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WORTH THE CANDLE

A LitRPG Matrushka

By theredsheep, author of Pyrebound

May 23, 2020: I’m not going to bother with an elaborate intro here, because everybody knows this story. I’ll just say that WtC is a LitRPG. I have never played a tabletop RPG in my life, have no interest in it, have yet to actually unabashedly like a LitRPG . . . and I went through all million-plus words of WtC in a week. Because WtC is much more than a LitRPG.

So much more, in fact, that it’s hard to pin down what it is, because it’s so many different things at once. First, it’s a hardcore litRPG full of statistic wonkery and munchkinry. Then, it’s a deconstruction of role-playing tropes. Then it’s a loving tribute to the culture and experience of tabletop gaming. Then it’s a psychological drama, exploring one man’s efforts to overcome his personal demons. Then it’s a romance. Then it’s a series of well-executed action scenes. Then it’s a work on moral philosophy. Then it does something else. And it shifts more or less seamlessly between all these modes without losing control of its overall tone or pacing, which is frankly a remarkable accomplishment.

With so much wrapped up in it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you love. That’s the good news. I especially enjoyed a particular epic duel somewhere around the million word mark (if you’ve read it, you know the one I’m talking about). Other high points: ingenious problem solving, intricately developed fantasy conceits, generally good pacing, and the odd burst of sick but still funny humor. At one point there’s a madman slaughtering hundreds of innocent people, and it’s being played for comedy, and . . . it works. He pulls it off.

But by the same token, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something you really, really don’t love. For me it was the mechanics-heavy sections, plus everything related to [a certain school of magic which shall remain nameless]. The romance parts also don’t do a lot for me because, while I want Joon to find some happiness in this crapsack world, the foreshadowing on his love life is a bit heavy and the resolution so long in coming that it feels a bit like watching a man hammer a nail at 2 fps. Your mileage may vary, of course. Keep on moving, you’re bound to find something you love further on.

Final observation, neither criticism nor praise: every work reflects its author’s mindset. Your characters can’t help being reflections of you. I was struck by the essential optimism of Wales’s work; it reminds me of Neal Stephenson, another proud Midwesterner. It feels like there’s a general assumption that everyone in this very grim fantasy world has agency and is capable of self-improvement, even if they don’t take advantage of that opportunity, and that only ignorance and disorganization stand in the way. That I don’t personally view the world this way only makes it more enjoyable.

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HOW TO AVOID DEATH ON A DAILY BASIS

rough start that got better

By sunflowerofice, author of Technically Abroad

Jan 1, 2020: Alright so here is my short term non spoilery review. It starts out a bit rough in my mind and it really felt rushed. It got better as far as i have read (which is just in book three) and i think it will do so based on the betterment I saw. Also the character isn’t hero mcheroson which I like. Or noble mchonorton.

now on for the longer one.

The series starts out a bit rough and rushed. In fact it feels fairly rushed for a while in a way. Based on the premise I won’t say it needs to be super long and drawn out, but it still feels pretty quick that things ended up how they did and how easily everyone adjusted to what happened, especially with the main character.

Another thing is, while i didn’t count it, I would be surprised if any of the chapters in book one had more than 1000 words. Book two only a few maybe. I know you don’t need every chapter to be like 10,000 words, but still. Maybe it’s just me but when every chapter is so short it feels like how I talked about dbz with friends once. You only need to watch one out of three episodes because you get last time and next time on dbz then you watch the one episode.

On the plus side the main character is more real. Flawed and more than a little bit of a jerk who is arrogant and looks down on people.

I also like how some of the stuff is done like how the mc tells the girls they should learn to protect themselves because we can’t know what people might do in a world where killing is more casual, even if it’s monsters they are targeting.

I will say though for how on the ball that he seems at times he isn’t very curious. Sure he has some social anxiety, but a few questions like maybe what are the laws of the land would have been nice to see him think about.

So while I wont say it is one I will rank as top tier I have easily seen worse and since it got better already I have hopes it sill keep doing so.

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PRAIRIE SONG

No title

By Nova Girl93, author of RU in? Saga

Dec 15, 2019: I love the wild west/post apocalyptic feel of this. The characters are well fleshed out. You quickly come to care about them as you follow them along. There is plenty of adventure and intrigue. This one had me hooked from the beginning.

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