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May 11th, 2:26PM
"Stands on its own" permalink
Caveat: I'm not a native speaker, so forgive any typos and odd wording.
Having been a fan of this writer's work ever since playing Enderal back in 2016, I was excited to hear he's expanding the universe. As it's a spin-off that centers on one of the fan-favorite characters, Jespar, I was a bit worried at first that the novel wouldn't speak to someone not obsessed with the guy. Four chapters in, I'm glad to say my fears were unfounded.
As a low-fantasy novel, "Dreams of the Dying" can easily stand comparison with famous works in the genre. The world building is excellent, the characters feel authentic, and the tropical setting is a breath of fresh air. It also touches on some interesting topics such as dream and reality and - at least that's I think where it's headed - the dangers of rampant capitalism. Ironically, if I had to find a flaw, it would be precisely this: Though the author avoids anachronisms, "Dreams of the Dying" does feel quite modern at times, both in terms of story and in writing. I don't personally don't mind this at all, but I could imagine some readers might chafe at it.
That being said, I'm excited to see where this story goes!
May 11th, 6:35AM
"What Dreams May Come" permalink
Novelizations of movies and video games are not my usual cup of tea, but I am willing to make an exception for this project.
Nicolas Lietzau was the lead writer of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim total conversion mod Enderal: Forgotten Stories, acclaimed for its gripping story, brilliant characterization, and beautiful setting and world. So, when he announced a book based in the same universe as Enderal (a world called Vyn, the setting of three other total conversions for games in The Elder Scrolls franchise), fans had every reason to be excited.
But I imagine even people who have never heard of Enderal or any of its predecessors will love what Dreams of the Dying, the first in a planned series by Lietzau called Every Day Like the Last, has to offer. Let's begin with Jespar Dal'Varek, who was a significant character in Enderal and is Dreams of the Dying's main character.
Jespar is an irreverent, young, silver-haired, blue-eyed sellsword hailing from the continent of Enderal, a religious, conservative land that he has left behind, ostensibly in search of adventure and purpose but also as a way to avoid the burdens of responsibility and a past that he wishes he could, but can't, forget. He is a complex character who is likable and funny but also roguish and deadly with a pair of daggers. In many ways, Jespar is our eyes and ears in the strange and wonderful world of Vyn, in particular, in the first of the many lands he will eventually visit, the archipelagic nation of Kilé.
Kilé couldn't be more different from Enderal. Where Enderal is a bastion of religious conservatism, Kilé almost couldn't be bothered with worshipping the Light-Born, the seven gods who rule over Vyn, being too busy caring about acquiring as much of the thing that makes the world go round: money. Whereas, in Enderal, people are born into caste-like "paths" in a system which highly encourages people to "know their place," an entirely different ethos rules over Kilé, one of striving and struggle to reach the top of the greasy pole, exalted as the highest virtue in a land of cutthroat merchants, towering ziggurats, and acute income inequality.
Jespar must come to Kilé for a mission whose importance he can barely understand, for he needs to help the country's most powerful man recover from a magically induced coma. The trouble is that Jespar does not have a single magical bone in his body!
So, how our lovable sellsword is going to succeed in this endeavor is anyone's guess, but we will just have to read more to find out!
Throughout the story, Dreams of the Dying will introduce us to terrifying visions of the subconscious, beautiful and feisty mages, radical revolutionaries, and people with the power to traverse entire worlds "where dreams may come."
May 10th, 11:26AM
"I'm many things, but I'm certainly not a hero. (c)" permalink
It is always hard to speak about things that you enjoy the most. Like there is some line, and when you've crossed it, your words are useless and you never can express your thoughts properly. I guess, I can only try.
"Dreams of the Dying" leads its reader to the breathtaking world of Enderal - deep and rich lore, dozens of interesting stories, tons of tiny details making it bright and alive, welcoming you in its "now", revealing some of its past. It is a world you want to explore.
