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59 Public Reviews Given
Public Reviews
1
1
for entry "The Great Oz
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Hi Jon.
How's the winter going? I see the editing is well under way *Smile*, and good choice on splitting Sam's entry chapter in two (and even more kudos for interspersing a Merci chapter). I'll review The Great Oz before Merci's chapter as that fits better with my printed copy of your story (for editing I still tend to use hard copies, which puts me at odds with most of my generation *Wink*).

Mother Nature's ancient camouflage... Mother should be capitalised.

"Sam controlled the speed of the fan." ROTFL, great imagery. Special Operations; I could be wrong, but I think Special Ops is capitalised. Kudzu; is this a well know species in America (and please note, throughout when I write America I mean Canada and the States combined, I will use US/USA to denote the States separately), because I had to look it up. In Britain, we would simply say 'like weeds' or 'wild fire' - is this a similar example?
I'm familiar with the names Ranger, Delta and of course, Seal (technically SEAL), but am not entirely sure where they fit in the US hierarchy; will your readers? If yes, then great; leave as. But if not, then it might be worth encompassing the sentence with just Special Ops or 'missions from teams like Ranger, Delta and SEAL were in the news regularly/on a regular basis,' equivalent.
Most, if not all, readers will be familiar with shadow/black ops style anonymity and funding, so a lot of the description around the next paragraph is redundant; although it is worth keeping the notion of the team's loyalty to Sam (and thereby Khol?). Espirt de corps should always be italised.


No matter where you were, general General Kohl's aura always arrived before his body, semi-colon? his presence preceded by a shiver of energy that radiated through your nervous system like an invisible tap on the shoulder. In his audience, men unconsciously stood at attention.He is a general - of course they stand to attention. Perhaps they stand straighter, or even non-military personnel stand to attention? Kohl would be the first to admit that he had an irrational effect on people. It was a rare physical trait, giving him the ability to recruit extraordinary men and hold enormous sway over the powerful elite.

The bright corridor lights shadowed Kohl's face, but his eyes still shined with a strange inner power. He shut the door and moved into the room. Sam stood and saluted his superior officer, not out of military protocol, but out of respect for the man. Kohl stopped at Sam's desk and returned the gesture, his face stony. Telltale worry lines etched his brow. Even though he was pushing hard on seventy, his body stood tall, toned, and rock hard. The most notable change was his shaved head. Sam thought it made him look more sinister. Neither man spoke as if challenged to read each other's mind.

The general was dressed in desert fatigues, all business, blood and guts, God and country. He had an iconic German face—an eerily cinematic visage of a U-boat captain. His presence set the tone without a word. Kohl leaned on the desk and gave Sam the once over, and then his eyes circumnavigated the room. Sam, who would not be intimidated by any
other man, was first to break silence.


Thank you for getting rid of MARPAT in the fatigues description - it tightens the narrative straight away. (It also reminds me how behind I am with these reviews *Sad*).

Please see notes from previous review about the Schenleys - but this is a great place to elaborate on the General's drinking taste without making Sam look like a brown-nose (and FYI, when referring to Khol throughout as the General, general should always be capitalised as it is being used as a name. I am not sure if you are aware of this rule, or if the instances where you write 'the general' are typos, so I thought I'd just mention it *Smile*). Like a Tombstone barkeep waiting for a two-dollar piece. Quite a catchy simile, and I especially like 'barkeep' rather than 'bartender' or even 'barkeeper', but the pithiness of the line has been worn by overuse of similes in the past pages.
Sam thought he saw hesitation in the man's face, a subtle apprehension.... I would, personally, insert a semi-colon between 'face' and 'a subtle'.

Both Kohl and Sam strike me as men of action (I feel the General is only a pen-pusher in Sam's world through necessity, not through choice), so Kohl dramatic stance on Plan-B (which you spell as both plan-B and Plan-B) is rather school-girlish. Surely he would either order Sam to do it, or - as an old friend - be more resigned; perhaps shrugging his shoulders in exhaustion, pain-lines crinkling his eyes, rubbing his forehead, etc. This could be a tense bromance scene or a sharp alpha male scene. Either or which would set us up for Sam's later interaction with his team (does he behave toward them the same or different to this interaction with Khol?).

Space Cowboys - italicise. And interesting that you have picked older men for this mission and not just plucked Sam out of obscurity to mentor a younger pack. I (as a reader) look forward to seeing how this works out. I (as a reviewer) like the balance between Merci and her age squad, and these veterans.

Ask those questions when you have them squared away in the bunker. Should that be squirrelled away?

"No, sir," he said, his mind screaming what he truly wanted to say, you've go to be fucking kidding me.

"How's the leg? I heard your engineering guys built you an outstanding prototype." Please see notes in previous review regarding the prosthesis - here would be a perfect place to insert the show rather than the tell from earlier in the original chapter.



Kohl pointed to the ceiling. "The devil is coming, Sam, and he's bringing his most loyal and dangerous minions. Seeing the face of our new evil, and knowing where he comes from is going to put a stain on your khakis." .....Good line. Good line. Then he kicked the door shut.

Sam stared at his office door, mouth agape, trying to digest the General's cryptic words. His brain raced with the stories his friend Jessie had been telling him for years about DS9, the underground warren of back-engineered alien technologies just six miles away.
Nice introduction to Jessie *Bigsmile*He still had complete control of his emotions, but an errant squirt of adrenaline had just tweaked his heartbeat, elevating his mood to another level. NEAR complete? ALMOST complete? NORMALLY complete? New evil?

A muffled voice echoed in from the hallway. "Call Angel.”

