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for The Zilos Chronicles: Rise of the Crimson Ravens

6/26 c2 5Viewer27Man
A week ago after the normal rainbow of morning our hero is woken up by a young lady, his sister, so he's not late for a test. After light sibling banter that may imply he's ugly our hero is worried but hopeful about the test as can be seen from the body language of his special arm. His sister tries to cheer the prince up saying that mom is actually making pancakes and has fun witnessing his enthusiasm before he's greeted by 2 servant women. He knows how to navigate his castle home, tall and full of history, well. After narration's tour of the castle and city our hero meets his mother in the royal dining room for delicious breakfast and a lot of breakfast. His many-titled and magician uncle shows up late and explains jokingly because of a call he had to make for a conference next week. The uncle likes the breakfast except for that 1 bad idea that 1 time...In conversation a prince lost a bet over an electric ball sport and got in trouble over gambling. The uncle tries to reassure our hero over his exam concerns and then in response to the sister's exam ribbing ribs her about her exam concerns. She complains it's not fair and gets criticized over her nights out which she complains isn't fair because her older sister does the same, but is corrected as politics not partying. The sister insists she has her historical essay, the uncle points out has a rather long title about slaying dragons. The figure and his bunch in fact made a plague to defeat the dragons and the figure wasn't the guy who actually slayed the named dragon, that was his friend that died. After getting THE explanation on the importance of history the young lady gets mad and tells the uncle to leave. Our hero declares he's ready, thanks his mom for breakfast, and gets a motherly response. He says so he can be proudly part of the family, and his mother says he already is. He tries to reassure her that he'll be a hero who fights bad guys, but she doesn't find this reassuring. While wishing him luck his sister then mentions someone to see him later that adds pressure, and he leaves with his sister giggling and his mom not hungry. The men of our hero's family were good at this test. After an elevator ride and a room of military personnel he then meets 3 armored men with a mix of weapons that he's happy to see. They're eager for fresh meat, but in the chat bring up that they've got work to do, and wish him luck before leaving. Our hero then admires the architecture of the room before the uncle passcodes him into the next room. The room of the ever-changing test goes dark, which our hero is ready for this time, to shine a spot light on a stone chair for our hero. The uncle goes into serious mode to tell our hero to cast a spell with his wand. After a brief narration on magic theory and bloodlines with 'wand' as an acronym for a device our hero recalls he wasn't told to bring one, but the uncle was just teasing. Our hero gets the uncle's retro bracelet for a wand and after the uncle's nostalgia of tradition, must move a ball to a platform with just magic, actually a difficult task for many. Our hero opts to use a hand of wind to lift the ball then is distracted by rings of fire. He guides the ball on a quest through numerous multi-shaped rings of fire with some close calls and a second wind hand to the platform, and that's just the warm up. The scenario and combat skills tests in a shifting room of increasing craters go well, though his freezing of boulders could've been timed better. He's tired for the final test: a giant fire ape bio-weapon that smashes in while protecting real-looking kid hostage props within a time limit enforced by the shrinking blazing cage arena. After commenting on the uncle's sense of humor our hero charges in. The ape belches a fireball. Our hero dodges and freezes the ape with an ice ball. Before our hero can break it to win the ape breaks free angrier and uses his aura to become a pillar of fire as all the problems escalate. Our hero opts to try the sword, the ape opts to try boxing, and the fire punches are parried, but it's hot. The ape ultimately grabs the sword and is about to belch another fireball, but our hero stabs him by turning his metal arm into a blade. The ape tries to bite his head off, but bleeds to death first with the removal of the blade arm. The fire cage disappears and the illusion prop children cheer their thanks before turning back to rocks. It was close, but he passed. There's a live performance test still, but he's a Magna Centurion now. Our hero second guesses the wisdom of his finishing move while the uncle his jestingly reassuring the opponent is dead. After the talk of times and tough choices he hopefully won't face. The conversation reveals our hero lost his arm when he failed the test before and that his dad, the head of the order let him try again. Our hero has to be reminded of mom's lesson by the uncle who speaks of his ancestor's history and what it means for him to be an elite soldier. Our hero wants to be a hero to save lives that the uncle hesitates on with his words before doing an 'official' passing declaration. Our hero is happy, but it's too late for pancake leftovers. They leave the destroyed exam room back to the elevator and are first greeted by his nervous mom and sister. The mom is relieved to hear he passed, but the sister hugs him first. On the description of the test the sister wishes she could've seen the fire ape. With plenty of time to take a bath and his clothes off to be cleaned our hero is about to leave when his condescending hot half-brother condescends him, bragging of clean clothes and insulting over losing his arm in a hole while our hero retorts back a bit with the uncle's back up. The mom breaks it up, but the half-brother's look and response aren't nice. The mom gets angry and he gets meaner saying she isn't his mother. The uncle tries to break this up, but the half-brother doesn't like the mom because she's a type of person before the uncle interrupts and threatens to tell on him. The half-brother backs off with a little more back-and-forth with our hero then leaves. The sister gets the last words insulting the half-brother's caller ID issues and ego. There are brooding emotions as we learn about the late first queen the half-brother was close to. Then it's time for our hero's bath and a massage while mom and sister do their program work. The sister is a bit upset at this, but she didn't have the dangerous exam today. Our hero feels triumphant.

