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Majestic Fox

Majestic Fox - A Blade of Moonlight (Short Story) - 7261 words

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Hello all, 
Here's a short story for you. Any feedback welcome, especially reader experience as comments in word.
It's a little over 7k words - sorry for that.
Hope you enjoy the tale. 
~ Fox

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Since this is a pretty long submission. I'm breaking it up into two parts. I'll do the first half this time, and the second half either tomorrow or next week.

Overall, I'm intrigued. Your writing is always very descriptive and easy to read. I got a little confused near the middle by a few things. I wasn't sure where the Seelie got the ingot she turned into a fish from and how that was related to the moonlight. The encounter with the seelie with the wolf/fish was tense, but I'm not sure what the purpose was, unless that ties into something with the second half of the story.

Is there a time limit for making the sword and getting it back to the king? It's mentioned that he and the city are dying, in the first few pages, but there's not a lot of tension that he needs to make the sword as quickly as possible. He's more focused on making sure his name is known.

Interested to see what the second half holds!

Notes while reading:
(I turned the font from Papyrus to TNR to help my reading, so page numbers don't line up right...)

‘You no longer have your name. You have given it to me.’
--This is good irony--he wants to preserve his name, but has to give it away.

"which does make sense"
--does not?

"a grove of oaks that have been woven into a bower."

"The Seelie has invited me into her home"
I like her home. Well designed!

"sets it down"
--the pouch of liquid, I'm assuming? Also, I'm wondering what an extra fish will do to the compound...

"A rotting tree has never made my stomach growl before,"
cool line.

"The teeth in my back and chest"
--I thought they were in his leg?

"I flick blood in his vicinity as if by accident. It is a weak retaliation,"
--I would think freely giving your blood to a fae is a bad idea...

"surrounding striking heads"
--the striking heads

"I have not seen the white stone that holds my name since handing it over"
--Didn't she throw it somewhere?

"a translucent patch has appeared in my body"

"She carries a silver ingot, "
--confused. Did she take the moonlight somewhere and bring it back, or is this a different piece of silver?

Stopping at "Any magician worth his salt knows..."
may do the rest of this later this week or next week. The story is definitely interesting


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Please consider not using a fancy font. It made this hard to read. I converted it to Times Roman for reading so the page numbers below are probably off. (The first page is unnumbered when I open in google docs?) Save the design for publication. The words should speak for themselves.

I am doing the same as Mandamon as I need to get back to my own writing. Will return with the second half later.


Notes during reading:

p 1 - Present tense? Interesting choice. I find it to be awkward, but we shall see.

p 2 - So she has a pouch? Because when I hear someone watching a woman half submerged in water, I 100% think she is naked. Might want to specify that either way, because the scene changes a lot if you picture it one way or the other.

p 3 - "beset with trouble" seems like an understatement. It sounds like they are facing certain annihilation.

Ah yes, definitely clothed. I still wasn't sure.

p 4 - "Do not panic, Magician" - I want to see some actual panic before I hear her say this. What is his reaction to the world turning black? Does he freeze? Freak out?

"moonlight pouring seeping from her pouch," - This image is not quite clear to me. For something to pour, it would need to be tipped sideways. I think a better word might be overflowing? But either way, clarify here.

p 5 - "woven belts" - I am not sure what this means. Belts like leather? This would be a very unwieldy garment...

"my dark haired companion" - the narrator keeps referring to her in these possessive ways, like "my guide" before. It seems a little off for someone he's supposed to be deathly afraid of.

I am getting a little bored of the description. Not sure why. I can't get a good picture of what "four angular slabs" means.

"with an expression of quiet reverence," - If we're tightly from his point of view, I don't think he can describe his own expression which he can't see.

p 6 - "ambit" is not a word as far as I or Google spellcheck are concerned. Not sure what you mean.

