Reviews for The Path of Skulls
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 15 . 10/1/2009
Groovy. This is a cool section, though it's a lot of talking and exposition. It has the feel of the big twist at the end of an episode of some detective show when they finally figure out who did it, and they explain it all triumphant-like. I might just be stupid from lack of sleep (and it might've worked better if I'd read these first two chapters straight through instead of pausing) but some of that sense fell flat to me, because seeing as how this is the opening of this story, we don't get to see all the beginning part where Paellon was figuring all this out, just the big reveal. For something that's just setting the stage, I suppose, it works well enough, I'll have to see where the story goes from here and how the finished product (!) flows altogether, but just from this limited perspective it seems like this master plan takes a little too long to finish up, putting our three fearless heroes at the top of the heap where I'm guessing they're going to be for the main plot of the story, unless this is going to continue to be involved in the main plot of the story, which would make it more understandable in view of me not yet knowing where the story as a whole is going to go.

I need to do more writing to let those words get out in an orderly fashion; my sentences are getting longer, I suspect.

The phrase "For you see" gives me the gibblies. I've never heard someone actually say that out loud without sounding like a total idiot. Maybe it's just me, but I'd lose the "for". More generally, some of your dialogue seems to wander back and forth from more modern to more archaic modes of speech a little bit. As an example, the word "figured" used by Madame Corva towards the beginning doesn't seem like something an aristocratic thief-lord/madame would say. Phrases like "how come" pull me out of the period a little, as well. Again, however, this might just be me.

On a related note, I can't decide whether or not the phrase "frosty fa├žade" is too clever for its own good.

I like that Phaidon Harpe is a woman, I didn't see that coming at all.

The line "We see with our eyes,not our hands" is awesome.

The ending kinda makes me wary. If that's really her being completely guileless, giving up and offering him nobility in exchange for her life, it seems like she gave up too easy. And if she has some ulterior motive, I feel like I should be more uneasy about it. As it is, it feels like she fights him for a while then suddenly gives up. I don't know Madame Corva like you do (your character and all) but I get the feeling she's a woman who always has something up her sleeve, and your audience (and Paellon, too, perhaps) should feel that sense that there's some reason not to take her offer, even when it seems great.

As always, take this with a grain of salt, because it's late and I fear I'm not half the reviewer I used to be, as this is just my halfhearted review of your incredible work that deserves better than my bleary-eyed perusal and knee-jerk reactions. I do like it, and I am enjoying reading it. Keep up the good work, amigo. :)
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 14 . 9/30/2009
Read it. Oz running on the roof was cool, I could see it in my head very vividly, with the slipping and catching himself and tumbling through the window. Gluttony and Envy are cool, I like all the sins. Curious to see how this plays out.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 13 . 9/15/2009
Honestly, what can I say critical about a chapter that features whores with weapons right from the start? Absolutely nothing.

In all seriousness, this part is cool, because it shows us something else about Paellen. His interaction with Angelica, as well as the fact that he obviously has an extensive past relationship with the brothel, gives us another side to him. Angelica is a cool character in her own right, I'll have to wait to see how she develops.

The throwaway line about looking into Lucas' eyes and seeing your own ghost is cool.

Movin' on.
A. M. Herr chapter 1 . 9/7/2009
I aboslutely adore the description of Loste Mor. I'm sucked in and definately want to keep reading. Good hook.
Eilyd chapter 1 . 7/20/2009
My sincerest apologies, my dear author, for the delay in my proper review.

Truthfully, I generally have a low regard for prologues. They seldom tell the readers important information that is necessary before reading the rest of the book, and generally seem like a waste of paper and time. But then, they seldom introduce a story set in a completely different world.

The style in which you wrote this fascinates me...it doesn't tell a thing about the characters or the story, it simply paints the background of the story in very vivid, if foreboding, shades. The wording is very poetical, too: prose rather than straight narrative. It sweeps the reader into the story in a bardic way, and sets the whole mood to the story so that it obviously relates a fantastic legend, rather than just someone's crazed story.

Your choice of the present tense was also quite astute. It's so simple, but it goes miles for making the reader believe that Loste Mor is in fact a real place, that this story happened not so long ago, and that this is more than just a daydream. The mention of other cities from which commodities are imported go even further to give Loste Mor roots in reality.

Again, dear author, my apologies for my review's slow coming. Adieu until the next chapter.

Eilyd
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 12 . 7/13/2009
Sorry for the belated review. Some stuff cropped up, real-life style. As a consequence, I may repeat myself in this review, or leave some things out. Take it for what it is.

It took me a little while to get in the swing of this chapter, and I think the reason why was that I remember Oz and Lucas, but I don't recall ever reading about Paellen (I probably did, but I don't recall him). Therefore, when I started reading the first bit about Paellen, I was a little lackluster until I got farther into it. For a reader who was more familiar with Paellen from your later stories (given that this is a prequel) it may work better. Also, as a caveat, it's been a long time since I've read the main stories in this series, and it may have just taken me a little while to warm back up and remember how much I love Aikea.

As you know, I love the Sins. They're fascinating characters (though they're not really developing characters, more like forces of nature, which is cool), and I can't wait to see how they work out and interact with your heroes.

Also, I really love the setting. My single favorite thing about the Aikea Chronicles is that you're not afraid to create a unique setting that develops technologically, from pre-medieval to space-age. The early-steampunk setting here in the prequel is awesome, and the more unique technological touches you can put into the story, the happier I'll be. To elaborate on this "happiness" and give my reasoning: Since this has the feeling of the conventional sword-and-sorcery type of setting, that's what will immediately spring to a reader's mind. Therefore, I think it would be beneficial to the story (that is, making it more unique and memorable) to emphasize the there's a higher level of technology in Loste Mor at this point.

