Critique of Chapter IX(B)
By: Dhalgren99


'ello, all. Everyone doing well, I hope. Ready for another round of the most pulse pounding, rip-roaring excitement this side of legality? You better be, because it's coming anyway. Life got me busy the last few days (I even posted...and then it poured...I'm thinking there's a connection, you'd think God only paid attention to the big stuff) but here I am, ready to end FragmentFour's anxious waiting...or something like that.

When last we left our heroes, they were about to start a fire in the middle of a house for some strange reason that I figured would be explained soon after...at the time I had been laboring under the assumption that the baby was still alive and this was Ricore's idea of a medical cure. Ah, apparently not. This section starts out with Darvon and Ricore walking through what appears to be the Realm of the Dead...the "huh" factor kicks this section off though due to the lack of transition from the last section, it's like "Bang!" and we're in the Realm of the Dead (more of a "Phantom Realm" than the actual realms are, if you ask me) and I'm sitting here wondering who just fired the gun off. But of course it's just a sound effect, silly, these are only words, they can't hurt you. So they think. Ahem, a line about the two of them stepping into the fire (or whatever they did...) might be more useful, since I had to go back and read the last paragraph of the previous section to make sure I didn't miss anything.

Still, Realm o' the Dead, not bad. Or the outskirts at least...definitely looks cheeier than you might have thought...if it all depends on perception, out of curiousity, why don't our two mages decide to perceive it as a flat plain and make the search a little easier. Come on, kids, exercise a little willpower. I find it interesting that the realm affects Darvon more than Ricore, in fact very little seems to affect her...which will eventually lead to Odan Syndrome in my mind, where I'm just going to pray for something to pummel the living crap out of her to at least give her some humility. Still, it's early, she might get her beatdown yet. Yeah, I'm a bit bloodthirsty, give me moral dilemmas or a bone crunching fight and I'm a happy young dude (like all the young dudes are...oh, I'm drowning in my own cleverness!)...Ricore doesn't seem to even need to think really hard to get out of anything and heck, she still has energy to spare to annoy Darvon by giving him cryptic answers...the mind reading thing is a tad strange being that he seems to specialize in mind magic (I call them "mindbenders" in my stories...and believe me, Ranos wouldn't have stood for any crap from her, that's for sure...perhaps Ricore would like to spend the next few days believing she's a broom and constantly following people around asking them to sweep with her) and he doesn't seem to have any barriers up, you'd think a guy who can get into people's head would be pretty careful about letting others into his own. But it might be some of the properties of the Realm itself sapping his strength...the entire concept is completely unexpected, I may have my misgivings about Ricore but I will admit that the lady doesn't do anything halfway, so that's a big plus. Maybe she'll start blowing up stuff, 'cause that's cool. No, no, just kidding, the happy fun mental stuff can be just as good.

I wonder if lots of people go into the Realms (or the outskirts) you can use it as a travelling plane...slip into it, travel a bit and pop out somewhere else...since nobody seems to have a teleport spell it might be useful...however they'd have to figure out a way around the stepping through flames thing...maybe if they could cross over through a candle...I mean, the one thing a good wizard should always look for is to go beyond the immediate use...okay, we're in the land of the Almost Dead (hey, my high school!) so now what can we do with it? If I were a wizard I'd try very much to exploit this.

Darvon's frustrated with his "mom" sort of mirrors my own...right on, brother! but it's kind of muted, is he just pissed because she seems to know everything all the time...I'm curious to see if that aspect is explored in other chapters, since as a fellow mage, Darvon probably can get sick of Ricore not only doing everything he can do but doing it effortlessly and more easily...heck, why is he even along, Ricore has commented she's been here before to do just what she's doing now...is she trying to show him the lay of the land, so to speak? The brief peek into Darvon's past was intriguing as well, I know now that the three guys aren't her real children but I am curious as to where they came from ("read the bios" they chant softly, trying to tempt me with sweet words...but no, no! back foul harpies, I'll have none of your madness!)

Ricore seems to go through a lot of effort to give her kids a lesson...the entire reason that she brought Darvon at all seems to boil down to "True decisions are never easy"...I'm sure Darvon would have appreciated just being told that. I do find it interesting that he seems a very methodical person...a guy focusing on the mind probably would be fairly delibrate in his actions, not doing anything rash, being logical, thinking stuff through...Ricore seems the same way actually, just does all her thinking way in advance, I'd be surprised if that woman did anything spontaneous, she very much strikes me as the Machiavellian type, pulling everyone's strings for a purpose that mysterious even as she attests to its inherent goodness. Who put you in charge, lady? Oh, is this my authority figure problem rearing it's ugly head again. I'm so sorry.

