Story Review: Figures by Rachel Caine from Unfettered II

Story Review: Figures by Rachel Caine from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Figures by Rachel Caine is the ninth story in the Unfettered II AnthologyA woman narrates what it’s like to be a duelist for higher (or at least that’s how my mind converts the plot). But the person she’s talking to has a plan, and the big surprise is that person’s identity. 

Character:  This might be one of the shortest stories I ever listened to (eight minutes on the dot). There really wasn’t much time to do much of anything. This story is an interesting character study. It reads like something I might do if I were trying to develop a character, but there’s not enough here for me to connect with in my opinion. 

Exposition: This is probably why the story didn’t work for me. Like I said above, this is all just seven or so minutes of a person describing her job. Sure, it’s an interesting job, but it’s still just someone talking about it. Then the last minute throws a curve ball out of nowhere that only left me more confused.

Worldbuilding: This is probably the best of the story. We’re in this world where people with beef higher gunmen to duel over the issue in question (at least from what I remember). That’s a really cool idea, like lethal Pokemon for grown ups. I’d be interested in reading an actual story from this world, but listening to someone describe what is essentially a plot idea as a story itself didn’t work for me.

author Roxanne Carson at home
Photo by Robert Hart taken from the author’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: I’ll have to give this an N/A. Sure, the narrator is talking to someone, but they’re not conversing. 

Description: Even I think this was too little. I don’t know what the guns look like. I don’t know how they dress. I don’t even know if they wear any sort of body armor or plate. I don’t know what the characters look like. I get no sensory data whatsoever. 

Overall: I’m not going to argue one can’t make a thrilling eight-minute story. However, I think if I were to take a challenge to write an eight-minute script, the last thing I’d do is choose to have one person talk for seven of those minutes. The concept is cool in terms of the premise of what the character does, but everything else either dragged the story down or confused me.

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: The King’s Despatcher by David Farland from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The King’s Despatcher by David Farland is the eighth story in the Unfettered II AnthologyDeval is hated by all the boys he trains with. He was found by the princess of the country, but all he’s received after being placed in training is scorn and distain. The story begins with the most important question, how can a man be true to a country he hates? The answer may lie in a very specific set of skills. 

Character:  I liked these characters. They were sympathetic and believable. I like Deval the most (I may be spelling that wrong. I listened to the audio book, so I only have sound to go on). The author did a fantastic job of showing the pain he was going through while still giving him a way to endure without corruption. 

Exposition: This was nearly flawless. Yeah, there was a tad of exposition hidden in some dialogue, but I do that myself, so I didn’t mind it at all. This story is very clean. There isn’t any part that drags down the story. My problem with the story is actually that I wanted more. I didn’t get the sense of closure I wanted. I’d be happy to hear if there is a direct continuation of this story out there. So as a teaser tale, it works, but I’m frustrated by the tease. 

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding for this story is focused narrowly on the characters involved, but it teases a wider world. This is a nice mix in which the reader gains glimpses into a wider world, but remains rooted in the scene and events of the smaller story.

FarlandDialogue: This was solid. There wasn’t a ton of it, but the conversation between the princess and her father is great. It reveals character while providing context to the events. It’s quite masterful. 

Description: The description in this story wasn’t as visceral as I’d like. I can’t really picture much about the characters or the scene. If I’m reading a book, and you’re going to lack something, this is the one I’d pick. 

Overall: This is actually a great short story. It fell out of my top three because I didn’t get that sense of finality I like in a story, but it’s a powerful tale that has great characters. I really do recommend it.  

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Character Study: Rand al’Thor, a perfect acr

Character Study: Rand al’Thor, a perfect acr

Eye of the WorldWheel of Time is my second-favorite saga of all time. I joined the series after Knife of Dreams was out (though I started with Eye of the World), and I was hooked. I’ve read the whole series at least 14 times (1 time for each book in the series). There isn’t much news on the M.L.S. Weech front this week, so I thought I’d do a character study.

