[GL Reviews #2. Check out all my other GL Reviews here!]
[This review contains spoilers below the “SPOILERS AHOY” section—all chapters up to 15.2. If you want to stay completely safe from spoilers, read the unspoilered version of the review here.]
Katalepsis is the best web serial going on today.
End of review.
Wait, don’t actually go! You don’t even get to see the Best Girl tier list!
Okay, anyway. Yes. Katalepsis is a fantastic, astounding, stupendous, wonderful, sublime, eye-popping, wowzers-level good story. It’s recommended to almost any audience, almost any web fiction reader—ESPECIALLY if you’re into the whole Royal Road Progression Fantasy type stories. It’s a horrific cosmic terror-feast, it’s a heart-pulling romantic drama, it’s an action-packed adventure across dimensions with ever-increasing power levels and, somehow, extremely personal stakes all throughout. It’s funny just as often as it’s scary. Katalepsis really has it all.
I don’t usually read long web novels—I prefer stuff that’s sub-500 pages complete, and this is currently just under 4,000. Honestly, I didn’t really plan on reading the WHOLE thing, either; I planned on reading maybe 5 or 6 of the current 14 arcs, writing a nice review, then reading the rest after it finishes sometime in the future.
That changed as I got into the story and realized that, indeed, this is actually one of the most gripping things I’ve read in a really long time.
Please, if there’s any other thing you take away from this review, it’s that you need to read Katalepsis. Ignore any preconceptions you may have from the cover or synopsis or your idea of what horror novels or romance novels are supposed to be. Trust your instincts, take the dive, and if you’re not satisfied, you can blame it all on me. But you won’t, because you’ll love it too.
There’s a reason that an LGBTQ+ heavy horror romance fantasy novel is in the top 100 of Royal Road; it’s just THAT good, that it defies all niches to unite the entire site together. I honestly expect this to approach the Top 10 someday as it continues picking up steam, and especially with its impending audiobook and ebook releases. Katalepsis is going to be a Really Big Deal soon, and I can’t wait.
But I guess if you’re not convinced yet, then let me tell you WHY it’s so good.
First off, the characters are amazing. Almost every single main cast member is fleshed out to absurd degrees. Our protagonist Heather is an excellent, but biased surrogate into this magical world, and as she grows we slip further past the membrane and the characters slip further into our hearts. Even the asshole characters are endearing. Everyone is great.
The story is, essentially, a Progression Fantasy that isn’t marketed as one. Heather grows in strength, hones her abilities, and becomes a more social person. The power levels of everyone around her ramp up as well, and over time the story gradually gets bigger and bigger. All the classic Progression Fantasy tropes are here, just in a shell that isn’t a generic Tolkien-esque fantasy or system apocalypse. And it’s totally awesome!
And somehow, despite the major progression elements, the actual stakes feel relatively small, relatively personal throughout. A girl wants to rescue her sister from an alien God, but the story barely grazes the surface of what’s truly out there, at least as far as we’ve gotten. No matter how powerful Heather and friends become, no matter how powerful of foes they face off against, you never get the sense that the story has strayed too far from its roots, like so many power-growth stories tend to do. They’re still just teens going to class with emotional issues to work out.
And with those emotional issues comes one of my favorite romance plots ever, and one that even staunch anti-romantics might still fall for. Heather’s a real interesting fellow, and how she grows and explores herself romantically is genuinely touching, genuinely beautiful sometimes. It may not be the central core of the story, but it’s by far my favorite part. Gay girls just doing their thing, sloppy and cute and steamy and sad.
All this is great, but I don’t think it would have ever worked except for the final element to tie it all up in a pretty bow—the writing is really good! Now, this is a million word serial, and not everything in the story is amazingly written; you just can’t sustain that for a story this long without a professional editing team behind you. It’s not the top of the top in terms of web fiction prose, but it’s really far up there, thanks to some incredible British wit, a personality-filled narrator, and a lot of really nice use of literary story structures that rarely ever get used in this kind of writing. The dialogue is impeccable, and the descriptions of horrific scenery and cosmic abstractions punch with just the power needed to stick some brutal images in your mind for the rest of your days. Honestly, with a polish run by a pro editor, this genuinely would be up there in terms of all fantasy I’ve ever read. It’s just that good.
