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newbage
newbage rated it
Reborn as My Love Rival’s Wife
June 2, 2017
Status: c19
Bottomline Up Front: It's good. You should it. I'm ~90% sure that you'll still like this one, even if you're averse to gender bender novels in general. Now on to the main review:

Let me preface this review by saying that I myself have never been into the gender bender genre. TBH I found this novel by cycling through the recommendations list on an action-oriented soul-migration series. I was actually about to pass on this when I saw it was a gender bender. What piqued my curiosity, though, was how... more>> the score was so high, and how it already had so many ratings submitted (135 at the time) when there hadn't even been 20 chapters released (I immediately pass on anything under 4.2 rating, and without a minimum of 30 votes).

Somewhat baffled, I scrolled down to read the written reviews. At the time, out of the 14 reviews that readers had actually taken the time and effort to write, there was only a single 4 star review. The rest were full 5-star reviews. This was fairly unusual, so I decided to give it a shot. And as you might've guessed. I do not regret it.

The main character's persona is your standard internet and meme savvy Joe Blow. Male, aged 29. IT department grunt. He's everything that you would expect of someone with that backstory. Knows games, knows anime, knows pop culture references. What stood out to me was how developed and natural the MC's thoughts, and reactions were. It's to the extent that, having done no background research on the novel's publication, I cannot tell whether the author is a man or a woman.

On the one hand, the MC's characterization and streams of consciousness were so realistic and detailed that it's difficult to believe that the author is not a man. On the other hand, the author portrays the difficulty of having to suddenly adapt to a female body (including biological hiccups, and challenges related to gender-specific social expectations) so well that it's hard to believe the author isn't a woman. It no doubt takes a combination of high IQ and high EQ alongside a significant degree of gender awareness to pull something like this off.

That alone would've made the novel an okay read. What makes it truly excellent is how consistent and on-point the humor is, and how entertaining the dynamic between the two main leads are, thus far. I found myself laughing out loud at least once every chapter -- usually more. This is highly condensed, quality fun.

Having caught up with the most recent translations, and feeling that my horizons had been broadened, I decided to look into other gender bender series. I clicked through recommendations; read synopses, ratings, and reviews; and surprised myself. Turns out I still had the same feeling of apathy and rejection I initially had when I first set eyes on Reborn As my Love Rival's Wife's novel updates page. I had zero interest in picking up any of that titles I perused. It turns out that I'm still biased against genders. It probably has something to do with whether I (believe I) can empathize with the MC. It's the same reason I don't read Shojou or Josei novels.

Conclusion: I started out averse to gender benders, and I still am. I also really like this novel. Yep. It's that good. You should read it. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
Emperor’s Domination
January 20, 2017
Status: c172
Characters and the world are 2 dimensional, including the protagonist. Overall Plot is nonexistent. It's like the author is writing chapter to chapter with no overarching goal in mind. The arcs are highly repetitive. The author's sense of power progression makes no sense. The cultivation levels/systems as well as the way martial arts work make no sense. This novel is hard to stomach. I repeatedly came back to this crappy novel and persevered to ch 172 b/c of the good reviews. But it's been bad the entire way. Don't waste... more>> your time on this trash.

The protagonist is an arogant asshole. He supposedly has knowledge gained from hundreds of millions of years spent as a magical crow but he acts like a idiotic child. I'm talking joffrey from game of thrones level of arrogance. He's now in a low-talent body with low cultivation. People think poorly of him for that. Yet he all he does is sit around making arrogant proclamations that piss people off, then fail to actually do things that impress anyone. Only a small number of people are aware of his sizable abilities and he does not use said abilities in ways that are strategically advantageous. He just sit there talking down to people, making enemies unnecessarily, and giving them no reason to respect him. Here's an example of how idiotic this MC is:

Spoiler

there's a talented girl he wants to recruit as a hand maiden. On first encounter, he talks down to everyone then s*xually harasses her. A while later he meets her and does the same. The third time he makes mysterious allusions to her powers/natures and how he might know something that could help her, etc. He doesn't actually get her to join him until several encounters later. If he wanted to recruit her and wasn't an arrogant idiot he'd just walk up to her, show her his martial arts, then concisely say why he's vastly superior to her, how he can help her and why she should join him. Boom he wouldnt' had her in the first encounter.