I’ve talked about character arcs a few times, and Rand is a fantastic analysis of character arc. Warning, there are spoilers here!

Characters need to grow: When we first meet Rand, we see a young man who thinks he knows how his life is going to go. He’s going to be a farmer, like his dad, and marry Egwene. He’s innocent. He’s naive. Eye of the World is essentially the story of a young man who must leave his home but desperately wants to return to it. The whole book is basically establishing Rand as a character living in ignorance (literally).

The Great Hunt forces Rand to act. Even in this book, Rand truly wants nothing more than to life to return to the way it was (a return to innocence). It is only his bond and desire to save his friend that keeps him on the path he needs to stay on. Which brings me to another point.

Characters need believable motivations: What else could keep a character moving along the plot line? Why would a character risk danger? In this case, Rand risks giving in to his power by putting himself on the Hunt. His loyalty to his friend is the motivation that makes us believe he’d do  something he’d otherwise never do.  The friendships established in the first book allow the reader to see that motivation.

Dragon RebornThe Dragon Reborn is such a clever tale for so many reason. Here we see Rand grow to accept who and what he is, and I don’t know that he has 5,000 words of screen time. We’re watching Rand grow from the perspective of those trying to catch up to him. This is the critical turning point. This is the book Rand realizes there is no returning to innocence. This book is Rand putting his fate to the test. He knows that only the Dragon Reborn could reclaim Callandor. I think this might be the book where people really fall in love with Rand. It seems weird to say, but this is the book where we see how heartbroken Rand is, and our hearts break with him. What do we learn about this?

Characters need to suffer: Sometimes, suffering can make us care for a character, and sometimes suffering can deepen how much we care. Either way, there must be conflict. In this book Rand is alone and struggling with nightmares and visits from Ba’alzamon. I have to admit, there was a large part of me that wanted it not to work. And that makes the story work.

The Shadow Rising is far more about Perrin than Rand. The scope of this series demands some books focus on one character more than others, and this is such a case.

Fires of HeavenThe Fires of Heaven has a victory of sorts, but it’s a tragic victory. Everything is thrown into chaos, and Rand must evolve from a character who has reluctantly accepted his fate to one who must take the path he has. There’s a lot that happens in this story. The first is that Rand actively pursues his role as the Dragon Reborn. He’s acquired a plan. He’s still untrusting of Moraine, and why should he be? She’s been manipulating him from the beginning. Sure, she was doing it for the sake of the world and for his own good, but it doesn’t make her actions less manipulative. Of course, the moment he starts trusting her is exactly the moment she “dies.”

Character must be isolated to grow: This isn’t the same as The Great Hunt. First, he didn’t want to be anywhere near Moraine to begin with. Here, Moraine became a crutch. In a way, she also would have been a hinderance. Like the power these characters wield, Rand isn’t something you can direct, only something you can channel. Taking Moraine in that way and at that time forces Rand to become a leader.

Characters need evolving goals: The first three books are all about Rand trying to return to where he wants to be. Fires gives Rand a new goal and a new motivation. We still see his innocence, characterized by his desire to prevent women from dying, and even in this, Rand must allow others to die. This hurts Rand. He desperately wants to protect others, especially women, so his goal becomes morbid rather than hopeful. This is the seed that was planted for his fall.

Lord of ChaosLord of Chaos changes Rand, and not in a good way.

Characters need to devolve every bit as much as they need to evolve: Rand’s capture and torture take someone who’s been manipulated before and pushes it to the extreme, leading him to be suspicious and distrustful of everyone. This betrayal changes Rand from one morbidly marching toward doom to a weapon. This was the most important moment since Moraine came to visit the Two Rivers.

Characters need anchors: Min and Aviendha (I’ll never see the value in Elayne) serve critical roles here. They represent who Rand used to be. They serve to give Rand some connection of love and trust that he desperately needs where others only fear him or what he must do.  Rand tries to avoid this in a few ways, but Min (my favorite of the three) refuses to leave his side.

