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NIMUE'S BAR

Polished urban fantasy slice-of-life, with a larger plot woven through

By Krako, member

Jan 20, 2019: It’s about a bartender in a hidden community of supernatural beings. I won’t summarise any more because I don’t want to spoil the skillfully crafted beginning. The author has a real flair for indirect exposition; world, character, and plot information is introduced subtly and gradually. Pay attention to details and you will be rewarded. Notice, for example, that the serial’s very first line of dialogue sets up for a later plot point.

Most of the tropes of conventional urban fantasy are thankfully avoided in Nimue’s Bar. The magical elements mostly aren’t anything special, with the exception being the protagonist’s condition, which passively affects the environment and people’s minds. It’s a great mechanic that adds much to the character and the plot.

The cast, in general, is fleshed out and interesting. The protagonists are relatable and the antagonist is detestable. As a slice-of-life work, most of the plot so far is small-scale, but there’s a larger story of a black vs. grey political conflict going on in the background.

Not much to say style and grammar-wise. It’s third person present tense with few typos. There’s the occasional wrong tense, but it’s not very distracting.

I have one problem with Nimue’s Bar, which is an arc with a silly side story-esque tone. I don’t think it’s strictly a bad subplot; it’s funny and it does develop several of the characters. But it’s jarring when people who are usually quite human and three-dimensional act like exaggerated cartoons. It doesn’t take away my enjoyment of the serial though, and it might appeal to someone who likes to have a serious main plot broken up by goofy hijinks.

I recommend Nimue’s Bar.

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IN THE SHADOW OF HEAVEN

No title

By AVR, member

Jan 13, 2019: First up, unlike most on Royal Road, this serial is well written in the sense that the dialogue isn’t stilted, the characterisation’s good and you can tell some of the characters apart by their speech patterns without it being intrusive. The pacing varies a fair bit, it’s not perfect but it’s got the basic bones to be a good serial.

The characters with their flaws and strengths are interesting. It seems odd initially that the empire’s apparent ruler would pick three like these as his apprentices until you realise how small the ruling class is – about 0.000 07% of the population, many of whom will be the wrong age, have other allegiances etc. The strength of the serial is in its characters and their interactions more than the adventure parts.

The plot moves slowly, but it picks up speed in the chapters numbered in the 40s. As of writing it’s up to the 50s and publishing 3 times a week. The view from the top of an Evil Empire is worth the read IMO.

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DREAMWORLD

Slice-of-life that turns serious

By 20150506, author of Paladin

Jan 13, 2019: Shadowcat’s Dreamworld features Ember, a girl who leads an interesting life both awake and asleep. By day she does tourist things with her globetrotting family. By night she explores a recurring dream where she’s in a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland prison. This being an urban fantasy, one suspects that it’s more than just a dream.

There’s a fair number of things to like about Shadowcat’s work. There’s Ember’s narrative voice, which is funny without being forced. There’s the pleasant sibling dynamic between Ember and her brother Aiden, who’s in the middle of transitioning. Aiden acts as her sidekick in the real world and I’m hoping it’ll continue like this when the dream world spills over.

And then there’s the slice-of-life pacing and tone, which I find relaxing. Ember is a nice person and is mostly surrounded by nice people. In her waking life she goes on lighthearted adventures in the style of a Nickelodeon show. When her phone is stolen, for example, it turns out to be a mostly-harmless kid’s gang rather than something more sinister.

The author tends to overdescribe things, however. At one point they show Ember tasting a bit of cake; looking for plates and silverware; finding them on a nearby table; grabbing a plate, fork,and knife; and finally cutting a big piece of cake. This is a long sequence for something that isn’t noteworthy. Three of those steps could’ve been just "she grabbed a plate and silverware from a nearby table". Also, much of the story happens in the main character’s head. You expect this from a first-person account but Shadowcat may want to write her first drafts in third-person objective to cut down on some commentary.

Rough patches aside, Dreamworld is a promising story and I look forward to the moment when Ember’s dreams begin to take over her life. The series is already a treat for fans of young-adult urban fantasy. The stage is set for a major shift in tone and when that happens it’ll be a treat for fans of the Cerebus Syndrome as well.

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