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Messages - Asmodemon

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The return of Traxis, though without the prologue his return is actually the first time Iíve read about him. The shadowy realm of all the fortresses is an interesting one. It raises a lot of questions, just why are all the fortresses connected, what are the fortresses and what is the significance of names Ė Iíve got some ideas after what I read of the previous draft and itíll be interesting to see where you go with this.

I donít have much to remark concerning this chapter, it was short and piqued my interest, but its overall significance isnít something I can judge yet. One thing thatís apparent, after reading the Jin chapters, is that Traxisís purple magic effect is probably the same or connected to Jinís. Being attacked by a woman going for his throat is another similarity with Jin.

Now Iím wondering if the blackness in the mist world is somehow the same or related to the hole in the Shroud. It makes the existence of the latter hole more threatening for the reader. In all a good chapter.

Again, this chapter was quite good. I liked the fortresses in the mist and that itís a separate world/realm/thing that contains everyoneís fortresses and is not just inside Jinís head.† Jin stood up for himself a bit and he did something spectacular with his magic, even if itís still unclear what exactly he did, and he didnít fail this time.

To me this chapter does suffers similarly to chapter sixteen. One problem is internal coherence. After the nurse leaves in a huff neither Jin nor Talvin pay her any more heed. This is just like with Chalinae, out of sight out of mind. Another issue is that the behaviours of Jin, Talvin, and now the nurse donít always make sense. At least they donít to me.

My first impression of Jin here is that he speaks differently when talking to the nurse in the mist. Heís far more collected, assured and mature. Take ďThatís a matter of some disagreement between usĒ for instance, and then he practically sneers at the nurse when he tells her who his father is. Itís almost like heís a younger Talvin. This isnít a bad thing, I liked that Jin showed some backbone and maturity since heís supposed to be culturally mature and fearless for being a Calorite. But it is different from the last chapters and in terms of continuity that isnít so good.

A small thing that occurred to me, I donít recall seeing any signs that there is disagreement between Jin and his mother about him being male. Now she didnít have much screen time so far and I could be remembering wrong, but you could show such a disagreement or some resentment in the mother earlier in the story so Jinís remark has a basis.†

On the reaction of the nurse for Jin being a Calorite, I think itís a bit extreme, especially given what we know about the Calorites and what you explain in the remainder of the chapter. This knowledge is quite limited right now. In the summary of the book I see that in the prologue a Calorite killed Traxisís wife, but you never submitted a prologue to the group, so all I know is what the summary says.

Subsequently the word Calorite is never mentioned in Karemothís part, which is a good 30,000 words, and might be too long to remember the significance of the word. The submission format doesnít really help either in remembering things that happened chapters and weeks ago.† In Jinís part itís mentioned once in chapter 12, when his mother makes his hair into a Calorite braid and again in 13 again with respect to his hair. Itís subtle, saying that no one wears their hair like a Calorite, but other than that evidently the Calorites are pariahs thereís nothing to say theyíre dangerous or particularly feared in the present day.

Without the prologue these two mentions are too subtle for the reaction of the nurse. And the nurseís reaction, if the Calorites really have fallen into stories, comes across as too extreme because of it. On the other hand, given the nurseís reaction, if the Calorites are so feared and loathed as the nurse suggests why would Jin (be allowed to) wear his hair like one? Even if only a handful of people believe in Calorites it puts too much attention on the boy Ė thatís the last thing Talvin would want, given Jinís magic.

Which brings me to Talvin. Before the nurse came he was in a rage, ready to practically kill Jin. Mere moments afterward, his behaviour is turned around 180 degrees. Itís not just because heís proud that Jin managed to do something, because Talvin was already acting nice the moment the nurse left them. Itís like Talvinís mood is on a yoyo, up and down, up and down. You say there is a reason his behaviour is inconsistent, but by this point a reader is likely to have put the book down and so will never know. You donít have to spill the beans on everything, but if you make it clear to the reader there is an in-story reason Talvinís behaviour is odd that will create a mystery rather than an authorial error.

