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Sicarius
Sicarius rated it
Reign of the Hunters
March 1, 2017
Status: c32
So it's early days yet, but this seems like a good one. First, we have a female protagonist; a rarity in the genre. This means that we avoid the rampant s*xism that seems endemic to Chinese action novels. The author also eschews the seemingly standard 'betrayed by friends and reborn to take revenge' story-line that is so commonly seen in litRPGs and xuanhuan. Basically, our MC was the villain in her previous life. She betrayed and destroyed all her relationships to get ahead. But in her rebirth she's trying to... more>> fix that. She's living and striving for the sake of being a better person, which makes for an interesting and unusual character in an action novel. Second, the game actually feels like a game. This is much more unusual than it should be. Almost every other novel with a VRMMORPG (1/2 Prince, TLMS, Shura's Wrath, Rebirth of the Thief, etc.) just read like a generic fantasy novels with a leveling system. Players in the game don't all have epic sounding gamertags. Think about any multiplayer game you've played; everyone is called something like 'noobkiller3007' or 'antsinmyfancypants' or something else ridiculous. So the players we meet in the novel feel a little bit more real, silly names and all. Here, the NPCs act like NPCs. Sophisticated and complex, but still scripted and non-sentient. Our character does what any person who's played a game before does: she skips their dialogue. So we don't have to read through meaningless filler text for every random minor quest that the character gets. Finally: Romance. So far, there's been only a couple hints that romance will happen down the line. Instead of making the first person the MC meets be her fated true love or whatever, the author has chosen to establish the protagonist's character and the world she lives in. We've met her family and friends, but that's it. Later I assume we'll meet the hearthrob and there will be angst, but at the moment she's just beating up monsters, making friends, and threatening game-devs.

TL;DR - 'Reign of the Hunters' avoids a lot of the annoying tropes of the genre, while still scratching the litRPG itch. <<less
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Sicarius
Sicarius rated it
Marriage Concerto (Small Thing Called Love)
January 10, 2017
Status: c15
So far so good. This novel hits a lot of familiar beats from the genre: fake marriage, secret cohabiting, black-belly male lead, etc. But where it shines is the characters. They're interesting and complex without being melodramatic. That's particularly important in the case of the female lead. Ding Meng was overweight in middle school and had a somewhat tragic high school experience (not a spoiler), but it's never treated as a 'dark past' that she continues to angst over. It's just part of how she got to where she is.... more>> Also, she's a bit naive yes, but she's not actually stupid, which is a nice departure from the typical. Similarly, Qiao Yichen is a fairly typical black-belly male lead. He's handsome, wealthy, and known for being extremely strict and rude to subordinates. But so far, he's never actually been an asshole to DM. He's uncompromising in his work, but actually treats the female lead well.

There's no instalove here either, the romance appears to be the slow-burn style which is always great. When the two leads have real reasons to like each other it's much more believable than 'they so pretty, lets be together forever'. All in all, this is a good one, give it a read. <<less
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Sicarius
Sicarius rated it
Strange Life of a Cat
August 22, 2017
Status: c42
This was a pleasant surprise. I expected it to be a fun slice-of-life along the lines of 'Aristocats' or 'The secret life of pets' or one of the other innumerable animals-who-talk movies we all saw growing up. But Strange Life of a Cat is more interesting than my initial expectations.

This certainly is a slice-of-life, and is as heartwarming as much as any animated feature. But this is not the happy-fluffy disney world where the bad guys are bumbling animal control or comically evil fluffy white cats or whatever. No, SLC... more>> exists in the dangerous world of... urban China. Now, given the fact that our main character is a person who appears to have transmigrated back in time fifteen years into the body of a cat, there is some definite magic realism scattered around the world. But most of the danger our MC infrequently comes across is something any Chinese cat that ventures beyond the confines of the home might find. There is a certain culture shock for westerners reading this as we see a society where humane treatment for animals is by no means enshrined. Strays might be kicked or abused just because they're there. They even have to deal with the danger of being captured and sold to restaurants.

Also interesting is the spectrum of intelligence found in other animals than our MC. On the one hand we have a macaw who likes to sing old folk songs and can chat in fluent mandarin or a cat who is proficient in Morse code. Then there are others who are just as silly as any real animal. What is fun is that our MC doesn't really differentiate between them; some are his friends or acquaintances and they are who they are.

Another unique aspect of SLC is the way our MC interacts with humans, specifically 'his' family. They know and accept that he's about as smart as any human. He's treated as a big brother to the kids, albeit a furry one.

Chen Ci Lan Tiao is the author of several more mainstream adventure/xianxia series. But that's not to say this is xianxia with cats. Strange Life of a Cat is an excellent slice-of-life, and worth a read from even (or especially) those who don't enjoy martial arts adventures. This world is interesting and different, and the story is charming. Our main character is compelling, and the side characters are quirky and fun.

