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HELL'S KITCHEN SINK

Urban fantasy to be praised! (spoiler-free)

By Rob van den Berg, member

Aug 15, 2019: I have been a follower of hellskitchensink.com for a few years now, since book one. After years of following it, I have finally decided to take the time to write a review. I will keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, because the works are more enjoyable that way. I will use the term Hellskitchensink to refer to the collection of works.

So what is Hellskitchensink? It is urban fantasy, meaning that it is our world, but with extra fantastical elements, hidden under the hood. In this regard, it is similar to Harry Potter. That means that although magic, gods, and other such creatures exist in various forms, there is no public knowledge of this. It is like a shadowy underworld, in a way, though not completely seperate.

The works of Hellskitchensink are all in the same setting, although they start in seperate places, only to join later. There are 6 long books with a seventh being published in parts, and there is a collection of short stories. Some of the later are only for supporters of the patreon, but those are not required to understand the story.

The world of Hellskitchensink is our own, yet with a fantastical twist. Various fantastical creatures, as well as mythical ones, exist within it. Although the same beings are used as characters as in mythologies and folklore, they live and interact within a modern world that has mostly forgotten them. This hiddenness is an important element, but is not perfect, it can be threatened, broken, and ignored in various ways.

I won’t delve too deep into the main plots, because I do not want to spoil. I will say though that the some of the main plots contain the threat of catastrophic events, and the main characters attempts to stop them.

The stories are engaging, and often contain unexpected twists. The colorful characters are interesting, yet believable, at least in the context of the plot and the setting. Most notably to me was the style of writing, that is often entertaining and interesting, even in the smallest details.

The fact that it occurs in our world, means that it it recognizible, and various ideas and ideals do end up being discussed. Values like life, caring, ambition, fairness and sacrifice tend to be discussed and used in the story that makes both the story and the values seem to come alive. This applies not only within the story, but in a larger context as well, in both philisophical and sometimes even political ways.

Is there anything not to be liked? To be honest, there was a moment a few books in that I was worried about the direction the plot went in. However, now I think this has been done in a good way, that also breathed some new life into the setting. There are also many cliffhangers and parts that leave you at the edge of your seat, but feeling actual elements of tension and excitement are good in my opinion, especially in this genre.

So overall it is a very engaging story. It is everything I like about old mythology and folklore, mixed together in a blender, and then given structure again by putting it inside a modern setting pie. I am very much a fan.

Overall: 9.8/10 I just love it.

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THE OSCILLATION

People turn into rabbits (and other animals)

By GriKit, member

Mar 29, 2019: It’s a story about a Korean girl in America called Rachel. Everything is all normal, until it’s not. It’s a fast-paced story that kicks off really fast in the first chapter. People turn into animals suddenly.

It’s weird. But fun.

The style is very descriptive and nice. The dialogue maybe needs some work, and the flow of the text isn’t always easy to read because the lines are so long.

But overall, the author is a good writer and you should check it out if you’re interested in a story like this.

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BLACK MERIDIAN

Swashbuckling Swords!

By Hejin57, author of Music Masters

Mar 22, 2019: Fantasy has often been a difficult genre for me to review. Mostly, this is because the genre as a whole is defined by various trappings, and it becomes difficult for stories to stand out in a sea of cliches and generalizations whenever swords and sorcery is involved.

Today’s story though, Black Meridian, succeeds where other fantasy-type ventures do not, with a mix of genres and tones that create a delicious and rich concoction.

The story in question revolves around a wandering warrior named Zeta, whose goal in life is simple: to serve humanity. He views his fellow man as his masters, and takes it upon himself to improve their lives for the better. In Zeta’s case though, his talent lies in swordplay, with his prized blade Black Meridian being the favored tool. What follows is a series of vignettes as Zeta travels different parts of a fantasy-esque world, fighting enemies and meeting allies along the way.

Among these is the concept of sigmas. They, essentially, are the powers of this setting, with each sigma granting a different ability be they mundane or fantastical. What intrigues me most is how the sigmas are applied to each specific person, and how they can be mixed and matched to create new, strange abilities. It’s an expansive and potentially endless system, and I applaud the author for making something so unique within this kind of setting.

Plotwise, Black Meridian is simple and straightforward. Most of the strength lies in the dialogue, which is playful and romantic enough to give the image of pulp stories and other swashbuckling tales. The action is fantastic as well, evoking a sort of anime-quality of sword-fighting that never feels out of place. Z.Q. Spark’s sense of humor is also very well utilized in the story, and it helps to make the reader laugh despite all the battles and swordplay.

As for the characters themselves, Zeta is a standout. His skill combined with his almost Edwards Scissorhands-level lack of social skills makes him both endearing and impressive. Other characters like the shifty and sometimes difficult Hera, her henchmen Berto and Igel, and villains Terrent, Marc and Rex Balder, form an entertaining little universe that is simply begging to be expanded on.

Of the few cons I have with this story, most of them revolve around some aspects of the pacing. There are some points in the story where the action drags, while at other times we’re sent at a blinding pace through fight scene after fight scene. It could certainly be balanced better, but in the grand scheme of things this is a very minor flaw.

All in all, this a unique gem of an action story with interesting lore, fun characters, and a memorable power system. For someone who usually despises the anime-esque "power-level" stories that populate the web serial scene, this was a welcome surprise.

Final score: 4/5

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