Seems odd for her to invite him in, let down her hair, then send him back out. Nothing really happened. A lot didn't happen, but that's not the same thing. As an aside, as a woman, I'm not sure how that hair trick worked. Taking out one clip from a hairstyle doesn't typically transform it into another hairstyle. Especially when you said she had a lot of clips in her hair earlier, I have a hard time believing this.

p 7 - Describing the log as compared to a loaf of bread, and then having him eat some bread (that appears from nowhere) is confusing. I thought at first he was outright eating the log.

The description of the attack made me think something was biting his leg which made me confused as to how it could speak. It took me until the next page to realize there was a creature and a human-ish figure.

‘Why do you look as if you are about to devour my human?' - I know you're going for her suddenly showing up, but this was confusing so close to the spoken text from the attacker. And I've just noticed you are using single quotation marks. I'm assuming there's a reason.

p 8 - I feel like the narrator knew more about what might happen to him than the narrative implies. I would like to see more of his expectations and scholarship as contrasted with reality. As it is, he seems very passive which isn't interesting.

p 9 - Yes, if he's spent half his life trying to find her, where's all his knowledge of what to expect?

p 10 - So is he a bladesmith or a wizard or both?

Wait, why is he asking who she is if he's been looking for her half his life? This is inconsistent.

"Most folk have fantasies about such things" - About keeping their name a secret? Something is missing here. And why is he asking about why he cares about keeping his name secret? Surely he knows why. This smacks of "As you well know" exposition. And yet, I'm still not sure about how a true name connects to success in general, apparently not just in magic as he implies anyone would want it. Revealing a bit more plainly his motives would make him more interesting to me.

p 12 - Okay, that was unexpected.

Edited by lizbusby

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I like the idea framing device you used in the story, but the way it was set up in the begining caused me some confusion. When the narrative switched first person, for some reason, I thought it was a flash back, when it was actually the quest the magician had agreed to take on in the first paragraph. I started reading almost thinking that this was how the magician found out about the blade, that this tale was leading up to the scene we started with. I started to question that as the story went on and eventually figured out that this wasn't a flash back or the events leading up to the opening, but things happening before it. However, because there was a time when I wasn't quite sure, I spent too much time trying to figure it out and didn't really engage with the story too deeply. I didn't make many line by line notes because my mind was too busy trying to figure out whether it was a flash back and/or why I thought it was when it doesn't seem to be.

If I am the only one who had this issue, then it may just be a "me" thing and not a story thing. 

Here are the notes I did make as I read:

"I had thought time and memory had amplified it beyond reason, but I have been mistaken." This line made me think the mc had seen this Seelie before. 

"She has let go of my hand now, and I find myself hoping that was not the last time our hands will touch" Something about the tense here feels off here and is making the sentence seem awkward. 

"What a grand failure that would be, to return to my world with no blade, no body, and no name." This was one of the lines that made it finally clear to me that this was actually chronologically after the opening scene, and I was wrong about the flashback / starting at the end thing.

Because I was hung up on what I wrote about above, I didn't make many specific comments like the others did. After skimming their comments, I agreed with a lot of them. 

In general, I liked the first person present tense. I feel like so many adult fantasy stories are third person past that it was kind of refreshing to see something like this. Some of Holly Black's more recent faerie stories are first person present and work really well. Being YA they do have a very different voice, but I think it does work for your story too.



