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January 1st 1970

Zombie Punter by Zoe E. Whitten

"amusing"

Rating: 7 / 10

The quality of this novel is somewhat lacking. But for a light-hearted, quick and easy read, it is perfect.

It's impossible not to feel empathy for Eugene, a stunted scientist that has a crush on his jock best-friend. He's looking for a cure for the zombie plague that has infested the whole world.

Allies quickly die, and become part of the zombie horde attempting to take over the world. Eugene has to kill his zombie parents (he never like them in the first place, but killing your parents isn't nice anyway), then deal with his growing attachment to his best friend.

I think there has been an attempt to attract a les/gay/bi audience, but those people looking for any depth in the novel will be sorely disappointed.

Thant being said, there is nothing wrong with the way that this novel is written, it flows nicely and is a comfortable read. A good way to fill in time.

April 29th, 7:08PM

Into the Mire by Casey Lucas aka Canticle

"Professional Quality for Free"

Rating: 9 / 10

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.

March 5th 2015

Aconitum by M. Howalt

"Contagious Story..."

Rating: 8 / 10

Killing werewolves is well and good, but what happens when you start thinking of the lives behind the monster? What happens when you start saving people from their curse rather than damning them?

These are some of the questions that Aconitum tackles in a story that winds through the somber mind of Hector Rothenburg. A wandering plot follows behind this man’s actions in a world where werewolves aren’t just real, they’re an existence everyone knows of and fears. Fortunately, entire organizations of werewolf hunters have risen to face the challenge.

With a gradual build of its characters, its settings in an alternate universe Germany, and far reaching mystery that leaves the reader wanting the next page to know more, Aconitum becomes an infectious bite of questions and explorations of humanity.

May 25th 2013

Worm by Wildbow

"A hero whose only allies are villains"

Rating: 9 / 10

When Taylor Hebert, bullied teenager, gets a superpower that gives her unparalleled command over all the creepy-crawly creatures of the world -- insects, spiders, worms, crabs -- she knows exactly what she wants to do: she wants to be a hero. She wants to help people, rescue people, stop criminals -- the opposite of the bullies at school who make her life a torment. She spends a few months getting a handle on her power, doing some physical training, making a spider-silk suit of armor, and then one night she ventures forth to do good.

Where she ends up in a fight against a physical powerhouse of a superpowered gang leader with enhanced senses, enhanced strength, and the ability to generate fire out of thin air. And then is rescued by a second gang of supervillains ... who assume that she is a supervillain herself. And things only go further wrong from there as Taylor makes a series of hard calls in harder and harder situations, trying to help people in a world which doesn't appreciate her help.

The universe of Worm is quite dark -- villains greatly outnumber heroes, giant monsters regularly attack major cities, and no Comic Code or Hays Code protects the innocent from being subjected to death or worse -- but it is not a place that will go gentle into that good night ... and by god the writing is a thrill-ride.

Wildbow, the author, is one of the most creative inventors of superpowered fiction that you will ever encounter. The number of superheroes and supervillains one encounters over the course of the story easily extends into the hundreds, and every single one -- from the tiniest bit part character to the most prominent of pro- and antagonists -- has their own affiliations, personalities, and unique superpowers. More critically, the encounters between these superpowered individuals play out with all the energy and chaos of the greatest fight scenes in any medium -- and Taylor, as protagonist, is the greatest source of energy, chaos, and sheer fiendish ingenuity of them all.

The storytelling is not without its flaws -- for example, physical description of the characters is served out by the teaspoon and rarely reiterated -- but if superhero fiction is of any interest to you, if the epic struggle of flawed mortals to overcome adversity holds any attraction to you, Worm is a series that delivers.

April 29th 2013

Worm by Wildbow

"You won't be able to sleep.. You'll be too busy reading!"