Put all this together and you’ve got yourself a web serial masterpiece. Eat dirt, Worm. Katalepsis is my new friend.
What Katalepsis Means to Me
There’s something special here, a certain something, which has made it my absolute favorite web novel. And I’ve tried to do a lot of soul-searching to really understand what it actually is that makes my love it so much, so that I can articulate it to potential readers to make them understand that this fiction is a Really Big Deal.
Two of my previous favorite web novels, Doing God’s Work and RE: Monarch (both of which I sadly have not yet reviewed), both have some major things in common with Katalepsis that help me narrow it down. Doing God’s Work has an amazingly fleshed out magical world with powers beyond human comprehension and lots of payoffs to the crazier stuff, which Katalepsis also delivers on in droves. RE: Monarch tortures readers with dark emotional cores to the extremely memorable main cast, which Katalepsis also succeeds at brilliantly. But something about Katalepsis honestly cuts above them both…
This book’s turned me into a fangirl.
It’s honestly rare, just so rare that I enter a fandom these days. For one, usually I’m so late to the party with TV and video games that by the time I finish, it’s all died down. Or the fandom is so “mainstream” that there aren’t those classic niche nerd communities about it and you mostly just see people talking about it on social media. Like, I adore The Good Place, but did I want to join a forum dedicated to it? No; watching it and gushing about it with friends was enough. For the most part, the same is true for other series I’ve loved over the years. Ultimate Marvel Comics, Mass Effect, Venture Bros, Yuasa Masaaki animes, James Bond, She-Ra… I love the stuff, but never quite enough to seek out others like me, to participate in an actual fandom.
But then there’s the Really Big Deals.
In my late teenage and adult life, about the past ten years, only a select few things in my life have given me the kind of obsessive, all-pervasive fangirlness that drives me to join Discord communities and chat for hours and speculate about fan theories, to write fan fictions and avidly ship characters. Honestly, it’s really just been three. Homestuck, obviously, if you know me, was a major part of my life for over 5 years. Sadly. Madoka Magica was such an obsession with me that I basically evangelized dozens of friends into joining a fandom cult and wrote a long-running fan fiction series from it (it also probably “cracked my egg” in terms of queer identity but that’s a story for another time). Steven Universe briefly took over my life and remains the one TV show that has truly captured me since I became an adult.
Those three things honestly may now be joined by a fourth. I never even thought it possible at 27 years of age to fall into a teenager-esque love with a piece of fiction like this, but here we are. Katalepsis did this to me.
It’s the kind of good story that fits so far in my personal fiction wheelhouse that it’s become massively inspirational to my own writing. Fellow authors, take note with Katalepsis. Read the first 2 arcs of this story, and find out how the hell to start a web serial, because whatever this story did, that’s how to do it. The character arcs, the descriptions, the story arc pacing, all the elements that somehow give it a legitimate fandom… It’s all stuff that I have actually been studying and taking notes on like a university student—the story goes beyond just fangirl level good because it’s genuinely helping me become a better creator, too.
Heather’s journey has honestly been a really big influence on my life as I’ve read the book. I started on September 5th, 2021, juggling between a couple other GL books at the same time, although by October it’s become mostly all-Kat-all-the-time. I’ve read slowly, deliberately, savoring each time I got to dig further into the story, and it took me until November 29th to finally catch up. I’ve never done this before with a fiction this long; usually I catch up really quickly then fall off, or I take really long pauses of a month or more before coming back to a series. Here, though, it was slow and steady for 2.5 months, and I think it might actually have helped me come to appreciate the story even more.
Heather’s growth, at some times, uncannily mirrored my own life, too. I came out as nonbinary, then less than a week later I got to the chapter where Heather comes out to her parents. I go real-deal clothes shopping by myself for the first time, and a couple days later, Heather does too in the story. Heather’s journeys and growth inspired me to take a few trips and actually travel before it got too cold, and inspired me to put myself out there and try to make real-life friends in a town where I still don’t know many people.
I don’t know if I’m just weird, but a story that can do that much to me is one I’m gonna follow all the way to the end.
Cornucopia of Cool
This book, honestly, is just really cool. Like, I don’t know what else to say. It focuses on all the themes that interest me most as a reader, and it delivers them in the same way that some of my favorite anime series would.
