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Reading Excuses - 20150504 - Fruits of the Gods Ch14 (1858) - Mandamon


Mandamon

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Previously:

Kisare and Belili escaped their captivity on the Aricaba plantation, along the way finding that Belili has a lock of magical hair colored brown, enabling her to use the Fruit that grows in their land to do magic.  They meet up with Hbelu, prince of the displaced Asha-Urmana people, and plan to work in his village, building a new life.  However their old master attacks with his guards.  The village fends him off, though he vows to return.  Hbelu, the elders, and Kisare and Belili hold a council, and Hbelu decides they must travel to Karduniash to activate the seeds.  Kisare discovers she has some color in her hair as well.  They start the journey to Karduniash, accompanied by Hbelu, Zikar, and Nidintu, but are soon ambushed a few days out from the village by Aricaba-Ata and Enti-Ilzi.  Belili and Kisare escape, but Hbelu is captured.  The sisters, with the advice of the scout, decide to follow the noble’s trail.  They come across a town, and dye their hair to disguise themselves as Asha-Urmana to search for Hbelu.  In the town they meet up with Gemeti, a mysterious old woman, who decides to come with them and make them into nobles.  They meet with the local Asha-Urmana, who allow the three to travel with them.  Over a few weeks, they learn about being nobles, travel with the Asha-Urmana nearer the capital, and practice their magic.  The three leave the troop and set off.

All comments welcome!

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- Kisa learning to "listen" and being a "forceful" presence do not seem to fit together. I like the observation Beli is making, but I think "forceful" is the wrong word. 

 

- I liked how Beli notices Khanni's false smile. It really amps up the tension.

 

- Is teleportation the right word for what the berries do? I know it's technically what the berries do, but in-world, it doesn't seem like the right word. How would two escaped slaves know what a teleporting it? Maybe an explanation using the language of the world would be better. 

 

-Overall, I thought it was a really intense section. I can't wait to see what happens next! 

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Okay - difficult as this is to say - this is easily the submission that I've had the most problems with, by a country mile.

(1) The timescale for the forging is all wrong. My mother is an amateur artist, so I know something of where I speak. Set-up takes some time. He needs to get pens, paper and ink ready. Even if he has a workshop all ready to go, Gemeti hasn't told him what she wants it to read on the papers. What about names, other key details? The whole section with Khanni felt rushed to me. There was no build-up of tension, just whammo, straight to the double-cross.

(2) No foreshadowing of the effect of Mulberries, unless I've misrembered something. This is Tolkien's magic - no explanation - use it to get out of trouble out of the blue. I think you've broken Sanderson's First Law here and, dare I say it, probably the Second and Third too!

(3) I'm not clear on the rules attaching to the use of Mulberries (clearly!), even trying to accept that something has happened off-screen that clearly Kisa and Bel both participated in, whether it was Gemeti or Hbelu who instructed them in these facts. Bel seems to use 4 berries to jump a short distance, then 2 to jump a huge distance. I feel that I've lost trust in the magic system. What else have the sisters been told that I don't know about? When will they magic another escape out of thin air without prior warning?

The arc of the chapter itself is good. I like the potential of the encounter with Khanni, but there's scope to make it really quite tense and uncomfortable which, to me, it doesn't get the chance to develop into.

The ending is good too. The encounter with the soldiers is a good dynamic: challenge; panic; struggle; separation; escape, but it's the Mulberry issue that did me in! Have I completely forgotten something?

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The pacing is a little off. Things happen too quickly with Khanni.

 

I looked at chapter 13 and you have this line: Gemeti told them what the Fruit did for all five hair colors, and it sounded like the most powerful of the Fruits, at least to Kisare.

Showing Gemeti telling them that, instead of summarizing it, could work to explain a lot.

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I think everyone had the same problems with this one, which is actually a good thing.  As gwslow notes, I totally fluffed the place where I should have explained what Mulberries do...

Also, good catches on the problems with timing, and on teleporting as a concept.

 

That's why we have alpha readers!

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Just finished reading - I quite enjoyed it. You'll have to take my feedback with a pinch of salt, since I'm jumping in after missing the first thirteen chapters. 

 

It's well written. You've got a good balance between pace and immersion. This setting interests me - doesn't feel like something I've encountered before. I felt the hole in my knowledge of the world as I was reading - I didn't have a grasp on what kind of world this is, but then you've probably elucidated that in the other chapters. 