The novel gets you to it - within the story of some cynical and attractive mercenary and his task. Life at stake, misteries, beautiful woman, some magic, promise of a priceless reward - all the things that should be in a good adventure. But there's more, because our guy is being followed by his own horrors. And who is not?
The story keeps perfect tension between intriguing and not overdosing with adrenaline. I love how beauty and horror, calm and fear, talking and fighting are balanced in it. Love the way it's written so I can almost feel myself all the colors, sounds, textures and scents. Love its characters - like them or not, they are not hollow decorations, and it is important. And the plot, sure, holds me tight.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to live a little in a world of Enderal with all his scary and beautiful wonders, for all emotions I've got so far and a pleasure of reading very good book.
May 9th, 8:51AM
"An excellent story so far." permalink
I've been a major fan of this guys work for some time, and Dreams of the Dying is excellent so far. Bringing in a unique setting that breathes off the page, good world building and a strong cast from the beginning, this novel is a serial series with new chapters every week. It's rare to have me wait eagerly for the next chapter in a book to come out, I usually prefer reading books in their entirety. However, this one breaks the rules for me, and that is hard for me to do.
There is a deep sense of mysticism in this world that just makes me want to explore it more, and the book so far has hooked me in. Which is what a book should set out to do!
Can't wait to read more.
March 8th, 6:10AM
"A colorful, popping jam" permalink
(originally written for Web Fiction Guide) Despite the tags, this is definitely a superhero story, about a group of four teenagers with music-based superpowers who save the world by fighting cartoonish villains who also have music-based superpowers.
While most of the web fiction community is focused on more serious sci-fi, fantasy, or drama, Music Masters goes full on Saturday Morning Cartoon on us, bringing a story quite unlike anything else you’ll find on the website. It really feels like a comic book brought into prose (and knowing Music Masters’s origins as a short-lived webcomic, this makes sense). A Worm-inspired angst story this is not.
There’s a lot of narrative gimmicks in the story to keep the pace bumping and the tone light— since the characters have superpowers activated by certain music songs, dozens upon dozens of songs appear embedded in the story for you to listen along. This is something that can be done in web fiction only, not in a book, so it’s great use of the internet as a medium. Also, the story makes very consistent use of omniscent POV; the story flows between characters within each scene, giving all of them inner thoughts rather than keeping to one character per scene. It gives the impression of comic book thought bubbles, with everyone getting their chance to weigh in on situations, and secrets, motivations kept in the open to the reader. There’s some good scenes to be had here.
The cast is large, and all the characters get a ton of development, with the usual teen romance plots thrown in if that’s your thing. No matter what kind of reader you are, you are likely to find at least one character that really gets you.
One major aspect of Music Masters is the huge amounts of fight scenes. Every single story arc has at least one major battle, and there’s a ton of stuff going on at any given time. While some of the fights when on a bit too long for my tastes, I’m not as big a fan of action in prose; if you like action stories, you’ll love this.
My only major complaint about the story is that, as of the end of Disc One, the main four heroes really don’t get very much time to act as a team—usually at least one member is separated from the rest—and there is not much downtime away from main plot activities for them to just hang out and grow with each other. It’s a growing process though and the story gets better at it as it goes on.
Still, if you like comic book action and music-infused coolness, Music Masters is for you. It’s one of a kind in the web fiction world.
September 13th 2018
"Fun read that leaves you wanting more" permalink
This is a fun and enthralling take on urban fantasy themes. The characters are well developed and not clichéd archetypes, the plot is engaging, and the writer balances the fun aspects of the story with some more serious sections, as well as some mystery. The plot flows very well, and I could see this being made into a captivating TV show.
My only wish is that the sections were longer, because I am always disappointed when I finish an episode and have to wait a week to find out what happens next. I would highly recommend this serial to anyone, but especially those who enjoy fantasy stories.
June 21st 2018
"Music is Alive and Well" permalink
Music Masters is definitely a story that should be read and remembered. Though it starts off slow-paced, everything gets into the swing of things soon enough.