Finally, Talvin is proud of Jin at the end of the chapter. Why exactly? To Talvinís perspective Jin made bigger arcs and made a purple light flare. True, this is more than he has done up to this point, but itís purely a visual effect. Talvin canít manipulate the Shroud and thus has no idea whether Jin did anything to it or not, not without people like Zarfar singing next to it Ė unless Talvin can sense or manipulate the Shroud. Now what would that make him?

Iím a bit on the fence about this chapter. Itís not that itís bad, itís that what it contains feels odd to me. These include Jinís behaviour and Talvinís behaviour most of all.

Talvin is not much of a father type person, thatís very clear, but the rage he flies into in this chapter comes across as being out of character. In the last draft he was a real bastard, but in this draft, until this chapter, he just seemed a cold detached researcher with no idea how to deal with his ten year old son. For the most part the interaction between them is cool, with only kindness when Jin says or asks intelligent things. In this chapter Talvin is very abusive and I† donít think Iíve seen enough hints that he can be this explosively cruel in the previous chapters.

As for Jin, there are many cases here where Jin is in trouble, but instead of his problems he focuses on the scenery. Take the first paragraph where Jin learns that the nurse will be late. Heís worried and tries to hide in his chair. So far so good, but then he starts to wonder what the chair is made off, instead of worrying whatís going to happen to him, why only he can hear the voice, whatís going on with Chalinae, etc. There are plenty of things he could think of rather than wonder about one chair.

I donít really understand Jin. He gets manhandled by his father and it does nothing, but when Talvin calls Chalinae a whore suddenly he wants to burn his fatherís face off? Thatís a rather abrupt change, especially considering the only time he tried something conceivably violent was when he ineffectually tried to rescue Chalinae. If this is intended as a sign that he really cares for her it falls flat since nothing else JIn does or thinks adequately makes this clear.

I remember feeling something similar with the previous draft, with the character Guli. Some of Jinís behavioural oddities are very reminiscent of Guli. Did you mix the two in this draft?

The last point Iím on the fence about is Jinís punishment. Despite being manhandled by his father Jin really gets off easy Ė he gets to read old scrolls and books and has to copy them. Hardly a punishment for someone whoíd gladly read those books anyway. It raises the question of what could be so important that Jin has to help his father, when itís clear his father doesnít think all that much of his help? While part of this is good as a hook, the fact that his punishment feels disproportionate does more harm than good, at least for me.

This chapter is very fast paced, even more so than the last. In previous chapters you put in a lot more background information that, while interesting, does take the pace of the piece down. This one is very immediate with some very brutal aspects. I again liked the Sin excerpt, short and to the point, and more in line with the excerpt in chapter thirteen.

Most of the chapter worked very well for me. The society is very ruthless and cutthroat, not just for the male slaves but the women who vie for power. Once youíre in the gaol all bets are off. In that context what happened with Chalinae worked very well, from her tirades to her rape, which you never actually specified, but what else can it be?

One of the things that didnít work as well for me is the matter of what Jin knows and doesnít seem to know fluctuates a lot. He quickly realizes that the holes can, and probably are, used for spying and that they put Chalinae in there with him so she can incriminate herself. But then when Chalinae screams he had no idea what theyíre doing to her Ė maybe a normal ten year old wouldnít know, but Jin is supposed to be so smart and given society as a whole shouldnít he know?

Despite what happens to Chalinae, and right now no one actually says sheís being raped, but the signs are very clear, it doesnít have much of an effect on Jin, and through Jin it doesnít have much of an effect on the reader. Having him see whatís happening, or at least the start of it, or if his motherís words about her bleeding make him realize whatís happened and we can see and feel his horror, that makes for a more powerful chapter. As it is he struggles a bit for her and then seems to put her out of his mind the moment he sees his parents. True his parents are formidable and he might be too scared to speak up, but at least his thoughts would go to Chalinae more than they are now. She is the girl for whom he went to all this trouble after all.