Like, there’s a moment very early on in the story, arc 2 I think, where the characters get into a real-deal battle for one of the first times. Up to this point, it really hadn’t sunk in for me what was going on, until suddenly all of the horrific magical powers kicked into gear and the action went crazy. All of the buildup to that point, all of the gut-wrenchingly emotional moments in the story so far, had been in service to the beginnings of a full-on anime-style action story. The genre basically shifted away from what the synopsis and intro suggested, and somehow it completely worked.
The focus on exploration and discovery, on terrible horror creatures and demented mages… A lot of it could end up pretty silly in the wrong hands. Just a smidge worse writing, and some of the story, especially in more recent arcs, could have been outright goofy. Instead, it always feels incredibly cool.
The characters are mostly big huge nerds, but they’re also extremely cool. Cool in that anime way, where once everything gets super serious and the powers come out, it all completely changes. Badass super powerful nerds.
And it turns out that this is secretly an awesome adventure story, too! Exploring new places, fighting brand-new monsters, discovering new technologies to upgrade the home base… Totally up my alley in every way possible. Just too cool.
Flaws to Watch Out For
Obviously, Katalepsis is not perfect. Any series this long is gonna have some flaws, and here’s the ones that potential readers may wanna watch out for. Let me put my editor hat on for a moment:
- LOTS of comma splices. Comma splices galore. There’s a few other grammatical errors that pop up now and then (“It was good for her and I” type sentences), but comma splices are by far the one that actually distracts from the otherwise excellent writing. It’s also continued all the way up to the newest chapters, so it’s definitely an issue that needs editing and one that genuinely impacts the reading experience.
- Extremely slow pacing at times. It’s a million word serial, so you should be expecting this, but be warned that some story arcs are stretched a bit thin, going on for 10-15 chapters when they might have been best at 8 or 9. Some of them are highly deserving of that length, though. It really just depends on the arc.
- The characters aren’t described physically enough. I don’t know if this is a “flaw,” but for me, it was hard to capture a good physical image of most of the characters because their details, besides hair, didn’t actually come up that much. It turns out that Evelyn does NOT have glasses, something I somehow neglected to notice the entire story, and certain characters had completely different heights and body types and hair colors than I realized (especially Twil). Official art’s probably the main way to fix this, but adding in more descriptions throughout the story is something I would have really liked.
- Repetition in prose. Once again, naturally gonna happen with a story this long, and especially in a fiction where horrific and abstract ideas have to be expressed in a specific language, but there’s a heck of a lot of repeated phrases that pop up over and over again. I think this is largely intentional, but the one that I think is a “flaw” is in the dialogue tags. Certain characters will have one specific dialogue tag that recurs all the time. One character purrs, another stage-whispers, another hiccups. The writing is beautiful in so many places, but this is one that might annoy certain readers, so I caution that in advance.
As you see, though, the flaws are mostly minor, mostly stuff that makes no direct impact on readers’ enjoyment of this serial. It’s just my nitpicks that I think other readers may also nitpick about. I will have some more specific criticisms in the spoiler sections though.
Oh my gosh. Raine is so good, such a powerhouse, world-shaking character that I have to devote an entire subheading just for her.
Listen. Butch women barely get any representation in fiction. Almost none in Hollywood, barely anything in manga or comics, and even in web novels it’s pretty sparse. But Raine… Raine just DELIVERS. She will destroy your world with every grin and then also probably shoot your world with an actual gun.
Once again, I’m not at all the type to get exceedingly attached to a single character. In my younger years I was a big shipper, but not really the kind of person who identifies with/gets a big crush on a fictional character who isn’t real.
Raine just has that way with people, though.
One day I’m going to invent a quantum reality device and bring Raine into our reality so I can marry her and she can kill monsters for me thanks to my quantum power accidentally also bringing horrorterrors into our reality too.
Below this point, all the spoilers lie. All chapters up to 15.2 are fair game.
You are warned. I will not hold back or tag any of it.
The GL Grade
(For those unfamiliar with my GL Reviews series, this is the “The GL Grade,” a special segment where I quickly rate the story based on Couple Dynamics, Spiciness, LGBTQ+ Representation, and Shipper Potential. These don’t necessarily reflect my overall feelings.)
