Saturday, July 31, 2021

Dungeon of the Mad Mage (D&D adventure module) (read for fun)

I wanted to learn how to build dungeons and stock with them encounters. I do not just mean monsters to fight or traps to avoid but a full adventure. So I looked to the professionals of the "world's greatest roleplaying game" and picked up the mega-dungeon known as Undermountain. 

This is a review for "Dungeon of the Mad Mage".

Wow, this module is versatile. The flexibility written into this mega-dungeon is amazing. I was expecting something that was a one-size-fits all sort of thing. You know, something like the modules that Adventure's League DMs run: the players arrive for X reason, and then Y happens. Let the players react and then tell them to do Z. This book isn't written like that at all. In fact, it is so flexible it is less of a pre-written adventure and more like a pre-written setting that includes set-piece events for a DM to use or adapt for their own adventure. 

For instance, the first chapter provides adventure hooks for the party but acknowledges that players can have their own reasons for entering Undermountain. The players aren't locked into a particular quest or storyline. A DM could make up their own reason. This is an easy thing to do. I found myself coming up with several hooks for venturing to particular levels; hooks that didn't have anything to do with the specific adventure suggested but just the setting provided. 

The same chapter has this sidebar listing off possible motivations for Halaster Blackcloak, the Mad Mage himself, to tolerate the adventurers intruding in his lair. There are six in total, and they can change whenever the DM wants without explanation. As the book says, "he is the Mad Mage, after all". So the DM could make up some totally bonkers motivation, and that would be totally legit. If they don't want to include him, then they can leave Halaster in the background. 

The dungeon levels themselves are flexible. Each level map is created with tunnels that lead off the established area. These are marked as "tunnel leads to expanded dungeon".  So the DM can add rooms and events if they want, or they can pretend those tunnels don't exist and treat the area as a solid wall.

 A list of wandering monsters is often provided that the DM can include if they want to shake up an existing room. Even if a player has read this book, they can still be surprised by these wandering creatures, or who may or may not appear. 

Finally, while each level is written with its own storyline, the book acknowledge multiple ways that the players could resolve it, or even ignore it. This is tacit encouragement for the DM to tweak things to fit their own narrative. I see the levels more as "template settings" than hard-coded adventures. Indeed, one doesn't even have to use them for Undermountain.

Each level is designed to work within Undermountain. Of course, it is, because they are included in this book. However, they can take place elsewhere. A little tweaking of lore or re-flavoring of certain factions or items, and any given level can be its own stand-alone adventure. For example, there is no reason why Dweomercore, the school for evil mages, has to be inside Undermountain. It could be some isolated mansion in the woods, or part of an urban city with either a public reputation or secret existence. 

I do not mean that this flexibility is nothing but options. There is a concrete path to walk if you choose to walk it. A DM can run this adventure exactly as it is, no changes necessary, and it would still be a complete adventure. There are storylines, individual events, monster encounters, and treasures of all kinds already provided. 

Each level of the dungeon is supposed to be balanced to the party's level, and there's even a in-universe mechanic to prevent players from going to levels they may not be ready for (if the DM wants to use it). The experience gained from each level will help the party level up and be ready for the next one. As for being balanced treasure-wise, that is something I want to address.

I don't really understand the value of the wealth-per-level thing. It sounds too rigid for storytelling. Why should the same dungeon contain more or less treasure for parties of different levels? It sounds like game-ism for the sake of game-ism. The treasure found in Undermountain makes a great deal of sense with its story.

The majority of the treasure found here is from other people who have set up shop in Undermountain. The bandits, the Drow Houses, the Hobgoblin army, other adventuring parties (living or dead, but mostly dead) etc. are the ones with the treasure. This is because the player's party is not the first to go into Undermountain. Heck, the main entrance to Level One is basically a tourist attraction in the Yawning Portal tavern. Lots of adventurers have gone in and searched for loot. So the book mentions empty treasure chests, already-looted vaults, and other signs of previous adventuring parties. There is STILL treasure to be found, but it is going to be on deeper levels, in better hiding places, etc. I find this a fantastic thematic device.

The artwork and maps and all that stuff look good too. I just don't want to go into detail about it. Rest assured that flipping between the map and the descriptions of the rooms keyed to the map is an easy thing to do. I did just that when I was reading through the book to get a sense for how the level was laid out. 

As a dungeon master, my reaction to reading even the first several levels was, "I want to play through this with someone."

Trickster Eric Novels gives Dungeon of the Mad Mage an A+

Click here for my previous book reviewPendragon's Heir (book 1)

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Pendragon's Heir (book 1) (read for fun)

This is a book I found in the local library. I didn't look for it. It just happened to be on the same shelf as another book that I was deliberately looking for. That's one of the fun things about a local library. You can browse the shelves freely, with nothing but the Dewey Decimal System arranging the books in front of you (no algorithms!). 

Anyway, the premise of this book is a schoolgirl discovering that she has inborn powers of clairvoyance when a terrorist organization tries to kidnap her for them. This leads to a Meele a Tois between said terrorist organization (basically the Illuminati), an international crime-fighting organization known as L.A.N.C.E. , and the private army of robots commanded by superhero Arthur Keep. That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? 

It it, kind of, but the way it is presented removes any feeling of info dump or confusion. The only confusion here is the budding Seer's own confusion. See, Elaine is a first-person narrator, so the reader experiences her confusion at the sudden 180 shift in her peaceful and boring life. The information provided to her (and thus the reader) comes in a steady and easily digestible stream, though she finds it frustratingly slow, which is understandable. Personally, I found it was surprisingly easy to keep track of everything. 

There are a couple things I want to address. They are concerns I had when I started reading this book. 1.) Will Reddington, Elaine's love interest, would be a hot-seductive-dangerous stereotype, and lack anything else of a personality. 2.) Elaine's clairvoyance would never amount to much, and just serve as a macguffin to make people fight over her and keep her involved in the plot; she herself would just be an observer of the plot. 

