that they are more than just a blurry face in the background, even though many of them don't have more than a single role yet.

All in all, this story is very well written with an interesting (but not revolutionary) plot. I'm hoping for exciting adventures.

Locking Horns, Breaking Teeth. [Minotaur Paladin Rewrite.]

(as of chapter 23; I have not read the original story (tMP))

Both a LitRPG system and fantasy monsters arrive on Earth, making it difficult for humanity. This we have seen in many RRL stories. But as the system is somehow operated by aliens for entertainment and monetary purposes and humanity starts doing what humanity does best (preferring money and power over morality, indulging in vices, oppressing and exploiting the weak, trolling others), this makes for a rude awakening for our MCs: The minotaur battle-cleric Garok suddenly has a huge bounty on his head for rejecting the wretched job he has been press-ganged for; the human Clair did not live on the sunny side of life before but has a moral compass that she just can't ignore in these new surroundings; and the droid Dumrye has to do tech support for the system, coming into contact with both the evil corporate leaders and the a-hole humans. Welcome to a world where everybody is out to get you...

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person internal style from multiple points of view. All of them are connected in the story, although to a different amount right now. This makes for comprehensive world-building in the readers' eyes as we can see it from multiple sides. The way the chapters are written concerning scene-building and descriptions is fluctuating, there are some very good ones and some that feel a bit cumbersome. The LitRPG aspect is mostly subdued, there are skills used and level-ups are mentioned but that's it. Grammar is good. There are typos but not many.

Story: The premise of the story is very interesting. I don't mean the "LitRPG monster apocalypse" genre itself, because we are on RRL and have many such stories, but the many small and larger twists that go above and beyond the usual number grinding we see in many LitRPG stories (and which is almost absent here). Very unusual is the system shop (with a sell option) and the way the internet is embedded. The pacing is good, there is constant action and development without it feeling rushed. So far, the Tiipenet side of the story is mostly an enigma to me but I guess it will become clearer with time.

Characters: The main characters Garok and Clair are done very well, both in their personalities and in their actions. Their thought processes are believable and they have a good amount of dimensionality in their inner workings. What I don't like in this story is that many side characters are presented as very exaggerated personalities; that would be fine in a comedy story but LHBT doesn't feel like one to me (even though there are some funny scenes).

So, now I have reviewed a story from The Master Reviewer (*nervous sweating*). While I enjoyed reading LHBT and will continue to do so, it is not one of my favorite stories on RRL. It is a very nice take on the monster apocalypse genre, with great MCs and exciting scenes, but the antagonists (both Tiipenet and the human gangs) just don't feel right for my personal preferences.


Lovely scene-building (plz not drop dis)

(as of chapter 11)

The world ends after a 10-minute notice and Harmony barely manages to use that time to grab some food, useful tools and her cat and steal a neighbor's boat before flooding drowns everything. After taking on some animal hitchhikers they are transported to a fantasy world and Harmony has to start at zero. Well, not at zero zero, because she has some powers now...

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style from Harmony's point of view. It is full of lovingly described scenes that make you feel like you're there. The word choice is great. A large amount of humorous tidbits are strewn through the story. LitRPG elements are presented in green boxes. There are some typos but not many.

Story: It's a bit early to tell where this story is going but until now it's looking mighty fine. The first chapters can be seen as a kind of long prologue before the MC arrives in the new world. The main story then starts with learning some abilities, creating a place to live and meeting new people. The pacing seems to be unhurried but without losing itself in useless details.

Characters: So far we mostly know the MC, who is acting very smart, both in the beginning while being in a "you have X seconds left" situation and in the new world. The only group of other people are non-humans in the new world, they start out as being strange but that seems to be from their different culture.

All in all, this is a beautiful story because of the lovely scene-building and the rest of it is great as well. I'm adding myself to the large group of people who fervently hope this will not be dropped.

The Elemental Arena

Interesting and realistic LitRPG group survival story

(as of chapter 14)

Nathan and a few thousand other people are transported to an 'arena' tournament. First they'll have to survive in RPG scenarios against impersonal trials and monsters before they'll even have a chance to compete last-species-standing-like against the seven other participant groups for humanity's survival. While there is a system that gives stats and skills, it is a brutal fight for survival at every turn. And 'brutal' really means that, it's very easy to die here.

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style from Nathan's point of view. The descriptions both of the action and those of the surroundings are good, the amount is sufficient but not very detailed, fitting the pacing of the story. Word choice is good with excellent grammar, everything is easy to understand without being too simple. The LitRPG elements are enough to let the readers follow the characters' progress and know their abilities but without cluttering the story. There are only a few typos, nothing jarring.

