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WIP Pith by MadWhiteSnake - M

Discussion in 'Other Fandoms Review Board' started by bsm, Mar 4, 2021.

  1. bsm

    bsm Squib

    Aug 26, 2017
    Title: Pith
    Author: MadWhiteSnake
    Rating: M for harsh language, graphic violence, and general dark, mature content.
    Genre: At base an epic fantasy, with some notes from psychological horror and cyberpunk.
    Status: Book 1 complete, book 2 WIP.
    Summary: All humans possess a Pith, the essence of a mind where consciousness, reason, and emotion reside. Those who study its power can control their surroundings, move from body to body, and alter the very fabric of another’s thoughts.

    In a dying empire surrounded by enemies, two rejects from their city’s magic academy become mercenaries:

    Ana, an idealistic girl trapped in a body with a terminal illness.

    Wes, an arrogant noble exiled from his family, his name wiped from his memory.

    As they fight for their lives and face moral quandaries, they must forge their identities in a world where the human soul is a tool, a canvas, and the deadliest weapon of them all.
    Link: https://pithserial.com/2019/05/27/1-a-the-caterpillars-dilemma/

    Pith is a very strong piece of web fiction. As a basic draw for many here it seriously considers the social consequences of a secret wizarding society that maintains its secrecy by memory alterations. The setting is one in which this secrecy has recently collapsed as a result of an escalating wizarding war, and which is struggling to deal with the resulting tensions. As the headmaster (from a clear Dumbledore/Xavier tradition) laments, the days in which an invisible school sufficed are long gone.

    There is a reasonable but not excessive focus on the actual use of magic, which generally results in coherent and satisfying fight sequences and problem solving. Some of the earliest action is a bit rougher but I think it improves steadily.

    The setting allows for body swaps and replacement. This is where the cyberpunk influences are clearest and also where the second major theme appears. Both protagonists and many other characters are, by circumstance, in bodies that are not ideal for them. This provides a decent part of their motivations and emotional drive. I'd say that if (trans)gender and identity related themes are interesting to you, you would be mad not to read Pith. If they are not interesting to you they are unlikely to put you off.

    Overall 4/5 for me (in the webserial category). I enjoy it as much as I enjoy wildbow at his best, and generally prefer it to PGtE, if this is a useful calibration. First submission etc, yell at me below if I have done it wrong.
  2. Barzûl

    Barzûl Seventh Year DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Dec 31, 2011
    I'm surprised no one else has left a review yet, so I'll bite.

    OP did a great introduction to the story which I agree with.
    Book 1 feels like the early parts of worm, where we explored the universe and Brockton Bay, encountering heroes and villains with a diverse set of powers and abilities. It's a tale of a world in decline as the oceans are rising and civil unrest is growing.

    Anabelle Gage is one of the more engaging protagonists that I've seen in fiction. While she can be (a bit) angsty, it never takes over and her strong drive and ethics makes me root for her to find the body she deserves.

    The other MC, Wes, is more like Ryoka from The Wandering Inn. She's a brash and arrogant noble, who covers up her lack of confidence with being a dick. The author handles her well but I never truly liked her.

    There are consequences to actions and the main characters feel it when they screw up. It's very refreshing with a story in which plot armor is not too strong. It makes you root for the characters and their success rather than just passively waiting for the plot to move along.

    As a side note, the powers (Vocations) can at times be a bit hard to follow. Overall this didn't influence my reading too much but YMMV.

    Pith is a wellwritten grim story set in a decaying world with good protagonists and a wide array of opponents and allies. I highly recommend it (especially if you liked early Worm).

    4.5/5 -> 5/5
  3. Tutorial Boss

    Tutorial Boss Seventh Year

    Apr 10, 2012
    Going to bring this back up.

    Read the entire thing in one sitting like it was crack cocaine. MCs are fun, desperate, and not overblown. Setting is fascinatingly dark while not dipping over to being derpy. Really cool mind and identity fuckery. Highly recommended, easy 5/5 so far.
  4. cucio

    cucio Seventh Year

    Aug 13, 2016
    High Score:
    It's long, it's sort of coherent, it's decently written, it's complete (first volume.) Just for that, any author deserves mad respect, it's a crapload of hard work and dedication.

    That said, it's highly derivative, which is not necessarily a bad thing for an author's first serious work. It could be summarized as Worm (DC/Marvel-style varied superpowers) meets Twig (mad science, Academy as a political power) with a dash of HP (magic school, statute of secrecy) and some nationalistic stereotyping.

    As in Twig, protagonists join a government black ops cell, so a big part of the story takes the form of "heist of the week" where our heroes narrowly escape different situations with the usual mix of ingenuity and contrived serendipity. There's some attempt at banter among the characters, but it's not particularly strong.

    The body-hopping is interesting, but the angsting about the moral dilemmas that drive the main plot gets repetitive and eventually tedious.

    Part of the universe building implies some cataclysmic event in the past which leads to a continous rise in the seas and the disappearance of the stars (?), but it's never properly explained. If that is, as I suspect, the hook for the overall series plot, the first volume does a poor job of introducing it. One would think such an Earth-shattering disaster would be central to the culture and would merit more expounding about.

    Any super worth their salt ends up getting a nickname. Some of those sound a bit pompous and childish, at least for Western modern tastes.

    I had a few laughs thanks to a side-character nicknamed Verity. Her powers makes her and those under her influence say the naked truth in the form of stream of conciousness ramblings, so of course she hosts a radio show interviewing famous people.

    Technically the writing isn't particularly tight, as usual in web serials. Side plots are brought up and abandoned, improvements in Anabelle's powers are only mentioned out of the blue when they solve some action scene, characters' motivations change without clear reasons, PoV interludes are used as info dumps, etc.

    I read volume 1 and that'll be it, I think. I didn't find either the setting, the characters or the writing compelling or engaging enough. 3/5 for me, solid almost-rec.
    Last edited: May 10, 2021