I have read a book with a similar premise to this: a girl with psychic powers who is involved with secret agent type schemes and whom the villain wants to recruit for her powers. It was one of the worst books I have ever read. Even now, years later, I can remember it clearly, and I use it as the standard for books that deserve an "F" by my grading scale. I am not joking at all. However, with this book, Pendragon's Heir, all of my concerns were unfounded. 

Will Reddington has a full-developed character. He has an existence separate from Elaine. He never tries to seduce her, and has his own character arc unfold alongside hers. He has a purpose in the narrative beyond "being an attractive love interest".  

Also, Elaine develops her powers over the course of the story, thanks to mentoring by a much older and experienced Seer (so she's not a unique special person either). At the start of the story, Elaine's powers are latent. They manifest as images that superimpose themselves over her literal eyesight. By the climax, she learns multiple uses for them, from spying on enemies to combat clairvoyance. Furthermore, all these uses have clear rules and limitations. So the clairvoyance is never used for an I Just Know sort of situation. 

As for being an observer to the plot, defying that idea is part of Elaine's personal conflict throughout the book. All four of her parents (two blood parents and two step-parents), want to keep her away from the fighting, because she is a civilian without training or experience in combat. So she is basically grounded in her father's tower for most of the story and surrounded by his army of robotic knights. She has to endure a good deal of combat training and physical conditioning, bond with her father to develop a level of mutual trust, and execute some covert maneuvers to prevent her caring-but-overprotective father from sidelining her. The climatic chapter is even titled, "Where I refuse to be sidelined no matter what". In other words, Elaine tries very hard to avoid being reduced to an observer. 

Did you notice the phrases "father's tower" and "small army of robotic knights"? Yes, those are literal statements. Elaine's blood father is Arthur Keep, an eccentric gazillionaire inventor who is the world's biggest fan of the King Arthur Mythos. Arthur Keep lives in Keep Tower, which is styled like a medieval European fortified tower (albeit with modern construction and technology) and one of his inventions is a type of combat robot who can either become literal armor for a human or move independently. Also, they are named after the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur's fatherly petname for Elaine is "princess", because that is basically what she is, legal heir to the Keep Incorporated kingdom. 

Aside from that, Arthur Keep is definitely based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Tony Stark. He prefers working in his laboratory to doing anything business-management related, rarely takes anything seriously, is a public superhero in powered armor he invented himself and grabbles with trust issues, except when it comes to his wife, a very professional and business-savy woman to whom he delegates any and all CEO duties, to the point where she IS the CEO of Keep Incorporated. The book was published in 2019, after many MCU movies featuring Iron Man. 

The first chapter is a bit slow and boring, but this is a necessity to show the contrast of her life before and after the initiation event of the plot. It is not a "make the protagonist a lowest common denominator" sort of chapter. It is actually more focused on introducing her budding clairvoyance, which becomes immediately relevant. It also leads to my final point. 

This is a Like Reality Unless Otherwise Noted sort of fiction story. Just because it takes place in a fictional version of America does not mean that it is exactly like the real life version. At no point does Elaine state that clairvoyance itself is fake/impossible/fiction. 

No. Elaine knows that clairvoyance is a real thing. Everyone in her setting, even and including the muggles, know that clairvoyance is a real thing. Superheroes and Fair Folk are real things too. There is no Masquerade at all. It is such a refreshing set up that I have to mention it. 

When I was growing up, every single fantasy book I read that took place in the modern day included a Masquerade. Every fantastical thing had to hide from the non-fantasy humans for some reason, or no reason at all. It was some implied rule of fantasy literature that the modern era had to be exactly the same as real life, with all the fantasy elements partitioned into some hidden area. Mixing them was taboo, both in-universe and out. I think it had to do with some meta-idea of the reader "discovering" the hidden fantasy world as they read the story. 

That is not the case here. When Elaine protests about having clairvoyance, it is because she doesn't believe that she, herself, has the power of clairvoyance. It is common knowledge in her setting that clairvoyance follows bloodlines, so if neither of your parents are clairvoyant then you aren't either. It is a rational idea, and I prefer it to a protagonist who denies a plainly visible truth (i.e. Flat Earth Atheist). 

Aside from all that, it looks good on a technical level. I don't recall much in the way of spelling errors or grammar issues. I give authors more leeway on grammar when they use a first-person narration, because really, how many people think in perfect grammar? 

Trickster Eric Novels gives Pendragon's Heir an A+

Check here for my next book review: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (D&D adventure module

Click here for my previous book reviewAncient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Connecting Things to Connect to Readers -

As a novelist, I write stories. I want to entertain readers with stories they will enjoy. This requires connecting them to the story, and all the elements of the story together. I think I neglected this aspect in Transcending Limitations. I also think it is why The Highest Power is taking so long to finish. 

I recognize the emptiness in the earlier drafts for The Highest Power but I couldn't figure out why they were so empty. I described the image in my head and tried to convey the emotion of what I saw and the energy that I felt so I could share it all with the reader. Yet everything fell flat. I didn't understand where the disconnect was until I realized it was in the book itself. 

I wasn't connecting things in the book itself. I didn't connect the feelings of the characters. I didn't connect events. I didn't connect motives. All the connections were in my head. All I did was present an image of the events through impersonal words. I didn't realize how distant this image was from a reader who lacked my internal connections. 

I could write SEVERAL blog posts about this idea of connections. In fact, if I tried hard enough, I could probably write a whole book about it.  Transcending Limitations was a significant learning experience. 

This post will focus on just one connection, the viewpoint character. You can also call them The Protagonist (which is different from The Hero). 

The viewpoint character is the connection within the connection. The book itself is the connection between the writer and the reader. The book itself, be it a paper book or an ebook or an audio book, links the reader to the writer. However, the connection is not really the book itself, but the story elements inside the book. It is the narration and the action of the characters, particularly the viewpoint character. 

