Title: The Divine Dungeon Series Books 1-5

Author: Dakota Krout

Location of book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B01MUI3TG0

Review: 20/15/18/10/5= 68/100

Overview: The Divine Dungeon, a five book series by Dakota Krout, a programmer and I.T. professional trying his hand at writing progressive fantasy. I haven’t read his Completionist Chronicles, but I did read through this five book series over the course of a few days and wanted to share the good and the bad….and the ending.

Brief Summary: The author started the first book off with a dire hook, the protagonist being murdered. The landscape then shifts to the beginnings of the dungeon in a very “That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime” manner. You learn all about how the power system works within the story (essence/mana/spirit), how differing affinities toward elements work, and the story explodes outward into a multitude of different threads. Each book ends with a big fight, and begins with a minor resolution. The final book in the main series ends in a really really bad way. It made me angry enough to swear off reading any follow up stories to the series. The author did branch the series into other books, primarily different views and short stories, but I’m still so upset at the ending that I have no interest in following up.

The magic system is interesting, with different mages/cultivators working on unique “affinities” that allow for a path of magic. Of course, the dungeon is overpowered and has access to any and all affinities and paths, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled. I believe if Krout had read Sanderon’s three laws, he may have changed up his entire system. Either way it was creative enough that I enjoyed it and it helped me create a new system of magic for my own novel-work.

The plot is meandering, and sometimes falls off a cliff. I feel that the author worked so hard on their magic system and all the different ways the world works, that they let the plot “naturally” develop and never went back to revise where the story was heading. This can have the inevitable “resurrection” moment, where the character should by all rights die and stay dead, but keeps coming back to further the plot. I’d have been more interested in one of the protagonists (there are two) dying and the ramifications of such.

The dialogue is sometimes fun (hope you REALLY like puns), and the bloodthirsty Dungeon with its wisp companion have a quirky banter that brings a lot to the writing, but the secondary protagonist doesn’t stick to a “type” of character. What do you mean type of character you ask? He’ll be brave, then weak, then brave, then a genius, then confused, then brave, then innocent (murders someone in the second chapter). He doesn’t have “rules” that he follows, unlike the dungeon personality who is consistent throughout the series.

Aside from my own writing, I never had a “higher level” reflection moment. I never questioned my life’s philosophy or view of the world I find myself in. That has plus’s and negatives. I don’t see this work as a masterpiece, nor as something that can truly stand the test of time. Maybe it’s an elitist issue, to always look for those great works of art in contemporary authors, I don’t know. But it’s a fun story and I enjoyed my time up until the inevitable end (that’s foreshadowed in the 4th book).

Emotional context, I’m mad. I’ll have pleasant feelings while reading the book, but that anger will still edge anything positive I may feel. Just read this book with a in-and-out feeling and you’ll be fine. Don’t overcommit. Maybe Krout will turn around and give us a follow-up series that this world truly deserves.

Creativity: 20 (5 points for god-tier dungeon)

Plot: 15 (10 points for meandering plot)

Dialogue: 18 (10 points for broken characterization of protagonist, 2 points returned for humor and easter eggs throughout story)

Reflective Value: 10 (-25 points for learning nothing, 10 points back for a roller coaster)

Holistic (emotion): 5 (-25 points for botching the worst part, 5 points back for making me wish there was more to this)

Reviews and a new genre!

I’ll be starting a “in-progress review” in a moment here, but I wanted to write and tell anyone who reads my blog about a few new genre’s I’ve run into recently.

I’m a voracious reader of anything within the fantasy/escapist genre, not only for the creativity shown and allowed, but also because I love the idea of finding yourself suddenly in another world.

The fantasy genre has had two brand spankin new sub-genres come out in recent years, and I wanted to give a quick breakdown for what they are and how they work.

Progressive Fantasy: Progressive fantasy has to do with “cultivating”, and it is appropriately named as the protagonist and world they find themselves in have a “hard” magic system that involves gaining more power and progressing through a ranking system. The more power you accrue (or cultivate), the higher your rank becomes, and the more crazy stuff you can do. This genre has been around for a few years, but I didn’t stumble into it until about 4 months ago. Word of warning- there are a TON of authors self-publishing in this sub-genre as a LOT of their writing is absolutely horrible. The first review I’m writing is of one author’s five-book series who wrote with a blast of creativity and ended with a frustrated sigh.