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This was a very long read. The prose is very beautiful, but I found the story to be very unsatisfying. I felt like there was a mismatch between the fairytale structure and tone, and the way the characters behaved. The tone and structure led me to expect one thing and then the plot of the story did something different. 
As I go:
From the way the woman gathering moonlight is described, it seems to me more like the protagonist wants to sleep with her than apprentice to her. Was this intentional?
I'm not sure I think very highly of this guy if he's this hot for teacher. It doesn't say much for his professionalism or the regard he holds for the fairy woman. If it's intentional, I hope it comes back to bite him in the butt. 
Definitely with Mr Wild Hunt here. Protag's a creeper. 
"spent half my life" -- half his life is two nights? He mentioned not sleeping for the two nights he spent searching for the fairy woman relatively close to this assertion that he's spent half his life looking for her. 
"tend the fires" definitely reminds me of "The Devil's Sooty Brother" but with what feels to me like more weird innuendo and a less likable protagonist. This guy can barely follow instructions to boot. He's failing his fairy tests and still hot for teacher in a way that makes me feel sort of slimy to read it. 
Oh and now he's making a condescending "no one but me is willing to do the really hard work" bootstraps argument and protag is definitely on my dislike list. I sure hope there's some fairytale comeuppance happening eventually.
By the time the training montage starts I am starting to skim a little. I do not really care about the protagonist and I'm not invested enough in the fairy woman to read for her sake alone. I like her, she is interesting, but she seems to me to be falling into the pattern of a woman who loves the jerk man and does things for him in spite of how he behaves and that is one of my least favorite tropes for women interacting with men. I am also not entirely sure why she's even dealing with him, or what he's gaining by this training. It doesn't seem to be progressing anything. 
And yes, I see this is how it ends as well. I am feeling very disappointed. Protagonist didn't learn anything, he failed all the tests, couldn't do the thing he'd apprenticed for, failed to leave on time, treated the lady not very well at all, and yet, he still got the quest item, received the accolades he wanted, escaped being a ghost, earned the love of the mythical beauty, and it feels to me like the story is wanting me to believe he's made some kind of sacrifice with his name. What has he actually sacrificed? He got literally everything he said he wanted except the king physically saying his secret name (which... was a secret, so, like, how was the king supposed to know it?), and this supposed "sacrifice" is what landed him the love of the fairy queen apparently. I feel like this is one of those Cursed With Awesome "sacrifices" that are said to be awful but whose effects end up being highly beneficial.  Cursed with awesome is one of my least favorite tropes. I know it can be done well, but I'm not sure how well it succeeds here. 

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Critiquing part 2:

Definitely enjoyed the journey of this story. However, I'm not sold on the ending. It seemed that the magician had gained peace from his time beyond the veil and was ready to accept the consequences. But then he changed his mind and became human again? He just went back to his original objective of people remembering his name, but he didn't even save the city. He didn't seem to learn anything from his journey.

I didn't get as much of the creeper vibe as @industrialistDragon, but I do see that aspect. To me, it felt more like he was intending simply to get the information, but then became entranced by the world beyond the veil and Fay. I didn't read that she ever actually loved him back, but that she was showing him how to be a better person. I was with that up to the end, when he just shrugged it all off and went back to what he was like at the beginning.

I think if he shows he's capable of learning, that would help the story a lot.

Notes while reading:
pg 14: "as if it has already"
--has already happened?

pg 17: "But you may call me Fay"
--a bit on the nose, but okay.

pg 25: "a magician stands before the crowd"
--so he turned himself back? I didn't think that was possible.


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Thank you for the feedback everyone. Useful comments as always, and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Also, my apologies for submitting a longer piece. For those who decided to read the whole thing - thanks a lot for putting in the extra time! For those who stopped part way through, please don't feel under any obligation to read the whole thing - I included the whole story so people would have the option to read it all if they wanted, but I gather from Silk and Robinski's private messages that this isn't the Reading Excuses way, so apologies for that.

Also, it seems like as though I wasn't not on the RE mailing list at the start of the week. Silk has put me back on now, but I haven't received any of your work so if you would like feedback from me, please send me a PM and I'll make sure you get it  : ) 

Hope the writing is going well for everyone. 

Thanks again. 


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On finishing the second half, unfortunately, this story doesn't succeed for me either. I think the problem is the lack of growth in the protagonist. We are told he's smart and ambitious, but he doesn't act in those ways. And because he doesn't act that way, he also doesn't change over the course of the story. The whole time he is basically a passive vessel to receive knowledge. His love for the woman also seems steady throughout the story. It doesn't really progress or change him over time, at least not that I noticed. Unlike other readers, I don't think the main character read as a jerk at all, except in the beginning scene where he was set up as a peeping tom, but that feeling went away. He was just a blank slate, taking no initiative to do anything.