Rating: 10 / 10

Worm is a story about making hard chices, trying to do the right thing, and dealing with the consequences. Wheb Taylor gets superpowers, she thinks she'll get a heroic escape from her normal life. Instead she gets mistaken for a villain! When Taylor goes undercover to discover the mysterious backer of a local super powered gang, she becomes friends with them and learns disturbing secrets about the so called heroes. And Taylor begins to wonder if turning on her friends is really the right choice.

I really love this story. There are nuanced protagonists and antagonists, mysteries, plot twists, and most importantly really really good writing. However, Worm is obviously a work in progress. For instance, the author has stated that zie wants to make changes to the work (changing the beginning to better fit the tone of the rest of the story, re order events so that they fit a novel format rather than a chapter arc format, and re ordering the echidna arc to not have a two chapter long fight scene), but zie will not have time to do that until the story is over. The other big warning that I have to new readers is that Worm is dark, scary, and disturbing. Wildbow was a horror writer before this and it shows. I love it, but Worm is not for everyone.

February 16th 2011

Captive Prince by Freece

"Fabulous At Being Itself"

Rating: 10 / 10

Captive Prince is one of the best executions of the royal-warrior-becomes-sex-slave trope I have ever encountered. It's good at what it does, and it doesn't try to be anything it's not: It's really, really well-done homoerotic slavefic. There have been exactly 1.639 sex scenes, and I am still reading. It's not about the sex. It's all about the sexual tension. Which is exquisite.

The two main characters are more archetypes than real people, but they're archetypes that resonate, archetypes that can be related to. The sexual tension is almost agonizingly subtle, and more effective than most graphic sex scenes. The author deftly uses minimalist world-building of a Greek/Mediterranean and European flavor, and there's just enough pragmatic detail to be reasonably realistic and make me willingly suspend my disbelief for everything else. The Mediterranean culture mirror is also a refreshing change from the typically firmly European cast of alternate historical worlds.

The writing is smooth, rolling, and most chapters are quite polished. This was a completely unexpected gem.

September 6th 2017

A Stitch in Rhyme by Laren Crawford

"A surprisingly unique presentation of fantasy"

Rating: 9 / 10

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.

November 21st 2012

Eastridge Academy - School for Adventurers (Book 1) by JLY, KL, KMRicker

"Nothing too original or taxing – but an enjoyable read non the less."

Rating: 7 / 10

The first few pages I found lacked sufficient plot and tension and might have prevented me from pursuing this story further. Nevertheless, I persevered and the reward was an enjoyable read. If the intended audience is the Potterites I am sure there will be those who will see too many similarities. However, there is sufficient originality to appeal and recapture the imagination of those willing to read it with an open mind. There have been comments about the time taken to load the pages. I did not experience this problem so it would not appear to be a general problem.

October 2nd 2012

Addergoole: Year 9 by Lyn Thorne-Alder

"Addergoole is Addicting"

Rating: 10 / 10

In Addergoole: Year 9 the author has expanded her range tremendously with even more main characters than ever before. The amazing part is that none of the characters suffer for it. Each character is still as rich and complex as ever, and the reader can't help but wonder what each will do next. This is the most creative story I've read in a long time. The characters feel so real, which is really the highest compliment I can pay. The mysteries in Addergoole will definitely have you on the edge of your seat. I personally can't wait to see what else Year 9 has in store for us. If you're looking for realistic people and reactions, excellent writing, mysteries around every corner, and magic, Addergoole: Year 9 is for you.

June 13th 2012

Captive Prince by Freece

"A must-read"

Rating: 10 / 10

This was the first original fantasy novel I ever read online, and it remains one of the best, and one of my favourites. The writing is rock solid technically, and the characterisation is incredibly sophisticated: in particular, the characterisation of Laurent through Damen's eyes is absolutely brilliant.

Freece also occasionally puts up "commentaries" of chapters, which blew me away with the level of consideration put into every language and characterisation choice.

The summary above doesn't really do the story justice: it is not only about hitting the slave kink (which it does), but evolves into a complex political fantasy as Damen navigates the labyrinthine Rabatian politics. The romance is exquisite, with some of the best-realised sexual tension I have ever read.

