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12:37
Ward by Wildbow
"It has been five years since the first book in this series, "Worm", was completed, and in the interim its author has honed his skills. He's improved his pacing and maintained the knack of presenting believable characters quickly, of providing enough resolution to be satisfying while still rolling out cliffhangers, and of writing excellent fight scenes.

The reintroduction of the world these characters inhabit is subtler, with fewer infodumps and more contextual information appearing as the in medias res story unfolds.
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Victoria Dallon, the protagonist of this new story, was a minor character in "Worm". At first glance her superpowers aren't as strange or inclined towards creative problem-solving as Taylor Hebert's were, but (unsurprisingly for fans) all is not as it might seem at first glance.

Unlike Taylor at the start of "Worm", Victoria starts Ward with baggage full of tragedy and messy relationships. Victoria has depth, but she's also a clearer window into the world than Taylor was. Victoria is an essentially decent person in the process of recovering from her trauma and trying to find her place in a very uncertain world. There's never any question that's she's heroic, and in many ways she's a microcosm of her society: she's getting back on her feet after losing everything.

At the start of the story Victoria knows she wants to be a superhero again someday, but she isn't sure when or how. She gets roped into mentoring a superpowered teenager support group, partly because they want to form a team and the therapist facilitating their group is against the idea. From there, she forms bonds with each of the support group members and gets involved in their (messy, complicated) lives. The main cast doesn't include a lot of simple powers or stereotypical characters, and it balances new characters with old ones from "Worm" very well. The story is different enough that it never feels like a rehash of "Worm", and the generally smaller, more immediate stakes of the story also hint at big world-changing events going on in the background.

The world of "Ward" is expansive, ambitious, and unpredictable. There isn't a single character in the main cast who I don't want to know and understand better, and I know from past experience that I can trust this author to pay off on all of the set up.
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Review in Progress, last updated January 1, 2019
"Ward" is an ongoing serial novel. I will update this review as the work progresses. I initially wrote this review at the end of Arc 7, when it was 562,442 words long, which is slightly longer than the Lord of the Rings books (including The Hobbit) (549,147 words).
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Arcs 8 and 9 were more self-contained than the previous arcs, mostly by virtue of not needing to set up as much material for future developments (or maybe just doing it more subtly than the previous arcs).
The end of Arc 9 included one enormous payoff that brought together many of the elements of the story and also set up future developments.
Arc 10 did not contain a lot of resolution, but it had some of the scariest, most disturbing scenes of the series alongside some of the most heartwarming and pleasant ones. Wildbow continues to demonstrate the variety in what he can write as well as getting even better at writing the stuff he'd already proven he was good at.
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As of Arc 11.4, the total word count is 925,026, around the same length as all 6 Dune books written by Frank Herbert."

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Schweinderl