Critique of Chapter XIII
By: Dhalgren99


Lordy, here I be again...back in the Realms after having fallen through the usual hole in the sky that I always miss. Fortunately I wore my plummeting clothes (never leave the house without them...this happens more than you might realize) and so all I had to do was dust myself off and be on my way.

The ever poetic Kenicy is taking center stage today, for those following along with the home version...for this chapter we've got some tying up of loose ends (Malef) and some new plot threads being introduced (Tri-Nova), which is a good mix because this way you keep the readers from the last chapter satisified but at the same time hook them all over again with the promise of new developments. There seems to be a lot going on in this chapter but it can be all boiled down to a few events, heck Craven doesn't even show up, though he is mentioned. But those two events probably spell important stuff for the rest of the Realms.

We get to see a new character appear, a mean feat fourteen (!) chapters into the story (but this is only like the third Kenicy chapter overall I think)...Tri-Nova is sure an interesting name, I wonder why it's so offbeat considering that nobody else around her seems to have a similar motif in their names. I like it but it does remind me of something you'd call a robot or computer ("I'm sorry Odan, but I can't give you that information...")...we do get more of a sense of the place she lives in than her in the beginning paragraphs, which I suppose is a matter of taste, I prefer to dive right in and give the reader a taste of the character, either through conversation or simply following them around for a bit. The detail while truly awe-inspiring (do all of you people have photographic memories?) borders just a little on excessive, but then I consider myself a bit of a minimalist when it comes to stuff like that, I'll do a whole chapter on someone sitting around thinking if I can get away with it. And believe me, I try. The quick "unoffical" recap of the Realms history, or at least some of it is good, we haven't gotten much of a sense of the Realms as Character, I mean if everyone is going to live here it's got to be as much a character as Craven or Odan or Hellbore or anyone else (please don't feel left out if I don't mention your character, I don't have all night to list everyone...expedience sometimes is the best motivator)...it seems to have a history that stretches back quite a ways...I think some of the reasons Tolkein is so revered is because MiddleEarth is DENSE with history, I've read the guy's notes and he puts us all to shame on detail...even if it's not specifically stated it influences everything just like in the real world. So I very much look forward to the day the writers start to compile an official history and incorporate it into the Realms, it doesn't even have to be term paper style...even in racial reactions and scenes...I've had characters in my stories go through parts of Legoflas that were wrecked, nobody stops to give a speech about battles, when the Comouts and Iconans are a tad frosty to each other, nobody goes into the rather antagonistic history they've sometimes had, simple bits like that will give readers a sense of "history" without hitting them over the head with it, or making them stand on a target while you let the ton of bricks crash down on their heads.

That said, the history we see is interesting...I find it strange that the wyverns have that "soft spot"...one of the rather silly things I found in Tolkein was Smaug having that dark spot over his heart...come on that's just like "hit me!"...you think evolution would have weeded that little detail out (oh no! science!)...you figure mutations alone would have made some of them not have that and they would have an advantage because they don't always have to worry about being hit in the chest. Plus, from a writing standpoint, it's more fun for me because then I have to work overtime to figure out some way for the characters to battle said dragon/wyvern, if it's just "Oh we have to manuver to shoot an arrow into the "hit me!" spot", well then, it can be exciting but I like the challenge, all told.

However I've said all of that and nobody is even fighting wyverns, they might all be dead because someone was like "The hell with this" cast the "rain of arrows" spell and just nailed them all right in the chest. So I'll reserve final judgement on that little tidbit until the dragons start coming.

You know what, if I fought the Wyvern demigod and came out with only a missing arm, I'd feel damn lucky. Her grandfather should have just gritted his teeth like a man and took the fever. Odan would have done that, by gum.