Sam slid his hand over the glossy image of his old team, remembering each man as if the last ten years had been a dream. He exhaled a long sigh. They were unstoppable then, the best of the best. But now, with a disbanded bunch of retired adrenaline junkies … What the hell was is the General thinking?
Either italicise to empathise Sam is thinking this (IS present tense) or un-italicise as a narrative question (WAS past tense)


I like the way you've brought Jessie Riker* in at this point, it softens his entrance later and is a big improvement on the original. It is also gives the reader an inkling as to what Jessie/Sam might experience/uncover later.
*I presume you are using the spelling Jessie as it crops up several times, but in his original entrance you write 'Major Jesse Riker had always been paranoid'. I don't know if it is the same in America, but in Britain traditionally Jesse is the male spelling and Jessie (pronounced the same) is female. Jessie is becoming more unisex, but still suggests it is a diminutive rather than a name in its own right (Jessie is normally short for Jessica).

like a slap of Deja vu. - Because it is in the middle of the sentence, déjà vu should not be capitalised, but it should be italicised. I'm not sure if accents are possible on WdC (I certainly don't know how to do them here!), but should you wish to use them, they can always be cut/copied and pasted in. *Smile*

I like the revised next section - it reads smoother and more concisely than the original version - and I like Angel's sarky humour. I can clearly picture the banter going back and forth between him and Sam, and the relationships between Angel and the rest of the team.

Russia, Sam thought. Originally you had Russia italicised to represent Sam thinking, whether undoing this was a typo or not, I think it read better italicised. Likewise, the last line in this section, I'm getting too old for this shit, works better italicised.

* * *


JESSIE'S ALIVE?!?!?!
I'm liking this revised version more and more (and will need to update my printed copy to avoid confusion!).
Jessie Riker still has a hole in his marble bag? Oh thank goodness *BigSmile* - I love that choice of expression. It also resonates as affectionate disbelief from Sam's PoV. Jessie reads a little like a military Agent Mulder; intelligent and educated, but just a liiiiiittle kooky. I hope he is going to have a larger part later on.




The difference between the hard copy I printed (*blush* several months ago) and the electronic version I am reading now, is brilliant. Tiny little tweaks have tightened the narration and made it read smoother. I'm intrigued as to how far along this revision is - I know I tend to edit and re-edit and then edit again. Is this a near-end/final version (in which case I'm sorry about the lateness of my views - would you prefer me to review later chapters?) or is this another sanding down before the varnishing begins?


I hope you've had a good Christmas and New Year, and look forward to hearing from you.

MM


















2
2
for entry "Merci
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
Hi Jon,
Chapter One Review:

Wow - what a change of style and pace to the prologue. Nice. Mikhail reads stoic and solid, and quite a member of the seventeen hundreds. Merci is much more 21st century American. Perhaps a little too much so in places, but I'll explain that later.

The opening paragraph sets the tone - disruptive, uncomfortable and, potentially, aggressive. The single line and she sent the comforter flying is both powerful (Merci is active and determined), but homely (using the word 'comforter' rather than duvet, blanket, cover, or any other might be a regional thing, but it sounds more homely and, er, well comfortable. Sorry.).

I'm not so sure about the next paragraph though - all the usual sleep-inducing remedies? As far as I can tell, she's only used two; grandma's cinnamon milk, and her vibrator (which tells us something about Merci's personal life). The Dr Pepper & ginger snaps combo presumably is a new - and heavily caffeinated - idea, so hardly qualifies as 'usual.' As a slight aside note, does everyone know Dr Pepper is caffeinated? They might not understand why it was doomed from the start if not; and of course it would only add to the insomnia, a fact that might be worth commenting on, just to show you hadn't forgotten yourself (even if Merci had).

So, the big downfall of the prologue was (to my mind) the suffix -ly. In this, and subsequent chapters, it seems to be an excessive use of similes.


"All the usual sleep-inducing remedies had failed, including Grandmother's handed-down recipe of warm milk and cinnamon. Her own concoction of Dr. Pepper and Ginger Snaps was tasty, but doomed from the start. Finally, in desperation, she enjoyed a rousing session with her favorite vibrator, a method that usually put her out like a baton to the back of the head. Alas, the insomnia persisted, encouraging the flood of memories and, of course, the whispers. Always the whispers.

Merci shambled from her bedroom, past a massive stone fireplace where dying embers still glowed like fissures of molten lava. She found herself standing next to a solid slab of redwood that served as her kitchen table. Like a blind woman reading Braille, her fingertips caressed the ancient timber, searching its timeworn* surface. Soon, she found what she sought, deeply carved letters forming words etched by her father twenty years before."
*Time-worn
soun
Similes are like seasoning (see what I did there *Pthb*) - used lightly, they add flavour; but in excess they can overwhelm and distract from the original thought-train. I like most of the ones you use, find you clump them close together (which adds to the overpowering effect) and always use 'like' as your link-word. After a while I found this flashed them up, highlighting as warning, warning, simile following. Can you eliminate some of the similes? Merge them in as metaphors (an overstuffed leather recliner welcomed her with a sigh)? Either use a different link-word (e.g. 'as') and/or blend the link-word later in the sentence, to disguise the repetition?

* * *


....second can of Dr. Pepper now straining to get out. That irresistible sensation caused her to head for the bathroom
A second can? No wonder she can't sleep! *Shock2* And whilst I completely understand the follow-up comment, is irresistible really the best word? Urgent, pressing, uncomfortable, bursting - need, urge, necessity. Irresistible (in general, even when not intended) sounds pleasant, desirable. A violent need to pee when you are trying to sleep might, in the truest sense of the word, be irresistible, but I think you could improve the tone of the paragraph with a sharper word.

Mandela. Great name! I love it. Is there a back-story there? Names, including nick-names, tell us a lot about a person (or personality), as does the shortenings other people use. Where an irate mother might say 'Charles Benedict Woodhouse,' friends might say 'Charlie,' colleges 'Charles,' strangers 'Mr Woodhouse,' and post/mail 'Mr CB Woodhouse.' That you introduce the cat as Mandela and then straightaway have Merci call him 'Manny' tells us a lot about Merci's relationship with Manny. As does the way she talks to him - both now and later.

Allegro tempo I'm pretty sure should be italised.

Pain shot through her head........a shocking new precursor forewarning an onset? - Okay, I get her confusion; but I find the 'flash of recognition' at odds with the question 'is this another event?' To simplify the reading, and make the writing stronger, I would get rid of one or other of the lines. Either she recognises it is another event (albeit one with harsh new symptoms) or she is bewildered by the situation (it can't be an event - there's pain). As the reader, I can't tell who is confused; Merci or the writer.