Compared to Chalinae Jin does seem to get off easy, also taking into account the threats at the end of the previous chapter. I get that his parents want him alive, even if only for his magic, but to the people making the decisions heís just a kid. From what weíve seen so far, again with the threats of the last chapter, I didnít think his parents had that much influence. After the build up and the gaol the ending of the chapter is a little lacklustre as a result.

On the whole this was one of the most, if not the most, enjoyable chapters so far.

For this chapter I didnít find the Sin excerpt as interesting as the last one. Sin is tossed in a desert. Somehow I expected more after the last excerpt. That one was so strong, this one pales in comparison.

The pacing of this chapter is very good and may just be the fastest read of this story so far.

Youíve got some odd sentences and structures her e and there, such as the first two, where I stumble over word order (first sentence) and meaning (first and second sentence).

Devla stood much longer this time over him. She did not wave her hand to raise him.

Seeing Jin put his plan in motion really brings home to me how convoluted it really is. You donít steal one item from one family in order to barter it for another item someone else in that family owns. If youíre going around stealing things, steal the thing youíre actually going for. For Jin to think he can barter when he has never bartered before and has no idea what the value of the flower is, it makes far more sense to steal the flower.

 I donít know who the voice is, maybe Sin, maybe Traxis, but from the way the voice spoke before itís old. It really should know better and make clear to Jin, who before this time has always listened to adults, that this is both stupid and suicide. I know the voice already said so when they first started speaking, but the moment they actually went into planning the voice was leading Jin along instead of slowing him down.

Within the confines of this plan Jin does surprisingly well, showing that he is smart and observant. Itís so jarring to see him behave like that, but still have him come up with this plan in the first place. Itís also hard to keep his age straight most of the time Ė he comes across as older than ten years old.

Nice to see Karemoth again, but I wonder at the wisdom of speaking of their plans with the forging of weapons and of a victory where everyone can hear them.

The ending was inevitable, Iíd have been really disappointed if despite the odds Jin actually succeeded. The punishment is very severe, but feels more like the thing you say when you catch a thief Ė maximum punishment Ė combined with humiliating an important scion and show of power. On the other hand your society really is that brutal, so it might not be far from the truth. Very nice cliffhanger.

Great Sin excerpt, especially that last sentence. The moment I might start to think Sin is a victim of some kind you show that he thinks in twisted ways and so deserves whatever it is thatís happened to him. Goo d stuff.

Unfortunately the rest of the chapter didnít have the same impact. Iíll even go as far as to say that I donít really seem the point to it.

Continuing on from the last chapter Jin keeps thinking about his plan and reveals more of it to the voice. Aside from the fact that itís a horrible plan thatís going to fail spectacularly and that the voice seems to encourage him rather than try to talk him out of it, I feel like Iíve already heard enough about the planning last chapter. Iíd rather see him try it than read more about him thinking and planning about going. The plan itself, while bad, is pretty well thought out for an (average) ten year old. Jin isnít average, so the plan is even less impressive to read about.

The other major part of the chapter is the investigation of the hole. For something that negates magic and goes against all their beliefs, e.g.† that the Shroud is everywhere, neither Zarfar nor Talvin really seem that bothered about it. If it was that important wouldnít someone have called for a different scribe when Jin started to mess around?

This chapter was shorter than most of the others, but it still felt too long considering the Jin-Voice scenes donít add much to the story Ė Jin still has to execute his plan, so what they talked about weíll read about twice. And the scenes about the hole donít go anywhere.

Nice Sin excerpt, starting with a build-up of inevitability with his friends, and ending with a desperate note as Sin names choice being an illusion. These excerpts are a great opener to the chapters.

The interest the Sin excerpt generates fades a bit on the next page, where you have a large exposition on the bones that make up Jinís bed. The explanation feels disjointed from rest of the scene, as if the story stops for a moment to have a small encyclopaedia entry.

