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AEONICA

No title

By JohnCalliganWrites, author of Wayfaring Princess

May 1, 2019: I just finished the first chapter, and I thought it was great. The story is engaging right out the gate. I like the main character and the prose is top notch.

If I have any gripe, some of the dialog is a little on the nose for my taste, but somehow that style adds to the charm of the setting, so I wouldn’t knock any points for it. 5/5 will read again.

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A LITTLE SISTER'S ALL I NEED | 我只需要一個小妹妹

The Title is a Warning

By Thedude3445, author of Rainbow Destructor

Dec 27, 2018: The title of the story hooked me in just from the sheer strangeness of it, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with what to find within. The description makes it very clear that the story’s going to be the kind of "magic school with a powerful main character and usually some incest themes" fantasy story that’s popular in Japanese books and anime these days. That is not a niche I care for whatsoever, unless it’s done very well.

This was not done very well.

"A Sister’s All You Need" prides itself on advertising its taboo sibling relationship and makes that the focal point of the story, but it’s not like Japanese light novels don’t already have a lot of brother-sister relationship stuff to begin with. In the end that focus is exactly what cripples the story from providing any real entertainment value, because everything else within is the absolute most basic-tier generic nothingness.

So far there have been three complete story arcs. The first of these, "Potentials and Regulars," starts out with massive infodumping about this magic society where there’s tiers of adventurerers and tiers of magic and tiers of weapons . . . and now the main brother and sister Onii and Amae are attending a magic school where there’s a bunch of tiers. So many rankings and levels to the point that it’s mindboggling.

(By the way, if you aren’t in on the joke, "Onii" means "older brother" in Japanese, and "Amae" means "relying on others." This summarizes their entire character arcs pretty neatly.)

So the story follows Onii and Amae as they enter magic school and are way powerful and revered and everybody loves them. There’s one obligatory fight scene to establish that Onii is the best fighter in the school, but other than that it’s just introductions. Then comes the second story arc . . . With more infodumping. More tiers. More new characters that have some backstory history with the duo.

And we get to learn that Onii and Amae, famous as extremely powerful magicians, have a secret identity that they are hiding from the world . . . they are Yin and Yang, the two most powerful magicians ever who are two of the only four Hero Tier (that’s above Adamantium Tier) heroes on the planet. . . . Yes. It’s as if Superman’s secret identity was Clark Kent, but Clark Kent was a world-famous MMA fighter. They’re so powerful that nobody is remotely a threat to them, removing all tension (at least as far as the story has progressed).

The author clearly loves playing around with the taboo fact that the brother and sister are in love and make out all the time. It’s downplayed earlier in the story, but by the middle of the second story arc (where there is a graphic sex scene), they drop the pretense of tension and have them constantly talk about their relationship together. They kiss in the middle of a fight scene at one point partly to confuse the other characters around them. It is what it is. But it means that everything else in the story is downplayed— we don’t get to see much of the world the author has created, and all of the side characters so far are underdeveloped. Even Onii and Amae themselves, unable to be apart for more than a single chapter at a time, lack any defining personality traits that I can pinpoint, even just having caught up on it today.

There are points in this story where I legitimately started to wonder whether this was actually a parody of these sorts of stories— Amae goes undercover after a big buildup about how dangerous her secret mission is . . . and is captured the next chapter. There’s a sword that apparently retroactively erases people from history. A side chapter has Onii reading "A Sister’s All You Need" on his computer. I’m PRETTY sure that it isn’t parody, but I haven’t been able to confirm either way.

From the three story arcs so far, the story hasn’t progressed but actually gone backwards— the second story arc is entirely exposition about the main duo’s past, and then the third story arc is literally a flashback to establish their relationship with another character. I’m hoping that this changes as the next story arcs occur, but the author has reader polls after each arc and the current poll has "Add More Wincest!" at over 50% of the vote, so I’m worried that there will merely be more brother-sister makeouts and even less plot.

Since "A Sister’s All You Need" is an ongoing serial, I am really hoping that the story improves in future story arcs by forging its own, original path instead of wholesale copying the Japanese Light Novel template. Invincible characters are boring. Undynamic characters are boring. Infodumping without showing the world in a present-tense context is boring. So far that hasn’t been the case, but the author seems very nice (from the chapter notes and afterwords) and their writing has been improving with each chapter. So we’ll have to see in a few months/years how things have changed after these first three story arcs.

But until then, I have to say I can’t recommend the story to anyone, even people who enjoy Light Novel-style action stories or MMORPG-style fantasy stories.

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IMPULSIVE: DESCENDANTS OF THE GIFTED

Gifted and Charming

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Nov 24, 2018: The YA genre, I feel, has always been a bit oversaturated and full of the same tropes. Good-looking, cool protagonists who are either prodigies or chosen ones with little definable effort. Villains who are either never able to go the distance with their villainy or simply fall into either black or white categories, and even magic systems that either get too complicated or not complicated enough.

But this particular story, Impulsive: Descendants of the Gifted, is a good example of handing often-seen tropes in a charming, accessible and very readable way.

Getting the bad off my chest first, let me start off by saying the story doesn’t have the greatest start. It’s a bit generic, somewhat melodramatic, and the anime-inspired vibes are everywhere.

That being said, there’s enough charm in the writing that once you get past the first few paragraphs, you find yourself wanting to know at least a little bit more about the characters. Then as you finish and move on, a little bit more, and then a little bit more, and so on. That, I think, is the first mark of a good story.

To summarise without spoilers, the story revolves around five teenagers named Sam, Zac, Dylan, Eddy and Rebecca. They lead mostly average school lives, until one day the inadvertantly reveal to each other that they each possess control over one of the five elements; fire, wind, earth, lightning and water. What follows is the revelation that these five children are among a chosen few, destined to save the world of Krymenos from great evil. Mentored by the time-altering wizard Xene, they’re transported to this new fantasy world in effort to stave off the coming disaster.

As far as adventure stories go, especially where magic is involved, I wouldn’t necessairly say Impulsive does anything particularly different or crazy unique.

Not that’s not bad per say. The story isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and I think that’s part of its strengths. It presents a good story with aspects you might have seen before, but just because it’s familiar doesn’t take away from its merits. There’s definitely a great sense of camaraderie and fun within the main group, with lots of love-hate vibes abound between characters like Zac and Samantha. You find yourself thinking "ugh" and then realize it’s actually entertaining.

I had some minor gripes with Zac in particular at first, since he has some character traits some may find disagreeable where writing is concerned. He fits into his own mold as time goes on, however, and ends up becoming a lot more likable because of it. As for the rest of the main five, everyone has clearly definable traits, but effort is put in to keep them fresh. Everyone will have their preference of course, but the characters are most importantly relatable enough that I imagine each person will find at least one they can invest with.

What I especially appreciate is the author’s attention to combat detail; you never feel like they bulldoze past their opposition, in fact, they’re often struggling against it. It’s a breath of fresh air considering the genre and type of story.

So onto my final verdict: is this is a story worth checking out?

Honestly, I think so. It is a very young-adult-type tale with its anime influences, but I think this story is one of those rare examples that works. It embraces this tone and the writing. Later on in this story, locales and characters become really fleshed out as the story embraces its fantasy roots.

Ultimately it’s up to the reader to judge, but I would say this is probably one of the most accessible, easy to read, and just plain fun stories I’ve checked out in recent memory. Not perfect by any means, but it’s something a lot of people can enjoy, and while that may turn off some, at least I know for sure that the author hit the mark they were going for.

Final score: 4/5

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