In all, I like where this story's going, and it's getting me more in the mood to jump back into Aikea and read some of your older stuff as well.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 11 . 7/9/2009
This sentence: "Paellen peeked at his own hand, pretty good but he knew it had to be better than Jewels." It's just awkward somehow. Not sure how to change it to make it better, but it needs some shuffling around and rewording to make it work better.

I love how Sloth doesn't react to the gunshot, except to take advantage of the spilled beer. The Sins are my favorite.

You need some of Jewels' reaction as he gets his fingers broken and gets dragged down to the wine cellar. There's nothing describing what he says, does, or looks like from the time he shoots at Pride to when we hear him screaming from the cellar.

Otherwise, I really liked this chapter. I'm warming up more to Paellen's sections of the story, getting the feel of it. I'll leave some final thoughts for the whole chapter tomorrow.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 10 . 7/8/2009
I think it would be cooler if, rather than knowing that Jack probably has a needle on him, that Lucas actually feel it, pressing on the back of his neck or something, ready to go straight through his spine. I get the feeling that Jack's a formidable opponent, a veteran fighter, but Lucas takes him down way too easy. This being the first chapter, I think you can (and should) strike a balance between showing how elegantly thought-out your heroes' plan is and still toss us a cool fight scene.

I like that Lucas can't read. It's another one of those little details that helps subtly suggest the period you're going for.

Nothing else much to say 'bout this. The chemistry between Oz and Lucas in the first meeting we see flows well, and makes me really think ahead to the years and years of desperate, mall-destroying fight scenes that their friendship is going to decay into.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 9 . 7/7/2009
Ahh, the unfolding of the plan. Good stuff. One thing that doesn't really work as well for me is the very last line. It's too coy, I think. This is Paellon's big reveal, and I think after all the tremendous trouble he's gone to, all the crap he's taken off of these guys, he should be a lot more overtly smug and triumphant. Kind of an irresistible "In your face" moment, y'know?

Everyone's reactions here are really what sell the setting, i.e. that it's a world where no one is used to guns. We're in Paellon's head, so we see how he has to fight his own revulsion, the hardened gangsters are completely disgusted, and even Sloth and Pride are impressed. Good show.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 8 . 7/4/2009
"a shadow had been trailing behind them *since right after they met up with Lucas"

Had some trouble understanding what it is exactly that he does with the wires and the vials.

Maybe use "he" to refer to the shadow instead of "it". Once we know that the shadow is a person, "it" gets a little confusing sometimes.

Otherwise, fairly awesome introduction of your main character, brother. I was surprised and intrigued by the different epithet, Two-Steps instead of Shadowskin, and I'm curious to see how that works out.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 7 . 7/4/2009
There are a few complaints I have about this portion. The first is my mind going "I don't think that would actually work" about the thing Sloth does with the knife. I love Sloth as a character (and how he messes with Lemoore, like it's all a big joke, as well as how everything he does seems lazy and effortless). A blade the size of someone's finger would presumably be fairly light, so to actually go through someone's hand, it would need more velocity than just falling from the height of the ceiling. The general attitude that it reveals about Sloth is cool, but in a purely physics-based sense it screws with my suspension of disbelief.

The second is the last few paragraphs. I couldn't tell who was playing which cards, because of a few pronouns that could have applied to either Paellon or Richards.

That's really all I have to say negatively, though. I like part five, and I love that the cards have special suits (Ravens, Doves, Blades, and Shadows), not just the regular hearts/diamonds/clubs/spades thing. Really cool.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 6 . 7/4/2009
Didja know that Esliim from Seven Storms uses throwing needles? I've always liked the idea, and I'm curious to see how it plays out with your Needles.

I like how they call Lucas "Surgeon", that's a rockin' nickname for someone who kills/tortures people.

It's good how you're still slowly developing what the reader knows through subtle hints. It's one of your strong points. :)
Eilyd chapter 12 . 7/2/2009
My dear narcissistic author:

I am in fact reading and enjoying this, but I don't think I can properly comment on the preceding chapter yet as it is too good to dismiss with a few lines of fawning drivel.

Instead, I will go back and read these sections properly when I am not half asleep, and review each part as it deserves.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 5 . 7/2/2009
I'm liking the increasingly steampunk touches you're throwing in, like Richards' "optics", the alchemical streetlamps you mentioned earlier, and the introduction of the gun towards the end (though I get the image of a slick, wild-west revolver, while I felt like it's a more primitive firearm than that, and you should maybe put a little more description into making that clear). Also, Pride is cool here, but from reading part 1 I didn't really get the impression that he would actually come to Paellon's aid. Until the very last few lines of part 1, their relationship seemed less amiable and more like that of enemies. You might want to see what you can do to convey the same guarded, grudging camaraderie of the last few lines in the rest of their conversation, I don't know.

This, too, is a great chapter. I like Reaper's Shuffle, and I like that we find out what it is. Maybe make it clear that Paellon's putting it to his own temple, and why.

I liked the introduction of the other characters, it felt very natural, and I got a great sense of both Tommy and Lemoore.
Ahrar Nighthammer chapter 4 . 7/2/2009
For some reason, part two seems to flow a lot more smoothly than part one did. I really love this little chunk of the story. This part revolves around the mystery of how he says that Oz is dead (but of course I know that Oz isn't dead, and if this is a prequel, your average reader will as well) so it makes us start to suspect that not everything he says is true, so we're looking for the double-cross, which gives the whole part an air of tension, and furthers the idea laid down in part one that we've just been dropped in on some big plan that's going down.

Ye gods, that's a long sentence.

There were a few parts where I stumbled a bit over wording and such, but they were a lot fewer and farther between than in part one. Good stuff. Keep it up.
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