The main cast is a lively group for sure, though they do fit a few archetypes that could be seen as overdone. I can overlook this mainly because everyone acts pretty human and in character at all times. The supporting cast is rather interesting as well, with most of them acting as their own functioning being who pop into the story for organic reasons.
Battles are some of the most interesting and intense I've read in years, with the abilities being used having their own unique style that really distinguishes them from each other. And the way that characters use them, Michael especially, are wonderfully engaging and ingenious. This combined with the fact that Michael's way of combat is often dancing around his opponent and none of the fights can truly be considered a bore.
Speaking of the powers, one of the biggest pulls for the story is the music offered and how it is used both in the story and out of it. I've actually found quite a few of my new favorites thanks to this story and I'm pretty sure others can as well. I really do recommend reading this on the books personal site for the best experience.
Grammar is great with little to no mistakes ever being seen, and the words used by both the author and characters really help to set the perfect tone for the story.
The story is broken up into tracks and each track tends to add to the overarching story, but make for some great self-contained ones as well.
Music Masters is a great and joyful read that not only music fans can enjoy. So check it out.
April 29th 2018
"Professional Quality for Free" permalink
This web serial has some of the greatest quality I've seen in novels period. From a technical perspective, grammar is perfect and writing is more than competent. From a story perspective, characters are rather interesting and the Mc definitely feels worth following, the world is developed expertly with no heavy chinks of exposition or the sort, and the world itself is rather fascinating. The only thing holding back a higher review is this serial's incompleteness, so I don't know if this quality will be maintained. With that said, if what we have so far is any indication, this is a definitely something you don't want to miss.
September 6th 2017
"A surprisingly unique presentation of fantasy" permalink
This fantasy novel is about two teens living in the town of Dinod-on-Neidr studying “arach manu”, the art of magical crochet. The story begins with the hero, Dilys, in the gaol for a crime he did not commit after being betrayed by Aeronwy, the girl he hoped would become more than a friend. Eventually we discover that everyone living in this land must speak in rhyme by royal decree and pity the poor person who cannot!
The author combines fantasy, rhyme, crochet, and photography to tell his tale in a setting that has an old-time, other-worldly feel. In a word – it is unique – you won’t find anything like it on the internet. The site itself can only be described as a work of art. Photographs illustrate the story with originally designed crocheted figures and fantastical creatures placed in sets the author creates himself.
At first, I was surprised to see that the novel is written in rhyme. But I soon came to believe that the use of verse gives the tale a beauty and flow that perhaps would not be present without it. So, while some might say the poetic form is its greatest challenge, others might say it is its greatest strength.
Be sure to click on the buttons at the top of the screen. The ‘people’ button particularly provides important background information about the characters.
In my opinion, this novel may not be for everyone. But for the right person – one who can fully appreciate the entirety of this work – it will be enchanting.
August 27th 2017
"A robust, exciting story in an incredibly lush original setting." permalink
This is wonderful fiction. The story centers around two characters, long-separated siblings together on a mission from the king of an embattled kingdom. As adults, a reader can readily see that Iri and Auri are very different people who remain united both in history and purpose. Their journey is playing out against the backdrop of a detailed setting that's introduced throughout at a considered pace that doesn't drag down the action but definitely gives the reader a deeply-textured sense of place.
Both characters have strong, well-defined personalities, and the author does not fall into the trap of creating stilted fantasy dialects, but rather defines the character voices through incredibly natural dialog that make them both approachable, but in different ways.
Throughout, the author moves between events of the present (centered around the perspective of the brother as an adult) and events of the past (centered around the perspective of the sister during chapters of her younger life). Often, I find that 'flashback' scenes tend to rob a narrative arc of urgency, or lack driving stakes since you know that, whatever happened, it must have worked out. However, in The Aliud, this dynamic works well as a dual-narrative that maintains a compelling plot in both timelines. It's reasonably well-timed post-for-post, as well, introducing detail chapter to chapter that keeps both stories relevant to one another rather than wandering through events that seem unrelated with the hope that there will be an unseen payoff at the end of the tunnel.
