Part 1: Threadbare Returns
Part 2: The Novelization Of A Dungeon Crawl Is Still Boring
Part 3: Halloween Wars
Part 4: Undead
Part 5: Spooktacular Free-For-All
Part 6: Dark Side
Part 7: Power Gaming
Part 8: It’s Not Ogre Yet
Part 9: Dark Side Boogaloo
Part 10: Magic Tea Party
Part 11: Threadbare Really Needs To Stop Trying To Criticize Racism
Part 12: The Final Battle Begins
Part 13: Finale
I can only assume that Threadbare author Andrew Seiple either isn’t hearing criticism of his attempts at anti-racist themes or else he just doesn’t care, but Very Special Chapters about racism have destroyed both of his books that I’ve read so far. The second book of the trilogy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero, was overall an improvement on the first, but the flaw that most crippled the first book has, if anything, gotten worse. Sew You Want To Be A Hero tends to focus more on fights with large parties which allows them to bounce back and forth between multiple perspectives based on whoever’s doing something interesting, and thus is far less prone to retreating into detached narration of the fight, which is good, because when Threadbare actually describes its fights, they tend to be really good.
This book is also far less enamored of the big reveal, especially as time goes on. What big reveal moments it does have tend to be resolved within a few pages rather than, as with Anise Layd’i’s identity in Stuff and Nonsense, the entire book, and by the end the book is relying much more on the question what’s going to happen next rather than what’s going on right now. People who’ve been reading these posts as they come out are probably getting sick of hearing that, but I’m gonna drop the one reference in here anyway, because it’s an important note to make for people who’re only reading the summaries.
And on top of that, the book has shaken off the aimlessness that was the original’s second biggest problem. Whereas Stuff and Nonsense was just a string of four-ish random side quests dumped onto an eleven year old girl and her favorite toy, Sew You Want To Be A Hero is about Threadbare finding Celia again (whose name is also Cecelia, now). Threadbare has Compulsive Hero Syndrome and is regularly distracted from his quest by people in need, but when he finishes saving his friend or the townsfolk or whatever he’s gone chasing after this time, he immediately reorients to his main goal of finding Celia, which gives all these episodic side quests a sense of narrative cohesion.
Part of the problem with Sew You Want To Be A Hero is that it’s developed one new flaw: Death has become completely meaningless. This wouldn’t actually be a problem if it’s something they’d figured out before anyone had died, or even if the people who had died in book one were treated evenly. Caradon is completely dead, beyond saving, but Zuula, who died at almost the same time (and didn’t she actually die before Caradon? I forget, but it was a question of minutes either way), is still around and can be preserved from death indefinitely by Threadbare’s necromancer powers. Caradon’s death is a big deal, but it’s the only death in the entire story that’s irreversible and you can feel the hand of the author demanding that Caradon and only Caradon stay dead. Having a “no one really dies unless there’s a TPK” mechanic is perfectly fine for a LitRPG setting, but having the climax of the first book revolve around “holy shit, people are actually dying” only to then pull back and say “ha ha, just kidding, nobody ever dies for real except when the plot demands it” is a pretty big problem.
Not as big as Threadbare’s persistent and consistently terrible anti-racist chapters, however. The internet is full of “keep your politics out of my media” types who are suspiciously only angry when left-wing politics form the thematic foundation of a work, so I want to be clear that the problem here is not that Threadbare wanted to have an arc about how racism is bad, the problem is that Threadbare botched that arc so horribly that it is actually super racist about it. The African American fishman in the Outsmouth arc is an obedient lackey to the evil racist Hatecraft for basically no reason at all, except that apparently when white guys start barking commands in an unknown language, African fish people are immediately compelled to obey. This is also the second non-white culture that has been depicted as fundamentally non-human, with the running total of actual human black people in the story still coming in at zero. In fairness, not every human character’s skin color is explicitly described so some of them could be black (or Arab or whatever), but Celia has frizzy red hair which makes her implicitly white which makes her relatives implicitly white, which covers Melos, Caradon, and Anise, by far the most prominent human (or ex-human) characters, and the others just don’t have skin color described at all.
I wouldn’t normally consider this a big enough problem to discuss in the summary, but like in Stuff and Nonsense, Threadbare has specifically drawn attention to how Racism Is Bad, which makes its failures in that department stick out like whoa. The story’s trying to win brownie points for being all woke and progressive and whatever, but it’s completely oblivious to how it is in fact being racist every time it brings up how opposed to racism it is.