When you use Branch, with a capital b on page two you threw me off for a moment. Did you use this term before? And for what? Turned out that you did, but back then I never gave it much thought. Seeing it capitalized all of sudden drew my attention to it. It seems to refer to a House/family correct? Is there a reason you use branch for this? With the Hellfane so close by it seems an odd choice.

Part of Talvinís first conversation with Jin this chapter feels off, the way he suddenly changes his opinion on Chalinae for instance. To me she doesnít act dissimilar to the other women in their society, though granted she is kinder to Jin than others would. As the son of an important family it could just be that she wants to tie herself to that family. A cynical man like Talvin wouldnít be much impressed with her, I think.
The second sceneís pace goes down fast, the walk between their house and the tower is pure exposition on certain doctrines in your setting. At this point we already know Talvin and Jin dismiss every other belief and culture around. Weíve already seen the crater peopleís culture with Karemoth and the recounting chamber in the tower is a better place to mention the Kulutinist culture. Jinís wondering if souls are real might be more poignant after he hears the disembodied voice and wonders what it could be if it has no visible body.

I wondered if the tower was going to come up again; in the previous draft things quickly went to Chiloh for Jin there. After all the talk of slaves and oppression, the slave with the sewn up lips is the strongest sign of how brutal that society really is in this draft. The pace picks up again starting from the tower.

When Jin thinks that life as a slave must be hard itís such an obvious thought that it might fit a ten year old, but compared to the thinking and knowledge Jin has showed before the thought is perhaps a bit too naive. Consider that he thought work in the stables was hard, he should know that slaves lead tough lives.†

Nice touch, the disembodied voice asking the listener if the listener is crazy. I start losing a bit of interest though when Jin and the voice start with the Ďlessoní, on page 24. Itís describing whatís going to happen, or what is expected to happen, rather than anything happening. Cut off there and weíll still know what they talked about when Jin tries to execute the plan.

Introducing Listeria† earlier than the second act is a good thing. In general itís usually not a good idea to introduce viewpoint characters (Iím assuming here that not only is Listeria a POV character, sheís also important, e.g. this isnít the only chapter with her viewpoint) in later acts of the book.

You do a great job of cutting back on the word Ďhadí, four instances compared to 42 the last chapter. It makes the story flow a lot better. Unfortunately I did notice a new word of the day here, the word being Ďthoseí. Youíve got those women, those puppets, those rumours, those countries, those voices, those three. I kept thinking, what women? Which countries? It feels like you want to flesh out the world without actually fleshing it out. I have no idea what Ďthoseí actually refer to. It might look mysterious, but it feels annoying.

What you said in your submission, that you mainly wrote this chapter to flesh out the world, made me very alert for the start of an info-dump, and it happens pretty quick. LTU already pointed out the moment in the conversation.† After that itís info dump disguised as a conversation, to a greater or lesser degree until the scene break. Since youíve already seen this I wonít belabour the point.

The best part† for me comes after the scene break, a conversation between two interesting characters, rather than an exposition masquerading as one. Very good, I enjoyed it a lot.

One more small thing, your chapter heading says chapter four, instead of chapter five.

I concur with LTU, there are too many instances of Ďhadí in this chapter, double as much as in chapter three and for a relatively short chapter this makes a lot of the narrative clunky. Youíve got a whole cluster of them in the third paragraph for instance.† With most of these instances you can remove them as is without changing anything.

For some reason this chapter feels slow, like not much is happening. This is odd because on the whole not a lot happened in the last chapter either, but that one didnít feel slow. Thinking on it I think itís part because the many instances of Ďhadí make it less immediate and in part because there are many hooks here for things to happen, but they never do.

For instance, there are magistrates about investigating the break in of the library, but Lorn has no difficulty with them. Another moment is with Destraís corpse. The river runs through the city, there are promenades and bridges nearby. Why hasnít anyone found her body before Lorn does? It feels convenient. Then I expected him to be caught while talking to the corpse. Nothing happened. He talks a little girl into revealing where the body can be found; nothing happens.

