[Story] Graven

Title: Graven
Author: Sharkerbob
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Contemporary
Tags: Anti-Hero Lead, Multiple Lead Characters, Portal Fantasy, Isekai, Post Apocalyptic, Super Heroes, Supernatural
Audience:(contains Gore, Profanity, Sexual Content, Traumatizing content)
Main Lead: Female, Male
Status: Complete
VB Assessment Score: PDE 2 CDD 2 SWB 3 || TQ 3 SV 2 || Overall: 12
Number of Chapters: 52
Chapter Length: Medium
Reading Level: Medium
Date of First Release: March 19, 2019
Date of Last Update: May 18, 2019
VB Reviewed? No
Available on Platform(s): Royal Road
Number of Views: 57,340
Number of Reviews: 12
Synopsis:
In 2029, thirteen unearthly structures called Doorways appeared across the world. Any human that entered immediately disappeared. Thousands were never seen again, but every once in a while, someone would come back out after a few days, garbed in strange clothing and possessing superhuman powers. Despite the odds, many of the desperate, ambitious, and hopeful surged through the Doorways in search of personal power.
Eleven years have passed, and the world has undergone catastrophic changes as the result of superhuman conflict. Entire continents and civilizations have been lost, a supervillain epidemic threatens those societies that remain, and the world’s greatest superhero team has just been destroyed. In the wake of this latest tragedy, a band of powerful superhuman bounty hunters comes together to track down the source of these disasters, and perhaps save what remains of the falling world.

Review(s)

Hickups: Fast-paced and action driven Graven makes for a few hours of entertainment, however, it also remains rather bland when it comes to intrigue, suspension or it’s characters.
Especially the latter are underdeveloped, aside from the main cast. If they are it’s usually through long-winded internal monologue which kept me from really empathizing with any, this includes the protagonists. That it’s all from first person also blurres the peculiar traits and mannerisms and so they all feel kind of same-y, eventhough you can see the author has them well thought-out and they are differing in motive and personality.
Lastly, while this story features grim dark elements they were so out of focus or washed out by monologues I honestly didn’t feel any of it. In general, as the story progresses it loses detail until only the primary strain of plot is described.
Personally, I say it’s worth the read if you’re looking for some short and easy entertainment, which does not include emotionally engaging or thoughtful content.

PaleThorn: Pros
– Fantastic read, dark but compelling themes
– Fast pace and satisfying plot progression
– Creative, diverse and unusual cast of characters with rational behavior and consistent personalities
– Phenominally good fight scenes with fascinating and realistic depiction of superhero powers
– Ambitious and worldbuilding, with genuine plot twists
Cons
– Last section perhaps a little rushed. You’ll know it when you see it.
– Some antagonists in the early chapters play into stereotypes perhaps a little too much… could be a bit off-putting to some readers who haven’t yet met the rest of the diverse cast. I recommend pushing though, you’ll miss out if you bounce off in the early chapters.
Overall:
– Cannot recommend enough
– A bit of editing and this deserves to be published

YesorNo: I read the entire story on the author’s blog in one sitting. After finishing it, I was left with a feeling of deep satisfaction, that I formerly believed, only a long soak in a hot tub on the coldest day of winter could provide.
If nothing else, it taught me how to correctly use a teleporter in a fiction. Strider single-handedly shouldered the story and lugged it from one action setpiece to the next and all across the globe, giving the story a frenetic pace that reminded me of allnighters and caffeine overdoses.
I absolutely loved the pacing. No fillers… non-stop action. I felt like I was reading a movie transcript and I loved the feeling. Easily the best thing about the story was how the deaths of two main characters were so abrupt. It really ratcheted the tension high. No one was safe. Once again, I can’t express how much I adored the speed at which we rushed through the narrative WHILE maintaining narrative integrity. Really amazing. It takes serious talent to pull it off.
A few things, though, hold the story back. The inordinate amount of luck [plot convenience] showered on the team at the cost of realism… A character who should have taken a hike [nudge nudge] remains behind in the cast for the sake of keeping the team united. The very first case they crack as a team exposes a clue that leads to the main villain. And so on…
Final verdict: It has it’s flaws – sure – but overall, I would call the experience a really enjoyable one.