Story: So far most of the story has been one long fight for survival without major breaks, keeping the characters always on edge. Nonetheless, a good amount about how the world/system works has been discovered and the people have had opportunities to show their personalities. The pacing is good.

Characters: The MC and some of the other characters behave believable for people thrust into a life and death situation, barely coping emotionally but still keeping enough of a mind to use the resources available to them. They do make some errors but that is expectable. Some others still feel a bit too stereotypical but let's see how they develop. Interesting is the diverse origin of the cast, compared to the homogeneity in other stories. The interpersonal dynamics are done very well.

All in all, this is a good LitRPG group survival story with a realistic (for a fantasy story) take on events.


Needs some editing but still a fine 'classic style' RPG story

(as of "Lurking Lair 1", i.e. the 31th post; review done before an announced editing)

'Adventurer' tells the story of the former human Eric (now Ciresil, a divine-elf/vampire hybrid) who is isekai'd in a remote valley in a fantasy world that feels like the computer version of a pen-and-paper RPG, with status boxes, skills, quests and xp. He befriends the few inhabitants of a small hamlet and learns how the system works, protecting the hamlet from wolves and similar dangers to earn his keep. Aaaand he starts sucking monster blood because that gives the most experience points.

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person internal style by an omniscient narrator, mostly from Cire's point of view but short scenes are told from various other POVs. The descriptions are good with a rich vocabulary. There are still things to improve: often there are sentences that could flow better or smaller continuity errors (the latter probably from rearranging while writing/editing). Typos mostly consist of missing spaces and missing possessive apostrophes. The author is listening to the readers' feedback, correcting errors and modifying "bad" scenes quickly.

Story: What I really missed while reading were explanations of and reactions to some very basic things, like the fact that the MC spawns in a game-like fantasy world at all without being irritated by that; but later in the story there are hints that there is an explanation for this. The mood is often easy but there are some impactful scenes as well. Pacing is a bit on the quicker and sometimes clumsier side, e.g. befriending the people seems to be much easier than I would expect and there is lots of stuff happening in a short time even though they are in a very tiny very remote settlement.

Characters: Cire is a unique MC due to his special hybrid race that gives him unusual options but also requirements. He has both good and flawed aspects which make his personality believable. There are some discrepancies between him sometimes being smart and resourceful, and on the other hand often acting impulsively and stupid. The other characters all have their own personalities that make for a large variety, they feel plausible even though we haven't seen that many sides of them.

All in all this is looking to become a very fine LitRPG story. Currently the author is preparing a larger edit of the story, I think that will smooth out many of the tiny shortcomings.

The Broken Realm Online

unique blend of reality and game-world, very interesting

(as of chapter 29)

Darith, a fat and socially awkward but smart gamer nerd (i.e. the standard RRL MC), gets invited into a strange and secret full immersion-like fantasy MMORP"Game" that is running parallel to the real world and at the same time blended into it, with stats and abilities useable in the real life. That's fun for him, but some "players" take it seriously and for nefarious purposes: Officer Jaese sees his partner and colleagues killed by what can only be called a bank-robbing magician, but as magic clearly doesn't exist, his boss thinks he's taken drugs. Read the story to find out how Darith learns to take the "game" (is it really a game when people die for real?) seriously, how Jaese searches for the killer and how former gang member Gabriel wants revenge for losing (spoiler) to a clearly un-natural turf war mass murder!

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person internal style from five different points of view. That's more than usual and while often a bad sign in a RRL story, after a few chapters those plotlines are starting to converge and it's not difficult to see where the story is (probably) heading Spoiler: Spoiler

so it is fine here. The descriptions and word choice are okay but didn't strike me as exceptional. Grammar is good and there are few typos.

Story: On one hand, this is a classic "fight and train, explore and do quests, get XP and stats and skills" fantasy LitRPG story. On the other hand, the game has far-reaching consequences also for the lives of the real "NPC" people. These multiple layers make it a bit difficult to really put a label on the story as not everything about how the game works and how the game ties into reality is explained (the "City Guard" can somehow undo damage done in the real world and wipe the memory of the non-players, but at the same time Jaese still remembers how his partner was killed). The combination is really fascinating though and the plot development is captivating. Pacing is good, with the exception of stat/skill leveling which is unreasonably fast even for a grinding montage.

Characters: The characterization of the people is "good". Quotation marks because many of them are high school teenagers with a heavy helping of teenage drama. As that is a standard trope seen in every teen movie ever (I really don't know how much of that is taken from real life vs being exaggeration), I'll tolerate it even though I personally don't like it (Stupid kids nowadays... *shakes walking cane*). Apart from that, the central characters are written in a mostly consistent way, with believable strengths and flaws and not always acting in an optimal way (although Darith is carrying the idiot ball for much longer than believable, a pro gamer should get his shit together much quicker when he realizes that the game affects reality). While the players quickly get stronger, they are not OP. The bad guys are rather cliché though and some side characters are very stupid.