Iím not advocating† you put this full of action, but despite him feeling supposedly anxious and taking a risk in finding Destraís body I never feel heís actually at risk.

Your writing is definitely improving. This is the best chapter yet I think, maybe part of that is because for the first time one of your characters gets a second chapter. The flow is better and you cut down on the use of Ďhadí considerably since the last chapter. There are still cases where you can do without it, but itís not much of an issue.
Ciera feels better as a character in this one too, more than she did in her first chapter. Her thoughts, mostly prefaced with Ďone dayí, at first read felt a bit too direct, but they do fit with what a terminally shy person would think Ė she wants to do something, but is too afraid to, so she in turn thinks it more intensely.

Iím a little surprised Ciera took so long to realize Omnk was talking to her. I knew at once the disembodied voice belonged to Omnk, and Iíve only known the two of them for a chapter. Ciera should be a lot more familiar with him. Iím also a little surprised she didnít scare more before she realized the voice was Omnk. A stranger with her in an enclosed room, the Ciera we saw last chapter wouldíve freaked out I think.

That brings us to what I liked least in this chapter, namely the last part, when Omnk goes into too long a monologue to explain he took over a foggy wisp freed from the book . It doesnít really explain anything and he goes on about it too long. From the text Iím not getting that heís lying, as you intent, but rather that he loves the sound of his own voice too much.

Even with the short chapter format youíve got, that first line made me fear you were going into a long info-dump in the guise of a history lesson. Good thing Vara didnít go for it. The aside to Sedgewickís lost family doesnít add much, since we can already infer plenty of what happened to this formerly renowned scholar if heís living in a swamp.

I was really surprised to read that, at least for a time, Vara actually did go to school. My impression of her is that sheís quite young and has lived alone for some time (years?) already. That doesnít leave much opportunity for school.

When you do get into the history of the setting I lost my suspension of disbelief.† First, this is a fantasy setting, with Ė as far as I can see Ė limited technology and except for one bloodline no magic at all. One tyrant governing a planet spanning empire is a little unlikely in that regard, though not impossible, so Iím willing to grant you that.

But then you get to the following:
ďThe exiled people, with the power of ten men, easily defeated Digís ruler and set up a new monarchyĒ
No, sorry, but no, even with the power of ten men some islanders canít easily defeat an empire spanning the whole world. It doesnít matter they bred an army over a number of generations, it wouldnít be enough. Any scholar worth his salt would know this and dismiss the account as a foolish legend.

Iím also not fond of the last part of the chapter. Youíre rounding up clichťs fast, the latest with Vara being a princess. Iím assuming here that sheíll also be the only hope to overthrow the evil Bakra. One girl, a crazy old man, and a lizard. Be careful with this.

For starters, this chapter may just be the best one so far. It reads a lot better and nothing really glares at me. The swamp must be radioactive or something to create an old man with three mouths. There is no explanation for it in the magic system so far. I didnít have as much problem with Sedgewick as LTU did, but he does fit the clichť crazy old man a little too perfectly.

I have to wonder though why he calls himself a barbarian when he so obviously isnít. It could be a cover story to keep people away from him, but who would go to a swamp like that willingly anyway?

I am getting pretty annoyed though with all the characters Vara meets asking her about Digís history. The lizard did this all the previous chapters and now Sedgewick does the same. Whatever they want from her Iím sure can be explained without a history lesson. And especially without this insistent prompting about history from a girl who lives in a tree, I presume her whole life Ė and everyone knows she lived in a tree, meaning sheís had no schooling, so why keep asking? It makes the other characters reek of self-importance while at the same time putting Vara down. Pardon my language, but why is she taking this sanctimonious bullshit?

