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Fantasy Parody

By Palladian, editor, author of Super

Jun 10, 2013: I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this review for a while, and putting it off as I read more and more chapters, hoping that I’d finally be able to connect with this story. I finally came to the conclusion that it’s just not my thing, but it may work for others.

The story follows three elves, the nominal main character Baughb, the nerdy and courage-impaired Airek, and Airek’s best friend, Filis, who is in most ways the opposite of her friend. The story itself actually starts out as a web comic and goes over to a web fiction in the 87th chapter, which caused me a bit of confusion when trying to navigate the site (link goes to most recently published chapter, rather than the beginning, so when I clicked on the ‘begin’ link, having a text story that starts as a webcomic made me think I kept ending up in the wrong place).

Elf Life reads like a fantasy parody, in my opinion. Airek and Filis are elves in a more modern village, living in a time of peace with their neighbors, while Baughb is an old hero from the more warlike past that got thrown forward into the future due to . . . bad luck, sort of.

As the story developed, it felt to me that the characters seemed to be there mostly to be mocked, which made it hard for me to connect with any of them. The numerous enemies Baughb gained during his past exploits keep showing up to carry out plots against him, but they all appear to be just as inept as Baughb, who’s something like a bull in a china shop no matter where he goes.

The names of the characters should have clued me in, I guess, since in the main they’re puns (the elves’ being essentially different spellings of common American names, and the bad guys’ usually being a pun on how inept they are – such as ‘Phoeble’ or ‘Ozmiander’). It was a bit funny at first, but after reading more than ninety chapters of Baughb bumbling around, Airek following shrinkingly behind him, and Filis trying to save the day, and the same jokes over and over (Baughb’s ineptness, the villains’ buffoonery, the attempts to kidnap one or another of the party that go awry, and the attempts of the others to get them back) just wore thin for me.

Technically, I have nothing but compliments for the story. The art that the story starts off with is excellent, and the writing that the story continues with is fairly polished. For anyone that has fond memories of Bored of the Rings, I would definitely recommend this story for you, but unfortunately it’s not really my cup of tea.

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Words Obscuring Story

By Ingstrand, member

Mar 2, 2013: As far as I can tell, E.L.F. has an interesting concept, an exciting story and engaging characters. I won’t find out more about any of them, unfortunately, because the language is close to unreadable.

I realize that this is a strong statement, so let me qualify it. Other readers might not bother as much about language as I do. Some of the things that bother me could be regional language variations that I’m not aware of, and the situation almost certainly improves as the story proceeds and the author becomes more experienced. In any case, a review shouldn’t be about language alone, but I can’t very well make a statement like ‘close to unreadable’ without giving examples. I’ll briefly mention a few things that I react to in the first paragraph.

Let’s begin with the always important first sentence: ‘Screened away from unwanted eyes by northwest country ferns bedazzled by fat droplets from the rains never far from recent, Shannon Hunter crouched in the dark.’ ‘Rains never far from recent’ is ungrammatical, but there is another problem here. In the first part of the sentence, we find out that 1) something or someone is screened away, 2) the screening protects from eyes that aren’t wanted (a rather strange idea, but we still don’t know anything about the world of the story), 3) the screening is done by northwest country ferns, 4) we are probably in the northwestern part of wherever the story takes place, 5) the ferns are wet, 6) it rains a lot. This part of the sentence is so long, dense and unwieldy that by the time we reach the terse and effective ‘Shannon Hunter crouched in the dark,’ it has all become a confusing jumble. We have to go back and try to figure out what we just read, and any chance to pull the reader into the story straight away is lost.

The next sentence is ‘But not as some cowering whelp.’ I have no problems with the grammar, but the voice makes me stop again—who would use an expression like ‘cowering whelp’? Perhaps someone like Denethor in The Lord of the Rings, high-status, archaic wording for an angry high-status character in an epic setting. Not that a narrator couldn’t sound like that, but the narration would draw the reader’s attention to itself rather than become a transparent window to the events of the story (which would be perfectly all right if that was the author’s attention and the voice was kept consistent).

Only minor quibbles for the rest of the paragraph; surely hiding is a ‘result’ rather than a ‘product’ of fear, and surely hunters use weapons rather than tools. Small details, but when there is a small detail like that in nearly every sentence, reading becomes a start-and-stop-and-start-again activity that soon wears me out. Which is a shame, because I would have loved to read this novel.

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Editor’s First Impression

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Feb 24, 2013: I was excited to see the blurb for this novel – an Earth Liberation Front (E.L.F.) activist encounters real elves who are bent on more than sabotage! At first the writing style of the first chapter put me off. There is very odd word usage: "his confusion-mutilated features", mixing senses "it was written all over his tone", which sometimes works: floodlights "sent shadows screeching for cover". It’s at its worst in "She wore her thick lips defeated, and all but lowered her exotic eyes in futile submission" and at its most colourful in "Like silver wind chimes carried by a swarm of angry Africanized bees all bound within an electric zipper, it rose a shriek, crackling through the space betwixt like a bolt of lightning." Upon a second read I found I was starting to enjoy these unexpected turns of phrase, although I’m still a little doubtful. I’ll be very interested to find out what other people think of this story.

White Leaves is hosted on Jukepop, so to read beyond the first chapter you have to register, which is free.

Update: I eventually did try reading further, and found it a tough slog. Despite the interesting premise, in execution it didn’t grab or convince me.

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