The Wandering Inn

July 19, 2021

The Wandering Inn Cover

This “book” cost me months.

But, of course, it’s not a book; it’s a web series. It’s an important distinction, because if you approach this like you might a book or even a standard book series, you just may find yourself sucked into a world far larger than you anticipated.

Good luck with that.

I came across the series from the recommendation of several different authors I follow: Will Wight, I think, and Andrew Rowe? I don’t fully recall, but it was enough for me to Google the term, find the website, and immediately discover I could start reading the series on the web, now, for free, no strings attached.

Bleh. Who actually wants to read a book on a website? Seriously. I bought a kindle for a reason 1 that’s not purely due to eye strain.

It turns out there are kindle books, three of them, that almost encompass three of the… eight volumes? Huh. And these are not small books; I believe one of them clocks in at around twelve hundred pages.

Still, I read the ebooks, and discovered I wanted more. I just had to sacrifice my soul on the alter of inconvenient web text and manual syncing.

It was not pleasant.

I can’t count how many times I lost my place, then spent untold eterneties scrolling first scrolling through innovative chapter names like 5.42 and 5.43, then scrolling through ten to twenty thousand word chapters. At least once I accidentally skipped a chapter, which led to great confusion until I’d figured it out.

I like this series a lot, so let’s first get out of the way things I don’t like. There’s not a whole lot to the list, but there is some, and they mostly revolves around the prose itself. I should point out the writing itself improves greatly as the series progresses.

Actually, let me repeat that, dwell on it a bit: the writing really improves throughout the series. Turns out, writing two chapters a day for years will cause one to learn a few things. It’s rather delightful to see.

However, that still means you’ve gotta get through some of the early “janky” writing, and therein comes both the warning and the encouragement. Yes, some of it may be annoying or frustrating (or it is if you’re me), but it gets better and the story is well worth that price of admission.

A Minor list of Issues


I hate the way they write dialog. This is probably my biggest issue, and one that never fades away. Pirateaba seems to subscribe to the belief that all dialog should always be on its own line. There is never other text. Never. Beats are placed on the prior or following paragraphs and often are… buried? That’s not the right word. The beat is always adjacent to the dialog, but it’s hard to identify as a beat when it’s part of an overall paragraph. It’s sometimes before and sometimes after the dialog, and sometimes there’s no beat at all.

There’s a school of thought that posits dialog should stand up on its own. If it doesn’t, then the dialog needs to be rewritten. Some authors will strip out their “he saids, she saids” and even remove the beats 2 with this idea in mind. This sort of thing isn’t a bad idea if you’re practicing your writing; it’s a fantastic way to tell if the dialog is flat and relies too much on beats for character. Thing is, beats and tags are important to the reader, cause guess what?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know who’s talking!

It doesn’t take long for me to look back (or ahead) and figure out from context who’s speaking; I’ve never actually not figured it out. It does, however, rip me out of the story each and every time. If this happened only once or twice? Okay, I can deal; nobody’s perfect. But there comes a point when I realize I’m doing this for the third time in a single chapter, and that’s just downright frustrating.


So, there’s foreshadowing and then there’s FORESHADOWING. What’s the difference? With foreshadowing, an event or scene is written in such a way as to to imply or suggest something to come. It could be obtuse, such as a character experiencing some ominous feeling; it could be subtle, such that the way the scene is described suggests something to come.

Or, it could be FORESHADOWING, which often comes across like a bag of bricks to the head:

“And little did Erin know that this day was to be the worst day of her life…” 3

Oh no! What ever will happen to my favorite character!

Does anybody actually think that? I despise this sort of thing. It feels as though the author could not be bothered to actually write a cliff hanger. When I’m reading, I want to read about what’s happening now. I want to be drawn in to it. What I don’t want, is for the author to rip me out and jab their finger into the future with impatient words about how great it’s going to be.

Stop trying to draw me into the future. I’ll get there in my own time.

To be clear, The Wandering Inn is great. The story’s been more than enough to keep me turning the page 4 even after five volumes, which is what, like fifteen books at least? Also, this issue mostly goes away somewhere around volume six.


This is a minor issue that could be easily be written off as stylistic choice. It doesn’t affect reading or the story or even detract much. It’s a missed opportunity is all.

