This Used to be About Dungeons: Post Mortem

Post mortems for the longer things I’ve written have become a bit of a tradition for me, and this one is coming hot on the heels of finishing. The body is still warm, which is the best time for a post mortem. Let’s dive right in! I worry that if I say SPOILERS you’ll think that I think you’re an idiot: obviously there will be spoilers. So I’ll refrain from commenting that SERIES SPOILERS FOLLOW. Also I didn’t edit even a little bit, so apologies if there are glaring omissions, awkward sentences, thoughts that trail off into nothing, or other things that I could have easily caught.


Coming off the end of Worth the Candle, I was really in need of something that wasn’t so grim and edgy. I enjoyed writing Worth the Candle, and I’m proud of it, but I didn’t want to write anything like that as a follow up. I tossed the phrase ‘palatte cleanser’ around a lot, and from the get-go, that was what I wanted to achieve. Something light and fluffy, something that wouldn’t require me to get down in the trenches, and something that could be both read and written like a warm cup of tea on a cold day. Two years ago, ‘cozy fantasy’ was less of a defined niche, but ‘slice-of-life’ was definitely the direction that I was aiming. I also quite naturally wanted something that I could be proud of and something that I would enjoy writing.

I think overall I succeeded in all the things I set out to achieve here. TUTBAD is only incompletely cozy, with the dungeons, dragons, and delinquients intruding from time and time, and I think my own approach has been more in the weeds on characters and emotions. It’s hard to tell, because I don’t read a ton of cozy fantasy, and generally just go with my gut as far as what is and isn’t within the ‘vibe’ of this particular work, but most of the comments have been positive about what the story was doing. For most of its run, TUTBAD was ranked in the top 100 of RoyalRoad stories, which I view as “quite successful”. It has yet to be seen how it’ll do on Kindle Unlimited, but I’m hopeful that it’ll have legs. The monetary/commercial side of writing is different from the creative side of writing, but it does have its own importance.

Aside from the vibes, the other big goal was writing characters with distinct voices and outlooks, and I think I’d give myself a B on that. Part of the problem might have been the cast of characters I chose to write, and part might just be my own inclinations. I think especially across the first volume there’s a bit of a return to the median, which is only partially motivated by the characters themselves. It makes sense for Hannah to speak less about scripture as she integrates more with the group … but then I worry that I just got bored with it, or that I was worried the audience was bored with it, or that I didn’t want to put in the effort. I’m really not sure. If it did happen in an unmotivated way, Hannah was probably the worst victim, as I feel Mizuki and Alfric keep a pretty strong voice throughout. Isra and Verity fall a little too close together in terms of both voice and personality, at least later on, which is motivated within the text — they each see something they like in the other and take on some of the other’s traits — but maybe more than was warranted.


TUTBAD will be divided up into approximately five books, the first of which has been edited and will be published in relatively short order. The fifth book, chapter 154-184 plus whatever epilogues are yet to be written, is “extra”. I’ll try to cover each of them in turn.

The first book is very heavily slice of life, and establishes the characters and their relationships with one another. Early on, I got a lot of comments that are a bit hard to remember, but some of it just comes from people reading serially and other bits are the kind of nonsense that I expect from RoyalRoad (no offense). People didn’t like the group dynamics, and one guy with four women, especially with him as the initial viewpoint character, gets read as ‘harem’ and is an instant red flag for some people. If I had to do it again, I would make one of the girls a guy, but the harem accusations didn’t stick around long. The first few chapters are very important, because they’re when people decide whether they’re going to stick around or bail, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been super good at knowing what readers will bring into their understanding of a work.

The first book isn’t plotless, but the plot is going nowhere in a hurry, and I am totally fine with that. TUTBAD liked to stroll along, and one of the promises that I made to myself was that I wasn’t going to ‘skip ahead’ too much. If people had a pleasant brunch together, by god was I going to show it. I’m a happily domestic person most of the time, the kind that enjoys gardening and cooking and hikes through the woods with my family, and I tried to bring as much of that to the page as I could, especially early on. I think for the sort of book it was, or that I was trying to make it be, that was appropriate.