(Related aside -  I'm not sure if this very article is connecting to the reader. It is a different sort of writing than a novel, so my learning experience with novels might not be helping here. After all, there is no viewpoint character, unless of course you consider the viewpoint character to be the one writing the article. Hey, maybe that's the thing.)

The viewpoint character is the connection within the connection. He or she (or "they", I guess) is the means by which the writer connects to the reader. The writer uses them to connect things in the story for the reader. This viewpoint character experiences the events of the story, and feels a certain way about them. They connect the story dots but in a way that is unique to them, which may or may not be accurate. 

The viewpoint characters see the events of the story in a certain way, which is the way that the story connects to them.  They interpret events according to their understanding. The reader sees this (or hears it, whatever) and that is their connection to the story. The energy, emotion and image that I have, that I want to share with the reader, is delivered by this viewpoint character. 

The story is filtered through this character's perspective. The lore that is relevant to the story is presented to the reader from their perspective. This keeps the story focused and coherent. I tried to portray this one scene from everyone's perspective and that was a mess!

The events that are shown in the story are the events that the viewpoint character takes part in, which does not include all the events that happen. Those "off-page" events still need to be made known to the reader, so the reader can understand the whole story, but they must be from the viewpoint character's perspective to maintain a consistent perspective. 

I realize now that this is why I hear so much advise about "relatable" viewpoint characters and "identifying" with viewpoint characters. Being able to relate to or identify with a viewpoint character helps the reader to understand their perspective, which then aids the connection, which then builds up the significance of events and aids the transmission of emotion. It is not necessary, in my opinion, but it is helpful. 

In fact, I think it can be more harmful than helpful, because trying to guess who is going to pick up your book is tricky. Yes, I know about targeted adds and information collecting algorithms, but making presumptions about any given reader is likely to come across as offensive. There are a lot of tropes on Tvtropes that make fun of this tactic, such as This Loser Is You. 

So I think it is better to be authentic. Present the authentic feelings of one character as they are. Allow them to be the author's connection to the reader, whoever the reader is. Doing this enables the reader to get inside the character's mind and experience their viewpoint. That is a connection. The reader can understand the character this way, and thus understand that they are not a flat character, empty of emotions and motives (unless, of course, the goal of the author is an empty audience surrogate). 

I coined a phrase for this -  standing behind their shoulder. Going into detail about that would be another post entirely. 

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

News from my Journey to Chaos! (June 2021)

 Hello Fans and the general Internet,

I felt it was necessary to make a general update on the progress of my upcoming novels. Part of this is because it has been several years since I have published something. Another part is because there is a lot of stuff to cover. The third part is because I have published nothing here, on this blog, except for book reviews for quite some time, and that was annoying me. 

So! Update. 

Number 1

The fifth book of the Journey to Chaos series is currently titled "The Highest Power". I am poised to start the fifth draft soon, probably in July or August at the latest. I basically rewrote the story in the fourth draft. I had to rewrite it three times in order to get a result that I liked. Because I made so many changes, I will most likely get a beta reader after I read through the fifth draft. After I receive feedback, I will start the sixth draft. Assuming that draft goes well, I can go into more technical polishing and then send it to my editor for the pre-publishing process. It may or may not be published this year. You will know when I get close because A.) I will tell you here or somewhere and B.) I'm planning on doing a bigger advertising push than I did for "Transcending Limitations". 

Number 2

What will definitely get published this year is a much shorter work,  a prequel to Journey to Chaos. It is a collection of short stories focusing on Journey to Chaos major characters: Nolien, Tiza, Basilard, Annala and Kallen. What were they up to before Eric arrived on Tariatla? These stories are the answer to that question. 

I have finished the second draft. It is about 50 pages right now. I will have someone beta-read it, and then begin the third draft. After that, assuming all goes well, I can begin the pre-publishing process. Hopefully, it will be enough to tide over Journey to Chaos fans while I finish the final book in that series. 

Number 3

Finally, the first book in my new series. I have not named it yet. Rather, I don't want to reveal the name yet. I think it is a superstitious thing. Anyway, I am working on the second draft (counting from draft zero) right now. If I do not finish this draft sometime in the next month then I will take a break from it to continue working on the final two Journey to Chaos projects. 

This is a more long-term project. After I finish the current draft, I will let it lay fallow for a bit and work on something else. Then, after I finish the third draft (counting from draft zero), I will send it out for beta reading. Somewhere in this process, I will announce what I will call this new series and this book in particular. 

Thank you for your patience. I endeavor to craft stories worthy of it. 

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior (read for enlightenment)

This is a incredible book. It is just what I was looking for. I had searched for a book on Tae Known Do history and philosophy for some time before finding this one. All I had found was stuff about competitions, the World Tae Known Do Association rather than the art itself, and even stuff about the business opportunity involved in opening a dojo. It was depressing. Then I found this book.

This book is about the art itself. It talks about the techniques, and the forms, and the other physical aspects, but only so far as they relate to the mental and spiritual aspects. That is where the art is. The physical nature of Tae Known Do is only a manifestation of the mental and spiritual aspects. It is thanks to this book that I can finally, sincerely, believe that.

I have a black belt in Tae Known Do, 1st degree, which is the lowest ranked black belt. After over a decade of attending classes from two dojos, I had little knowledge of the mental and spiritual aspects. Those aspects were not taught, referenced, or alluded to in the classes that I attended, neither the all-belts version nor the advance version. I did not seek them out, so I didn't notice at first. Over time, however, it began to distress me.

I started to think that the whole point of this practice was for tournaments. Not for belt promotion, self-defense, or personal growth, but for winning medals in tournaments. I was not a competitive guy; wining medals in tournaments was not my goal. I mean no disrespect to anyone who takes pride in tournament competition, or finds meaning and fulfillment in tournament preparation. For me, personally, it wasn't something that inspired me. I wanted to use the physical practice to develop as an individual; competing against oneself, so to speak.

