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tallrice
tallrice rated it
The Amber Sword
February 16, 2017
Status: v4c76
This is a really great novel, I highly recommend it!

Warning: Action scenes can drag

My main issue with the series is that a lot of the action scenes drag way too much and they often stop making sense at some point.

... more>> The author writes in arcs, usually centred around some big battle or prize

Warning 2: Deus ex machina random OP power ups

Another reason for facepalm moments in this series is the random power ups the MC gets. They are often totally unnecessary, and curve balls that have little to do with anything that was mentioned before. For example:
Spoiler

a) M*gic the gathering: One of his abilities is from the card game system of OP magic that nobody else has any clue exists and yet where cards appear all over the place in people's pocket's and out of thin air. I think it's a great concept... for a novel that actually focuses on that. As a system of magic, it just has no relation to the setting, other characters or the mythology (yeah, he tries to create deep hidden conspiracy theory type explanations, but it's pretty lame).

My biggest issue of all is that he could have done everything the cards do without the card system.

b) Ring of the ancients: so yeah, it's great you got an heirloom from your grandfather, it's great it gives you a magic spell, some stats and I'm even fine with it having a backstory and ancient spirits with sword skillz. Why did the author have to make it materialise an ancient spirit that wasn't even supposed to be in the item...? If you're going to make an OP item for your MC, don't make it more OP than it would normally be just to make your readers facepalm please.

c) Lionheart sword evolves into Gigasword: Again, he puts a neat backstory to an item, makes a nice scene where he gets the approval of some ancient king who wielded it... then a few chapters later decides it wasn't good enough, so he says it's only 1/4 of the sword that was actually an even better sword that belonged to an even more ancient king. Now he'll be 10 times more powerful!

Why?

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Warning 3: Harem

So, to be honest, it's not so bad, as far as harems go. There are actual cool male characters in the series in all the arcs and most of the girls are quite well developed and aren't all kya kya, but smart heroic characters. It's still a harem series with a lot of the usual issues of harem series:
a) girl characters appear randomly even though it doesn't really fit the plot,
b) lots of 3rd person pov chapters of how a girl comes to terms with how she's in love (I mean, it's not as if they're terribly written compared to some other harem series, but it is a bit repetitive and boring)
c) a lot of the usual social tensions and frictions that make a gritty fantasy so good don't happen because everyone loves our MC or is an outsider to his inner circle.

This last one means you basically have your typical villains or groupies, not much in between.

Warning 4: Reincarnation/game system issues

There's a lot that doesn't make sense in the main premise of the story. The author sets up a couple premises such as "this was a game world", "this is not a game world after reincarnation", "

Tactics

One thing I really like is the tactical and use of skill (... sometimes...) to win the action sequences. Despite a lot of stupid OP moments, there's actually quite a bit of good description of how the MC overcomes odds stacked against him through tactics, positioning, command decisions, etc.

Worldbuilding

The world and its lore is quite good once you get into it. It can be a bit boring early on when the author just gives you blocks of text with names and names in them that he doesn't elaborate (he likes doing that...), but he does eventually get to explaining places and different kingdoms and races, their magics, etc. There's quite a bit of depth and originality in the Amber Sword, and the author manages to weave a lot of it into his story quite effectively.

MC's character building

Brendal's character building within Sufei is quite interesting, if not very common. I particularly the grandfather who appears every so often.

One thing the author does very well is describe the mystery around Brendal in other characters' POV. I love how the author uses particular regions and lore to support who characters thing Brendal might be, giving quite a complex and interesting mosaic of different perspectives. Brendal himself is quite mysterious and often makes excuses such as "oh, I know about that because I learned from the mages in the black tower" or some such.

Spoiler

Some of these images include his disguises: a highland knight and then later on as a Viscount from the South of Ailuin, his NPC identity as related to his grandfather, some of the other misunderstandings are even more interesting: as a dragon when the dragon loli helps him out with Makalov, him being a sun knight when he uses charge or the misunderstandings as him being the Dragon of Darkness by the witch and later undeads.

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Freya

I'm hoping Freya will be developed even further. At this point in the story, she branched off from our MC for a while and has a few nice side stories. She's pretty interesting as a character and where she might go, as well as the Princess. At this point though, they don't have too much screen time, unfortunately.