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The author keeps emphasizing how the MC is in a low level body with low growth potential, and how his cultivation is still low but he's trying to compensate with superior understanding of skills and cultivation techniques blah blah. But somehow the MC can wipe the floor with anyone he wants to any time he needs to. It's like saying he's level 1, and has a crappy growth table, yet b/c the author says so, he engages and succesfully beats a lvl 87... because... just because. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
Cultivation Chat Group
April 4, 2017
Status: c91
Bottomline up front: This novel is a thoroughly good read! It is one of my favorite light/web novels, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. Cultivation Chat Group (CCP) is a refreshing twist on a xianxia / wuxia story. Unlike the vast majority of them, it is set in the modern day, with the MC stumbling into the chat group of real cultivators by chance. Through a complex, yet believable, series of events involving real-world modern goings-on (cell phones, google maps, push-to-talk messaging, and a young, sheltered cultivator who just... more>> got off a flight and doesn't know how to use GPS) he realizes the truth and is given the opportunity to begin cultivating himself. The lead up to this is neither rushed nor belabored, providing a good introduction to the world, the MC's situation, and his character before thrusting him into the world a cultivation.

The series breaks many of the annoying tropes of Chinese xianxia. The MC is well rounded, thoughtful, and moral. He's a university student, and unlike in most light novels, his background isn't just for show. He has non-cultivator friends and family, as well as modern, real-world sensibilities and concerns. The characters around him -- both cultivators and non-cultivators -- are also fairly fleshed out, with believable motivations and realistic thoughts, behaviors, and reactions. There is also realistic interplay between traditional cultivation and modern history, society, and technology.
Spoiler

At some point in the story, one of the masters of the cultivator chat group tells the MC about a thread specifically created to help cultivators adapt to the modern world, since many of them would have been in closed door cultivation for centuries or decades -- suddenly coming out and finding technology and culture drastically changed. One part of the thread gives a cautionary tale of an unfortunate master cultivator, and proscribes a safety checklist in order to avoid facing a similar dilemma. Said cultivator apparently went into extended closed door cultivation, only to have the deserted area he sealed himself off in coincidentally become a nuclear testing site decades later. Even with with the ridiculous number of grandmaster-level defensive formations he had set, he barely escaped with his life -- sustaining severe injuries that required decades to recover from, and psychologically traumatizing him.

The novel is littered with well-thought little details such as the one described in the spoiler, which really attempts to answer questions as to what sorts of challenges and scenarios cultivators might face in the modern world. They also help to give us a realistic idea of how the cultivators' abilities might stack up against modern technology.
Unlike most cultivation novels, there is a is a good deal of light-hearted humor that does not rely on slapstick. Neither is there any harem building, or unrealistic ero / romance. Morover -- and this is the best part IMO -- it eschews the idea that becoming a cultivator somehow necessarily turns people into rutheless, sociopathic/psychopathic assholes. The MC is good-natured, and though they each have their own quirks, all of seniors in the cultivation chat group are good-natured as well. That's not to say the MC is a d*ckless coward or a loser. Nor is he some self-righteous a holier-than-thou crusader. Rather, this goes back to how well-written he is as a character. He's a good-natured, modern university student, and acts the way a REAL ACTUAL PERSON with decent morals might act. As a complementary feature, the author seems to reject the notion that only ruthless pricks can get ahead. The MC is a decent person that will help out passers by if the opportunity presents itself. And he is often actually rewarded for it either by the recipient of his assistance, or by serendipity.
In the most recent arc, the MC is searching for the injured leader of a group that tried to kill him and steal his stuff. The leader is currently in hiding, and the MC is worried that he if gives the leader too much time to heal-up and regroup, they'll come back and harm him or his family. He's is on the subway en route to investigate a lead that one of his friends dug up for him. A little girl on a trip with her parents ends up getting attached to him and refuses to let him go -- much to the apologetic embarassment of the parents. So being the good Samaritan he is, the MC decides to stay with them until their stop instead of ripping the kid off himself and leaving. He ends up missing his station by 3 or 4 stops. As a result, he bumps into the quarry he's looking for, who actually set up the lead his friend found as a decoy, and would've actually gotten away if the MC had gotten off when he intended. At this point, the narrator all but straight up says that the idea that nice-guys don't have good things happen to them is bullsh*t. Amen brother, amen.

