The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day two of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.
Today’s serial is Fantasia and is written by unice5656.
Fantasia is hosted on Royal Road Legends, a web serial hosting site. I think a serial has a lot to benefit design-wise here as honestly Royal Road Legends is one of the more beautifully designed sites I have seen. For a reader not familiar with the platform the initial impressions should be very positive. This means that the author has to work harder to keep a reader’s interest if they are familiar with the platform as all of the serials hosted on there have this cut and paste feel. The author has no control over the design but the author does have control over the serial’s “cover art” located in the upper left corner which in this case I found appealing. The artwork is crisp, looks good in black and white, and is interesting enough that if I found it in a store as a physical book I would likely pick it up out of interest.
The Splash Page:
The link that was provided to me linked to the work’s splash page, a sort of summary and sales pitch to the reader. I got the impression that the story is a more lighthearted take on Ready Player One mixed with Sword Art Online with a promise of being filled to the brim with fantasy references. I was turned off by the last sentence which read: “Oh, and there’s something strange about the NPCs in this game… See if you can figure it out before Fey does. (No, they are not self-aware AIs.)” It seemed too causal and seemed closer to what a friend would say about something they wanted me to watch on Netflix versus an intriguing summary for a book. This could very well be the point though.
This serial does immediately benefit from having an impressively high score in ratings (which is provided by Royal Road Legends). So I found myself swayed by its perceived quality right away.
Before the chapter begins I was met with some author’s notes, some which acted as a sort of disclaimer. The first point read: “Thoughts of the main character are written in italics. Thoughts of the narrator of the story are written in (parentheses). I am aware that the parentheses disrupt the flow of the story somewhat, but I find them amusing. If you don’t like it, don’t read them.” Personally, as someone who reads voraciously I can easily infer what something in italics versus something in parentheses means, and the last sentence seemed oddly combative. I found myself suddenly on the defensive before even beginning the actual chapter.
“Arwyn walked into the electronics store, telling herself, I’m just going to buy a new laptop. Her old one was old, and had finally broken down. She had done her research online, and knew exactly which one she was getting. A quick word to a saleslady, and she had a box with the laptop in hand within two or three minutes. Business done, she couldn’t resist drifting over to the video game section.” –Fantasia, Chapter One.
The hook is not the most urgent, or compelling, but this okay, it is relatable, or at least it is to me. This, at the very least, makes the character immediately sympathetic, which is important.
The author does a good job letting the reader know from the start what the rest of the writing (or at least what the setting) is about. Its light tone is refreshing and the idea of being able to play a game while sleeping is compelling. Mid way through, however, the author mentions a “virtualrealities.com” and, this being the internet, I immediately checked to see if this was a thing. I could not help myself. So I spent some time out of the chapter and got distracted. I’m not sure if I would have gone back if I was not planning on doing a write up. I also found myself skimming towards the end of the chapter as it went into detail of the in-game races the main character could choose from. This was mostly because as a gamer myself I was just familiar with it and moved on.
I thought Fantasia had a lot of missteps. The oddly combative “then don’t read it” statement at the top, coupled with the fact that I literally left the page while I was in the middle, meant that I left feeling very skeptical. The content that I did read, however, was very charming, and I found myself drawn to it despite myself. The author’s voice is pleasantly refreshing and I appreciated the lighter tone of the story (so far). Would I read more of it? Yes, but I’m not sure if a less forgiving reader would. The near perfect rating marks and rave review comments from its readers does have a lot of sway in my decision. This serial looks like it is very beloved, and this could be a prime example of exactly why one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Zoner’s Don’t Feed The Dark, or check out my own serial: