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Conqueror by MRouzbanian

Kill. Eat. Sleep. 

Conqueror follows Mara Stone, a twisted and cruel girl in a dark fantasy world. When she gets betrayed, she finds herself in one of the worst prisons in her empire.

She makes a choice that allows her the slight chance to live, but how many sacrifices will she make?

Note: Conqueror is unfinished, with no recent updates.  It contains pervasive graphic sexual content, graphic violence, and harsh language.


A partial series, with no recent updates

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Listed: Jul 22, 2015

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First thoughts

By Wildbow, author of Twig

Aug 7, 2015: Disclaimer – Read up to 1.9, which was all that was posted as of the time of the review.

The premise is okay, and I thought it could go interesting places in terms of exploring darker psychology, but the execution struggles. The writing isn’t strong and I don’t have plans to revisit it. It’s not unreadable, the basic grasp of language is undoubtedly there, but it’s rather dry, stiff and lacking in deeper details. Things, when they’re described at all, are described in terms of the obvious. The people are dirty and they smell, the iron bars are rigid, pain hurts.

The main character is the only individual who stands out as being something more complex than the surface impression, but this dissolves into vagueness. She’s ‘not a weak little flower, but not a brute’, she wants to kill her brother, then in the next line she wants to hug and comfort him. This uncertainty runs through much of the writing. Even with the first two chapters being dedicated to a character in chains being taken to a notorious prison, the feeling of dread and the gravity of the situation doesn’t come through in how it’s all framed. Standing in line with other female prisoners, very much at risk of being picked to be a sex slave, the character "definitely did not want to have sex, [except] perhaps when I was older and of my own free will." – when others are picked instead, there’s barely any disgust or relief apparent. The story moves on. She develops into her new role in the ensuing six chapters of story, but she doesn’t truly exist beyond the role she’s taken on.

My final issue that I’d raise is the character’s disposition for asking questions in her head that seem disconnected from the story and even her own actions. She volunteers (happily) to be a torturer and things seem to be hunky-dory until she reaches the close of the chapter, where she starts to wonder why she took the job. There’s nothing to cover the gap between – no moment of realization when she sees the tools she’ll be learning to use. Just a fairly sudden, unprovoked ‘now I wonder if enthusiastically asking to be a torturer was a bad idea.’ Earlier in the story, she tells herself she has to escape, but takes no action to do it. She does this a lot, and she asks a lot of questions, but they don’t fit into things so much as they serve the author’s purposes. The end result is that it feels like I, as a reader, can see through the cracks and identify where the author is saying ‘in order for ____ to happen, we need ___.’ It’s a little bit contrived.

That said, however, what is being contrived is a story about a sadistic torturer in training, with graphic sexual content (not yet in the story as of chapter 1.9, but still mentioned on the story’s WFG listing) and a rather cavalier attitude toward rape, which extends to ‘rape bad’ but not the actual fallout/gravity the subject deserves, imo. I know there is a niche audience for this, and if the individual reading this review is part of this audience, then they could potentially look past the writing. That said, I would have difficulty recommending it to someone who wasn’t looking for this specific sort of thing.

7 of 8 members found this review helpful.
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