1. Q3 - 2021 - DLP Competition POLL !
    If you think you MIGHT write for it... then go vote on the topic for the next DLP competition!
    Voting is intended only for those are --thinking about-- writing. Don't let being unsure stop you, intentions matter here.
    LEZ GO!
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Hi there, Guest

    Only registered users can really experience what DLP has to offer. Many forums are only accessible if you have an account. Why don't you register?
    Dismiss Notice
  3. DLP Writing Competition - FLASH FIC WRITE FAST!
    Deadline July 28th!
    3rd POV - Harry Centric - 750 to 1500 words
    Click here for more!
    Dismiss Notice
  4. Introducing for your Perusing Pleasure

    New Thread Thursday
    +
    Shit Post Sunday

    READ ME
    Dismiss Notice

WIP Web of Secrets [Modern Cultivation] by David Musk - T - Modern Xianxia Original

Discussion in 'Original Fiction' started by valrie, May 23, 2021.

  1. valrie

    valrie Fifth Year

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2018
    Messages:
    144
    Title: Web of Secrets [Modern Cultivation]
    Author: David Musk
    Rating: T
    Genre: Modern Xianxia (Adventure, Action, Fantasy)
    Status: WIP
    Library Category: Original Fiction
    Pairings: None so far
    Summary:
    Mana Artists rule the world, and the path to power is a well-kept secret, restricted to state-approved programs and universities.

    Akari Zeller will never be a Mana Artist. Not if society has its way. She's a Bronze with no money, no family, and no connections. But technology is advancing too. And to a skilled hacker like Akari, no secret is safe forever. The dark web holds the keys to true power, advancement, and her only chance of survival.

    RR Link:
    https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/39108/web-of-secrets-modern-cultivation

    It's Xianxia in a modern world, so there are computers and other technology. The MC is a high school student and a poor orphan with a family that doesn't treat her well. She's not OP or extremely talented, quite the opposite in fact. But she's a good hacker and that's why a rich student from a power wants her help with getting cultivation manuals.

    I've been following this for a while. The story is not really a great masterpiece, but I'm always excited when another update comes out. It's well-written and doesn't have many of the typical annoying flaws of Xianxia (misogyny etc.). The Xianxia system is also comparatively simple with only three realms so far (Bronze, Silver, Gold). The MC and (most of) the rich students she meets are pretty well-written characters and likable. The villains don't feel like caricatures either, and the plot is realistic. If you like the genre, you should definitively give it a shot.
     
  2. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    Joined:
    May 27, 2010
    Messages:
    1,930
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Philippines
    I honestly think you've undersold the story.

    It's one of a handful of xianxia stories I actually, genuinely enjoyed as a written story, and not just enjoyed because "there's nothing better in the genre".

    The two main characters are likeable and have a good chemistry, while remaining distinct. There's an interest cast of side characters, and no one feels cartoonish or caricatures. Even the antagonists all feel like they have understandable reasons for opposing the main characters, and the story has set up quite an interesting mystery so far.

    Most importantly, it reads smoothly.

    At no point did I ever feel like I had a hard time understanding the world, or immersing in the story. The prose isn't amazing, but it's workmanlike and competent and it gets the job done.

    I can say without reservation that it's the best modern cultivation story, and probably just a half step below Virtuous Sons or Last Ship in Suzhou. It's definitely well worth the read even if you aren't familiar with the genre.
     
  3. aleph

    aleph First Year

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2016
    Messages:
    37
    High Score:
    0
    Agreed, not going to rehash the same points, but the prose is solid and the overarching worldbuilding and mystery definitely have kept me interested so far. I'd put it ~4.5/5, not sure if I'd round up or down at this point.

    One fairly minor critique I had though was the setup of Akari being this super skilled hacker. She doesn't have a computer at home, has very limited supervised access to the computer lab at school, and yet is changing grades and messing around on the dark web? It would have been a bit more plausible if she'd been put on a Bronze vocational track to be a computer technician or something, better explaining her skills.
     
  4. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Dark Lord

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Messages:
    1,988
    Location:
    Wrexham, Wales
    I agreed with you, that the point about Akari being a super hacker is perhaps a bit of a stretch.

    However, this is covered in text in the more recent chapters. Whether you're happy with that explanation is up to you, but I think it's sufficient, although it does mean that the hacking is probably going to be less of a thing as the story continues, unless it gets spun into the specialization somehow.

    One thing that struck me as odd in the recent Kalden interlude, was how recent the apocalypse was, but this doesn't really fit with the rest of the setting. Akari mentions that her dreams have skyscrapes, but modern buildings don't tend to have multiple floors because it's lost-tech.

    And then Kaldern's step-dad says he remembers the day everything went wrong? And since then, everything's recovered enough that 16 year old kids are chilling in a standard(ish) high school, rather than being shoved through war/survival college.

    Still, VERY solid story, and looking forward to the next update. 4.5, rounding up a 5 for a Xianxia story that hasn't yet gone stale, and doesn't end up retreading the same paths as all the honoured elder brothers have done.
     
  5. aleph

    aleph First Year

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2016
    Messages:
    37
    High Score:
    0
    Yeah, that's why it was a pretty minor critique, the hacking seemed to stop being relevant pretty early on. The recent explanation annoyed me a little, as it seemed like a post-hoc fix to something that would probably be better fixed with a minor edit. Just give Akari a bit more plausible background with computers, and throw in some worldbuilding about how their island society values stuff based on its proximity to Mana Arts, and therefore has stagnated in terms of IT.
    I'm curious to see how the author is going to pull off the whole idea that their island is effectively frozen in certain aspects, such as Mana Arts and computers. Maybe they could use some sort of mystical explanation for people not being able to advance above Gold, but not being able to fix a software bug? That's some serious mental influence going on. And if that's the case, why not mind-whammy people more thoroughly to prevent Akari and Kalden from doing what they're doing?
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2021
  6. Selethe

    Selethe normalphobe

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Messages:
    560
    Location:
    Maryland
    The start was rough in my opinion - just something about the prose - but it finds its flow quite early on.

