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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/reviews/edwords
Review Requests: ON
31 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
1
1
Review by EdWords
Rated: E | (3.5)
As a synopsis of the book, this has all the elements. It introduces Franny, gives a taste of her challenges, and shows a ray of hope coming at the end. If I were looking for a book in this genre, this might be enough to make me choose this one.

A few things that might make it more compelling for me:

-- "burdened with a diagnosis that betrays her communal character"
Hints are great, and you don't want to rewrite the book on the jacket cover. If I am looking for a book on a specific topic, the mention of what's going on might help me choose this one. And is it her diagnosis that's betraying her, or her actual issues? Did the diagnosis lead to a treatment that denied her community? Or did one of her issues make her unwelcome by her community?

-- "expecting to gate the thrills of Hell"
A nice turn of phrase! It gives the picture of her hopelessness and her image of herself all in one compact package.

-- "onto the pavement"
What pavement? Is it a highway where big trucks are common? Is it a rural road where they might come sometime, and she's determined to wait for one? "Despite her efforts": how much of her effort was in reaching this road and waiting? A bit here might help the reader with that picture, which in turn would give another window into her soul at this point.

-- "From just about six feet under, she crawls deranged and hostile into another hole."
Did she up and out, but "deranged and hostile", she falls into another hole? Is there any hope trying to shine through between holes? " And then another. And then another" -- is this just a series of downward steps? Or is there any up before the next down? People are familiar with the yo-yo of up and down; many are also trapped in a downward spiral into the drain. I'm just wondering which I'm going to be reading about. (And you need a comma after the second "another".)

-- "you wouldn't think she'd fall any longer, but she falls farther again"
This makes it seem like Paul is going to be another toxic relationship, promising love and support while leading her back to the pavement. You've used the word "fall" in painting such a negative picture - I would choose a different word picture to describe Paul coming into her life.

I hope you can make sense of my comments. Feel free to ignore any and all of them.

Happy writing!
Ed
2
2
Review of The Tavern  
Review by EdWords
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
I enjoyed this story. Mechanically - grammar, spelling, punctuation - it was sound. The setting was introduced in the first paragraph and built up quickly and consistently; even if you hadn't mentioned "17th century France" in the item description, I would have been there.

I appreciate that you stepped back from the larger "us vs them" conflict to focus on one man and his personal conflicts which mirror the world around him. "The country no longer tolerates them, eh?" Anton can't see that the "country" is made of individual people, who - like him - have each personally decided to build a wall and create a divide.

Luc is a kind and patient man, a loyal friend even in the face of Anton's faults. Luc is not blind to the faults, but neither is he blind to the rest of what makes Anton a good man. The best part is that you have shown us Luc and Anton - you did not fill the story with excess explanation. They were allowed to make themselves real. Anton's sudden flare of anger and dismissal at Luc's revelation, and Luc's acceptance of this turn of events, yet not leaving his friend, was very well done and carried the story into the argument between the Musketeers and the gentleman.

The only thing I felt was out of the flow was the appearance of Marie. Though she was never specifically labelled as Anton's wife, you do get the idea that they were married a long time before her conversion. If his "brutal words" "drove her" away - and we don't know how long ago - why would she just show up "her brown eyes ... lively and bright"? Isn't she at all concerned that Anton still hates her for converting? There's no hesitancy, no caution? It struck me as a little too pat and contrived to put a cherry on top.

Two small things:

-- "a destitute Luc entering the tavern with his wife in tow"
You just mentioned Marie, assumed to be Anton's wife, and Anton has just thrown Luc out. Maybe just me, but there was a bit of mental static as I had to break from the story to put these in place: this is a memory so it must be the first time he saw Luc who was bringing his own wife, not Marie. Maybe something like:
"a younger Luc, destitute with a wife in tow, entering the tavern for the first time"

-- "for their francs, despite their Catholic images and inscriptions"
I don't know how many people are familiar with the Huguenots and immediately see the setting as the wars between Catholics and Protestants. I can read the above quotation and make the connection that the Protestant Huguenots were spending francs with Catholic images and inscriptions, and appreciate the disconnect. (Much like the average American today spending money inscribed with "in God we trust"!). I think a few words could have brought an unfamiliar reader into the setting better, and in so doing set up Anton's conflicts as well. Maybe something like:
"One of the bloody Protestant Huguenots could have been killed in Anton’s tavern, all because he was too drunk to notice the Catholic company he was in when he opened his stupid mouth!"
~ and ~
"increasingly, Huguenots, displaced by religious civil wars and political upheavals"

Just my thoughts.
Happy writing. Please do more!
Ed
3
3
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Nothing shows the trueness of people like their home! Too many writes gloss this over, not allowing their characters to fully breathe in the comfortable familiarity of home. But you handled this well. The father who isn't just business with his daughter who is a "fellow" in the business. The mother who can be overpowering. The two sisters who can't wait to be just sisters, and have to be outside of "family propriety" to do so.