Then the pain ceased, the debilitating amperage switched off, as if unplugged. - nice analogy (and smacking of the supernatural with such a rapid end), but isn't 'switched off' and 'unplugged' tautology? How about then the pain ceased, as if unplugged. Or then the pain ceased; the debilitating amperage switched off.



Monsters! Demons! Scary stuff!
Cool *BigSmile* nothing like something demonic crawling out from under the bed to traumatise your younger self. And you build up to it so well; sizzling ball of lightning exploding... shower of sparks, puffing curls of acrid smoke... pandemonium... clawed hands
But why stop the description there? I believe you when you say the creature was rank and horrible; but (to me at least) that feels like a cop-out. SHOW me how nasty the demon is (its menacing yellow eyes and hissing do this, but why not show me more? What's breath like? Does it hold the bedpost with bony fingers? Does it cock its head at unnatural angles?) or leave the rest of it to my imagination (it's got clawed hands, freaky eyes and it hisses like a furious cat - that's pretty scary - I don't need to be told it's horrible).
By the by; I rather like this whole scene. At this point, it's hard to tell if Merci is remembering an incident (presumably) from her supernatural past or if she is crazy (in which case the story will take a totally different plot line. The reader will just have to wait and see.).

"Poor girl," they all whispered as one. Down. Right. Freaky. Whatever else you edit, DO NOT CUT THIS LINE. For whatever reason, it sends shivers down my spine (and now I have MacBeth's witches going through my mind).

...the sheets were stuck to her body and smelled of urine... Gross. But such good description.

The cat continued to gaze at her with ears perked, as if sensing the anxiety in its master's behaviour. Poor Manny! One minute he's the star of the show, then suddenly he's downgraded to a sexless 'it.' Can't we at least have 'his master's' - or even 'his mistress's behaviour'?

Ah, solar flares - so that must be a linking issue to the events. Why hasn't Roger called? And shouldn't that line be either first person (Why didn't Roger call? Why didn't he warn me?) or initialised.



Aaaaaand........the dragon tattoo. WTF? Okay, I admit; I can picture the tat, and it's pretty sexy - an emerald green and scarlet Chinese dragon on silky white skin. But does it have an point to the later story? If no, then keep it - but lose the whole 9-year-old getting a tattoo side-story. If yes, then more with WTF?! Okay, her dad's got issues. We establish that later on (and, boy don't we just). But a 9yr-old getting Bangkok ink is pretty out of place right here. It either needs to be broken down (e.g. we are shown the tat but no back story yet) or it needs to blend in more (which probably means more not less back-story at this point). As it stands, the tattoo is interrupting the flow of reading and distracting from Merci's event.

Which brings us on to the final paragraph and the killer hook I am on the Island. Love it; great way to finish a chapter and it nicely brings the prologue (if you plan keeping it) back into play. The capital letter adds weight to the mystery, and frankly the whole sentence is tense and full of suspense.





Regards,
MM



3
3
Review of Hazardous Brother  
Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (5.0)
Hi *Smile*

Apologies it's taken so long to get your last review done - I've been away for the last two weeks with limited internet access *Sad*



*Bulletg* My Overall Impression:
Sharp and to the point, as is to be expected with a Cramp entry. I like how Samantha's PoV expresses her frustration at playing My Brother's Keeper to a brother more than old enough to look after himself, at the bitterness that still she complies. The gut-wrench at the end wasn't in itself particularly surprising, but it still packed a bite. After her concern for Travis' wellbeing, that Samantha would Not Look Back was pretty hard-hitting. I can just imagine the 'but he was right behind me, mom,' conversation at the funeral service. A typical big sister response taken to a painful extreme.



*Bulletg* The plot:
Samantha is driving along a treacherous mountain road, feeling irritated with her younger brother who, whilst following in the car behind, is sending unnecessary texts - potentially dangerous to both drivers.
We see glimpses of Samantha's past; the resentment that Little Brother was, and still is, mother's favourite. The strain of being perpetually expected to nursemaid a young man who clearly doesn't see the point of being looked out for, is stretching Samantha's patience to the limit. But when a tree falls on the road, crushing Travis, Samantha breaks free - with no reason to stop or look behind.


*Bulletg* The narrative:
Third personal close - Samantha's PoV all the way through. Grim and bitter - very much the irritated Big Sister Doing Her Duty Regardless. Until the tree falls when we see a bleaker, and potentially freer, Samantha continue on her way.


*Bulletg* The characters:
Samantha - elder sister, driving first car. Diligent and careful.
Travis - younger brother, driving second car. Impetuous, reckless.
Mother - prefers Travis over Samantha (at least in Samantha's mind; in actuality, nothing is shown)


*Bulletg* The dialog:

Text messages & phone call between Samantha and Travis. Terse on Samantha's part, as is fitting a stressed out elder sister trying to keep her eyes on the road. Laconic on Travis' side, breezily and carefree.
I think you've balanced the tone between siblings very well. Travis' pick up Samantha saying eyes on the road and eyes on the signs.... true annoying little brother, of any age!
I particularly like the aside note about the mobile (cell) phone model being less user-friendly than its predecessor - been there, hated that *Wink*

*Bulletg* Grammar/technique/typos:
Succinct writing, perfect for such a short piece. You've managed to take a tiny snapshot of a drive (albeit one with a dramatic twist) and turn it into a complete short story.


*Bulletg* Further comments:
What more is there to say? Given the parameters of the Cramp, I'd say this piece is fantastic - even without the word limit and extreme time limitations, this is well written and strong. Thank you for posting!


4
4
Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | N/A (Review only item.)
Hi Nixie. Sorry about the delay, here's my first review for the Sci-Fi Auction.

*Bulletg* My Overall Impression:
I can see why this was a Quill Nomination - the plot line is cute and imaginative. The idea of following a coma-patient's dream is not new, nor is the transposition of a parent's memory of a deceased child onto another - but the combination? Heart-wrenching and actually rather frightening. The narrative voice is soft and childlike, mitigating the horror - this is a charming children's story, but could easily be altered into something more sinister for horror readers or extended in to a powerful novella.