Murderous_Caterpillar: Writing is well above average:

  • Few to no typos/grammatical errors
  • Dialogue is realistic
  • Exposition handled naturally

Characters are likeable

  • Their self-images are believable
  • Each characters percieves the others in different ways
  • Motivations seem reasonable

The plot is gripping

  • The investigation of the core mystery is compelling
  • Details about the world foster cursiousity
  • Seems to have clear direction
  • Fast paced

Author releases chapters often consistent quality
Definiitely both a story and author to look out for

Thedude3445: Graven is nominally a superhero story, which I’ll admit was a turn-off for me at first. There are technically superheroes, and there is even a superhero team featured in the story. However, this is pretty much as far as you can get from superheroes and still be in the genre.
Really, it’s more of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure, featuring a cast of broken, diverse characters forced to come together to fight a mysterious, world-ending threat. Graven is set in a world where superheroes come to Earth through mysterious portals. And, pretty much like expected . . . that basically ends society as we know it. In the present tense, that means our characters are essentially living in the end times, and they are well aware of it too.
The way the story blends low-level character drama, fast-pace superhero action, and chilling cosmic horror is very respectable. It comes together in a way that differentiates it very well from the endless horde of other superhero web novels out there. There’s some shocking twists and turns I seriously didn’t see coming at all, too.
And for what it’s worth, the actual superpowers featured in this story are really awesome. You get the typical super-speedster, the shapeshifter, the strong flying lady, but the sources of their powers are different. They operate mechanically differently in ways that completely change how they operate, and that leads to some really interesting elements.Then there’s characters like Strider, the terraporter, and Earth Mage, the . . . well, his name is pretty self-explanatory. They, among others, have powers that are really unique in a superhero story, and Graven makes very good use of all of them. No potential wasted in terms of crazy power usage.
Where the story falls flat for me is in two areas— One, is the fact that there is just so, so much exposition. The characters are constantly talking about their backstories or the backstories of worldbuilding elements or elements of other characters’ powers. It’s so much to take in that it can get annoying sometimes. And, because of all of that detail thrown in, the story actually feels a bit too small—near the end, we’re still getting exposition on certain settings, and it makes you wish the story were 150 chapters, rather than just 50. I very much enjoyed the brisk pace, but there was so much going on! I think the story’s expansive world would have translated better as a video game, or a movie.
The other issue I had was in narrator voices. Each chapter is in the first-person view of a different character, and we get seven or eight of these throughout the novel. However, the voices aren’t differentiated enough; everyone sounds pretty much the same. That actually caused some trouble for me in the middle, sometimes forgetting mid-chapter which character I was following. In fact, at the very beginning, I didn’t realize the POV switched at all, and I was halfway through Shoggoth’s introduction before I realized it wasn’t Max-Out anymore.
Still, even with some rough edges, Graven has a lot to offer to anyone who enjoys superhero fiction, and even to people that don’t. So if it interests you, take that first step through the doorway and take a look.

