Before I start… This is a review of a webnovel. This is important because I have found that I really don’t know how to speak about this series other than in this manner. This isn’t perfectly edited, is long, and may be repetitive but I needed this for me. I vented and ranted about this series for days to my friends and in truth, I think this may be the only way I can give it justice.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a series; sometimes I am. If I do not like a series, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a series or simply like a series, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Praise the Orc by Lee Jungmin (Translated by Rainbowturtle)
Synopsis From The Series
Praise the Orc! is about Jung Ian, a cafe owner with a dark past, jumping into the world of virtual reality in order to protect his sister from any predators. However, things may not be as simple as he first believed them to be. Witness as he explores the lands of Elder Lord as an orc, a species labeled as the “game creator’s mistake”, defeating any and all before him!
Short Synopsis By Me
Jung Ian knows death; he has seen destruction and horrors that most can not even imagine. Despite this he is kind, and wants to protect those that he cares about especially his younger sister. In order to protect her better Ian joins the game of Elder Lord, a Virtual Reality game that has taken the world by storm. He decides to become an orc, a species most users disregard and loathe, mostly as a joke to his sister. However there is much more to being an orc than what first meets the eye, and there is far more to Elder Lord than he ever imagined.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
I read this series after seeing a comment on another webnovel that I read. Everyone seemed so… enthusiastic? (They were saying “Bul’tar” over and over again.) I wanted to know why and some guy said it was because of this story. I decided, “Why not. I’ll try it.”
Best. Decision. Ever.
I felt a sort of hype and adrenaline rush as I read this series especially starting right before the second half. There are so many things I want to talk about in specific and why they work for this series but I am going to try to generalize.
If you don’t want to get spoiled I recommend stoping here. You want to know my final review points? 5/5. It is a story about a game and virtual reality. Only it becomes so much more than that as I will explain below.
[SPOILERS] Jung Ian is known as a renown assassin Raven, who was a hired hand to do missions. He has saved people and he has killed. His initial decision to take this job was in order to save his younger sister and himself from debt; he decided to do it at a young age, seven years before the story starts. Upon returning to Korea he opens a cafe and begins to work as the boss. The story begins here. His sister is playing the game Elder Lord and gets harassed so he joins the game to help her. Note that she quits the game before he ever meets her because it was so bad.
Ian joins as an orc, and learns of the orc way. He is so taken by their culture that he can’t help starting to act and think like them. He is what many would call a role-player, but I would call this high assimilation and high empathy (but yes role player too). In the game there is an assimilation percentage and the more you take the world as to be real, the higher that percentage becomes. Ian has a high percentage from the get-go and accepts it all as a highly advanced game, but with its own merits of truth. Either way, he takes his role as an orc very seriously.
When many orc NPCs he cares about are massacred due to the betrayal of another orc user, he vows revenge on the user and the clan backing the user. Clans are groups of players like guilds. Most, however, have an extremely high disregard for NPC life and go as they please killing all that they do without a care.
Ian, who has taken this role as an orc very seriously, follows the tenants of being an orc warrior (see below in excerpts) vows revenge. He takes on the name Crockta. (Shall refer to him as Crockta from now on)
Most of the first third of the story follows this revenge. Crockta travels to a city defeats those of the Clan that destroyed those he cared about, saving the city and moving on. He then travels to a bunch of villages to save them and starts a war. After the war his enemies have disappeared and it becomes harder to find them so he begins another route. He reforms those who harassed his sister, and later saves a city from demons. He then continues on his travels, gathering companions moving to the north to liberate the north and stop the Northern invasion of the south.
It is while in the North, just about less than half way in, that Crockta learns this game is a real world. The people– users, gamers, whatever you want to call them — are in fact in another world, with their minds in new bodies created for them. Their identities as “those cursed by the stars” is a real curse because they are actually inter-dimensional travelers. Why have they been brought to this world? Only the Grey God, and master of the game, knows.
However this also means that every “NPC” killed? It was a real, living, breathing, individual of another world.