LitRPG Fantasy: This fantasy sub-genre is similar to the “ISEKAI” anime style straight out of Japan. A normal (or sometimes slightly abnormal) person is sucked into a different world/universe/video game and taught the rules of his new living location. Often these have a “mana” system just like progressive fantasy, but they’re fully aware that the world has changed and the life they lived in normalcy is no longer meant to be. I’m a big fan of progressive fantasy, but I have a hard time reading a LitRPG book. While the anime version is interesting to me, and I absolutely love “That Time I was Reincarnaged As A Slime”, reading a book using the same methods isn’t appealing. Strange. Maybe I just haven’t pushed myself hard enough.

Three suggested series if you’d like to get started with Progressive Fantasy:

  1. The Divine Dungeon (subject in my first review, 5 book series) by Dakota Krout
  2. Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe
  3. The Cradle Series by Will Wight

Currently reading and just read

I’m reading as much as I can on my kindle. I’ve found it to be cheaper, not rely upon my wife allowing me to have a light on in the room, and overall a pleasant experience with turning pages.

I tend to bounce around a little on my reading, based upon self-growth or escapism (fantasy/scifi). Normally I try to do 2 escapism for every one self-growth, but my recent foray into progressive fantasy greatly split up my equation.

My current reading list is located here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/37852873?ref=nav_mybooks

While obviously the books listed aren’t all that I’ve read, those are what I’ve read that I can recall at any given time without greatly thinking back in my life. On to the list!

Currently reading:

The story Grid: What good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne

The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook by Hartigan et al.

Into the Labyrinth by John Bierce (maybe, feels shallow after the first 15 pages).

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (You reallyyyy notice that it’s YA literature. I’m trying to get through the series so I can relate to my students).

The Land: Founding by Aleron Kong (Good lord the exposition at the start. I stopped after 8 pages, hoping if I went back it’d be less of a wall-of-text).

Wonderbook by Jeff VandeerMeer

Just Read:

All Cradle books by Will Wight (1-8). I’ll likely write a review, but after a slow start it really blasts off. Got very hunger gamesy in the last 2.

The Divine Dungeon by Dakota Krout (1-5). Loved the series and humor presented, then received the worst ending I swear to god. Always write with your ending pre-formed.

Arcane Ascension #1+2 by Andrew Rowe (#3 in a month). I will definitely write a condensed review of the first two books. Excited for this series (if it continues!).

Relentless by R.A. Salvatore (Legend of Drizzt #33). I have in fact read every book that has Drizzt in it, and I don’t know if it’s Salvatore or my own taste for writing, but the books are really plunging off the cliff in their ability to bring a story together. No review.

The Origin of Names, Words, and Everything in Between by Patrick Foote. I’m a sucker for word origins or etymology. This was a fun and quick read.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Very interesting way of writing and her descriptive abilities are incredible. She’s a big author for middle/high school teachers in San Antonio (where she lives).

The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Read it in a day, wonderful damn book. Really makes you reconsider the loyalty your dogs show to you. My three are little bastards.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. I’ll probably add this to a “must-read” for future beginning authors. Very difficult to get through without some advanced English knowledge, but very valuable. Very. Very (you’ll get the joke when you read the book).

The Kingkiller Chronicles #1+2 by Patrick Rothfuss. Man can this guy write. I feel this nebulous plot floating around, and everytime I thought I had it, it was gone. I’ll likely write a review of the third book after it releases (who knows when). The mixture of hard and soft magic systems is very interesting.

That’s all I’ve read in the last few months. Krout and Wight really caught me up in their stories for quite a bit of time (really only a few weeks but haven’t had much time to read).

Let me know if you think I’m way off the mark on my reading.

Review System

I’ve seen other websites review systems for differing works, but never quite agreed with how they categorized the given material, nor with how they tore into the author or sang their praises.

I prefer to think of myself as decidedly neutral, not quite apathy with a twist of disinterest. I believe with that in mind, and my great hatred of Paolini put behind me, I can provide interesting reviews that get to the heart of whatever the material presented.

This review plan will have two different systems.

  1. It will set a value on a book based upon specific categories stated in this post.
  2. It will give a holistic view of the book as a whole, allowing for “general feelings” that go further than a simple numeric or star rating.

