Spark of Brilliance
After a fateful night, Nathan, a young boy from the Kingdom of Aruth, loses everything that was important to him. With only his special talent for magic and a group of friends, he is dragged into a struggle between nations and a strange cult, which may very well decide the fate of the world. However, who is the real enemy? What will Nathan do, when everything he believes in, is wrong?
A hard magic system, that is intricately linked to the fate of a rich and ancient world, awaits you!
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Review written as of chapter six. This review was written as part of a review swap.
Spark of Brilliance is about a young man named Nathan, whose girlfriend (and presumably whole family) is killed in a mysterious and completely random magical attack on the night before he's about to go off to mage school. Fortunately, this does not deter him from hitching a ride and making his way to school anyway. By chapter six, we haven't yet reached the school, but I assume that it's upcoming very shortly.
This fiction suffers in style a little. Part of that might be chalked up to non-native English speaking author, as evidenced most strongly by egregiously misused expressions such as
“Escort him to the harbor and make sure, he knocks on the correct door. Don't leave him out of your eyes!”
Which is almost certainly meant to be "Don't let him out of your sight!"
I can forgive that kind of thing, but I highly suggest that the author enlists a native English speaker to do a quick read through to catch future mistakes like that. It's jarring and takes the reader out of the story.
Aside from quirks of language like that, some of the dialogue specifically feels extremely stilted and unnatural. There are many places where contractions should be used, because that's the way that people speak, but the words were fully written out instead.
Varying sentence structure and running chapters through a grammar checker to catch comma splices would also both help.
I like the author's use of description, and I don't find the narration unpleasant-- it just could use a little bit of cleanup.
As with the style category, this is one of those things that's easily fixed by having another set of eyes on the chapters before they're posted. I noticed a lot of misused or missing apostrophies, comma splices, and a couple mis-punctuated dialogues. I mentioned it earlier, but comma splices are also a problem. I also caught a couple random capitalized Nouns-- author might be German. There's also some very weird formatting issues, like there are linebreaks in places there shouldn't be. It's very obvious if you have your text settings on anything less than max width.
It's not anywhere near unreadable, it's just a cleanup issue that is enough to be mildly distracting.
I think the story itself is the strongest part of the story, which is good. Something happens in each chapter, which keeeps the reader feeling likee we're moving along, even though we clearly haven't reached the main location yet (magic school).
I like the kind of steampunk-esque magic setting, and the obvious clash between Nathan's rural village and the way that city life/more advanced technological spaces are. The worldbuilding is good.
Unfortunately, this is slightly brought down by the fact that in the very first chapter, we're introduced to this huge conflict-- a magic ship comes and deletes Nathan's village off the map-- and then the main character... just... heads off to school. It rachets the tension right up, but then immediately deflates it. Obviously, I'm still very early into the story, so I'm sure the school plot and the magic attack plot will tie back together at some point, but it just rings as wrong to me.
Another quick note that a lot of events that happen while Nathan is in the city feel extremely random and somewhat unnecessary. It might be better if the author trimmed down to just the encounter with the police captain, rather than the whole shopkeeper scene as well.
So, the main character is Nathan, who is clearly young, eager, and talented at magic. Unfortunately, that's about all I can say about him. He's heartbroken about his girlfriend dying in his arms, but he doesn't act like it for more than a chapter or so. He's continuing to go about his business, for the most part without making any real moves to mourn his (presumably) dead family and his (very) dead girlfriend, do anything to figure out who killed them and why, or anything. It's odd and makes it hard for the reader to relate to Nathan.
Nathan is also the only character we spend significant time with, so it's hard to comment on others. A couple of the side characters have personalities that do shine through their dialogue, which is good, but since they don't stick around in the story, it seems like a bit of a waste.
In general, I think that Spark of Brilliance shows real promise, and this is a very early review, so don't take anything I say as permanent. I think if the author gets someone to read over what's been written and help edit it, most of the issues that I have could be cleared up very quickly, and I'm sure the story will improve as it goes along.