Crockta has to face this and strives to become stronger so he can stop more senseless destruction. This leads him to conquering the North and becoming a Hero class being. He then travels to the South to stop players who are helping a Human “NPC” become Emperor. These players are the remnants of the Clan that destroyed the orcs from the first half. Their goal is to ravish the world so badly that the game makers have to reset the game. They do not know this is a real world and simply want to destroy.
Crockta, with the help of all those he has met, destroys this faction. With the knowledge of a player who they captured from the other side, the Clan members are persecuted in the “real” world (i.e. Earth) for illicit drug activity. Immediately after the Gods declare war on Crockta saying he is trying to destroy the world, and that all people must destroy the orcs and Crockta. They battle the gods, and win.
This is where the Grey God declares the end of the game, but users do not log out and are stuck in the game. Die in the game, die in real life sort of thing, and quite a few people actually die. Crockta has to stop the Grey God in order to save the world. Now, the Grey God wants to reset the world to ultimately save the universe. The universe is dying and she hopes to reset it to let life begin again, but doing so requires her to erase all life in this dying universe. Crockta stops her, all users are sent back to their home world.
Throughout all of this Crockta was thought to be an NPC, but only at the very end did people realize he was truly a user like them. When returning to the real world, they know him to be the number one player in the game but no one knows his identity. When the dimensional rifts, caused by the Grey God, allow for monsters to enter Earth. Ian reveals himself in order to save the world becoming the world’s savior. This is where we end. At the beginning of a new story.
What I Liked:
Ian/Crockta; His justice was important especially as a medium for the themes to be told for the story. I really did empathize with him and my shock with all that happened reflected his own. He was a beautiful character with an interesting backstory. Typically stories with dark back stories like his own, are dark characters. He is a light character, kind and charming, and all the stereotypes (strongest character, girls love him, people adore him, he is their savior) of the hero, but somehow it just works. It works because the plot and themes make it work. He is the protagonist for this story and his journey is a mental journey of conviction. For this I only have praise.
Secondary Characters; For the secondary characters that exist, there were few I’d call true secondary characters. Of these were Ian’s companions Tiyo and Anor. They are the two who stick by Ian through the majority of the story and the two who have a back story. Based on the fact that there are “extra” chapters after the true end of the story I can not be disappointed that Tiyo’s back story was not completed. He was searching for his father, and some of that led Ian in specific directions. His father was never found, but the extra chapters allude to the meeting going to take place. Anor was relatively static to some, but I’d say he grew and changed over the progression of the story. He went from being a pitiable outcast, to accepting his powers and being foul mouthed, to being revealed as still shy and using the “tough guy” persona to save himself, to accepting his shy nature and still fighting with his cursed power regardless. He is strong and I will protect him.
Tertiary Characters; Now there were many tertiary characters from orcs to groups, to individuals (like Rommel who was number 1 for the longest time till Ian passed him up). These characters had their own stories and a bit of development, but what surprised me most was that they kept coming back in times of crisis. They were there to help and move the story. They created the army from the beginning and were the army in the end. I appreciated this, for even if their motivations changed they were true to their beliefs.
Tropes and Execution; This is where it gets long so good luck. I am bolding due to multiple paragraphs incoming.
The tropes of this series are bountiful. Let me see if I can name some. MC is loved by all the girls. MC is the strongest. MC grows pretty unimpeded. MC is the hero. MC has a tragic back story. MC is the nice guy. MC is followed by strong companions. MC never fails. MC clears the game. MC saves the world. MC is loved by all those that he meets. Where ever the MC goes justice follows. The MC gets full revenge. The MC is merciful. The MC can’t die. The MC gets stronger when he fights for those he cares about. The NPCs are real living creatures. Oh no it’s now a death game (you die in the game, you die for real). … I could go on.
Often times these tropes are just that, tropes. They are easy roles that can be used to explain something. They are easy to fall into and at some point they become less of stereotypes and tropes and more of what we expect in a main character. It’s when the plot armor is so strong that these tropes tend to annoy.