Pirateaba has a tendency to break up perfectly good sentences into incomplete fragments using a period. It’s… fine. Fiction writers often feel free to break the rules of grammar; I have no problem with that. Personally, I think breaking the rules can be used to great effect. However, when it’s done too much, one of two things happen:

  1. The prose becomes garbled and difficult to read.
  2. The violations fade away into the background and the effect is lost.

Centuries of reading and writing have conditioned us to expect certain patterns in prose. Sentence structure, punctuation, and even word order are like a conductor’s baton, taking disparate noises and elevating it to harmonic symphony. Breaking those rules is a sour note. It draws attention, like a poem that rhymes until the very last word 5. The dissonance drives home that word like a hammer.

Breaking the rule of grammars is like that.

Pirateaba does it too much, but at no point does the prose become difficult to read. It just fades away. Given how our author uses the periods, I suspect they do it for pacing. The words are cadence in their mind, and the periods are an attempt to replicate that.

But here’s the thing: the English language has plenty of other punctuations marks that can do this. Take the humble comma, for instance. Yes, it is probably one of the most overused punctuations marks in any language, but perhaps that’s only because it’s really good at what it does. But if you don’t like the comma, it’s not like there aren’t other punctuation marks. We have a semicolon; we have a colon; we have an ellipses— we even have a dash or [gasp] a long dash. And, of course, there’s all sorts of brackets that can be employed.

There’s so many ways to structure language, so many tools available, and the author eschews all but one: a period.

As I said, it doesn’t exactly detract, but it’s a missed opportunity. It makes me sad, cause sometimes I stop to reread a paragraph and realize while it’s decent, it’s just a few punctuation marks away from being great.

A huge but: this issue also goes away. The writing progressively gets better as the series progresses. So please, don’t throw away perfectly good stories because the writing starts out a little rough.

Save the edits, please

You can roughly divide all authors into two main camps 6: those who edit, and those who don’t. There’s pros and cons to each: It’s easy for the “editors” to become bogged down in the pursuit of perfection and take years between their releases. On the other hand, those who don’t edit can often embed their mistakes with each new word they write.

Pirataba is not an editor, and they’ve said as much. Not only are they not inclined, but their very schedule doesn’t allow for it— two chapters a week are a lot to write.

This is not a complaint, but I feel it should be mentioned: The Wandering Inn is unapologetically what it is, errors and all. While there are three books on the Kindle Store that have gone through an editing process, it’s telling how far behind they are to what’s on the website. It’s also telling that most grammar and structural issues remain in those books as well.

If you want to enjoy it (and I highly recommend you do), you best get used to the issues. Ignore them, complain, roll your eyes, or whatever, but then move on and keep reading. Cause at the end of the day, what really matters is the story, and pirateaba has a great one to tell.

The Story

A great one? That’s wrong; it’s more like a plethora of great stories. Yes, there’s a main one and spoilers, it’s Erin, the one you start with. But to pay attention to just the “primary” story is wrong, simply because just about every story told in The Wandering Inn universe is equally good.

I would go even further and claim there’s a hidden character plot within (or constituting) all the others: the world itself. This is the benefit of writing the way Pirateaba does. They have space, room to flesh out the world in ways no novel or even series ever could. Each arc doesn’t just tell the story of a character, but also reveals more about a culture, nation, kingdom, species, etc in the world. That, of course, doesn’t guarantee good writing, and while not all of the stories are equally good, they are all good. More importantly, they’re unique so that very rarely do I feel like I’m reading the same story in a different character.

This would be good as it is, but I would be remiss to not point out that’s it’s not just one world, but ours as well. We never see ours directly, but most stories follow someone from our world trying to survive in a deadly medieval culture filled with magic and monsters. It’s equally fun and horrifying, yet always interesting to watch how our culture, ideas, and values not only translate into a reality not designed for them, but also not prepared for them either.

Where else can you find a story of a dragon addicted to an iPhone game?

Our Kind of Story

First, let’s talk about what kind of story is being told:

  • Massive world building: check.
  • Epic with lot’s of story lines: check.
  • Fleshed out characters that feel real and undergo authentic transformations: double-check… maybe even triple check.
  • Deep and consistent magic system: well, it’s broad. Not sure how consistent it is (literally, I’m unsure and I’m disinclined to research it), and there are hints of depth or deeper truths kinda thing, but so far it’s mostly just broad. Think: a lot of different spells broken up into tiers but with only very vague guiding principles.
  • LitRPG: sort of? There are levels and they’re really important to the world/people/plot. But the levelling system itself is simplistic (also a bit random) and there is a distinct lack of the character sheets common to the genre. Personally, I consider this a plus; I do not like skimming character sheets. Either way, let’s call it very, very lite LitRPG.
  • The classic Herione’s Journey: check.

