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hawkedup

08/05/19 - The Turn of Ages 07 - hawkedup - 4900 - LSV

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These recaps are getting harder and harder!

The World:

Everyone is born with a soul lantern. During puberty, soul lanterns coalesce into a physical form that matches the owner's personality in some way. 

People in this world experience something called the turn of age. Around 35-40, ageing quickens exponentially and people die of old age soon thereafter.

A war has been raging at the Front against a force of invading demons for generations. 

The story:

One of the God King's generals comes to Z's small town and reveals there is a demon in the area. She is shocked when two of her classmates reveal that they know where the demon is. It is in the shape of an egg. When Z touches the egg, it reveals a secret: Soul lanterns are causing the turn of age.

Afraid of what the God King's general might do to them if they reveal the truth, they decide to take the issue to the highest authority in the Empire, the God King himself.

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This ended up better than I expected from the beginning of the chapter. Things started a little slow, especially with all the joking around, but soon got into things and ended with some good revelations. Now I'm wondering where these kids learned how to fight? Has that been covered in other chapters, or is it just WRS?
I think the beginning could be tidied up a bit, but overall this was an enjoyable chapter.

pg 1: "This was six months ago, at Zulma’s fourteenth birthday party."
--So is this a memory, or a flashback? It's a little strange, just sitting at the beginning of the chapter.

pg 4: I like the banter on these pages, but it is going on a bit long.

pg 9: "Not that he would have gotten the chance because in that moment, M burst out laughing, followed by R, and suddenly--for reasons Z didn’t fully understand--everything was okay again."
--I'm...not completely sure why they were laughing either.

pg 9: “Do you think it will happen again?”
--Think what will happen? Talking about sex? I'm not sure where all this is going.

pg 10: "soul knife gotten bigger"
--As in it was still forming, or the whole thing got bigger or what? I still don't know enough about the soul lanterns to understand what this means.

pg 12: "But you know the God King is good."
--They keep saying this like he's not actually good. Again, I don't really have anything to judge by. We don't know anything he's done or what laws he's enacted, or if he's killed anyone or... Is it just religion that says he's good?

pg 14: “There’s another demon in the area and--” She looked at the pulsating egg. “--I think it’s coming for the egg.”
--Ah. That's not what I was expecting. Interesting.

pg 15: “It comes!”
--I guess they've been trained in fighting? I can't remember if this has come up before. In any case, this last sentence seems a little off given the rest of their speech. Maybe "It's coming" or something like that?

pg 15: "flared the light of the respective soul lanterns"
--interesting. Also didn't know that was a thing.

pg 17: "alerted to her maneuver due to her battle cry."
--this is the second time the demon has been alerted by a battle cry in two pages. Also, where did these fourteen year old learn to fight like a commando team?

pg 18: “Mama! Mama! You came back!”
--Also was not expecting that...

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Overall

I thought this was well done. Z's characterization is still quite solid, and the autism points are landing really well. The and she lied part almost made me cry. Total gut punch there. A few minor comments below but otherwise, I think for the age group you're going for, this hit all the right places.

 

As I go

- pg 2: and she lied <-- oh wow that line is powerful

- pg 9: I'm in disbelief that they walked 35 miles in one day and aren't completely destroyed. That is a lot of walking, especially if you don't walk that far normally, and I don't think it has been established that these kids do like, 15 mile hikes routinely

- pg 12: the innocence of these children is fantastically portrayed in their thoughts on the god king here

- pg 16: It might have been a killing blow had she held the blade horizontally. Instead, her blade cut a decent gash in the demon’s chest but did not go in. Pain unlike anything she had ever felt before shot up Z's right arm, but she held onto the knife. <-- blocking is confusing here. She cut the demon and then she felt pain? Or did it slash her while they were fighting?

- pg 17: If the first kid made the mistake of a battle cry and Z knew that, why would she then make one as well? This time it feels plot convenient

- love the end!

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1 hour ago, kais said:

If the first kid made the mistake of a battle cry and Z knew that, why would she then make one as well? This time it feels plot convenient

The first time was M making a mistake. The second time was supposed to read as Z learning from that mistake and intentionally using the battle cry as a distraction so the warrior could issue the final blow. Obviously I missed the mark since both of you flagged this moment so I’ll try to make it clearer. 

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8 hours ago, Mandamon said:

Now I'm wondering where these kids learned how to fight? Has that been covered in other chapters, or is it just WRS?

It *is* established before but I tried to play it down in the hopes that the reader’s expectations are at least slightly subverted when they get to the scene in this chapter. 

3 hours ago, kais said:

The and she lied part almost made me cry.

High praise! 

3 hours ago, kais said:

She cut the demon and then she felt pain? Or did it slash her while they were fighting?

