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MOTHER OF LEARNING

The Best Around

By davidmusk, author of Aeonica

Aug 25, 2019: Well, I’ve been enjoying this story over the past couple months, and now—at Chapter at 101—I can finally write a review. Minor spoilers ahead.

Mother of Learning starts with a concept that feels fresh to the fantasy genre: a world trapped in a time loop. The mystery aspect of this story is compelling, and every revelation feels like a genuine step toward real answers. This is a tough thing to accomplish when the mystery is so essential to the plot. Not every eriter can pull it off (I’m looking at you Lost and Game of Thrones.)

The main character (Zorian) is interesting too. Like most protagonists, he starts out flawed and grows along the way. But unlike many stories, this growth isn’t shown through his understanding of the book’s central theme, but rather through his interactions with the world and the people in it. By experiencing the same events in a loop, he comes to see the world differently. He sees his friends and family in a light, and he emphasizes with people he barely noticed before. This is a bit different, but the traditional story frameworks (the Hero’s Journey and the three act structure) are only meant to be guidelines. The author manages to pull of a great story without them.

Style

Overall, I would describe the style as simple and straight-forward. You’re not going to find a lot of lyrical prose or poetic language here, but that’s okay. The nature of the time-loop (and by extension, the plot) means that a lot of things need to be summarized in a concise way. Does this mean there’s a less showing and a more telling? Yes. But the book as a whole doesn’t suffer for that. The writing-style does what it sets out to do, so I won’t hold it to a different standard.

With that said, the book’s style is still its biggest weakness. The descriptions are minimal early on, so it was tricky to get a solid sense of the world and what a comparable time period would be. We’re immediately shown trains, which implies either a modern or semi-modern setting. We also get words like ‘cafeteria’ as opposed to mess hall, which implies a more modern setting as well.

Later on (I want to say past the 10% mark) we’re told that firearms are a fairly new invention so we know we’re not dealing with an entirely modern period. We also get more world-building later on such as airships, newspapers, watches, snow globes, ice boxes, and bank checks. By the end, I definitely had a good feel for the setting.

If I could change something though, I would make the setting clearer in the first few chapters. For example, what sort of lighting do the characters use to see? That can go a long way toward establishing setting in any story. I always imagined some sort of light bulb (either electrical or mana powered) but this is never explicitly stated. The world could just as easily use candles or oil lamps, which would evoke a very different atmosphere.

There were also a few info dumps that went on for 500+ words. These were the only parts of the book where I honestly felt the urge to skim, mostly because they dealt with ancient history or far-off cultures. I can see how this information became important. The problem is, most readers won’t remember all the details when they actually become relevant.

On a more positive side, I loved the parts where Zorian gets sarcastic in the narrative and the reader has to figure out what actually happened. In particular, I’m thinking of the part where a character trips and it’s described as "an accident. Or when Zorian gets into an argument that was described as “calm and civilized" in hindsight. Scenes like this were clever and they always made me chuckle. This humor gets also much stronger toward the second half of the book when he starts forming more long-term relationships with other characters.

Overall, I believe that most of the style issues will be resolved in a later draft. I’m confident about this because the descriptions were noticeably better in the second half. It’s just a matter of the author taking what he learned and re-applying it.

Grammar

I won’t say much here. 99.9% of the book is flawless as far I can tell. Sure, there are a few mistakes. Usually, they involve the narrative switching from present tense and back to past. It’s subtle though—something a non-wtier would barely notice. And as with the style, this is all stuff that can be fixed with editing. It doesn’t distract from the story.

Characters

So, the nature of the timeloop is both a strength and a weakness here when it comes to character development.

For one, the fact that time resets every thirty days means that any non-timelooping character loses all of his/her memories. Naturally, this means that no one one else gets a real character arc. As a result, we miss a lot of those epic moments where minor characters overcome their flaws. The kind of scenes we see and expect from authors like Brandon Sanderson or Will Wight.

On the other hand, the time-loop allows all sorts of ways for secondary characters to keep coming back in different ways. Sometimes, a character might feel like a background character in Chapter 7, only to become important in Chapter 70. Sometimes, a character will go on a date with Zorian because a particular instance of the time-loop resulted in just the right circumstances. Othertimes, Zorian will have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone just because he happened to ask the right questions or observe the right things. This aspect of the time loop feels satisfying because we’re seeing the current pieces being played with in new and interesting ways.

World Building

If you enjoy a detailed world, this is the book for you. Despite the lighter descriptions, everything in this world feels alive. Like everytime you pick up the book, you’re transported to this world. There are different continents, factions, cultures, histories, and technologies, and a detailed magic system. Everything you could hope for in a fantasy story.

Conclusion

Overall, I recommended this story to anyone interested in fantasy. I think it will be especially appealing to anyone who enjoys magic school settings or progression fantasy. As a fan of both sub-genres, it scratches all the right itches for me.

It terms of magic schools, this has it all. A library with a restricted section. Interesting teachers. A variety of subjects. And with the time loop, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the main character approach the same situations in different ways. It doesn’t take long for Zorian to pass his class mates. After that, he’s rivaling even the teachers.

In terms of progression fantasy, things aren’t aren’t as clean cut in terms of advancement levels. Not in the way you might expect from other authors like Will Wight or Andrew Rowe, and definitely not like a litRPG. Even so, the magic system has clear-cut rules, and you can always get a sense of Zorian’s strength, knowledge, and skill relative to the other characters.

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MOTHER OF LEARNING

Top Quality Fiction!!!

By robertotest26, member

Feb 16, 2019: I just wanted to say is a incredible amazing story. It is a time loop tale and the author does a great execution of the two things that this kind of plot allowes to shine the most. The character growth, which is splendidly developed through out the story, and that the world can be a treasure trove. Other good aspect is the magic, is a well tought of system so that is a plus one in my book. In conclusion read it, it is top quality

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ANTLERS, COLORADO

A compelling supernatural read with wonderful characters

By RoseQuartz, member

Jan 13, 2019: Antlers is a lovely atmospheric serial that I found through Webfictionguide. Even though it’s a few years old I wanted to leave a review to point out how lovely it is. The characters are compelling and unique and each one has a strongly developed personality. It’s incredibly bingeworthy. Austin as a protagonist was relatable and the cast of characters that grows around him—both living and dead—are a treat. There’s a lot of ambiance in the world and the pace of the story keeps you wanting to read more long long into the night. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this work. Great job, Marn!

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