A Crown of Swords is a darker book that shows Rand descending into darkness. he does things that are “right,” but his motivations and justifications begin to darken. This book, Rand (not the Dragon) receives power. That power, like always, begins to corrupt him. He starts to want to break away from his older person. Again, motivation is key. Love and trust leads to loss and betrayal, so here, we see Rand beginning to use people and seek power rather than protect.

The Path of Daggers is a tipping point. Rand is gobbling up nations and gaining power. His actions fill him with pride and hubris, leading him to a critical battle with the Seanchan.

Characters need to fail: Failures teach characters. Failures humble characters. This particular Failure shows how far Rand has fallen, and the scary thing is, he doesn’t learn from it. Instead, he’s insulted by the failure. He’s goes even bigger.

Winter's HeartWinter’s Heart becomes a sort of crowning moment of arrogance for Rand. He and Nyaeve cleanse the Source. Armies attack. The world watches in horror, and Rand does the impossible. It doesn’t actually do anything for him. He’s still insane. So are the Asha’men. As amazing as this is, it only means future men won’t lose their minds. At best, those already tainted will be saved from going completely mad. Rand’s falling deeper into despair, and this huge act of awesome power is great, but ultimately doesn’t do anything for Rand. He still has his anchors in the form of Nyneave and Min (and a few others). They continue to support Rand, who desperately needs that protection and that loyalty.

Many people hate Crossroads of Twilight. The plot doesn’t move an inch. It’s essentially a whole book of people reacting to Winter’s Heart. I had the advantage of being able to read straight through it to the next book, but I can understand how people who had been reading since the ’90s and wanted to see what happens next might have felt. I don’t imagine New Spring helped much either. Sure it showed us some new information in terms of back story, but we’re still left eager to see what happens next.

Knife of Dreams continues to push Rand to the edge. Everything he tries fails. Everything he tries comes to disaster. Failure isn’t new to Rand at this point, but this is different.

Characters need to be humbled: Here Rand isn’t just humbled, he loses a hand and almost loses himself to Lews Therin. The secret about his insanity is revealed. Where Rand was willing to go into the darkness for people, now it’s proven that he’s worthy of fear and distrust. This is important to show how close to the edge he is.

Characters need to appear as though they might go the wrong way: This is such a powerful writer tool and one so rarely used. We never worried that Harry Potter might become a Death Eater. We never worry that Luke would join the Dark Side. Those are great stories, but here is where Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time shine. We begin to seriously fear Rand would go too far. At this point, our fear is small, but we’re just a tiny bit afraid that Rand will simply become a ruthless overlord. Him saving the world seems farther away than ever.

The Gathering StormThe Gathering Storm brings all of this to a head. Rand is again betrayed. Rand is again hurt. Rand becomes convinced that ruthlessness and death are all his options. He seems to have lost all his faith in people and in the world. This is most obvious when he not only kills a woman, he erases her from existence and then (apparently) does the same thing to an entire building. Is it effective? Ironically, no. The whole idea of his abusive, excessive actions was to catch his enemy off guard, and it fails. Rand falls farther than ever, until he encounters his father for the first time since this saga began.

Characters need to remember their original motivations/who they are: There’s an argument that characters need to change. I prefer grow. Rand is clearly a different man than he was. He’s harder. He’s wiser. At this point he’s more sly and mistrusting. But he’s still motivated by love. In desperation, Rand returns to Dragonmount to seemingly end his own life, and then he realizes the beautiful potential in the world. Sure, one may fail over and over again, but each new opportunity is a chance to get it right. That return to hope is what saves the day and leads us to the new Rand.

A Memory of LightThrough Towers of Midnight (far more about Matt) and into A Memory of Light, we see the changed Rand. He has accepted that he is both Lews Therin and Rand. He has accepted that suffering is a part of life, but he has returned to hope. His encounter with his father and his love for his friends (and other forms of love) has become his anchor. Rather than morbidly thinking about getting the Last Battle over with, Rand instead looks to the future.

