Critique of Chapter VII(C)
By: Dhalgren99

Just when you thought it was safe...

Evenin' all, finally I get around to wrapping up the third (!) section of Hensbane's got interesting for a few days and circumstances broke into my room, tied me down and sent a doppleganger to wander the world in my place for a few days...but I escaped and I'm back now. Yay!

I've really gotta say that I'm impressed so far, the first chapter gave no clue as to what you were capable of...this chapter both served as introduction and yet had a narrative drive that was stronger than the first chapter. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to said chapter. I'd even say it was a better introduction to Hellbore than the first chapter was an introduction to Karl Strange, other than the fact that Karl is no doubt sickeningly noble and pure, and picks dangerous enemies (he alters matter! you fool!), and built an Inn because one day he figured that a bunch of people were going to write about some heroes and those heroes would need a place to meet (oohh...metaphysics)...we get a good sense of Hellbore and what she's all about.

And what she's about are werewolves, it was good to see that I got it right when I made that declaration in the last chapter, it wasn't totally obvious but at the same time I don't think you were making in a huge now that Hellbore is a werewolf technically, does that mean that the silver in her collared trim (though I imagine she's changed clothing...the last time I wore blood splattered clothing, I, er, oh wait my lawyer is whispering that I can't discuss that subject, sorry) will burn her. And please include at some point the Silver Knight, who basically wears a soft fabric sewn totally from silver ore and runs around during the full moon giving people big hugs because they might be werewolves. Come on, if you were a werewolf, you would be more afraid of someone like say, Karl Strange, who is no doubt mighty and caries an appropriately large sword, or a large man dressed in silver running over with the full intent on embracing you like you were his long lost child. One of those would make me crap myself, I'll leave it to you fine folks to figure out which is which.

I think the most shocking thing in the beginning of Hensbane's third section is that I died. Being totally unaware of that event (note to newcomers, my real name is NOT Pouches, though I imagine if I ever run into these fine kids at a restaurant, they will spend the entire time calling me that...sigh, that's the price you pay for being too clever for your own good, I suppose) first I had to run upstairs and confirm with the rest of my family that I was indeed not dead...they said I wasn't but I do believe denial is the first stage so I'm trying to keep them there before they hit acceptance and life gets really interesting for me. Still, could you? Well being this chapter was written many months before I came on board, I can only imagine that by accident she stumbled upon one of those misbegotten rejects I call stories and noting my name, vowed some day to get revenge for soiling her mind and computer screen in such a fashion. Well fine then, you got your revenge, Hensbane, you've had your laugh, but WAS IT WORTH IT?

Sniff. Excuse...excuse me...I'll...I'm...fine.

Really I'm...sob...fine.

Ahem...ah, anyway. Back to the chapter. Interesting that Hensbane appears to not have renewed her subscription to Obvious Magazine and doesn't realize that everyone is dead...that girl is none too quick on the uptake, apparently. There's a nice unreality factor to that brief scene, not as "surreal" as I like, I think something like a totally empty town would be really creepy, especially after having lived there and been around its bustling peak. And out of curiousity, where did all the bodies go, I know that everyone died except for her and those sailors found the bodies but I imagine it was mass grave doubt the mass grave was close as well, the sailors aren't coming back anytime soon I imagine and so the impetus to pick a nice far spot to dump everyone probably was low...dig a large hole and give 'em the ol' heaveho...lovely smell I'm sure. Hellbore's behavior was very interesting, very delibrate, almost like a woman who suspects the truth but can't bring herself to say or even think it.

Still, my personal favorite is dwelling on stuff like that almost to the point where it's uncomfortable, there's not much space devoted to Hellcore's reaction to everyone dying, granted it's a BIG thing and probably hard to grasp properly, but it's gotta be like the biggest emptiest feeling ever...this is where the existentialist influences would start creeping in for me, I would really try to give some texture to her feelings here, it's the perfect place for us to really get to know her in her moment of grief, even if you poked over to the present time Hellcore that's dreaming and show her sleeping agony at the memory...make it painful for us too, show a montage of heart wrenching happy images, don't spare us, we're all big people. That's my only complaint with Hellbore in this chapter, is that we don't get a real sense in her head of what she's feeling, I know we're not talking first person narration here but a lot of really rough stuff happens to her and I think the reader has to get inside her head, right now all we have to go on are her outward reactions to situations. Which may be the plan, admittedly I have a different school of thought than most of the crew here...but then, hm, I and lots of others are reading your stuff and, um, nobody is reading my stuff...maybe I've got the wrong idea. Hm.

Ah, the green man. We had lunch in a cafe the other week and he said something about appearing here. I said, "Green Man, aren't you afraid of being considered a sellout, appearing in popular fiction" and he just shook his head, took a sip of his fancy coffee (not me, I had a soda, hot drinks don't pass these lips) and said in that age old voice of his, "It was a one time deal, my friend...I could probably do it all the time but it can't be for the money, it's got to be for the love, you know?". I think he speaks for us all. It was good seeing him here, certainly better than seeing him on the cover of every friggin' Charles DeLint book ever written (write about something different, dude!)...Hellbore's reactions to his quasi-mystical version of "keeping it real for the forest" were priceless and very much how the average person would react after having their entire family killed and now this weirdly dressed man is coming and rambling about moonwalkers and the like. Buddy, give the girl some space, is this really the right time?