Like, the best ever I’ve read in a GL novel. Heather and Raine have positively dynamite chemistry, the kind of blossoming love they make epic poems about. Every moment they spend together, being together and falling deeper in love, is another moment that makes me love the series that much more. Heather’s enough of a surrogate protagonist that the story sort of wants us to fall in love with Raine, but she’s enough of her own person that the couple together still moves along. They’re amazing together, with all the awkward, silly, work-in-progress mess of an early relationship. They’re going to get married and raise kids together.
I’m always reminded of the moment when Raine is captured and Heather realizes she must use hyperdimensional mathematics to locate her. She goes into their bedroom and relaxes, basks in the room itself as she takes in the essence of her lover. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the entire story, and no matter what else happens, nothing will be able to change the fact that these two women fell in love.
Of course, “couple dynamics” as a term doesn’t take into account the shift into polyamory over time. Zheng’s an amazing character too, and while I’m still not fully convinced that she and Heather really have the romantic kind of love—Heather still isn’t, either—I’m rooting for it to happen. Raine, Zheng, and Heather together makes for an excellent trio, even though we don’t yet know the full form of what is taking shape in the story.
The polyamory is honestly something extremely unexplored in fiction up to now. I mean, harem fictions, yeah, but actual polyamory is extremely underserved, and Katalepsis forging forward with it is friggin’ fresh.
As of the end of arc 14, though, there seems to be an extra angle where Seven-Shades-Under-Sunlight may or may not become a part of this polycule. Raine is very much not okay with it, so far at least, and neither am I to be honest. Not feeling that at all… But, like, that’s kinda part of the story. It’s not always gonna be so clean and work out. Heck, even Zheng herself still is in a wishy-washy way. Raine and Heather are together, and Heather’s exploration of love and sex with other people is gonna keep going, and it’s all incredibly interesting.
Holy hell, Katalepsis is one of the horniest fictions I’ve ever read that has no actual smut in it. It gets a good 98% of the way to smut in a couple scenes, but it genuinely never actually shows the sex. It’s just… extremely about the sex. Geez, sometimes I’d be reading this book and start blushing and realize I shouldn’t be reading it at work anymore. I probably should have not been reading it at work to begin with.
There’s a lot of steamy moments. A lot of very lustful descriptions of attractive characters. A lot of frank discussions of sex, of sexual attraction. Once again, never enters smut territory, but it’s VERY spicy.
The parts of the story in the beginning where Heather is lusting after Raine for a few hundred pages before they finally get together? Spicy. The parts after they get together when they’re just fucking every single chance they get? Now that’s ultra spicy. Habanero-level spice is when Heather gets back from the abyss and just starts railing Raine for a week. This is all said, rather than shown, for the most part. But the way it’s delivered is some blush-making moments for prudish readers like me. And I wouldn’t prefer it any other way, because it’s nigh-on perfect.
Gay women and sexuality in web fiction tends to either be, pure and innocent blushing whatever where the idea of sex is treated like shounen manga protagonists, or it’s creepy male gaze sex scenes. Here, though, we get a picture of, well, thirsty university students discovering themselves and each other through humanity’s favorite pasttime. Just like with the romance, it’s messy and awkward in the best of ways.
Almost the entire cast is a member of the alphabet soup somewhere. Most of the characters are lesbians, or at least express no interest in men, with a couple open bisexuals here and there, and only one token straight character so far. It’s a bit refreshing, if veering too close to “slice of life yuri manga with no men” territory at times just because of the lopsided cast ratio. I always appreciate stories where assuming someone is gay is the right thing to do.
There’s a little bit of discussion of asexuality, though no one uses it as a label yet, and one openly transgender character—though I suspect there may be more developments on that front if the story keeps on going. Even if not, I’m really hoping Lozzie’s gender identity becomes a more important part of her character; so far it’s blatant and in your face with her outfit, but it’s never actually been discussed by the characters, only ever mentioned indirectly.
It’s not SUPER representative as far as the entire LGBTQ+ rainbow goes, with mostly L and a little BT(A?), but when you have a story nearly as gay as Touhou, I think you’re doing the right thing.