The second book is what I’d call the Lola book, though she does get introduced in the first book. The second book ends with Mizuki descending from the heavens and conking Lola on the head, or at least narratively ends there, with a few chapters after that for wrapping things up. It was a well-liked ending, and I think overall the book had a lot of my personal highlights, like the dungeon escape and the trip to Dondrian. I don’t think that I have all that much more to say about it, except that I enjoyed having Lola as a villain, particularly the paranoia that comes with not knowing what she knows or how many times she’s been through the day.

As for why the book worked well, aside from the slow-burn Lola plot, I think the first book laid the foundation and the second book got to explore a lot of what I was most interested in, both in terms of slice-of-life and who these characters are. When I set out to write a book, there are usually some scenes that I have a lot of interest in writing, images that won’t get out of my head until they’re on the page. A lot of the ones for TUTBAD are in the second book, and while there are always more things that come after, there’s something nice about getting to execute those elements that the book was most made for.

The third book is maybe what I would call Verity’s book, since it more or less ends with the big concert. Verity certainly has the most to do of any of the cast in this book. It’s also the one that I commissioned a song for, which I was really worried would be cringe but actually got what I’d consider to be a great response. This is the book with the bulk of the relationship between Isra and Verity, which comes along with some of Isra’s growth and development that I really adored. There’s also the development of the Marsh and Hannah stuff, which I enjoyed writing quite a bit as well, though as far as I can recall it was a bit less well received.

This was also the book with the Pedder wedding, an undone day for Alfric that’s treated as response to a major disaster, and I can’t remember whether that was on the docket when I first started writing TUTBAD, but it felt like it was. There was lots of good stuff in this book.

(I don’t think I’ve talked about the dungeons at all yet, but they all blend together, and off the top of my head, I don’t think that I could tell you their order or which goes where. Similarly, entad testing is both a personal and fan favorite, but which entads came from which dungeons or the exact order is a mystery to me that could only be resolved by checking my notes or ctrl+F.)

The fourth book had Cate and the demiplane. I won’t necessarily say that it’s a low point for the series, but I do think that some of the ethos of the book as far as how it deals with conflict maybe worked less well. Maybe it would have worked better for Cate to get smacked in the face with a giant spoon or something. I felt that way while writing, and still sort of feel that way now, but the fourth book is yet to be edited, so I don’t know much it might change. When I finished the arc, I was saying to myself ‘a complete rewrite is necessary!’ but now I think I was overreacting a little.

The series, up until that point, had just been about these five people going into dungeons and living their normal young adult lives. Maybe the demiplane was taking it too far, or the disappearances were too much of a genre shift. I’m not sure exactly, but it does feel as though I might have been shaking things up just for the sake of shaking them up. I wish I had some analytics to confirm my suspicion, and I just remembered that RoyalRoad offers them as a premium thing, so maybe I should go spend some cycles and try to see whether my intuition lines up with reality.

At any rate, there’s still a lot that I liked about the book, and I don’t want to get too down on it. It’s got one of the dungeons that I loved the most, the one with the Overguard Maneuver, and within the demiplane, I really liked the Wildlands — but worry that they’re another example of shark jumping, or that they exist only for their own sake. Let’s stop for a moment and talk about that, because I think it’s one of my big takeaways.

Shark Jumping

TVTropes defines shark jumping as the point when a Long Runner enters into a serious decline. That’s not quite how I use the term, and I have to imagine that with as expansive as TVTropes is, they have an actual trope that describes what I mean — but I haven’t had the time or inclination to plumb the depths of the wiki for a long time now, so I’m going to stick with what’s in my brain.

Shark jumping, to me, is the moment when you pull the trigger on something that wasn’t originally part of the manifest. Raymond Chandler said, “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand,” and I think my version of shark jumping is kind of like that — it’s the bad version of that. In any given scenario, when you’re trying to write a story, there are huge dramatic things that you can do that take you away from what you were trying to do. They capture your attention, but in a bad way, like Fonzie jumping the shark. Maybe they can be perfectly fine things on their own, but there’s always a whiff of soap opera about them, a shake-up for shake-up’s sake.