We begin the real first chapter and it's also very long. It's got a VERY different overall tone from the prologue. It's a week earlier and we learn about Richard's life and who he grew up with and what his mother, sister, and uncle are like to him (all supportive). Then he takes on an exam to test his magic before fighting a big fire ape. Then he has a confrontational chat with his half-brother whose bringing family drama into his insults before finally getting the chance to relax.

There's a lot going on here. A lot of characters seem to say about everything they have on their minds, leaving no quip unturned. It amounts to a lot, but it also flows well. There are also a lot of subplots that are hinted on at many steps of this chapter. The chapter ends at a good stop too.

The world is crazier than the first chapter let on with the bio-engineered monster for the test and the history lesson of slaying dragons with a created plague. Also caller IDs and movies being a thing give insight at the technology level of this world.

So now we've got to find out how Richard got to the prologue incident where he seems to have rebelled.

Favorite Part: The giant fire ape bio-weapon in the final test. I think terms for what all it is speak for themselves.
6/1 c12 10TamariMizu
Hi DZ,

[1] Dr. Salinger reminds me of Dr. Hojo from FFVII: a scrawny smug jerk with glasses, no ethics and no soul. A truly vile man.

[2] Discretion is the better part of valor, Dan! ;)

[3] I think Dan, Richard and Claire should form a 'Justice League'.

[4] It is nice to see something nice happen to Richard for once.

Keep Writing!