Yes, the formatting remains a tough point. Itís really hard to keep things interesting and flowing well with only some 500 words per part. Thatís really only half the difficulty your piece has, the other is continuity, as Akoebel mentioned.

It seems you donít have a grasp of what you want with the story. In some cases, like the very first sentence, as well as with the concept of digometres, it seems youíre writing a parody. But then you seem to forego that for a couple of parts and write something serious.

The first time we meet Vara weíre in a story thatís about a girl persecuted by her village. Then out of nowhere we get a talking lizard. Out of nowhere we get strange instances of a magic system. Suddenly nothing of the previous troubles matter anymore, the focus on the irate butcher now seems completely superfluous. Then Vara discovers she has magic too, but a part after that discovery she suddenly uses that magic as if sheís born to it and she follows the lizard to another place entirely. And in that place is swamp with a barbarian. Consider that the story is not that far along, yet youíve been changing things around so much already. Every part introduces something so different from what weíve already seen itís impossible to form expectations and get a handle on the type of story youíre writing.

Take this chapter for instance, a water beast with a gaping maw tries to eat Vara. She get in her boat in time and from that moment the water beast is gone as if it never existed. Itís gone from this chapter and, getting ahead of myself for a moment, the next couple as well. Continuity, where is the water beast? You can scratch the water beast and still Vara wouldíve acted the same to miss the swamp water and get in the boat. The beast doesnít add anything to the scene, but once itís there it should do something.

Getting back to the barbarian issue of last chapter, you make it clear that Vara doesnít know about the barbarian, stating she heard just a bit from the village children. Iím guessing the barbarian lived pretty far from her tree, otherwise sheíd know about a swamp and a character with enough of a reputation to be known by the village children. Itís hard to judge the travelled distance when Vara jumped from branch to branch last chapter.

Some odd physics happen with the boat. Vara overshoots the boat after jumping four digometres high. Since the distance she needed to travel is horizontal and not vertical her leap will primarily take her forward. The fact that her trajectory is four digometres high should mean she exceeds that distance horizontally by quite an amount. Yet she twists in mid-air, can suddenly see far enough ahead in the fog to see the boat, and then manages to both grab it and drag herself in without touching water. This seems more than a little unlikely to me.

Varaís question when the boat is pulled along isnít the first that would come to my mind in her position. Asking why the lizard talks is secondary to what the shapes she sees are and what the noises mean. These are things that can potentially, and for her perspective most likely, take her life. Just second before she was almost eaten by a water beast.

I think itís a good thing youíre going to work on consistency and continuity, since its lack is starting to hurt your story. And perhaps you might consider changing the format. I know you said to your friends you were writing it this way, but youíre the writer, you can change anything if it betters the story.

Like Akoebel and LTU have already mentioned, the pacing of the chapter is too slow, especially in the beginning. It gets better when Siratís on the move, trying to do some good Ė he actually seems to care at that point.

But at the start you still have Sirat in hiding and heís not doing anything interesting for the first couple of pages. The fact that he doesnít seem to care much what happens, to any and all sides, makes him feel detached from the action going on around him. He could die, but if he does it doesnít matter to him. If it doesnít matter to Sirat why should it matter to the reader?

Another issue with the slow pace is the passive voice: ďhad beenĒ, ďhad to guessĒ, Ēshould beĒ, ďhad lastedĒ, even more ďhad beenĒ, ďhad seenĒ . You can scratch a lot of Ďhadí without losing anything significant while gaining a sense of immediacy.

You also use a lot of tell, especially in the first part where Sirat is hiding. You tell us he heals fast, after the pain in his arm suddenly disappears. Iíd rather see more of his healing than be told about how bruises fade, etc.† You then tell us heís a foundling and thatís why heís inclined to help children. Even later you tell us heís impossibly strong, moments before he does something with that strength.† All of this is tell, not show.

The impression I got from the screaming woman, which Sirat could hear over the sounds of the siege and the walls of his shelter, made me think she was right outside. Though he might not have been able to move fast the fact that sheís minutes away makes it really unlikely he couldíve heard her.