We still see the change. He’s certainly never pushed around by any woman again. He’s not manipulated. He’s powerful, but now humility and loss has tempered his ego in to wisdom.

Those are the things that made him ready for the Last Battle. We see the battle end, and Rand is a new man. Rather than going home (who can ever go home again?), he sets out to see the world through new eyes (literally). The boy who only wanted to stay home and live a quiet life has now left to live a life of exploration and adventure.

Rand is a beautiful character in an equally beautiful saga. Just writing this post makes me want to read the saga again (maybe not this year because a new Stormlight book is coming).  I just thought that  analyzing this story gave so much insight to how to craft great characters into great stories. I hope you found this post helpful.

A while back, I wrote a song dedicated to Wheel of Time. The recording isn’t anything near studio quality, but hey, why not? Enjoy!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: The Decoy by Janny Wurts from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Decoy by Janny Wurts from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Decoy by Janny Wurts is the seventh story in the Unfettered II AnthologyA young distant descendent of the throne is tasked with reaching the castle, where the entire royal family has reportedly been murdered. What role will this young man play in a rebellion that may change the inheritance for generations?

Character:  While they didn’t capture me completely, I did enjoy this character in the moment. Most stories are like this one was, a fun adventure that held your attention until the story was over. These characters were a lot like that. I remembered this story a bit better because of these characters and their deep backgrounds and interesting motivations. It’s a credit to the author. 

Exposition: This story is taken from a larger world I’m not familiar with. So there was a bit more exposition here than maybe someone would like, but it’s at least necessary for the reader to truly know the world. I think anyone reading a part of a story is either going to want that background or want to read the story because they’re fans of the universe. That means that even though we might have to suffer through a bit more exposition than we want, we go into this story with open eyes, knowing it has to happen so we know what’s going on. 

Worldbuilding: To me this was the weakest part of the story. This felt like an old sword and knights tale, which is fine for fans of the genre, but I was hoping for a bit more fantasy. This isn’t truly a discredit to the author, just a difference in taste of style. The author does a good job (requiring the aforementioned exposition) of setting the scene and the tone of the world, but I wasn’t very clear how this world fit into this or another universe. What I mean is I don’t know if I was reading fantasy taking place in the bronze age of earth or in a similar period on another planet. To defend the author, and hour-long story doesn’t give anyone much time to give depth to the world. The other defense is that this is truly part of a larger series, so if anyone really wanted to see more about this world, they could just go find book one.

JannyPortrait
Image of Wurts was taken from the biography page on the author’s website. 

Dialogue: This was pretty middle-of-the-road in my opinion. It wasn’t thinly veiled exposition, but I don’t know that I could say each character had a distinct voice. Still, the dialogue had a few moments that were touching, and that’s all I think a story hast to have. 

Description: Like most stories, I measure my feelings in this category by a question: Can I picture the story without feeling like I’m being beaten down by description. This story met that criterion. The author probably did a better job using the sense of sight than the others, but as I tend to rely on that most, I don’t realize the others are lacking until I go back and look for it.  

Overall: This is a nice sort of adventure fantasy. It bases its value of entertainment on the suspense of the riots and revolt that are happening. If you like horse-riding and cat and mouse drama, you’ll probably enjoy the story. I need a bit more magic and fighting in my entertainment, personally, but don’t let that turn you away from a well-written story. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Aokigahara by John A. Pitts from Unfettered II

Story Review: Aokigahara by John A. Pitts from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Aokigahara by John A. Pitts is the sixth story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  A math genius spends her days working to earn an income via social media when she receives a strange encoded message that begins unweaving a mystery that will end in a development no one could ever imagine.

Character:  The characters in this story were sympathetic. There’s actually an interesting arc that connects closely to the to the plot. This piece (speculative in nature) does a nice job investigating the nature of conscience and thought. 