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The releases are somewhat slow and inconsistent. With potentially days or weeks going by between releases. Neverthless, it still averages out to about 3 chapters a week, with the author sometimes releasing multiple chapters in one go. With that in mind, I definitely recommend CCP to anyone looking for a well crafted and thoughtful cultivation story with 3-dimensional characters, a likeable MC, and believable cultivation mechanics. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
The Charm of Soul Pets
June 4, 2017
Status: v2c78
Overall, I like The Charm of Soul Pets (TCOSP) and highly recommend it. I will first discuss what makes TCOSP great. Then, I will address some of the criticisms raised by other reviews in-depth, and explain why many are either misleading, or based on incorrect facts.

Other reviews calling it a darker, grittier, faster pace Pokemon-xuanhuan hybrid are fairly accurate. That alone would make it an "okay read".

What stands out to me and brings it into the realm of "excellent read" -- is how it either eliminates or tones down many... more>> annoying xuanhuan tropes like: disposable 2-d supporting characters, underdeveloped settings/world-building, over reliance on exposition, and unrealistic character actions/reactions to events.

The author actually spends time building the world and much of it is "show" rather than "tell". Of course exposition still exists, but is not nearly to the degree of a standard Chinese webnovel. Characters are also a bit more developed than is usual in Chinese webnovels. And unlike virtually all Chinese webnovels, characters and settings are revisited. People that the MC meets in one arc may very will pop in during another arc and play a role in advancing the story. Good stuff.

The author also takes pains to justify why the world and social structures are the way that they are, and why characters act as they do. For example, a little ways into the story, the MC becomes extremely outstanding for his age and gains significant renown. The key phrase is FOR HIS AGE. There are plenty of people stronger than him even mediocre servants 30-40 years older than him pose a significant threat. Most novels just ignore this obvious fact and treat the MC as unstoppable. The author of TCOSP instead explicitly acknowledges this fact, and comes up with a convincing explanation for why talented individuals of the older generation don't just come and squash the MC despite him failing to maintain a low profile.

At this point let me address some of the negative comments I've seen in other written reviews. I'm referring primarily to Ladyblue's eloquent and succinct critique. At the time of writing, Ladyblue's review gives the lowest rating of all written reviews, and of the negative reviews, it also gives the most detailed and logical explanation for its uncharitable assessment of TCOSP.

1) MC has plot armor because his Mo Xie is way too OP.

I have to say, Mo Xie is indeed a bit OP. The MC finds her by random chance as his first pet, and she actually evolves to higher level species as she levels up, which other moonlight foxes don't do. That said, it comes down to a matter of degree. Most xuanhuan protagonists are way more OP relative to the world than the MC in this novel. Mo Xie is not invincible. In the most recent arc, the MC was ambushed by the old, mediocre servant I mentioned above. The MC's acknowledges explicitly that this guy is stronger than him, and also that this guy isn't even particularly talented within his own generation. He's just a low-level servant. Nonetheless he's actually significantly stronger than the MC, and the MC had to rely on a sizable degree of tactics and subterfuge to barely make it through. Mo Xie was under serious threat of death and did not "superman" the situation.

Another thing to mention is that the MC isn't stronger than his peers "just because", like in most webnovels. The author does take pains to show (rather than merely explain) the difference in methods and herculean effort/persistence that the MC puts forth compare to his contemporaries.

I think the reason readers LadyBlue might regard the MC (and MoXie) as way too OP is that the MC has been fighting mainly opponents from the same generation as him, where he indeed has a pretty insane advantage. In a fight with older gen opponents though, he's only "alright", and sometimes must avoid combat altogether.

2) The author never misses the chance to tell the reader how smart and cool the MC is.