This book helped me to do that. It contains all the stuff that I wished I was taught in the classes. I would have liked to have attended Master Cook's classes, because they sound like the full package of physical, mental and spiritual conditioning. 

1. This book speaks of the history of Tae Known Do: where it came from, who started it, why they practiced it, and how the development of personal virtue merged with the development of fighting ability.

2. This book speaks of the distinction between "martial sport" and "martial art", and how a given dojo might give more weight to one or the other. It advises that a perspective student should examine a particular dojo and evaluate if it is the variety that they want to invest their time and energy (and, of course, their money). The book is respectful to both, though I feel Master Cook gives the impression that too much emphasis on "martial sport" can lead to students missing out on the majority of the art itself.

3. This book speaks of the value of Tae Known Do in every day life, and every day situations that do not include physical fighting. There is a chapter that is bookended with three such situations, where only one of them involves any physical fighting. 

4. This book speaks of the role of a mentor in guiding students through their development as martial artists. In particular, it speaks of instructors who are worthy of being called a "mentor", and those who have no interest in truly teaching anyone, seeking only payment for classes.

5. This book goes into detail about the Tenants of Tae Known Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Preservice, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. I memorized these when I was a kid attending classes, but I didn't understand what they meant at the time (frankly speaking, neither in regards to the martial art or in general). This book explains what they mean in context of the martial art.

It is through Master Cook's book that I gained a deeper appreciation of my art. I was able to recognize, in hindsight, that the dojo  I attended, particularly the second one, were more the "martial sport" sort of dojo. I was never going to find the "martial art" aspect that I was looking for at that second dojo because that was not its focus. That's fine. 

Seriously, it's fine. It was a matter of contrasting expectations. I recall other black belts at the second dojo who excelled at "martial sport". At the time, they took practice and training more seriously than I did, so they were the better martial artists.  I found what I was looking for in this book.

This is not a "how to punch/kick/block" sort of Tae Known Do book. This is book for those who want to know /more/ than how to do all of that. It can teach you the mental and spiritual aspects that underpin the kicking, punching and blocking. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior A+

Click here for my next book review: Pendragon's Heir (book 1)

Click here for my previous book reviewSo I'm a Spider So What - light novel 1

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

So I'm a Spider So What - light novel 1

By now, I've read this series' manga version volumes 1 and 2 as well as light novel volume 1. I have also watched the parts of the anime that this light novel volume covers. It must say, all three mediums are a different experience. Previously, when I viewed these three mediums for other stories (such as Rising of the Shield Hero)  I have found one medium to be totally outdone by one or both of the others. Not so here. All three mediums for So I'm a Spider So What are different experiences. 

This particular review is going to focus on the light novel, with compare/contrast with the comparable manga volumes and anime episodes. 

The light novel, on which both the manga and the anime are based, contains more information than the other two mediums. I was surprised to see the human-side story after reading the manga. I was like, "where did these characters come from"? That is because the manga omits the human side chapters that the light novel covers. This has pros and cons. 

The pro is that it focuses on Kumoko's life in the Great Elroe Labyrinth, and thus creates a more streamlined narrative. The con is that a lot of exposition is removed from the narrative, and this can leave the reader as confused as Kumoko to her new situation. This can be seen as a pro as well, because it enables the reader to get deeper into Kumoko's perspective, but it gives the impression that she is alone in this new world and that the focus of the story is some kind of ontological mystery. That is not the case.  

Also, manga-only readers will be in for narrative-whiplash when Kumoko leaves the labyrinth and meets up with the human-side characters. See, Kumoko's actions have been influencing events outside the Labyrinth and outside of her perception, and so manga-only readers will not see these events taking place like they would if they read the light novel. Furthermore, they will not understand quite as much about the world. The purpose, as I understand it, of the early human-side chapters is to provide context and world building, such as what the deal is about the Appraisal skill, why Kumoko is born with skill points, and certain foreshadowing about The System. 

As for the light novel itself, I very much enjoyed reading it even though I knew what was going to happen, at least in Kumoko's side of the story. The three mediums give emphasis to different events and different subjects. So while I knew what would happen, the presentation of what happens is still enjoyable. 

The anime does not include any of the human-side chapters from the first light novel, but presents them all at once, presumably adapting from a latter scene. I imagine this lack of individual focus is why Kumoko stands out all the more, since she is alone for the first several episodes. The light novel introduces the human-side characters one at a time, which provides opportunity for them to build their own personalities separate from each other. For a good while, Shun's whole situation as a prince in a palace is used to contrast Kumoko's time as a spider in a dungeon. 

Kumoko's internal monologue is charming and engaging. It is fun to read, and insightful for her personality and mood. In fact, I'd say this type of first-person narration is the best style of first person narration that I have ever read. That is not an exaggeration or hyperbole. 

When I usually read first-person narration, I have to practice suspension of disbelief in order get around the fact that this protagonist/narrator is thinking in the format of a novel, with grammar and paragraphs and stuff. Sometimes, the author uses a frame narrative like a journal or letters. That helps with the suspension of disbelief. No such thing is needed here.

 What we have are Kumoko's thoughts as she thinks them, in the form of dialogue. Locations are described to the reader as her impressions of them, and battles are described as her own thoughts as to what to do or reactions to what her opponent has done. So it doesn't sound self-conscious or unnatural at all.  

Trickster Eric Novels gives " So I'm a Spider So What - light novel volume 1" an A+

Click here for my next book review: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Warrior

Click here for my previous book review:   New York Times article - Brain Health

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

New York Times article - Brain Health

Interesting stuff and useful stuff. That's what I call this article here.

