Aaron Gertler's Reviews > Worth the Candle

Worth the Candle by cthulhuraejepsen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: rational-fiction

A slow, slow grind; as I write this, the author is closing in on chapter 150, and we may not be even halfway through the plot. Still, I've seen enough to justify five stars.

The prose is strong throughout, and the characters feel like people, but the book's real strengths are:

* A world where people take extinction-level threats very seriously. Perhaps the best example I've ever seen of this essential characteristic of rationalfic. A world where the laws of physics can be broken is a world where many new forms of disaster become possible, and in Worth the Candle, many of those have happened already. Nations have been subsumed by dark magic, or beings too powerful to fight, or cracks in reality so dangerous they need to be kept apart from the rest of the world. And those parts of the world that have survived now devote enormous effort to preventing this from happening ever again. This is extremely satisfying to read about.

* Extraordinary worldbuilding. The story takes place in a fantasy world which is (I think) larger and more populous than Earth, with hundreds of years of history, and it feels that way. There are dozens of races; a score of schools of magic; countless competing powers, all planning and plotting at the same time. Juniper, for all his gamebreaking abilities, is far from the strongest force in the story. Despite his achievements, he is still a single piece on a gigantic chessboard, and you really feel as though he could be crushed at any moment. This is what it is to be an individual in a world of billions, to be the hero of one story in a world with a million stories.

* A character who becomes more intelligent and charismatic over time, chapter by chapter, and whose behavior and thoughts match this transformation. The author convincingly portrays what it might look like to go from INT 12 to INT 18, one point at a time, and I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. Too many stories show someone growing stronger with no change in personality, or a change that can be described as briefly as "more courage" or "more empathy". Juniper grows stronger in many ways, and his personality also shifts in many ways.

Worth the Candle is the absolute pinnacle of the "getting stuck in an RPG" genre. If you've ever rolled a 20-sided die, you owe it to yourself to read the first few chapters.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 13, 2018 – Shelved
April 20, 2022 – Shelved as: rational-fiction

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