A V Dalcourt
Black Carbon is a first attempt at science fiction by a new writer. THis review is writen from that knowledge, and after several feedback exchanges which makes me genuinely excited to see this young writer develop their storycraft.
Style: This story is told from two POV in a challenging present tense. I say challenging only because currently, given the newness of the writer, they haven't gotten the grasp of passive vs action based story telling.
In later chapters, there seems to be a deep concern for story pacing. Pacing can be a matter of preference, but I feel that given how lightning fast the story moves there's simply not enough time given to develop or setup situations to give them a meaningful emotional impact.
Story: As of chapter 2, there are two very differient stories being told. I have half of mind to think that the writer might do well to focus on one over the other as they get the hange of their writing. However, this is not my story to tell, and the are definate advantages in writing two distinct stories which will in turn present challenges that one version over the other may not have. After interacting with the writer, I have nothing but confidence that their openess to feedback will serve to help their rapid development as they wrestle with the nuanced themes of the story they are trying to tell.
The story itself is ambitious, but I can tell from outset that a lot of thought went into the science fiction elements, and to a lesser degree the dystopian elements. The story itself is intriguing and I look forward in seeing how the writer executes the ideas.
Grammar: As I've mentioned in my feedback, the repition of words is grating. But I trust with time and experience, the writer will get the hang in reducing the writen echoes, while not relying too heavily on a thesaurus as their default solution. Developping the setting as a character may help with this problem, giving the readers and the author a richer vocabulary repository to draw from.
Characters: Both POV characters have a strong presence with equally strong voices, and distinct but seperate motives which are easy enough to relate to.
Due to the pacing of the story, it's all of the side characters that are treated like fillers, after thoughts, or in the mother's case a cliche - which makes it hard to anchor ourselves in this potentially rich and diverse world. That said, I can see the improvement in how the writer has treated their side characters in later chapters, so I anticipate that this is just an early writing problem.
Style: The story has a lot of orwellian overtones that I feel are well executed. I felt very uncomfortable listening to world building elements and seeing the control and wrongness of the setup. That said, I've very much enjoyed the world building elements which made the story that much more emersive. For me it became less about character/plot and more about how the character interacts with the world as he tries to find his place in it.
Story: The story isn't made clear but we do get implied plots mixed in with layers of world building. While I understood that Arn was meant to be a spy, a lot of what goes on during his 'mission' doesn't support the idea. I supose this may be a character or style issue at it's core, but it has a huge impact on the story too because we don't know why we're supposed to root for this character. By the end of the 1st Act (which is referred to as Book 1) we only start to get a sense of what the story is.
Grammar: there were a few issues my reader picked up but nothing critical.
Character: You love them or you hate them. There ae few characters where you end up feeling neutral about. That said, given the role of some of the characters, their execution/delivery may need some refining for either clarity or to enable conflicting emotions within the readers (ex: Rana's arc).
All of the above has already been shared with the author, so nothing I say here should come as a surprise. Overall, this is an interesting read even if I don't know what the goal is. I found myself clicking through to the next chapter without really thinking of it, which for me is a great sign of emersive storytelling.
Overall this story is thoughtfully crafted with layers of interconnected subtext. It was a delight to have been introduced to this story.
Style: Told in first person from the POV of three main characters, it's surprisingly fluid without the usual problems associated with first person story telling. It doesn't take long to feel like the character is telling you the story which made it easy to fall into the rythm of the plot.
Story: This is where the writer's thoughtfulness really shines through. I don't want to share too much because every chapter so far concludes with a surprise that's lightly foreshadowed, but also leads to more questions. In a nut shell, two of our heroes are the residents of a small mountain tribe who indulges in monthly ritual sacrifices as performed by their cheif, who has more than a couple of reasons to participate in these blood sacrifices. Our heroes aspire to leave the moutain top, perhaps on the back of a great dragon.
