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EXILES

An odd tale.

By Rhythm, author of Touch

Jul 28, 2018: (Note, four star score added after the fact as the author voiced his intent to remedy some of the flaws mentioned.)

Okay, this review’s a weird one for me. It’s rare that I ever encounter such a stark contrast of highs and lows in a single story. For that reason, I will abstain from giving it a rating, as I genuinely think this example defies that system. A part of me wants to give it a solid four point five, but another part knows that giving it anything above a three and a half would be ignoring some pretty glaring flaws. Okay, with that said, let’s go from the top.

Anyways, we start out on a grim coastline in the grim depths of winter where a bunch of grim men are awaiting the grim duty of kidnapping some slaves to make into someone else’s slaves. As you might have gathered, the story starts out rather bleak in tone. The perspective character informs us through his inner monologue that things weren’t always so dire before he got himself here, and unusually for such a piece, actually kinda manages to sell me on the idea. This is the first flaw I will note; that the first chapter, to my mind, isn’t particularly representative of what is held within. To be perfectly honest, it struck me initially as being edgy for the sake of it, and in that regard, to my view, it kinda sells itself short. Had I not been reading this story to write a review, for example, I likely wouldn’t have read past the initial chapter because of the impression it gave, and that’s a shame, because it was in the second chapter and onwards where the good character writing really began to grab me. This is, of course, at least partially a matter of taste. I may not go in for grim stories, but I’m sure some readers do, and to them, the opening chapter would have served as an excellent hook. This is another reason why I will refrain from adding a score to this review.

I did have some less subjective issues with it, however. There are a lot of moments where my immersion was challenged by one aspect of the writing or another, only to be brought back in by what is, again, some really rather skilled character writing. Unfortunately, however, the fact does remain that my immersion was repeatedly challenged. These issues ranged from small niggles like the continual flow of standard High Fantasy gibberish names which make getting into a piece more difficult because it forces you to memorize a glossary of nonsensical words, to more serious issues, such as plot holes. I often found myself asking things like “Why is this incredibly paranoid and security conscious organization not bothered by a guy very obviously staring in through their windows for the last several days” or “Why is the woman who had her tongue cut out still fully capable of speech?” (This was a fairly serious one for me, because apart from that inconsistency, I actually rather liked Ellyn as a character. She’s proactive and capable without being overpowered, and I like that) While these problems are reduced in density as the story goes on, it did still take me out of it me a little, especially at the start.

The prose itself is quite well constructed. There are occasional issues with missing words or punctuation, but overall, it’s quite passable. I could say similarly for the plot. It has some very interesting reveals and twists, and as it ramps up, actually becomes pretty exciting.

To be honest, the feeling I got the most from Exiles was of a DnD campaign put to paper. Every character, while rounded and interesting, seems to possess a powerset taken directly from a fantasy game character creator. The barbarians use heavy weaponry, the bard uses charisma and music to woo crowds, and the wizard walks around with a familiar and requires material components to make his spells work. This isn’t innately a bad thing, by any stretch; I just found it slightly odd.

All in all, Exiles really isn’t a bad read. It has good characters, an interesting setting, and a well rounded cast; and while my personal enjoyment of it was hampered by some aspects of the storytelling, it’s entirely possible that other readers’ won’t be. For what it’s worth, check it out, you might like it.

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EXILES

No title

By TheresaUber, member

Apr 16, 2018: I am really loving this series! Dark, yes, but seriously compelling.

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THE BROKEN LAND

Quality Fantasy Adventure

By Krako, member

Apr 10, 2018: The Broken Land is a fairly small-scale adventure set in a compelling fantasy world, featuring a magically mutated protagonist who mostly tries to live her life. The writing is quite professional in style, without any weird web-serialisms.

The titular "Broken Land" is a fairly conventional high-medieval fantasy setting. The Innovation is that the ambient magic outside of the boundaries that protect settlements acts a bit like radioactive fallout, mutating flora and fauna. Plants and beasts can become dangerous monsters, and humans too can become "Changed," although they generally keep their sanity.

The protagonist is Sif, a young war refugee who starts the story working as the barmaid in the only inn of a backwater village. Sif is chock-full of depth, with traumas and vulnerabilities aplenty, but also with a set of smarts and a ruthless streak. She’s also a Changed, and the author does a great job portraying her condition. She has certain advantages over normal humans but also many quality of life issues stemming from her physiology, and the people around her react to her in a variety of ways, from fascination to disgust.

The plot begins when an imperial survey team visits Sif’s village for mysterious reasons. The story is more small-scale (so far) in that there’s no big villain and no world ending threat. Sif really just tries to live happily and peacefully, although events tend to conspire against her.

As aforementioned, the writing is quality, as might be found in a published novel, and the grammar and mechanics are flawless. One kick I do have is that first arc, set in a tiny struggling village, has a somewhat grey and depressing tone. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, and I believe it’s done on purpose, but it’s a strange way to start off your serial. The plot does move on from the village though, and it gets considerably more colourful.

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