Anyway, I very much recommend. There are some parts where it's a chore to read, but try to skim over and get to the next good part! <<less
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
The Nine Cauldrons
August 18, 2016
Status: Completed
Spoiler

I quite enjoyed nine cauldrons. I was not able to get into other of IET's novels, but I should try again, perhaps.

The story itself is quite generic, so I can't give a stunning review in terms of a gripping plot or deep personalities or even original setting. It suffers of a common xianxia fault, which is a kind divorce of the MC from the world. The first arc (about 200 chapters) sticks to his hometown and local forces, but ever since the Da Yan Mountain arc, or even before that with the short arc on the fire fruit, the author starts going on these quests around the world, and there is neither proper description of his trials and daily life, or the sights he sees, nor is there a social context - enemies and allies, objectives to accomplish. So it grows harder and harder to turn the pages.

He does go back to his hometown, but it feels like the author lots touch with it a bit. He is so focused on getting to the point, setting up his Xing Yi Men and showing that he lives happily ever after (with a few intense battle sequences here and there) that he just resorts to time skips (both big and small) and informing the reader of stuff the MC apparently did that prepared him for stuff, but that the author was too lazy to write about. The biggest regret I have here is that his children become really shallow characters. They both seem lovely and interesting, but there's just not enough time given to them, the author was impatient by the end.

That being said, his cultivation system is good. I like that the MC focuses on his spear technique, and develops his own moves, slowly throughout the story. The author later in the novel reveals a lot about the 2 predominant schools and sets the MC on course to create another, and I quite like how he describes the process and the differences between these 3 daos.

I also quite like certain impressions the author here and there leaves on me. Sometimes this is a quick description of the weather to set the mood, sometimes the way he describes the MC's insight into a technique, sometimes in the unexpected decision one of his character's arrives at, or the introduction of music or art or other details that add to some of his arcs and ambiences.

I also enjoyed the romance.

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Spoiler

The MC actually fails at protecting his first love in the new world. This is significant in Chinese literature considering most just end up with a girl and remain faithful for evermore. There was room here for the author to explore some other emotions, like the regrets and will to avenge, as well as the happier side of getting together with another girl. The plot with Li Jun is slightly insipid though. Our MC is so concerned about his previous life's lover that he denies he has any feelings for her for too long. Fortunately, he changes his mind and they have a sweet, if not all that exciting, marriage and family life. I do quite enjoy the scenes with his family when he returns to Jiang Ning Jun.

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Be it the close parallels between names of historical characters and the geography with actual Chinese history, the close resemblance of the cultivation style with other xianxias, there is a lot of standard xianxia fare. But the execution is smooth and overall, this has been quite enjoyable.
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
Black Iron’s Glory
April 5, 2019
Status: c100
Can't believe this novel only has an overall rating of 3.9. It's amazing.

The realism, the characters, the slow development into an epic fantasy plot, it's all there.

Not only is the original good, the translation is also top quality.

It does indeed have a ponderous writing style, and the author takes his time to go over the daily life and details of life in a fishing village in medieval fantasy place.

It really picks up, however, after around chapter 90, when the MC meets the alchemist noble lady.
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
Jujutsushi Wa Yuusha Ni Narenai
September 18, 2018
Status: c56
Okay, where to start.

I don't really recommend reading this one unless you like semi-realistic scenes breaking down into anime-esque chaos.

It's complicated though:

... more>> The first 30 chapters are a grind

Chapters 30-55 are actually really good

Chapter 55-56 start down the Author's yandere obsession and break down the realism considerably

I did give this 3 stars, originally, mainly because of the weak writing style (lots of gags that break the 4th wall and destroy the atmosphere)

I have now further demoted it to a 2 star rating because of the yandere insistence, particularly since it was used as a shock factor without foreshadowing. Just breaks the characters and logic.

Setting up hard mode

The first 30 chapters were setting the scene and were hard to read through.

They set a very bleak scene but fairly good characterisation. The author both shows that there are certain handsome, smart idol boys in the class, while not making the MC come off as a total creep or anything either. The MC tries to help his classmate, has some friends, he isn't bad at studies, he's not considered ugly either. He's just very average and has low self-esteem.