Some of it is just for curiosity; reading it for the knowledge and the joy of learning new things about the brain. The brain organoids are interesting but not terribly relevant to a typical reader's life, and I definitely wasn't expecting to read about a researcher who purred brains in order to get a more accurate count of its contents. It was also fun to read about the memory tricks. 

Then there is the more useful stuff. This is the stuff about the "lifestyle changes that matter", which the cover speaks of. Most of it is about sugar. Yes, we all know that too much sugar is bad for one's health, roots teeth etc. but do you know how much sugar is in the food you eat? I thought I was doing well by staying away from candy bars and soda. Actually, I was getting loads of sugar. 

A rough estimate is upwards of 40 grams a day. It was in the trail mix, the milk, the cereal, (and, just for the record, I didn't eat anything obvious, like Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes) and of course, the fruits. One serving of raisins, about 1/4 of a cup or so, had sugar comparable to a candy bar, and very little fiber to slow it down, or nutritional benefit. The article here mentions raisins ( and bananas) in its section of foods to avoid during its Sugar Challenge. So I made a few changes (like unsweetened vanilla milk instead of the sweetened kind and cereal that could be tasty with less sugar). I definitely feel better after doing that. It's not an immediate thing. It's like a two-week thing.

Click here for my next book review So I'm a Spider So What - light novel 1

Click here for my previous book review:  Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 3

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 3

This is a nice improvement on volume 2. I felt things went Syalis's way a little too often, and made her a little less sympathetic. This one is better about that. She is still a relentless sleep-seeking fiend, but she also gets a good karmic kick every now and then. Also, her antics are more clearly due to misunderstandings or apathy instead of malice or manipulation.

One occasion of the former is during a Demon Castle Christmas party. Twilight arranges it to be kept a secret from Syalis and to take place late at night. It is a hush-hush event in darkness when the Princess should be asleep, and so they can have their "dark mass" in peace. Syalis finds out, of course, and infiltrates the party.

She does so because first prize in the Bingo Game of Darkness (I'm not kidding about the name) is a sleep aid she wants. By utilizing the social graces she developed as a princess (i.e. various methods of cheating), she rigs the game so that she is guaranteed to win. However, the Bingo Game of Darkness takes place after the Buffet of Darkness and the Oration of Darkness. The later of which takes so long that she falls asleep, is discovered, and thus does not win the Bingo Game of Darkness (that is actually fun to write!).

An example of the latter is when Princess Syalis knits a pair of woolen underwear for herself. The demons notice that she's up to something again, and she deliberately refrains from telling them that is just about knitting. This is because her mother the queen forbid her from talking about her underwear due to an incident in her childhood. So she uses other means of communication as a compromise: charades, morse code, pictures etc. Due to different frames of reference, the demons think she is declaring her intent to massacre them with alien back-up.

Both of these events are fun to read, and well-constructed.

Furthermore, Syalis shows a willingness to include her nominal captors in her adventures in better sleep. This happens in the very first chapter of the volume, and involves a magical device with the power to subdue demons. It is a wooden device which can trap demons within its confines and inflict them with laziness, rendering them harmless. It is a kotatsu.

Like the previous two volumes, each chapter is a self-contained story, so I could go about all the stories in this volume. I won't because that would take too long.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 3" an A+

Click here for my next book review (technically an article):  New York Times article - Brain Health

Click here for my previous book review: Spiral - Bonds of Reasoning volume 2

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Spiral - Bonds of Reasoning volume 2 (reading for fun)

This is the second Spiral book I picked up at my local library. I've decided that I do not like this series enough to purchase the volumes, but I do like it enough to continue reading it. So library it is. Yay, public library system!

This one picks up immediately where the previous volume left off, the locked-room mystery. That was a fine, a good conclusion. Yet, I'm glad that the rest of the volume was not the same sort of mystery. See, I was expecting this series to be in the same vein as Cased Closed /  Detective Conan, a murder case every time. That is not the case in the volume. As the plot thickens, different sort of mental challenges are thrown at Ayumi.

It was a pleasant surprise. I think I may like these better than the previous. First up is a bomb threat where a logic puzzle  is the only way to disarm it safely. Next is a twist on the "pick a card" trick. Ayumi has to guess which card the magician, so to speak, has drawn. If he guesses incorrectly, then the magician will release a bee,  and Ayumi happens to be hyper sensitive to bee venom. If he guesses wrong, he dies. Despite this pleasant change, my favorite aspect of this series continues to Hiyori. 

I like her character design because it is cute. I like her banter with Ayumi and others, because it is funny. I also like how she has more confident in herself than Ayumi, who deplores himself as basically an inferior version of his older brother. She appears to be trying to rid him of this mindset by encouraging him and telling him to value himself more. Though she has chosen to be Ayumi's sidekick, she has a persona beyond that role. 

Also, more information about the Blade Children. I still don't think it is a literal "curse", but it definitely appears to be a real thing. I was thinking it was some sort of social thing but it has a physical aspect to it. So that's a good development for the myth arc. 

The art is still good. I like it. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives Spiral - Bonds of Reasoning volume 2 a B+

Click here for my next book review: Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 3

Click here for my previous book review: Witch's Printing Office volume 3

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Witch's Printing Office volume 3

There was quite a cliffhanger last time, wasn't there? An open letter from a Japanese guy isekai-ed into this world to other people from his country (or at least his own world). This volume picks up there.

The "greeting" of Mika and her fluffy employee was a nice touch. I had been waiting to see these characters again.

As it turns out, this second isekai-ed guy, Kyouhei Yamanoto, is just as clueless as Mika when it comes to the why and how of their coming to this world. While they naturally agree to work together to get home, they seem a lot more passionate about their joint business venture.

