Critique of Chapter XI
By: Dhalgren99


And hello...no doubt many of you are watching fireworks either outside or on the television (unless you're from one of those godless foreign countries that only seek to oppress it's people and deny them true freedom...like Canada)...alas I think they finished on the TV a while ago and the as has been typical lately, the skies have just opened up (it's bright and sunny all week when we're trapped at work, but when we hit the weekend or a holiday suddenly it's the Flood all over again, why God?) and my sister has staggered back into the house very much a wet person and here I am, adding my dubious talents to the crew here. Adding, you say? Perhaps I meant to say constantly throwing spanners into the works? Decide for yourselves.

Here we've got Kenicy on deck again, which is no doubt the cause of the giant smile on her face...dear God woman you're going to pull a muscle like that...but I'll probably turn that into rigor mortis by the end of this missive. We've got the lovely and talented Craven again, and his continuing saga. The little blurbs at the beginning summing up his past exploits (all one and a half chapters of them) was welcome, I remember most of what happened (boy gets adopted into stupid family, stupid family sees berry juice after someone murdered, jumps to ridiculous conclusion, runs silver boy out of town...straightforward if you ask me) but for readers who don't have my steel trap (ha! what's your name again?) memory it's good. It was nicely woven into the chapter as well, with Craven thinking about the events of the recent past.

However...either I'm missing something or we've got a possible continuity glitch here...in the last chapter Craven entered the Vent and ran into Odan (I think) while in this chapter appears to be recalling events that happened BEFORE he went into the Vent. Being that the last time we saw Craven he was with Odan and very confused, this sudden shift into Pastville is a tad jarring, I mean, I went to find all the requisite facts so I could avoid doing another skimorific job but a lot of readers probably won't want to do that (maybe they will, I speak not for the majority)...maybe you want to rearrange the sequence of events so that it's more straightforward, I mean in Craven's first chapter his life in the village was treated as a flashback while he clambered into the Vent and eventually ran into, sigh, Odan and that worked just dandy...but the jumping back and forth might only serve to confuse people, especially since there's no mention of this series of events (which apparently have made a decent impression on him, if I read it right).

So call me goofy (no, no, don't, last time I said something like that I wound up being named after a hairy jumping beast that populates a small continent) but it may be something that you want to look at...or whatever. Just dropping my unwanted opinion like a lead bomb on you fine folks.

Other than that there's little to complain about here, the writing is as smooth and clear as ever...some spelling errors abound (I think Craven wants someone to tell him of his "genius" and not his "genus"...which is probably Homo...Homo dwarfus maybe?) that I won't nitpick over because I don't want to tax everyone's patience by sitting there pointing them all out but be aware of it at least (but there's no word drops, which is fairly common with me, even in these comments).

A village of gnomes, eh? I wonder if the problem they have here is the cause of the gnomes approaching Sir Scat in the last chapter...hm, if that's the case and these aren't isolated coincidences, hats off for once again subtly reminding us that everyone is living in the same world...it'll be interesting to see if the characters join forces to combat the dragon menace. But right now we have a gnome village, and everyone has these nifty gems...now my first question is...okay, if you rub the gem you turn into vapor...how the hell are you going to rub it to turn back solid again, you're VAPOR remember, you have no hands or anything, you're smoke. Try to rub smoke and see how far it gets you. Invisibility is one thing, that can be just bending light (but then how do you see, hm?) but I have a feeling the gnomes are wrong in calling it "vapor"...I thought maybe it was the kids just getting it mixed up but the adults term it that as well. Hm.

Gnomes never seem to change no matter what scenario they're in, in the Dragonlance series of novels gnomes were basically hyperactive children who sat around inventing things (one running joke was that their names filled entire books because they encompassed someone's entire family history...and while they don't invent stuff here, the hyperactive child line of talking stays the same, most of the gnomes we see cram a million questions or sentence into one thing. My favorite is when the gnomish woman asks Craven his name and trade and then keeps talking without waiting for him to answer, I'm not if you meant it that way or not but it's still pretty funny.

Craven's storytelling abilities are fairly good, three guesses which scribe he's talking about...I wonder if the crystals the gnomes deal with have anything to do with Odan...he's not big on prosaic flourishes in his songs and that rhyming couplet thing was never my favorite style of poetry (but then my favorite poem is the Divine Comedy...if I had to pick one, or some Keats poem) but it's incorporated nicely and I doubt Craven would try out jagged rhythms and complex rhyming schemes when he's attempting to play for food (or make it up off the top of his head), leave that to the prissy arty people like myself who are always starving. Even my black clothing is fading. Aw. Poor me.

I wonder how all the orange crystals wound up in the mines (or how someone first figured out that you can rub it and turn invisible...but then I guess it's kinda like, "Who first thought to milk a cow" sort of question), a meteor perhaps or maybe Odan sowing some wild oats (with our luck it's drops of his blood or...other stuff), nobody seems to really wonder. Craven's change from physical wimp to King of Muscle Beach (who remembers those ads, "Made a Man Out of Mac!") is fun and true to life, the only way you're going to get stronger is by working at it and even though he probably nearly gave himself a heart attack trying it (and probably lung cancer, dude you can't breath in rock dust all day) the end result is nice...even though part of me did like the appeal of a physically weak hero character, I'm sure he'll use his wits more often than not and won't turn into Martial Arts Master Odan (he slices he dices, he loses his head...whoops, watch where you're swinging that, buddy) or any other character who can slap down the meek with their palms (Pedrin comes to mind as well...Sir Scat can rock a fight but I don't think he counts)...believe me when I say that it'll be a lot more fun to see Craven using that brain of his to get out of fights...and since he's paired with Odan at the moment he probably won't be able to get a fist in edgewise. Oh well. I'll drive off that bridge when the time comes.