This is and will always be one of my favourite fantasy webnovels. Compulsory reading for fans of the genre.

February 28th 2012

Gun to a Knife Fight by Jon Hunt

"A little weak, but getting better"

Rating: 4 / 10

Gun to a Knife Fight is an interesting read. It's flawed, but it shows a lot of promise. A self-proclaimed noir novel, it follows a gritty private investigator who consults for the the police on an apparent murder-suicide that becomes linked to something larger and more sinister.

Much of the writing is dialogue. Anything more than a cursory description of the settings is rare, and that makes it hard to get sucked into the world of Detective Jacoby Stone. Often, all you have to go on to make the events play out vividly in your mind is...people talking.

The story suffers from some pacing issues. It's slow to start, although that time is used to wisely develop the characters. Once the story picks up, however, it moves too quickly, eliminating cooling-off scenes between important events. The beginning of the narrative is mostly smooth, and as it progresses it becomes jarring.

What frustrated me the most was the writer's frequent and unpredictable shifts in verb tenses. Often, sequences of events within the same paragraph will happen and be said to have happened...even though they all took place in the order in which they were described. But the writer did include a little disclaimer to say that he understands he's made some grammatical errors that he will eventually fix. I just hope he gets to those first!

The actual crimes at the center of the plot are interesting. It's difficult to be shocking and original when television is so saturated with cunning, depraved serial killers, but the murders in Gun to a Knife Fight are believably horrific and interesting enough to make me want to find out more about them.

The good news, I suppose, is that Gun to a Knife Fight appears to be heavily plot-driven and the plot is hands-down its strongest point. It's far from the best piece of web fiction I've read, but it offers just enough to keep me reading. There's a lot of potential here. It may turn out to be pretty damn good.

January 1st 1970

Tapestry by Lucy Weaver

"Beautifully Paced, Characterized, and Described"

Rating: 10 / 10

This is the first piece of webfiction that really wowed me. Wysteria handles all elements of the story incredibly deftly. I love the everyday but uncluttered pace, the realistic character portrayals and interactions, and the touch of physical description that gives the surroundings life without pointing to any one Asian (perhaps my own assumption) culture. I love all the rare, delicious cultural tidbits that pop up (especially around festivals), and how I have to make my own connections and be content being left somewhat in the dark. After all, Suki has no reason to explain to herself what she already knows. I find this story both gripping and gently flowing. The author seems both talented and polished, and entirely unpretentious about it.

Suki is neither a Mary Sue, nor an anti-hero. She’s classist, sexist, heterosexist, racist, ageist, and probably a bunch of other -ists, and utterly sympathetic. She’s human, and building her life in the ways she has been taught and the ways circumstances provide her. She is very much a product of civilization. Sometimes I question her ability to write down past conversations in such precise detail, but I can suspend my disbelief in that I can believe that someone in her social role would need those kinds of skills to survive in the political climate of her empire.

I just got to book two, and it feels different. But it is different, and as much as I think wistfully of the flavor of the first book, I think the difference in feeling serves the story. So the second book is different than what I first loved, but it is worthy and intriguing and exciting all itself.

January 1st 1970

Flesh Wounds by Linton Robinson

"experimental, but with little substance"

Rating: 3 / 10

A disclaimer: I generally post reviews only after having read a good proportion of a story (at least 50%, if not everything posted). I’m not entirely sure how much of content I’ve read of Flesh Wounds but – to be honest – I’m not interested in reading more.

Flesh Wounds is a collection of stories examining the darker sides of life – prison, violence, crime, and so on. Given that there are very few short story collections out there, I thought I’d give this one a try, since you can only read so many serials simultaneously.

To start on the positive side, a strength of a short story collection like this one is that anyone can jump in and start reading, without feeling like they have backlogs of content to get through. And given that they are all of a similar genre, there is a certain coherency between posts.