The early chapters are about how the MC discovers his abilities, copes with dangerous situations, foreshadowing the tactical intelligence that the MC displays throughout. The author is careful to show this intelligence, not just say it, which already puts this novel above quite a few others.

The great heroine

The most depressing thing is that I liked Futaba. She really breaks the mold and she's no average Japanese light novel heroine.

She's also another reason why the first 30 chapters are a grind.

Futaba is the fat girl in the class. She's not hero material, she's a crybaby. Anyway, you'll see all that play out, but she develops, which is part of why chapters 30-55 are so good. She actually becomes a strong character, there's a bit of before-after appearance magic going on and she seems to have an interesting slightly bipolar but still honest personality.

Then the author takes it another step and turns her into a yandere violence queen. That in itself doesn't break character, it was her blatant and sudden ignorance of social norms, such as 'beating people to a pulp totally won't be a problem to our party' that seems odd and unaccounted for and is the reason all her inhibitions suddenly disappear.

Magic system

Another strength of this novel is the magic system.

Of course, it follows the standard Japanese light novel RPG template. The author is not trying to create a new magic system. His commentary is more on the grit and unfairness of what happens to the MC, not about trying to be original in worldmaking.

Anyway, what does count as a plus is how he distributes the skills, his MC's 'class' as the curse mage, and how he develops curse magic.

All his curses so far have been creative, and have various uses that the MC puts together to stay in the fight. He also gets one of the more interesting 'gods' to explore as well.

I'm not sure if I'd say it's a plus or minus that the skills all seem to be the type that scale really well. I have a feeling that by chapter 100 or 150, the MC will be typically OP, but I'll hold out some hope for the author who has managed power levels well so far.

The hero

There are also a number of scenes from the 'hero's' perspective. These are another grind to read through, but again, not badly done. They are both the contrast to our MC's plight, there to nag at the reader's sense of injustice and to be a satire on other Japanese light novels that we all know and hate- err love, as well as a foreshadowing (or so I expect, since I haven't read that far) of the reversal of fortunes later on.

And the writing style...

With a plot driven so much by its characters, heavy moments of betrayal and tragedy, monster-dungeon atmosphere and action, the slapstick comments that break the fourth wall, constantly - like every couple paragraphs constantly - are exasperating.

Of course, when it turned out going down the anime trope path, perhaps it was not so out of keeping with the plot.

Unfortunately, I can't see the ultra realism and bleak early chapters as being popular with the same people who would like the heavily anime fandom catering series it develops into later, and none of the story really went well with a gag filled writing style.

I might continue reading, so I'll update if I change my perspective on anything. <<less
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
Superstars of Tomorrow
January 6, 2018
Status: c226
I was not expecting much from this when I started. I mean, what do apocalypse and monsters have to do with being a composer...? And then all this digital idol stuff... I came here after reading god of music and top management, I'm looking for more human drama, right?

*Update as of chapter 93: The new arc is really boring... downgrading to a 3 star. It doesn't make any sense either. All about the dog and shepherding and the music just got left by the wayside for a while. Hope it... more>> gets better again....

Concept

... despite that, I gave it a try, and colour me impressed! The author is witty and, more importantly, creative. He comes up with really interesting situations that you aren't expecting and then delivers with a badass MC exceeding people's expectations model.

Spoiler

For example, he gets a bit wacky with his song ideas, the hehe or the tree with the epic music. Some of it comes off as a bit forced and strictly speaking, I prefer the delivery of the more vanilla top management or god of music. Still, this is definitely more creative in some ways and the writing style of the author keeps the series grounded and not too unbelievable. Another spark of creativity is the pressure through praise tactics of his competitors, which I quite enjoyed.

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Characters

Also important to me, the MC doesn't have 'cheat' abilities. This is a reincarnation type series, but no added superpowers (as of where I am, though I'm wondering where curly hair is going to go)

And talking about curly hair, I really like the supporting cast. Not only are many of the singers male, which is a nice reprieve from the plastic, somewhat harem nature of the korean equivalents, but Superstars of Tomorrow also has some interesting characters from older generations and social classes who I am finding quite real and a cute dog.