Iím not really sure what Sirat thinks heís going to do by pushing the debris away from the top. The whole setup seems unlikely. Up to this point Sirat has shown no feats of super strength, either to us, or to himself, so he shouldnít have any reason to think he can push the block away.† To me it doesnít seem likely he should even try. Get the kid out perhaps, even though thatíll saddle him with a child, but not do something convoluted to save the mother.

Up on the roof Iím having real problems envisioning the scene with the block, how itís positioned, angled, etc. The way Iím envisioning the block in order to accommodate it being near a chimney, crush the roof and block the entrance, means the block is quite tall and angled perhaps 80 degrees or so with respect to the ground Ė otherwise the entrance of the house wouldnít be blocked.

Now, the position of the chimney and the block. Either the chimney is at a side, so Sirat can push the block sideways, or itís in front of the block so he has to push it back. Since the block falls back to Sirat this has to be the option. So Sirat has to tip it over, first back to ninety degrees so it stand straight and then past that point to have it fall away from the house. Heíd need a lot of force to manage that.

Or am I reading the situation wrong? In either case, the scene might do with some clarifying edits.

Also, Siratís conclusion that because the house has a chimney means the owner is wealthy is one thing, but the house doesnít have to be hers, she doesnít have to have any money left even if it is. He sounds pretty naive thinking heís going to get paid for this.

Sirat is not his real name, he took his name when he was eight. Maybe itís just me, but for an eight year old to know enough about weapons and assassins to see significance in the weapon is a little odd to me. Maybe it makes perfect sense in your setting for children of his age to know, but not at this junction.

Sirat also seems to grow younger as the chapter progresses. At first his dispassionate demeanour makes me think heís a man whoís seen too much. Then in the middle of the chapter he acts like heís an adolescent, while at the end when heís being chased and called boy Iím thinking early teens. Very confusing.

To answer your question, I think it would help if you made him less apathetic. When heís chased Iím rooting for him to escape. At this point I do care what happens, but itís only at the end of the chapter. So I wonder at how effective ďI just want to left aloneĒ is going to be, because the end result is still that he isnít doing anything other than hide for the first couple of pages.

You forgot to make a topic, so I made one for you.

Iím not real happy with the opening paragraph, it reads too much like a recap of the previous five chapters and I donít think enough has happened yet to warrant a recap. The rest of it reads better, but itís also a bit implausible, at least to me.

Iíll tell you why Iím having trouble believing whatís happening.

First, the last time Vara jumped from a high place was when she jumped off a roof. Later sheís surprised at the result, so she canít have jumped like that often. So when Vara finds the leather ladder gone (where did she get such a thing, by the way?) why is she suddenly comfortable enough with her Ďmagic legsí to make the jump?

Secondly, jumping from that height with her eyes closed, is she stupid? Iím not sure she shouldíve jumped in the first place, but doing it without seeing the ground and knowing when to relax her legs and when to brace? Thatís nearly suicidal.

The first two points make me think Vara is rather stupid, and Iím sure thatís not your intent. What happens next only enforces this opinion.† She never considered that none of the villagers, who keep pursuing and persecuting her, do jumps like she does? That doesnít give her the slightest inclination to think that maybe sheís the only one who can? And if sheís so hunted by the villagers didnít anyone refer to her as the Ďjumping monsterí or something to that effect? Never once?

For someone whoís persecuted like Vara is and who lives as a hunter/scavenger in the forest she lacks a surprising amount of situational awareness. She doesnít see a huge branch she leaps at, she doesnít know how high she jumped, she has no idea where Leo is leading her though she's lived in the forest her whole life. The Barbarian should be known to her, so logically she shouldíve known where the lizard was leading her. Also, she when she finally notices the lake it takes her a whole conversation to notice the supposed smell of rotting fish, the piles of bones, etc?

It's like the world doesn't exist when she's thinking - that's a serious liability.

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