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A Journey of Enlightenment and Discovery Across a Mountain Pass with a Spiritual Guide

By Kraken Attacken, member

Mar 16, 2018: The metaphor in the title is something I would use to describe this story.

The harsh mountain winds, the chilling colds, and the dangers and pitfalls at every turn. But a gentle and guiding force drives you on, encouraging you to scale the mountains heights, discover the depths of it’s crags, and to delve deeper and deeper into it’s secrets.

Your guide whispers words of encouragement to you as you press on, making steady progress. You sometimes come upon amazing discoveries, basking in the quiet wonder of what you bear witness to. Sometimes you meet upon other travellers, both friend and foe, but you always learn something valuable from the experience. Sometimes you stumble, but with that steady hand guiding you, you always find your footing, and press on.

A lonesome journey, but never truly alone

The Zombie Knight Saga is, in my opinion, a story about identity. The story starts with a boy at the end of his rope, who has lost his sense of identity. Within the first few pages, he is rescued from himself by his new forever friend, an ancient, wise, and ‘magical’ mentor, who begins to help our MC to piece himself back together. But as with any situation where one, with help, takes the hammer to the anvil of their own soul, there will be setbacks, there will be harrowing experiences.

And therein lies the dark, sombre, yet inspiring nature of this story. Through the many themes the story presents, like servants and reapers, emergence and soul power, a picture is painted that largely portrays a journey of personal growth and upliftment. The reaper encourages the servant, the servant inspires the reaper, and vice-versa, on and on, the two sharing agency in one another’s personal growth.

And it isn’t simply the struggles, it is the constant reforging of the MCs identity, and the strength he works hard to gain that give this journey it’s gravitas. As the MCs reaper, Garovel, once states to him very early on in the story:

"We respond by becoming better."

1 of 3 members found this review helpful.
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Cleverly designed world with a pretty good mystery at its core

By ConanLe, member

Mar 14, 2018: I got into reading web fiction after running into Worm.

Quite possibly the worst thing about reading an extremely good, extremely long book like that one is that anything after it is likely to be a bit of a disappointment. Most web serials aren’t going to hold up well when compared to something of that scope.

At first, Mother of Learning was no exception. The first chapter did little to convince me to keep reading. In fact, I distinctly remember putting the book down for a while and reading other things before coming back to try again. I’m glad I came back, though.

Both the characters and the setting of Mother of Learning needed time to grow on me. At the very beginning of the story, Zorian, the protagonist, came off as a bit petty and, frankly, not all that interesting, but part of that was by design. Yes, that is typical for a coming-of-age story, but the first chapter also failed to set up any sort of interesting long-term conflict. Things didn’t really start to get interesting at all until the end of the first time through the time loop.

"The what?" you might ask.

Oh, yes, the time loop. This story is basically Groundhog Day set in a Dungeons and Dragons world. Once all that stuff starts up, stakes get established, and things get interesting.

In fact, once I got past that hurdle, I found myself reading through the rest of the story as fast as I could.

Zorian, who most likely is supposed to resemble a young Bill Murray, in personality if not in appearance, takes full advantage of the fact that he’s in a time loop to explore his world, solve his life’s problems, and look for answers to the mystery of why he’s trapped in a loop to begin with. Along the way, he runs into quite a few interesting situations, though I will say that the monsters he encounters are more compelling than most of the people.

I hate to compare everything to Worm, because that just isn’t fair, but most of the human cast is not developed as well as the human characters in Worm. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it does make the story a bit less immersive, because it’s clearly just Zorian’s world. Everyone else exists either to help him solve the mystery or to oppose him. However, the story does manage to avoid pushing too much plot-induced stupidity on its secondary characters.

The monsters are a highlight, and the bits of the mystery revealed so far have been a treat. I particularly enjoy reading about some of the technical problems Zorian’s universe faces as a result of the time loop. Clearly, the author put quite a bit of thought into the story’s world.

Ultimately, that’s what makes the story worth reading. It’s clever. It’s pretty much what you’d expect if Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality got together with Groundhog Day and had a baby.

1 of 4 members found this review helpful.
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Enchanting world

By ConanLe, member

Mar 14, 2018: It’s hard to write a review of Pact without mentioning Worm, but that’s okay. Its author, who goes by the pen name Wildbow, is more famous for Worm, and there’s a good reason for that. However, don’t count that against Pact, because the reason is that Worm is quite possibly the greatest web serial ever written.

Instead, count it in Pact’s favor, because if you’re familiar with Worm, you’ll know at least a bit of what you’re getting into with Pact.

The world is very rich even if it’s a little more empty this time around. The focus of this story is less on a big cast of people and more on a more intimate setting with a few key actors and a world that manages to run on magic without straining your suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking. That’s hard to do when writing a story about magic, but Pact manages to balance the power and wonder of magic with keeping things just grounded enough to keep the conflict interesting.

Too many stories about magic end up being resolved when someone either has a larger inner reserve of power or someone wields the right MacGuffin or channels a deus ex machina. In Pact, magic is powerful, but it’s not all-powerful, and while there are some magic effects that you won’t anticipate before they happen, they’ll never feel quite so much like cheating.

Blake, our new protagonist, manages to find success in the magical world through figuring out enough about the way magic works to make some reasonably good guesses about what to do to achieve the effect he wants. This keeps the story from devolving into a puzzle for the reader to solve while also preventing the reading from complaining, "How could he possibly have known to do that?"

And oh, boy, does he ever have a lot of problems to solve!

The basic thread of the plot is that Blake’s grandmother was a bit of an occultist, and she made some enemies. Now those enemies are all after Blake, and he has previous few allies to help him survive in a world he’s only now getting to know. Things start out grim, and they don’t get much better throughout.

Some of the imagery in the story is absolutely horrifying. The bad guys are scary, the good guys are always on the defensive, and the story takes a few daring narrative risks.

In the end, it’s a very satisfying book, and that’s something I often have trouble saying about fantasy stories. Magic is a very hard topic to write about, but Wildbow manages just fine here, much as he managed to keep superheroes from being boring and stupid in Worm. It seems as though his shtick is to write interesting stories in settings that are usually done very badly.

Read Pact if you like urban fantasy at all. Read it if you like scary monsters, creepy old mansions, even creepier old families, wondrous powers, scheming fae, and demons pulled straight from your nightmares.

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