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Devilishly good

By aspectofmind, member

Sep 7, 2017: Keep in mind that I’m writing this review while on the beginning of the 10th arc, but I couldn’t help but want to review it now.

Pact has garnered something of a ‘middle child’ status among the juggernaut web serialist Wildbow’s works. Squished between the huge hit Worm and his currently-running Twig, Pact has somehow been considered the lesser of the three. Even the author himself has admitted that the serial is not as strong as it should be, and has even advised those who just finished Worm to skip Pact altogether and move on to Twig.

With all that in mind . . . I took a dive anyways, and what I got was absolutely stellar.

The writing here starts great and gets better. In Worm, Wildbow was a beginner and got way better over time. In Pact, Wildbow continues that upward momentum, and continues to improve. It’s almost liberating to read a serial that isn’t bogged down by the inexperience of an amateur writer, the initial beats not hitting as hard as originally intended, since the writer is still working out kinks in their own style and form. Practice makes perfect, and with Pact, Wildbow has already gotten a few hits in with Worm. The story starts off quickly and strong, and never lets up.

The biggest draw for me here is the setting itself, which is an impressive feat in and of itself. I’m not actually the biggest fan of wizards and magic, and I almost detest western fantasy, but Wildbow manages to create a world that I was interested in, and wanted to learn more about. The abstract and loose nature of the elements in play made the scope of the story feel bigger, even if in actuality, it wasn’t. Where I am in the story, the driving conflict is the lordship of a small but growing Canadian town, yet Wildbow has taken Blake, the MC, to Hell and back in order to tell that story, quite literally. Maybe it’s because I’m not as familiar with these fantasy and magical tropes as others, but the world building and how ‘powers’ work in Pact is infinitely more intriguing than in Worm, where it was a bit more obvious in how common superhero tropes were being handled.

The characters were more interesting to follow, too. Blake is a much more emotional and impulsive person than Taylor – Worm’s MC – was, making following his journey as a fish out of water much more engaging. I wanted to see him succeed, and I liked how he had to fight himself and his own flaws in order to defeat his enemies. Taylor seemed much colder and calculated in comparison, leaving her too emotionally distant as an MC to truly emphasize with. Granted, that was part of the point, but now I’m off topic.

Other characters are either similarly fleshed out, given snappy enough dialogue to keep them interesting, or so alien that the novelty of their existence made me more pressed to learn more about them. I never really thought about what it was like to be a goblin queen, of all things.

For only being 10 arcs in, the pacing has been pretty good so far. I might be in the minority, but I do like the constant action and pressure Blake faces as the story goes on. It adds to the fish out of water feeling for Blake, always getting surprised or blindsided at every turn he takes. Pact’s world is an entirely new one, narratively and in a meta sense, so the constant ‘running just so you can stay standing’ pacing piles on the panic and frustration he feels. Also, it’s not as if the story doesn’t take the time to let consequences settle in and be talked about.

All in all, Pact is absolutely fantastic, a roller coaster of a story, if that roller coaster was a constant spiraling down, but the rush gets better the lower I get. I suppose I can understand why Pact gets the reputation it has, but there’s merit here that’s worth checking out. Sure, I’ve noticed more typos per chapter than Worm, but they’re excusable, hardly detracts from the reading experience. 5 stars, taking enjoyment and my personal ‘hype’ into consideration.

Pact is kind of like Blake, in a way. Constantly put down, constantly fighting an uphill battle with its reputation ahead of it. But, in mirroring Blake’s desire to leave the world a better place than he entered it, Pact has elevated the web serial medium by existing rather than not at all.

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