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Reads like quicksilver

By 20150506, author of Paladin

Sep 4, 2018: Ghosts in Quicksilver, by Elliott Dunstan, is about ghosts in Ottawa. It’s also about Jamal, a seventeen-year-old private detective haunted by her dead sister; their first case, which happens to be a murder; and the trials of moving into a new place and fitting in with the supernatural community, which they just learned exists. There’s a lot going on in this story.

Fortunately the writer is good at juggling the different threads and keeping the story running smoothly. Ghosts in Quicksilver reads like quicksilver and that’s a fair achievement. It’s hard enough getting the information down on paper. Getting it to pass easily from the page to the reader’s mind takes skill and sensitivity. When a story flows well, it is easy to imagine and provides a fuller experience. When a story doesn’t flow well, the effect is like someone stepping on your feet at the movies. It breaks suspension of disbelief and reminds you that you’re just a spectator.

Dunstan’s work pulls you in, and not just because of the workmanlike prose. It also joins the growing "supernatural detective" subgenre that includes personal favorites like Hellblazer, The Dresden Files, and Rivers of London. As with most works of urban fantasy Jamal’s the world is recognizably our own, but with added fantasy elements. There are seven types of magic user: Some, like our hero, can see ghosts. Others can read minds or change their shape. The whole thing feels plausible and balanced.

I do have some minor gripes. For example, Dunstan likes to describe characters a little bit at a time, allowing the reader to gradually build up a picture of what they look like. This works most of the time but not when it comes to Jamal, who has something of an unconventional appearance. We learn in Chapter 2 that she’s seventeen, red-haired, and a girl, or at least presents as a girl. We gathered she was dark-skinned but we don’t get confirmation until a few chapters later. Granted, the first-person-perspective isn’t the best at describing the main character but I feel like some of these details should’ve been mentioned at the start, back when I was picking voices. My version of Jamal sounds like Humphrey Bogart and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Otherwise I recommend Ghosts in Quicksilver to anyone who likes snarky ghosts, solid worldbuilding, magic users learning to use their powers, young heroes being way over their head, supernatural communities hidden by a masquerade, and Canadian in-jokes. At least, I’m pretty sure the jokes are in there.

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A lot of ambition, but sometimes things get ‘lost-in-translation’

By nippoten, author of Entirely Presenting You

Jul 24, 2017: Yokaishiteru is actually one of three serials on the site (with a fourth to come soon). This will be a general review/impression of what I’ve read.

The three serials are as follows:

Yokaishiteru – A story about a group of troubled girls as they form a school idol club.

Checkboxes – A story about a girl who tries to ‘save everyone’ before she dies. (That’s in the description) Set before Yokaishiteru.

Akuma no Imouto – A story of demon siblings who own and operate a bar that’s a popular hangout both for mortals and demons, and the secrets that are shared among patrons.

The first thing that struck me about the stories is that they’re anime inspired. Or, to put it more clearly, Japanese-media inspired. These serials wear their inspirations on their sleeve. From the settings, characters, the way the dialogue flows, mannerisms, in-jokes, it’s all very up front and apparent. If you are really not a fan of what are essentially Original English Light Novels, you might not get past the first chapter of any of the three serials. However, if you are at least familiar, you might be able to find something enjoyable. The writer clearly knows their stuff, and can easily flip typical ‘anime’ tropes on their head.

As far as general impressions go, the three stories are okay. The characters are varied and distinct enough to find at least one you’d want to follow, making me want to click ‘next chapter.’ Dialogue can be awkward at times, mostly because the writer is trying to write as if it’s a translated light novel. Characters usually ‘tell’ more than ‘show,’ and reading out ‘chan’ ‘kun’ and ‘senpai’ in English can be distracting.

There are some genuinely funny moments scattered throughout, though. In Yokaishiteru, the main character is a demon, having learned human culture through watching television, yet refused to believe that the French language was real when she heard it for the first time. And, it’s clear that each and every character has a detailed backstory, with little clues and hints sprinkled throughout every chapter (though heavy-handed sometimes). It’s clear a lot of thought and effort went into these serials.

The three serials are fine on their own, but being clumped together on the same site, by the same writer, presents a few issues. For one, Yokaishiteru takes place in the same school, but some time after Checkboxes. Know that it will come with some huge spoilers for Checkboxes, and a few off-handed references to events that are only relevant if you’ve read that serial. It’s not too distracting, but I would still probably say start with Checkboxes, its plot is more intriguing, and feels more focused.

Secondly, since there are so many serials, each serial is rotated in terms of updates. Meaning, if you catch up to say, Akuma no Imouto, and you only want to read that, you’d have to wait almost a month until the next update. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but it’s something to keep in mind as far as being a reader goes.

All in all, what’s here is interesting to follow, and it’s easy to tell that the writer has a lot of ambition. The writing itself is decent, so if the writer can shed some of the Japanese influences that color their work, and focus that ambition into a single serial, I think we’d have something worth revisiting every week. As of right now, it’s at least worth a look.

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Editor’s First Impression

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Oct 26, 2014: Note on the podcast version: I enthusiastically recommend it as a wonderful way to experience this story. The reader Bill Uden sounds just right for Jesse. A couple of the sound files near the end are corrupted though, I think.(The story itself I have mixed feelings about, but it’s certainly an above average piece of writing, and I did enjoy listening to it).

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