This is the first story I’ve legitimately become a shipper for in… a long time. I will fight to the ends of the Earth for Raine/Heather to get married and have kids. I stick with the awkward extreme mess of Evee/Twil and hope it works out in the end. I see that secret tension purring through the night with Praem/Lozzie that’s clearly happening offscreen and Heather never gets to see it. I know deep in my heart that Nicole/Saldis is the OTP if only they would ever meet. All makes me wanna write a damn fan fiction. I’m 16 all over again.
Why This Story Works
Like, obviously we know why it works. It’s just a great story. But, now that we’re deep into spoiler zone, what exactly actually skyrockets this book from “really great” to “Whoa Momma?” I want to know!
It’s the little details, the plain good writing touches that you don’t normally expect from serialized fiction like this. The characters actually grow and change in a big way, sometimes gigantic character arc changes over time. Heather literally becomes more of an eldritch abomination with each passing arc, closing in on actually becoming a friggin’ villain of her own if she isn’t careful. Locations of horror and mystery are visited, explored, and revisited, fleshed out over and over again until we get to know them intimately. Everything keeps growing and keeps changing, even with the decompressed pacing that leads to a very slow story overall.
There’s tension in almost every single chapter. The villains are not often seen or heard, but their presence is always felt. The specter of Edward looms over everything, and the Eye never feels all too far away. There’s always that chance that some rogue mage is going to pop up and trap the cast in some horrific attack—which happens plenty of times so far. Even in the goofier parts of the story, a character like Mr. Joking is actually kinda scary from context alone, and the weirdo abstract King in Yellow offsprings always have the “We can destroy Heather without even really thinking about it” deal all about them. The further Outside the cast ventures, the more wonder there is, but the more every single step can lead to instant doom, as well. I love it.
The literary fiction techniques are also something almost unheard of in other web novels. The story frequently makes use of nonchronological scene order when certain storylines start, in order to break up conversations and allow Heather to give long narration without piling it all up in one part of the chapter. Cosmic horror is described with juicy, vivid detail in ways that most web serial authors simply write too quickly to be able to do. And there’s some outright narrative experimentation going on in a few parts, and I am absolutely there for it.
It’s got that special certain something, and now I wonder if this section was kinda just miscellaneous filler praise, oh well too late.
Story Arc Overview
I’m going full-on excess here with this review, so not only am I gonna review the series as a whole, but I’m going to do extremely short reviews of every single story arc up to this point—all of the first fourteen. Let’s get to it. My editor’s cap will unfortunately be on during this because I can’t help myself.
- mind; correlating
- Phenomenal. Best first chapter on all of Royal Road. A master class of introduction to a massive series. If I ever taught a serial writing class at some university someday, you bet you that Arc 1 would be required reading.
- providence or atoms
- Also amazing. Honestly, this is the arc that took me the longest to get through; part of it was “big story intimidation,” and part of it was juggling other GL books I was reading (one of which will hopefully get a review of its own soon), but it probably took 2-3 weeks to get through this one. Twil gets a great introduction here, the villains are properly shown off in a very memorable scene, and then we get THAT MOMENT with the infinite hallway fight. Heather blocks a bullet with her mind and teleports her girlfriend out of danger, and suddenly we all realize that shit just got real.
- conditions of absolute reality
- Sort of blurs together with Arc 4, but introduces so much stuff that’s vital to the series. Like, sex. And the dreams with Lozzie, and Tenny, and Zheng, and Alexander’s whole awful deal, and it’s all incredibly tense. The conversation in the cafe with Alexander and Heather is most certainly one of the moments that truly hooked me on this series.
- the other side of nowhere
- Almost perfectly paced. Horror, exploration, and Heather unlocking brand-new powers. The moment when the gang gets separated, when Heather is alone in the castle fending for her life and we don’t know if the others are safe or what’s going to happen… It’s the climax of the first “story cycle” (Book 1, except I think that term is taken), and it delivers very much. So much of this arc comes back to haunt the story for the rest of time.
- no nook of english ground
- Maybe my favorite arc. A “filler arc” if you’re a dumbass. Slow, with huge character revelations, Crucial Evelyn backstory, and crucial Heather development. Praem enters the Best Girl Contenders rank with this arc.