Setting

The setting is fresh, if not unique, mixing together sci-fi and corporate culture with a few chinese social details.

One of the reasons I give this 4 stars instead of 5 though is that I'm still not sure about the use of the setting. Even if this apocalypse happened, it's weird that it's so popular in media.

There are also some weird time related inconsistencies seeing that 500 years went by, but the author treats it like 100 years (even considering the changed lifespans).

I have some other quibbles with the setting. The author seems to have not thought of a number of things, one major one being AI. The sci-fi setting is fun, but somewhat lacking in depth.

Humour

One of the great things about this series is the comedy. Tons of hilarious moments in here while avoiding any slapstick. For the English version, this is partly because of the skill of the translators who managed to translate the humour, which leads me to...

Writing style/translation

The writing style is good and I'm particularly impressed by the translator or proofreader at Qidian International who has not only delivered good grammar but also somehow managed to get some witty wordplay in there from time to time.

The use of the right word at the right time can really make or break a scene and Qidian is doing a good job in the English version. I'm not sure if this is the translator finding just the right ways to capture the ideas in English, or the proofreader's creativity to bring the most out of the English, but either way, great job!

On top of that quality, release rate is fast.

Have to mention the $ figures though... either there was lots of inflation or there's some kind of exchange rate that's not being applied. All the amounts seem like they would work if divided by 10. <<less
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
Emperor of Solo Play
June 18, 2017
Status: c135
There's something different about Emperor of Solo Play that makes it quite exciting. The story has so many tropes common you can find in many a similar novel: a reincarnation premise, a VRMMO setting, poor player living in a hard society, the necromancer, game filming and video reactions, the solo player - but the author puts them together pretty well to create his OP strength necromancer.

Not only that, but he has a fast paced writing style that rarely gets distracted from his plot.

There are a lot of OP characters in... more>> this genre, but this one has some thought put into it. Can't say that the full strength necromancer is realistic, but it's just believable enough and carried out well enough that it's an amusing read and I applaud the author for his daring concept. Just to put this in context, I've read tons of novels where the MC is OP because they picked an 'unpopular' class... I find those premises so stupid because, no, archers or priests or thieves, etc, etc are never going to be unpopular in a fantasy genre. Maybe the vast majority of players just follow the herd, but top level players do research, they find the math and determine which ways to min/max their characters - you'll never become an OP/better than everyone else player by picking a class. But using an AI differently? Choosing a completely abnormal stat with a class? These are interesting concepts to do a novel in this genre.

If you just want a necromancer or black magician story, go read awaken online, seoul station's necromancer, king of the battlefield, warlock of the magus world, don't fear the reaper - there are tons.

Most importantly though, this story is well written. Like Tidal Moon and God of Music, much of the excitement is driven by third party views of comments on videos and other players reactions to the MC, which is a technique I quite enjoy. The world building is also pretty decent, giving a solid VRMMO world and immersing the reader in some nice dungeons and quests. <<less
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
God of Cooking
May 27, 2017
Status: c154
Top chef+reincarnation+tender romance...? It works wonderfully.

Plot

There are many things that make this plot great, but the best ones are the maturity of the cooking and the international context. It's a pretty damn good job on showing cities, lifestyles, ethnic differences, separation from home and food... ah, the food.

The plot advances through public appeal. If you're not sure what I mean, than think of Emperor of Solo Play or Tidal Moon and their youtube videos and forum comments. (If you haven't read them but like that aspect of God of Cooking,... more>> they might be a good suggestion for you).

Although this works a lot like other cooking anime and manga (think Shokugeki no Souma or Yakitate Japan), I rate this higher than I would those for its maturity. It's more like Nobunaga no Chef if anything (manga, not drama), in it's level of maturity in presenting good foods and reasonable reactions instead of literally blowing people's pants off.

Characters

Jo Minjoon. We have an MC who has struggled to find his dream, his frustrations from following another path, his maturity as someone who taught and made decisions for himself. But what I like most, is his family backdrop. His parents and sister are done beautifully. Wish they and other koreans played a more major role as secondary characters.

My main issue in characterisation is with Kaya, who is described again and again as a hothead, angry rude girl, but never actually seems to reflect that enough. In fact, there is altogether too little conflict between characters, which would have added some nice counterpoint to the tender camaraderie and romance.