*Bulletg* The plot:
Marcy Donovan, mourning the loss of her daughter, Amelia, arrives home from food shopping. When she shatters the glass of Amelia's last photograph, the reader discovers not only that Marcy has another daughter, Kayla, but also some form of mental ill-health (later revealed to be depression).
When she finds Kayla thrown from her horse (a fore-shadowing, excuse the pun, of the magical horse Shadow), Marcy's distortion of reality leaves her calling out Amelia's name. The reader is then taken into Kayla's subconscious where she rides a talking horse and acts as a superhero, saving innocents.

Flitting between Kayla's mind and the hospital room, the reader finds out that Kayla has been in a coma for six months and is likely never to awaken - and if she does, extensive brain damage is certain. Shadow guides Kayla into an understanding of her condition and, aided by the ghost of Amelia, encourages her to regain consciousness.
The dialogue between the girls' father, David, and Macey strongly indicates that Kayla's recovery is going to bring about remission for Marcy as well.


*Bulletg* The narrative:
The narrative is third person throughout, alternating from Marcy's point of view, to Kayla's dreamworld, to David's point of view.


*Bulletg* The characters:
Marcy - bereaved and unstable mother of Amelia and Kayla
David - long-suffering supportive husband to Marcy, father of Amelia and Kayla
Kayla - 10yr old coma-patient,
Amelia - ghost of Kayla's elder sister
Shadow - fictional, magical horse that comes to life in Kayla's mind



*Bulletg* The dialog:

Straightforward and simple - ideal for such a short piece. I particularly like David and Marcy's dialogue - David reads as a calm and intelligent, if somewhat weary, man. One who loves his wife, but is used to dealing with her inability to process certain thoughts and, what must be for him, extremely painful distortions. Likewise the fragmented way in which Marcy speaks emphasises her broken perceptions.
I did struggle a little with Shadow and Amelia's speech patterns. Whether it was intentional - a result of being fictitious (Shadow) and dead (Amelia) - or not, I found both stilted and forced.

*Bulletg* Grammar/technique/typos:
Sadly, this is where I feel the story's letdown. There are a number of minor typos that distract from the essence of the story - but they are all quick-fixes and just need a re-edit to polish up! *Bigsmile*

The boot's rubber soles - boots'
"David-"The sobs broke loose. - Space needed between "David-" and The
It's 3:15. - "It's 3:15."
No, I'm looking for -" - Now I'm not sure if Marcy is speaking (The words died in her throat) or thinking. It appears that she's talking to herself, in which case speech marks are needed to indicate where she starts talking; but it feels more like she is thinking. In which case I would suggest re-wording this section slightly and inserting italics.
As Shadow began the ascent, everyone waved good-by, cheering and laughing. - Okay, maybe I'm just being picky here, but I think cheering and laughing. would read better after a semi-colon rather than a comma - but that could just be me! *Pthb*



*Bulletg* Further comments:
Once Kayla wakes up, you start using italics to suggest thoughts - but haven't done this so far in the story. A minor inconstancy, but one that jars *Sad*
It might also be worth italicising Kayla and Amelia's dialogue - or David and Marcy's - to more clearly differentiate between dreamworld and hospital room in the last few paragraphs. In a film it would be easy to flit between visual scenes, but here - although possible to follow - it would read easier to have a change in fonts, italics, margins, or similar, to show the jumps between Kayla's mind, and David and Marcy's reality.





Overall, I really enjoyed this short story. Thank you for posting.

And, just out of interest, have you ever read Lou Aronica's Blue - Sometimes We Forget reminded me hugely of it and it's prequel novella, Until Again.


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5
5
for entry "Biology
Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with RAOK Upgrade Brigade Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Interesting read! Thanks (again) for sharing.
Thank you for providing a break-down of possible biologies and reproductions - most articles I have read in the past either ignore, gloss-over or don't acknowledge hermaphroditic or asexual reproduction. Likewise, I don't think I have ever seen anyone list marsupial parenting - a fantastic idea for a fantasy or sci-fi piece! *Bigsmile*

Once again, you have introduced me to an unfamiliar term (vore - I also read the vore article).
You have raised a number of issues - it is easy enough to remember some when writing, but it is nice to have a decent checklist to help focus on. It helps trigger other thoughts too - what happens after death, does the creature have an afterlife/religion/superstition? What about cultural norms - you list one, two and communal parenting; all of which happen in humans. Does my race have more than one option? What is socially acceptable? Likewise, what about differing sub-species - how similar are they? Are they like different nationalities among humans (all the same species, but with vast cultural changes and differences in colouration) or different breeds like dogs (again, same species, but with enormous physical appearance changes, but perhaps a stronger cultural similarity), or more like actual differing species (like lions and tigers - similar, and even possible to interbreed (are the hybrid fertile or not?))?

So many questions! Thank you (I think *Sick*) for raising them.

MM

*oh, minor point - pandas are omnivores, they only eat bamboo if they need too *Wink*

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6
6
for entry "Anthros
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Following your advice about reading the rest of your newsletters.... I am going to do so!
Thank you once again for your explanatory attitude - I have never come across the term antros before (having been limited to the like of humanoid, human-like or descriptions like feline, canine, etc for non-human characters).
I look forward to nosing through the rest of the newsletters!
7
7
Review of Remember When  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (4.5)
Hi Billie Gail!
I'm a recent newbie to The Steampunk guild too, so I thought I'd pop over and peak through your port *snoops*

I found this poem quite by accident - and love it! I'm not a big poetry fan normally either *Shock*

I enjoyed the first verse with its questioning lilt and cosy reminiscence, but I also liked how the second verse swings it round to a more powerful 'I do.' There is a strong sense of protection and love throughout the poem. I don't know whether you wrote it for an anniversary or remembrance, but this would be equally poignant in an anniversary card as it would a memorial service.


The only suggestion I would make is a font setting change to the first line/title "Remember When" - is it the first line? It feels more like the title only, rather than the opening line. Perhaps changing the font size or putting it in bold (and capitalising the When) would make it more obvious.
Other than that (rather petty!) alteration..... wow! Thank you so much for sharing *Smile*

MM

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8
8
for entry "Steampunk
Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with RAOK Upgrade Brigade Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Hi, I found your article through The Boiler Room and thought I'd have a look as I've recently joined the guild.

