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Jun 10 - Syme - Bakery of Shadows (V)


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Let's just start with saying that that was very well written and quite enjoyable (if somewhat creepy) to read. Now for the feedback...


The King seems rather non- kingly to me. He walks around the streets of the city with only 2 guards, simply strolling around looking for a café. This would be OK if he was  a well loved and respected king, but from De Montague I gathered quite the opposite (unless he's unique in his arrogance). Another thing is the matter of the payment for the pastries. If Etienne were a an assertive king I'd expect him not to pay at all, but he clearly states that he doesn't like using his power to his own benefit- but he does exactly that when he forces a lower price upon De Montague (and I find it hard to believe that the king couldn't afford it). Also, you never mention if the king pays for the pastries every Friday...


Another small thing about the king is that he refers to his wife committing suicide as "that nasty business" which makes it sound more like something annoying that happened then a huge tragedy.


Something I didn't understand in the story was why eating his daughter's joy is a bad thing. If I understood correctly it made him hate Montague, but you would think it would make him happy, not angry, and if it does make him angry then why did Montague want the king to be angry at him. (Montague says the purpose of stealing Isabelle's joy is so that the king eats it, not to make Isabelle sad, like you would think...)


Another thing I'm confused about is Isabelle's suicide at the end. I know she was all depressed, but I don't think what you depicted was bad enough to lead to suicide- she just seemed a bit sad. If anything, I would think she'd want to stay so she can make it to next Friday- she thinks she's upset because she can't wait till Friday.


One more technical thing is that you missed italicizing Montague's thoughts on the first page.


All that said, your prose and characterization are excellent, so write on!

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Like Trizee, I really liked the prose and characterisation, especially of Montague. I thought the conflicts and tensions the king brought up for him were well done.


I found the king himself a bit inconsistent. For example, why did he make a fuss about payment? If Montague can afford to charge that much, surely a king can afford to pay that and far more? If this is the king's way of punishing the baker for the earlier behaviour, I think there should be some sign of that.


The magic system was intriguing and well demonstrated. I loved the way it worked through the artistry of baking, and htere were some nice descriptions of the food.


I could have done with a bit more description, both of the locations and of the characters. A couple of times the lack of earlier description led to things that confused me, like the princess turning out to by a young girl a whole page after being introduced, and the patisserie, which I'd taken for a shop, turning out to be a cafe.


I also had a bit of a problem with the structure. It may just be because I've been thinking about this a lot lately, but for me the shifts in point of view didn't work. A story that seemed to be about Montague and his conflict with the king completely changed focus half way through, and though we saw the outcome of Montague's plan we didn't see him being challenged in achieving it, struggling towards his goal, whether he changed, or how he felt about the outcome being a girl's death. It almost felt like parts of two different stories - one focussed on Montague's mission of revenge, one on a family sliding towards tragedy. I was really interested in both, but even though they're part of the same set of events, the emotional pay-off for one isn't the same as the emotional pay-off for the other.


Hope I've managed to explain that last bit properly.


So two well written halves with characters I was interested in, but they didn't feel like they fitted together.

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I normally hate to be an echo, but the previous posters are right: cool concept, solid prose, poor execution.


For starters, the characterization feels all wrong. They obviously have great potential, but they need to be clarified and distinguished. Montague is presumably an expert in his magic, he likely knew the effects eating Isabelle's joy would have (i.e. her suicide); why would he be so offended at being gipped--by the *king*--as to choose that form of revenge. If it's a matter of narcissism, that should be made a bit more evident.


Similarly, Isabelle's POV reads like something of an adolescent, maybe 16 or 17, rather than a young girl (8-10?). Her vocabulary is too well-established, her logic and reasoning far too mature. Suicide is something even adults struggle to understand. How much more so a child?


However, I do like Etienne's "business with Helene". Nobility rarely, if ever, married for love and so it's likely that what he felt for her was like what we feel for a favored coworker. However, he is the king. He's got a lot on his plate; getting some pastries, no matter how delicious, are not likely to be foremost in his mind. I wish I could give more helpful direction on revising his sections, but I'm afraid I don't know what direction it needs to be taken. 


Last, but not least, slow down. The whole thing feels very rushed. Don't be afraid of foreplay, of easing into the story, exploring the characters while still foreshadowing that climax--which I love, it just needs to be foreshadowed more often and more subtly. 

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I really like the idea of baking with emotions.  Very cool idea.  Monsieur de Montague's personality is perfectly hateable, but you can still understand why he would do what he did to the king.  Very nice.


I do agree with the others on the personality of the king.  I was assuming Montague made the king happy to mess up his relations with the southern district and maybe abuse his power, but that was never made clear.  The daughter's death was also sudden.  I could see where you were leading, but it was like you jumped over something in the middle.


I think the ending to this was better than your others as well, but then cutting the ending short works better for a piece like this.  The only problem I had with it was that Monsieur de Montague was the POV in the beginning, but then you don't hear from him afterwards.  Andyk touched on this.  It would be a nice bit symmetry to see him in his shop afterwards, smiling evily after hearing news of the daughter's death, maybe putting some particularly nasty essence into a pastry.  He's the real motivator in this story, and certainly the personality the reader reacts to the most.  I want to see his reactions to what he's done, more than the king's.  Maybe his ill will even plunges the kingdom

into a fight with the southerners, making him lose business?

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I think the thing that struck me most was the elegance of the magic system in this story. I really felt the skill of crafting required to make the cakes. In a way it saddened me that Montague with all that skill at his disposal ended up using his art for something as petty as revenge. That said, I wonder could be a way to develop this idea; maybe introduce another baker who uses his art for more altruistic purposes (there is a lot to explore here with what different essences do to people and what happens when you mix multiple essences in a single cake).


As some others have mentioned the king didn't quite gel for me. It might be helpful to think about what might motivate somebody to be that carelessly unpleasant. If you could anchor the conflict between Montague and the king in a more substantial disagreement then it would give Montague more definition as a character (Either more potently evil or more likeable as a character, depending on what effect your after)


So yes would like to read more from this world

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Being late to read this story and comment on it, I can't add much. This is one cool concept!


ONe thought: it seems that Montague was actively taking away the emotions his creations gifted after each Frieday's offering? If that is correct, it seems not everyone who commented before picked up on that, so you might want to make that more clear - Montague stepping into their shadow and inhling etc.


What this story does need is more clarity regarding motive etc. Maybe if you try and keep the POV more to Montague, esp. in the ending. 

I agree that taking it slower with this story might be a good idea.


And then... I hate to say it, the ending came expected. That is not automatically a bad thing for a tragedy, where you know what will happen in the end... but this could use more supense and drama. Suspense comes from knowing what must happen, but not knowing how and when... 

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