 

I enjoyed inhabiting Belili's point of view. I like how opinionated she is, and how observant. You're evoking the setting through the lens of her experience and personality pretty well. I hope for more of that. 

 

I'll withhold judgement on the hair colour thing... I'm hoping it will be connected to the setting and magic in a deep and unusual way. 

 

The magic fruit idea is interesting. Again, I hope you blow my mind with the depth and sophistication to which you've woven the magic fruit into the culture, economy, ways of life and the psyches of the people who inhabit the world. Seeing the magic in use at the end of the chapter, it feels fairly straight forward. I didn't feel all that captivated or enthralled. Didn't really feel like they were in any real jeopardy. I would have been more engaged if something unexpected and terrible happened in that scene. Granted, her sister disappeared, but she didn't really seem bothered by that. At the end of the chapter my reaction was "What!? She's not even going to try and find her sister? Isn't she worried?"

 

In terms of character, I thought you did a good job evoking their distinct personalities. Even the Khanni felt reasonably distinctive. I wanted more from Gemiti though. She seemed a bit dry to me. Little bit of an exposition font. 

 

In summary, I like it! Strong point of view, good description, distinctive characters. You trust the reader to work things out. Dialogue feels real and is well balanced by the amount of description.

 

Keep it up. Looking forward to reading more  : )

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There are definitely a few pacing issues, which have already been addressed. In particular, the double cross itself feels a bit rushed. It seems like if you take more time to highlight Khanni's shiftiness and unease, you would give the reader time to predict the double cross in advance, which would be more satisfying than having it happen so suddenly. You have a good opportunity to build the tension and suspense in this scene, which will then be released with the action sequence of her teleporting away from the guards.

 

In response to Robinski's comment about the time needed to prepare his workspace, I got the impression that he wasn't prepping his materials at all. I suspected that he was simply buying time or sending his daughter to tip off the guards. Because of this, I didn't necessarily take issue with how quickly it happened. If he was actually forging documents, then yes it would take much longer than it did. I'm curious about what your intention was as the author since Robinski and I had different assumptions.

 

The POV works nicely, and I like how you are characterizing Kisa through Beli's eyes. The small paragraph about Kisa becoming bolder and more free felt like a tell, however. Maybe if you root it more in Belili observing Kisa's body language, i.e "she carried herself as if she were becoming more bold" or something like that, then it would feel like more of a character observation as opposed to you as the author just stating a fact about Kisa. 

 

"Belili only had time for a moment of appreciation" feels a little clunky. I realize that "time" and "a moment of appreciation" are two different things, but when strung together "time for a moment" feels redundant.

 

My one other concern is that towards the end you say "use the magic", which seems a little too overt to me. Now, I'm only three chapters into this story, and it does seem like the girls are relatively new to the magic system, but I feel like any time an author uses a generic word like "magic" to describe something that is a complex and well-known aspect of the culture, it borders on simplistic. It's sort of like saying "time to use the science" in a modern context.

 

Overall, this was a really nice sequence and it had a good emotional impact, even with the pacing issues. I'm really getting into the story even though I'm so late to the party! Also, I don't know if it's even worth mentioning, but this scene reminded me a lot of the scene in the last Harry Potter book when they go seek out Luna Lovegood's father and he betrays them. I don't know if that's a good thing, a bad thing, or just...a thing. Figured I'd mention it anyway. Nice job overall!

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Thanks for the feedback, Majestic Fox and Mr. Wednesday!  You are probably missing a lot by coming in this late, including some of the other problems in this chapter.  As an excuse, I think I was excited to get to the last part of the story and rushed this a bit.  If either of you want to read the parts you missed, just send me a PM with your email.  Absolutely no pressure though--we seem to have a lot of entries lately!

 

@ Majestic Fox: My main focus for this story was the interaction between the sisters and the complex yet simple magic system, so I'm glad you liked them.  To break it down since you missed the rest, hair color + variety of Fruit = a specific magical ability.   You are right that Gemeti is a bit dry.  I don't think she lives up to her full potential, and that's something I'll need to address on the rewrite.

 

@ Mr. Wednesday: Someone else noted the same line about Kisa becoming bolder, so I'll need to rework that.  On "use the magic," I was deliberately more open with calling it magic in this story.  In others I've insisted on calling it by name, so I wanted to try out this method.  I do take your point that it's sort of like calling out "for science!"  I think that scene in HP went through my head as well when writing this!

 

Thanks again.

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