The chapters are a healthy length. This isn't a weekly bite of microfiction to flit through on your elevator-ride up to your office, but is well worth setting aside time with your Monday-morning coffee to join the adventure with these characters in this immersive world. It feels big, and it feels incredibly deliberate, like nothing is dropped in accidentally or incidentally. I look forward to the new chapter each week!
December 17th 2016
"Strong fantasy in a unique and well-developed world." permalink
It might be a little early for a full review of The Clockwork Raven--as of my writing this, five chapters are up, and while the titular raven has been alluded to, it hasn't actually appeared.
With that said, things so far are looking really solid. The author does a great job of balancing the two main characters, and making them both distinct, but equally important. The story also does a great job of finding tension and excitement in small moments. The author does a great job balancing big problems with short-term tensions.
The story's website lists The Martian as an influence, and that's definitely apparent. From the get go, the author, the characters, and the readers are all acutely aware of the hard facts of this world. How much water to the characters have? How much rope? How much fabric or leather? It's a welcome change of pace--in a genre full of questions like "Since when can you do that?" and "Why don't you just shoot Voldemort?", The Clockwork Raven does a lot of legwork to stay aware of the exactly what its characters are capable of at any given moment.
The first few chapters also drop a lot of breadcrumbs for the future--you'll come away with a lot of questions about the broader world of the story, and I'm excited to see how things develop.
So far, I don't have a ton of issues with the story, though there are a few. While the world is really interesting, there are moments where things aren't explained super well to the audience. Fore example, there's a scene in the first installment involving a pulley-based transport system that I had to read over once or twice before I really got what was happening. Each subsequent post seems to handle that better, but it's still an issue here and there.
Overall, I'd definitely recommend it. It's a strong story with well-developed characters and and interesting plot. It's done a great job of laying groundwork for the long game while keeping things interesting in the here and now. A fun read, even if--like me--you aren't normally a fan of fantasy.
December 16th 2016
"Thought superheroes were played out? Guess again." permalink
Capes and Cowls, a new shared-universe serial written by four redditors, offers not just one but four fresh takes on the superhero genre. The only reason I didn't rate it even higher is that it's only just started; if it continues to be this impressive, it could easily make 10 in my mind.
Each author is updating the tale of a different character. Johnny Quantum is functionally omnipotent, but he'd rather fight crime than be a god--the circumstances around his creation are far sketchier than he himself is. I'm intrigued by his true motivations and in how the characters around him, including beleaguered Rimsha, will react to the curveballs he throws.
Keegan, an oral hygienist, inadvertently becomes the go-to dentist for non-superpowered vigilantes to get discreet patch-ups after fights. His is my favorite so far, possibly because "dentists in over their heads" is a favorite bizarrely specific subgenre of mine, and I loved the teaser that came with the end of his first chapter. I can't wait to see how he gets pulled in to this universe.
Damocles offers the army his services as a hero hunter, but his motives are inscrutable in a very different way from Johnny Quantum's. I expect what he really wants to become a major plot point. Finally, Winston Luxard, an "old guard" vigilante grown old, decides to re-enter the game as a teacher. Like a star player becoming coach, except instead of sports, everybody's fighting for their lives. Winston is a fantastically likeable character with an interesting commentary to make on what awaits folks like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark when they grow old.
Overall, Capes and Cowls is well worth your time, a universe with dedicated authors and an abundance of imagination. It's got amazing potential, so be sure to start early before all your friends start begging you to archive binge!
September 29th 2016
"An unexpected pleasure" permalink
The Smell Collector is the story of a man who lives in lives in nearly a constant state of nostalgia. He uses smells as a sort of time machine to relive the good times of his life. But the problem is that he's no longer living any kind of life at all. He spends his time roaming the city to visit his smell collection or in his mother's basement working in a laboratory to synthesize smells he has carefully documented. Enter Marie, another lonely heart. And this is where it gets a little creepy. He begins stalking her, in a manner, for her scent which he finds intoxicating.
