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for Shadow the Sun

10/12/2010 c2 Marie Silver
[This is the rest of my review for the previous chapter as it wouldn't let me review the same chapter twice.]

Right. Ok, I think you have some really good, unique ideas but I think a lot of them are lost in the overabundance of telling and exposition. Also some of the scenes don’t seem to have any point to them, such as her meeting her father after seeing Juno or her talk with Aeon. I feel like they are there just to introduce the characters rather than being a natural part of the story. Like I mentioned, the story could use more showing than telling and more description to make the places Melodi visits more vivid/realistic. There’s a lot going on in this chapter and a lot of things introduced which distracts from the flow of the story. In my opinion (and remember it is just that) I would concentrate this chapter on Melodi, rather than Melodi showing off all the people and things she knows (if that makes sense).

On the other hand I think you’ve done a great job in getting Melodi’s voice. She has a unique way about her and seems a fresh, rounded heroine. I also like her father and their relationship with Juno. The other characters weren’t in it very much for me to comment on except Mikhail. I’m not quite sure what to make of his irrational action of killing her only that he seems unhinged. He could definitely turn out to be interesting.

So overall I like the idea behind this and I think you have great characters but the execution (for me) doesn’t quite work. The beginning is great and I think the rest could be too; just you’re not quite there yet. I don’t mean to make this sound cruel or patronising as I have been here myself and I know what it’s like to be disheartened by critiques. Rather than go over the beginning chapters (as I have done so many times with my stories) focus instead on getting the entire story down before going back. Once you have the whole thing written down you’ll have a better sense of the story and how to really make it shine.

I hope this critique helped and hasn’t left you wanting to hunt me down. And don’t forget that everything I mention is my opinion so feel free to ignore anything and everything.

Good luck with the story and if you have any questions or comments please get in touch.

~Marie Silver~
10/12/2010 c1 Marie Silver
Hey there, I’m here to return the favour with a critique of your story. I’m doing this as I go along and I’ll do a summing up at the end of each section and at the end of the chapter. Here I go…

~ ‘and that was why they were even more afraid then we, the adults’ – ‘than’

~ ‘We had gone against the Church of Raas, and must be punished.’ – In the first paragraph it sound like the narrator doesn’t know what’s going on when this implies that he/she does. I think you just need to make it clearer that the question in the first paragraph is what the children are thinking. Also does the narrator agree that the people need to be punished (as this indicates) or that this is just what the Church had decreed? And I don’t think you need the comma in this.

~ ‘What can they expect?’ – The elders or the guards?

I like the opening but I think it could be made stronger. There’s a lot of telling going on where there could be more showing. For example, rather than tell us everyone is scared, why not show trembling bodies, people being sick or crying or maybe someone trying to escape or flinching when the guards come close. I think the last paragraph has a bit too much exposition that isn’t needed – such as the King and his sons. Unless they come in soon I would mention that later. Finally, there are a lot of commas in this that I think could be lost. And, by the way, I love the last three sentences.

~ ‘Standing up from the bed I laid on, I looked around the small bedroom I shared with my friend Claire.’ – I think this could be better rewritten as ‘I stood up and looked around the…’

~ ‘you would almost wonder if the village was inhabited by ghosts.’ – I’m not sure if this could be better put another way, it just seems a bit clunky.

‘Melodi Raul’ – Is the narrator’s name Melodi Raul or is that someone else?

‘Claire and I are bounty hunters…We started out as simple mercenaries’ – Aren’t mercenaries worse than bounty hunters? Don’t mercenaries do any job for cash whilst bounty hunters catch people for the law? Or is that merely my perception of the two?

~ Is this supposed to be written like a diary? And if it is then that’s great.

~ ‘But I'm rambling.’ – I like this.

