The Path of Ascension

B: Great read with some quibbles.

This is a wuxia/dungeon-rift/scifi crossover fans of the cultivation genre will enjoy. The plot is classic power struggle the orphaned MC goes through in his quest to be stronger, but its done with a good trio of characters, and the supporting cast are mostly done well.

This was another read courtesy of recommendations from /r/ProgressionFantasy. It’s only on Royal Road (at the time of writing), but I hope it reaches a wider audience soon when the author has a chance to go back and package it all up nicely.

The Path of Ascension follows the journey of our tragically orphaned MC, Matt. Matt’s parents were killed in a rift break. If you’ve read Solo Levelling or many other rift/portal/dunegon based novels, this is fairly standard. Don’t keep a rift (dungeon) under control, eventually things come out of it and start killing.

Our MC gets his abilities awakened, but—oh no—it’s given a bad rating, so now he won’t get picked up by a guild to help him through his spiritual journey. But through the power of hard-work and sheer determination, Matt impresses some powerful sponsors, and they throw him into a high-tech Empire-run PlayPen. This is a prestigious academy, similar to where Rei goes in Iron Prince, very combat focused.

A few chapters in, Matt gets his second ability, and oh boy is it a doozie. It makes his power exponentially increasing as he tiers up. People start at Tier 1, Tier 15 is immortality (no aging), Tier 25 is “wipe out a planet easily” and it goes up to Tier 50, which is what the Emperor is. His power doubles with each tier, so obviously—if he survives and tiers up a lot—he is going to be an absolute monster.

Now theres a whole bunch of confusion (and maybe even inconsistency) with the power levels. Initially the author writes that the levels are exponential in most things. For example, 10 Tier 1 mana gems go are worth a Tier 2. At higher Tiers, the ratio is 50-to-1, not 10-to-1, which meant I was a bit confused as to how Matt’s power doubling every tier was supposed to be good, if the expectation was that each tier is ten times stronger than the last. Some of this gets clarified/retconned, at one point the author even drops in a formula showing one aspect (mana concentrations impact on spell potency) follows a log scale, but all-in-all apart from “bigger number is more powerful,” I don’t really know how its supposed to work. That’s one of the issues when you put numbers to something, is that—once defined—its so much harder to make everything consistent.

Power confusion aside, Matt is quickly joined on his journey with a bond (animal companion, like a sacred beast bond in Cradle), and then later on with a female companion, Liz. The romance is done quite well actually, apart from some weird things like the position to not have sex for seventy years, despite them being in a progressive, futuristic, sexually-free society. But overall, this is one of the romances plot lines I like, for it grows out of friendship, understanding, and respect, it doesn’t just appear like magic.

Onto the plot, I wish there was a bit more of an external impetus to keep things going, and some of the arcs do feel far more serious and others. I loved the rift experimentation mini-arc, and it gave strong Corin Cadence vibes from Arcane Ascension.

Outside of the main characters, there’s definitely an issue with underdeveloped secondary characters stemming from a too-large cast, and even after more than a hundred chapters, I still couldn’t tell you who’s who in the secondary team that Matt befriends in the PlayPen, apart from Melinda, who is the super overpowered healer.

Hopefully those characters get some more development in upcoming chapters rather than being shipped off to some far-off world. I’ll update this review when I know, because I full intend on checking back each week and consuming each chapter as they come. It’s not perfect, but god am I a sucker for scifi, Wuxia, and I’ll read until Matt can power a whole damn planet himself.