Yea. That's pretty much true. But again it's a matter of degree. The percentage of time that author spends doing this relative to the rest of the story is lower than most xuanhuan. Furthermore, he doesn't just "tell us" how smart the MC is. He often also shows us.

3) The villains are boring and one-dimensional. Each one is a copy of the previous.

I have to outright disagree with this one. The author takes pains to illustrate (rather than merely explain) the motivations of each major antagonist. The antagonists themselves have a variety of differing motivations, and also go about taking hostile action against the MC in different ways.

Yes, there are a fair number named and nameless red-shirts that get killed as well. But it seems to me that LadyBlue is labeling such individuals as "villains" when they're really just red-shirt grunts. Below, I'll speak about a few of the actual villains in general terms. They'll be in no particular order. I highly recommend you do not read everything in the spoiler section below as it is pretty spoiler-iffic. Just skim it, and only read some.

I'm including it in order to highlight how very incorrect LadyBlue's claim is:

Spoiler

Villain A: Was MC's boot camp chief instructor and direct superior. He is antagonistic because he's worried that the MC is too talented, and will end up getting his position after graduating. He also does not like the MC's aloofness and insubordination. He prohibits students from killing each other during a long, unsupervised training period (at the conclusion of which, a death-match selection tournament will take place where only 10 of the students will ultimately be allowed to live and advance). MC kills other the boot camp members (Villain B and his bros) because they were trying to him (and others) in order to reduce the number of competitors and increase their chance of surviving the impending selection tournament. Villain A tries to use the fact that the MC violated a direct order not to kill other students in order to have him killed. He is foiled by a combination of factors, including his own subordinate instructors who are gunning for his position.

Villain B: On paper, he is the most talented in the MC's cohort of boot camp students. Leverages his overwhelming talent and the vague promise to assist others in surviving the tournament (ostensibly by killing other students that would've otherwise have gained a spot in one of the 10) in order to get subordinates and s*xual favors from female students. Died because the MC employed superior tactics and strategies in tandem with a strong pet (who's true strength he's wisely concealed up to that point).

Villain (?) C: High ranking member and assassin of Nightmare Palace. Kidnaps the MC at the behest of an the Yang family, who are antagonistic to the MC's family. Yang family fails to pay Villain (?) C. So Villain (?) C instead acknowledges the MC's talent and takes the MC under his wing. Promises MC the opportunity to become OP and take revenge on the evil family for ordering his kidnapping. Is not an outright antagonist at this point, and it is Villain? C's aegis that gives the MC status and resources while ensuring that a stronger member of the older generation doesn't just come and squish him.

Villain D: High ranking member of nightmare palace and rival of Villain? C. Is antagonistic to MC because MC gained instant fame and standing by taking out a couple high-level redshirts in the same generation as the MC. Since the MC is part of Villain? C's faction, the MC's reputation significantly bolsters Villain? C's


position.

Villain D initially does not even want to kill the MC, and explicitly says so. He simply wants someone in the same generation as the MC (Villain E) to win in a match against him in order to halt the meteoric rise of the MC's reputation. When MC kills Villain E, Villain D reassesses his position and decides to take steps towards employing a lethal measures against the MC instead.

Villain E: Distantly related to the Yang family. Initially doesn't have a personal beef with MC, and was merely asked by Villain D to beat the MC up and hinder the development of the MC's reputation. MC, however, begins engaging in a guerilla war against Yang family, in order to save his own family, and to avenge their attempted assassination plot against him. During a subsequent tournament that was supposed to be non-lethal, MC openly tries to kill Villain E's younger brother as well as every other Yang family contestant he faces. Villain E doesn't really care about the rest of the Yang family all that much, but does care about his brother. So he intervenes in an attempt to stop the MC. He loses to the MC, and the MC tries to kill him. But old servant (mentioned above) interferes and negotiates Villain E's safe passage away from the vicinity of tournament. Villain E and old servant later ambushes MC and tries to kill him because MC killed Villain E's


brother, killed and his strongest soul pets, and tried to kill him. MC survives ambush and kills Villain E.