- and less pleasant places
- A bunch of curveballs. Kimberly never engages me, but Carcosa first appears, and so does the absolutely terrifying Fake Lozzie. Glasswick Tower sets up a villain revival and then goes in a completely new direction just to mess with you. An absolute gangbuster ending that twists the story just when it could have gotten stale.
- that which you cannot put down
- Too long. Some absolutely fantastic moments, best in the story, but Raine’s captured and character dawdle around far too long and the tension starts to dissipate. Praem bottled, Evelyn asleep, and Raine gone is definitely a great setup though. Extremely tense. Zheng is our hero. Nicole, Felicity, Sarika… Maybe a few too many introductions. The haunted house, though? Geez that’s good.
- 7.15 is one of the best chapters I’ve ever read in anything.
- covenants without the sword
- A good “one major element and some side stuff” arc, but weaker than the previous seven. Edward isn’t established as the same threat level here as the later story seems to make out, and the lack of discord between the Brinkwood Cult and Barnslow Bunch was unsatisfying. Only arc I’d rewrite.
- nostalgia for infinity
- A little too long, probably the weakest arc. The forest search is cool, Lozzie’s increasing incapacitation is an interesting twist, and the introduction to, oh my gosh, polyamory, is good. Tenny’s birth is magical, but then Tenny doesn’t actually do anything for the rest of the story so far, so it was a weird spot to put it.
- by this art you may contemplate
- Lots of exploring, lots of great fun, a little weirdly paced with no primary theme behind it. The Sarika part was decent—a well-deserved rest after five arcs of big happenings and adventures. Lozzie isn’t as helpful as the gang hoped for in Arc 9. This theme will continue.
- nothing more impotent
- Quintessential Katalepsis. An awesome adventure, mind-boggling cosmic horror, a weirdly silly antagonist, and a lot of extremely gay happenstances. Evelyn and Twil make me cry—Evelyn for her near-death and anguish over her role as leader, as mother, and as lover, and Twil for her endearingly useless nature that here can’t manage to fix anything. I, Thedude3445, am Seven-Shades-Under-Sunlight.
- water of the womb
- The closet thing to a breather arc we are probably going to get for the rest of the series. Amy Stack finally does something after a billion pages of standing there looking angry. Awesome statue spidersilk baddie, and tie-ins to the real world we otherwise never get to see with our highly magical main cast. I really want to see more of magedom around the world.
- a very great mischief
- Polyamory. Telling stories. The beginnings of a messy and beautiful new relationship. Absolutely awesome.
- Then it turns into a disgusting sewer monster battle halfway through and Heather becomes even more of an octopus. I was eating natto while reading this arc and it made me so queasy I had to stop reading until I finished breakfast.
- any mortal thing
- Lozzie and Heather’s deal is a bit played-out by now, and I don’t know if they successfully solved it yet, but I sure hope so. Then the REAL PLOT of this arc starts and we get one of the strangest, yet incredibly appealing arcs in the story yet. Heather almost gets married to a goblin and gets screamed at by Bill Cipher. An extremely hungry arc.
Overall? My favorites are probably 1/2, 3, 5, 11, and 14, in no particular order. My least favorites are 8 and 9. But even the worst arc is still, like, totally great. Don’t get me wrong here. I fucking loved 8 and 9.
Characters and Getting to Know Them
Like I’ve said probably many times already, the characters of Katalepsis are the most important part, and absolutely the thing that will stick with me the longest, even years after the book ends.
I just love hanging out with these dudes. A bunch of college girls who aren’t really that social, who are all kinda messed up emotionally and sometimes physically, who would rather watch anime or work out than actually go out on the town very often. Each one of them has a little bit of realism behind them. Everyone is so depthy and developed, as if they are actual people out there walking the streets of a cozy Manchester exurb today. They tell each other stories about their pasts and you get that distinct sense that we will never breach more than faint glimpses of their true persons, just because we aren’t them. We learn so much, and yet there’s still so much there.
And they grow! They develop! They have relationships, and sometimes they don’t actually work out, because that’s how life goes. They fight with each other and get angry and get depressed for a while and bond over video games and microwave curries. Each character goes through an arc, some of them more telegraphed than others, but all of them extremely gripping. Everyone from Heather to Praem to Lozzie to Nicole’s got tons of issues to work out, tons of room to become a better person and to understand themself better, and it’s constantly ongoing. Even the slowest parts of the story still contribute greatly to the character arcs.