What Praise the Orc does so well is that each one of these tropes and stereotypes is used to push the themes of the story, which I will get into in a bit. The themes need the tropes to work properly. However Lee Jungmin is not lazy about how he incorporates them. He makes the MC kind from the beginning. His tragic back story as an aspect of his decision as a kind character. Ian became a mercenary because he was kind and trying to save those he cares about. He has always wanted to save those he cares about.
When Ian first joins the game, his real world skills are analyzed and then applied to the game. His assimilation rate allows him to become stronger because he accepts the teachings and sees the world for what it is. The system rewards those who have high rates, this is explained from the beginning and is the same for all users Ian just abuses the system more. Ian is super empathetic so his rate is high, he is susceptible to it all and thus becomes strong.
Now for the aspect of him being loved by all, its because he truly cares, understands and tries to help. The people reward him for this, despite him being an orc. This is tied to the themes. The most important for me is that he doesn’t die. Now Ian is a user, he can die. He just never does. This is directly tied to the themes of the story, his beliefs, and ultimately is what saves the world. He doesn’t die, because he can’t die, and that saves everyone.
Each one of the tropes ebbs and flows throughout the story, but not once was I annoyed because it made sense. Perhaps this is because the story is told from his perspective. Regardless, I believe that this is an important feature. If someone reads this story, through to the end, and sees the tropes of the story as a nuisance. Who were you rooting for? And what does that say about you?
For me the tropes were filled in and expected of the character, but I was never once irritated by them because I needed him to be loved. I needed for him to win. I needed him to save everyone. And if that is not good writing, I don’t know what is.
Plot Progression; We move to the plot progression. I have read many gaming webnovels and that is to say i know the progression: the character faces an enemy everyone’s like “how strong” and then he faces the next stronger opponent. That is how this story progresses, but its the human elements and the call backs that matter. Those side characters that didn’t mean much and were off handedly mentioned, come back. I mentioned the groups that come to war to help Ian? They show up three times: the first time they are introduced, the second for the Empire war (to stop the players), and the third time to fight the gods.
Other characters show up between those times, of people Ian met, and they help him. When the gods are recruiting people to help them kill him, the people refuse because of what he has done for them. The sword that he got at the beginning for helping a trader? The sword creator comes back and makes him a sword capable of killing gods. The girl he helped sell with selling food? She saves him by not supplying the enemy army (for the gods) with supplies. Characters return, and move forward. The World Tree even comes back to help him after asking him, his opinion on the world. (Ian saved the World Tree in the Northern Conqueror arc). Tiyo’s father, who they hunted for and the hunt led them to different locations to meet people, is what allows Tiyo and the others to travel to Earth.
Each interaction that was touched on meant something. Each person he touched meant something in the end. Each story helped lead them to where they were at the end. What characters said to him kept coming back and the progression as a whole is solid.
Events from the beginning are finally concluded in the latter half. The story progresses in a way that says, “of course this will happen next.” It is a progression that follows the path of a small trickle becoming a roaring stream or a small bit of snow fall becoming an avalanche. Learn to fight. Get a quest and save some people. Almost fail a second quest? Vow to get stronger. See loved ones die. Vow revenge. Revenge leads to city. Save the city. Revenge leads to more villages. Save the villages. When the group breaks apart help sister. Follow the words of a strange man who surprised you in the earlier war? Save a town. Follow words and save the north. Follow teachings and reveals in the north to save the south. See where I’m going?
It was a forward plot. Most plot points got wrapped up in a satisfying way. The story ended and a new began.
Themes; We are going to break this down into three themes: Meaning of Life, Butterfly Effect, Being a Hero (warrior).
I begin with The Butterfly Effect. As people know, the butterfly effect is a theory that states that minute changes in the past can have great rippling effects in the future. Or, your actions no matter how small can have profound effects on the future. This is to say that every life saved comes back to help you. Every kind word, ever small gesture, every person helped, can come back to help you. Every bad thing, ever person hurt, every bit of negative energy, can come back and hurt you. I would say this is Karma, but in the case of the story it is clearly the Butterfly Effect.