These aren't all of the villains in the story so far only some of them. But already, it's fairly clear that all of the villains mentioned above have fleshed out motivations and backstories. Moreover, said motivations are significantly different from each other, as are the subsequent actions each villain undertakes against the MC.

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4) The story flows pretty smoothly. Pretty much smooth sailing for the MC who seems to be married to lady luck he always finds the most interesting soul pets and wins all battles.

Partially true, but misleading. When you look deeper into the facts, the conclusion one tends to arrive at is quite different than the one Ladyblue arrives at.

The story indeed flows smoothly, but I find that a positive trait rather than a negative one. The author doesn't spend an unnecessary number of chapters on each battle like most xuanhuans do. Consequently, the story overall has a lower percentage of repetitive bullsh*t (or peanut gallery commentary) about how OP the MC is being during said battles, as compared to other xuanhuan, wuxia, and xianxia novels.

It is true that every one of the MC's pets is a stronger, rare variant of their species. However that isn't to say that merely they're one-sidedly OP. For example, his most recent acquisition is a bug-beast hybrid that has abnormally high self-regenerative capabilities. However, its attack power is sh*t (well below the norm for his species) and so it must rely on its tenacity and willingness to take copious amounts of pain and punishment to win through. It needs to be switched out when facing stronger opponents. Many of the MC's other pets also need to be switch out when facing opponents that are super-effective attribute-wise against them

What is not true is idea that the MC wins every battle. He has, in the past retreated and/or avoided combat specifically because he knew he couldn't win. He has also employed environmental hazards against opponents that would otherwise have curb-stomped the MC. For example, luring enemies into the territory of a very strong soul best, who itself can also curb-stomp the MC. It isn't just "smooth sailing" and non-stop OP steamrolls as Ladyblue claims.

This story is NOT like the vast majority of xianxia, wuxia, and xuanhuan novels. It does have certain elements in common. But it also removes and improves upon many of the undesirable characteristics of the genre, while providing a fairly compelling story. If you're on the fence, I urge you to disbelieve the claims that this novel is overrated and give it a shot. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
The Desolate Era
January 20, 2017
Status: v17c1
I'd give it a 2.8/5

It's not the worst xianxia read. The action is alright and the plot progression is decent.

However it suffers from shallow interactions and 2 dimensional characters -- main characters included. No one really feels or acts like real people. Their motivations tend to be shallow, unrealistic, or non-existent. My guess is that the author only has average or below average emotional intelligence so he's not able to flesh the characters out well.

Also, the author's sense of scale is ridiculous, and the world building is unreasonably... more>> shallow. It's like the author thinks "bigger means more awesome so i'll just keeping throwing in larger numbers"... like a child who doesn't realize that size and scale doesn't work that way. An normal sized ant can lift 21x his own body weight. A human sized ant wouldn't event be able to lift itself.

For Example:
Spoiler

He has people using bows to shoot hundreds or thousands of kilometers... WITHOUT propelling the arrow with their cultivation energy/qi/mana/divine sense. In fact, the protagonist's first archery instructor is an archery "genius" who focused on archery specifically because his cultivation was crippled. Like WTF? Even the world famus english longbow only has an effective range of 100-200 yards. Any bow capable or generating the force to launch an arrow that far would be larger than a person.

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As another example:
Spoiler

This world has COUNTRIES with a surface areas LARGER THAN ALL OF EARTH. Dude... for one, the gravity of such a land mass would literally kill humans. And it can't be saved with "well they're cultivators" because most humans in this world aren't cultivators. These people would need to be an alien race and would need to be shaped far different than us to survive there. Furthermore, There's no way to govern a territory like that, espcially with communication and information technology vastly inferior to earth. Cultivation doesn't help with state governance. And furthermore, in a territory that large there's no way that social cultures would be anywhere near as homogenous as in the novel. Look at how many cultures exist on earth.. and you'd realize how ridiculous it is to have a homogenous culture across a low-tech territory larger than earth.