Exposition: Like a lot of speculative scifi, there is a lot of author musing here hidden behind the mind of the character. However, one should honestly expect that sort of thing in a story like this. While I noticed it, I don’t think the exposition dragged the story down. The whole thing only takes about 30 minutes to read, and it’s a fast pace despite the introspective nature of the story. 

Worldbuilding: This is deceptively good. The story opens, and each line and event opens up the futuristic world. Each time something happens, we understand the world better, and it feels natural. This was the strongest part of this story. Again, several of the stories in this anthology really do an amazing job of maximizing worldbuilding in short fiction. This story is no different.

Dialogue: There’s just not a lot of it in this story. What is there would probably lead to spoilers, which I work very hard to avoid. This is probably why the story didn’t resonate so much with me. I need some dialogue in my stories. It speeds the pace and gives me another way to connect with characters. However, that’s just a personal preference. This story is still well told. It’s just hyper focused on one character and doesn’t use dialogue.

Description: I’d say this is exactly where it needed to be. The scenes were the most vivid. I don’t quite remember the physical descriptions of the characters. I think the author was wise to minimize this since there was already a lot of detail invested in the speculative nature of the story. To add another 1,000 words or so of description would probably have only served slow the story down more. 

Overall: This is an interesting piece of speculative science fiction. It doesn’t have the charm most stories I like have. However, this story is really more about provoking thought and introspection, which this story does. If you’re looking for a quick story to get your brain going, give this story a shot.    

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village by Bradley P. Beaulieu from Unfettered II

Story Review: Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village by Bradley P. Beaulieu from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village by Bradley P. Beaulieu is the fourth story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  An apothecary is visited by his abusive brother, who has come with a demand from the king to investigate the disappearance of a nobel’s son. There were several other missing children, but the king took interest when a nobel boy disappeared. The apothecary’s brother, uses his position as a member of the king’s personal unit manipulate the apothecary into submission. What will the reason for these kidnappings turn out to be?

Character:  I had to listen to this story for another couple of minutes before I could recall the story. Then I was surprised I didn’t. From a professional viewpoint, this was a very well told story. So why didn’t I even remember it? The answer, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the main character. (I could say it, but I can’t type it. I listened to the audible version.) I can’t honestly tell you why he didn’t resonate, but my impression is I was never worried about him. He’s too proactive and proficient. The answer must then lie in the character’s sympathy levels. I never connected to him on an emotional level. He wasn’t like Holmes, who’s a jerk, and that keeps your emotions up. Neither is he like Dresden, who’s just so lovable. The author made efforts to connect the reader, but it just didn’t click with me. If what you like is a good mystery, then you’ll probably enjoy this story. 

Exposition: This was well done. The story moved, and I never felt bogged down by details or meaningless back story.  

Worldbuilding: I feel like this might be part of a larger series, but I don’t actually know (a big risk in anthologies). However, the lack I felt was more a positive. I feel like there’s more to learn about this world, but I didn’t miss any of those details. Rather than try and tell the readers everything they missed about this land’s history, the author just politely gave us the details we needed to understand this story.

Beaulieu
This image was taken from the author’s Twitter profile for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: Here may be another place where the story fell short for me. A well told tale with wooden characters can really diminish the story’s quality. The lines felt over scripted.   It felt as if the lines were just there for anyone to speak, and the characters weren’t portrayed in the dialogue. I wouldn’t say it was “bad” just not unique.

Description: While I didn’t mind the streamlined description, I couldn’t give you a single detail about any character. I can remember some scenes and locations, but nothing else. I’m very forgiving with this area. I don’t actually care what people look like so much because I just cast whoever I feel fits my imagination best in my mind anyway. I’d leave it to an individual reader to decide if this is a problem or not. 

Overall: A great mystery story lacking memorable characters. If following the clues is your flavor, you’ll love it. Even with the unsympathetic character, it’s still an enjoyable story because of the quality of the mystery and the world in which it unfolds.    