This is defined when our main character, at the end, is reflecting on what made him join the game in the first place. Yes, he wanted to save his sister. However, he only came up with the idea after hearing a woman speaking about the game on the side walk as her voice was carried on the wind towards him. Ian also reflects on what made him become what he was, and thinks back to his orc teacher who died. His orc teacher died and sent him on the journey for revenge, but its what the teacher said that had the effect on the entire story. “Are you alive?” and that just because Ian was breathing didn’t mean he was alive. This. This fundamental thought is what set Ian to strive for more power and to become the strongest. A little moment, of wind on falling leaves left such a lasting impact that changed the entire world. This theme is show in the progression of the story the best. The story is written to show this off, bringing every action back and every person into importance. It is Ian’s interactions that save him, and the interactions he has with others that save the world.
Being a Hero (Warrior); The tenants of the orcs are below, and its in these seven tenants that you will find true chivalry. The orcs are the chivalrous ones and it is this idea of what it means to be a warrior that really sets the story into motion. It is through these tenants that Ian is kind to NPCs and saves peoples lives or shows mercy. It is through these tenants that the others are compared and we see what is like to see through the eyes of a true hero. He does not question these ideals. We do not question them. This is the way it should be, but we understand why the others don’t care.
They see the world as a game. Why does it matter to treat people kindly in a game? Have fun, be ruthless, go crazy. Only, Elder Lord is not a game, it is the real lives of people in another dimension. Were we expecting the people to be noble and kind? No. But it only hits harder that Ian was, especially after we as an audience, and he, learn the truth. He was kind.
It also helps that this theme ties into why people like Ian, and Ian as a person. Before Elder Lord, he was selfless. He gave his everything for his sister, and did awful things for her sake. He joined the game for her. He takes a girl off the streets and gives her a job to save her. Ian was built for these ideals and takes so strongly to them because he already believer them. When he learns the truth of the world, he can’t simply quit the game. He thinks about quitting the game because he wants to turn a blind eye to the horror but he can not. This is already shown with his character, backstory, and taking to the tenants. He can’t do that, especially not when it actually matters.
In many ways this theme is pushed and pulled to say: just because the life is not your life, does not make it worthless. All lives are important, and you should not hurt others simply for the sake of hurting others. Additionally this really pushes what it means to be a true hero. We often hear that heroes are selfless creatures and by seeing Ian’s story that is only exemplified. Only it is told in such a way that you want to be a hero too or, in the case of what the tenants say, a true warrior.
Lastly we have the most important them: The Meaning of Life. I had difficulties with deciding on the simple title for this theme, but I think this encompasses the entirety of the story. This theme is introduce with the orcs who say “I am alive” as their customary greeting to each other. This is not, hello, hi, I am here, it is “I am alive.” They say this because they are living, they have seen another day, and they are continuing to live. They wish each other life, for life is the most important thing.
Secondly, we get Bul’tar. For the definition of Bul’tar see below in excerpts, because there is in no way I can define this so beautifully. Bul’tar is everything, but the theme extends so far that I’m not even sure I want to use such a beautiful world to exemplify it. For all intents and purposes Bul’tar is this third theme and I’m using more simple words to explain why.
We continue on with the plot and themes, seeing as the story progresses and the people struggle. Often times, mostly in times of trouble, Ian is brought back to the question “Are you alive?” He has learned from the orcs that to be alive means so much more than just breathing. He has learned, from the orcs, that to be alive means so much. He has learned to care for all life and question his own. This question leads him to more power and his acceptance of the world for what it is. It is also this question that makes sure Ian never dies. He acts like he only has one life and never dies (even though he can as a user, until the Grey God locks the world). He treasurers life. It is why so many think him an NPC. It is why he accepts his assimilation rate becoming so high. He accepts it all, and lives the way he must with no regret because he is living.