I see the confusion. The blade hits a rib and she dead arms, but looks like I forgot to actually include that :) Good catch!

 

Thanks for reading, guys!

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Hello :)

What I liked:

Okay, I have to gush a bit over R here. I love the character moments we get with him here. We get a feel for his general personality and academic orientation with him repeating the teacher's lectures, and we also get some really powerful emotional info about his history with the other character whose name starts with R. Importantly, these moments don't feel out of the blue, but are directly prompted by events in the story. Also, they give us a perfect window to show us more about how Z reacts to other people and their unique experiences, which really strengthens the story overall. This chapter does a great job of building Z and R as strong characters and letting the connection come organically. 

Z's dialogue in the flashback is also amazing. Normally I dislike when characters tell us exactly what's happening, but here Z cutting through the euphemisms is a really powerful window into how she feels about the world. We can feel her pain as someone who knows exactly why she's hurting and doesn't understand why people have to shroud that behind fancy words. It's a great way to characterize her, a technique that lets the story get away with Z telling us directly how she feels, and plays into the ending of the chapter. Which I really liked, by the way! We don't expect the protags here to be masters, so having someone swoop in and save them is totally fine this early on in the story.

Suggestions:

I think the other comments about the beginning being a bit slow do have some merit to them. Though I do love all the interactions here, and would recommend seeing if you could find a way to make them more relevant to the plot at large instead of necessarily cutting down (because I really did gain a lot of understanding about R, and I wouldn't want to lose this in the next draft). Right now it seems like the main conflict of the chapter is the egg attracting the demon, but we don't find out about this until it happens. Getting across the fact that there's something weird about the egg early on could help build tension from the start. If we feel like something's looming in the background, the character moments might not feel like as much of a lull in the larger plot. Even better is if the character moments can tie into this tension/conflict (crude/bad examples: R's nerdy lecture can be about the egg doing weird stuff, and he's later creeped out by the egg which reminds him how far away home already seems, making him realize he won't be able to say goodbye to other R).

I'd recommend not starting chapters in dialogue unless the scene is already set. I see this a lot, where a chapter starts with a snappy line of dialouge but needs to pull back right after to set the scene, at which point the tension stalls a bit and perhaps dissipates. In this case, the story could probably just explain that Z is asking her father about her mother leaving for the first line instead of showing it in action. We still get the hook of her asking about her mother, and it doesn't feel like we need to pull out of a conversation to get a feel for where we are. Though that is rather prescriptive, and there are certainly other ways to accomplish this. 

The last line break where the battle starts doesn't feel necessary to me. As it stands, I'm not exactly sure why we need to fast-forward/reorient ourselves here. 

It's hard for me to find combat interesting, either while writing or reading it, so feel free to take this bit with a pinch of salt (more than the usual, anyway). The beginning of the fight could have worked better for me, and I think most of it comes from the fact that the story describes each blow without going into as much of the feel and perspectives of the battle. Seeing Z's general mindset throughout the battle and watching her react to what's going on can be quite characterizing, while us seeing every attack the kids make here doesn't really let me get a good view on any of them. This is why I was more invested by the end of the fight, when we see more of Z's thoughts. Staying in her head from the get-go might be helpful here. 

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Sorry about the very late comments. I hope they are still of some use.

(page 1)

- I like the flashback around mother's disappearance, but I think it can be titled up a bit. It wasn't clearly a flashback, for me, not at the start at least. After the start it's strong and clear through the middle to the end of that first scene, I thought.

(page 3)

- I could do with a reminder that the general is in the village, as an explanation for why his camp is just outside. It feels very convenient that they have no distance to travel.

- "They don’t know the demon is just an egg" - This line doesn't make sense to me. What does it mean? And he's segued away from the subject of the conversation, which also was a bit confusing.

- Hang on, if they can see the guard is sleeping and he's wearing a mask, they must be closer than a quarter mile away. What's that, about 400 yards? No way they can see that level of detail.

- Confused: the general doesn't know they have the egg, so why would his camp be defended against it? Is this because they know a demon has got through the front line? I think maybe a (subtle) reminder of that would useful, although there will be some WRS going on with me at this point. Actually, ahem, it might be FRS (Fortnightly Reader Syndrome), since I'm sooo late.

(page 5)

- "This is going to be a long trip, isn’t it?" - Confused. I think the problem is I've forgotten that they are not going to see the general, but that their trip is to go and see the GK.

- I do like the emerging relationship between the kids. That's coming over well for me, and I think Z's 'condition' is too. I'm getting the idea of the expressions, which is working pretty well. My thought is though that if that's all there is to it, it might start to come over a bit gimmicky. Will there be other strands to it, and will Z experience more specific challenges because of the condition during the course of the story? Okay, I like the bit about the joke, but I'm hoping there are more significant issues to come.

