|Hi, C. M. Nuckols
I'm reviewing your story as a part of my judging process for "The Pressure Valve - closed for now." . Since I am only one of the judges, this review has no bearing on where your piece places in the contest. It's just my own thoughts and suggestions with regard to your story. I hope you find some of it helpful.
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS:
You made good use of the Steampunk Sanctum in the guise of Gresham Sanctum, and of our own Jenkins as well, though you provided him with a gruesome (if loyal) end. The cursed ring is a good horror trope, which you used effectively. A nice read!
MECHANICS: These comments refer to typos, grammar, word usage, etc.
He started to dream of home, being in his study, researching. As he read through an ancient tome of undiscernable (unknown? uncertain?) origin, the ring began to manifest itself on his finger, burning his hand. As it did, the tome he was reading began to take the form of a hideous creature, almost human, but walking on all fours. Using active verbs rather than turning the actions into direct objects by preceding them with a less active verb, as you have done here, makes your sentences more powerful. Try this version on for size: "He dreamt of home. He was in his study, researching. As he read through an ancient tome of unknown origin, the ring manifested itself on his finger, burning his hand. At the same moment, the book transformed, slowly taking the form of a hideous creature, one almost human, yet walking on all fours." Do you see the difference?
The professor lied (lay, or possibly laid) in bed for the rest of the night, unable to sleep after his disturbingly realistic-feeling nightmare."Lied" is the past tense of "lie", as in to tell a lie.
He immediately began pouring (poring) over old, dusty tomes that contained legends, tales, and any other relevant historical information, both confirmed and mythological.Unless the prof was dumping some liquid on the books (not good for any sort of tome), he wasn't "pouring". If he was closely studying them, he was "poring".
He knew that he would have to find someone, somewhere, that (who) knew of the ring, what it was and how to get rid of it. This is a pet peeve of mine: using "that" to refer to a person, as if he or she were a thing, though more and more people are doing it.
Overcome by exhaustion, professor (Professor) Sparks collapsed into his bed and fell asleep. When naming a specific professor, as here, the word should be capitalized.
It was early afternoon. No where (Nowhere) near late enough for it to be this dark. You might consider joining these two into a single sentence, with a semicolon instead of a period. As it is, the second part needs a subject and verb to be a complete sentence.
With a quick thrust, the journey of professor Waylon Sparks had finally come to an end. Here again, an active verb would improve the effect, especially since it is the final sentence of the piece. The adverb, too, (as many editors would advise) can be deleted: With a quick thrust, the journey of Professor Waylon Sparks came to an end.
STYLE: These comments refer to narrative voice, plot, conflict, characterization, setting, etc.
The narrative voice is very good for a Victorian-style Steampunk piece. Tweaking the structure of some of the sentences, in order to create a more straightforward action, could be a way you might improve the flow.
Sparks' character could use a bit more fleshing out, I think. His one obvious characteristic is curiosity. That coupled with determination, make him interesting, but a few more human traits might deepen him, and help the reader to identify with him.
A question about the ending: Why did Matron Katarin bother to have Sparks healed, only to then poison him? Impending death is impending death, right? A real reason for Sparks' revival is necessary, I think, to satisfy the reader's need for things to make sense within their own context.
This is an engaging piece. The mixture of fantasy and horror, along with the Victorian sort of atmosphere give it the right feel for a Steampunk piece, but the lack of any of the "science", or steam-driven technology, other than the airships, of course, diminish its effectiveness as an example of Steampunk, which is, after all, the modern incarnation of Victorian SF, a la Jules Verne and HG Wells.
Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read. Thanks for entering it in The Pressure Valve, and good luck with it, and all your writing endeavors.
These comments are made with respect and the best intentions. Please accept them in the spirit with which I offer them. Embrace what you find useful, and allow the rest to trickle off into the void....