Title: Promises of Power Author: contrived Rating: M Fandom: Original / Quest Genre: Adventure, Action Status: WIP/indefinite hiatus Wordcout: 416459 Link: live.fiction Summary: I think before I get into the story, I have to talk about where the story is hosted and what it is. Strictly speaking, it is a quest that saw its last update half a year ago, after the author/QM said they were going on hiatus after conflicts with the people following the quest who had troubles to do so at the end. Apparently it was an issue with blame on both sides (but mainly the audience as far as I can tell) that kinda made the author give up, at least for now. Now, the main thing is, the story is hosted on a site called "fiction.live" and is mainly for quests. In that regard, it is rather great and has the most sophisticated quest mechanics I have seen so far. Voting, rolling and the like is handled really well, mechanically speaking. The site was build for that and it does so in a great manner. The downside is that the sites userbase is mainly made up by 4 chan users as the site is, I believe, an offshoot of some board there. The issue with that is, that many of them are ..., well that there is a rather toxic atmosphere and culture around it. I don't know, but the way people talk, treat each other (and others) and the like is rather offputting to me personally but might not be an issue for some. Another important thing to note is that while the site is about quests, it is mainly about NSFW quests, meaning smut and porn. Now that's not a bad thing per se if that is what you're looking for but I don't want to give the wrong impression by linking this story which is, for the most part, a fantastic piece of story telling, and make you think the site is full with stories like this, as this is very much the exception. I am sure there are other good stories, but most others that I tried turned to be mainly porn or just not that well written if not. I was linked this by a friend, having never heard of the site before, so this was all very new to me, which is why I felt like elaborating on that. Maybe you guys are more familiar with this and if so, sorry for having wasted your time. So, enough background stuff, on to the story: The story is set in an original fantasy setting full with magic, demons and the like and it follows a young girl named Cassandra, who starts the story by going to a magic academy, to be trained as a magi. She does well in her studies, proves herself to be a talented magi, makes a friend and lover in a girl names Iris and for the next few years, things are going well. Then, on the day of her last magic test, she, for some reason, completely fails. Failing the examination means failing as a magus, so her powers get sealed and she gets banished. Devastated by the loss of everything she holds there, she returns to the estate of her family and after pulling herself together , which takes a while, she embarks on a journey to get her magic back and get revenge, since there was no way she failed because of a mistake she made. The thing about this world is, demons are very much real and they are terrifying beings, so Cassandra searches for information on them and studies until she is ready to summon a demon to make a contract with it. This is pretty much a summary of the prologue, and it is here where the story starts for real. The rest is Cassandra dealing with demons, their demands of her and her quest for more and more power to be able to handle the horrifying consequences of her decision and the toll it has on her own character, body and humanity. The first half of the story is nothing short of outstanding. Cassandra dealing with her circumstances and trying to handle demons she barely understands and the things she does for power are deeply compelling and interesting. The writing is excellent and it made use of its nature as a quest in a brilliant way. I always love it when a story takes advantage of the medium it was told in and here, it is the concept of rolling. When the audience voted for an action for Cassandra to take, there is a roll. To state the obvious, when a role succeeds, Cassandra is able to do the action she wanted, if it doesn't, she fails. Only here, when she fails, it's not game over but rather that she gets a reroll. The massive drawback is, this reroll increases the demonic corruption of Cassandra and makes her a crueler, more inhuman and a more easily demonically manipulated person. The mechanics themselves have a profound impact on the story being told and rather than just deciding what the outcome is, it also influences how the outcome is reached. It's something I personally have never seen done like this before and I have to say I loved it. The second part of the story is still well written but the nature of the story changes and with it, I have to say, the part that made it so compelling and fresh in the first place. Where the first half of the story was Cassandra in way over her head, struggling to juggle all the things impacting her, barely understanding what it is demons are and want, trying desperately to clutch to whatever power she can get her hands into, having to fool and manipulate others and risk her live and humanity at every turn in order, the latter part of the story moves away from all that simply because Cassandra grows to understand demons and gets powerful and smart enough to deal with them, while