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Day One by Jim Butcher from Unfettered II

Story Review: Day One by Jim Butcher from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Day One by Jim Butcher is the fourth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Waldo Butters is about to embark on his first mission as a Knight of the Cross. Not too long ago, he was a somewhat reluctant associate of Harry Dresden. Waldo loves Harry, it’s just that Waldo is a bit of a scardy cat (understatement).  Now he’s a Night of the Cross fresh out of training. Can he truly step up to be a hero in his own right?

Character:  I probably would have paid for the whole anthology to get me a piece of the Dresden world. In a way, I sort of did. Waldo is a fun character, and I’ve liked seeing his growth through the books. He’s earnest, and that makes me want to root for him even before you add the fact that he wields one of the three blades. He’s proactive, but the interesting thing is  he’s still not quite a star on his own, and this story shows that. 

Exposition: This is wonderful when you consider the first person narrative. Waldo’s an interesting character, so it stands to reason that he’s a fun guy to listen to. Having read all of the Dresden books, I have a bit of trouble separating this book as a stand alone. I worry that those who don’t know the story will feel a bit lost. It’s self contained well enough, but this is clearly for fans of the series and not what I’d use to introduce someone to the series. 

Worldbuilding: As a part of a series, we have what we need in the Dresden world. We get a new spooky villain, and we can move on. As a stand alone, we get what we absolutely must know in regard to the Knights and Waldo. It doesn’t have the same skillful world building the last story had, but it’s a much better story overall because the characters move and grow. I feel that sort of comparison is important. If writers are trying to pick which is more important, aim for characters that connect to readers and grow rather than meticulous worldbuilding. Sure, it’s great to have it all, but doing so is usually pretty hard to do in shorter fiction.

Butcher
This photo by Karen Hacker with The Portrait Gallery was taken from the author’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: This has all the clever banter and wit I like in dialogue. Note: I’m a pretty simple guy to please in that regard. Butters has a unique voice, and it felt good to see him. If any were to accuse Butcher of aiming for too much snark, I couldn’t argue, but I also wouldn’t care. You get what you get, and I wanted more Dresden. 

Description: Butcher is probably underrated in this. There’s an art form to providing description that is detailed enough to activate the senses but vague enough to challenge the imagination. Butcher has a mastery of this. The challenge is greater when you have a suspenseful or horror angle. In those genre’s what you leave out is every bit as important as what you put in. I always get the right mix of both with Butcher, and this story is no different. 

Overall: Given my bias for Butcher’s work, this was easily my favorite story, and as a fan of Dresden, it was worth the price alone. I don’t know that I could say the same is true for people who don’t love Dresden. I can objectively say it is one of the most entertaining stories in the collection. It also gets me excited for the new release coming out July 14. So get that TBR shelf cleared and ready!   

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire is the third story in the Unfettered II Anthology. The princess and prince of dragons have seen the end of their world. The humans are coming, and there is no foretelling of how to prevent it. How will they face the end?

Character:  First off, I love dragons. I’m always attracted to tales of dragons, and the more human they seem, the better. The dragons here are absolutely sympathetic. I want to call them proactive, but that’s what bugged me about the story. This inevitable thing is coming, and it just, well, comes. I wanted there to be something to come of it, and I don’t feel I got that.   

Exposition: This was good. The point of view and the exposition did a great job of connecting me to the characters. That’s actually what made the ending so anticlimactic for me. 

Worldbuilding: I want to mention how impressive this was given the short nature of the story. The author crafts unique characters and lore into tight prose and structure. I was impressed by the author’s ability to do that. Usually, people sort of gloss over worldbuilding to account for short fiction. This story proves you don’t have to do that.

McGuire
Image of the author was taken from her bio on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: The dialogue here was solid if not impressive. It was realistic and helped connect to the characters.

