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MOTHER OF LEARNING

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By Minichirops, member

Dec 30, 2019: Fanfiction is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I’ve often run into writers whose tenses change mid-sentence, and I’ve almost always immediately stopped reading. Adittedly, I may have been missing out this whole time, but this is the first time I’ve read something, looked past the occasional tense change, and enjoyed something for what it is.

Good dialog, distinct characters, world-building without info-dumping.

It’s worth reading. Doubtless further editing will make it a priceless addition to the pool of web serial talent currently gracing the internet.

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THE WANDERING INN

Infuriating and Deceptive

By Thedude3445, author of Rainbow Destructor

Dec 10, 2019: I actually made my very first digital return on Amazon this week thanks to the audiobook of The Wandering Inn, Volume 1.

I was about 15 hours in, longer than most other audiobooks I have ever listened to but less than halfway through the FIRST VOLUME of this behemoth. And, for a large part of my experience, it was a quite fun time. The world is nicely built and feels lived-in; the protagonists have really nice voices, and the prose is far better than you’d find in a typical isekai fantasy story. However, the story, advertised loudly as a fun slice-of-life fantasy romp, is anything but.

In the beginning, our protagonist Erin is faced with constant hurdles and barriers, incessant setbacks and stupid mistakes. She accidentally finds monsters, accidentally pays too much for food, accidentally breaks her fly traps, and more shenanigans. It’s fun! Until, suddenly, it turns into a complete mess!

Everything to do with goblins in this story is despicable. It’s tonally jarring to the rest, eliminating all humor sometimes in the span of a single chapter. It’s filled with vivid depictions of gore and grieving and PTSD. And the way goblins are portrayed is morally reprehensible, trying to balance making them mindless creatures and sentient beings at once. It comes off so badly that if you swapped goblins for a human ethnic group, it’d be more blatantly offensive than a 50s cowboy movie.

It’d be fine if the goblins only popped up once or twice, maybe. Maybe. But they don’t. They keep appearing over and over, each time completely removing itself to become some edgy violence storm, I guess to better appeal to the teenage readers or something? It’s all completely unnecessary. Honestly it enraged me like no other fiction has recently. All of the goodwill the story had given me was sapped up completely.

Honestly, Erin as a protagonist was starting to annoy me, too; the way she was so "moral high ground" barging into a city filled with non-humans came off as generally very rude, and it was clear that the author does not have experiences of being an outsider in a culture apart from her own. The way she dealt with the constant trauma was kind of weird to me, too, usually disappearing pretty soon after the edgy scenes were over. The fact that I was getting tired of her this early in the story was a sign that I did not need to be continuing.

There was still one promising avenue left in the story before I decided to return it— I really liked the Ryoka scenes, a completely disconnected second protagonist that would have been aggravating except that her story was much more interesting. However, it wasn’t interesting enough for me to trudge through the rest to get it.

The Wandering Inn is, what, millions of words long by now? I’m kind of glad the story was so bad in the beginning that I didn’t get invested, because that’d have been a mega timesink.

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KATALEPSIS

Katalesbians

By tkjarrah, author of blacklight

Nov 2, 2019: SHORT VERSION:

spooky eldritch shit but without a lot of the bullshit you usually get attached to that, and also good as shit and non-creepy lesbians. go read it.

LONG VERSION:

Katalepsis falls somewhere in-between the genres of urban fantasy and eldritch horror – more of the vibe of the former but the content of the latter, if I had to try and pin it down like that. My first thought for comparison was The Laundry Files by Charles Stross, except, you know. Good.

Heather Morell sees things. Monsters, abominations, fake versions of reality. Diagnosed with severe schizo-affective disorder, she’s struggling through an empty university life, with medication that doesn’t work and horrors she can’t ignore. Right up until she runs into a girl on the street, and starts to figure out that maybe the reason the medications weren’t working is that the things that she’s seeing are actually there.

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Heather’s misdiagnosis is explicitly that, a misdiagnosis. Sometimes with stories like these, you get a situation where the disability is actually just super special secret magic powers (cough cough Percy Jackson cough cough) which . . . kinda sucks. Thankfully, Katalepsis doesn’t go that route – it’s not trying to say that every schizophrenic person is actually seeing Lovecraftian abominations in the street, but also doesn’t treat Heather like she’s suddenly been ‘cured’ or deserving of more respect or worth as a person because she’s not actually schizophrenic. The issue of disability, both mental and physical, is handled with care and respect, which sadly shouldn’t be as unusual as it is, but is nice regardless.

I don’t usually go for horror, because I’m a big baby, but I didn’t really have much trouble reading Katalepsis. What horror there is is more of the existential sort, not much in terms of gore or body horror, so depending on where you’re at it could be less scary than average or significantly scarier. For me, though, the tone was not the kind of overwhelmingly terrifying nihilism that you usually get with the more eldritch stories – there’s a nice throughline of warmth and humanity throughout the entire story, and a rejection of that kind of attitude at one point that had me punching the air in satisfaction. Heather in particular is someone who has every right to be beaten down and bitter but still manages to be incredibly warm and caring while still having a spine, which I found very endearing.

As mentioned above, all of the primary cast of Katalepsis so far are some form of gay, and that too is handled well. It’s not exclusively a romance, but romance plays a big part in the story, and it’s very cute and authentically-written. Heather is . . . incredibly horny, but it’s not fetishised or treated weirdly. Her relationship with Raine, one of the other protagonists, is also nice in that it’s allowed to veer close to being unhealthy without passing some massive judgement or making it A Thing. When people say ‘let women and queers be messy’, this is what it should mean (as opposed to what it normally means, which is ‘don’t persecute me for being a pedophile’, but that’s a whole other thing). The cast is very small, but delightful charming in almost every aspect, varied in personality and vibes. I’m having trouble picking a favourite, which is unusual for me, but if you put a gun to my head I’d have to go with Evelyn, the shitty, bitchy, haughty mage of the group, but Twil, the chavvy teenage swearwolf, would probably come in a close second.

On the subject of characters, though, the one thing I would say about Katalepsis is that it is a very white story. I’m not entirely sure there’s been a single non-white character in the entire story, and if there has, they were minor enough that I completely missed their appearance. Considering that Katalepsis is very good about other kinds of rep, it’s a bit disappointing. It’s not justification to rain fire down on it from above or anything, but as someone who was otherwise quite catered to by the story, it sucks. Unfortunately, though, getting used to that particular bugbear is something you have to do a lot in the modern media environment, so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story too much (even though I kind of wish I was spoiled for choice enough that it did).

Regardless, Katalepsis is still an excellent story, with lengthy and consistent updates, and definitely worth your time, unless you’re gonna be weird about lesbians in which case go away.

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