Last year I wrote a micro review for a different serial a day for 31 days straight. I focused my attention on my first impression of each serial that I reviewed. “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,” I wrote. Well, what happens when you get past that very superficial first glance?
One of those reviews was for a serial called Fantasia, a lighthearted and comical LitRPG that is posted (and still updated) on Royal Road Legends. I came back to it and gave it a second chance, this is what I learned.
My first impression:
A full count of what I thought of Fantasia can be read here, but I will provide a short recap. I thought Fantasia was very charming and the high ratings on the splash page did much for my positive expectations. I also thought that there was a lot about it that was unprofessional (more on that in a moment) but at the end of the day, most of my thoughts and feelings about it were positive.
I disliked the “If you don’t like this then don’t read it” blurb (I found it overly combative) and I thought that including a web address while I was reading on a browser to be a misstep. I immediately checked to see if it was a real webpage. This did not go well with one of Fantasia’s fans.
What I think now:
Well, I did a guest chapter for Fantasia if that tells you anything! Fantasia is one of the few webfictions that I did my challenge on that I actually went back to and completed to read. Each character is charming and the relationships they have to each other is believable and compelling. Fantasia is pure escapism at its very best, and the lighthearted humor in it is genuinely enjoyable.
The world that Fantasia takes place in is also very well thought out. Unice5656 is very consistent with her world building which does much to suspend the reader’s disbelief and to move the reader forward in an environment that is interesting and believable. Unice5656 is an adept and competent writer with a natural knack for storytelling. She knows exactly what her audience wants and expects, and does well to provide just enough of that while also creating enough adversity to keep the plot compelling.
Further, a lot of the “missteps” that I perceived then are actually a part of specific strategies employed by the author. I did not know this then. To be perfectly honest, I was totally ignorant of sites like Royal Road Legends and Wattpad, despite the fact that I write webfiction myself. None of my fiction reading was done on the internet then. If I couldn’t get it on my shelf or on my e-reader as an ebook, I did not read it. So, when I came in to critique Fantasia I came at it with those expectations.
Royal Road Legends is not just a reading platform, it is a community. It has its own meta genres and reader expectations. Comming at Fantasia like it was a book was a mistake. It’s not. It is its own thing. It is a webfiction. I should have known the difference.
The combative tone in the blurb? That is a strategy to turn away readers who might otherwise dislike and cause negative reviews out of spite. The constant and specific mentions of in-game stats? That is part of the appeal. I thought that this broke up reader flow, but as a LitRPG the audience is there just as much for the game world as they are the characters. Specific details like character creation, stats, and NPC levels are as crucial to the genre as a love story is in a Romance novel.
I treated it like it was a fantasy novel off the shelf in my local bookstore. This, I belive, was a fair assumption, but it was an ignorant one.
One of my favorite discoveries in coming back to the serial is its community. Unice5656 has done a great job in fostering and interacting with a positive and welcoming fanbase. They are involved in the characters’ lives, they root for them and have theories about their potential love lives, and I came across very few toxic or negative people. Hell, even the angry fan that could not possibly see how I could be curious about a web address (on the internet) was not that bad. There was no cursing me out, there were no death threats, there was no racism. THIS IS SUPER RARE ON THE INTERNET! The best way to evaluate a community’s health for me is to look at its worst person, and that person was only slightly passive aggressive, that is no sin. It was as refreshing for me to read something as lighthearted as Fantasia as it was to learn about a community that is so passionate and positive.
The final verdict:
I originally did my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge to highlight something that I thought was gravely needed in the serial and webfiction community: a need for a strong and lasting impression on readers at a first glance. Yes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but people do, and it is usually the cover and a strong and compelling blurb that is the deciding factor in whether or not a book is bought and read. In the publishing world, this has become a science and one that if it is not employed well usually adds up to disaster and apathy for your book. It was my intention to highlight this to the webfiction community to better help them construct web pages and first chapters, what I still believe is the webfiction’s equivalent to a good cover and blurb.
This is not a good way to review a story, however, and is admittedly superficial. Frankly, most of the webserials that I reviewed deserved more than that, including and especially Fantasia. I gave Fantasia a second chance because, despite my ignorance of Royal Road Legends’ subculture, it left a mostly positive feeling in my mind. I am glad that I gave it a deeper look, and I think that many people who enjoy fantasy, anime, and video games will find it to be enjoyable and charming. Fantasia is a good read. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.