See, he's decided to open a bookstore, but it has pitiful stock. There are some funny gags from Mika reacting to all the stuff he tries to show off. Ultimately, she connects him with some of the independent artists who frequent her Magiket event. This way they can continue to sell books outside of Magiket, Yamanoto can pull in a steady supply of new books, and Mika's Protagonist Press has a regular customer outside of the Magikiet season. It is a publishing house and book store partnership with independent creators; the content just happens to be spells.

It's a fun thing. This guy is like Mika, a truly ordinary person trying to make a living in the book business; no special stereotypical isekai stuff for him either. Speaking of which, there is a parody of such in another chapter.

I really like this one, so I hope you'll forgive me for spoiling it entirely. It is such a splendid parody. It's very funny, not at all mean-spirited, and yet fulfills the same narrative role as the straight version. So, SPOILER! BEWARE OF SPOILER!


 You see, the chapter starts with this arcane looking ritual being performed by hooded mages.  One of them shouts, "savior from another world", and who shows up by Mika herself! It is enough to fool a reader into thinking that this is a flashback story, showing how Mika arrived in the world that the story takes place in, and perhaps the origins of Protagonist Press. Not even close.

This is not a flashback arc. The summoner pulled her away from her office during a busy period. The "another world" part of the spell is not accurate; it did not grab some super powerful magic creature, nor did it even reach across to another world. The mages are actually embarrassed when they learn who Mika is and where she is from.

The task they hoped the result of their spell would accomplish was save their village from being consolidated with other villages, because of a declining birth rate and lack of anything special about it. Mika can't do anything about that, so she plans to take the first airship back home.

That is a week from now, so the summoner offers to put Mika up in her house as an apology for basically kidnapping her. This works out to a vacation for Mika; no overtime at her printing office, eating delicious local cuisine, soaking in hot springs, and she doesn't have to pay for any of it.

So Mika's employees are naturally wondering were she is, and they find her living it up while they're working their (in some cases, literal) tails off. This leads to them jumping on the airship that is going towards Mika's location, not to retrieve her but to sample all the goodies she has been indulging in. 

So the town is inundated with the staff of Protagonist Press, and the clients of Protagonist Press, and THEN the regulars of Protagonist Press's Magiket events. This turns the town into a tourist destination, and it gets especially busy during Magiket. Which, incidentally, spares it from being consolidated by its lord. So, without doing anything heroic, or really anything at all, and purely by accident, Mika really does become the town's savior. 

It is such a light-hearted parody that makes so much sense it becomes hilarious!

That is just one example. I could go on but I don't want to. This review is already too long. The author has a talent for making these kinds of stories, and the artist for bringing them to life. 

Speaking of the artist, the art continues to look really good. It is cute and appealing without overdoing things. It has the right balance between cute and serious. I could imagine a legitimate, serious, played-for-epic dungeons-and-dungeons style story being in this art style. Except, when the adventurers finally reached the dragon's lair and discovered its treasure, they would not find gold or jewels but mint-condition scrolls from independent creators (that or may not be magical). 

Trickster Eric Novels gives " A Witch's Printing Office volume 3" an A+

Click here for my next book review:  Spiral - Bonds of Reasoning volume 2

Click here for my previous book review:  I've been killing slimes for 300 years and maxed out my level, light novel volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

I've been killing slimes for 300 years and maxed out my level, light novel volume 1 (read for fun)

This is the light novel version. I've already reviewed the manga version of it, and you read that at this link here. So this review is going to be more of a comparison between the light novel and the manga versions.

First of all, the light novel volume 1 contains more content than manga volume 1. The manga version stops after Falfa and Shalfa's introduction, and ends on a sequel hook for Halkara's introduction. The light novel includes Halkara's introduction, the conclusion of her arc, the Red Dragon Wedding, and the visit to The Great Slime. So I'm assuming that light novel volume 1 covers manga volume 1 and 2 together.

Next, the light novel presents more of Azusa's inner thoughts, so the reader sees references to her previous life more often. The nature of her previous life (i.e. lonely and overworked corporate slave) means that all references to it are a downer, definitely a contrast to her much happier and laid-back current life. This makes the manga a lighter and more feel-good read than the light novel already is.

Seriously, it happens. Even after 300 hundred years of life as an easy-going and potion making witch, reminders of Azusa's previous life are painful to her. For instance, when she hears that the medicines Halkara makes are basically energy drinks, she recalls how she used to guzzle them during her endless overtime, and it puts her on edge. However, this also underscores her kindness, because she takes Halkara under her protection despite the uncomfortable reminder of her past life and the potential for trouble in her new life. Indeed, the light novel does a better job of developing Azusa's character than the manga does, simply because the light novel has more room to display Azusa's inner thoughts.

For comparison, in the manga, when Azusa creates a magic barrier for her village, it comes out of nowhere. Laika remarks that the village has few defenses, out of nowhere and without context, and then Azusa creates it because she doesn't seem to have anything better to do. The light novel, by contrast, shows Azusa sincerely worried about the village's security because adventurers and dragons are now seeking her out due to her max-level reputation, and so Laika's remarks validate these fears. She creates the magic barrier because she has become protective of her village after three hundred years of treating its sick and injured, and doesn't want someone taking it hostage because of her. Looking after it gives her a sense of purpose, no reward required (or wanted; that "bronze statue" scene was really funny!).

In terms of narrative description and scene setting, the manga does a superior job by virtue of being a visual medium. So the event where Azusa freezes an entire waterfall when she learns about her ice magic for the first time is more of a spectacle. It wasn't as big of an event in the light novel; the ice-magic-as-refrigeration got more ink. Which makes sense, given Azusa's character. Someone seeking a laid-back life, like her, would naturally be more interested in food preservation than displays of power (so she could make a lot at once, freeze it, and then go days without having to make more).

In terms of "highest moment of action", I suppose the climax would be the Red Dragon Wedding, but to be honest, it feels more like the other events than a climax. No, the next event, the meeting with The Great Slime, feels more like a culmination of events and proper conclusion for this volume. It is a peaceful meeting that includes reflection on past events, and guidance on the future of Azusa's new family (spoiler: lots of hugs are involved).