Especially in the back half of the story, I was very worried about doing this. There are certain background details that I could have pulled the trigger on which would have felt, to me, like I was losing faith in the center of the story and striking out toward distant lands, swerving into drama that was only loosely connected and not for this story and these characters. I would think to myself “Cross the Barrier Storms!” and then immediately shake my head. I seriously considered introducing the Editors as more than just background characters, but it felt unclean, unmotivated, the writing of a writer who was bored with their own creation. The worldbuilding is such that a war would be really hard to write, but I definitely did think about what it would look like and whether it would be good for the story. Obviously, I didn’t do these things.

I did other things though. Cate has already been mentioned, and I debate with myself whether she counts, but some of the stuff in the extra innings is a result of me seeing what I could get away with. It’s possible that some of them were a step too far. Mizuki going to wizard school, Verity gaining control of the dungeons, Quinn showing up … I could see the argument that these are the actions of someone who really wanted something to inject fresh and new things into a story that was growing stale.

It’s hard to tell staleness from a lack of personal enthusiasm. I for sure have felt burnt out and disheartened only to write a chapter that people respond to with “loved it, story just keeps delivering!”. The “extra innings” ended at the point where I felt everything was more or less wrapped up, into the state where I wanted them to be, with new things on the horizon and most of the characters in a place where we can imagine them continuing on.

I don’t know if I should admit this, but the final chapter of the extra innings almost wasn’t. I got to the end and wrote something to the effect of ‘But before the law could be signed into effect, other people were pulled from a dungeon, not a single person, but thirty of them. Another bard had learned Verity’s trick: his name was Grig.’ And then I thought about what would follow from that, and felt this overwhelming unenthusiasm about it. I sketched out some chapters, sat there thinking, and just didn’t feel like going on. Why spin up another plot thread that I don’t really want to do? So I spent a fair amount of time rewriting, making sure that everything was wrapped up as neatly as I could wrap it up, though the “extra innings” do have a weaker ending than book four does.

Some of the timing of the extra innings ending has to do with saving both myself and my readers from going to wells that weren’t meant to be drawn from: the Editors, the Barrier Storms, the Ancients, the Spirit Gates, war and calamity, fighting the government, all kinds of things.

Some of it was just fatigue. I had, after all, been writing at least a chapter for these character once a week for two years.


Anyone who follows my blog will probably have guessed that the cast of characters was, in the very early stages, a Five Man Band with a Four Temperament Ensemble. Copied directly from my notes:

Four Temperament Ensemble is driven primarily by two axes. Extraversion and introversion are big, obvious ones, and are also empirically backed. The thinking/feeling axis of MBTI is probably the other one to go with, which would give:

  • Thinking extravert – Hannah, our healer, a sweet girl who’s really enthusiastic about the teachings of her religion, gets excitable about new knowledge and/or theological debate
  • Thinking introvert – Verity, our bard, who stays silent much of the time, but comes alive when she sings
  • Feeling extravert – Mizuki, our sorcerer, whose magic encourages the expression of emotion
  • Feeling introvert – Isra, our ranger/thief, who operates largely on intuition and prefers to be solitary, either by sneaking and scouting, or going off foraging

You’ll note that Alfric isn’t in there, but that’s mostly because he wasn’t supposed to be a part of this typology, instead being more of a shonen protagonist. And obviously characters develop over the course of writing them, which is why there might be some notes there that you’d scratch your head about. This is one of the first things I wrote in the planning doc, before writing character biographies or worldbuilding details or anything else.

One of the other core ideas was one of “Cast Combinatorics”, using the cast of five paired up in different ways to develop their own relationships with each other. I think this is something that I abandoned doing relatively early on, in part because it’s a somewhat contrived way of doing things, but it was still one of the goals, and occasionally I would think to myself ‘which pair of characters haven’t been together much, how do they relate to each other, what does this say about them?’ Part of the problem with a more rigid approach that would cycle through sets is that people don’t behave that way, and will naturally gravitate toward each other by varying degrees.

I still think there are probably some missed beats here, but I don’t think it’s wrong to write what I found most fun to write. Deviating from the plan did create the obvious downstream problem though, which is that it gives certain characters less to do, and wears certain relationships thin too quickly.