I would think that Gretchen would be more of a friend and confidant from travelling alone with Esther. Who better of a friend than the one who knows all your secrets? But maybe not - in this culture (where "incapacitating" "miscreants" intent on harming a lady is unthinkable), who knows if it's Esther or Gretchen that won't cross that line?

Please keep writing!! I want to see what happens to these people. :8>)
4
4
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
While still being very well written, I felt there were some gaps in all of this, mostly with the nurse's revelations.

How can this be a culture of swords and clubs and chain mail, and yet have the technology to record and store dreams? And to view them as actual visuals, not just brain waves? Would they have that technology in a military infirmary, and not reserve it for a major hospital or a university? And would a mere nurse have access to, and the understanding of, accessing dream history?

The abrupt shift in the nurse's demeanor - one moment asking about his mustache, and the next pulling out his dreams and urging him to save the plant - was not as smooth as the rest of the writing to this point. And then for Richard to completely ignore any import or impact from her words for the rest of the chapter? To leave first the infirmary and then his friends, but there's no wondering what the nurse's words meant for whatever he was going into?

She mentioned "various artifacts being present throughout our empire’s history ... tales ... of the immense power they unleashed". Is it possible she is channeling the "voice" of one of these artifacts, even as Kazimir "speaks" to Richard?

And would Richard not feel the weight of a "commissioning" on the heels of his "drawing" from Kazimir in the previous chapter? Perhaps I'm jumping the gun on the future of your story line. But it did feel like a few gold nuggets got left behind.
5
5
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
There's a lot of substance here building up Richard's character. He obviously thinks of himself as some backwards nobody who can't seem to get it right. His total shock that Esther would be grateful is almost amusing, but also speaks volumes. Wouldn't he be grateful to someone for their help? What has driven this out of Richard? Is it the culture? Something in his background?

The dream introduces a new element in the story, and the further revelation of Kazimir as a creation of another culture, far advanced from Richard's, was well done. An artifact as a shield that chooses its wielders based on their character - what else might be revealed? Is this the only surviving artifact of Kazimir's world?

And yet it's the shield that gives Richard further revelation of who he is and helps him find acceptance in that. You've set the expectation for great things to come from this merging of man and shield, and left the doors open for many story options. Unpredictable, yet high hopes.

One nit-pick:
-- He was a protector. He was a shield, just like Kazimir. That’s why Kazimir had chosen him. Even after thirty thousand years, since being, quite literally, thrown from his own world into a land far younger. He still had only chosen three prior wielders, since being recovered some four thousand years ago.
You start with "he" being Richard. Suddenly, "his" / "he" becomes Kazimir? I had to re-read those lines a few times to make sure I had it straight. Unless it really was Richard that came from another world and is really thousands of years old?? That might be just me, but it did jar me out of the story for a brief moment.
6
6
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Your handling of Lady Vaunderhauss as she goes through the changes from this inner conflict is nicely done. I would assume she is expecting her every wish to be granted, and she is not fully accustomed to the rest of the world that has its own rules.

As prior military myself, I appreciate the nature of the justice that exists there and how often it is not fully understood by the general public. I still don't grasp how Sgt Ordell's behavior was so horribly violating - but apparently he does, and so do the others, so it does work for the story.

His insistence on receiving his full punishment, standing on his own, and being fully submissive to his superiors is a glimpse at the foundation of this man. It helps us understand him - even though I suspect he doesn't fully understand himself.

One question:
-- “I need to be held accountable for my actions. If I don’t, then who will?”
In my reading, the second sentence doesn't quite fit. It sounds like he has to do something - in this case, be held accountable. But that action isn't on him. Might it sound better as:
“I need to be held accountable for my actions. If not me, then who?”
7
7
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Continuing the excellent characterization of the lady. We now have a name and a station. And your narrative adds depth and breadth to her. I like the way you "show, don't tell" - you create the
situation and let the characters display themselves.

I wasn't sure right at first that the opening paragraphs worked for me. We have someone named Esther entering an unknown building and causing a sir just by her presence. Nothing linked this to the events of the previous chapter until several lines down. On second thought, this is exactly how it would have all played out in real time, so I say well done!