Thank you very much for clearly explaining the different types of Steampunk. I know in my mind what Steampunk is when I read it, but as a newbie branching out into writing steampunk, I'm still a little at lost.
I like how you have not only described each sub-genre, but then expanded the definition with an example (oh, and point of interest, Jules Verne definitely had a time machine! *Pthb* ). I'm not sure I was even aware of Retro-Steampunk as a possibility, so you may have just opened a whole new avenue for me to explore! *Bigsmile*

Regards

MM

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*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
9
9
Review of The Stone Lady  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (3.5)
Hi *Smile*

I've just read your story and thought I'd share some feedback, I hope it's useful!

*Bulletg* My Overall Impression:
I like the basic premise of The Stone Lady - the idea that Mag, unbeknownst to his companions, curved the stone lady entirely by hand. However, I do feel the story could do with some polishing - and, just as a personal note, since you're entering it into a competition (I found it via Draw Your Swords comp) it would be worth entering the prompt, either in your piece or in your post. I'm guessing you choose the Mountains of Mourning prompt, but I believe that Squeekachu actually wanted the words in the story as well this time.



*Bulletg* The plot:
Mag and a group of weary travellers have climbed a mountain and now view a massive statue of a beautiful woman. The travellers discuss who could have built such a wonderful statue and begin a discussion about the ancient gods and magi. Mag, as a magi, tries to steer the conversation away - at which point we discover that Mag is actually the ancient magi being spoken about. He then falls into a reverie about his wife and his cursed life.



*Bulletg* The characters:
The main character is Mag, who I like at lot. I feel he has a lot of potential - be it in this short story or as a central character in a much longer piece. I found the ending poignant, however it felt very abrupt - perhaps you could show how Mag is now actually coming to terms with his immortality and wife's death (which would explain why he is travelling with this group of people) or give us an earlier indication that he is still unstable (like have him flip out at one of his companions).
The other named character is Diede, who provides an excellent foil for Mag to sound against. Diede asks the questions the reader needs answered.


*Bulletg* The dialog:

".....if that's diluted....you scare me." *Smile*

*Bulletg* Grammar/technique/typos:
The only thing that leaps out is the alternation between Gods and gods - unless there is some deep theological grounding (which would then need explaining to the reader), I would suggest a more uniform approach - either only capitals or just lower case.
Otherwise, everything seems to be in order *Smile*


*Bulletg* Further comments:
I think this story works really well as a short story, but equally has the potential to be expanded into something quite epic.
Good luck with the comp!



Thanks for posting your story *Smile* and Keep Writing!
MM

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10
10
Review of Survivor  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Hi *Smile*

I've just read your story and thought I'd share some feedback, I hope it's useful!

*Bulletg* My Overall Impression:
Wow - straight in to the exotic. I love the description in the opening passage. I can feel the heavy humidity of the jungle (I know you say forest, but hanging vines, twisted trees and acid secreting bushes scream alien rainforest to me).
I'm assuming 'survivor' was a prompt or personal inspiration as we're plunged straight into a snippet of Gabriel's world and life. I like that, it shows a flash of his world - a single scene that may fall anywhere in the scheme of things.


*Bulletg* The plot:
Gabriel Flynn is hunting a beast called the Slithadon - dragon-headed and snake-bodied. After tracking and killing one, he is attacked by its mate. He manages to kill the mate, but is severely injured - the story ends with him sending out a distress beacon. We don't know if he is rescued, but we do know Gabriel is a survivor *Pthb*


*Bulletg* The characters:
The only characters mentioned are Gabriel - the hunter - and the pair of Slithadon. The Slithadon are described in enough detail (and more so through their actions) that I can picture them clearly. Gabriel on the other hand, is not described in any fashion at all.
Personally I like that - this is only a scene-shot after all and we don't need to be bogged down in too much detail. Gabriel is hunting in the forest, so I assume he's wearing some sort of hiking/tracking appropriate outfit and carrying a rucksack or similar. I do not imagine him to be wearing a tutu, fluffy slippers and a novelty hat (well, okay, I am now). Likewise I don't need to know if he's blond, dark or red-haired; if he's big and burly or slight and lithe or developing a middle-age paunch.
If this was a longer story or I reach a place where a physical description is necessary (e.g. a prolonged fight with the Slithadon where I would need an indication on Gabriel's fitness) then having some idea of Gabriel's appearance would be nice, but I don't need it here and I like that you've left his appearance up to the reader. Having said that, I know a number of readers do not feel this way and need a complete breakdown of every character's physique. Each to their own - I like what you've  not done.


*Bulletg* The dialog:

There is none - this is all third person observation, with a single thought from the main character.


*Bulletg* Further comments:
This story raises lots of questions - why does Gabriel want the Slithadon skins? Are they rare animals that he has tracked for days, or is he likely to run into another before the rescue comes? WILL the rescue come? *Wink*



Thanks for posting your story *Smile* and Keep Writing!

MM

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Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (3.0)
I like the informal way you have Jake chatting his way through the description; some of it is a little cheesy (Joshua and his trumpet), but entertaining cheesy. The scene with Lydecker laying into Jake is dry and wiry – I can picture Jake grousing about work in a bar, with a beer in hand and a lop-sided grin as he sees the funny side even whilst wincing. I’m not sure if you are aiming for a slightly tongue-in-cheek crime novel or a full-blown rendition of the 1950s style private eye novel; I’m sure that will be more obvious later in the book. If you are going for the later, then your tone is spot-on; I can hear the voice -over narration and feel Jake’s exasperation. However, if you are going for a more modern setting (so far you have given no indication when it is set. Now? Five years ago? Twenty? Fifty?), it might be worth toning down the Blues Brothers overtones – as I read I’m seeing everything in that vintage semi-sepia colours, cheap suits with wide lapels, and flapper curls in Miss James’ hair. Awesome imagery, but at odds with her arriving on a flight *Wink* – and although she could have arrived on a plane back in the 50s, even Hugh Hefner ain’t quite that old…. *

You’ve shown Jake to be quick on his feet – both literally and in his thinking – despite the streak of bad luck he’s been having. Scooping Sarah into the taxi, rather than shriek about his car, and the smooth speed at which he deals with the faux-room service lay groundwork for all manner of interesting PI skills later. Is this a minor scene just to introduce us to Sarah or is it worth prolonging the escape, building up the tension a little more gradually? I’m curious to know who is holding the gun held at Jake’s temple – is it a new character or even Sarah herself? Not knowing where you plan on taking this plot, having Sarah threatening her own life to get at her father would be an interesting twist, albeit a very early one.