But I have to say I was disappointed. The short stories themselves had little plot, jumping around in time, much more character-focused than plot-focused. Perhaps I have a wrong expectation of the genre, but I expected a lot more meat and action, rather than the copious telling that occurs.

I also found the writing style off-putting. The tone itself felt, to me, quite put on, like that of cheesy Mafia film with a voiceover telling you in a faux-Italian accent about how tough life is.

The tone strives to be involving, in that it is informal and aimed directly at the reader, however it falls short of being engaging, because it is very hard to get a sense of the narrator. Only the barest scraps of details about the narrator are given, in a rambling stream-of-consciousness style that jumps back and forth in time, which, as you can imagine, is quite hard to sink in to.

Then – something which I found jarring, given the rather informal tone – there is often a discrepancy between the narrator’s voice and the author’s, the latter sounding much more formal, particularly given the slightly unusual overuse of quotation marks.

That said, the writing does have the occasionally striking image, but I don’t think it is sufficient to compensate for the aspects of the writing which I didn’t enjoy.

As for the website itself, the layout and colour scheme were fairly simple, clear and uncluttered – a definite strength. However, the lack of sequential navigation really aggravated me, in that it was hard to judge how much content I had read, and how much was left to read.

I do think that using tag cloud and categories is an interesting method of presentation, but I believe it should supplement a traditional table of contents, rather than replace it.

In short: kudos for the experimental style, very different from the average story up there. Unfortunately, the writing could have been better executed.

January 1st 1970

The Above Ground series - Above Ground by A. M. Harte

"Psychics, werewolves and bloody vampires"

Rating: 8 / 10

So you might have guessed from the title that I’m not a fan of werewolves.  Or psychics, for that matter.  The jury is still out on witches.  So writing this review was difficult, because this story is very far from appealing to my personal tastes.

That aside, I have to give the author points for writing a compelling tale about people and beings I couldn’t care squat about.  A.M. Harte can certainly spin a yarn, and knows how to keep the reader moving forward.

The story (so far – there are only 15 Chapters) revolves around Lillith, a human (or worm, or bland) who came up from the safe underground and got trapped on the surface with the Affected (or Infected), i.e. weres, pyres (vampires) and witches.  All she wants is to get back home, but it’s not that easy.  She was saved from a grisly death by the werewolf Silver, who is now very protective of her.

The story is not a “Gulliver’s Travels” style narrative.  It’s definitely Lillith’s tale, and I suspect there will be some romance between her and the werewolf, who has his own little interludes in the narrative. And if you like reading about weres and the way they interact as a pack and all that werewolf stuff, you’ll probably love this story.  Which I didn’t.  So I’ll stop talking about the story now, and talk about the prose.

Like most urban fantasy stories, the prose is functional but not elevating.  It’s clear though, easy to follow and not drowned in rubbish.  A.M. Harte does a very good job of revealing just enough information to let the reader make sense of the world without resorting to long boring information dumps in the prose.  The dialogue and character interactions are well handled and believable.

What I really liked, and I wanted to see more of, was the sense of wonder that A.M. Harte built in the first few chapters.  The world is quite complex and I found it interesting despite the races involved, and I would have liked to see it explored a lot more.  However that feeling of newness was lost as Lillith moved on with her story.  Which is fair enough, but for me it took away a lot of the fantasy element of the tale, and made it much more mundane.

In summary, while I’m not raving about the story, I can appreciate the skill involved in its creation.  A.M. Harte has shown that she can write well and knows how to construct a compelling story.  If you’re not an urban fantasy buff, I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you do like your paranormal beasties all brooding and protective, you’ll probably love it.

January 1st 1970

Strange Little Band by Nancy Brauer and Vanessa Brooks

"two psychics, one baby, and a mega-corp that owns them all"

Rating: 8 / 10

The story follows the psychics Addison and Shane, who both work for the mega-corp Triptych, a mysterious company that seems to specialize in almost everything. Both of the main characters are strong and manipulative; it’s refreshing to read a story with such complex characters and so much hidden politics at play.