It seems, though, that even if Lady Esther Vaunderhauss is the epitome of dignity and honor, she may have some of Sgt Ordell's fire inside as well. Can that be good for someone in her station? (And Getchen seems to bear watching also!)

A few nit-picks (nothing that takes away from the story):
-- “Pardon, Commissioner,” his voice came muffled through the door, “but Lady Vaunderhauss in here.”
Should that be “but Lady Vaunderhauss IS here.”??
-- this one dawned a fine textile cover
Is "dawned" the correct word here? I've never seen it used like this.
-- Turning to the bemused chief constable
Why would the chief constable be bemused? One definition is "bewildered or confused", but this is usually used as "mildly amused", which is how I took it. And that maybe just from my experiences and I mistook your meaning. It just made me wonder why the chief is laughing at the commissioner's situation, when the chief is in the same stew pot.
8
8
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
This is an engaging and interesting story line. Nobility, royals, military, police - all within a society bounded by a culture demanding the utmost honor and dignity, even when protecting a lady of high standing from four ruffians? And don't we all know what things hide beneath the covers of respectable and dignified honor - and how those things want to pop out at the worst moments! You've set a high bar for yourself to keep this consistent, and you manage to do that very well. Your setting and characters are well done, their actions are highly believable, and the story is easy to read and ride along with.

Sgt Ordell is a conflicted character. He is just who he is, yet he must operate within this culture. A rough man wearing "dignified" like an ill-fitting suit because he must, while inside there's so much that keeps calling him out of it. I enjoyed that he had to continually consider what was right and proper and he handled the four men, yet he was also slipping over the boundaries of acceptable just from the man he truly was. And when it was all done, he stands in his ill-fitting suit, wearing the shame of having done an excellent job but improperly. That's a difficult concept for me to grasp, but you've drawn him well and made him come alive. (As an American male, I'd have no problems leaving these four bleeding and dying, and feeling no guilt whatsoever.)

The lady is the perfect picture of the pre-eminent culture. Never turns a hair, never speaks a word against the dogs, doesn't scream and yell and try to escape - as though she is trusting in her high station to protect her. Even as Sgt Ordell handles the watchmen, and more so as he stammers in front of her, she is the perfect picture of dignity. Yet you show enough to make us wonder what lies beneath her veneer.

Please keep writing. Don't leave poor Richard and this fine lady lost in the muse! :8>)
9
9
Review of Scorpio  
for entry "Hello
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
The party into the departure is very nicely done. Poor Cindy! Hope she gets over it. I love the bit about explaining that Sue isn't his pet. Almost as bad as TSA on Earth - they weren't trained here, were they??

The hard break into the shooting scene is very good. The pacing transition from the slow and lazy get-me-out-of-the-airport into frantic I've-been-shot is a great slingshot into ... and then the chapter ends??

Please keep writing!! You can't leave me like this! :8>)
10
10
Review of Scorpio  
for entry "Party
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
The characterizations make this chapter sing! Poor Thorn. He may have started a war, and he's being celebrated? Your use of dialog and sparse descriptions are great at setting the mood and pace of this scene.

Just to keep everything lined up nicely, it would have been nice to drop in something at the beginning to show how long it's been sine Thorn's incident. There is President Venali's line about “It’s been quite a week.” I can assume that's the time-setting - but I don't know what else has been going on for the President to deal with, so I'm just not sure.

President Venali herself, though, is a bit of a puzzle. Why is she upset that Altair’s Planetary Guard is guarding an Altarian planet-saving hero? Then again, why is an Altairian on Vega Prime if the Vegans don't like them? Why are Vegan guards assigned to protect this hero who saved *their* planet?? "I'm in a bad mood." No kidding! But no explanation either.

There is a book you may want to see about getting: "Cosmic Critiques: 10 Science Fiction Stories and Why They Work". (That subtitle might not be exact - it was about 20 years ago and my memory doesn't always work!) Very good advice for aspiring sci-fi writers.

Again, please keep writing. You are good at this.
11
11
Review of Scorpio  
for entry "Rumig
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (5.0)
First off, this is good!!! A lot of writers do weird things with non-human characters, mostly so they can try to get away with plots and solutions that don't make sense with human characters. Unfortunately, they forget all their readers are fully human, and whatever they write it has to make sense to the reader.

You have completely accomplished that! While the setting, situation, and characters are obviously outside the Earth-bound human experience, your writing creates a tight and understandable world.

That left me free to enjoy watching the action unfold and to appreciate the situation. I'm so glad you allowed Thorn to experience all the emotions both before and after the shooting. It made him almost human. (Of course, I say that as a compliment - he may think different!!)

