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NATURE'S KINGDOM

Of Grasps, Reaching and Potential

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Oct 7, 2018: Nature’s Kingdom is an ambitious, sprawling story that doesn’t seem to acknowledge its potential. Because it has potential but it gets in the way of itself, which, as a reader, I found somewhat maddening.

Is it one of the worst written serials I’ve seen? No. In fact, I didn’t really notice anything in the sense of grammar or spelling issues. The serial has my usual bugbears, particularly some excessive adverb use, but it’s a rare serial that doesn’t. Is it one of the best? No. It fits into a solid middle ground, as far as prose goes.

So, how does it get in the way of itself? Well, that comes down to a strange mixture of issues around the story’s tone, genre, and worldbuilding.

We’ll start with worldbuilding because it is the most obvious issue. Throughout my readthrough of NK, I found myself genuinely confused by the world presented to me. There’s so much stuff here! NK is a veritable multiverse of ideas and worlds and heroes and villains, but it’s difficult to pin down to something I could actually follow and keep track of that could allow me to know what the protagonist knows.

If I think there’s one key concern in this story, it is the story’s love of infodumping. Generally, there is at least one extremely detailed section of worldbuilding in each chapter and it becomes very hard to keep track of it all—and I was taking notes.

What’s bothersome about all this is that the story isn’t particularly consistently bad. Every so often, there’re some neat bits. I really liked this one line about fear being a meat grinder that rips and twists through your guts and I also really liked the little ode. I would also especially say that the first interlude is far, far better than anything else in the story that it’s somewhat astounding. Is that because it’s written in third than first, like the rest of NK? Maybe.

Similar to the above, a lot of the stuff in the infodumps could be entire stories in and of themselves . . . but they’re just kind of dumped on the reader’s lap. Because of this, it feels like all the interesting stuff is happening elsewhere.

Some of this is exacerbated by the story crossing over what feels like half-a-dozen genres, preventing the reader from being able to settle into the story. There’s divine beings, kitsunes, celestial enforcers, superheroes, aliens, robots, otherworldly invasions, and more. There’s no real ability to establish expectations through shorthand.

Because of this, the tone can be . . . odd. It feels like a fairly mundane high school story, but there are some rather detailed descriptions of gore and so on that feel out of place. The story also opens with a particular act that may throw people out completely.

Pacing and emphasis feels a bit strange. The story is dialogue-heavy, exacerbating the infodump issue, but also focused a lot on high school particulars, perhaps to the detriment of the actual plot. There is an initial sequence about a kitsune on the run but it’s over way too quickly and the antagonists are never properly intimidating.

On the issue of pacing, I came back to a common feeling with NK—like there were chapters missing. There were a few times where characters show up in the narrative for the first time when it’s presented like we already know them. Sometimes, I could go back and see, oh, I think I see the foreshadowing—but that sometimes required going all the way back to the prologues, and, as mentioned, there’s a LOT to keep track of.

I keep coming back to this image of someone sprinting across a tightrope. The story just never quite finds the right balance of everything it’s trying to do—and it’s trying to cover a lot of ground. I feel like if the story slowed down and consolidated the existing plot threads into more of a tapestry (and maybe dropped the first-person perspective) it could be so much more than it currently is.

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