(page 6)

- "which was rigorous" - excellent, I'm a pretty fast walker to I appreciate this!! No dilly-dallying.

- "don’t let them define you" - Why would what kind of beans you like define you? This was a weird line for me. I don't think it adds anything.

(page 7)

- "though they didn’t travel as straight as she’d like" - But, if they were paralleling the road, they would be taking the same curves, so would not actually (technically) have been travelling any straighter.

- "made the pilgrimage to RC on foot multiple times before" - this came out of left field for me somewhat. I would think this might have come up before now.

(page 8)

- "Said I reminded her of home" - This seems redundant: it's already said in the previous line.

- "went into the breeding program" - Eh? What's this? I don't recall this being mentioned before, but it seems like a pretty major deal. I don't have a problem with it as a concept, but I don't recall it coming up in any of the POVs to date.

- "did not respond that to that" - typo.

- "I’ve never had sex before" - Yes, this is a exactly what I was talking about earlier, a significant example of her social dysfunction (if that's an appropriate term), that is not connected purely to the expressions. Thank you :) 

(page 9)

- I'm not sure I really get the "Do you think it will happen again?" line. What is she getting at? Is that more awkwardness? Awkwardness talking about awkwardness is getting close to meta overdoes, methinks. I resume that won't occur a lot.

(page 10)

- "their SLs misting next to their slumbering bodies" - Okay, problem for me, I think. The SLs don't seem to actually do anything. What is the point of them? People carry them around, but they don't perform any daily function other than providing a plot device. For me, they are not integrated into the story. I forget they are there from one chapter to another. At some point, I presume, they are going to pop up and be significant and I'm going to be narked, because they have not justified their existence in the story, imo.

- "She said she was the GK once" - Totally don't remember this.

- I like the exchange between the two girls, I feel like there's lots of relationship building going on. I feel some real warmth here.

- "That gave me pause" - this is verging on Shakespearian dialogue. It feels way out of place for me, as phrasing. I'd have thought they would say something like 'That made me think.'

(page 13)

- "Before she could comment on it, in the distance, there was a howl" - problems for me in various ways. (1) something hugely dramatic just happened, and she's going to 'comment on it'? That's way too weak a response, I think. Something like 'Before she could react' would be better, because it's shorter, and therefore snappier, more quick fire; (2) grammar: I know you've got the powerful word at the end of the sentence, which I learned recently is good form, but something about 'in the distance coming first distracts me. The howl is the first thing the brain would register, surely, and the fact of distance would be second(?), methinks.

(page 14)

- "There’s another demon in the area" - I didn't really get the thing that they were all getting one after another. It's obvious when it's said out loud, but I don't think it's all the obvious from the 'clues'. They've had the egg for a year and the other demon (mommy?) is only coming to look for it 12 months later? That's weird to me.

- "right on top of them" - This seems very sudden given the first howl was distant.

- "two red eyes appear in the night" - Okay, this might be DRS (Daily Reader Syndrome - I didn't finish reading yesterday and my memory is terrible, really, really, terrible) but I thought they were in a tent. Now, that's on me, but I think you could have a little more description dropped in to keep us vested in the fact that they are exposed.

- "that this was what was called a scout" - too wordy for me, in the moment of high tension.

(page 15)

- She's so, so cool in the face of this thing. I'd like some more terror, I think. I'm not sure it feels authentic.

- "It comes!" - This is an odd thing to say, rather formal and stilted, Victorian even. Wouldn't it be more likely she would say 'Look out!' or 'Attack!' or something less, literary?

- "pushed herself backward" - struggling with the blocking of this. Pushing back will take all the momentum out of any strike, surely?

(page 16)

- "black smoke rose" - ooh, creepy, but what does it look like: claws, head, face, limbs; I could do with more description to drive home them vileness of it.

- "had she held the blade horizontally" - not really got my head around this. She's crouched, but when you say horizontally, it sounds to me like the blade is flat, and pointing perpendicular to her direction of travel. I presume I'm wrong, because that would not produce a killing blow, as far as I can see. Summary: I'm finding the description of the combat somewhat unclear.

- "but she let out a battle cry that warned the demon she was coming" - So, normally I would say this isn't needed, or even wanted, because it tells the reader what to take from the previous comment. I think it's clear why a battlecry is wrong, and it's good for the reader work that out on their own, which I think most would. BUT, is this YA, and if it is, are the rules/is the benchmark different?

- "its front paw at her" - earlier, I mentioned about wanting more description of the demon, and about it being more scary. A demon having paws does not sound scary to me, sounds kinda cute, actually.