Character: So far we follow three characters. Not wanting to soil some delightful surprises, I'm going to keep it simple. Odon is largely action oriented, aspiring to realize Tero's dream of leaving the moutain. Tery is the local painter, turned vandal believing that if he scratches out the images of his loved ones he is releasing thier souls, enabling their return to the distant blue moon. And we have the chief - whose story I dare not reveal as it'll ruin the intrigue of the first two chapters. Obviously, if you've read my other reviews, you'll have noted that I really struggle with connecting with the characters or even remembering the characters names. This is not the case here - although I did wonder for about a chapter who the hell Udon was.
Grammar: Overall great - though I'm really not a great judge of that. There was a point where I wasn't sure if the writer was dropping words intentionally to mimic a speech pattern for one of the heroes, or if it was an issue with naming conventions and grammar rules, but meh. Though it tripped me up a bit it didn't do anything to take away my enjoyment of this delightfully well thought out peice.
I'm looking forward to more. No pressure.
Character: I'm beyond relieved to have a bro-dude story that doesn't have romantic tension underlying the story. It's nice to read a story where two friends genuinely have each others' backs without all of the unneccassy betrayal drama. It's refreshing and very much appreciated.
Maki is a gifted sorcerer (glinter in book terms) who has taken a refreshing near-pacisfist stance with his magic usage. Maki is built, strong, and by far a truly amiable personality that I rapidly found endearing.
His best bud, Al, is a former solder, gunner who seems to prefer missing his targets out of some misplaced sense of vanity. He get's his head on straight when he realizes that his and his buddy's lives are genuinely at stake.
Story: In pursuit of divinity, various mages, champions, heroes, adventures or what have you hail from all over the world to win some strength for their nation and some added ruling rights. They call this shaping the world, which is often a term used in referrence to the magic/glint usage which is also called 'shaping'. Anyway, the heroes endure a series of challenges of wit and bronze, in the hope of climbing the glint tower and securing power.
Our heroes Al and Maki, don't want none of that noise. They intended to steal a treasure and retire comfortably for a few years, only they ended up stealing essentially entry tickets into the power challenge. They reluctantly embark on their journey desperately hoping for an escape before the tower kills them.
Grammar: I found one instance of wrong word usage but only because I was listening to the book instead of reading it, but otherwise, there was nothing here that ook me out of the story or stopped me from getting back into it when I needed to stop.
Style: I find it a bit simple, not on a 'see spot run' level, but with the simplicity of the language and the honed-in tunnel vision focus on character and dialogue. I'm aware of the setting because there is some reference to it - which has a delightful aesthetic, and there is very little world building. I acknowledge that this is a preference thing on my part, so I highly doubt it would turn off a majority of readers. After all the common advice on writing out there is to keep it simple in order to appeal to a wider market. In this case, the story and its characters are also memorable - which will aid in this story's growth a hell of a lot more.
I'll start with a warning to a certain type of reader. This story is loaded with religious references and whose story revolves around religion as a societal backbone. If this offends you in anyway - keep away.
For the rest of you, this is a deliciously well crafted tale of believer's coming of age story where our MC is faced with the autrocities of the outside world and his fellow believers.
Style: The chapters feel relatively short - but maybe that's because the author doesn't waste time emersing you into the world and his characters and layering tension with every new chapter, making it a quick and compelling read. I loved every moment of it, anticipating the next part.
Characters: While the religious overtones are difficult for me to connect with, I did grow up a beliver in a higher power, and I did look down on the faithless with pity. I did go to school with folks who were like Mary, and hated people who so much as accidentally sinned and who simultaneously failed to recognize their own. So while yes, I struggle to connect with the religious over tones, I could easily draw from personal experience to better connect with the characters themselves.
Our MC, is a strong beliver poised to take over his father's congregation not only as the preacher but as the settlement leader. It's big shoes to fill, and much of his 'education' is kept from him for the sake of preserving his faith in a higher power and in the people. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it and his dad is being his dad and just sheltering him from the hard and the bad.