~ ‘From what I was told, Aether's Capena's objective was to rid the world of discrimination, and fight an organization called Scorpio, primarily made up of Ra'shens. Aether's Capena's members were Sirens, which most Ra'shens hated. And most Sirens hated Ra'shens. I never understood why, but I definitely knew it was true. But my father and I were Ra'shen, the only ones allowed in Allosath. And while we were at least respected by most of Aether's Capena, we were still outsiders, and barely liked.’ – Is it really necessary that we know all of this now? The first few pages of a novel have to capture the reader’s attention but exposition is one of those things that put readers off. Putting in too many name/titles/places so early on is distracting and confusing. I think it would be better if you gut the beginning description and begin wherever the action starts. From then on you get slip information in whenever it is needed to explain something.

~ ‘And rightfully so, I suppose. Would you hand the supposed savior of your people over to just anyone?’ – Good point.

~ ‘"It won't be long." Claire said suddenly, interrupting my thoughts.’ – And here is where you should begin. Cut (for now) all the information in the last page or so into a paragraph of the most pressing issue – finding the village in the labyrinth. Have Melodi (if that’s the narrator’s name) think/prepare for the day ahead. Keep it short and simple and then have Claire cut in. I know this may seem harsh but I think it will make this chapter snappier whilst leaving some mystery for later.

~ ‘"I know!" I suddenly shouted.’ – Lose the ‘suddenly’.

~ ‘Then, I turned to face the window in the bedroom of the small house we were waiting in, and saw the flicker of fire in the distance.’ – If the fire is a signal and Melodi is unhappy about her job, why not have it make an impression on her, e.g. ‘I turned to the bedroom window. My stomach churned as I glimpsed fire flickering in the distance.’

~ ‘A few minutes later, we were walking out of the village and back into the forest, as the Pope's men ran in, and I was trying not to listen to the sounds echoing behind me.’ – This sentence seems overly long and wordy. How about something like, ‘Within minutes we had left the village behind and were heading into the dark forest. Behind us the heavy steps of the Pope’s men sounded throughout the streets. Screams and agonised cries followed. My stomach heaved.’ Or something.

~ ‘Cranna Forest was a huge place, thickly overgrown with trees and shrubs, and it was easy to get lost in. The first time I saw it, I was a little nervous about going in, because it was so dark. The trees blocked out the sun, so there was no natural light in there, even in the middle of the afternoon.’ – There’s a lot of ‘was’ in this paragraph which is a passive word. Try rewording it to make this an active description, e.g. ‘Trees, thicker than houses and taller than mountains, surrounded them in an endless gloom. Their entwining branches and foot long leaves hid any light, even in a sunny afternoon, leaving Melodi and Claire to trip over their fat roots and scratch themselves on the bushes and shrubs littering their path. The hairs on the back of Melodi’s neck stood on end as she felt her way forward through Cranna Forest.’ Well you catch my drift.

~ ‘After running for a few minutes, when we came to a clearing in the forest, we stopped briefly.’ – Perhaps you could add more about what it’s like running through a pitch black, overcrowded forest.

~ ‘We paused to catch our breath for a moment, and I tipped my head to the side and listened intently to the seemingly silent air. "We have to go; they're coming." Claire resisted the urge to say 'I told you so', and we hurried away.’ – How does she know ‘they’re’ coming?

~ ‘We didn't make it far, however, when we were surrounded by a dozen guards. They were Allosathian, Juno's men.’ – Now would be a perfect time to mention who Juno is.

I’ve pretty much mentioned how I think you should lose the exposition in this chapter so I’ll not harp on about it. Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I think you should add more detail/description. The forest and the village are briefly mentioned but I think there could be a lot more to them. Is the village small/large? Is it over/under populated? What are the houses like? Are they close together and crowded or spread out? Are there streets/roads? Is it clean, fresh smelling and pretty? Or filthy, dark with no sense of hygiene? You don’t need to answer all of these questions but you could add some more details, i.e. they hurry down dusty paths between the oppressing houses whilst covering their noses. Or they saunter down the paved road with bright flowers guiding their way. Just add a description here and there to make the bedroom/village/forest seem more real.

~ ‘"You were told not to see that girl." Were Juno's first words to me when I returned.’ – This is oddly worded. Perhaps, ‘You were told not to see that girl,” Juno said before I’d even stepped into the room.

