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hawkedup

06/17/19 - Turn of Ages 3 - hawkedup - 4300 - LV

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Previously:

L is a chambermaid at the royal palace. She is also a spy for a group called the Faceless. At some point in the past she swapped faces with someone so she could disguise herself. She is on her way to her morning duties when her friend J surprises her. The surprise is in an area that is off limits to servants. When they hear important officials (generals) coming, they hide in a shed. L uses her magic to eavesdrop and learns that the generals are planning to take down the Faceless.

---------------------------------------

I didn’t want to re-re submit L’s first chapter. Here are a few key changes I made based on your critiques:

- The V-o-i-c-e only has a single ambiguous line.
- General C has been mentally aged from a toddler to an older child. It is also clear now that he was once a military strategist but that his mind has been wiped recently.
- General Y is more caring toward Gen C.
- Food descriptors have been removed entirely. 
- L is more methodical and holds her immaturity in check better.

Thank you for reading! For the first time in years I feel like I'm actually getting better as a writer and that's thanks to all of you.

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I don't know if I'm forgetting something at the begining, but I was a little lost in the begining. I don't remember if the first chapter had set up for why she was in the place she wasn't supposed to be.

Aside from that, I liked that section. They details about how L's magic worked made sense and were well delivered. I cringed when the boy got dropped. So it had switched POVs there, which was okay. Part of me would have rather stayed with L, but switching did create more tension because General Y noticed the veil. More interestingly General Y didn't do anything about it right the, 

However, I'm wondering how much L saw of J getting dropped. She didn't react at all to it, but he broke a leg, badly. That is a big deal, and she hardly reacts to it. She doesn't seem to give him one thought. It makes her seem rather cruel and cold, and if that is what you're going for fine, but if not, you might want to add some reaction in or if she didn't see it, at a least a spare thought wondering what happened to him.

I like the conversation with the guard at the door to the princess's chambers.

I was a little confused about what the princess was in the sense that I wasn't sure how literally to take the term shadow. Were they calling her that because she had some type of brain injury that left her how she is? Or is there something more literal and magic to it? I don't think a long explanation is required. Just maybe a sentence or two to clarify.

Finding out the prince was her brother surprised me. Y I'm a little on the fence about whether it was a good surprise or came out of nowhere. You did leave some hints in this chapter -- that part of the set up worked. I'm trying to remember back to chapter 1. It might have been there, but more than likely, I was too bogged down with other details to notice. I'm curious to see what the others think.

You defiantly have my interested piqued now. :-)

I'm looking forward to reading more. 

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I had a similar reaction to @shatteredsmooth. A little lost in the beginning, not enough reaction to the leg breaking, and intrigued but confused at the reveal at the end. Overall, this was a good submission, and definitely makes me want to read more. I think you could trade off just a little of the description with a few more sentences to explain things. You do say the shadow is the king's only daughter, so I have to conclude that if the prince is L's brother, does that mean she's really the person the shadow is? Was there a switch at some point?

 

Notes while reading:

pg 2: "just so he wouldn’t go home completely broke."
“You hear me?” 
--The switch here threw me out. Previously, the chapter is background and seemed like it was happening after L got out of the barn. Then we find out we're right in the middle of the action.

pg 5: "His leg snapped with a sickening pop."
--If he's face to face with a guy 15 feet tall, then J's feet are only about 9 feet off the ground. Less if the general is holding him up by his arms. You could break your leg from that height if you fell badly, but J's also a soldier, and his feet are under him when he falls.

pg 5: Yeeeah, still not on board with General C. He seems like a danger to everyone around him. I have no idea how he became a general. The other general's reactions to the broken leg are pretty subdued as well.

pg 8: "She contemplated monetarily using the dumbwaiter for the water but decided she trusted her legs more than her arms."
--first, typo on "momentarily." Second, what does the dumbwaiter have to do with her arms? Why not put the heavy load in it and go up the stairs?
--Oh, does she have to pull a rope with her arms? That makes more sense.

pg 10: Good banter between L and M, though it perhaps goes on a little long.

pg 11: “Your secret’s safe with me.”
--what secret? That she wants to meet the prince? I would think any palace servant would be excited to meet royalty they haven't met before.

pg 17: Interesting turn! So does this mean that L is really the princess? Then who's the shadow? I'm a little confused since G recognizes her, so why couldn't he have done something to facilitate this? Why leave L on her own?
I'm hoping some of these answers will come up soon, but the story is definitely picking up!