Romance

Funny, you'd think a cooking novel didn't have one of the best romantic plots I've read. It's really well paced, the whole thing spins out with heart-warming scenes and humorous reactions from third parties that make it touching and exciting. Not to mention the love triangle.

Unfortunately, few secondary character romantic sub-plots to give as a contrast, so it feels a little cloying. The one that shows up in the second arc is very welcome.

Cheat OP MC

This is usually a bad thing in most novels. To be honest, to make this a 5, it would have needed to avoid it.

That being said, it's not badly done for a cheat. Minjoon makes a real effort, he questions his power, he grows beside it. And those small glimpses of deus ex machina kickass are exciting scenes.

Ingredients

This is another criticism. Although it makes sense in the cooking competition arc, not going further into ingredient quality in the second arc was surprising for me. It would have been an essential to really explore food outside of restaurants and what the restaurants actually does.

The reason this is lacking for me is because the series becomes too overshadowed by celebrity cooking influences, instead of really developing the nature of cooking, which would have complemented Minjoon's ability really well.

Spoiler

For those who have read the series, I do like Rachel Rose and Alan's kitchen etc, but cooking, as well as Minjoon's ability to sense quality and freshness, really start from putting together tastes based on produce. Developing that would have really given Minjoon's creative evolution real legs to stand on and broadened both his and the readers horizons much more than focusing solely on celebrity chef world. I don't think they're mutually exclusive.

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Highly recommended!

It's really close to a 5 on my scale, but for the issues I mentioned above, as well as translation quality, or, to be more precise, proofreading quality: the translation itself is decent, but the proofreading polish is really lacking. Just in case anyone is confused "roamed" = lingered. <<less
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tallrice
tallrice rated it
Isekai Mahou wa Okureteru! (WN)
December 20, 2016
Status: c77
Quite enjoyed this. The MC bringing knowledge of magic from an alternate modernity is a really neat concept and the author pulls it off pretty well.

Recommendation: Arcane Emperor

I recommend Arcane Emperor on Royal Road for anyone who enjoyed this or this to anyone who enjoyed Arcane Emperor. Similar concept if different execution: mage in from a family of hidden mages in modern Earth society goes to a fantasy world and has ridiculous OP powers.

... more>> Warning 1: His Latin sucks

So yeah, he actually MC Latin in his spells, which is kind of cool for a JP novel, and there's a bit of a HP Lovecraft/ancient occult references going on. Don't get too excited though: his Latin is mumbo jumbo that's half made up and his ancient occult references are not developed much (where I am at any rate, might be later). Don't read this if you're gonna get hung up over his inspired, but clumsily executed magic system.

Warning 2: Moe culture and harem

Like most other JP novels, there's a lot of moe culture in this one. You have a tsundere mage prodigy, a loli love interest (not underage which makes it somewhat better), the cold military state soldier, and all sorts of other archetype harem characters.

Romance

Despite the harems and archetypes though, the author doesn't do a bad job at the romance. The romance isn't falling in love with some vapid character at first sight. Some characters don't even appear like they'll be love interests early on, the relationship with the loli starts with her not in loli form, and develops pretty nicely with some hard decisions and building of trust.

Don't misunderstand - this isn't some great romance, but for a shounen series' romantic subplot in a harem series, this is pretty good. The harem is also very slow to develop, which is makes it a bit less vapid.

Demons

Finally a JP fantasy novel where the demons are actually demons! An evil god actually seems evil as of chapter 77, as her minions mindlessly kill and bully humanity. There have been some hints of succubus in the mix as well, but judging by the curse they left, it's not the "oh, MC, you're so sexy" type succubus. We'll have to see how it is going forward, but so far so evil.

The OP MC

The MC is OP, but the plot isn't totally destroyed as the MC usually tries to hide his powers. A lot of the series is about his reveals, his analysis of the fantasy world's magic system or his running around in the shadows trying to figure out what's going on.

Satire (?)

I'm not quite sure if the author intends too, but the whole sub-plot with the riajuu "Hero" and his harem of princess and childhood friend is a pretty light and satirical side story, poking fun at some of the Hero plot cliches.

Good action packed novel so far. <<less
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