Ah, so I’ve obviously caught up already, and I have a few more notes. This critique may be shorter than the others, as I would hate to rehash what I have already expressed admiration for and concern about. That said, allow me to begin my review of parts eleven through seventeen.
In part 11 most of my qualms lie in the fact that terms were used like “legit” and “burn”, which somewhat diminished the credibility of your setting, which is in a time and context far removed from the modern jargon. You already have nice swears like “Good King Hector” and “scats”, so replacing the more contemporary words would do you well, I think.
In part 12 you open to what I dub in my mind the ‘salamander arc’ with the tale of the Aina, a man of man, and the forest. I would suggest embellishing it a bit more so the reader gets a greater sense of its import, and just to heighten the suspense and drama of it. The dialogue you have after it between Odette and Thanatos, however, is wonderful as is. Other than the aforementioned, the only other part-specific critique I have is in part 13. There you use the sentence: “His back slammed against a tree and roughly tied his hands behind his back.” The pronoun usage is confusing as to who is performing the action of tying Thanatos’s hands, and it was the only sentence in the entirety of the parts to really bug me.
Thus, with all those technicalities out of the way, allow me to leap into the plot. Odette’s strong personality was, as ever, a brilliant counterpart to that of Thanatos’s distance and self-interest. Her vibrant dialogue really keeps things alive, and I like the way their schoolyard bets and activities remind the reader that they are people. It makes one doubly frightened for them as they traipse into the wood. The salamanders were fantastic, I have to say. Utterly creepy, creating a very real sense of danger, mysterious, and well described. I particularly liked the bit where Thanatos was almost swallowed by the thick gooey mass of one of the creatures. But my favorite aspect of that entire scene was the semi-rescue by the shadow men. The way they both delivered and exacted a price, so to speak, of Thanatos and the way it makes one wonder to what extent Death was involved are excellent ties to the main plot of the story. Of everything that transpired with the shadow men and salamanders, I felt only that the legend Odette and Thanatos kept referring to as well as Mr. Life’s decision to involve himself and limited ability to help could have been better elaborated.
After that, Odette’s coma was a lovely, believable transition to Thanatos’s employ with Mr. Death, though again I wasn’t sure if the lack of power I felt from Thanatos’s emotions at the time he made his decision was an aspect of his personality or the manner it was written. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, I was merely curious if the flatness of his determination was intentional. Damian’s brief moment to shine with his point of view was brilliant. The irony of him finally swearing “Good King Hector” as Thanatos woke and the revelation that he has no real malice toward Odette and Thanatos was excellent. You consistently introduce antagonists whom are ambiguous at best, and I think this lends real credibility to your work and shows quite some skill to your credit.
Which brings Thanatos under the employ of Mr. Death. I liked the matter-of-fact way he woke up to and faced that, I have to say. And as I should I have an inherent distrust of Mr. Death, but his contract especially made me wonder if I wouldn’t adore him more as a character than I had originally thought. You are certainly giving Mr. Life and he dimensions that are many shades between white and black, or so it seems. One isn’t even sure if they can believe that grey area. The intrigue is well sustained.
Also, Mr. Death brings Thanatos back to the forest. I can’t help but think Thanatos should have had keener misgivings about that than he did, though I may be wrong. In any case, perhaps I am trying to think of one last critique. The read was a real pleasure, as always. I look forward to future installments and hope you get over the bumps writing for my own sake as the reader.
I'm making a list of all the things you say. Pros and Cons. It's a lot, but I can't say how much I appreciate your critiques.
Diction and general use of language: You have caught me. I'm constantly falling into this trap, being concerned about which words to use and more often than not, the simpler, less appropriate words slip through. My spelling is already horrific, having degraded by living in Korea and my language has become similarly so. I am working on this one, have no fear. It's a recently developed habit I'm bent on breaking.
I wish to address and issue which you mentioned in the last critique: the jumpiness between the years in which Odette and Thanatos grew up. I'm going back over the sections and seeing how I can rearrange them to make them flow better. I think this will help tie into and help develop more Thanatos' humanity, his compassion, and how Odette influences him. I'm oh so happy to hear that you love Odette's voice. Going back through her dialogue, I realize she's more vibrant than I originally thought. And I'm somewhat sad to not have her in most of the scenes, as this is Thanatos' story and not her's.
The legend is not as developed as I'd like it to be. I will admit that. As for the incident with the salamanders, and Mr. Death's involvement, all I can say is that Mr. Death is a massive troll, to use a modern day term. Your perception of Mr. Death is so spot on for what I'm looking for, I can't help but squeal.
Thanatos is a thorn with his emotions. Originally, in the short story, "Mr. Death and Me" which is posted on DA (you can read if you want, but the novel doesn't follow anymore) I wrote him to be a very apathetic character. He had a severe lack of emotion. I feel that upon Odette's demise and Thanatos' desire to change his sudden bad fortune, it can be taken either way. Yes, it is apart of who he is. We are who we are and Thanatos is not what we call a charismatic fellow. On the other hand, he's desperate, angry, scared, and he's been shocked out of his comfort zone, so, in my mind, what would Thanatos do, but recede into himself? Hide from the world. It is what he does best and I imagine what many of us, or at very least, the more introverted of humanity does. Granted, authorial intent doesn't have much weight (I believe the reader's reactions have greater importance) and there are things which the draft may need to portray this emotion.
Damian! I'm glad you've caught the build up with the "Good King Hectors." Antagonists are hard and I think that's why I was drawn to them. I know the world like's it's heroes, and they're all well and good, but sometimes, most of the time, they come off as cliche to me. They stand for what is right and what is good and everybody knows there's good vs evil and there's clear defined line. I don't think humans and humanity is that simple. As a Christian, sure, there's a clear defined line of good and evil, but humans are that single most grey area. What we do, what we say. Anti-heroes, then, are closer to the truth than any hero is. Ah, but there I go a-rambling.
I find myself editing and manipulating the story based on your reactions and what you write. It's like offering you a cake with some nice gushy filling inside and watch you poke and prod at it's sides. Where the innards (or jelly or ice cream or other filling) comes out, I go, "Ahh, okay. That needs fixing." or "Oh yes. I've got her traipsing about, now here's a hoop of fire." It feels malicious on my part, I'm sorry, as that's not my intent. I don't want to consider my readers dumb and knowing that good literature often has it's readers guessing, I'm attempting to keep you on your toes. More than half the time, I don't feel like I'm succeeding, but when you say, "I care about your characters. I love this. The dialogue was splendid. It makes me wonder..." I cannot help but swell with joy that something is being written right. So, I tip my metaphorical hat to you with a thousand humble thanks.
I am a reader that enjoys being toyed with. Masochistic soul I have for my reading, I like to be writhing in ignorant agony until the last chapter. ^^ If you're doing that to me, well, DAMN even better. And no need for thanks, I can't express enough that I enjoy doing it for this particular story.
757 words. Nice! I love such kind of result!