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I've actually stopped reading now because the scale has gotten so ridiculous, the most recent arc I've read has him literally fighting space battles against an insectoid enemy whose 3 queens are nearly planet sized. And no he's not in a space ship or wearing space armor or anything. It's just him. It's gotten so stupid... <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
Gate of Revelation
February 19, 2017
Status: c276
Highly Recommended. The premise is fairly unique. It's not like a VR/game world, although there are game-like elements. The characters are well-rounded and the author appears to be very well read on a diverse array of subjects. This results in a fairly rich world building as well as an excellent level of depth and detail when it comes to environments, scenarios, and character interactions. The story is fairly thought-provoking by webnovels standards and the arcs are never repetitive or formulaic. The MC is not op, but is intelligent, capable, and... more>> likable. He also undergoes character development over the course of the novel. Moreover, unlike the vast majority of Chinese webnovels, there is also number of fairly fleshed out supporting characters. There are even a couple minor characters (with greatcharacterization) that you get to see more than once. Overall, I seriously recommend this novel. It is highly underrated. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
Arena
January 20, 2017
Status: c67
Some Reviews have compared Arena to Gantz. That's only true on a superficial level. The protagonist is selected to participate in a series of "examinations" in a parallel dimensions after he dies. There's a point based item/skill acquisition system where the points you get depend on your performance in a mission. Characters return to the normal world between missions. That's about all there is in terms of similarity. IMO Arena is even better than Gantz

Difference 1: Unlike gantz, there isn't gratuitous violence or s*x. There is violence and it can... more>> be graphic. But it's not a full-throttle sadistic gore fest. Rather, it's realistic and potentially brutal -- which means it's far less psychologically exhausting to take in large doses. Major characters do die and it's made all the more impactful by the next point of difference. There is also s*x, but it's realistically motivated and mature rather than exploitative. Difference 2: The characters, world building, and character interactions are thoughtful and well-rounded. I it's better than in than Gantz and way way way better than the standard for web and light novels. All of the characters are 3 dimensional. The author actually takes time to describe settings and people. Motivations are realistic. The main character has depth and an actual (likable) personality. He's also genuinely intelligent. This isn't like other web/light novels where the author merely tells us "the MC is intelligent" and makes other characters act stupidly so that the MC can stand out. Most importantly he UNDERGOES CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT (hallelujah!). Government, other institutions, and non-examinees in the real world behave in a realistic fashion as well with regard to the existence of the 'Arena'.

Difference 3: This is not a sadistic "death game". The mysterious power responsible for sending the examinees to the exams have a mysterious goal and are offering the examineese a second lease on life in exchange for undertaking significant personal risk in helping them achieve it. The 'exams' are NOT meant to torment or weed out the participants, but are rather missions that will somehow further the divine beings' overall (mysterious) goal. As of chapter 67, it seems as if whatever higher being (s) is/are running the exams is/are either benign or outright benevolent.
Spoiler

The most recent test involves zero combat and zero death. The MC comments on how peaceful it was and than that the examiners were probably compensating him for his suffering from the previous exam

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Difference 4: The 'Arena' where the exams happen is in an alternate, medieval fantasy parallel universe. It's not a an arena like a coliseum or anything. The examinees are gated into this alternate world and an "exam" is basically a quest with a time limit. It isn't like in gantz where the participants were basically anti-alien pest control being telported to different places on earth to kill alien refugees/infiltrators/invaders. In arena, a mission can last days or months in the other world. The objective of each mission is related to prior (and probably future) missions and tend to be more than just "kill x monsters in area y." When they return to earth, it is 11am still the morning after they left.

Overall, Arena is definitely worth a read. I highly recommend it. <<less
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newbage
newbage rated it
Altina the Sword Princess
February 13, 2017
Status: v3c2
The plot and the characters are fairly well-rounded and believable if not 100% realistic to medieval warfare. The main cast is likable. I particularly like the MC, who actually uses strategy and intellect. The author seems capable of designing appropriately complex scenarios with which to challenge the cast. This isn't a case where we're simply told that the MC is smart, and other characters are made unrealistically dumb in order to make the MC seem so by way of contrast. The author actually shows the MC's prowess through the MC's... more>> actions and interactions with the storyline's competent antagonistic forces, both animate and inanimate. <<less
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