Description: This was good enough on my end if not what some people look for in fantasy. I could see the dragons and the scene. There could have been more senses activated, especially considering dragons were the viewpoint. 

Overall: This story sort of disappointed me. You see, it had a lot of great elements, but those elements lead to an unsurprising and, ultimately, unsatisfying conclusion.  If the characters gained something, or we had a pleasantly surprising ending where the characters found a clever answer, this would be an amazing story, but to see characters just sort of lament something and then watch it arrive made great elements a disappointing story.     

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian is the second story in the Unfettered II Anthology. What seems like the story of a pair of famers working becomes a tale of an assassin’s work. However, each tale told reveals a deeper plan to the final target.

Character:  I like stories where the characters have a deeper agenda. I can’t name the characters after this long, but I remembered this story when I reviewed the title, and that’s a good sign. The protagonist has a lot of cool moments that sort of (on a very small level) remind me of Man on Fire. 

Exposition: This was strong. The plot moved well, and I didn’t get bogged down with back story. 

Worldbuilding: There isn’t much here in that regard. The story is pretty self contained. It doesn’t degrade the quality of this story since it’s so character driven. Those who want deep worldbuilding and intricate magic systems probably won’t get what they’re looking for here, but if you like clever stories, this is pretty good.

Orullian
Image of Mr. Orullian was taken from his about page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This story did right what the previous story didn’t do so well. It still didn’t have the banter or wit I typically love in dialogue, but it was genuine and natural. The conversation ebbed and flowed naturally and really made the end pay off. 

Description: I actually really appreciated this description. Obviously, a story told by an assassin is going to have some elements that could be overly graphic, and that’s not my jam. Orullian does a great job of giving the readers what they need to feel and sense the scene requires without being gruesome or lewd.  Now, there may be arguments that Caught is gruesome. That may be, again, people have different sensibilities. So I need you to understand that, as an author and creator, I  feel Orullian did a good job of being descriptive without being distasteful.

Overall: This is probably my third-favorite story in the anthology. It’s a good little tale with a nice twist that was satisfying if not surprising. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik from Unfettered II

Story Review: Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik is the first story in the Unfettered II Anthology. A young boy and girl investigate a tower after dark. The secrets it keeps could make one of them a monster forever.

Character:  The characters were proactive if not memorable. I think this story fell short in two areas for me, the lack of sympathy I felt for the character is the first issue I had. Sure, the characters were taking action, but I just didn’t really care about them. Short fiction has to immediately connect readers to the characters or it will fall flat, and I think that’s what happened with this story. 

Exposition: For short fiction, this exposition was outstanding. The author’s crafting of words isn’t remotely in question. While this story didn’t really ring my bell, I’d probably be willing to give any of her longer fiction a try because of her style and how well paced her writing is. Honestly, this story comes down to a card match, which would bore me to tears in any other case, but the pacing and style of the writing allowed the story to flow well despite the lack of character connection.  

Worldbuilding: There’s not much here. The scene make sense, but I never really got a fell for much more than what I needed to know what was happening. I don’t think that’s bad, exactly. I wanted more though.

novik-newyorktimes1
This image of Naomi Novik was taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This is the other area where the story fell short for me. Essentially, there’s a card game where people talk. That conversation didn’t carry the story the way it needed to. I’ll confess I like plenty of wit in my dialogue, and that’s not exactly a thing all writers do. Still, I read a lot of talking, and it the tone and pace of that conversation didn’t really do much for me. 

Description: This was good. This author shows a lot of skill in telling concise stories and giving plenty of detail. I’ve often said that you can tell a story is good if two of the categories listed here are good, and that holds in this case. The two categories (exposition and description), just happen to be among the categories  that are the least important to me. Regardless, this story truly activated my senses. 

Overall: Drama and character fall short, but readers who enjoy smooth stories with great description would love this little story. It has a pretty interesting premise, I just wish I was more invested in the character.

Thanks for reading

Matt