I confess, when I first read this (and I’ve read it several times now), I thought it was by far and away the weakest of your three first chapters; but then, it’s also the shortest and that gives you much less scope to hook a reader into the novel, so maybe that's unfair of me. *Sad*

In terms of spellings and grammar, there is very little to pull you on for this piece (although threats against the girls’ father, should have the apostrophe between the L and S), but I do find the past-present tense switching distracting. I assume that’s accidental (I know I do it a lot when I try and write present tense, past creeps in all the time) rather than intentional? Mostly, you have written this in the present, but just watch out – sentences written in the past have crept in here and there, and that's confusing for the reader.

I still maintain Skylar's Run has the most potential, in my personal opinion, and I suspect it's the one you have put the most effort in to. That certainly doesn't mean you shouldn't continue all of them - although you might find it easier to focus on them one at a time (maybe write one, and then write a second whilst letting no1 stew a little before editing? Just an idea).
You have a great vocabulary and are obviously a prodigious world-builder, please please keep expanding these worlds.


Regards
MM




*Hmmm, well that seems to have answered my era-setting question then. Mind you, I think the idea of Sarah James in a red Jessica Rabbit dress and blond flapper curls works.
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Review of Ebony and Ivory  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (4.0)
A split world of constant light and dark, I am fascinated already *Smile* – I like that you lay out so early the world’s high concentration of magic. It stands to reason that a split world lie this would be magical, but it just further encourages the reader to suspend disbelief (how do plants survive in the dark? What makes it impossible for the Nightsiders to survive the light and Daysiders to survive the dark?).
I like the singsong lilt of the opening passage; it minds me of fairytale cartoons or animations (like Sleeping Beauty or Shrek) where a narrator flips through a book giving the viewers background information before launching into the story proper. I feel if you keep the first paragraph, but re-format it (e.g. indentation, italics, etc.) it’ll strengthen it and give the words a dream-like quality.

You have tagged Ebony and Ivory as young adult, and I must agree that young teens are the perfect target audience for this peace. Older children/young teens will be able to relate to the royal twins and Alfie, and the soft, relaxed fashion of writing is going to appeal to younger readers. That being said, if you chose to adapt your writing style (harder, tighter for adults and a slight vocabulary reduction for younger children), I don’t see why this couldn’t be used for any age.
The theme of kidnap and rescue can of course be very gritty, and you may decide to take older teen readers through Ivory’s imprisonment and/or deeper into her family’s fear. Equally your use of magic to spirit her away could keep the subject clean and neat for younger readers. My suggestion here would be to tighten the writing and make it a little sharper if you are aiming for an older readership – the tone and pace is perfect for a children’s or young teens’ novel though.
I am intrigued by the notion of a were-cat. Alfie clearly is capable of communicating with Moki (cool name, btw), but is this telepathic, body language, or some ability to understand Moki’s ‘speech’? Is that where the concept of a were-animal comes in? As a language consideration? Or is it more to do with Moki’s paw-hands? Or, even more interestingly, can Moki transform into a person? (NB, as I'm sure you already know, were is Saxon for man. Hence were-wolf, a man that turns into a wolf,) That could raise a wide number of interesting scenarios - and will need an explanation as to why Moki is comfortable in such intimate contact with Alfie.

This is a lovely little chapter opening into what I assume will be the biggest adventure of Ebony’s young life. The only thing even vaguely resembling a plot-weakness is Malcolm’s decision to send Ebony to find Ivory on the basis that she is a Grayling. By producing Alfie, you show us that there are other Graylings (so it can’t be that Ebony is the only one capable of following Ivory into the light or the dark); and, whilst you have offered the explanation that blood attracts blood, I can’t help but think the King and Queen would insist on sending someone a little more expendable and/or trained. Perhaps it would be worth emphasising the importance on Ebony’s blood-link to Ivory; maybe the spell only works with a blood relative – and maybe that is what you already mean! In which case I would definitely tweak it to be more obvious.

There really isn’t anything else I can say about this piece, it is a charming opening to the novel and leaves me with plenty of questions – not least of all, what are the Crystal Keys and why are they so important?

Spellings & Typos:
Whilst passing through the Grayling region which separated their kingdoms – coma between region and which.
Twin girls which they named – either a coma between girls and which or twin girls who they named.
Who encompassed her sleight figure – slight, without the E.
In a darkroom, on a dark place – a space is needed between dark and room, and do you really mean on a dark place? Should it be in a dark place?



In all, this piece is more polished than Skylar's Run, and again I would encourage you to continue with it - out of Skylar's Run, this one and Jake Taylor P.I., I would (personally) rank this one as second. If you are only going to continue with one, please let it be Skylar's Run! But if you are comfortable continuing with multiple stories, then keep this one going.
Do NOT bin it. If you do not have the time and inclination to continue yet, put it on the back-burner and come back to it later.

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Review of Skylars Run  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
Overall Impression: very intense and dramatic. You have a good, strong vocabulary and an brilliant imagination. Skylar interests me and I would like to know more about him – both his back history and his future.

However… My single biggest issue is your habit of telling, not showing, and using long sentences for this. For instance the opening line; have you tried reading it out loud? It’s a great way of seeing how well the story flows. To my mind, the imagery here is great, but overwhelming – like too much chili in a recipe. I’m missing the flavour in the burn.


The dark cowled form clutched the reins of his horse with desperate strength as he urged it into the foam flecked, fast flowing river. The night skies were criss-crossed with bolts of blue lightening, urging him on and lighting his way.

The dark figure bent low over his horse, urging it on. Foam flecked water surged passed his knees as the animal struggled through the icy river. A flash of lightening and the sky lit cobalt blue, Skylar had to hurry – the Black Guard would not be far behind.


