I love web novels.
Full stop, that is a thing you should know about me and my quirks in general. I love fiction I can find and read immediately online, whether it be fanfiction, original content, web comics, or some combination of all three (like Sailor Nothing). Anyone who knows me wouldn’t be surprised by this. I eat it up, I absolutely do. While I can probably review a ton of different types of things today I’ll be reviewing my favorite current running web novel series.
Savage Divinity by Ruff Writer.
This particular series is available for free on Royal Road. Keep in mind, if you want a quick read, this is not it. With over six hundred chapters and probably several hundred thousand words this is a story for people in for the long haul.
Now I’m going to review this piece by a few different elements, all while trying to keep any major spoilers under wraps. But overall my main commentary of this piece is that it rewards people who are willing to keep going, even when things get, well Ruff.
The setting of Savage Divinity is that of the classical Wuxia world. For those not familiar with Wuxia, it is a standard setting that reflects a mythological version of China, Japan, Mongolia and several other Asian cultures. The center of this setting and world is that of Cultivators, that is people who train themselves down the Martial Path in order to become stronger. This type of setting is very popular in Asian fiction, in fact there are entire websites FILLED with stories and web novels written in similar settings. Savage Divinity is one of my favorites because it examines a lot about the setting itself and the world.
Wuxia settings are very much about individual power levels and how that affects your place in the world. The mindset of the world is very much, you have to be born special, if you aren’t born special with your advantages then clearly you did something in your previous life that meant you deserve to toil as a peasant instead of being born into a wealthy or high class family. This sort of mindset is very at odds with western stories and values, especially North American ones like the American Dream, and rags to riches. It shows a lot because our protagonist is either from North America or some other western setting at how he bucks at this.
Savage Divinity shows how settings that put Cultivators and equates Might Makes Right as a true societal value has a few pitfalls. Especially since it’s only a very small amount of the population that can become cultivators at all, it leads to a VERY huge gap between the upper elite that is the very wealthy and the cultivators, the cultivators who do come from commoners, and commoners as a whole. It is a feudalistic society where the majority is very much opposed by a very physically strong minority and it shows when it compares the protagonists country, known as the Azure Empire, to the main antagonists, the Defiled. The defiled by the way are those who gained similar powers to cultivators by giving into their baser instincts and desires and becoming cannibals, among other things. Given that only makes them SLIGHTLY worse than the people actually in power in the Azure Empire.
I should probably mention, if Savage Divinity had a movie rating, it’d be rated R.
Politics is a very recurring theme as since this is a feudalistic society a lot of the settings power players keep that position by sheer fear of their capabilities and the fact that they can do things like extinguish a family line through nine generations.
Then there’s the power level. A lot of stories have some very obvious power level creeps and seeps, which makes it hard to really appreciate the level at which characters are at. One of most consistent things in the story IS the power level. What is and is not possible, reasonable, and obtainable is always very clear. Even as there is continual escalation the struggles and obstacles are always reasonably difficult.
Savage Divinity has a very large and diverse cast of characters with their own point of view and values that make up a large whole. I can’t list EVERY single character you’ll meet because some of them are spoilers in and of themselves but let’s go through a few of them.
Charok and Alantset
The main characters guardians and adopted older siblings, a couple of a human male and a demibeast tiger female (demi beasts are the children of mammal animals that have reached the status of divinity thus have human form and other humans, they live much longer than normal humans and there’s a lot in the story about their treatment, a LOT of main characters are demibeasts).
Charok is a homemaker, fantastic chef, martial warrior and big brother to the main character Rain. Alantset is a fierce warrior, grounded and protective mother and protective big sister of the main character. Both in the early story are the people who show the main character the best of the world when they collectively raise him.
Taduk and Mei Lin
A pair of hare demibeasts, and Rain’s official secondary family. Taduk is the loving father to his daughter Mei Lin who takes Rain in as an apprentice. He is the person who takes it upon himself to teach Rain how to read and write as well as his more practical non martial skills in medicine craft. Mei Lin is the ray of sunshine and delight who helps Rain cheer up whenever he’s feeling down. They’re both wonderful characters.
Bataar and Sarnai
Bataar is a wolf demibeast and Sarnai is his elder human wife. They’re the same age, but demi beasts age much slower. Bataar is Rain’s mentor and the person who helps guide him along the martial path to protect himself in the harsh world. Sarnai is his sarcastic wife who helps ground the world’s expectations.
Akanai and Husolt
Akanai a deer demibeast and Husolt, a beer demibeast. Mother and father of Sumila, Akanai is a fierce warrior and Husolt is an exceptional blacksith.
Sumila is a red panda demibeast, one of Rain’s first friends and rivals. A girl training to be both a skilled martial warrior like her mother and a skilled blacksmith like her father. Prickly and strong, but always willing to lend a hand.
Tate and Tali
Twin goat demibeasts, the adopted children of Charok and Alanset and younger cousins to Rain whom he helps take care of.
These aren’t ALL the characters, there’s a ton, but these are who you start with and you get to see almost all their points of view at some point to help form the world. Now onto the main character.
A human man from our world who somehow ended up in the body of a twelve year old slave working to death in the mine. By some luck he’s left for dead after he takes ill on a pile of bodies and is saved by the Khishigs of the Bekai. Rain is not the average Wuxia protagonist, he’s a gentle soul in a cruel world where most people become martial warriors to gain power and influence.
Rain just becomes a martial warrior to survive.
Rain is the only viewpoint character written in first person and also the most common one which shows the world through his eyes, which is more through western eyes just how cruel it all seems to him. He’s a very empathetic and sympathetic creature who struggles to grasp the nuisance of a world more alien than if he’d been dropped on Mars even while the people around him try to get him to understand. He’s a great example of how the western mindset would truly clash with the eastern one enforced in the setting and just how much of a mess he gets himself into by not paying enough attention to the world around him.
Plus he’s also well written as realistically and continually depressed.
I know that’s not exactly a plus to a lot of people, but as someone who has suffered from depression for much of their adult life I thoroughly enjoy the amount of depth of this character.
Again, this is a LONG ongoing story and for me, that’s a plus. It’s not for everyone. Pacing is slow because it takes it’s time looking at events from multiple angles and painting a very detailed and vivid picture of this world that’s alike but also very unlike our world that incorporates well researched and woven together elements of several different cultures prominent in the east. It isn’t just China and Japanese culture in the mix here after all. In fact the first major setting is based on the Mongolian lifestyle. The story spends a lot of time explaining all the different parts of the society that comes up, not just foods, and manners, but nationalism, imperialism, racism (there’s a big element of that for Demibeasts), slavery, how to raise pets (there’s lots and lots of pets, floofs for the win). As well as excellent fight scenes (I love how Ruff writes his fight scenes, how absolutely brutal they can get).
This is a great story that really builds a world for you to move through and explore. I would say so much more if I could, but so much of it is a spoiler. This is a world you learn through Rain’s eyes as he moves through it and learns through his trials and tribulations. If you want a story about an underdog, but physically, and socially, then this is a good one for you especially since it keeps a consistent level throughout to keep it from dropping straight into power fantasy.