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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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MODERN MAGICK

Annoying but readable

By AVR, member

Sep 14, 2018: The setting’s more or less the English upper class with magic; while there are jobs they look and feel more like hobbies of the idle rich. (OK, a couple of thoroughly anglicised Indians have jobs where they’re valued technical specialists.) Anything outside this is either out of scope or doesn’t exist in this world, which of the two isn’t always clear. The protagonist is well adapted to and perfectly happy in such a world.

Don’t assume this is going to change, if you find it annoying you’re going to live with it or stop reading. Anyway, there’s a readable series of young adult novels with mildly challenging adventures here. The magic system is reasonably consistent. The protagonist is entirely the author’s fantasy though and shows no signs of being anything other than wish-fulfilment.

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GOD VESSEL ONLINE

My…this was quite charming

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Mar 22, 2017: I’m not a particular fan of RPG stories..so when I took a look at this one, I admit it was to see just how bad it was. I expected immature writing and cliches galore . . . what I found was an amusing and charming story that sucked me in and kept me coming back for more.

The fun part for me is the two main characters; the sensitive, thoughtful Erika with her polite "My..I see" phrases contrasted with the cheerfully vulgar and impulsive Mina whose view of life is simple – a constant indulgence in virtual knock-em-down fights. I also enjoyed the writing style, which I would describe as droll. There were some typos, but the words seemed well chosen. The girls’ (mainly Erika’s) adventures in the VR world were done well; you didn’t forget it was a game, because all the accoutrements and atmosphere of a game are present, but it felt like things were "really" happening as well.

I’m a little disappointed not to find out more about some of the mysteries of both the real and virtual worlds depicted in this story, as the author decided to cut it short and end the serial early. Unless he decides to continue later, what we have feels like the first arc completed – which does kind of work plot-wise as a significant challenge has been overcome and we can imagine how the rest will turn out. I’d still like to read it, though.

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