Katalepsis fully embraces the biggest open secret of long-running series as of late—that Found Family is a surefire way to success. Everything from Fast & Furious to Final Fantasy XV has done it recently, and Katalepsis runs full-speed into all the best Found Family vibes ever. Is it contrived to slowly bring person after person into the fold and literally put them in the Saye House when they join the Barnslow Bunch? No, actually, I don’t think so. But even if it were contrived, it’d still be heartwarming and lovely. A bunch of gay girls getting along and creating bonds that will last a lifetime—and beyond, perhaps, knowing this series.
Whether or not Maisie can be saved and Edward can be defeated, is definitely something I’m interested in finding out. But I’m infinitely more interested in learning if Evelyn can finally learn to love herself, if Praem can become more human, if Zheng can, uh, keep eating people I guess, if Twil can actually gain any IQ at all.
Best Girl Tier List
Time for the main stage show. Time to friggin’ rank the Best Girls.
- Also Raine.
- Still Raine.
- Searching “How can I get married to a fictional character” on duck duck go (incognito tab)
- Gosh, do you remember the time she smiled at Heather and then did something cool? I do.
- I’m always, always a sucker for aliens learning to become human, especially when they’re way smarter and stronger than humans secretly. Starman is one of my favorite movies. Praem is one of my favorite characters. A sardonic asshole, and a robot, and a caring friend. She has big boobs.
- A total dumbass who fights for what she believes in and the people she cares about, even when she isn’t quite so good at actually understanding what’s going on. She’s the Worf of the series, so if she appears in an action scene, you know she’s gonna get beat the hell up by something stronger than her. Not very good at relationships. I relate to her on a very deep level.
- It took me a long time to accept that I love the woobie, but I do. I love the woobie. She’s also a total badass and doesn’t quite realize it all the time. I would be very scared of her in real life.
- Yeah, I love her. I probably relate to her more than any other character, not just because she’s the protagonist but she conveys a sense of socially anxious, long-time lonely, slowly growing adulthood packed with a ton of ambition, and more than a little self-doubt, all of which shoot empathy beams into my heart every chapter.
- But she’s also a total dumbass and increasingly an asshole to the friends and lovers around her. She might be S Tier again if I waited a couple more arcs to make this review, but this is the Heather of Arc 14.
- She’s literally Venom but a hot muscled zombie woman. I don’t need to say anything more, and I won’t.
- I, Thedude3445, am one of the best characters in Katalepsis. I will make these lesbian pairings happen even if I have to marry Heather to make it happen.
- Adorable and amazing and growing in intelligence and power at a disconcerting rate. She is baby, but for how much longer?
- I wish she had any actual plot relevance, though.
- The funniest fucking character in the entire series so far. Really hot, but also she’s a giant sphere that projects human skin out sometimes, so maybe not that hot actually. She said trans rights, unlike that coward Heather.
- Amy Stack
- The Boba Fett of Katalepsis, in that she stands there and looks cool and ultimately doesn’t do much, but Boba Fett is also one of my favorite Star Wars characters for precisely this reason. Amy Stack is hilarious every time she gets beaten up or scared off, and also has a secretly great backstory. I hope she finally kills someone soon.
- Felicity + Aym
- Problematic fave. Like, a horrible pick for Best Girl(s), but a totally interesting duo that appears in a crucial moment and changes up the dynamics of the whole story. As a person, Felicity is a monster who I’m not even sure can be redeemed, but maybe that’s why she’s so interesting to me. Also she has sex with a very small demon parasite that says rude things to people.
- I will never forget about the foursome comment. Now you won’t, either.
- Whatever. The police commentary stuff is a little bit on-the-nose sometimes, and Nicole is hard to pinpoint as a person or her actual arc. Sometimes feels more like a plot device than a character… But I’m also a sucker for the bisexual hard-boiled detective type and she wins me over on that alone.
- Best Girl is a villainous awful person who also makes a genuine case for herself being a victim instead of a perpetrator and calls into question at what point we should allow bad people to redeem themselves and atone, if they even want to.