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Overall

The tone is still fairly generic and I don't know what the through line is still. It's hard to keep from skimming, looking for a hook. I enjoyed the end but I'm still not invested enough in the characters to really know what is going on. The voice is inconsistent and sometimes the characters read 6, or 8, or 16. It makes me think there are a lot more characters, and then I realize it's the same ones, just differently written.

I think reading this out loud might help get the voice consistency down. 

Like the others, I want more description and more emotion. There wasn't any real reaction to the leg breaking and I still don't really know what anyone looks like or what their motivations are. Just some stuff to consider for the next round.

On 6/16/2019 at 7:47 PM, hawkedup said:

For the first time in years I feel like I'm actually getting better as a writer and that's thanks to all of you.

Hoorah! Crits are hard to take but wow, do they help writing get better!

 

As I go

- pg 1: I don't think lists are a very strong way to start a chapter. They're not a good hook, generally

- pg 7: so they have magic but can't fix broken bones? That seems plot convenient

- I forget how old these characters are supposed to be, but the voice is tracking very young--too young to be in military service. 11 at the oldest

- pg 11: L reads older here, maybe more like 16 or so, so voice not super consistent

- pg 17: ah, decent twist there at the end!

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Posted (edited)

On 17/06/2019 at 1:47 AM, hawkedup said:

For the first time in years I feel like I'm actually getting better as a writer

That's excellent. 

So, presuming that this follows on from L's first chapter. I think I remember most of the relevant stuff from that. Off we go!

(page 1)

- Lines 2 and 3 of the prayer / invocation sound a bit weak to me, almost childlike in their simplicity. Maybe that's okay for this kind of thing. Don't know. I feel this could stand an overhaul or two.

(page 2)

- Hmm, the whole lists thing leaves me confused. It's quite odd. Lists don't have power in themselves. I don't see how you can pre-develop a list for every conceivable situation. And her mentor praising her lists... I feel like she should be praising L's organisational skills, ability to strategise. The list itself is nothing more than a framework for ideas. The ability to list just doesn't deserve this kind of attention.

- "will of a stablehand" - One word, otherwise it's someone who's hand doesn't shake.

- "From this vantage point" - L and J are in different places, are they not? If so, there is more than one vantage point.

(page 3)

- "He got his off arm up" - This a really awkward phrasing, hard to follow. Can you not say left or right arm?

- The names kind of bother me. Some people are named after pre-existing words, like vigil and mastiff, while other people have 'proper' names, like Yes and L and J. There's no pattern I can see, and without an explanation, it just keeps weirding me out when a new name is introduced.

(page 4)

- 'eyes climbed like a mountain' - I don't like this simile. You don't climb a mountain by looking up to the top. And anyway, a person eyes don't do any climbing in any case. Their gaze might climb something in a metaphorical sense, but not their actual eyes, imo.

(page 6)

- "patience of a child" - Children are not patient at all. I think you maybe meant 'deliberation' here?

- "She held her off hand" - You'll need to explain to me what off hand means. Which one is my 'off' hand?

- "so much like a lover’s embrace" - has L ever experienced this? I thought she was a child herself, near enough? Using images like this will tend to confuse the reader's perception of the character if they're not consistent. Also, I'm trying to remember how much it was clear that L fancied J before, in order to judge the context of this 'reveal'.