Oh, I know this one! That’s like the Hero’s Journey, but with a bad ass beautiful female kicking everyone’s ass in skin-tight leather! 7

Ah… no.

First off, some clarification: The Hero’s/Heroine’s Journey has nothing to do with a character’s sex or gender.

Ack! Even that’s not right. The name certainly does lean into stereotypes. Men are prone to go at it alone, women are supposed to be cooperative, ladedadeda, whatever. It’s disturbing. Our stereotypes are so deeply ingrained into our culture such that the best way to title our story types is to use them. I can’t help but feel like something went wrong there.

The definition, though, has nothing to do with gender. A Hero’s Journey could easily be taken by any gender, just as a Heroine’s Journey could. In truth, even the structure of the story could remain largely the same between them— hell, even the basic stages of a Hero’s Journey can apply 8. What’s different is how they take that journey, how they overcome their obstacles, and what the resulting tension and victory looks like. The result is a very different book, even if the plot lines are largely the same.

Take what I like to call the ‘isolation’ stage. In this stage, our intrepid hero is stripped of their companions. In the Hero’s journey, this would result in the hero turning inward, finding (or developing) their inner strength, coming to some kind of deep realization or self-actualization, and emerging stronger for it. Isolation ends when our hero finds the strength to overcome the external circumstances causing it or changes enough internally to leave it.

The Heroine’s Journey inverts this. Instead of becoming stronger, isolation makes our protagonist weaker (or at the very least stays the same). As they progress through this stage, they are met with failure after failure until they are forced to realize that they can’t do it alone; they need others to succeed. A good writer will force the protagonist to deal with their inner demons in order to accept this truth. Isolation ends when the protagonist overcomes the inner demons keeping them from accepting help.

The stage is the same but the form of it could not be different. Whereas the Hero’s Journey focuses on personal achievement, the Heroine’s Journey focuses on interpersonal relationships. This shift in focus changes not only the meaning of the struggles, but of the underlying tension and drama within the story. Within the Hero’s Journey, personal loss is often used an impetus for growth, whereas in the Heroine’s Journey, loss is just… loss. There’s no justifying it with personal growth. It causes damage and it hurts and it didn’t need to happen. That’s the point.

The Wandering Inn is a large epic plot of heroine stories. Yes, there are heroes; yes, there are battles, magic, and intrigue. But the bulk of the drama lies in the relationships and how they evolve. Pirateaba is a master at fleshing out characters, drawing you in, and then setting up plot lines that pit them against each other in a way that sets up war as a tragedy instead of some glorious self-masturbatory monument to violence and the unending quest for power.

This is, for me, an important aspect of The Wandering Inn. War is cast as the prisoner’s dilemma. Tension is created in conflict by getting us to invest in both sides first. We the reader are made to understand why it’s happening; both sides have believable rationale, but it’s based on imperfect information. We know, deep in our hearts, that if we could just get the two sides to sit down and talk, there would be no war.

An Interconnected Mess

A big draw of The Wandering Inn universe is the feel of it, a real, interconnected yet disjointed, messy world. Stuff is constantly happening, and not just around our main protagonists, but everywhere. Major events propel the world forward, and nowhere near most of our main characters, who often only hear rumors of world events too distant to concern them. It feels real in the way our world is.

A major reason for this is simple: Pirateaba is not constrained by the limitations of a book, or even of a book series. Their web series is open ended, freeing them to interject innumerable side characters all over the world without fear of blowing through some constraining word limit. It allows them to not simply conjure world events, but actually tell those stories at leisure. The patient reader is rewarded with an intimate perspective of a messy reality that conspires to move forward events in a progression that feels natural.

People are messy. They make the wrong decisions; they are naive or cynical; they’re prejudiced; they’re selfish and selfless; they betray each other and are betrayed and, sometimes, they perform incredible acts of loyalty and love. Sometimes this shakes the world. Sometimes, it shakes only the person affected. I cannot help but think our author either has a prodigious memory or else some incredible outlines. There’s so many interpersonal interactions, and they’re not incidental. When major events happen, they are because of the choices individuals make. Those events, in turn, drive personal motivations.

It’s… life, and not just a slice but all of it. It’s all woven together in a masterful tapestry of all colors and shades. I just can’t say this enough: it feels real.

