1 pointWhat I liked most about the story is the Aztek feel of the setting, I don’t see that in stories much and it is, I think, the strongest suit of the story. Plot-wise not much happens, a sacrifice at the start and the storming of the priestess’ chambers, which, as it is a short story, might be enough but it still felt lacking. All though that might also be because I didn’t really care for any of the characters. Characters: The viewpoint character is pretty bland and reactionary – he has to sacrifice the girl because it’s his duty, he then has to be convinced to save his own life by attacking the high priestess and then, in the battle, he doesn’t contribute much at all. It seems everyone has an agenda and is acting upon it except for him. The high priestess is a faceless enemy, she has no characterization other than being the monster to defeat. Ixtli comes across better, as a manipulative bastard. The other named character is throwaway, he says nothing, does nothing, he only dies. It felt he only had a name so Texcoyo is justified about trying to kill the priestess, even though she struck him down out of self-defence. Tavern: Everything always happens in a tavern, which is a bit of a cliché. This is compounded by the fact that the prince, who is now actually the king, can just sneak out as he pleases – if he can get out, assassins can get in, so in terms of security the palace is a joke. Priests: What I found most interesting about the priests was that they lived for a very long time and can’t stand the sun, which made me think they were vampires. It’s never stated if they are or not, but it’s an interesting thing, a human society with vampires as a priesthood. Magic: The magic is a little generic, with force fields and flinging blue fire around. I’m not really sure about the rules of magic, what it can do and what the limits are, and since it’s magic that resolves the conflict in the story you might want to flesh this out a bit more. The biggest drawback comes back to Texcoyo – there is one battle in the story and it’s the most important one, but he can’t really do anything and is relegated to the side lines while the priest first weakens the priestess and then kills her – though granted Texcoyo did hit her with an arrow, but her powers were weakened by then and Ixtli could’ve taken her with a little more fire. Descriptions: The descriptions, for both the characters and the locations, are lacking. Now I understand this is a short story and you’re not going to describe things as lavishly as you could in a novel, but of the characters I’ve only got a clear image of two: the young woman who was sacrificed and the high priestess after the fireball. The rest are shades of grey, so I feel those could be fleshed out a little more. Final reveal: I liked the ending, but it didn’t come as a surprise – at all. I knew exactly what was going to happen when priest Ixtli said he was going to be the next High Priest after they killed the priestess.
1 pointWell, this is actually my first critique of another's work, so sorry if it is not very helpful. In all, a very good piece of Short fiction. I enjoyed it, as well as the priesthood you created. An enjoyable mix of Egyptian, Aztec and Others. I liked the fight sequence, and the randomised Sacrifices. I believe I read that it was set in the same world as one of your other novels you are working on - I have not got around to reading it yet, so this is from the point of view of someone who has not read any of your work. However, I would personally enjoy a closer look at the magic system in the story. Simply shooting blue flames, force fields and *draining magic* seemed to be the only power, without any indication as to why or how this happens. A suggestion would be to more closely associate these abilities with the priesthood. A "Prayer of Protection" could conjure a shield for example, but perhaps only so long as the chant is flawlessly recited in perfect pitch and rhythm, without stuttering? However, as you tell me this part of a world you already have in place, such a drastic overhaul of your magic system is possibly not such a great move. My only other suggestion would to increase the surprise of the final reveal. I had already suspected as much because of two things: The first is when Texcoyo considers he risks, he says something like "If she had indeed committed fraud the God's would forgive the crime". However, this sows doubt just be mentioning it, that she did not. Likewise, Texcoyo wonders what Ixlti's motives are. The obvious fact he has so much to gain made me suspicious from the start. Perhaps you could make the question of succession not a case of the eldest priest, but the most powerful? However upon killing her, he absorbs her magic, making him the most powerful priest - something he would not have been had the High priestess died of natural causes, thus making his motives more obscure. The only other question, is why he needs Texcoyo's help in the first place, where most of the fighting seems to be between the two magic users. In my opinion, if you write a second draft, Texcoyo must be able to do something, or have something, which gives Ixlti a stronger advantage over the High priestess she would not have, if he asked a common mercenary for help. However, in terms of the quality of writing, I have no complaints. It is an excellent piece, that is engaging and exciting. Again, I love the departure from traditional fantasy settings to a distinctly more original setting. Giving magic to the priesthood is slightly less original, but the gruesome dependence of human sacrifices keeps the magic unique, and rather grisly, much more fun than the common: Throw Fireball,
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