Still, the reactions of the men were appropriately superstititious, Hellbore's family background seems to be a mixture of English and Nordic myths and the sailors go along well with that "Viking" feeling that you've got going on here. And of course reminds us that being on a boat for many months gives you a funny outlook. Still, all of a sudden they're afraid of her...they must have noticed the birthmark while she was sick with fever, why heal her and then be like, "Get the heck away from us, woman!"...why not just chuck her off the boat and sail away as fast as the wind will let them. I mean, what if she turned into a werewolf on the ship (too bad she's not a vampire, running water does wonders to them)...ah, sailors, such a contrary lot. Won't be getting me on no boat, no sir.

It might have been interesting to see the gradual changes in Hellbore as the days leading up to the full moon went along, since we already know it's going to happen I'm sure you could snag some tension out of having her walking around town for three days feeling increasingly funny, animal instincts rising up, her sense of smell getting sharper, imagine what getting wolf senses would do to someone who's had human senses their entire life, oh boy would that suck for a bit. I'd sure smell a lot of things I'd rather have lived my life without smelling.

It's interesting that with all the detail that gets heaped on every other aspect of everyone's chapters, you didn't go into much description of her change, and I don't even mean outward description... let's think about this logically, she is changing from a human, much like you or a wolf, which other than being a mammal has nothing in common structurally with us at all. And she's changing. Shapeshifting. Her bones are going to be reshaped, even the shape of her skull is going to change...this is going to HURT, I mean serious ouch we're talking here, it's like having plastic surgery on your entire body while still being fully conscious, her head has to be undergoing quite the must be like being turned into clay and have a none too gentle person resculpting you. Ow ow ow. One of my favorite werewolf changing scenes of all time was in Swamp Thing, Alan Moore had a story called "The Curse" and you've got this housewife who's kind of PMSy and she's getting more and more irritable as the moon draws closer, arguing with her husband, feeling ill, etc. So finally on the night of the full moon she goes outside, feeling like crap, her husband is out there yelling at her and she starts choking, like gagging and he's like, "What are you trying to say? Spit it out!" and she keeps gagging and suddenly a hairy snout comes out of her throat followed by a wolf head and it's like the woman is just a skin the wolf is shedding...icky stuff.

The next part is more like it, you have a definite affinity for animals as you demonstrated in the opening sequence of this chapter (which as yet hasn't been given context...but I'm patient!), Hellbore as wolf definitely is a subject you're either well acquainted with because you were raised by wolves (not a problem, I was raised by a stocky hairy man named Biffo who believed he was perfect for the role of Orphan Annie...yeah, it scarred me a little bit but I don't talk about it much) or have spent time as one yourself (ah! back! tell me...does this CROSS do anything to you?)...the blokes who killed her family prove once again that all criminals are indeed stupid, even with extra hair, by hanging around...however if Hellbore turned into a wolf 'cause it was "that time" (er, treading carefully now), why were the guys who killed her family not wolves as well, it was clearly werewolves who killed everyone, shouldn't they have changed as well. And Gustav, whoever he is, appears to be a man of many excesses, um, I'm not sure if ordering the entire town killed because one person was arrested is the act of a very rational man, to say he's crazy is probably being kind, hopefully Hellbore will run into him and it shall be a grand battle indeed...again the emotional involvement for the reader is there, but I really want to get into her head, she's just had her family and entire village killed, she can turn into a wolf, a talking tree is her mentor and she's just murdered all the people who did might be time to step back and put this all into perspective, else she's going to go nuts.

Hm, she'd rather live as a wolf? Let's look at the difference...on the one hand you get to do whatever you want, have the freedom to make conscious choices and not have people constantly trying to eat you...or you can live totally by instinct, never know when you're going to eat again, never leave the forest because people will run you through with pointy objects...what's not to like about either. I think I'll go outside and do my rock impression. Nobody bothers stones.

Interesting how Hellbore turns into a red wolf, which if I recall are fairly rare. Still, it'll make her easier to spot when the Revenge Squad comes to get her. Might want to invest in fur dye, my dear.

The chapter does end a little abruptly but that's not even much of a complaint since everything else is well done...and this is part of a larger novel that actually continues next chapter (sweet mother of God...) so I can't expect total closure, even I don't manage that.

But I am interested in Hellbore and where she's going to go from here with her, heh, werewolf training, I think she's got a long road ahead of her. Ah well, it beats a normal life, don't it? She could have married that guy, had their 1.5 children and lived as a housewife until the day they retire before moving to warmer climates. And then she'd never have turned into a hairy beast. Hm, hard sell, but what are you going to do?

Fun stuff and now I can move on to chapter eight, sorry for the extended treatment but longer chapters I think deserve longer rounds of comments, so the only answer of course is to write shorter chapters, people. No, no, keep them coming. I'm not sure how long Hensbane's next one is going to be, it looks to be at least two parts so it's going to be a Hensbaneriffic week for those of you reading these comments. Please dress appropriately.

Note to NovaReinna: just got your update notice and I think it's too soon for the updates to appear, since I just checked the page about a minute ago and it's all the same, I'll check again tomorrow if I gets the chance.

On that note, I'm outta here, all you folks be good, ya hear? I said, ya hear?

I can't hear you.

Oh poo, they left when I wasn't looking again. Mental note to change the locks.

Bye now!

- Michael

"I don't cry anymore, I walk out the door and I usually keep on walking, I sit in bar where the cocktails are, but I really don't feel like talking, I ride around and let the darkness fall, 'cause I've got a sense of perfection and nothing makes much sense at all..."
- The Magnetic Fields, "All the Umbrellas in London"

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