~ ‘I never told her what my work entailed, so I figured it wasn't his business.’ – Him or her?

That seems quite a short scene.

~ ‘I met up with dad in Johel an hour later and he had clearly been waiting for awhile.’ – Clearly how?

~ ‘He fought in the 'Allosath/Amborna Conflict', a war between Allosath and Amborna’ – You don’t need to clarify this.

Again, another short scene. I’m not exactly sure what the point of it is.

~ ‘I couldn't use magic, but I did have one trick up my sleeve: I was an alchemist. I could alter the chemical properties of an item, turning it into something else, meaning if I had the proper ingredients I could make healing potions.’ – I like how Melodi doesn’t have magic but relies on another gift instead. It’s nice to see a fresh twist.

~ ‘He hissed, spitting out the last word as if it were distasteful.’ – I like this.

~ ‘Heading to Aeon's office now, I find that he's sitting at his desk.’ – Shift in tense. ‘I made my way to Aeon’s office and found him sitting at his desk.’

What was the point of her seeing Aeon? It didn’t add anything new to the story.

~ ‘"Help from you? I'd rather have my wings ripped out." Which is incredibly painful, by the way. Thank you, Juno, for that lesson.’ – I like the way you slip in this bit of her past with Juno but don’t dwell on it. This is the kind of thing I mean by limiting the exposition.

~ ‘He said, his voice barely a whisper.’ – ‘He whispered.’

~ ‘Suddenly all I felt was a burning pain. I looked down, and found that Mikhail had driven a knife into my stomach, and after a moment he wrenched it out, and released me. I hit the ground hard, fighting for the breath that seemed to be sucked out of my body. I could feel myself getting weaker.’ – She’s just been stabbed, I think you can add more about the pain she’s feeling.

[My summing up to follow]
10/9/2010 c1 2Arim
great job with the beginning and getting the people out of there with tension and conflict with the church and all and the confused children. check out my story Desert Rain :)
10/8/2010 c2 4LuxAurorae
Nicely paced. The plot moves along quickly without seeming rushed, and this time, the characters are introduced in a more natural way. Their descriptions are incorporated more gracefully into the text. I'd like some physical description of Eli close to when he's introduced though. Just one unique aspect. He doesn't have to be fully described since you give life to his character by showing how he acts while practicing in a spar.

Be careful with tense shifts in the third scene. Also, Eden seems very familiar with Melodi, with the way that she immediately hugs her upon seeing her. Did she know Melodi before this? If so, let the readers know. If it's Eden's character, then maybe some more insight to how she acts in other situations would be nice. (Or maybe you could have other characters saying how worried she was for a complete stranger)

There were some lines that really stood out to me because they were written so eloquently:

"Dad said that the hardships of my life were etched onto my face, and that with the way I had lived it was to be expected."

"Even at that distance I could see Eli's steel grey eyes turn cold, sizing up his opponent. He looked so determined, so focused, that if I didn't know better I'd think they were really enemies."
10/8/2010 c1 LuxAurorae
Great additions. The beginning is much stronger now; the readers get more expository info necessary to the story. We get a heads up that Melodi has powers right from the start,the dream gave us bits of info about the political situation of the world, and the extra paragraph "I used to be a simple mercenary..." added another layer to Melodi. Not only do we know what she does now, but we also see that she's someone who questions her orders and has a conscience even though she's sending people to their deaths. Her feelings are more flushed out as well. Melodi, as a character, is more likeable now because she's presented with strengths and weaknesses.

The dad is a stronger character this time too. The dialogue flows naturally. The characters are easier to remember now because of the extra details.

I don't have much to critique, except I'd like to see Melodi question her own lineage a bit more. She knows what she is, and she along with her father are the only Ra'shens in Aether's Capena who are fighting against her own race. Even if the readers aren't told how this happened, Melodi should still wonder about it - why her father moved away after her mother's death, why they're even a part of Auether's Capena. While you still have more time in future chapters to incorporate this, I think there should be some indication of Melodi's questions.
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