Petra our MC's besty has sights on leaving the small desert settlement who is plagued with sickness and monthly cargo drop runs. She is among the many who fear that one day those precious supplies will just stop coming, so it's best to have a way out. Her plan, use the military to transfer to the west.
But FIRST - they both have to survive thier first cargo run in the middle of a dust storm and potentially fight off the marked.
Grammar: Top marks.
Story: So far, an asteroid has landed in the middle of nowhere and remains in tact. With the arrival of Earth's new space mountain comes the poisinous dust which kills off a segment of the population, the marked which so far are played up like semi-intellegent zombies, and of course human politics as they establish a failing parimeter from marked attacks.
Well worth investing your time in. I'm looking forward to reading more.
Story: By far the best part of the this story is the ideas behind the scenes. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the slow execution of the first act. In a nut shell, we're exploring the world of a society trapped within a tower, in this case the first floor of a massive tower. Life for the denizens of the floor 1 is on shade shy of sheer hell, having to live life at the savage mercy of 4 gangs who hord electricity, food, and power, and whose turf wars have a habit of taking more just a few by-standers.
The story really begins when the trio of lead characters decides to ascend to the next floor with the intent to climb the tower, an act that had been more or else forbiden for decades, but for whom none have return. Honestly, if coming back to the hell that is floor 1 was an option, I wouldn't want to go back either.
Character: We get a strong indepth look into three of the lead characters, which is to be expected. Each character has their own interconnected backstory which will eventually serve the greater context of the overall story. We have out disillusioned hero who is committed to the sameness of the daily struggle because he feels there's really nothing to really pursue. His GF who during a side gig is asked to wish for a better future for herself, suddenly decides to take the life altering steps of climbing the tower. And mob boss and savage murderer but also our hero's BFF decides to abandon his life of power struggles to venture into the great unknown.
The characters themselves have compelling backstories even if they're a little underdevelopped at times, and whose decisions feel like they come out of the blue. This is a side effect of the writer's narrative style.
Style: The world building and general build up the setting has strong footing. I can tell that the writer has spent a lot of time thinking about this world. What this story suffers from a lot of over explaining. I'm not talking info dumps - which for me is the dumping of a lot information that doesn't serve the story, characters, or setting. The over explaining has a side effect of negating the tension that should be building through the escalation of events, which has the other negative side effect of limiting the readers emotional investment in the characters themselves.
In other cases, the writer spends so much time making sure we understand where the character is coming from, that when one of the leads makes a pivotal decision to leave the first floor, it feels out of character and almost random.
We spend a lot of time in 'other' people's heads, where their backstory is shared and their rationale is explained instead of demonstrated through actions.
Overall, the writer has a fair grasp of character, and excellent story idea, but needs to work on execution just a little more. I'm sure they'll get there - cause this will be one hell of a great read in the future.
Grammar - There are some grammar issues, but the writer is aware and is making an effort to clean things ups a bit.
The writer stated in the fiction that we're reading a draft, so I'm treating my review as though I've read a draft and not an intended finished work.
Overall the writer has a solid grasp on who her characters are and the story she wants to tell. It just needs a little bit of refinement to help the story and those characters stick to the reader's thoughts.
Story: There are a lot of things going on with this story which I very much enjoy, but tend to be negatively affected by the writing style. It's on the verge of being a conversation about technology and tradition - but doesn't quite get there, which I would have loved, but I have to accept the story for how it is right now, and not what I wish it were.
Or hero meets a strange girls, and for reasons that aren't really made clear the strange girl starts training him. 4-years later, war breaks out and our hero discovers that everything he has known was a lie. This is where the story really starts to take off.
Style: This is where I get a little critical. Through out the story it's hard to say if there's a pacing issue or a scene issue. The scenes themselves run at a pretty decent pace, they flow nicely, and then BAM we swtich to a different scene. It's like the writer got bored of the scene or didn't know what to add. In a nut shell, there's some transitioning issues between the scenes.