l nimbus: Graven, is, to undersell it’s value down to bargain bin pricing, a goodstory. Now, when you usually think or hear just good, but not great, you think of things like ‘readable’ or ‘meh but slightly entertaining’. That’s not Graven. This story has, in record time, found itself on my favourites list. I obtained the full copy from the author for the purpose of this review, and I must say, I was both surprised and pleased throughout the journey. 
Again, those seem to be underselling the effect of both those words. Graven started strong, very strong, in my standards, and only continued to mantain and raise that bar right to it’s ending. It offered and new view of superpowers and caped antics, as well as fascinating lore and a new storyline. 
Oh, it wasn’t the perfect story by any means, but it never claimed to be. And yet, it proved to be insightful, well thought out, fast paced but never rushed, and wholely satisfying. It managed to get me to give a damn about it’s characters, a feat that should be commended. While I’m uncertain if the author intends to publish them here on RoyalRoad, I urge other readers to check out the lore chapters. 
They are both entertaining in their own right, being written from the P.O.V of a slightly biased female scientist, and provide fascinating information on powers.They can be skipped and the story fully enjoyed without them, but I still recommend them to even casual readers. 
Story: 
Graven is a gem, no two ways about it. From the very first chapter, it sets up and delivers one hell of a ride. Supervillians are appearing across America, random superhumans going nuts and attacking others. This alone is already something unique and interesting. What builds from there only gets better and better.
Sharker doesn’t just build up and out with his story, expanding the narrative to larger and larger scales, but builds DEEP as well. He provides backstory, history, startling insights and that occasional sinking feeling. This is what helped sell Graven for me. Not only providing something new for us to consume, but to take the time to flesh it out and make it make sense. Questions that are prominent on the reader’s mind are answered in satisfying and surprising ways. The way the Doorways and Powers were handled alone makes for a very good read.
The action flows smooth and FAST. Not ‘blink and you miss it’ fast, but Sharker doesn’t screw around. He hits the right formula, keeping it tense and dangerous, all the while actually having explanations in the story itself. Fights are fast, brutal and often deadly. Like violence generally is. Gone is the common Super story trope of pounding away at each other until one collapses. Slugfests rarely happen, if ever. While not the glass cannons prevalent in series like Inheritors and others like it, the cast and their enemies aren’t invulnerable punching bags either. I like that.
The backstory and lore are great here. As I said before, Sharker put a lot of thought and effort into that, and it clearly shows. While, again, not everything is explained right away, it is over time. And at a good pace too. Questions are neatly wrapped up by the end, with no loose threads left to frustrate the reader. The author seems to insist the ending was a little rushed, and yes, while it does seem a little like that, it’s an ending. It actually has one, a clear, definitive, somewhat satisfying ending. No cliff hanger, no see you next book. An ending. That’s a whole damn lot more than many other stories on RR. 
So, just another reason to put this on your reading list; it’ll never Hiatus or be dropped. The daily uploads right up to the end do a favor for the story that way.
Style: 
..Good, actually. I seem to enjoy it. It’s kept at a fast pace, and despite the POV rotating through the main cast, it never felt confusing or disorienting. Instead, it felt natural. The flow of the story is a bit faster than I usually like, but I’m not complaining here. It makes Graven feel like..hm, a condensed epic. A story that could easily be expanded upon, more content thrown in. 
But Sharker didn’t. Instead, i find that everything not PLOT has been carved away, leaving no filler to be found. Everything adavances the plot in one way or another. That keeps Graven’s ball rolling, while simultaneously keeping the new content fresh and satisfying. And providing new insights on some older content as well. 
One thing, though. Graven’s pace can work against it at times. While, thanks to the fast pace, boredom is never an option, it also detracts the impact at times. For instance, because we never really see disasters happen ourselves here, we can’t bring ourselves to really give a hoot about the innocent bystanders caught up in the crossfire or if someone fucks over an entire continent. We see those things, and know they’re bad, but don’t really get Dem feels. 
I feel that the No Boredom thing does balance that out, however. 
Grammar: 
Again, good. Not excellent, or flawless, since the odd mistake pops up here and there, but still good. Aside from the occasional ‘were’ getting confused with ‘we’re’, everything is solid. Quotation marks are in the right place, sentences don’t drag on, and exclamation and questions marks aren’t mixed up. Wording is also good, with nothing feeling awkward. Props to that. 
Characters: 
From the very first chapter, I was in love with the cast. Forget your usual character archetypes, all of them. These people made impressions, big ones, and only continued to do so to the end. They aren’t nice, they all have blood on their hands and they don’t get along. 
I loved that about the cast. Conflict was a major drive for most of them, and it showed. They didn’t become best friends overnight, or at all. They were people. 
Max, the very first character introduced, was everything I’d hoped from for a strong female lead. I’d been looking for a lead like her for years, and I finally found. Strong, sexually confident, and very much her own woman. Shoggoth, world weary and somewhat of a defeatist/passive person, balanced her out. Strider struck me as the least memorable by her personality alone, which is actually balanced out by her actual character and powers. James was kinda the same. He was a good character, but I’d seen him done before. Hitchhiker returned the cast to the unique and well done, and later additions kept on doing that. 
The villians and other characters introduced along the way were more of the same quality, being extremely well thought and fleshed out. To a level I have rarely seen of antagonist characters, and in record time.
Again, this is where the story’s pace works against it. The fast pace just doesn’t give readers enough TIME to properly hate these antagonists. Yes, they do terrible and horrifying things, but they mostly occus off-screen, and while we see the aftermath, we rarely get to see it happening. 
This is balanced out, as I said above, by the villian’s themselves. They have their reasons and stories. All of them do. Cero for instance. Upon learning her story, the entire perspective of the story shifted. Humanity suddenly became the actual villians, and a character, a figure you rooted against for most of the series was suddenly the least bloodstained and most justified of the entire cast. That entire perspective was changed in a single chapter. Cero went from a tyrannical villian to a person getting revenge for unspeakable horrors, all believably done, in that one chapter. 
The same with the final villian. Again, in a single chapter, so many questions were neatly answered, other questions were expanded upon, and we had an awesome fight. Something actually different, and actually VERY tense and dangerous. All in a single chapter. 
If you can create a cast THIS good while writing at a fast pace, I wonder exactly what wonders you could make if you slowed down a little, put MORE character interactions in there. Put in MORE moments and dialogue. You could make em even better. Even better than the amazing, varied cast you have right now. 
Closing:
Shark, let me be honest. The biggest flaw in your writing…Is you, actually. You criminally undersell yourself. Graven was not the story you said it was, just another read. It was amazing. Enjoyable. Well though out. Fleshed out. Built high and built deep. It is nothing less than a respectable entry to the dark superhero genre. It’s actually better than a few I’ve seen on TWF’s Super list. I’ve judged this story, and found it NOT wanting. 
It delivered quality. At a fast pace. Look at those two. They don’t mix well. Fast paces usually mean rushed. They didn’t, here. Here, they made it FIT. They made the narrative RIGHT. So, my final piece of advice? 
Believe in yourself more. You’re a DAMN good author, one who more than deserves his place on my favourites list. I’ve read Graven and loved it. I’ll very likely be back if you ever decide to write another serial. If Graven is your starting block, your FIRST DAMN SERIAL, Lord only knows what you’ll create after this.

[omitted other reviews due to length and enough content shown above]

Story Post Last Updated: December 8, 2020

2 thoughts on “[Story] Graven

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