Trickster Eric Novels give "I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level volume 1" an A+

Click here for my next book review:  Witch's Printing Office volume 3

Click here for my previous book review: Girls' Ops volume 4

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

SAO spinoff - Girls' Ops volume 4

I bought this volume after finishing volume 3, because it was excellent. I had a feeling that the series had found its stride in volume 3, and I was correct. This volume is just as good as volume 3, if not better. It continues the story of Lux and Gwen's troubled friendship while also delivering on story-plot satisfaction and set-pieces battles. There is also a bit of humor that I know SAO fans will appreciate (even haters might enjoy this part!)

The premise of this particular volume is a joint effort by the Slyphs and the Cat-Siths to defeat a new group of Player-Killers, the Batty Bat guild, which is led by Lux's old friend-turned-evil, Gwen. The Batty Bats have been going around Slyph territory killing players and causing other trouble, and so Lady Sakuya of the Slyphs wants to stop them and maintain order. The Girls Ops group are recruited to be part of this operation.

What follows is a confrontation between the Girls Ops group and the Batty Bats guild in their hideout. There are three distinct segments of this battle, and all three of them are well-developed, both in terms of the art and panels and in the progression of the battles themselves. There are some clever tactics (Angel Rings, FTW!) and a key difference between the two groups hits in a majorly emotional and satisfying way.

However, the sword and sorcery battles and anti-PK mission are not the only selling points here. No, there is more to it. One could say a "fourth" battle takes place, one very different from the previous three. It is just as well developed, and has a very sweet and satisfying aftermath. I'm looking forward to volume 5.

Defeat Means Friendship is a trope that is used in a lot of fighting series, and often times the bridge between "defeat" and "friendship" is not made clear. Basically, the fighters reach some kind of understanding during the fight or become fire-forged friends while later fighting a common foe. That is not the case here. 

After the battle is over, Lux has to put in a lot of effort to mend her friendship with Gwen. It requires quick thinking, a good bit of faith, and an honest heart-to-heart in physical reality. Even then, it might not have worked out if Gwen didn't realize that she wanted to mend their friendship as well, even if it meant accepting changes to that friendship (such as sharing Lux with three other friends). 

The art continues to be cute, and continues to deliver on battle sequences as well.  There is a battle with a large creature in this volume, similar to volume 1, but I had an easier time following it. Overall, it appeared better presented. The middle fight is fantastic; very atmospheric.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sword Art Online spinoff - Girls' Ops volume 4" an A+

Oh, you wanted to know which humor that even SAO haters might like? I can't do it justice here. Trying to explain it wouldn't be as funny. 

Click here for my next book review:  I've been killing slimes for 300 years and maxed out my level, light novel volume 1

Click here for my previous book review: Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina 1 (read for fun)

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elaina 1 (read for fun)

I found this while browsing Barnes and Nobles, and that is the great thing about a physical book store. You get to browse and discover new things, and no background algorithm decides what you see or what you would like. I wasn't looking for books about witches, or short stories, or this delightful mix of comedy and tragedy. Online, I probably would never have seen it. 

Incidentally,  I wrote a blog post about this. You can read it at this link if you want. Anyway, about this book review. 

This is about Elaina the Ashen Witch and her travels across the world. She has no quest, goal or any other purpose while traveling, she is simply traveling because she likes to travel. What she doesn't like is getting involved in someone else's story; she'd rather add a few pages to it and then continue on her way. This makes the book something like a travel narrative. 

Most chapters start with Elaina entering a new country and taking part in a certain event going on there. Sometimes she gets involved in resolving a spot of trouble, but other times she skips town without doing anything. She is what you would call "Heroic Neutral". 

She is a nice girl, generally polite and does not make mischief. She will likely help a local if it doesn't cause her too much trouble or require her to stand in town for longer than three days. Don't ask her to do anything dangerous, but then she might brave the danger if she decides to do so. She is a primarily a sight-seer.

One of the interesting things about this book is that it spans the gauntlet of genres. Some of the stories are comedies, like the country divided in the Bread Faction and the Rice Faction. That whole thing was funny, from the apathy of the locals to the bickering of the rulers. Then there are some which are tragedies, really somber and sad, such as time Elaina met the boy who tried bottling happiness to lift the spirits of his bestfriend/crush. That ending is a critical hit to the heart, and just ambiguous enough to make it worse (Nothing Is Scarier style). Then there are those which focus more on Elaina herself; her history and her connections to people, such as her witch mentor and her own student. Those are are the full package of emotions and story linking together to support the broader narrative. 

All of this shows the author's skill, but the illustrator isn't to be left out. Occasionally, there will be illustrations of a scene. Of these is Elaina with her mentor. Another one shows her original departure from home after becoming a witch. These are great for underscoring key moments. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Wandering Witch -  The Journey of Elaina 1" a A+

Click here for my next book review: SAO spinoff - Girls' Ops volume 4

Click here for my previous book review: The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious volume 1

I think I heard about this story on Tvtropes. Then I saw it while browsing Barnes and Nobles. I picked it up, and these are my thoughts.  

First of, I should make clear that this book is a comedy. Though it has the premise of a hero being summoned to save a world from a demon king via fighting the demon king with swords and magic, it is not an action/adventure book. It is not driven by tension or suspense. A reader has to approach this book with that in mind to get their expectations in order.

The plot is a magic knight and a goddess of healing go out to the save a world from evil. However, the true nature of the story is more like a two-person comedy routine, Straight Man and Wise Guy style.  Seiya does silly/strange/outrageous things in the name of being Overcautious, and Ristarte reacts to them with confusion, anger or frustration.