I imagine that many people put the book down once then realize that Jim is a stalker, but I continued because I was curious enough. I'm very glad that I did. The Smell Collector is an unusual love story (without saying too much about it).
It's written a little oddly. It's a collection of narratives both first person and 3rd person, journal entries, smell profiles (how he documents his collection), and diary entries...oh and one Christmas card I suppose you could call it an epistolary novella. What I did not expect is that although it seems to be a quirky comedy, it packs a few emotional punches. I even cried, which I rarely do while reading.
The story is very basic, but the character development and themes are sophisticated enough to make it special.
This is a quick read. I read it over the course of two evenings, so you have little to lose, and I think it is well worth the time.
September 27th 2016
"Not your average super hero story" permalink
From the start, Worm is not your typical super hero story.
The main protagonist, is a socially awkward teenage girl living with her single father.
The first villain we meet is out to kill children and the hero that stops him doesn't initially seem to be much nicer.
Watch as Taylor learns and grows, struggling with her desire to be a hero and the world's perception of her as a villain, all while keeping the whole shebang a secret from her friends and family.
Worm spans almost 1,700,000 words and is a true joy to read. It's a fresh take on the majority of the standard fare you've come to expect out of the superhero genre.
April 22nd 2016
"Fun read" permalink
This is a great read if you are looking for something light-hearted and funny. Written from the perspective of the animal kingdom, this will keep you wondering where the author gets these great ideas. The serial starts in the barnyard and introduces you to a fun world right away. I have read the first chapter so far and intend to read the entire serial. This is one that I can read with my kids and introduce them to the world of web serials. You need something to take your mind off the real world and make you laugh? kick back and relax, this web serial is for you!
May 26th 2015
"A promising story" permalink
As an on-going story, it is too soon to give any higher rating, but this is definitely a promising story. A good narrative and pace-keeping make it an entertaining read while its fantastical elements blended into an everyday, modern setting help in calmly introducing them to the reader. The one warning that must be issued is that it presents a sort of episodic style (so far); though it seems the story of the main characters has a certain progression, all other characters only seem to have an important impact within their own chapter. Despite that last point, it is overall a story I recommend and certainly expect to see more of in the near future.
March 11th 2015
"A Magical Experience" permalink
Pact is Wildbow's second serial, and is an urban fantasy novel. I love fantasy, myself, and so I enjoyed Pact even more than the writer's first serial, Worm. Pact is the story of Blake Thorburn, a young man who is made the caretaker of a house that was owned by a diabolist. And the diabolist was his grandmother. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. Setting: The setting of Pact is truly a work of art. It contains fascinating magic, a well developed invented town (Jacob's Bell), and history that is an integral part of the story. Prose Quality: Wildbow has greatly improved his prose since the start of Worm. The sentence structures are varied enough to keep the reader interested without being unclear, and they also help communicate the mood and tone of the story. One minor complaint about the prose: toward the end of the serial, the author starts italicizing words for emphasis up to 80 times in one update (16.10, I counted). Plot: There are things that are truly wonderful about the plot. Foreshadowing is everywhere, twists are difficult to predict but make sense, and there is far more to conflict than hack-n-slash. But there are parts in the first half of the story that drag on for a ridiculous amount of time. Character Development: This is where the story is most likely to fall flat with readers. Very few characters are given any character development until the second half of the serial. So many characters are introduced but minimally characterized that the reader likely won't remember who they are. In conclusion: The first half of the serial has significant problems, but the second half is pure gold. Do yourself a favor and check Wildbow's writings out. If you fear large archives, the author also started a new serial: https://twigserial.wordpress.com/
March 7th 2015
"Immensely Disturbing" permalink