I heartily recommend this for anyone who needs a break from arrogant young masters and martial tournaments. <<less
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The King’s Avatar
March 13, 2017
Status: c195
There's a good novel here, but it's hidden behind interminable descriptions of people grinding for levels/loot. long review to follow, skip to end for tl;dr

So there's a lot to praise about 'The King's Avatar'. First, our main character is powerful through extensive experience, research, preparation, and skill, rather than bullsh*t luck. So there's no 'so and so found the heavenly defying mcguffin of awesomeness', which makes every victory feel earned. Now, he does have a much better weapon than everyone else around him, but that's only because he built it... more>> using the game's endgame content, and he's basically slumming it with all the noobs and casuals. Experts and other pros also have similar weapons, it's just we don't directly encounter them much. It also doesn't make him invincible, only giving him more versatility and hitting power than others at the same level.

Our protagonist actually feels like a mature adult. When people are childish or annoying, he's able to laugh it off and not take it to heart, rather than getting angry and killing an entire extended family to 'tear out the roots', which is the primary excuse for xianxia protagonists to be murdering psychopaths. I realize that this isn't a xianxia, but there tends to be a lot of crossover between the genres in C-novels. Side characters are funny and unique. They have their own personalities and desires, and don't merely exist to exclaim 'wow, protagonist is so great' every time he finishes a sentence. This includes the antagonists and rivals that we meet throughout the story; they all feel like real people. The interactions between characters is often hilarious and clever, and is one of the highlights of the book.

The story is fairly interesting as well. This is a pro-gamer down on his luck, and he's fighting to regain his place in the competitive sphere. He lives in an internet cafe, and gradually puts together a team of misfit experts who join him on his path to greatness. Along the way they go through various trial and crises, persevering and growing as the do.

The game this world revolves around is basically an advanced first person version of WOW with an eastern flair. Players play with keyboard and mouse and use common gamer parlance to interact with each other. So the world feels much more relatable than the VRMMO's that are more often seen in litRPGs. Now, downsides. Our main character is set up as this awesome all-knowing expert. Unfortunately, his cool factor is severely lowered when you realize that he's a chain smoking shut-in who lives off instant noodles and sleep deprivation. This novel is supposed to be about near-future e-sport athletes, but it's failed to take any of the recent industry developments of the last decade into account, and just portrays every character as the stereotypical obsessive gamer. In reality, pro-gamers have strict exercise and dietary regimens, and they would absolutely not be hard smokers who appear not to have experienced this thing you call 'sunlight'. Next, the stakes are pretty low. While the pc mmo setting is fairly unique and interesting to start, you quickly come to realize that very little of what they're doing matters. Our protagonist's main drive is to fuel his addiction to competitive gaming, and there's little that gets in his way. Even should a character die during some epic, intricately described battle, they'll only loose some experience and maybe an item.

Following on from that, TKA is filled with descriptions of them grinding various dungeons and monsters. I had a professor who told me once "every scene should advance the plot or character development". This book has got to be about 70% descriptions of avatars duking it out with some boss monster or other. Most of this is just filler text that can be skipped past without any loss to the story. Early on it served to introduce us to the game world and the way that our MC uses his experience and clever tactics alongside exquisite skill to prevail. That's fine, but after a while you get to 'they went back into the dungeon for another run' and then a chapter of the slightly different and better way they killed the same monsters this time. This happens over and over again, and the banter between characters is way too sparse to make rest of the extended battles even remotely interesting. It's a chore to get through this to the interesting bits. Character development. Despite the characters being one of the highlights of TKA, we rarely get to learn anything about them. Keep in mind that I've only read to chp 195 and there are more than 570 translated of 1728, but up till now we know next to nothing about most every character that we've met. One of the main secondary characters maybe played an instrument before she lived and worked in an internet cafe. Another works as a security guard. And that's it for backstory or context for the secondary characters. Even the main character is unknown to us. His backstory is told in throwaway sentences and opaque references. He meets people from his old life and they chat and it's obvious that they've got history, but we the readers are never let in on the secret. This quickly becomes frustrating when we're so often sent back to the dungeons for more fantastically dull descriptions of MMO combat. Maybe all this is revealed as you read along, but the pay off would have to be massive to justify 195+ chapters of filler.

TL;DR -There are far too many novels out there to waste time on something that appears to view high word count as high quality. Other people have rated it quite high, and you might find it worthwhile, but I'm off to read something else. This one's going on my DNF list. <<less
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Sicarius
Sicarius rated it
Carefree Path of Dreams
March 22, 2018
Status: c30
So far it's pretty good; reminds me of the beginning of 'World of Cultivation'. We have a MC who doesn't really care that much about the world outside of his little farming valley, and yet, the world still intrudes.

It's too early to say whether it'll turn into cliched garbage, but at least the writing style is fairly engaging. There are hints of the old familiar stories with a broken engagement and a set of evil antagonists (outer sect guy, inner sect cousin, sect elder father). They don't make up the... more>> bulk of the story though, and are still entertaining enough.

As yet, there are no triggers that would make me stop reading (heavy s*xism, rape, racism, etc.). People who enjoy xuanhuan will probably enjoy this. <<less
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