If you like fantasy stories where exploring the mechanics of the magic system is probably going to be a large part, don't discount this story, I'm sure it will live up to its potential.
Also, just a note to the author: you should probably change your description. Currently, it is extremely generic and could describe basically any fantasy story on the planet. You'll probably get more readers if you put more detail in about the story.
This review applies up to chapter 5
Spark of Brilliance falls into many of the traps of beginner storytelling, many of which will be detailed below. Which is a shame, because I believe that the story is good enough that it should not be hamstrung by the above said. However with a bit of polish, I sincerely believe that this story has the potential to shine brightly.
Style Score: 3/5
Though there is nothing to egregious as to warrant a one or even a two, this story does have an over reliance on exposition. Often we are told how a character feels, what events happen, and etcetera, rather than being shown these things. Sometimes, we are told things even if it is plainly obvious from the text that said thing is happening. Two examples of this would be from chapter 1, quoted here:
"'Why doesn't it work?...' he complained to himself..."
"’Who asked you, Natalie? Mind your own business.’Annoyed by his sister...”
Here we see that the dialogue makes the internal emotions of the character plainly apparent, however, the narration then sees fit to reiterate this, creating a redundancy that takes me out of the reading experience. Such stylistic missteps are present throughout the chapters I’ve read, among other things.
Like I’ve said, nothing too egregious as to warrant a two, but it does break immersion and makes the otherwise breezy style of the narrative stop dead at certain times for me.
Grammar Score: 2.5/5
Though the prose is pretty much typo free, it does still frequently have grammatical kerfuffles of its own, the most noticeable of which would be when tenses don’t agree. Though it is not common, I’ve noticed the prose shifting from past to present tense incorrectly, sometimes within the same sentence. A key example of this would be in the first paragraph of chapter 1, which reads, “Whenever a pattern was complete, a slight blue glow emerged from the carvings...” As the tense of “is” before “complete” was “was”, complete should not be its present form and instead should be in its past form, “completed”.
Similar errors are present throughout the chapters I’ve reviewed, amongst other things. Still, they are not so egregious as to distort meaning, only take away immersion, and thus aren’t deserving of a flat two.
Character Score: 3/5
Nathan, the protagonist, has his backstory clearly defined, his motivations are relatable and don’t feel too forced, and he is sympathetic enough that I feel that Nathan is a fully realized character, and not a cardboard cutout. However, what brings the character score down is not the depth, or lack thereof, of the characters seen so far, but in how that depth is conveyed, specifically, through dialogue.
Character is often revealed in the way a character speaks, the idiosyncrasies of their language, the words they choose, whether they’re fluent or not, how they speak to different people, etcetera. As one might imagine, this necessitates that dialogue be as diverse as the characters that speak them, and varied speaking styles go a long way in establishing a cultural milieu, especially for a constructed world as often seen in fantasy like this.
Spark of Brilliance’s characters, to not mince words, sound identical to one another. They all speak in the elevated register of the surrounding narrative voice, even when said characters are from different educational, cultural, even professional backgrounds. A key example of this would be when Nathan, the educated mage, speaks with Mark, the working class driver. Though Mark’s speech is peppered with phonetically rendered “Yas” and gruff “boys”, strip those away and Mark speaks with the same voice as Nathan, same elevated register, same vocabulary choices.
This carries over into Nathan’s interaction with the merchant in Chapter 3, wherein, aside from the veneer of politeness that the shopkeeper presents, the same lack of distinct voice presents itself, with Nathan, a rural boy who has never left his village, speaking with the same idiosyncrasies as the shopkeeper, a city dweller with experience in the trade.
Overall, the above mentioned deficiencies hurt an otherwise good character score, and the way in which the story compensates, through exposition, can only do so much and bears with it a few downsides (as listed in the style section above).