One set of categories will apply to a given work of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, while another will be given to books that help in the art of writing/publishing/marketing and such.

Each will be graded numerically out of 100 based upon each five categories (20 points each), with a holistic overview based upon that something extra.

Scifi/Fantasy Review system:

  1. Is the novel (or series) creative–Do they really stretch the boundaries? does it have flavor? I call this the creative flavor rating.
  2. What’s the plot like? Is it leaky like a ship? Does it ram the proverbial iceberg? How’s the cliché? This is the plot breakdown.
  3. Is the dialogue witty? how about realistic? Do I care about the characters? It is difficult to give a value to dialogue aside from the holistic, thus any points for this “dialogic” rating will need a reason for why that review is given.
  4. Reflection Perfection. Does the novel provide insight? Or is it just a jump into a world you can (hopefully) barely imagine. Does it bring value to the reader?
  5. Holistic value: Purely emotional. How did I feel while reading said novel (or series)? Did I want to keep turning the page, or did I push through it to increase my mental library? What was the something extra?

For the authorial art and business reviews, the system will be broken into a simpler paradigm with a holistic value applied with justification at the end.

The following questions will pop into my mind as I write a review:

  1. Did this book provide insight into the business and creativity of writing?
  2. Did this book teach me something invaluable, or expand upon what I knew with greater clarity, and if so, what in particular did it teach/expand?
  3. Would I suggest this to another up-and-coming author?
  4. At what level is this book, as in, can a non-English degreed person read it with aplomb?
  5. What writing style is the book? Is it personal, or professional? Do I feel like a professor is reading off a powerpoint, or am I sitting across from the author in front of a fireplace?

I hope to write a review every few weeks, but it seems my previous posts from 10 months ago show how often I really post here. In my defense, I just finished earning my bachelors degree and completed two sets of state tests in order to become an English teacher in Texas. It wasn’t quite as difficult as I thought it may be, but it did give me quite a bit of brain-drain and thus I wasn’t posting as often as I should’ve.

Thank you to anyone who have read this far, I hope to start pushing more content over the next weeks.

What is poetry to the artistically challenged? Words and rhymes on a page, set to a metre obliquely defined. Those with empty plates need not the epiphanic call. Those with shuttered eyes feel just as strongly or not at all.

But poetry doesn’t qualify with definitions. It drives from wordsworth’s imagination, Shelly’s congress, and Oliver’s nature. There’s no central hub, no education that can build a poet, it flows from the center and defies the rigid form. A delineated life finds no challenge. The poet writes from bumps and triumphs, from rising suns and darkest coffins.

The gloriously nested live their solitary experiences, while Frost’s road calls upon those seeking a truer form. Each word put to page, each cigarette struck finds a home nestled in expression. Poetry seeks its prey in the weak and destitute, forcing fingers to spell out our own demise. It’s a clarion call of mental action, a choice we do not make.

For my Grandmother

Glistening strings danced along

the deepest fibers of my being

They lapped and lounged, filled my bounds

and wound up in my needs

 

But now the threads, whom I had always dread

are cut through right and quick

I flit and float, on an anchorless boat

wishing life wasn’t quite so thick

 

Then a day arrives, with joyous sunrise

reminding me of life’s slick groove

So I took a step, with a little more pep

and found my own way to move

For my Stepfather

There comes a time-

Between yours and mine

When we reach for all the branches

 

When your limb was missed

Throughout fates dreary kiss

Nobody grew quite frantic

 

For you’re a father

Without all the bother

Who took nothing quite for granted

 

And now a card, without a guard

To show your care has landed

Differences

That voice on my brow which carries me through

Stretches along my anachronistic mind

Breaches through the softest cries

and changes what was blue

 

Family and friends, they cannot carry–

This weakness found within

But experience grins when the veil becomes thin

and all the world is merry

 

otherhood

I speak for the naked, the shivering, the clothed in steel

They know not what they feel

They only react, unsurprised at these foundations, these

choices they’re forced to make within strange nations

 

The required strikes, placing us in unknown situations

There is no preparation for this, no safe sensation

Times a bastard, calling on an unready body

Speak your piece and try to act like somebody

 

Movement from the corner of my eye, another

other arrives

Make a new notation of this frustration

Try to release your temptation

 

Hard to breathe, strangers make accusations

But we’re just here, with quietly dying aspirations