Going through them one by one:

Alfric remained a pleasure to write throughout, particularly the nerdy energy, air of competence, and the good work he puts in as the straight man. I could write more Alfric, and a character in the same vein is probably in the cards at some point, though I don’t like to repeat myself too much. I think typically with someone so rigid and rules-oriented, there’s a natural tendency to throw them up against a corrupt system that doesn’t match their ideals, but I tried to resist that as much as I could, partly because ‘soft utopia’ was one of the setting conceits, and having too dysfunctional of a government or organization would ruin that for me, at least a little. It’s still a beat that was hit a few times.

Verity presented a challenge that creative types always present for a writer, which is that their creations must also be presented to the reader. I’m not a songwriter, not even a little bit, and certainly not a poet, but it felt important to put those bits and pieces into the work. That then leaves the question of characters remarking on how good or bad those things are, which is its own can of worms. Writing a song for a character, then having everyone say that the song was great, feels very awkward, but I like the other options (including self-deprecation) less.

Verity as a character I have a soft spot for, though I think I’d make some significant changes to her if I had to do the whole thing over again. Part of the problem is that she’s got this backstory of being a gifted bard who’s run away from Dondrian, and it started to feel too much like that backstory should have been mainstory, or like too much about her was digging into the past. I’m not entirely sure about that though. One of the main challenges with Verity was making sure that her introvert mopiness didn’t bring things down, and it’s possible that her initial reluctance to go into the dungeons drags the plot or weakens the character dynamics a bit too much. When DMing, I have a rule that every member of the adventuring party needs to have some compelling reason to be together, and at least early on, I might have been better off following my own advice.

Mizuki was a fan favorite. Some of that is her high energy and plot-driving, some of it is just that she’s more naturally funny. My main worry with her was that going through any kind of character arc would mean that she might miss the things that make her the most loveable, but I tried my best to thread that needle and have her get less ‘flighty’ while still being spontaneous and with some hints of mischievousness. She gets tempered a bit, and is seen committing to things and following through on them in ways that she didn’t previously. I think the takeaway here is that high energy character are fun to write and help to keep the plot from slowing down too much, even if Mizuki isn’t the main plot driver (and plot isn’t the main focus of this story).

Isra ran into some problems as a character, the biggest one being that I really enjoyed the initial part where she’s a recluse being introduced to the world, but then felt like she didn’t have enough to do as that wound down. If she were in her own novel, that wouldn’t have been a big deal, since the novel would just end, but in a serial work it’s hard to just push a character off to the side. The solution I tried was for a lot of Isra’s beats to be about her continued growth, but I found it less fun and interesting, and think the readership did too. It’s very much the same issue I had with Grak in Worth the Candle. I also think a bit of my problem was that I was too wishy-washy about it: Isra going whole hog in some new direction would have been better than her trying a lot of things and ending up uncertain about how she actually feels. But then, Isra going whole hog on some new thing didn’t feel entirely in character either, so I don’t know.

I kept wanting to do the ‘Isra goes to Tarbin to learn about her father’ arc, and kept putting it off, and it kept feeling less and less necessary, in spite of being the major ‘promised’ thing that never got resolved. Separating her from the party felt like it wouldn’t work, and having them all come along also felt like it wouldn’t work. I have half-convinced myself to just write a short story or a novella with Isra on her own in Tarbin, but I’m not sure I actually feel like writing it.

Hannah was disliked by a lot of people from the start, and I think some of that negativity towards her rubbed off on me. She’s a busybody, her extraversion comes off as throwing her weight around, she’s opinionated in what might not be a fun way … I think the moments where she shone best were when she was caring and compassionate toward others, but I don’t think that was enough. It’s possible that Garos was part of the problem, at least in the long run, and that might be because TUTBAD ran longer than I had expected it to. A god with more complex doctrines might have given Hannah more to work with, but I’m not entirely sure about that.

Hannah also doesn’t get any huge moment through TUTBAD, no book that’s ‘hers’. One of the plots that was always pulling me was her having it out with the church over her relegation to Pucklechurch, but I never felt like I could do that in a way that I would enjoy. I think Hannah reconnecting with the community aspects of the work in her own way, becoming a traveling preacher, is fitting for her, but … I don’t know. This is one of those things that will probably be more clear to me in a year or two. When things don’t feel quite right, I want to drill down into them and figure it out so I can avoid repeating those mistakes in the future. I don’t think Hannah overall was a mistake, but perhaps I should have given her a bit more drive in some direction that would make more plot or scenes happen.


