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First, the villains generally seemed one dimensional. This mostly seemed to be in line with the existence of an in-world alignment-style system, which keyed into another of my concerns – the world seems to run roughly on 1st or 2nd Edition AD&D mechanics, which I suspect was intentional, but left the book feeling less unique and more one-dimensional. I don’t mind the existence of game-like mechanics in a book – in fact, I enjoy them – but copying so directly from D&D felt uninspired. The addition of “tael” as an in-world manifestation of XP mechanics was interesting, but ultimately the magic and mechanics of the setting felt too derivative for my tastes.
My other major problem was that the main character started looking into equipping a society with guns before determining who they were at war with or the general behaviors of these societies while at war. The fact that his enemies tended to end up as unambiguously evil made his decision more valid within the context of the story, but that retroactive justification does not make his behavior rational.