This is where Spark of Brilliance’s true strengths lie. Though the story of a young man thrust into a heroic destiny through the destruction of his home village is old hat (as evidenced by the veritable ocean of old school JRPGs that start their plot with this premise), Spark of Brilliance stands out through the cleverly integrating its worldbuilding into this opening itself. Nathan’s journey towards the magic school, as well as the way in which the magic system is introduced, is good enough to stand on its own, and where it not for the previously mentioned deficiencies taking me out of the story, I have no doubt that I would have been able to immerse myself in it with no problems whatsoever, as I can tell, even within the first few chapters, that the world is a fully realized one.
Spark of Brilliance is like a raw gemstone; extraneous parts, imperfections hide its potential beneath a veneer of mundanity, perhaps even mediocrity, and they are thus overlooked by the average layman. However, when cut and polished at the hands of a jeweller, the once drab rock is transformed into a brilliant gemstone, letting others see it for what it truly is, a thing of beauty worthy of admiration. I have no doubt, with enough hard work and the assistance of a beta reader or even an editor, that Spark of Brilliance can truly shine, and I look forward to revising my score to fives when it does.
Spark of Brilliance is a little rough around the edges in terms of prose, but is carried by a deep and cleverly thought out magic system as well as brisk pacing.
The style is easily readable and is structured in such a way as to allow for easy binging. I found it a breeze to go through.
There are some consistent hiccups here, primarily in terms of punctuation and sentence structure. It's still perfectly legible, and the author seems interested in making improvements to the formula, so this may change later on in the story.
The plot is a tried-and-true revenge tale of a country boy who has to rise against the odds. It doesn't change up the formula much at this point in the story, but it's carried by the pacing, worldbuilding, and magic system. These three pillars make it so you're not bored while reading, but can easily let yourself get swept along by the unfolding narrative. It may not offer as much to those who don't care about magic systems or find in-depth explanations of such things boring, but I found it really intriguing, which matched up really well with the MC, who is constantly trying to learn new things about how the magic works in this world.
It's also integrated well into the worldbuilding because the magic is used to create technology that is both reasonable in terms of what a society would need and exciting because of its potential applications.
So far, the characters aren't incredibly fleshed out, but they're not overly two-dimensional either. The MC's motivation is simple but relatable. I like the way the MC's core personality remains intact even though his motivation changes from simply learning magic to getting revenge. There are also some good moments with supporting characters.
Spark of Brilliance is shaping up to be a good read, especially for those wanting a more experimental take on classic fantasy with a magitech setting. If you're a fan of hard magic systems with a lot of depth, I sincerely suggest you give this a read.
While reading the story I have to say that the part I found most interesting and most impressive from a writer's point of view, is the world - not only is it consistent buy also written such that it doesn't stick out as a gimmick.
I loved the part in chapter one when the MC uses magic to start a furnace and how later it's used on the light orb.
The world itself seems interesting making it different from the generic fantasy world.
The characters are well written - so far I liked most character interactions even the more hostile ones.
No grammar mistakes that I could see.
Overall a unique take one magic system and an interesting character who seems to be a little out of luck and out of place in the big city.
This fiction has some serious potential,if the author manages to eradicate some generall roughness and a few more difficult issues.
The writing style in general is very rough, riddled with many errors and not well thought-out phrases. All the errors are typical for a newby to the art of writing and can be rectified with just a bit of polish and practice.
The story starts very strong but then goes into a lull as it slows down and finally seemsto forget almost everything about itself to go off into a completely different direction. It was engaging at first but then turned into a series of exposition-dumps.
The grammar score suffers mostly from very minor things misapplications of commas as well as some mixups of homonyms, like "to" and "too".
The characters are in no way bad, just badly presented through an unsuited style that fails to engage the reader much. It is less an issue of the characters and more of the unrefined lens we currently have to see them through.
Overall i think this is one of the stories that could turn out to be great but should best be returned to later when the author has reviewed their writing thoroughly for the first time.