- "#139" - I'm okay with this as a numeral, because it's sort of the name of the thing, but I'm not accepting of '360', I think number of narrative should almost always by in word form, so, three-hundred and sixty, as this is a story, not a technical paper.

- "GK on high" - Also this. If there are three-hundred and sixty of these things, is there really only one that starts with this line? I would have thought that almost all invocations would start by appealing to the GK, possible using that very same line. I find it hard to believe that there isn't at least one that starts the same way. Can you think of 360 different opening lines for a prayer?

(page 7)

- Okay, I don't know what L did with her magic. I thought she was going to change her face so that when they inevitably discovered her, she would not be identified and J would play along that she was someone else. I can see from what they did to J that that would not have worked, but I di not get that she turned herself invisible.

- "shuddered to think what kind of toll releasing it" - I think I need to hear this much farther up front in L's POV. This thing about the cost getting higher with time, and it costing more to release is a nice idea, not so obvious as there being a cost to cast the spell in the first place. It feels original to me: I can't remember reading it anywhere before. Good work on that. I would just like to know it sooner so I can understand her other actions in that context.

- "who died because of from less" - clunky phrasing, imo.

(page 8)

- "to lift a horse cart" - This is just a 'cart'.

- "couldn’t afford the extra steps" - but surely someone would discover it on her from the smell in any case and she would be soundly punished and possibly discovered?

- "wouldn’t change until she slept" - I think you edited it out before, but I enjoyed encountering L for the first time when she woke all twisted and sore. I thought that was an effective way to introduce the cost of maintaining her changed shape (as I recall).

- IMO, you don't 'stop momentum', you lose momentum.

- "contemplated monetarily" - typo.

(page 9)

- "with a dragon hilt with blue" - double word is awkward: not comfy to read, imo.

- "sweating like a r/ch" - I have no idea what an 'r/ch' is, so, instead of this adding colour and setting it just confuses me, and I can't relate to it. Sweating like a docker, I can understand that, sweating like a farmhand, etc. 

- I don't really understand that wine chat.

(page 10)

- "fat city watch" - This is a cliché for me. it comes in all sorts of different forms, bumbling local cop again dynamic FBI agent; close-minded local sheriff against plucky P.I., but time after time after time the entirely necessary local law enforcement are shown as being slow, stupid and obstructionist. It's a pretty tired trope. it's totally low-hanging fruit, first image that comes to mind in this situation.

- "the shadow" - I'm not sure what I'm supposed to picture here. Is her form all black and fuzzy then?

(page 11)

- "bad have take such a lucky turn" - IMO, sounds better.

- I don't understand why L is so excited to see the prince. Is this the guy she intends to kill?

- Good end line for that scene. I'm not completely sure I buy it, because we haven't seen L in action fighting and such. Still, I'm prepared to go along with it. 

(page 12)

- "in an antiquity tale" - antiquity is a noun, but it's used here as an adjective. Doesn't work grammatically, imo. 'Tale of antiquity' would be more correct. 

- "allowed herself to be led across the room" - I just don't know how to picture this, because you've really only referred to her as a shadow so all I can 'see' is this really dark fuzzed out shape. The context and use of the word shadow is undefined.

- What you describe is called a 'commode', but I guess maybe some readers would not know that word.

(page 13)

- Wait, what just happened? L just feel asleep? I presume she's been drugged. this just comes from nowhere, for me. She didn't seem to be all that tired.

- "same age as L" - You're basically repeating the line above about him also being 14.

(page 14)

- "green chile, her favorite" - confused. Is this the same food that was described as mush that was being fed to the princess? Where did this nice food come from? Why can't the princess eat the nice food? Why would a princess be fed mush? This is that latest of quite a few things that feel inconsistent to me; that don't hang together.

- "You’re Your majesty" - typo.

- "If you insist" - Eh? There's no way that L is insisting here, in what she said.