It’s also… life. It’s long and sometimes boring. Whole chapters can move at an excruciatingly slow pace. Some chapters seem to have no point at all except the author wanted to write about a character, and so they did, and so we get to read about a walk through town to buy stuff. It takes a patient reader to slog through one of the slice of life chapters or when yet another character perspective is introduced.

And that’s a whole other issue: each new character perspective delays the stories you’ve already invested in. Every time one is introduced, I seriously start wondering whether it’s worth it. Likely, the story will be good enough to draw me in after a few chapters, but it’s still distance between other arcs I care about. This can lead to frustration, especially if the author isn’t as invested in “my” character. As more and more arcs are introduced, this frustration can only increase.

Of course, there’s nothing to be done about it. I would not ask Pirateaba to write differently. They interweave countless storylines together, they’re masterful at it, and whatever weaknesses or frustrations that come from it are simple part of the package.

Is it worth it? Well, I’m half way through the sixth volume 9 and I’ve yet to switch out for another book. Apparently, I think it quite worth it. Whether for you that is true will depend on what you’re looking for.

Them Themes

Pirateaba is not afraid to take on difficult themes, and with a with a world so big, they have plenty of room to address them. I’ve been particularly pleased at the way they’ve taken on subjects such a rape and violence, omitting the gratuitous while showing how dehumanizing such acts can be.

But it’s more than that. It’s not uncommon for fan/sci-fi authors to have philosophical and/or idealogical viewpoints. In fact, I would argue this genre in particular is well suited toward expressing such things— it’s a part of my attraction to it at least. Yet I’ve been particularly pleased at the way Pirateaba addresses such issues. They almost certainly have an opinion — as all people inevitably do — but they’re not afraid of expressing the complexities of reality and — how can I say this? — of the valid pluralities of individual, yet limited perspectives.

I’m so tired of simplistic philosophy reduced to absurd ideology. Because, in the end, humanity — people and individuals — are not so easily reduced. We’re complex beings imbued with limited perspective. This is not a thing that can be changed. No matter how good, how right our hero is, at their core, fallible, if only due to their limited understanding of reality.

It’s this kind of thoughtful address of the human condition that I find a huge draw to The Wandering Inn. Take for instance Flo, the King of Destruction. He’s viewed by others as a tyrant bent on world domination. Yet Pirateaba spends a lot of time exploring why a tyrant might justify this in such a way that, somehow, you begin to understand and relate. He’s a good person trying to rectify gross injustice, and perhaps it is not the he who was wrong in his conquests, but the world who is wrong in its label.

Ah, but I love the doubt Pirateaba bleeds into their themes. It is never so cut and dried as our many ideologies would have us believe. Sometimes the tyrant is a good person; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes our monsters are self made; sometimes they’re just monsters. Sometimes evil is clearly cut and dried; sometimes it’s a murky bog of bad options. Of all the things they’ve done in their writing, this is possibly what I respect the most.

I’ve touched on some of the other themes interwoven into the series in my discussion of the Heroine’s Path, war, interpersonal relationships, etc. But there’s one main theme I want to explore:

Monsters, Inc.

Perhaps the biggest theme interwoven throughout the series is the idea of what makes a monster, a monster. As in most fantasy, there are monsters and they are established from the very beginning. What Pirateaba does, though, is immediately blur the line. Goblins, for instance, are monsters, and as the series progresses they shown to be… monsters.

But they shift the definition right out from under you.

Monster are monsters: they’re a kind of mindless evil, a danger that threatens civilization. When confronted with a monster, you either attack or run, for it will always try to kill you. What you don’t do is invite it in for dinner and try to talk to it.

Which is exactly what one of the protagonists does.

Monsters are a word we use to excuse our violence. One doesn’t need to consider the morality of attacking a monster: by definition, they deserve it because of what they are. It’s obvious when something is a monster, yet over the course of the book we see this label applied over and over to anything alien to us, different from the civilization we’ve created. And what happens when an entire race is called “monster”?

What happens when we create our monsters by the simple virtue of naming them?

What happens when we become a monster simply because we believe it?

This power of naming and our abuses of it are, in my opinion, a central theme to The Wandering Inn. As our protagonists either descend into or reject the stereotypes of the realm, we the reader get to see the power of our labels: monster, person, individual, other, them. They can blind or reveal, trap or set free. Throughout the series, we see people do just that, not only of others but of of themselves. It’s a strong theme, and a poignant one, and it is explored well.