Oh worldbuilding, my beloved. Each new world is an opportunity to play with new ideas, and TUTBAD had its share of them.

I think I should start with chrononautics, which had more screen time and presence than almost anything else. I like the chrononauts, and there are a lot of story beats that I really enjoyed with them:

  • Alfric’s undone “day off”
  • Alfric saving the wedding
  • Alfric worrying that people won’t trust his accounts, concern about power dynamics
  • The party dying in a dungeon and the toll of that on Alfric
  • A flurry of chrononaut activity when big things happen
  • Planning around an enemy who has their own undone days

But with that said, the mere existence of chrononauts places a lot of constraints on the story, and especially as the story went on, those constraints felt more uncomfortable to me. This might also be another problem with the story running on too long, or jumping sharks, but I don’t know for certain. Chrononauts gave the story a sense of safety that I liked, but it got annoying when people would bring up undone days or whatever in chapters where they didn’t feature, and there was a lot of narrative second-guessing that I don’t think was to the story’s benefit.

Some reader (I can’t recall who) said that this was the wrong story for chrononauts, and … maybe? That’s really hard to say, because it would be a completely different story without them. I don’t think I would remove chrononauts if I had to write the whole thing over with a gun pressed against my head, but I can see the argument that they’re somewhat out of place.

Speaking of things that I might have done differently, I think druids came out as they did because I was hot off the heels of Worth the Candle, which had their own druids, and it’s definitely possible that I would have written them with a bit more wonder and mysticism if that hadn’t been the case. I think druidism being how it was contributed to me liking Isra less as the story went along.

There’s a problem with worldbuilding though, which is that things are always fresh and new at the start, and get less fresh and less new as they linger on. I explore the idea, then I’m kind of done with it unless it’s got new tricks to pop out or fresh beats to hit. Again, this is a sign that especially with the extra innings, TUTBAD might have gone on too long for me … or it might be a sign that I didn’t plan for the late endgame quite as much as I thought I did.

There’s a lot of soft litRPG influence in TUTBAD, and nothing much ever comes of it. I don’t know what to say about that, except that’s exactly how I like it. The idea was that maybe in another few centuries, they would have a ‘full’ system of stats and things, but they were a world that wasn’t quite there yet. I don’t know, it appealed to me, and still does, but I’ll admit that this wasn’t the most reader-friendly decision I made with regards to worldbuilding.

I said it above, but I’m glad that I left the world with some mysteries to it.

Oh, and I almost forgot entads! They were in Worth the Candle too, so that’s going on like six years of writing that they’ve been around. The worldbuilding and plotting issues were much less this time, mostly because of the smaller stakes: there wasn’t always this looming question of ‘well why don’t they go buy up the most powerful entads in the world’. Absolutely no regrets about including them a second time around, but a third time … probably not, at least with how I’m feeling right now. No major lessons learned there, just needed to mention it.

Going Long

The initial plan for TUTBAD was for 200,000 words, then depending on how it was going, either cut it there or keep going. Chapter 154, the ‘soft’ ending was at approximately 800,000 words, and it’s looking like with a few epilogues, the total word count will be approximately 1,000,000 words over the course of approximately two years.

Planning for longevity is tough, but for webnovels especially, it’s something to keep in mind. When I was writing character backstories and descriptions, one of the sections was just called ‘hidden depths’. This was partially a place to say ‘here’s what’s past the surface stuff’ and partially a repository for future plot hooks. This was my attempt at planning for the future, of making something that could continue on indefinitely if I was really having fun with it. As efforts go, this wasn’t my most comprehensive, and that’s definitely something that I’m keeping in mind in the future: Thresholder has plans for three ‘books’ and is structured so that more can be added with their own disparate plots, which is a benefit of the format, while Glimwarden was planned out for eight to ten books from the start.

One of the other things I did when I was starting was to make a list of all the things that I thought I might want to write about, chapters that I could imagine working well either on their own or as pieces of larger character beats. I did end up using most of them, and some of the others just never really had a time that felt right. I don’t really feel the need to go into what got cut and why, and really don’t think I’ll be doing any kind of Q&A for this series that might reveal them, but it’s another thing I think is really helpful for the writing process, at least for me.