- "slop at the servants’ mess hall" - cliché. Why do servants always have to eat slop? Any good ruler would know that a way to keep lower classes happier is to feed them reasonably well. Slop adds to a sense of discontent. I'm not aware from anything in the narrative that there is any particular lack of food.

(page 15)

- "slipped the vial" - Ah, this is waaaaay too easy and convenient, for me. Why would prince ask for everyone to be fed, the guards, the servants? It feels like the heavy hand of the author to me, manoeuvring something into place that needs to happen for story purposes.

- Wait, continuity issue. You say at the bottom of page 14 that L served everyone a bowl. So, they've already got their food when she starts serving them again on this page.

- I don't remember who J is. Seems important if they tell the prince what to do.

(page 16)

- "she served herself seconds" - Whoa!!!!!! What? She served herself before a prince? This seems wildly inappropriate to me. And then she didn't offer anyone else second?!

(page 17)

- Huh? What just happened? I don't understand.

Overall

There was quite a few details that confused me, or did not sounds right, or were not believable. There were several things that were not explained and left me feeling confused. 'Off arm' is just odd. It doesn't mean anything without some kind a context, like having a weapon  actually in the person's hand. The one voice reference feels throw-away and it's gone before I register any kind of meaning. I've basically already forgotten it. It doesn't add anything for me, because I still don't understand the point of the voice or the nature of the voice from the first L chapter.

The ending is kind of baffling to me. It's a good reveal, but I'm struggling to make sense of it, I'm struggling to decide if I am good confused or bad confused. I'm really not sure. I'm wondering if this is not in fact a great big 'bait and switch' because of the way you've been referring to the princess in L's mind throughout her POV as a distinctly different person, whereas L has known all that time that this was not the case. All that talk of princess d/t when she was the princess? I feel rather tricked, in a bad way.

<R>

p.s. Gone and gone heavily on the negative again, sorry. The narrative style is very easy to read, I skipped through very comfortably other than when stopping to comment. The dialogue is direct. Not all that entertaining, but convincingly functional for most of the time. The pacing--I did find bits rather slow-- like when describing getting the shadow (still don't understand that) dressed, feeding her, etc.

I am left feeling frustrated by the reveal, as I note above, but I do have questions that I want the answer to. On that basis alone, I would keep reading, but I would expect to get those answers in the very next L POV. What is she trying to achieve; why is the brother in cahoots; what is the shadow and hw does that work? etc. etc.

Edited by Robinski
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Hi hawkedup,

Apologies for the delay in my critique. My notes are below.

Overall, I'm glad to see you incorporated feedback from the first chapter regarding the portrayal of the military commanders. I'm not finding myself all that particularly invested in L, though; her end-goal is still too vague for me to get a solid grasp on what she wants. I liked the ending twist, though, if nothing else because it moved the plot along. I'd really like to know soon what L wants and why. 

(page 1):

-“They’re like your lists,” L had said, with all the pride a child could muster. “Like the ones you make when you have an attack.”

“Yes, my dear,” J had replied. —Added 'had' to indicate that this is dialogue is from the past. 

-As a result, L now had a plan for almost every situation.—I don't quite see what lists have to do with plans. 

(page 3):

-She felt a prick of searing heat that immediately spread to every appendage of her body.—I would delete the bolded part. What other appendages would you be talking about?

-He got his off arm up but otherwise hit the ground face first.—This is awkward phrasing. I think it would be clearer to just say if it's his left or right arm.

(page 4): 

-He nodded at the shed and L ducked, even though they couldn’t see her.—Added comma.

-I was just here to water and feed the mother when… when I heard you coming.”—I could be wrong here, but I don't think that W needs to be capitalized. 

-J’s eyes climbed General C like a mountain.—I would say his eyes climbed 'the mountain-like General C.' It kinda reads awkwardly, otherwise. 

(page 5):

-“No, sir.”—Shouldn't he be saying 'yes' to affirm her point?