All in all, this is a very interesting story with a unique blend of reality and game-world. I'm enjoying it very much and I think it has the potential to reach the top part of RRL. What are you still waiting for, start reading!

Recruit - An Infinite Labyrinth prequel

Explaining the mechanics for the main story - well done

(this prequel is completed, the main story is at chapter 15 at the time of this review)

I recommend reading at least the first 10 chapters of the main story before reading this prequel to better witness the feeling of discovery the main story's characters have.

As the name implies, this story is the prequel to 'the Infinite Labyrinth: Arcanist', occurring two years earlier than the main story and serving as an explanation of the system and the mechanics. Both take place in an alternate history of the early 19th century in Europe, Napoleon has not been defeated and there is a lukewarm war between England and France. Both countries have access to portals that lead to a huge fantasy world (the 'Infinite Labyrinth') where valuable resources can be found that changed the world. But only those people that have at least one exceptionally high stat are able to enter the portals to level up as 'Professionals'. This prequel follows some random lower class workers that each possess such a stat and are recruited by a guild. The experienced pros run the greenhorns through what is basically a beginner training course, explaining how the Labyrinth functions and how the mechanics of skills and levels work.

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style by an omniscient narrator. The LitRPG mechanics (blue boxes) are pretty complex but the explanations for them are good. This is often a bit info-dumpy but what else do you expect from a training course? Descriptions are okay but a bit sparse. Grammar is good and there are a few typos, but for the author not being a native speaker that is excellent.

Story: Straightforward, the quick pacing fits the story, as the "teacher" wants to get the annoying task over so she can return to her real job.

Characters: There is enough information to give the readers an okay idea about the central characters.

All in all, while it would be too bland for a stand-alone story, this prequel does what it is intended for: explain the mechanics and flesh out some of the side characters that you will meet in the main story (e.g. the oft-mentioned "Cousin Luther") so that the main story is not interrupted by inelegant info dumps. I read the prequel after chapter 14 of the main story and currently (I will update this review in the future) it doesn't feel like that was too early.

The Infinite Labyrinth

Watching a 19th century noob party live in a MMORPG - funny and still great!

(as of chapter 15)

This story takes place in an alternate history of the early 19th century in Europe, Napoleon has not been defeated and there is a lukewarm war between England and France. Both countries have access to portals that lead to a huge fantasy world (the 'Infinite Labyrinth') where valuable resources can be found that changed the world. Normally only people with an adventurer class can enter but a group of youths from London is locked in that world after they fled from a French surprise attack on the portal. They form a party and have to fight monsters to survive while knowing almost nothing about the Labyrinth, at the same time they need to find a way home.

Style/Grammar: The story is told in third-person style by an omniscient narrator. The main storyline follows the party of six with Jonas as the main focus (and only internal POV), blue boxes are shown for everybody though. Interludes show what happens to certain other adventurers and politicians on both sides of the now-closed portal. The LitRPG mechanics have not been explained much, but this is intentional, as the youths here know nothing. Those (pretty complex) mechanics are shown in detail in the prequel which basically depicts a 'Labyrinth for dummies' training, but even from the glimpses here they are good. Descriptions are okay but there could be more. Grammar is good and there are few typos; it's hard to believe that the author is not a native speaker, as the prose is better than in many other RRL stories, although sometimes there are strange phrases (which could also be British English?).

Story: By now, the group works together like an adventuring party, has defeated some monsters and has leveled up a bit. Their working together went rather flawlessly and even though there have been dangerous moments their struggle did not feel as exciting as it could have. I can't assess yet whether the pacing is quick or normal (level 10 came easily but I think that's only because successful adventurers reach levels in the hundreds or thousands). The Labyrinth has a very MMORPG-like feeling, with many different zones of various difficulty, "lairs" and a loot system where a dead boar drops armor. This will make it familiar to readers but on the other hand it means there's not too much novelty. A nice addition are the author's notes which sometimes give information about those side characters that also existed in our world's history; these are only snippets with no importance but it's still interesting.

Characters: The story has six main-and-secondary and some "other" characters. There have been some hints to the background and personality of the main six, not so much that they feel real yet but they are a diverse group and will probably turn out fine.

Basically, this story is the literary equivalent of "playing a MMORPG without reading the manual", it's interesting to watch the noobs find their way. I, as the genre-savvy gamer watching from out of danger, am having fun. The good writing quality and the uncommon era the story takes place in are a bonus.