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Blends themes almost impossibly.

By aew3, member

Dec 9, 2016: excuse the formatting errors this is from my wordpress – <em> Set in a world post- “Age of Adventurers” our all-star cast of god-killing archmages, archbishops, paladins, arch-demons, pirate princesses, thieves and otherwise special individuals find their way in a world which finds itself pushing into a world with ethics, morals, viewpoints, governance and culture that is growing remarkably close to a modern, first world nation of today a la Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne trilogy. Sustained by intrigues of a relatively low scale which keep promising to reveal the true stakes, TGaB (as it will be henceforth referred to) is a lesson in how one can keep the stakes realistic when compared to real life whilst keeping maintaining the grandness of old-school fantasy.</em>

<h2>PREVIOUS RATINGS IN SERIES:</h2> n/a : Web Serial, not broken into large enough sub-segments for separate reviewing. Chapters published tri-weekly and split into arcs and volumes. <h2>RATING BREAKDOWN:</h2> Writing: 7/10 Enjoyment: 7/10 Pacing: 5/10 Characters, development and world-building: 10/10 Plot: 5-8/10 Creativity: 10/10 <h2>OVERALL: 7.5/10</h2>

<!—more—> <hr> Forewarning: This serial is uncompleted but is already well established. I am reviewing it as of completing chapter 10-16.

TGaB combines political intrigues, a modernised world, familiar fantasy tropes, and not-grim in a way which I would have thought impossible. There is often very little physical danger to our protagonists. Because in the modern world, violence only solves some things. We are constantly reminded that people who are otherwise good natured in this story can do horrible things in the name of good, bad or their own self-interest, but only reminded – much like we are reminded that there are bigger stakes at play in the background. Our PoVs are either important players on the world stage or powerful students at a university for powerful people. We however are treated to what about to a number of side intrigues in the grand scheme that plays out in the background, of gods and goddesses; age old secrets and conflicts. The players on the chessboard move at the whim of those still mostly unseen, but in this tangled web Webb has created, sometimes the chess pieces are more important. And sometimes the players don’t know what the game is. Subtleties and complexities are what you will find- not only in its often hard to judge characters but also in its yet-to-be-revealed end-game.

This of course does take some time to come to fruition as our initial PoVs- the Unseen University Class of 1182 – who hog most of the early screen time, despite being fascinating characters, who find themselves in this web, are not yet involved directly in it.

Stories love to preach about how morality is not black-and-white. This is one of the better executions of that. There are no real antagonists- Shook and Syrinx are about the only characters of import whom I truly dislike completely – and there are no sides. It’s not a matter of trying to pick sides when they are grey – it’s a matter of finding a definite conflict. The conflicts we can discern as of now don’t have high immediate stakes and are between two sides of shifting goals and morals. Many of the conflicts we only see as one group/individual counteracting another one because they need to curb their power/influence but we don’t know the whys, only the whats. Of course the characterisation is excellent with excellent character development as one might expect given how I praised TGaB’s complexity and nuance.

As a result of many of the aforementioned points, TGaB suffers from a lack of consequences. Death has not been used as a plot device yet, and so far our fight sequences have been unimportant mooks- leaderless and goalless demons sent by unknown powers, Chaos as a magical metaphysical effect, and barely sentient centaurs. I hope that secrets will eventually be revealed and stakes raised, but not yet of course.

Despite, or perhaps due to, its complexity and nuance, TGaB suffers from what I will call plot discrepancies. Not complete holes or errors- it still makes sense- but enough things which just don’t really fit to annoy me. These discrepancies presence in characters themselves may be intetional – to keep us guessing who did what, wants what and therefore needs what. But some of it makes the serial feel comical- larger than life or constructed for a witty one-liner only. Despite how plausibly real this is (minus the magic) as compared to real life, too often it strayed upon the ridiculous, which lessens how well it achieves everything else. The ridiculous is not anywhere near common enough to set the tone, nor is the serious common enough to either.

Have a read. It starts off somewhat slow (and with a fair bit of exposition), and some PoVs might be slow or disinteresting, but most play out, and those that don’t fade away. Give it a few arcs before you give up.

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