-"Before you answer, keep in mind that if you’re lying, I’ll have the good general here tear off your arm.”—But how can she tell that he's lying?

(page 6):

-she took a knee before J—I would say she took a knee 'beside' him. 'Before' implies a reverent action.

-He clutched at his leg, which bent the wrong way, and looked up at her, red-faced.—Added comma and n-dash.

-She held her off hand up above her head; the turquoise gemstones on her rings were very green in the morning light.—Added semi-colon. Also, again, please consider saying right or left instead of 'off.'

-J eyelids drooped and his torso wavered.—Why just his torso?

-“Shh,” General Y said. “I know.”—Added an 'h.' 'Shh' typically has at least two h's.

-Every child in the Empire knew all 360.—Closed up space between '360' and the period. Also, if the invocations are all as long as the epigraph, I don't buy that any kid could memorize that many. I'm not sure I would even buy 100. Assuming they're all around the same length, that's around 14,000 words. That's almost half of The Emperor's Soul! 

(page 7):

-“I’m glad, too. I hate having to kill kids first thing in the morning. I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet.”—You're trying way too hard to tell us this woman's bad. I would replace this dialogue with something more subtle. 

-She poked her head around the hedge wall and watched as Generals C and Y and Captain V disappeared through a set of tall doors at the back of the main keep.—I would replace the bolded part with 'the three officers' for brevity's sake. 

(page 8):

-Theoretically, releasing a spell after or a day or a year shouldn’t take more energy, but she had heard horror stories about spectrals who died because of less.—This sentence confuses me, and that's mostly because of the phrasing. I don't know what time scale you're trying to establish here.

-then crouched down, and with a practiced movement hooked a bucket on either end.—Added a comma

-She grunted with effort and almost blacked out once she was in an upright position again.—Moved 'again'

-Luckily, the doors were propped open. The East Tower housed political delegations who were in the city temporarily, but who were too important to stay at an inn.—Added commas

(page 9):

-She momentarily contemplated using the dumbwaiter for the water, but decided she trusted her legs more than her arms.—Moved 'momentarily.' In its original meaning, it looked like she was considering using it only for a moment. Added a comma

-The woman had a white scar along the side of her face that splintered off into smaller scars that spider-webbed their way down her cheek.—Added an n-dash.

-L had seen scars like that before--a demon scar.—How is it demonic? 

-A short sword hung at her belt with a dragon hilt with blue glowing eyes.—I need more detail here. Is it dragon-shaped? Made from dragon? Why are the eyes glowing? Are they actual eyes? Gemstones? Is it because of magic?

-She had rehearsed this response in her head on the way up.—Does a response that simple need to be memorized? 

-“That explain why you’re sweating like a rift chaser?”—Deleted the s at the end of 'explains'

(page 10):

-M’s face broke into a grin and then she repeated a fact L had heard from her a dozen times:—Deleted 'no fewer than'

(page 11): 

-The shadow lay on a four-post bed with red silk sheets.—Added an n-dash

-“a messenger was up here earlier, maybe an hour ago. Wanted to make sure she--” Despite the bluecoat’s earlier proclamation, she never looked directly at the shadow. “--was ready for a formal visit—There is no reason for this dialogue to be broken up this way. 

(page 12):

-L hoped with all hear heart that she wouldn’t have to kill her.—Replaced 'the woman'

-Afterwards, she walked to the bed and took the shadow’s soft hand in hers.—Added on to first word

-I know how much you like eating breakfast a bit earlier so you can watch the sun come up.”—Could you re-tell this information in another way? It comes across as expository. 

-all while explaining her run-in with I earlier.—Added an n-dash

(page 13):

“I know I’m not supposed to, but today is an important day. I need to rest... my eyes… Just for a minute? Just… for…”—This makes her look shockingly incompetent. She's going to risk her plan to take a nap? She just said it's an important day! Is there a better way to transition between scenes than this?