That said each scene is rather vivid, with the exception of the background and setting which we have to fill in a lot of the missing information, we follow the characters and their actions in rapid succession in a way that's pretty easy to follow.
The last point of note is there is no foreshadowing. When there's a massive character development reveal, it's just dropped on us. There's no lead up, no hint, no mystery. We don't have a chance to wonder about 'oh I wonder what that means? Or what so and so is hiding?' which sort of takes away the potential emotional investment for the characters and their journey.
Character: Each character feels like different people, which is great. However, it also feels like all of the characters exist only in service of the hero's story, which is a shame. We get a sense that the characters outside of the hero all have complex pasts of their own.
I went in blind and found another fantastic fantasy to add to my list of on-going fiction.
Story: Eli is pulled into a world of war and magic where he is rapidly enslaved and stripped of his free will at a moments noticed to serve as a killing machine to a Princess who claims that her uncle (could have been her brother) usurped the Queen throne and that she's only trying to end a war - by any means neccessary. Eli is reluctant to aid the deceiptful duo, but when he learns that his fiance Pat may have been pulled into this cruel world with him, he has little choice but to comply.
Grammar: nothing i noticed.
Style: fluidly detailed but not overbearing, that paints a beautiful yet harsh landscape. I find the pacing, prose, and story over all suits my tastes and expectation of a dark fantasy.
Character: There are a lot of names to remember and a lot of characters are introduced in the first 4 chapters. I remember a few names (but that's a me thing), but most of the characters I remember who they are within a few words of meeting them again - which is a good thing because I have gone whole chapters in other books where I was like 'who's this fool?'. I don't get that here. If I'm going to criticize anything it's that some of the same feel a smidge samey-same, leading to some character confusion as to who is who, but again that could be me - names and faces were never my strong suit.
Overall well worth reading and I'm going to keep up with this one for the long haul. I look forward to seeing what this writer accomplishes with their work.
This story has some really great ideas that also feels very familiar, but as another review stated, it need a bit of work to really make this story shine.
Style: Style is 3rd person pov. Thoughts are set up in a interesting way, however most thoughts are used to express an action that is happening (telling the reader what is happening) which takes from the emersion of the scene (showing us what is happening), which in turn wastes the thought which could be used to express an aspect of the character's personality.
I very much enjoyed the short chapters, making it a very quick and easy read without feeling overwhelmed with finding a stopping point when I have to step away. It was a nice change.
Should the writer choose to do so, they have plenty of room to add in details, world building, and character interactions that don't rely on dialogue. Though the dialogue does feel a bit sparse, it feels very to-the-point, which I very much enjoy.
Grammar: I didn't notice any grammar issues. So full marks here.
Story: Our young hero has come of age and is desperately looking forward to learning magic, only to discover that he can't. It's not long before another spirit offers him their blessing granting him the power of fire, much to his household's mysery (Any one who has control over the themostat/AC knows how important this talent is).
In the backdrop something sinister is brewing. There's something involving a missing girl, and a war against mana beasts which his family are defending the wall against. We feel a real sense of urgency in our hero to join his brothers to defend the city/nation.
Characters: The characters are a little lacking in definition. We have a strong sense of who our Little Commander is, but there's no strong defining traits beyond what we're told for most all of the other characters. We need a bit more than just physical traits to connect with a character. It's more than physical traits that make a character memorable - it's through speech and actions, and though Patty, the mother, and Undine do plenty of things and say plenty of things, there's something missing to make them stand out as more than shadows in our hero's story.
There's a lot of care that went into the story creation which I could feel based on the way they tell us about the world in drips and drabs, and in how the magic system works - so I know they put a lot of thought into the work.
Despite its flaws, it's very much an enjoyable light read which makes for a nice change of pace from my usual dark fantasy fair.
A reincarnated entity recounds his life to Death over a cup of tea. We are thrust into the early years of an exceptional child with exceptional awareness and magical abilities who seems bent on mayhem. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.
I'm enjoying how the world building is dropped in a line at a time as the MC is introduced to his new world.