The rest of the Tri-Nova section seems more expository, like I said I like the views of her home, especially the opulence and how she seems to take it all in stride, not seeming to wonder at how nice everything is or how strange her life can become (hm, if I saw stuff in my tapestry, I'd get my medication checked out)...rather odd she hides her bath behind a large mirror but that's the problem with royalty, they're weird. Her flashback to Odan and Craven passing through was good to note where the pair of them are but not all that revealing they seemed to have just come and gone...it's stated they were there "a few days ago" and heading to the Inn and yet when Tri-Nova goes there later she gets there decently quickly and Odan doesn't seem to be there. Is he still lost? Did he get sidetracked? I guess I have to turn tha question over to the redoubtable DanO but Kenicy, aren't you wondering what that dude is doing with your character? I'd ask, but you didn't hear that from me. 'Kay?

The writers continue the Realms tradition of making battles short and sweet, it seems to be an unwritten rule that if the characters go into battle, they tend to kick ass. Swiftly. Tri-Nova has a more realistic response than "Bring It On!" Odan...take out the leader and get the hell out of there in the confusion. There's a time for bravery and a time to be smart. She seems stalwart enough but not willing to just sacrifice herself. Good. And not that I know anything about weapons but can you throw a dirk...I wouldn't think it would be weighted right for throwing, I thought you need special daggers to fling, else you're going to smack them with the hilt or something. Any experts out there with an opinion on that? I know for a guy who writes SF with three billion year old gods and mindbenders and floating castles, I'm sure a stickler for realism sometimes.

And then back to Malef. He hasn't gotten any smarter...how long has it been since he was unconscious. Odan stated last chapter that he wouldn't be "out for long" and yet Tri-Nova remarks that it's several days since Odan passed by...how the heck long was Malef out, that's some sleeper hold, that's more like a coma hold. The accent again is perfect even if I keep getting images of Fat Bastard from that second Austin Powers movie (you know I don't watch many movies and that's one of the few I've seen, how sad is that?)...he certainly would be considered in open casting call.

It's good to see Malef is still thinking clearly, oh sure I'll go try and kill my brother at the Inn...in a public place...with lots of witnesses, such as Karl Strange who probably won't take too kindly to potential homicide at his Inn. Probably would have been a good idea for Craven to mention his slightly psychotic brother chasing after him with murderous intent...they might not have so cheerfully told Malef where Craven had gone. Oops. Live and learn I guess.

Okay so the Inn is close to the Vent...and we know that Craven is there for the Lord of the Pit competition because he hears the gnomes talking to Sir Scat. It might all start coming together now. So where the dickens are Odan and Craven?

The beasts that Tri-Nova encountered seem similar to the beasts that Hellbore fought (and neglected to tell anyone about...girl, what were you thinking?) and just as dangerous...last I checked that was being attributed to Karnak, he of the Matter Altering Stone...a bigger problem if you ask me. I certainly don't want my ribcage being changed into silly putty. Karl showing up is nice and this "meeting" he speaks of, I'm intrigued...might I be able to listen in? Everyone is already there, perhaps that means Craven and Odan have already made it? Or would they even be invited? Odan did mention needing to get to the Inn so maybe he knows about it. I'm not sure what events in Mordock they're talking about, the dragon thing is nothing new unless they mean the emergence of Craven. Or maybe something has happened since he left, the gnomes did seem oddly nervous when talking to Sir Scat. Hm. All the pieces are finally starting to settle into place.

And wait...what's this? What's this? "Shrinking and growing was not only tedious but extremely tiring." Boo-yah...Kenicy if you hadn't written this months before you even knew who I was and what my annoying nagging traits would be, I'd say my comments were starting to have an effect. THAT'S what I mean by consequences, people, it doesn't have to be a big event, but a mention is just dandy. Call it magic, call it whatever the heck you want but you'll never convince me that you can alter the size of your bone structure without any ill effects at all. Sorry to get all schoolgirl excited like I just met my favorite Backstreet Boy but I figured it was worth a mention, especially since I kinda hammered you folks with it the last few days. As much as I love details like the architecture and clothing and surroundings that you people are so good at, it's the bits like that where people pay attention.