(page 14):

-L’s heart raced as her eyes fell on Prince G who was also fourteen years old—Deleted the n-dashes

(page 16):

-C opened her mouth, but closed it without saying anything else—Added a comma

 

 

 

 

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Over all: I had many of the same problems as @Robinski, @kais and @Mandamon -- I was confused at the beginning, and had trouble relating to L and J.

The general is still a problem for me, since he's still not his own character. He's no longer the butt of jokes in-world, but he's clearly not meant to be as fully rounded an individual as even the other generals or supporting characters.  If the problematic aspects of the tropes he's representing are going to be avoided, he needs to be his own person, with a life and non-plot-related interests and motivations. He's less so, but still reading problematically for me. I am unclear how he ever would have reached the rank he has.  If he's been mind-wiped, how can be expected to do his job the way he was before? Why is the other general acting as his support attendant? I feel like she'd have better things to do than nursemaid him, and if he's still valued in his position, then they'd at least assign him a page or something to help him get through the day.

I feel like, over all, L is acting more true-to-age here. In this section I believed more often that she's a teenager, but it's still uneven in places. 

Is G reacting to L's glamour, or herself? It's okay to leave in a little suspense about this, but I feel like if it is indeed that L stole the princess' face, it needs to be hinted at a bit more before this. I'm not feeling confused-suspenseful like I think I know but i want to turn the page to make sure, but more like confused-frustrated, like there's a part I'm supposed to have read in a previous section but it wasn't there, or like an error made it through the drafting process and it's impacting my enjoyment of the story (if this was a finished piece). If this is the case, then wow do I have questions about the adult staff of this castle, too.  If L has dropped her glamour, then I'd expect that to be noted somewhere. 

 

 

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On 6/17/2019 at 7:11 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

It makes her seem rather cruel and cold, and if that is what you're going for fine, but if not, you might want to add some reaction in

It's not. I'll definitely get in there and play up her reaction beyond a simple gasp.

On 6/17/2019 at 7:11 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Were they calling her that because she had some type of brain injury that left her how she is? Or is there something more literal and magic to it? I don't think a long explanation is required. Just maybe a sentence or two to clarify.

So "shadow" is a term used to describe anyone who doesn't have a soul lantern. It can happen multiple ways. Brain injury like you said is the most common. Most shadows are "put down" (if you don't count the ones at "shadow farms" mentioned in epigraph 1). This is explained in L's first chapter, but based on all of your reactions to the shadow in this chapter I'm wondering if that explanation shouldn't come closer to L's interaction with her in this chapter. Or at least be reiterated. 

On 6/18/2019 at 9:56 AM, Mandamon said:

You do say the shadow is the king's only daughter, so I have to conclude that if the prince is L's brother, does that mean she's really the person the shadow is? Was there a switch at some point?

Yes and yes. L's next chapter goes into this further.

On 6/18/2019 at 9:56 AM, Mandamon said:

He seems like a danger to everyone around him. I have no idea how he became a general.

Bear with me on this. I'm hoping the payoff pulls you through this early confusion.

On 6/19/2019 at 9:46 PM, kais said:

I think reading this out loud might help get the voice consistency down. 

I think you're right. Normally I don't bother with this till 4.0 but that rule came into play when I didn't have anyone to critique and give feedback so going forward I will be doing this.

On 6/19/2019 at 9:46 PM, kais said:

- pg 7: so they have magic but can't fix broken bones? That seems plot convenient

Well, they can't use magic to fix broken bones, but did I give the impression magic isn't used to aid healing? I'll fix that.

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Hmm, the whole lists thing leaves me confused. It's quite odd. Lists don't have power in themselves. I don't see how you can pre-develop a list for every conceivable situation. And her mentor praising her lists... I feel like she should be praising L's organisational skills, ability to strategise. The list itself is nothing more than a framework for ideas. The ability to list just doesn't deserve this kind of attention

I'm glad you pointed this out. I might just cut it entirely.

