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.
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