So with no character growth and a very passive "wait and see" plot, there's not much to enjoy about this story. The ending baffled me: why did she decide to give him the sword? Nothing has changed, so why now instead of later? I'm also not sure why stabbing himself with the sword reversed his ghostly nature. And can it still be used for the intended purpose (either cleansing the kingdom or bringing glory to his name)? Too much is unclear to me.

Sorry to be so negative. I do feel like the story has potential. The setting and the intended feeling could be cool, but we need to see a lot more protag-ing from the protag and from the woman. Fae is a very hard feeling/place/people to nail down in a story because they have to have their own internal logic completely different from ours and utterly incomprehensible. I felt like this story didn't quite hit that balance right, mostly in favor of just not telling us things.


More notes while reading:

p 13 - I am not sure what to make of the forging of the fish. It was mildly interesting but not super enthralling and I'm not sure what it has to do with the magician.

p 15 - The conversation provides some interesting background info, but I don't feel like it's really the characters speaking so much as info being conveyed. The magician doesn't come across as someone who has studied, even if most of what he studied is wrong. He doesn't come across as arrogant, scheming, and prideful which the rest of what we've been told indicates he should be, but humble and meek and worshipful. I'm also not clear what F's motives are in this, but that's a bit more understandable because she's supposed to be mysterious. However, it seems odd that she is so free with info when she's been so stingy before. I want her to feel alien and she just feels hesitant.

p 25 - I am somewhat baffled by the ending. I'm not sure why she chooses to give him the sword at this point.


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Ooooh. I'm looking forward to this.

[Edit: I should add here that I read an updated version of the story, not the original submission.]

(page 1)

- "Vlad" - I'm doing LBLs so as not to weigh the thread down with minor drafting things. I keep wanting to change the name to Vladimir, which I think is the 'actual' Russian spelling, but it's a name, so it can't be 'wrong'. Even g**gle wants me to search for Vladimir instead. Pah. It's just me trying to be conformist. Just ignore me. As RATM would say 'f*ck the norm'.

(page 2)

- I'm fairly clipping through this. I like it. I think the writing is very good. There's a lovely depth to it, in lines like "A piece of dying land". It's simple and direct, and yet the words are working hard, phrases performing more than one purpose, like this one, revealing the state of the kingdom in the conscious and subconscious mindset of the character(s).

(page 3)

- "to liberate my people" - Hmm. This implies to me he's trying to overthrow the monarchy, but I can't imagine he would admit that to the king, especially when trying to curry favour with him.

- "speaks of sickness" - Where does her do this? I may have missed it.

(page 4)

- "skirt of woven belts" - how does this work then? Not sure what to picture.

- "it would float off..." - exceptional description. Wow.

- "pours it(?) at her waist" - Unsure what's happening here. I'm a bit confused by the description.

- "melting the frost" - <3 - clever.

(page 5)

- "made smooth by ceaseless months of chanting my name" - I don't know how this works in a practical or metaphorical sense.

(page 6)

- "apprenticeship you seek" - Hmm, but that's not what he asked for, surely.

- "coalesce into..." - beautiful phrasing.

(page 7)

- "a grove of oaks that have been woven into a bower" - struggling to picture this.

- "swishing as she moves" - somehow I had pictured the belts as hooped, but I think they must be attached one end to a waistband and hanging down, which makes more sense, of course, but I did not picture that from the initial description.

(page 8)

- colons: there are a LOT of them in this piece. 25 by my count. I don't use them much, admittedly because I am not confident in their use, but I found them the sheer number of them distracting.

(page 12)

- "One who... too tight" - great line. 

- "half my life" - I don't feel I got any sense of that in the initial pages.

- Is it not ball-peen hammer? I think it is.

(page 19)

- "whilst" - I like the tone of the story very much, that mythic quality that comes from the formality of the language, however, 'whilst' is just a bit too archaic, I think, in this context. I think 'while' is fine for the purposes of sipping tea and staring at the floor.