not in an even manner, still good enough to more often than not get the outcome she desires. It becomes a more typical story. Not a bad story but it loses its unique nature, at least it did so for me. As an example, a demon she interacts with wants her to mutilate herself and do basically arbitrary horrible stuff for no reason other than the demon wants her to and well, Cassandra kinda has to so she has to navigate that and it is super compelling to see how far she goes and how she tries to not fall too much. The story kinda loses that as Cassandra goes from something the demons find interesting enough to toy with, to someone the demons need which changes the whole dynamic and gives her more power in those dealings and honestly, the fun part was her trying to make sure she doesn't fuck herself over too bad, rather than actually making good deals. Cassandra herself is an interesting character, her interaction with the sidecast is fascinating and the side characters themselves aren't one dimensional beings but rather complex persons with their own goals. There are a few sex scenes, as the story was, i believe, in its inception meant to be a more smut based story but the author moved away from that to focus more on telling a story, and boy was it the right decision. Spoiler One really grows to like Savira and maybe the most memorable scene for me was when Cassandra captured the demonhunter who revealed herself to be someone who, despite what the demonhunter had initially believed of herself and the usual role characters like that have, she is NOT someone who would die for her cause and beliefs and instead pleads and begs Cassandra, promising to do anything as long as she isn't killed and she loathes herself for doing so. That desperate desire to live came across really, really well and was a great "oh shit" scene. it wasn't the best writing ever, in that scene but the notion is so compelling and interesting that I loved it. Character development for both, Cassandra and the human side cast is really well done. There are a lot of fun scenes and you get to care for the characters. The biggest sign for that is that the audience in general was swept up in them and generally tried to go for the more kinder paths. It is a story about corruption but it never went into "Ramsay" territory. It was surprisingly well done on that front while still making you fear for the characters at times. Honestly, the friend who recced the story to me told me she had no idea how the story turned out the way it did and I agree. It wasn't nearly as mean spirited as it easily could have been and honestly from what I have gleamed of the 4chan community should have been. The stars aligned just right here and made this a compelling but still really enjoyable story. The worldbuilding is outstanding, I loved exploring this setting where demons had such a profound role and the way there were various factions, each pursuing their own goals and we had to learn alongside Cassandra what they wanted and how to navigate them. The whole gods vs demons, and their followers, thing and how it had so much influence. Cassandra would be thrown into a city she never really heard about, had to immerse herself in the local politics to do what the demon she had contracted wanted her to do and find a way to reach that goal with barely any support. The story is at its best in the first 200k-300k words, imo, but it still is worth reading. The votes, I often skimmed but there is a running joke in them that I admit, kinda amused me, but it is okay to scroll over the votes as ultimately, only the winning vote matters. The writing is really good overall, and while now, two months after reading the story, there are no phrases or sentences that stick out of my memory, I still have a relatively good memory on all the things that happened and there are one or two scenes that I still remember vividly. The magic is interesting and fun and her way of improving over the course of the story and her deals are interesting even if things get a bit much later on. The writing, while mostly good, is not without its flaws of course. The very nature of quests makes some sections weaker than others mainly because the vote went somewhere the author didn't really want, although the author here does their best to steer the story as much as they can. At times, emotions and feelings were described a bit clumsily and it is written with in second person, which I know is a big nope for some. It's not necessarily a story for everyone but if you like magic settings, contracts with demons, political intrigue and a main character over her head kinda going the villain route, well, check it out. The biggest compliment I can give this story is that I read this long story in one sitting with no sleep. Like, is tarted at 7 or 8 in the evening and finished at 6 or so in the morning. It gripped me and didn't let up. So yeah, it is definitely flawed but honestly, I had a great time reading this and i know I will reread it at some point. Two months later and I still fondly remember the story and scenes and characters from it and I hope the author finishes it at some point. Sure the last third isn't as good as the first two and the first third has graphic smut which I know is also not for everyone but yeah, if anything I said sounds interesting to you, you should check it out. A very strong 4/5 from me. Well worth reading.