And then the dragons come. This was unexpected and does serve to show why the heck they're all carrying those orange gems around but geez, you'd think they'd just move the village after a while. The problem with relying on stuff like the gems is that you don't bother thinking of other ideas...let's see how about we leave some food out of the dragons...laced with crushed glass...or sneaking up to them while invisible and stabbing them in certain painful areas. One thing I was looking for was a better description of what it was like to turn invisible, it's been hammered into us that they turn into "vapor" that I wanted to see what Craven's impressions were of the experience, he just rubs the crystal and watches, does it feel weird, does he feel like vapor...also if they really are vapor, why don't they just crawl into the dragon's nostrils (vapor can get sucked right up) and then rubbing the crystal when you get far enough up into the head...might give the dragon a nasty stroke. I also wonder what happens if the dragon hits you while invisible, Craven doesn't comment on how solid he feels but dragons have big noses and probably good senses of smell, if they don't accidentally inhale somebody...what if they were just like, "Hm, there's people around here" and then just flood the entire area with flames or gas or whatever the heck it is that they shoot...property damage doesn't seem to be an issue with them. Man, and don't they wish they had better magical abilities, one anti-magic cloud would probably make life for everyone in the village very miserable.

Still, these people are obviously stuck in a rut, hiding and then rebuilding every time probably isn't the smartest idea, they've got to get more proactive...Craven chose a bad time to leave but this is definitely a case where a guy with some brains will do much better than a burly fighter whipping his sword out and running at the dragons screaming "Die, foul scaled beasts! Ahhh!" we saw what happened a few chapters back when somebody tried that on just one. A whole pack of them...eh, they'll be scraping him off trees for days.

I'm not sure if dragons are really smart or really dense...you'd think that ancient lizards (who lisp! ah, you had an entire group of them talking like that...is it a genetic deformity...or does the dragongod just like the sound, it reminds me of steam escaping from a broken pipe) would more quickly grasp that everyone is turning invisible and do something about it. Especially since this has been going on for years, apparently. Also, if they knew the "orphan" (I'm sure that's Craven...that didn't take long...if I recall the family that tried to kill him had adopted him as well) was there and that the demigod of dragons wanted him dead, why not just flood the entire area with flame or something and get it over with...in one comic a team of mercenaries walks into a maternity ward looking to kill a certain baby...not sure which one it is, just to be safe they blow them all out the window...that's the kind of extremism we need here. I mean, come on, guys you nearly stepped on the bloody orphan...learn some dispelling magic, please?

Okay, so actually Craven is apparently already at the Inn and was there in time for the Lord of the Pit contest (was he in the crowd, I think I missed him...he must have been close by to hear the phrase)...that's where that timeline thing might come in handy, 'cause right now I've no idea where the heck Craven is or what he's doing or what order he did them in. In fact, the last two sentences in the chapter are very jarring, since they come out of nowhere...we aren't told in the beginning that this is another flashback, maybe a blurb showing Craven at the Lord of the Pit debacle hearing the gnomes talk (answers my question at least...and I don't think Sir Scat is who we want to do this) and then launching into his memories might be necessary because when I first read the last few lines I was like, "Huh?" Just like that. In tiny print.

So other than smoothening out Craven's nutty continuity and finding some smarter supporting character (other than Craven everyone else isn't all that clever, I mean in thirty seconds I thought of more ideas to try and kill the dragons than the gnomes have in years...time to get the gears regreased I think) life is real good in CravenWorld. I'm very happy to see the amount of integration going on here and so early on, the plots are starting to cross nicely and smoothly, there's hardly any rough spots there and it's often enough so that you can feel everyone living in the same world but still individual enough so that each chapter retains its own flavor. Nice. Kenicy, well done, I can't wait to see how Craven makes out with Odan (whether you or DanO handle that I guess we'll see), who's doing the big dragon battle?

Aside to DanO: the writer visualizing the character and the reader visualizing the character are two different things to me...in my head I have a decent image of what Tristian and the rest of the team looks like but the focus lies on their actions and postures, knowing that Tristian is dressed in faded blue jeans and a dark blue collared shirt with buttons with a dark blue sweatjacket for comfort is irrelevant to me...it's his little twitches and mannerisms, both physical and vocal that give him his character...in a lot of my stories the emphasis is mostly on dialogue and thought processes, so my goal is that you can close your eyes and "hear" it all perfectly...oddly enough and those who have read my stuff can tell me how off I am on this...people have actually said to me they can perfectly visualize the characters and what they're doing...so either I'm good at fakin' it or I'm more descriptive than I realize. Oh well. I think in the end it boils down to a question of style, and thus remains a matter of personal taste.

And of course I'm right.

No, no, I was, ha, just kidding, you don't have to...please don't, ah! get back! get back! no! What are you...NOOOOOO!

TWACK!

Whew. That was close.

Ahem. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I'll be here all week.

'Night all.

- Michael

"Hey baby, you're on a subliminal trip to nowhere..."
- Todd Rundgren, "Wolfman Jack"


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