4/3 c1 5Viewer27Man
Our story begins in a town used to summer days there are tragic explosions instead with people trying to escape to a mine entrance. A woman escapes with children behind a rising rock wall away from cannon fire and laser-targeting guns of military men. A young man in fancy armor with a name leaps in and exchanges quips due to being acquainted as he looks at the fallen men, women, and children. The soldiers ask him to surrender, but are hesitant to attack because he's a third prince. The prince evades a loud boulder and gets mocked by a big buff bald bulky man with a fancy sword. They discuss warning shots and another insult making the prince angry. The prince argues ethics; the bulky guy and commander argue the power of the group he belongs to criticizing the opposition like it's from a kid's cartoon, and claims the mine is valuable while the fleeing people are not, and that their job ain't pretty. The prince considers it briefly, and question's his father's info, but ultimately draws a sword against the plasma rifles. He prepares a spell while mostly evading blasts and reflecting the next set into the rifles and those holding them. He leaps in the middle, scaring them, and then slashes a threatening gun and hand making them want to fight back more. With survivors safely away the prince busts out a new move: a pillar quake. It fails to get the commander guy who gets the prince cuffed and electrified. Things look grim until the prince says another spell name and shapeshifts his arm, that turns out to be artificial, into a spike into the commander's rifle, blowing it up. The prince then slams a rod into the burnt commander's neck choking him and giving him a chance to smack him in the head with it. The bulky guy's elevator is late and he decides to fight with twin blades while boasting. The prince shifts the color of his first spell and they clash blades hard enough to crumble the ground under their feet and the prince's metal arm before it turns into a metal spike. In the brawl the prince evades and looks for an opening while losing stamina while the bulky guy goes for decisive anti-limb blows if they connect. After the fight moves a bit the prince freezes the bulky guy with a snowball grenade. The bulky guy shatters his way out, losing a little blood, rams the prince into a hillside, and combines his swords to form pincers, his signature move. The pincers pince into the prince as the bulky guy monologues. The prince counters with a magic punch that misses, but the avalanche of crate contents it makes doesn't. The prince then gives the angry bulky man a death sentence. A newcomer blocks the finishing blow and punches the prince flying. The report-giving newcomer also does not care about the helpless dead. A debate about honor follows, and then they fight. Fireballs fly, the metal arm takes more damage, an emblem bursts forth, the lance-wielding newcomer rockets into the sky, and comets back down. After being blown up by the landing the prince tries to flail ineffectively, and gets cut. The sadistic bulky guy requests to finish the worn out prince, but the lance guy counters the attempted counter by bashing the prince's head into the ground. As they debate an old man jumps on the bulky man's back trying to blow both of them up, but the bulky man slams him into the ground. After sadistic monologuing the bombs fall and blow up. The blast gets the 3 armored warriors to flee the vicinity as resulting rocks hit the prince's foes. A little girl comes out to cry for her grandfather to which the bulky man sadistically boasts. The prince angrily requests for him to stop. The bulky guy tries to kill her with a spell the prince cuts in half to blast 2 spots away, and revealing an explosive mineral that explodes as the lance guy puts up a shield spell. The mine is destroyed, and the prince escapes. The lance guy scolds and nearly strangles the bulky guy for the destruction of the mine and his attitude, and scares the bulky guy into complying after some back and forth. With the onslaught continuing in the background, the lance guy considers explaining this to his family as a zeppelin lands. The injured prince is lying in on his face in a dark underground cave where rubble falls. He ponders what happened and looks at his the insignia of his group.

That was a long prologue... This story gets tense immediately with a war-like tone and debates about individual value. It also has long fight scenes and speeches. The robot arm and serious themes make Fullmetal Alchemist come to mind, though this world seems ahead of that era in terms of modernization (they have zeppelins).

In response to the slaughter Richard fights for the individual ethics of the situation against those he was intended to be allies with. As much as he tries to make Richard 'see reality' the context before them doesn't make Orion's position any more appealing to the reader. And Steiner's just sadistic and short-tempered.

The fight scenes were long and has several speeches of a decent size before and after combat scenes. The speeches are all in context and show the view points of the fighters. Richard faces the commander, Steiner, and then gets practically beaten by Orion before the area explodes. Richard, Orion, and Steiner demonstrate the magic to expect in the fights to come. Orion with a lance and a big jump attack reminds me of dragoons from the Final Fantasy series.

Richard's injured in a cave. This story could go in all kinds of directions from here.

I know this was updated years ago, but I'm returning a review here, there was nothing particularly recent, and this was the first of 3 stories from what I saw.

Favorite Part: Frost Surge. It's a freezing snowball grenade, and is underestimated too. I don't think I've seen that as an attack spell anywhere before that I feel like I should've seen before. It's also a somewhat light-hearted bit of a scene compared to the serious attempt to slaughter all around.
7/16/2023 c11 10TamariMizu
Hi DZ,

Pardon the long absence.

[1] I am reminded of Batman storming Arkham Asylum to bust the bad guys.

[2] There were real life asylums in the U.S. every bit as bad as the 'low-level' wing shown in your story. Truly haunting nightmare fuel.

[3] The 'research' wing reminds me very strongly of the Nazi experimentation, and the bio/chem warfare 'research' at Unit 731. Humans are truly more monstrous than any demon the imagination can conjure up.

[4] Poor Richard finally has his idealism finally burnt to ashes. He has no choice but to kill mooks and truly sees how corrupt the royal family is to the core. I am certain seeing what these monsters did to Jessica reminds him of what could happen to his childhood love Kristen.