It is this question of what it means to be alive that is the crux of the plot. The Grey God wants to save the universe even if that means destroying the life on the planet. Ian wants to save them all even if that means the ultimate end for them when the sun comes out. Both he and the Grey God learn that it is not the end, but it is this struggle for life that enraptures the entire story. Each battle that he fights has to do with life: life of the citizens, life of those in the north, saving the npcs, saving the world. Each time he is faced with a life crisis he resolves to get stronger, and it is by doing so and accepting this life as his own that he is able to (plus help by the system).
The entire plot revolves around this. When we learn that the NPCs are real beings, I had a panic attack just like Ian. For what does this mean? How many people have died in the fun and games of these ignorant humans? When you see the end, and perfectly logical goal, of the end boss, you understand why. You also understand why you have to reject it. You reject it because you are alive, all the people who are in the world are alive. They are alive, not just because they are breathing but because of so much more and they matter.
This theme constantly asks what does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to dream? What does it mean to hope, to survive, of pain, of sorrow? What is the meaning of life? The answer is never made, but you know that by struggling with the question, you are alive. Thus, Bul’tar.
Each one of these themes comes from the beginning and falls together. We have the Butterfly effect that leads the plot in a fluid manner, bringing back points people, and effects. We have what it means to be a hero, helping you strive for a better world. Then we have Bul’tar, the Meaning of Life, and suddenly those tropes, that simple plot, that simple world? It gains a whole new meaning. It becomes that hope that swells inside your chest leaping out and making you scream along with the character because you care.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
I want more. Is that so much to ask? I want more on the world and how things go. There are extra chapters after the end and I want more of them. I need more of them just to wrap up the few loose ends that there are.
Why You Should Read:
Themes. This is a beautiful example of themes, sticking to them, and really pushing for them. Lee Jungmin expertly crafts a world and story around the concept of being alive and life, from the very beginning. You want a master class course on how to take stereotypical tropes and masterfully write them to include the themes you want to press? This is your story.
Time Taken To Read
2 days (there are 228 chapters, plus 6 extra chapters currently)
It’s going on my recommended list. Thanks
“I am an orc, a warrior.”
“A warrior doesn’t forsake faith.”
“A warrior doesn’t persecute the weak.”
“A warrior doesn’t attack unarmed people.”
“A warrior doesn’t yield to injustice.”
“A warrior doesn’t shame the gods.”
“A warrior pays back any favors or vengeance.”
“A warrior protects the powerless.”
“I swear to the gods, I will abide by these laws as a warrior.”
The more accurate pronunciation was Bul’tar.
It is a word familiar to the orcs in the present time. It seems that the ‘r’ ending has been omitted, and has now become the present form, Bul’ta.
The ancient orc word Bul’tar has both the most complex and subtle meanings. In universal terms, it refers to survival and life; however, in contextual terms, it sometimes symbolizes the most important thing or something of high value that the orc must fulfill in life.
It isn’t easy to interpret this word in the continent’s language, because it has a variety of meanings. In the case of the former, it is possible to replace the word with ‘life’ and ‘survival’. However, the problem becomes more complicated in the latter meaning. This is because there is no word to describe it in the official language of the continent.
It is a word that collectively refers to life, morality, goals, dreams, and the most important things in life. Understand this word is the most critical and difficult task when studying the culture and philosophy of the orcs.
I have met countless orcs. As I moved among them, I could feel the true meaning of Bul’tar. Despite the gap between the two different languages, if there is a way to express it in our current language, then I would like to do so.
In the ancient orc language, Bul’tar is life. Life is ‘honor’ to the orcs.
For them, life is the process of realizing honor, and honor is the sum of the most important values of their lives. This orc belief is solemn and religious. Therefore, Bul’tar is life, and is separate from the will of survival.
-Elliot De Pontian (The Cultural Philosophy of Each Tribe’s Ancient Language)
“No matter what, we have to survive.” – Hoyt (an orc NPC) to Ian
“Are you alive?” – Any time that this comes up in the story.