- But then she became a Minecraft Youtuber which is just unforgivable.
- I liked when she was a TV static monster.
- I kinda like her sometimes, a little bit, but she’s also incredibly pushy and rude, absolutely inconsiderate of anyone else’s feelings, and nobody has called her out on it so far. Heather was a possessive jerk back to her, which DID get called out, but Lozzie’s still basically running around doing whatever. And also maybe that’s what she needs to keep herself mentally sound. It’s complicated, and she’s a really good character, I just don’t like her most of the time.
- She wears a trans pride hoodie at all times. That’s amazing. Probably makes me like her more than her actual personality.
- The Saye Fox
- She’s a fox. A magical fox who is definitely, absolutely not Evee’s mother. We know this for sure.
- Twil’s Mum
- She appears twice and is kinda mom-like. The Brinkwood Cult really needs more development, honestly, I realize as typing this. I want this woman to rise in the Best Girl rankings!
- Sucks, I hate her. But she’s also barely in the story past Arc 8 so it might not matter. I’m fully convinced she’s going to be brutally killed off at some point in this story, and it’s just a matter of timing.
- Living rent-free in Wonderland for an entire decade. Hasn’t contributed to society at all, hasn’t even passed her A-Levels. What a jerk!
My Favorite Parts
Here’s a random highlight reel of some of my favorite moments from the entire story:
- 3.2: “Hmm? Thing I said?” 😳😳😳😳
- Heather learning to enjoy watching her girlfriend play video games and getting into the Atelier series while also being clueless of most pop culture.
- Arc 5, Heather and Praem chasing the Saye Fox through the woods while thinking she’s Evelyn’s mother. An extremely tense, very anime-esque chase scene that also shows off the absolutely wonderful power of our demon doll girl Praem, getting her maid outfit positively ruined and looking great in the process.
- Arc 6, Lozzie showing up to save Heather from the Eye and the horrific Fake Lozzie and all the knights showing up.
- Arc 7, Zheng’s first conscious appearance. Eating the head off that dude.
- 7.15. Maisie. The abyss. The return. Everything changes from here on out.
- Arc 10, Mr. Joking’s first appearance, absolute buffoonery except that it’s actually terrifying because this is just a taste of what Real mages are like.
- Arc 11, Heather and Praem racing through Carcosa to save Evelyn from getting turned into books by the tentacle librarians. The reveal of just what the Library of Carcosa really is, plus very nearly losing a character who’s already gone through so, so much. Heather almost teleports the entire library wing back onto Earth and that would have been a fun AU. Though she probably would have died.
- Arc 13, clothes shopping. Heather growing as a person and becoming more comfortable with herself, inside and out.
- 14.14, with Sevens revealing more of her “true” self, and also bringing a massive sledgehammer to the status quo by turning the undercurrent subtext of Evelyn and Heather into plain old text. Ambiguous, confusing text. Just when we thought the story was settling towards the climax, we get this.
- 15.2, “‘Deady-dead-diddly-dead-deado,’ Praem said, utterly expressionless.”
Katalepsis is going to be a Really Big Deal. It has an actual fandom, with actual fan art and constant discussion and avid fans going back years. It’s not yet anywhere near the popularity of, say, Worm or Wandering Inn or Salvos or any of the other big-shots that shaped the entire web fiction world, but honestly I expect it to get there. This series is almost universally acclaimed, for good reason. It has all the same sparks of ingenious inspiration that helped series like Homestuck and Steven Universe go supernova, not just for me but for everyone. I feel it already; being a web novel is hindering its ability to righteously explode, but it’s so good that that doesn’t really matter anyway. Sooner or later, the world is going to start discovering the secret of Heather Morell in the town of Sharrowford, and once the bottle’s fully unsealed, there’ll be no going back.
I’m mostly just glad I got here before the inevitable explosion, so that I can witness it in real-time. And I will do everything in my power to make sure that explosion goes off as soon as possible.
I guess if you’re reading the spoiler version, you’re already convinced of all this, so I’m preaching to the choir. So I will use this final space as a call to action: let’s make Katalepsis into a hit! Evangelize this story until the whole world discovers it! Don’t stop until people have Twitter Discourse arguments about whether or not Heather did anything wrong!