Now I’m not sure if you’ve included a lot of exposition for your own first-draft benefit and will later edit it out, drip-feeding into the story-proper, or if it is something you wish to leave in; but again, it adds to the tell, not show, aura.
Aside note; telling is stating what is happening or using passive description, and is useful for dropping in bits of exposition. The downside of telling is that it is heavy and, if used excessively, can sound as though the writer expects a dumb audience. Showing, on the other hand, is getting information across in active description or dialogue (hence my comments about the Black Guard).

It’s useful for me, as a reviewer of a potential novel, to know that Skylar is a Shadow Prince and that he is on the run because his father has died. It’s also useful to know he is the sort of person thoughtful and resourceful enough to stash weapons and a survival kit for his escape. However, as a reader it distracts from the present situation – Skylar on the run – and dilutes the intensity you have built up.
Perhaps this information can be filtered in over a longer passage (i.e. instead of a lump mid-way through the chapter, give me hints and one-liners throughout the entire chapter) or maybe we can over hear a conversation between some of the Black Guard.


This was the second night of the pursuit by those of the Black Guard….
…. Three days ago his father, the King, had died. Skylar had been the second son. The laws of Tanis decreed that on the firstborn’s accession to the crown, all other off spring were to be put to death. This was to prevent any uprising or insurrection occurring due to the line of succession. His brother Victor, as the elder would inherit and rule the kingdom of Tanis. Skylar knew his role was that of a shadow prince. Nothing more than a redundancy plan in case anything should happen to his brother.
He was aware of his status from an early age and knew his survival would depend on both his ability with weapons and the keenness of his mind. With the knelling of the bell signifying his father’s passing, he knew his time had come. Skylar momentarily managed to escape his guard’s scrutiny and his disappearance caused an up roar. Guards manned all the exits, while others searched the castle floor by floor. He retrieved his pack and weapons which he’d previously readied and made his way to the stables. Earlier he’d bribed a stable boy to have his horse saddled in preparation for his departure. He rode hard towards the gate, knocking guards aside as they tried to prevent his passing. Many a cross bow bolt followed him. A detachment of the Black Guard was sent in pursuit. For two days and two nights, they had hounded him. His only chance had been to enter the forest. He knew that they would not follow him there. It was considered suicide to enter.
The forest itself was older than memory. Legends of demons and monsters were rife. No one entered through choice; unless they were desperate… like Skylar. Over the centuries, the ultimate punishment for criminals was banishment to the forest. No one ever returned.


“Two nights. Two sodding miserable nights we’ve been following that Shadow Prince,” the guard snarled. He tugged the reigns as his horsed shied against a flash of lightening. “Why can’t Tanis just let its princes live like any other country?”
His sergeant snorted. “You’re not paid to challenge tradition, Sois. Just run Skylar down. Prince – King Victor, will reward us well for his head. And have ours if we fail.”
“Long live the king,” Sois muttered. He pulled his cloak tighter about his armour. “You know the madman is heading towards the Forest? He’s as good as dead anyhow now, Sarge.”
“Worried about bandits, Sois? Your mammy tell you stories of devils and monsters living in the forest?” The sergeant sneered. “The only thing you have to fear in the Forest is me.”



Please don’t think I’m re-writing your work! I’m doing nothing of the sort, just trying to get across how dialogue can help progress a story. Can you see how much tighter the description of the forest is when the guard and sergeant are talking? The guard is obviously a crack solider; he wouldn’t be in such an elite force as the Black Guard if he wasn’t. Yet the forest scares him. You’ve already shown Skylar to be resourceful and resilient, but the guard is prepared to write him off as dead meat at this point. That tells the reader there is something, or many somethings, that are dangerous and are likely to cause Skylar problems!

You have thrown a lot at Skylar in the first chapter – the loss of his father, attempted fratricide by his brother, cold and exhaustion, the mercy killing of his own horse – and now you’ve turned him loose in the forest. So now he’s dealing with monsters (plural), a giant snake and a wild boar (potentially more dangerous than any monster!) that inflicts a festering wound.
Most people would have given up by now, but Skylar is resilient and you’ve got the skill to make his escape from each trouble believable. I look forward to finding out what happens now – does he have to continue fending for himself, will he meet a person/people (e.g. bandits) who will help him until he is better? And then what will happen? Are we following Skylar’s alternative destiny, or will he travel back to the castle to have revenge on Victor?
I confess, whilst I love the expression Shadow Prince, I find the notion of killing all the remaining sons a little weak. What would happen to the royal line if Victor was killed (in battle, a hunting accident, assassination, etc.) before he had sons of his own? Perhaps you are going to expound on this later? Or maybe Victor is a paranoid megalomaniac hell-bent on killing his brothers. Equally, how does the queen feel about having her kids bumped off? Is there a queen, or a supply of concubines being treated like brood-mares? In which case, do the princes have any familial feelings for each other, and if they do, how does Victor feel about enforcing this fratricidal law?
I appreciate that with this being only a first chapter there will be a lot going on that I might not yet understand; but I do truly look forward to seeing how this story develops. I would definitely encourage you to continue with this plot line, in fact if you only progress with one of these novels, I would vote for Skylar’s Run.


Spellings/typos:
A handful of spelling errors, typos or punctuation mistakes have crept in, but I’m guessing these are more due to first draft-itis than anything else *Wink*

Night skies were criss-crossed – ‘cris’ only has one S.
Through the ice cold dark currents– ice-cold should be hyphenated.
The forehead of the steed which had carried him– coma between steed and which.
Ever spreading pool of blood ever-spreading should be hyphenated.
He grasped a black four foot long re- curved bow four-foot should be hyphenated and re-curved shouldn’t have a space.
All other off spring were to be put to death off-spring should be hyphenated.
Nothing more than a redundancy plan I don’t think this is technically incorrect, but I found it hard to read. Perhaps contingency plan?
Retrieved his pack and weapons which he’d previously readied and made his way definitely a coma between weapons and which, but also possibly after readied.
Many a cross bow– cross-bow should be hyphenated.
They would not follow him there. It was considered suicide to enter - again, technically correct, but I would personally use a semi-colon rather than a full-stop (period), just to make it flow quicker.
The wild life which had been aware– coma between life and which.
See-sawed to the ground okay, this time we lose the hyphen *Pthb* seesawed.
The tree tops were as dangerous as the ground– treetops should be one word.
The razor sharpness of the beasts weapons the weapons are pertaining to the beast, so there should be an apostrophe, beast’s.
A well placed arrow entered the eye – well-placed should be hyphenated.
The carcase of the dead boar –should be carcass.
He welcomed the pain as it focussed thoughts– should be focused.
His mind suddenly focussed and screamed– two Ss in focused again *Wink*






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Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
*CakeB* HAPPY WDC ACCOUNT ANNIVERSARY FROM "Anniversary Reviews*CakeP*



Hi, I found your portfolio through Anniversary Reviews and thought I'd stop by. I'm glad I did, "Dropping When You're Dead" is a well written and fascinating piece.