A couple of suggestions for this chapter:
-- "Arcturus put an embargo on Cepheus" is a good foreshadow of tension to come. Then we have "a Cephenean ship". Those words are unfamiliar to your readers, and I would have liked an extra line linking Cephenean to Cepheus, and reminding me of potential trouble. Don't give the reader too many unfamiliar dots to connect on his own.
-- What is narhim?? You mention it twice with dark connotations, and it comes back again in a later chapter, so it must be important - but you never explain what it has to with the situation.

Again, an excellent read! I'll review the other chapters when I have time. Please keep writing. :8>)
12
12
Review by EdWords
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Wow!! I was transported into another world, and you did it so well! If you had not put "djinn" in the description (and I'm going to suggest you take it out), "Five hundred years I had Served" would have been a hard left turn into the story: everything seemed so normal to that point, and I never would have guessed this was a non-human.

We never think of how a genie or djinn has to handle being such a servant - that they would need a nature that would grow fond of the Master. But even so, there are those people ... I'm guessing the previous Master got his ton of gold in his lap or on his head?? And the offer to mother a child, escaping personal pain but transferring it onto the child -- I felt taken back to the American South in the days of slavery.

But there would of course have to be some sort of punishment that would be unbearable even to a djinn, else they would all rebel. The summoning was well done, though I kind of wished there was a bit more about it. I'm assuming the summoning is a different thing than the mārijin min nār - yes?? Maybe if this were ever expanded into a longer work, or perhaps a collected series of shorts, more details could be brought out. I would definitely read a collection like that from you!

Thank you for an excellent read!
Please keep writing.
Ed
13
13
Review by EdWords
Rated: 18+ | (2.5)
Your story has an interesting premise. I grew up on science fiction, so this kind of story is familiar and easily enjoyed. Your writing has promise, but there some things you will have to tighten up to make this story flow better.

First, you have two very prominent focal points: a girl with blossoming psychic powers, and a person who is nothing but a pair of legs. It’s like having a blinking light and a loud sound in a dark room - which one should get the attention? In a longer story, both of these could be more fully developed and compliment each other in the same story line. But in this short of a story, these two items want to steal the reader’s focus. But there’s not enough time for either one to be fully developed and resolved, so the reader is left bouncing back and forth between two focal points without enough information to fully understand either of them.

Remember that what moves a story forward is tension / conflict on one side and its resolution on the other side. When the cause of the tension or conflict is not developed enough for the reader to accept it as a foundation for your plot, the reader will lose interest. Unusual events may happen, but your characters must respond in ways consistent with their normal human behavior.

Normal can mean different things for different people, so a common recommendation is to create a back-story for your main characters. With this, you can keep a flow of action and reaction that is consistent with who they are: this is the basis for “show, don’t tell” - we can accept that what we “see” in your story is this same person page after page.

Psychic powers is an accepted story device and easy for a reader to “swallow”. But it still must be handled well. If the person is discovering and growing in their powers, it is a life-changing experience. To just accept it as “yeah - okay” and go on as usual when everything has suddenly changed is not normal human behavior, especially for a young girl just emerging into adult life. Later, you have Olivia taking a week off to go ponder things - “to find out what else I can do and find some good use for the one I've been using”. Then she comes back and says “ ... before I set out to walk the earth to discover the full extent of my power.” But we have nothing in between to show us that a growing need to explore this has been developing inside her.

Sarah is - wait for the pun! - only a half-formed character. (My kids don’t like my jokes either.) Her discovery in the dark alley was not a bad start. I question Olivia’s daring to go into a dark alley alone (would you do that??) - if she can communicate with Sarah, why can’t she win her trust that way. Then the shock of seeing nothing but a pair of legs walk out of the gloom is greater, and can set up an exploration of Sarah’s story. It’s a bit of a long stretch to suddenly be a year and a half later, and now Sarah is pretty much fully functional (with a phone and email and texting, with no explanation of how she manipulates the phone, much less how she carries and access it?).

You have an interesting story premise, and your imagination is excellent. I’d like to see you expand this a bit more, with better development of Olivia and Sarah. I’d recommend reading some early Robert Heinlein (his “Future History” series is excellent) or CJ Cherryh (I enjoyed “Wave Without A Shore” and “Cuckoo’s Egg”) for handling the out-of-normal person in otherwise-normal life.

I hope you keep writing. Because you *could* be something!!
Ed
14
14
Review of The Favor  
Review by EdWords
Rated: E | (5.0)
You succinctly captured one moment between two men and saved it in a jar for us to relish also. From your writing, I'd wager these two have been working together a long time, and this isn't the first time dialogue like this has been spoken. You packed a lot in these few words.
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