In the end, this one question endlessly repeats itself beneath all their writing: what if all the time we’ve been creating our own monsters, simply by labelling them as such?

It’s a question our world desperately needs to ask.

Take Aways

I’ve spent the last couple months reading The Wandering Inn. Honestly, I haven’t written much during this time. There’s something here for me to learn, and until I do I’ve put my own story on pause. Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of book I want to write or, more accurately, how I want it to end.

I started writing with an ambiguous desire to subvert the tropes I’d grown tired of reading. To call my motivation ill-defined is to understate it; it was more a simmering discontent than any true goal. I was annoyed so I started writing with the intent to explore my own irritation.

I’ve largely been writing the antithesis to the Hero’s Journey. Mine is story where the Hero’s Journey doesn’t work, where it goes wrong, and how it can create the evil we seek to destroy. But I’ve always felt it was missing something. The book is tragedy, but I’ve never wanted my series to end as tragedy. I’ve wanted an alternative, an answer to the question I pose: if not the Hero, then who?

In The Wandering Inn I’ve found something of an answer: the Heroine’s Journey. I resonate with this idea of cooperation over rugged individualism, and of the cost we accrue in trying to do it ourselves. In my book the hero has immense power, but he’ll learn that it cannot solve the problems he wants to solve. He’ll learn that in trying to become the Hero, he will have made himself a monster. But that can’t be the end 10, and I’ve learned it no longer does it need to be.

I’ve also been quite impressed by the way Pirateaba has been able to create believable conflict between perfectly rational characters as they live their lives as people do. It’s something to which I aspire. It is, perhaps, harder to do when you can’t introduce new character perspectives at will, but the result is important. Characters need to have lives outside of the protagonist and it’s important the conflict between them is a believable, natural byproduct of living their lives. The “ominous evil” is just lazy writing. It’s easy to forget that when writing.


It’s a great series, well written, and extremely long— at latest count, over eight million words. The prose is a little janky but the stories more than make up for it and the prose improves greatly over time. The biggest downside is also it’s greatest strength: it’s just very long. Much like its title, it wanders, and for that you can loose yourself, knowing that you’ll always have something more to come back to. Or you’ll become sick of the endless segues and move on to something more… curated. That’s okay; The Wandering Inn isn’t for everyone.

If you’re looking for a good “book”, a story you can read and be done with, this series is not for you. Instead, The Wandering Inn is a place you can stop in to visit whenever you want, read what you want, and move on if you need. You can always come back, knowing there’s always another story to be told.


The Wandering Inn Website
Amazon Kindle Series
Patreon Page

I don’t usually do this, but since The Wandering Inn is free to read (on their website), I would ask you to consider supporting Pirateaba on Patreon if you enjoy their series. You can support them by buying their ebooks but if you continue beyond that, I would urge you to support them on Patreon.

  1. Which I don’t use nearly as much as I’d thought because I always have my phone in hand whereas I must actually remove my ass from my seat to go get my kindle. But hey, still, kindle apps sync, and the website does not. I really wish it would, though. I’ve had some thought to manually copy each chapter from each volume of the series into a doc I can convert into an ebook using Calibri or something. It just that it sounds like a lot of work. Still… 

  2. FYI, A ‘beat’ is a short scene set alongside the dialog. It almost always (and probably should always) feature the person speaking. As such, it’s a way to avoid the “he/she said” tags by replacing them with (usually) more visual action. 

  3. I made this up; it’s not a line from the book. It could be, though. Really. Some of the foreshadowing is almost that bad. 

  4. Or click into the next chapter? [Sigh] I really hate not having this on the kindle. 

  5. Oh god, I’m mixing metaphors. I’m so sorry. Someone, please help! Stop me! 

  6. No, no you can’t. That’s just stupid, as though any group of people can so easily slot into our nicely pre-packaged categories. At best, there’s spectrum, but most likely, the truth reflects categories we’ve never even thought of. Of course, while this is all true, it conflicts with my desire to make a point, and so thus will I ignore the pesky mess of reality and pretend everything is neatly packaged. 

  7. Okay, okay. Let’s not be sexist. They could also be wearing a metal bikini. 

  8. Which isn’t really surprising given just how broad and flexible the Hero’s Journey is defined. 

  9. Yes, sixth. This review is taking forever to write. 

  10. Or I suppose it can— lot’s of books do it —I just don’t want to.