I enjoyed your descriptions, such as when Arlen had to press Mike's lip to help him suck the straw. A tiny detail, but one that shows far more than it tells. I also liked the scene with Mark and Jordon - the idea of her cancer being pink and being sold on E-Bay made me smile, despite the tragic scene. I can just picture a beloved uncle calling his cancer poo-poo coloured to a five-year old.

You've attacked a very serious and controversial subject and handled it with humour (as warned in the intro!) and succeeded in making a very realistic short story. There are a few areas where I had to re-read a few sentences to make sense (A running buddy who had my back and I, his. Wingman, occasional sycophant, I thought was a punctuation typo until I re-read it), but there are no obvious spelling mistakes and the internal dialogue flows smoothly.




The only thing I would point out is the rating; you have the piece listed as 13+ occasional swearing & one use of the f-word makes it 18+ and, whilst the rest of the story is definitely 13+ -worthy, the recurring swearing ( esp of the f-word) bumps it right up to XGC. I know it's sometimes hard to eliminate, or even just reduce, swearing when it's in-character, but for the sake of rating (and keeping it accessible to people, this is no other reason for it to be rated higher!) I personally would par it down.



Thank you for posting & keep writing!

MM

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Review of BLACK  
Review by ~MM~
In affiliation with The Coffee Shop for the Fantas...  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Okay, confession time; I hardly ever read, let alone review, poetry, but from the very first line you had me intrigued. I am the raven that spoke, "nevermore," and when my eyes flicked down to read I am the coat that Johnny Cash wore I knew I had to read the entire piece.

Congratulations - it is a stunning piece of imagery. Even as I read it, I can picture swirls of black mist rolling around my screen.

You've met the contest requirements for first person, less than 40 lines poetry & it's definitely about a colour. The language is strong and some might argue above the children/YA level required, but I like to see vocabulary stretched, especially in C/YA. And besides, The Jabberwocky was aimed at kids *Wink* so let's shoot that argument down right now.


Good luck in the Fancy Dress comp and hope to see you roaming other rooms with characters this strong.

MM

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Review of Soul Mate  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (4.0)
Review on behalf of the CSFS Halloween Raid

Hi Lovina.
What a fantastic snapshot of an evening. I really enjoyed your description and could feel the cool night air washing over me and Katie's initial jitters.
No shadows moved, no eyes glinting in the dark, yet, something didn’t feel right. This is probably my favourite line in the entire piece; creepy and unearthly, yet Katie can't pinpoint what is wrong. I would however, suggest removing the comma after 'yet', just to make it flow a little smoother.
I like the twist at the very end; you have Liam's point of view which is pretty much expected, but then you throw in that final sentence - Of course, the dog would have to be taken care of first… Just as the reader is thinking true love may be in Katie's future, you remind us that of course no werewolf could ever be around a dog. Poor Alex, I wonder what grisly fate awaits him. Or perhaps it's Liam that should watch out? *Smile*

One slight criticism on an otherwise well written piece - some of your sentences are rather long. This makes them a little clunky to read and I found I had to go over them a second or even a third time. This jarred me out of the story and slowed the pace a lot (esp. when you are building tension with Katie's fear). Going back and condensing them or splitting them into multiple shorter sentences would quicken the pace.

Thank you for posting.

** Image ID #1900580 Unavailable **
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Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (3.0)
Review on behalf of the CSFS Halloween Raid

Hi, thanks for sharing your poem, TPG. I confess I don't normally review poetry, but The Darkness Beneath The Sun caught my eye and yanked me into the blackness. *Smile*
The opening line is striking and poignant; it grasps the reader well and flows neatly into the second and third line. I can hear the hurt and pain crying out.

A few minor typos/grammatical points though:
Blood lust deep withen - WITHIN
but i don't know for how long - I (capital)
I think i'd rather just bleed - I'D (again, capital)

Again, thanks for sharing and please continue to post!



** Image ID #1900580 Unavailable **


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Review of A Wizard's Tale.  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: 13+ | (3.5)
*giggles* lots and lots of *giggles*

Terry Pratchett fan by any chance? "DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR LEGS APPEAR TO BE GOING IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS WHEN YOU RUN -" can just see someone asking Rincewind that.

Very entertaining, from sarky Charles through to baffled Griselda. And yes, Yeurgh probably is the most unfortunate name in dragon-history *Wink*
Good luck in the contest!
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Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (4.0)
Hello *Smile*

Just a few thoughts. I love the idea that Mirax isn't so much clumsy as in klutzy and awkward, but rather unable to control his power despite years of training. Think that's a really good spin on clumsy *Smile*
I also like how quickly you make him face his fears, not just Lyra's sickness, but the mountain ascent. You give the impression that maybe he's been picking & choosing what magic to learn?

Finally, I like not only the ending ("...and a question to ask her once I do."), but how Mirax has clearly grown stronger in himself from the ordeal - no longer taking criticism from the King's uppity servant!


NB, a few typos *Wink*

She would not want Mirax to destroy one to sad her. Save?
Fresh dragon's blood few through the hole Flew?
Deep in his heart, where the felt magic stir, No idea *Pthb*
"Your emotion makes you strong, young one. Do not hid behind it." Hide?

Oh, & fyi, I love the line: "They were items for a selfish people." That pretty much sums up most magical artefacts!

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Review of The Hunt  
Review by ~MM~
Rated: E | (4.5)
*Bigsmile* Really like how you do not specify what sort of animal is being hunted (have visions of a leopardess personally). Can feel the bewilderment of the young.
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