We, the reader, get Ristrate's perspective on this story. So we are encouraged to see her point of view on Seiya's overly cautious preparations. This helps the comedy angle, because her thoughts are very expressive. No doubt, if we had Seiya's perspective, then the story would be much longer simply because we would have to read through all his extensive plans for all possible scenarios.

The story itself is split into two parts, one is Seiya's preparations and the other is him unloading these preparations onto an enemy. Both parts are comical, but the former is even more so because there is no threat or danger to distract from the comedy, and Seiya's preparations appear all the more ridiculous. I like this set up because it shifts the story's rationale for the outcomes of the set piece battles.

Typically, battles in this story's apparent genre and premise would go the route of guts, sudden power-ups and/or in-the-moment ingenuity.  They are typically won through Heroic Willpower, Indy Ploys or My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. Those are suitable for visual spectacle and can be exciting. These battles are based in foresight, preparation, and the execution of plans. In other words, the winner is the one who is more Crazy Prepared; like Sun Tzu once said, "Victorious warriors win first, and then go to war". 

There is one thing that I don't like about this book, and that is the personality of its hero, Seiya (hero as distinct from "Protagonist", which is Ristarte). It is not his overly cautious personality, because that is funny and also effective. It is not how brutally honest he is to people when he says something to the effect of "you're weaker than me so you're useless", because his party members really are out of their depths in the S-Class world the adventure takes place in. It isn't even how suspicious and rude he is to everyone, including his party members, because if you are overly cautious to point of paranoia, you assume that everyone is already plotting your demise, so why bother being polite? No, it is how far he goes to prove that everyone is useless. 

Ristarte has unlimited healing power and the ability to open portals to a safe haven? Call her a "walking healing potion", mention that you have dozens of those, and don't mention the portal unless you want to use it. Mash and Elulu have special dragon powers that enable them to use a supermode, find hidden items, and unlock special doors? Call the first redundant, don't acknowledge the special senses, and then break the doors yourself before they get a chance to open them. 

At one point, he gets particularly bad. He gets this auto-attack spell to defeat enemies before they get into melee range and is faster than normal attack spells. He uses this to defeat mook-level enemies that his party members are trying to fight, just for something to do so they can gain EXP. He doesn't explain that his method is safer, and that he doesn't want them getting hurt. No, he tells them that it is impossible for them to fight anything, ever. That's not overly cautious; that's just bragging. It's the opposite of overly cautious because he tells them the spell's limitations. 

It's like he's a badly behaved RPG player. 

Fortunately, it's only that area which is really bad. Otherwise, his paranoia is used for comedy. He also gets a Pet-the-Dog moment shortly after this, which helps to mitigate it. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious volume 1" 
*because Seiya is not overly cautious enough to think other people might hold grudges against him. 

Click here for my next book review:  Wandering Witch - The Journey of Elania 1

Click here for my previous book review (for fun): Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 2

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 2

 If am I being honest, I didn't enjoy this volume quite as much as the first one. The art is still good and the stories are still creative. The problem, to me at least, lies with Princess Syalis. She seems less sympathetic in several of these stories than she was previously. 

In volume 1, it is easy to write off her behavior as being side-effects of sleep-deprivation. She is too tired to be fully aware of her actions. So if she were better rested, then she wouldn't being killing demons so she can use their bodies as sleep aids. That doesn't appear to be the case in some of the volume two stories. 

There are two stories in particular where this stands out. The first of these is the story that introduces Harpy. This is a female soldier in Demon King Twilight's army who has been rotated out of active duty so she can take a break in the Demon Castle. So she decides to spend her leave time befriending Princess Syalis. Harpy appears just as benign as the other demons, but friendlier because she is actively trying to become Syalis's friend.

Princess Syalis is unresponsive to Harpy's entreaties until she notices how Harpy's feathers would upgrade her current comforter. So she agrees to be Harpy's friend and even to have a sleepover in her cell, just so that she can sleep on Harpy's feathers. She even tells poor Harpy to be quiet so she can sleep. Harpy is, of course, heart-broken that Syalis only "wants her for her body". 

Yes, I know that is the punchline for the joke, but the illustration of seeing Harpy so upset spoils the joke for me. I don't see the Princess's antics in this chapter to be Comedic Sociopathy in this case. 

The second story line I want to point out is the nightmare one. In a nutshell, Syalis discovers that everyone in the castle has nightmares about her every night. She recognizes this and then immediately dismisses it as unimportant so long as she, herself, is not having nightmares. Stories like these make one question, who is the real demon here? 

Fortunately, these are more of an exception to the rule. The other stories are not like this. For instance, there is a story that has two layers to it. 1.) Demon King Twilight is holding council with his generals about the progression of Hero Dawner's quest, and their future actions. 2.) Princess Syalis spilled fruit juice on her bed sheets and wonders how to clean them. 

The Demon Castle Council lists the magic items they plan to secretly give Dawner and the machines they will send against him to make his quest challenging-but-doable. While this occurs like a voice-over, Syalis finds each item and ruins them all in the process of cleaning the mess she made, unaware of how priceless and important each item is. The dramatic irony here is great, and the expressions of the Demon Castle Council when they see the Princess's good work is priceless. 

Then there are the cases where Syalis makes a mistake with a magic hourglass. It doesn't shrink her as much as make her younger. This leads to a "fawn over the small child" event, which annoys her. There is also the case of her getting sleep paralysis, and her loyal teddy bear demons cause her much comedic embarrassment in their attempts to help her. 
So not everything goes Syalis's way all the time, which helps to balance out the other chapters.  

The quality of the artwork continues. It is cute and comical, and so it is perfect for most of these stories. Even the one about the nightmares has its cute moments, particularly how Syalis resolves the nightmare problem. It is just those moments of unintentionally unsympathetic that bother me. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle volume 2" a B

Click here for my next book review: The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious volume 1

Click here for my previous book review: SAO Spinoff Girls' Ops volume 3

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.