    Pros:
    - The worldbuilding is inventive & enjoyable. The mix of technology and "magic" is pretty well done, and more importantly, it gives the story a strong sense of atmosphere. The world doesn't just feel like generic xianxia world #1287.
    - Writing is fine. Can't complain. Very few spelling/grammatical errors.
    - I think MC's backstory is well-done. Definitely emotional, but not to the point of angst. The author could've easily gone overboard piling on the traumas.
    - Dialogue is smart and represents the characters well.
    - Hacking is cool. It's a neat way to add value to a character that is considered worthless because of her shitty mana reserves. It also makes the modern setting directly relevant, instead of just being a cool worldbuilding touch.
    - I like the mana watch
    - There's a bunch of lines and little character interactions that I find refreshing.

    Cons:
    - Takes heavy, heavy inspiration from Cradle. There are a few nods at the beginning, which is totally fine (and enjoyable) - few original ideas exist under the sun, and all that. However, a few recent developments are just... gratuitous.
    1) Splitting your power source into two, so you can keep one part pure and modify the other.
    2) The implied suppression field around the country preventing people from cultivating past Gold
    3) "The Grandmaster" = Sage of the Endless Sword. He came to this xianxia North Korea from abroad with his disciple and got ambushed.

    As an add-on to that, once you know the author's influences, the story does begin to feel like it's standing on the legs of others. Fighting spiders in the tunnels beneath the city = Mother of Learning, etc. The mesh of influences fray at the seams. I think it's because the shiny coat of paint he lays over them isn't quite thick enough. Feels too much like he's ripping from other sources, not merely taking influence. Might be hypocritical coming from someone who gladly reads fanfiction but it is what it is.
    - The antagonists are shockingly 2D. Emberlyn Frostblade, a girl that bullies the MC, is that full-face-of-makeup, thrust-your-D-Cups-out zero talent bimbo that calls MC a whore and swishes around the school with her posse. It's really bad. She's taken straight from an '05 SI Mary Sue fic. MC's foster parents are the Dursleys lite. I don't really get the feeling that any of them are competent, even though the narrative implies that they are. They purely exist to push the plot. MC's foster parents won't let her have a computer. They're gonna kick her out the second she turns 16, meaning MC has a time limit to learn the mana arts. Emberlyn turns all the professors against MC, and MC is banned from the computer lab at school. The author has the ability to write a real antagonist if he actually wants to. He simply has chosen not to.

    - I don't really like the MC that much, but that's a personal preference.

    - I'm... not a fan of the implied pairing (?). I love a good romance more than anyone, but I'd rather these two just be good friends. Unless it's a temporary relationship, one which MC outgrows. Then that would be 11/10.


    4/5 for now. It was 5/5, but I just can't with the Cradle rips. It's too blatant and takes me out of the story.

    4/5
    * did give it 5/5 on RR though :p
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2021
  7. Mishie

    Mishie Fat Dog

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2009
    Messages:
    546
    Location:
    Australia
    Originally I would have also given the story a 5/5, but it has definitely dropped down to a 4/5 for similar reasons to Sel. I won't waste time just repeating the issues she already pointed out, but something else that really stuck out to me is actually an extension of what Thaumologist raised.

    It feels like there's a very consistent trend of foreshadowing one thing, and then immediately contradicting after. Setting up that the islands have been separated centuries/decades, and then explicitly stating it to be 16 years, talking up how important hacking is to Akari's character and then kind of just never using it again, setting up Emberlyn as an antagonist and then barely using her.

    Hell the most annoying one to me was having Akira literally think about the fact that Kalden's retainers are so competent and that their parents much be even more so, implying that Kalden's mother already knows about what they're doing, which would have been a really fun twist if she was secretly supportive of him showing initiative. Nope turns out she doesn't know anything and she REALLY hates the idea of him doing combat training so she would have stopped it right away. Just felt like a waste.

    There's also the future/past/whatever dreams of fighting that originally only Akira had, and then Kalden, and then his brother, and then who the fuck else next. I'm almost expectng Emberlyn to be revealed to be having them as well, which is why she's so obsessed with Kalden. It just feels almost underwhelming that every single important character has the exact same motivation for why they're getting into training combat arts.

    Despite that rant, I do still very much enjoy the story, and potentially most of those will be explained later on as a being done on purpose, it's just that right now all I can see is a very frustrating trend.
     
  8. DvorakQ

    DvorakQ Seventh Year DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2006
    Messages:
    264
    Pretty damned sure the discrepancy between timelines of the outside world vs inside island is on purpose guys... the author's been pretty heavy handed about mentioning people dreaming about past lives. The outsider, mentioning that their city's mana shield is weird and might be kept up with dream mana. Kalden's not supposed to be going for mana arts because it increases the chance of past memories/dreaming.

    We also had mentions of there being planes of mana and that the source of mana isn't in the physical. Then further on we get mentions that the term plane might be a misnomer and that:
    Notice the title of the story web of secrets? Pretty sure this is a big hint to as what's going on. The Kalden chapter acknowledges that everyone's timeline on recent decades is fucky. Akari/Kalden learn mana arts incredibly fast because they've learnt this stuff before.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2021
Loading...