- "took the brunt of the blow" - Love triangle!!! Did I just get that? I think I thought it before actually, but still.

- "out her throat, though, a spearhead that shone orange stabbed into the demon’s shoulder blade and threw it off balance" - Suggestion: the word 'though', with two commas around it, really slows the momentum of this line at a critical moment. I think 'that shone orange' has a similar effect. I think there's a wording that would better maintain the momentum of the line.

(page 17)

- "let the momentum pull her" - Pull her where? I sense she's being swung around trough the air, but there not description of that.

- "landed in a fighting stance feet away" - I could only think of her own feet when she lands, rather than distance.

- Repetition of 'off' in the same line: distracting.

- "screaming just like M had" - little confused. Z saw that it was wrong to scream when M did it, but now she is doing it? Actually, I'm okay with the scream, because I think there would be a massive outpouring of adrenaline and emotion in a moment like that, but it's Z's lack of acknowledgement of the comparison that throws me slightly. Then again, she's busy in the moment, so maybe it's just me.

- "alerted to her maneuver due to her battle cry" - Aw but no, she's made exactly the same mistake that M made seconds ago... hmph.

- "pushed herself to her feet" - IMO, there's a gap in the narrative here, between her hitting the demon (falling to the ground, hitting the dust, rolling over, coughing, scuttling) and then getting up.

(page 18)

- "is what you missed" - I loved the move by M when she saw Z's play and made the launch pad. That, for me, is the single best moment in this chapter. It's powerful moment of cooperation, of new, burgeoning friendship. Great, great moment. I do feel the M is putting herself down a little. Yes, Z was properly powerful and proactive in that moment, but M was not sitting atone watching. I wonder if it's in character for M, this reaction. I can accept her attitude towards Z at first was defensive, and maybe her standoffishness was just overcompensated shyness, or a rejection of Z invading her friendship (and more?) dynamic with R, but still, I'm just pondering her attitude here...

- "over onto her hands as well" - I get that this means all-fours.

- "had seen that soul lantern before" - got to say I did not think S/L the you mentioned it first time, but that might simply be even more WRS. (I cannot apologise enough for how long I've been reading your sub.)

- "Isn’t that--" - The ending here is a great moment. Very powerful. No clue at all that this was coming, and yet it is 100% (IMO) surprising but inevitable. Well done on that. The thing that tripped me was this line from M, which I thought sounded rather melodramatic, slightly weak. I wonder if it's necessary. I feel like it tramples on the tone, the impact of the moment.

Overall 

I feel like something of a fraud even writing overall comments now, given how long it's been since I started reading the chapter. I'm certainly not going to say anything about pacing, or arc. However, there are some really nice notes in this chapter. I enjoyed how the relationship between Z and M is developing, how it moved forward in this chapter: very heartwarming and satisfying. The ending was excellent. Couple of minor quibbles, but I was satisfied by how that played out.

However, I do have a concern. The emergence of Ma might completely change the dynamic of the story, and rob Z of agency. Then again, my suspicion is that you will not have Ma hanging around for a long time, but I might be wrong.

There was plenty of stuff that I liked in this chapter. Nice job. Sorry again for the delay.

<R>

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Mother twist was interesting. It works, and I think it was well set up, even if it seems to follow a trope that happens in a lot of other fantasy stories where a parent dissapears . Tropes can be good.

I like the fuzzy feelings Z is having. I also liked the moment when they realized that the demon the general was after was not the one they had. 

There was some nice character building while they walked and camped, though at times, with three people and exchanges that didn't all have tags, I did occasionally loose track of who was saying what.

As I read comments:

Page 2: "If she didn’t know any better, she’d say he was frustrated." Why would she think he wasn't frustrated? Why they "if she didn't know any better" ?

Page 3: "The guard wore the same boring gray uniform that every man, woman and child was issued at the age of ten when combat training first began." Has the combat training come up in the narrative before? This detail caught me off guard, like it was something I should already know. This alone would be okay, but it feels a little planted or too convenient because later in the chapter, that combat training becomes very important when they have to use it to fight a demon.

Page 7: “I wish that I could, after what I’ve seen...” Is this Z? 

Page 11: "There was an unspoken “However…” hanging in the air between them," I'm glad to see some doubt about the GK.

Page 12: “But the woman in the message. She said she was the....” Again, I am happy this is finally coming up. 

“That actually makes me feel better...” Z's reaction is a little unclear to me. I want to know a little bit more of what she thinks or how she reacts to this. Is she really buying M's explanation?

Page 15: “It comes!” Who says this? And why is there a scene break right after it?

 

Anyway, it was a great chapter, and I'm sorry I'm so late with it. 

 

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