I really don't know what to think about this. I went in thinking I was going to get a fun parody adventure, but I got an immensely disturbing (social) media commentary. For those who want a story, don't read this, that isn't what it is. For those who want a picture of how disturbed 'writing communities' on the Internet are, read it. I'm not sure there is a more accurate depiction of what's wrong with 'writing communities' on the Internet. The story, as far as I can tell, is a fictionalization of what goes on at Authonomy, a 'writing community' run by HarperCollins where the most read story gets a review from a HarperCollins editor. Naturally, this creates a ridiculous amount of unethical behavior from the members of the site who want to get their story reviewed (and possibly published) by the editor. Authonomy is far from the only 'writing community' that has these issues. Figment, a website owned by Random House, regularly runs contests where authors try to promote their work the most to win. Figment might actually be worse, as I know they allow minors to participate in contests and sometimes have errors in their official rules for contests. The largest problems with these 'writing communities' is that they are about forcing writers to compete for arbitrary prizes by self-promotion without any reference to the quality of the writing or reader response to the writing. Writing isn't about trading likes on social media. Writing is about the reader, first and foremost. Muse's Success (and Web Fiction Guide, among others) can foster new writers not because it offers them prizes for how popular they are, but because it is a website geared toward readers. And writers need readers who genuinely care about their work. Tips for spotting predatory 'writer communities' If it isn't aimed mostly at readers, don't use it. If it makes writers compete for prizes based on any sort of popularity measurement, don't use it. If the website tries to make money off you, don't use it. If the website claims ANY rights to the work other than a non-exclusive right to display it, don't use it. Some big websites and how predatory they are: Authonomy - Predatory Figment - Predatory Wattpad - While Wattpad does have a few contests with some popularity based factors, they're very geared toward readers. Since the site has millions of readers, its less likely to be affected by the unethical behaviours depicted in the story. Fictionpress/Fanfiction.net - Not predatory. They don't have contests and are aimed primarily at readers. Web Fiction Guide - Not predatory. Totally cool. Muse's Sucess - Not predatory. Totally cool. I do want to thank the writer of the novella. It is very important to make sure writers don't get exploited.
March 7th 2015
Worm is becoming a classic of the prose grimdark superhero genre. That's not that large a category (though it contains other great fiction like the Reckoners trilogy), but the size of the category does not diminish Worm's accomplishment. Let's go through some of the reasons Worm is a classic in the making, shall we? Structural Innovations: As far as I can tell, Worm originated the Arc/Interlude format for web serials. If that doesn't make it a classic, what does? Setting: The setting has incredible depth. Many of the normal superhero tropes are carefully justified within the setting, and the powers themselves are well thought out and varied. Prose Quality: The writing has very good spelling and grammar. It is also just engaging o read on a sentence by sentence basis. One nitpick: the author sometimes overuses certain words that are rare in real life. Plot: The plot constantly escalates in danger in scope. If you like stories that become epic, Worm is one to go for. However, some parts drag out the action to the point where it can be hard to push through. Character Development: Character development in the Interludes is fantastic. Sadly, it doesn't always translate to the main story. If you are at all interested in superhero fiction, you've probably checked Worm out already. If you haven't, you will.
March 7th 2015
"Really Good Evil" permalink
The Kingdoms of Evil was the first web serial I remember reading, and it was good enough for me to want to read other web serials. That being said, it has its flaws as well as its glorious moments. The humor in Kingdoms of Evil is hilarious if you like epic fantasy, otherwise it may fall flat. But the greatest obstacle to the readers enjoyment is the prologue, which has negligible relevance to the story. I would recommend just skipping it. Onto the main parts of fiction. Character Development: The author does a wonderful job with Freetrick and with Bloodbyrn. Their relationship and character arcs are fascinating. Bloodbyrns father and Mr. Scree are well developed as well. The character development in this completed serial is extremely strong for some characters, and negligible for other characters. I found myself skipping sections that weren't from Freetrick's point of view because the other viewpoint characters weren't well developed. Setting: The Kingdoms of Evil are as fascinating as they are dysfunctional. And they are very dysfunctional. Plot: The plots the different viewpoint characters are involved in don't interact much. Prose Quality: Spelling and grammar are okay. They're not an impediment to reading the serial. Sadly, the sentences don't often flow together well. In summary: Freetrick's point of view sections make the serial worth trying, despite other flaws in the work.