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "patience of a child" - Children are not patient at all. I think you maybe meant 'deliberation' here?

No, I was trying to convey petulance and impatience. 

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

Why do servants always have to eat slop?

I'll go back in and fix this because they aren't actually eating slop, just food that is lower in quality so L thinks of it as slop.

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "slipped the vial" - Ah, this is waaaaay too easy and convenient, for me. Why would prince ask for everyone to be fed, the guards, the servants? It feels like the heavy hand of the author to me, manoeuvring something into place that needs to happen for story purposes.

He's in on it. I'll try to make it seem less author intrusive.

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

- Wait, continuity issue. You say at the bottom of page 14 that L served everyone a bowl. So, they've already got their food when she starts serving them again on this page.

Good catch thank you!

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

'Off arm' is just odd. It doesn't mean anything without some kind a context

I'm having trouble with this little aspect of the story as well. Off hand refers to the hand they use to hold/manipulate their soul lanterns while main hand is the one they would use to write and the like. I was refraining from saying right and left but might have to give up that little quirk.

15 hours ago, Robinski said:

The one voice reference feels throw-away and it's gone before I register any kind of meaning. I've basically already forgotten it. It doesn't add anything for me, because I still don't understand the point of the voice or the nature of the voice from the first L chapter.

Based on your feedback I cut the V down to nothing in the first chapter. This is something I plan on paying off later but at this point I just want the reader to be aware of the V so it doesn't seem out of left field later in the book. Hopefully it works.

Thank you all for your feedback! I'm actually quite encouraged by everything you had to say. The problems don't seem so fundamentally huge as they did a few weeks ago.
 

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11 hours ago, hawkedup said:

No, I was trying to convey petulance and impatience. 

Ah, I see. I didn't read it with a sense of irony, I just read it straight.

11 hours ago, hawkedup said:

He's in on it. I'll try to make it seem less author intrusive.

Yes, I saw it as I read on of course, but it's still odd for me that no one else seemed to think it was odd to eat with a prince.

11 hours ago, hawkedup said:

Off hand refers to the hand they use to hold/manipulate their soul lanterns while main hand is the one they would use to write and the like.

Ah. Well, I think you just need to come out and define that when you first use the term 'off hand'. I think with something like this, because it's so specific, just come out a straight on tell the reader what this means.

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Page 4

J’s response was militant, like he was giving a report at the Front.”

I know what you’re trying to say here, but the word “militant” is often used to mean “angry” or “aggressive,” which I don’t think is quite what you’re going for.

 

Page 5

L’s response to J’s injury feels really understated.

 

Page 7

“like heat rising over asphalt”

This seems like a very modern simile. Maybe “heat haze in a desert” or something similar would fit the setting better?

 

I like the hint here that Y notices something off and chooses not to say anything about it.

 

 

Page 11

“M was good people.”

This also feels like a modern saying.

 

 

 

 

I liked M and hope we get to see more of her.

 

Overall, I liked this a lot better than the first L chapter. I’m not sure what to think about the big twist at the end. Looking back, I can see a couple of hints: L thinking of “Princess Z” in quotation marks as if aware that isn’t really who the shadow is, and the prince’s tutor having the same name as the woman who trained L. At the same time, I feel like this revelation is hard to square with the fact that we’ve been inside L’s head in both chapters. The narration—which is from her POV—refers to her as L, which doesn’t feel like something she’d do if she’s really Z. Plus, her first chapter talked about her having been trained and assigned to this mission by the F. I wonder if the Voice is Z, and they’re sharing L’s body?

 

To me, this revelation also raises some larger questions about the story. How did Z come to be in this state, and why is G going along with it? Does G know that L is an agent for the F? If G is part of L’s family, how will killing the G-K save him? Right now, I feel like there are a lot of pieces missing, but that could just be that we’re still so early in the story.

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