There’s this thing I do with writing, where scenes kind of live in my head for a long time until they get executed, at which point I don’t really think about them anymore. This really helps to write those scenes well, and they tend to be important scenes, though not always … but the problem is that only so many scenes can live in my head at once. I think part of what I need to do in order to write for longevity is to put skeletal versions of scenes into a doc somewhere so that once one scene is written, another can very quickly take its place and have some time to marinate.

There are some inevitable, unavoidable problems with going long, and I feel like Worth the Candle meditated on them enough that I don’t really feel like repeating them here. But I will, because I’m not strictly writing this for my own benefit.

  1. (This shouldn’t be a numbered list) Stories are about conflicts and end with their resolutions, so a story that goes on forever will have to only incrementally move forward its central conflict, or give up having a central conflict and just have sequential ones.
  2. Most stories are about internal conflicts, and most believable characters only have compelling internal conflicts in relatively short supply, especially since for good writing you don’t want multiple internal conflicts piling up on top of each other. Eventually, you’ve mined everything out. (Alright, brief aside, and I double-checked because I was sure that this was in Worth the Candle: in the first Back to the Future, Marty McFly doesn’t have all that much of a character arc. I think the argument I’d make is that he’s afraid of becoming washed up like his parents, letting his dreams die, and over the course of the movie, works on both his parents and himself. When they wrote the first movie, they weren’t at all thinking about the second movie, and when it came time to write the script, they invented a character flaw that could tie the second and third films together. Marty McFly was, suddenly, a hothead who couldn’t handle being called a coward. This wasn’t something that was present basically at all in the first movie. This is an interesting way of doing things that basically doesn’t work unless the biographical details of your protagonist are loose enough that you can retcon in a new flaw that wasn’t there before (or have that flaw organically arise from a change in circumstances).)
  3. Stories don’t necessarily need to have twists and reveals, but I do think they’re fun, and something that can really help a story to thrive. Unfortunately, twists and reveals can’t come from nowhere, not if you want them to be good, and I think there are some practical limits on how many a given work can have.
  4. Stores don’t necessarily need to have escalation, but like with twists, they really help a story work. Unfortunately, you run into believability problems the higher up you go, and there are also the problems of having more and more people involved. If the world hangs in the balance, there should probably be thousands of people working on the problem. And in the end, escalation can only take you so high, until meta-gods are warring over the universe.

One of the reasons that I was most happy to end TUTBAD more or less where I did was that it felt like it was starting to butt up against all the problems that come with going long. There’s certainly more story left to tell, and arguably some guns left up on the mantle, but I didn’t want to flip over every rock.

Glimwarden is the next thing I’m going to write, and I’m rewriting it now, but also replanning it, taking a look at notes that are nearly a decade old. I’m obviously not going to talk about those plans and what’s changed, but I’m trying to nest and weave the narrative arcs well in advance. That’s not usually how writing serially goes for me, but I guess we’ll see how well I can stay on the tracks I’m designing for myself, and whether this actually does help to make something that is, in the end, stronger.

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This Used to be About Dungeons: Post Mortem

6 thoughts on “This Used to be About Dungeons: Post Mortem

  1. Thanks for writing another great read! Some thoughts as a reader, if you’re interested in them:

    For the plot I think foreshadowing is worth a mention: going from talking about dangers of entad training, to the stone ring, to using it on Lola was delightful. With the Cate arc, it felt like “well dragon-stuff has been foreshadowed enough that it feels like this mysterious woman _has_ to be a dragon or employed by one” and then it more or less had to resolve the way it did or the story would jump genres (e.g. if they actually started a war), so it felt less engaging.

    I felt 154 was a fantastic ending. The extra chapters were fun, but I think because the remaining threads didn’t need much to tie some additions like Pinion felt like they were injected to keep things rolling — Pinion got a lot of screen time without effecting much.

    Personally I think the chrononauts helped with the slice of life feel more than anything else, and having them all bustling whenever something bigger happened was lots of fun to read. It was made clear early on that Alfric wouldn’t be abusing his rewind so I wasn’t thinking about it much except when it featured.