Darvon's powers seriously need to be amped up, he's way too good to be playing Ricore's errand boy...casting mental nets and making people take naps...how about cloaking the entire cabin so that it looks like forest so anyone coming along will walk right past it...or looping a hardlight feedback image (or whatever you want to call it in fantasy) so that the misbegotten couple thinks they have their baby back when all they really have is a dirty bunch of rags while the crew runs off with the baby...certainty better than torching the place with people in it, which is not only cold blooded murder (and boy is it a little disturbing that some of the characters go for that...Darvon might be a little stressed but I expect better of Pedrin...you don't just go setting people on fire because you don't like how they raise their kids, buddy, if you've got two mages with you, I think you can come up with something less dirty) but bad practice anyway.

The little mental surgery that Darvon does is a step in the right direction, though I wish we had been able to see what he did before the end of the chapter, especially since it'll be a while before this gets picked up again...his reaction to his favorite horse being around is priceless, especially compared with everyone's ignorance of the situation...I'm glad you didn't discard that little piece, it's too good to just be relegated to a throwaway scene. Darvon's just as good as Ricore in a lot of ways, what is it about mages that makes them so detached and distant...the great thing about Matt Wagner's Mage was that Mirth was so much more bouncier and cheerful than Kevin, the guy who was supposed to be the hero...still, the rest of the cast makes up for it in humor though, you've got a crack comedy team walking around in this story...the only jarring note is Ricore's constant overt manipulation of everyone...the "I know what you're going to do before you do" thing has the potential to get very old very fast. Fortunately she's not in the spotlight too often.

Still, it's not fun seeing the continuation of the common urban myth known as "Please"...believe me, it's not a magic word, or anything special, in fact the last time I walked into a bank and asked...oh wait, lawyer says I can't talk about that one either. Sigh. Does anyone know where I'm really writing all this from? Heh.

Well another fine chapter down...character interactions are well done even if most of this part was everyone playing off Ricore...are they taking the baby with them or just leaving the kid there, it's not very clear and probably needs to be addressed, I mean to me leaving the kid there and hoping that it doesn't happen again is a bit short sighted, take the kid and make them forget they ever had a child, or do the old "We still have a child" thing, come on Darvon, rearrange some synapses, I know you can do it.

The only other major comment I'd make is the small lack of narrative urgency...there never seems to be any doubt that the characters are going to succeed in whatever they do and everything is fairly straightforward, Ricore and Darvon walk in, argue a bit, get the kid, walk out and then everyone comes back, argues some more and then they all leave. The pacing is good but the lack of suspense may make some people lose interest...maybe have some neighbors start to show up so the crew back at the house has to do some fast thinking (being that all the mages are gone), maybe Majica can turn into one of the people and go outside and stall until Darvon and Ricore get back...stuff like that to make the reader want to keep turning pages.

However other than that really minor thing, good stuff...the introduction of the Realm of the Dead was excellent...at least I hope it's an introduction, being it's too good a concept to just use once and chuck...the characters are all starting to grow on me, even Pedrin got some good lines in even though he didn't appear that much. And even though Ricore ain't my favorite, at least I HAVE an opinion about her, loving or hating a character is good, it's when people don't give a damn at all that you start to worry.

So the saga continues, I am curious to see what Ricore has in mind for Majica and what Darvon did to the trash couple but I guess that has to wait for next time now, doesn't it? Still, you kept me entertained, that's what counts. The streak continues.

Not much in the way of community comments this time...would like to note for all those interested that me and Hensbane have been conducting a lively debate based on my comments on Karl's views of magic...and frankly between you and me, she's been making me look pretty silly, so if anyone wants to take a swat at an easy target, y'all know where to find me.

NoveReinna...you are next, I believe...website looks good so far, at least the story part of it...even if that annoying Dhalgren bloke's comments are still way too easy to find, who told him that his crap doesn't stink, eh? Kids these days, arrogant cusses, all of 'em. Sigh.

That's all for now, I think, everybody be good!

- Michael

"The flowers smell sweeter the closer you are to the grave..."
- The Beautiful South, "How Long's a Tear Take to Dry?"


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