Addison is passionate, stubborn and controlling, oftentimes bitchy, teleporting pet psychic of Triptych’s boss, and a fiercely protective mother.

Shane is a part human, part alien supreme martial arts expert and workaholic, who has no friends by design. As a matter of fact, any time he seems to experience strong emotions, he retreats into his emotionless alien side, thus appearing heartless and uncaring.

...now imagine the two of them having a baby.

Technically, this is a dark paranormal romance, which is personally not my cup of tea. But this isn’t the PWP you’d expect from the genre, this is something slightly more twisted, set on a background of a corporation that is as mystifying as it is sinister.

The beginning is perhaps a little slow, more character-driven than anything else, but the setting is intriguing, and I look forward to discovering more about Triptych now that Addison and Shane have a tentative trust. There are a couple of typos as well, but nothing too serious.

And the website is professional & easy to navigate, which made me very envious!

January 1st 1970

Addergoole by Lyn Thorne-Alder

"dark, addictive and intriguing"

Rating: 8 / 10

In a world much like our own, hidden deep underground, is a secret school. And not just any school, but one where the students are part human, part something else. The story follows three of the new arrivals at the school as they try to come to terms with a world far different from anything they’ve encountered before.

Currently at 23 chapters (plus some lovely bonus stories!), I couldn’t help but devour the entire thing in one sitting. With so many school and college-type webserials out there, Addergoole comes as an utter relief. While there is some focus on relationships, classes, and the usual ‘school’ stuff, there is also a larger, darker subplot.

It’s well-written, and the premise is original. There’s a good balance between intrigue and explanation, keeping the reader’s understanding of the school only half a step ahead of the main characters’.

Negatives? It took me a while to keep track of all the character names (and I had to guess most of the pronunciations!), although the separate character description pages are useful in this respect.

As for the website it self, the thumbnail image here on Muse's Success is out of date: the background is now a soft, easy on the eyes sponged pattern. The layout is clear and easy to navigate. Other’s have mentioned the lack of an RSS feed, but I follow @LynThorneAlder on twitter and so get news of updates that way!

January 1st 1970

An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom - The Tale of Two Kingdoms by MeiLin Miranda

"Intriguing"

Rating: 9 / 10

With the second book in this series well underway, new readers will have a good amount to get into.

Cleverly crafted as a story within a story, this tale takes us into a new world of history as well as the present, without any need to suspend belief. Ms. Miranda's style is eloquent and clear, carrying the reader into Temmin's everyday life with seamless shifts into the past.

As mentioned in the listing, mature content appears, but this is handled with grace by the author. While detailed, each scene flows with the story and is never portrayed gratuitously.

Bonus stories are offered to readers and always delivered with Ms Miranda's unique, quirky voice. Comments are almost as fun to read as the story itself and the author interacts frequently while still sticking to a regular posting schedule.

There's a wiki available for characters and keeping track of all 'the bits' - even a facebook group started by fans. A gallery houses artwork of some of the characters and readers are encouraged to engage in polls and spot competitions.

The only thing I don't like about the site is the time it takes to load all the flashing pieces on the side. I find it can also sometimes be distracting. But, it's a popular site with many extras on offer, so I can't complain too much.

Even if you forget all the extra bits for fans, the story itself is riveting, the writing engaging and I would definitely love to have a copy on my shelf. As I would never vote a full 10 for anyone but a Tolkein, Jordan or similar (sorry, Meilin ducks), i rate this story a full 9.

September 13th, 3:42PM

Vacancy by A.K. Caggiano

"Fun read that leaves you wanting more"

Rating: 10 / 10

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, 11:04AM

Music Masters by Hejin57

"Music is Alive and Well"

Rating: 9 / 10

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.

August 27th 2017

The Aliud, part 1: The New Thunder by Mutalias

"A robust, exciting story in an incredibly lush original setting."

Rating: 9 / 10

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!