    I’m a big fan of most of the main cast except I’m also guilty of not liking Hannah from early on. For me, having her religion-affiliated with preachy inclinations puts her on rockier shores from the outset since it hits personal baggage (I suspect this is true for lots of people), and that makes it _much_ easier to code her “caring and compassion” bits as often slightly condescending holier-than-thou, and sometimes hypocritical. It felt like she was very confident she was correct in a narrow-minded way that is more common for antagonist or rival-to-friend characters, and she doesn’t seem to get a lot of character growth in that area.

    I’m looking forward to the Gimwarden reboot! I always thought that was a cool setting.

  2. I agree with the other comment about Hannah, I read her as being set up as a sort of antagonist at the beginning, a foil maybe? Somebody who would grate against Alfric’s edges and keep him from getting everyone traumatised by pushing too hard. In another story she might have been the party leader, and she knew that.

    Her epilogue gave me goosegumps at the end and I don’t really know why. Just that the rest of her life could be summed up in one line, and that line was a happy one. It’s good.

    I enjoyed tutbad. I haven’t managed to get into Threshholder at all, but I’m looking forward to your next book!

  3. I loved all your work Wales, and somehow Glimwarden has slipped by me so I’m looking forward to that. Also loving Thresholder, I think the concept is unique and the Perry is just as great and MC as Juniper and Alfric. Sad to see TUTBAD go but also proud you’ve finished another great tale.

  4. Ok, it seems I have to break a lance for Hannah here. She was actually my favourite in terms of being interesting (Isra I liked the most, Mizuki was the most fun). My take is that she is a person that is judgemental by temperament and not super great at empathy, but is also aware of this and is working hard to counteract this. Still, there were a lot of times when her self-awareness fell short, and those were hilarious. To give her credit where it is due, she puts in the full effort. Also, she is a living commendation to the clerical education system on Inter – seminary managed to make her pretty decent at counseling, in spite of what I’d all a dearth of natural talent.

    Also, it’s interesting that her name is symmetrical – as is proper for a Garosian – and also six-lettered, which seems like it might be a religious thing as well, what with the six gods. Lots of characters with six letter names in the party.

    My personal highlights in the book were the bits were Isra (of the four letters – a Tarbin, or rather, not-Inter thing?) getting to know civilisation better. I would love to read that “Isra searching for her roots” novella. I also really enjoyed the “soft utopia” thing going on – I think Alfric being judgemental about its flaws it what sells it, makes it feel real, believable. Like sociological gribbles. To me it’s a major achievment how plausible you made Inter look, something most utopian fiction, at least in my subjective experience, fails to pull of with their settings. I feel like it’s probably the backgroundyness, the absence of a earth-background viewpoint character expositioning, and the fact that it’s just a bit better than here and now, not perfect.

    I also liked the almost-but-not litRPG thing. The bit where Mizuki claimed “elevation is bunk” and Alfric was at a loss at how to counter that cracked me up. The whole hexes thing had vibes like a virtual reality upload MMORPG gone off the rails, reminded me of Walter Jon Williams’ Implied Spaces.

    The demiplane stuff and Verity moping were my least favourite bits, by which I mean I’d rate them A- to maybe B+ instead of straight A, so not too terrible.

  5. I liked Hannah well enough in the beginning – I like how OCD she was about symmetry and how she clashed with the other clerics because they weren’t actually that into it, and I thought she seemed kind and helpful at the beginning, and her relationship with Marsh was sweet enough. Late in the story where she wents to leave the party showed her being quite judgey and unkind as well as going back to a life she had seemed deeply unhappy with so really soured her for me.

    I think Isra trying to learn how to be normal was fun but once she succeeds at it there’s really not much character left for her. Her experience was still interesting but not where she ends up.

    Alfric and Mizuki were great. Verity I was a bit bored with throughout, but she did at least have a lot of plot significance though I didn’t feel it ever got fully resolved.

    I agree with the commentor above that ending things at 154 may have made more sense – I loved the arc with Quinn and Mizuki going to school was fun but these plots got cut off a bit abruptly, and there was a lot of chaff in the later chapters.

    I did actually like the dragon arc better than the Lola one, even though the Lola one was more central to the story, because it just seemed lighter and funner as well as creeping the Verity plotline forward.

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