Keep Writing!

10/16/2022 c31 JaveHarron
Well, the worldbuilding was one of the strongest aspects of your work here. A lot of them are based on blatant national stereotypes, but those are at least a starting point. However, there's also a bit of in-universe bias for some of this dialogue (which is more immersive) and can get the reader thinking on on reliable narrator... This was actually my favorite chapter so far.
10/16/2022 c30 JaveHarron
There's pretty clunky dialogue here, as with the rest of the story. That said, though, you have many plot strands you dealt with here. Many of them could have been woven together more efficiently, but the fact you kept them straight and largely consistent is still no mean feat. I hope, if you wish you refine this work, the next edition is edited more closely for grammar and style.
10/16/2022 c29 JaveHarron
Strickland is a fun character, especially the brutal way he offs his former paramour. That said, the closing interaction with Roxanne and Voltaire was my favorite bit of dialogue. Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, every issue I mentioned was still present here.
10/16/2022 c28 JaveHarron
Well, you end book 1 on a pretty epic battle. In fairness, there were callbacks to the major arcs of prior chapters, like the Asylum and Richard's own near death. A warship like the Obelisk going down would've definitely caused some damage to waterfront infrastructure and ports, though. However, the same problems that knee-capped the novel keep it from being as epic as it could have: the meandering dialogue, the lack of creative flourishes, and the like. I did like the physical description of Steiner's transformations, but that was one of the few instances in the novel where you covered such a thing in depth. Sometimes, it's body language that matters more than just raw visceral transformation, since it makes the latter far more intimidating.
10/16/2022 c27 JaveHarron
Okay, I liked the Detective Starlin and Voltaire bit earlier this chapter, but your writing style does not connect for me. The good news is that the action is far more intense, since this is near the conclusion of book 1. Bad news? All the flaws from my last reviews are still present.
10/15/2022 c26 JaveHarron
Okay, a good amount of action this chapter. There was even some creative flourishes ('gnats on a corpse') but not enough. The action and tempo was enjoyable, as were the budget shoggoth monsters.
10/15/2022 c25 JaveHarron
I did enjoy the meeting with the Don, but once more, dialogue went on excessively long. A lot seemed like filler and repeats on points the conversations already brought up. That said, the Magna Obelisk bits were interesting, and morality of tactics was something I'm pleasantly surprised came up. However, the verbose dialogue and lack of description makes it hard to follow. You have expansive worldbuilding, so show us more of what it is like and how these characters act in person.
10/15/2022 c24 JaveHarron
Okay, the geopolitical elements shift towards a criminal element in this chapter. I feel the geopolitical elements are stronger and more resonant with Richard as a character and his overall origin, although you've established ties between the two. It would be like if Bruce Wayne and James Bond swapped jobs for a day (although that is a neat idea). Once more, I feel this saga would be stronger with some 'show, don't tell' for character interactions and scenes.
10/12/2022 c23 JaveHarron
Okay, I did like the setting of the peace conference, with the action from each of the 3 factions. It shows off the capabilities of each faction, how the heroes deal with them, and a bit of foreshadowing as to the political subplot. However, the scene descriptions could use a lot more work. What does each character feel like or react, not just through dialogue? What posture, facial expression, etc. do they all have? Though the Empress, for instance, is masked for much of it, she still has posture and physicality in the scene she's present in. Use that.
10/12/2022 c22 JaveHarron
The fight had some cool beats to it, and some creative use of abilities, but the monologue towards the end killed the excitement. Sure, a supervillain breaking speech can be effective, but it seemed more like a lengthy cutscene then a mocking, final beat.
10/12/2022 c21 JaveHarron
Once more, there's far too much talking and far less action. Pacing, lack of attention to details, and the implications of your own world often get overlooked. For example, magic is a whole plot element largely relegated to second string superpowers instead of being integrated into your world's day to day existence. A good example of incorporating them into the setting more organically might be Sanderson's Steelheart or Correia's Grim Noir trilogy.
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