Genre Fusion Frenzy

By Thedude3445, author of Rainbow Destructor

May 11, 2019: Graven is nominally a superhero story, which I’ll admit was a turn-off for me at first. There are technically superheroes, and there is even a superhero team featured in the story. However, this is pretty much as far as you can get from superheroes and still be in the genre.

Really, it’s more of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure, featuring a cast of broken, diverse characters forced to come together to fight a mysterious, world-ending threat. Graven is set in a world where superheroes come to Earth through mysterious portals. And, pretty much like expected . . . that basically ends society as we know it. In the present tense, that means our characters are essentially living in the end times, and they are well aware of it too.

The way the story blends low-level character drama, fast-pace superhero action, and chilling cosmic horror is very respectable. It comes together in a way that differentiates it very well from the endless horde of other superhero web novels out there. There’s some shocking twists and turns I seriously didn’t see coming at all, too.

And for what it’s worth, the actual superpowers featured in this story are really awesome. You get the typical super-speedster, the shapeshifter, the strong flying lady, but the sources of their powers are different. They operate mechanically differently in ways that completely change how they operate, and that leads to some really interesting elements.Then there’s characters like Strider, the terraporter, and Earth Mage, the . . . well, his name is pretty self-explanatory. They, among others, have powers that are really unique in a superhero story, and Graven makes very good use of all of them. No potential wasted in terms of crazy power usage.

Where the story falls flat for me is in two areas— One, is the fact that there is just so, so much exposition. The characters are constantly talking about their backstories or the backstories of worldbuilding elements or elements of other characters’ powers. It’s so much to take in that it can get annoying sometimes. And, because of all of that detail thrown in, the story actually feels a bit too small—near the end, we’re still getting exposition on certain settings, and it makes you wish the story were 150 chapters, rather than just 50. I very much enjoyed the brisk pace, but there was so much going on! I think the story’s expansive world would have translated better as a video game, or a movie.

The other issue I had was in narrator voices. Each chapter is in the first-person view of a different character, and we get seven or eight of these throughout the novel. However, the voices aren’t differentiated enough; everyone sounds pretty much the same. That actually caused some trouble for me in the middle, sometimes forgetting mid-chapter which character I was following. In fact, at the very beginning, I didn’t realize the POV switched at all, and I was halfway through Shoggoth’s introduction before I realized it wasn’t Max-Out anymore.

Still, even with some rough edges, Graven has a lot to offer to anyone who enjoys superhero fiction, and even to people that don’t. So if it interests you, take that first step through the doorway and take a look.

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