And then Malef gets a visitor, geez first Ricore and now Alofu (hey I make that sound when I sneeze!)...you'd think you'd be grateful to live that long but apparently these bitter, bitter people have to take it out on everyone else. I'll have to tell my kids (provided the government doesn't sterilize me in horror at the prospect at my genes being passed on) to shoot me if I ever get like that and save themselves many miserable years of me whining. I'm not clear why Alofu choose the denest cast member to tell things of great importance but hey, do seers and witches ever do anything that makes sense. I think they're so busy tripping over their own plots they forget which are which. Whoops. Damn, Alofu is a bloodthirsty old woman, would she really do all that to Malef and his family...it's not his fault he's a moron. I rather doubt she can do that anyway, all she's done so far is smoke and mirrors, anyone can appear in dreams, heck supermodels appear in mine all the time and I highly doubt it's because of them high falutin' psychic powers. It's just a matter of will. Tee hee.

But here we get to the real meat of the chapter, Craven's origin...that's quite the literal prophecy, see what happens when you aren't cryptic, there's a reason Nostradamus didn't bother to make any sense, people will try to kill you if something reads "and he shall be named as Pouches and yea! shall deliver unto his people a Golden Age but not before really really really annoying them first." How old is Craven, I'm sure it's been said, he can't be any more than two hundred or so but I'm not sure how old dwarves can live. It'll be interesting to see what you do with that old "Golden Warrior Bard" deal since it would kind of stink if everyone but Craven knew what he was and he had to find it out and go through all that nonsense. And the dragon demigod wants to kill him. Oops. Now, see dragon demigods don't think, if I had suspected that the baby was in the woods, I'd just burn the entire forest down to be sure. I can always apologize later.

Honestly I'm not sure what I think of his personal history, it's typical fantasy which means that the basic concept isn't all that thrilling, we've seen the "young hero must discover his true heritage because he has no idea about it because his parents were killed by the evil being that is now searching for me and once he regains that destiny he shall be able to vanquish all evil" (as recently as Jeff Smith's Bone) and so on and so forth. I'm curious to see what kind of twists and quirks you can spin on it, you're way better than the by the numbers stuff...the gem idea might be promising, I'm definitely curious to see how that fits in. Perhaps the dragon demigod is trying to off all the Shadowed Lands characters before they impose their own personalities on the implicate template of the land...given the metaphorical beginning it's quite possible that the Shadowed Lands people are representative archtypes and as much as they might seem cliche once in a while, that's the point, their very presence forms the Phantom Realms even though they aren't aware of it. The demigod is an opposing force that is attempting to wipe them all out before they can permanently imprint themselves upon the land and render it substantially permanent (it could also explain why there isn't any history, it hasn't existed until Odan came over and subconsciously created it all...ergo there was no history to remember, none of it ever really happened, everyone just thinks they remember it even though the actual age of the Realms is about a year old). Through his agent Moultrance he's already gotten to Odan and mentally castrated him, Odan is no better than a shell now, hardly able to crease reality on any level other than the physical. All the dragon attacks, the raids, the faked histories (technically if the demigod can make everyone believe something is real, it might actually happen...anyone up for Odan as a woman?) it's all just a screen to mask the actual plot going on. By having everyone focusing their attention on those events and staying in the same area they can't have any affect on the rest of the still embryonic Realms and thus they can be contained.

Yeah, I think of stuff like that. But you see what I mean. even if all of that was a tad incoherent, you see how a basic concept (boy seeks destiny) can be tweaked into something unusual and different. Especially given the highly metaphorical beginning and the past history of the Shadowed Lands...y'all could create a decidedly unexpected fantasy expect. Just gotta think at different angles.

Still, Kenicy could recite the alphabet and make it entertaining. This chapter advances the plot for everyone while wrapping up some other stuff. You people are so good that this can't wind up as a typical fantasy story, you folks graduated from the school of basics way before I even figured out that just because it's longer than a page doesn't mean it's not a sentence.

Good stuff, beautiful detail, the scenes with Aolofu were even atmospheric, not as "dreamlike" as they could have been (but then most dreams don't make any sense), strong characterization for the older folks, good start with the newer people...why do you need me again? I dunno, I'm just sit back and watch it all happen, really.

But for now, stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Good night America!

- Michael

"Let's chase the dragons..."
- Suede, "So Young"


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