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By Palladian, editor, author of Super

Sep 7, 2013: This is the second piece I’ve read from this author, and I was pleased to see the progression of his work from the last tale to this one. In this story, we follow Simon and Claudia, new students at Deton Academy who find out that something seems very wrong with the school they’ve been attending. I liked seeing the author’s improved character development, and enjoyed finding out more about these two as he ran them through their paces. I liked that the two of them seemed to be balanced and fairly well-rounded, and I look forward to seeing even better characterization in his next serial.

The plot also seems better thought out than in this author’s last effort, and I could tell the author spent a bit of time thinking out the actions of the characters and reactions based on what they did. I only had a couple times when my suspension of disbelief failed (e.g., what amounts to probably hundreds of students disappearing over a few years and none of their parents even thought to give them a surprise visit?), so I definitely appreciated that the author thought this plot through a lot better.

As for things that could possibly be improved for future efforts, I would have liked to see as much care taken with plotting the end of the story as was obviously given to the beginning and middle. I’ve found that having an outline that at least covers major things that should be covered in the introduction/setup, the middle, and the climax/resolution of the story helped me to make sure no part of the story was overburdened or too light; perhaps this is a tool that would be helpful here. One more thing I’d like to mention is that sometimes one of the most effective things horror/suspense story writers do is to start with hints of where they’re going and wait until they’re well into the story to reveal what the real problem or difficulty is. Having the ‘punch line’ (that all the Seniors were being sacrificed by the dean of the school) revealed in the first chapter seemed to take away a bit of the impact, I thought. One of the things that I think horror and suspense writers like to exploit is their own readers’ imaginations; people have the capability to imagine just about any sort of horrible thing, especially when they don’t know what it actually is.

At any rate, I definitely enjoyed reading Umbra, even though I ended up wishing the ending felt a bit less rushed. I’d definitely recommend this story to suspense and horror fans.

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