- "What a grand failure that would be" - OOH, and actual substantive negative comment!! Watch out ;) So, I find his complete nonchalance about becoming a ghost rather unconvincing. If he's so obsessed with name, surely he wants to be alive to enjoy his fame? I'm starting to think that he's not all that invested in this quest. I mean, the internal monologue is reasonable, and he questions his own commitment at times, and his path, but here he just seems far too casual, to me. Actually quite sarcastic with this comment.

(page 21)

- The name F*y is very on the nose. It can be put down, I suppose, to her sense of humour, but still, of all the names she could have picked... It's just a bit boring.

(page 22)

- "You have lasted longer than most" - I enjoy the recurrence of this phrase.

(page 24)

- "whispering spells" - What spells does he know? Confused. I don't know what he can be whispering. I understand there has been some kind transfer of knowledge, but not of objective magic. "Grow", "Go..." - ah, but these are not spells, they're just instructions. Anyone could make up such a spell in this situation. I feel a bit mislead by this aspect.

(page 25)

- I'm surprised she leaves footprints.

- "two directions" - oooh, cool.

(page 26)

- "join me in the water" - But he went into the water before, he's still in it. He wades into the water. "urges me toward her" - yeah, continuity issue here.

- Also, confused by the very elegant 'poem'/speech about the blackened blade, which hadn't been mentioned before, as opposed to the moon blade.

- "queen of the... city" - But the 'poem' said she a menace of the city, not queen of it.

(page 27)

- "lost to the other realm" - But his name is held in the other realm, surely. Surely it is lost to this realm.


I enjoyed this a good deal. I think it's very publication worthy, and would easily find a home in any number of publications. I do hope you are going to submit it around. The style is so economical and elegant, very much what I expect from you. I think it's a little more reined back than in Gr--n Ocean, and I think that works very well, especially in this shorter format. The writing feels very assured, and I think has a real maturity to it. Thank you for sharing :) 

(LBLs emailed directly).

Edited by Robinski

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Sorry for the delay on this. Life and such!



The prose was lovely, as always, and I enjoyed the imagery. The story got too long in the tooth I think there in the middle, and I don't think the ending lands. It doesn't feel like the magician has gone through any growth at all, and I don't understand why he chose to use the blade to turn back into flesh. Why come to the court at all if he was going to do that? I'm left feeling lost at the end, without the payoff I'd like for such a strong start and such beautiful scenery.

I think trimming the middle and fixing the end bit would make this a very strong piece indeed!


As I go

- As a first paragraph, I don't know if it would hook me. The magician seems really pompous and that's a turn off for me as a potential main character, just at the start

- that first iteration of 'his price' and 'maker is a woman' also set the tone of the piece, letting me know we have male default in the world. For many I think it would definitely be a hook but for me it sends the message that this is a man's world and a woman struggling against it, which, for me, is exhausting because it is the current world, so another element that would make me wary of reading further

- the moon reflection line on page two is beautiful

- pg 3: my name to hear ear <-- typo, should be 'her ear'

- why learn the way of gathering it? Why not just ask for her to gather and give it to him, since he has already paid so dearly?

- pg 5: would like to see some of this panic the woman is speaking about. It's told but not shown in the magician

- pg 6: which does make sense because <-- did you mean 'doesn't make sense' here?

- pg 6: moonlight pouring seeping <-- one or the other

- pg 6: if the darkness of her hair is going to keep being called out, using phrases like 'animal grace' is not advisable

- pg 7: confused. When did his sight come back?

- pg 12: the 'hands of a craftsman' line is excellent

- pg 13: he spent half his life trying to find her? It seemed so easy from the beginning. This needs to be threaded in earlier, I think

- pg 19: I thought he was only allowed one night? This seems to be going longer than that

- pg 26: I find the story lagging here. I want some forward movement and it's still just a pretty setting with nice words. And that works at the start but I need some meat soon or I'll wander

- pg 26: I still don't understand why she is letting him stay since she clearly gave a timeline. I feel like this is violating fairy tale rules somehow

- pg 28: why does he want to remain there with her? I don't understand the allure. I need more emotions from the magician

- 'black-throated' seems marginally problematic without discussion of what that means

- So he.... uses the blade to bring back his life in the end?


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