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6/5/23 - Ace of Hearts - Bond of Wildflowers v2 sub 16, 3423 words (V)

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Additional content warning for abusive relationships.
This is going to be the third to last sub. Since we're getting to the end there's a big turning point here, and I'm curious to see how it comes across.
Thanks! :)
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Almost to the end! I've had a lot of fun reading through this one, and I'm interested to see what you're planning to do with it afterward.

Not really a lot wrong with this one. Things are falling into place. The one shaky spot is that I feel like N is both particularly dense here and also too easy to convince. That might mean there needs to be a little more setup earlier with him really emphasizing he'd never kill, or something like that. Something to make it really surprising yet inevitable with his confrontation with A.

Aside from that, looking forward to the next ones!

Notes while reading:

pg 2: "Oh. That’s… a good question."
--Yeah, N is not coming across as too smart in these last couple chapters.

pg 4: N confronting his memories of C seems maybe a little too easy? Yes, he's obviously being manipulated, but I feel like if so he might need a little more help to get all the way there?

pg 5: "and then the wolf goes scampering off."
--why is this? A jumped in front of a bullet but is scared by a second one?

pg 6: "can’t be killed by regular bullets."
--ok N, you finally got there...

pg 7: “Is that how you’re going to say after killing me?”
--something missing here

pg 9: "You didn’t mean to do that, did you?"
--this paragraph is a bit awkward. It's a bit of tell instead of show, when we should have it drilled into us that N would never take a life so it plays out by itself.

pg 12: "I’m still frozen in shock"
--I'd think W is getting used to it after to many deaths and violence this day.

pg 12 "It’s showtime."
--Hopefully C doesn't have a gun too...

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  • 2 months later...

P1 “[W]’s supposed to hate me now.” Feel like I missed something here. I know N feels betrayed by W but don’t get why W is supposed to feel the same.

“Can I trust she wants what’s best…” Specifics! “Can I trust” is a pretty general question and feels a bit baseless when we, as readers, have been getting W’s POV throughout the book and know what she’s about. Even though I know, as a reader, why N is asking this question, I think leaning into his specific feelings about W right now will make this hit harder.

P2 I keep stumbling over this “let’s install N as ruler” piece – maybe because I knew so little of how leadership worked in the village to begin with. Is it hereditary and this was always supposed to be this way, or is there some other maneuvering happening? Also, I don’t have a good sense of whether or not I should believe MA when he says that this isn’t something he wants to do, except for that, you know, general "man bad" sense. 

“corporate smile” – love it

“…since he was planning to backstab you” Does MA know this? Does he care?

P3 “…who lowers his gun” Why? This feels almost like he’s responding to direction from N, but that doesn’t seem to make sense.

“Put her aside for now” – Oh, wow, this caught me way by surprise. 

“Memories come flooding back.” In general, I think you’re really well set-up for an arc like this, but in this specific moment it feels abrupt. You’ve laid the groundwork really clearly and here we get a resolution, but feels like maybe we’re missing a step between the two where N does some of this learning.

And they’re all standing around talking about needing to stop J. It’s making MA feel a little less threatening, but also keep I wondering why W hasn’t brought up that she knows J is dead.

P8 “…that hesitating is a weakness.” You’re the one standing around monologuing, my man.

(Yes, this is snark, I don’t actually think this line is a problem!)

P9 “…because he’s hiding something in it.” Especially given how quickly we’ve seen W put together other things (and other characters have commented on it!) this seems, well, pretty screamingly obvious. Also, if I have a hard time swallowing that MA didn’t notice he was hiding something in his hand; in his position, I would have absolutely assumed N was carrying a weapon.

P10 “I don’t expect you to take me back” – This feels like it’s coming from the wrong person, since it was N who was convinced that W didn’t care about him until just a few pages ago. Unless… this is an “I’m sorry for thinking badly of you, I was wrong not to trust you” sort of moment? In which case, that would work, but I think it needs to be called out explicitly. Right now it feels like either this line of dialogue is misplaced or we have skipped a step.

As we end the chapter it occurs to me that I have no idea what the ritual is actually supposed to look like. I know it confers a magical result and requires a close relationship, but I don’t know how it’s actually performed. Incantations, dancing, music, sex? I think knowing it’s supposed to look like will help with the anticipation of seeing our heroes foil/succeed at it.

Also I realized that W still hasn’t spilled the beans about J’s death. If this is supposed to be a part of the climax, maybe hang a lantern on it? Otherwise it seems like a weird omission.

Overall: I know I had a lot to say this time, but I do think that the pacing and structure is mostly working. There are a few things that I think need to be given a little more space: N’s realization that he’s in a toxic relationship, for one, and his reconciliation with W, for another – obviously these things are related, but I do think they are separate arcs that can each be given some space to come to their resolution. This is probably going to be partially seeding some of this throughout earlier chapters and partially just giving a little more time to them here in the chapter.

Another thing that may need to be seeded earlier is this “setting up N as ruler” idea. Maybe WRS, but I don’t remember this being hinted at or mentioned by other characters previously, and the fact that I have no real idea what governance looks like in N’s village is contributing to that, I think. Even a couple of throwaway lines clarifying that governance in N’s village is hereditary and he’s going to come into it one day (or whatever) and then hanging a lantern on his surprise when grandma is killed and it’s all up to him now could help with this.

My biggest stumbling block, though, was just that MA does not feel very effective as a villain here. I still don't know much about him and his goals, but also… I think it’s fine for him to be able to gloat and monologue and explain his evil plans, but he does a lot of that here – a little bit before he tries to shoot W, and a whole lot after. Can he have something to actively pursue in this scene other than just “killing a POV character” and be making progress toward it? Can N and W more actively stop him and almost fail? Or even just cut some (not all!) of the villain stuff altogether? That would also create more space for the character moments here, which deserve a little more shine.  

Edited by Silk
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