Reviews for Dead Craft
m. b. whitlock chapter 4 . 4/28/2015
RG Depth #4,808

Really cool chapter. I feel like I’m getting to know Achitophel and the world of the witches. As things expand in this universe they stretch in all directions, multiple dimensions. I am really enjoying the depth of the construction and how everything seems interconnected.

Opening/Writing/Techniques/Style:

Like this foreshadowing here:
“"Bitch killed him, cut his throat right in front of me. She had knives everywhere, had a fucking switchblade in her boot, man. Hex didn't do shit. We should be dragging her ass down here…””
I have a feeling we are going to meet that b*tch. Soon. ;)

Like this personification of death here:
“The night of my capture—I would've embraced death like one of my oldest lovers. But since that night, the witches have done nothing but pull her away from me.”
Makes a lot of sense for a shaper, especially for Achitophel to think this way. (And reminds me of your ’Sickle’ story which I liked a lot)

Again, I’m really into the physical nature of the witches’ magic. It’s a really original way to portray spells:
“There are so many spells it takes two witches just to sort through the threads and unlace them, hands signing with small slights. I can feel the magic seared into the cracks of the walls, webbing outward like jagged deep scars.”

Action/Description/Character/Settting:

Really great action description here:
“Then bolt forward—staggering clumsy in the dark on my knees, hands spread searching for anything I might be able to use as a weapon. It moves too quick to be anything but a vampire. If I could stake it—somehow. But there's nothing. Just ash and more ash. A vampire that kills other vampires…”
I like how you put your readers right in the moment in that section.

This is a freaky development:
“A witch—turned vampire. A wound flayed from its blood.”
It strikes me as freaky even though I still don;t know a whole lot about this world. From what I’ve learned so far though, this is a very tribal land. For one individual to be a member of more than one race/tribe/clan/species seems like it must be an aberration big time. :)

Really like this part too:
“Va'y moor, va'y moor! His own magic works against him as another hex razors. I flinch. I've never felt a witch's magic that wasn't wholly part of them. Witch magic is the witch.”
So visceral and disturbing!

I’m also starting to really get into the different languages of this world. It seems like this poor witch vampire has been reduced to primitive, basic moans, like he’s lost all sense of syntax…

Really lovely setting description here (even though it’s a pretty horrifying scene:
“I frantically look up, and find myself near a door with a high panel of cracked glass above the frame. Webbed with blood. Faint brackish light and voices. Someone's coming.”
Really like your use of ‘brackish’.

Wow. So I’m not certain whether or not Achitophel is dead or not by the end. Really like how you portray it as a bit of an out-of-body experience for him. Like the cliffy!

Really like how this tale is building. It’s so deep yet not slow at all. Deep character, deep action, lots to think about even though it catches me up and is very intense as I read.

Like it!

vb,

mbw
LuckycoolHawk9 chapter 2 . 4/28/2015
Opening: The opening seems to lack a hook because it seems to start off in a very random spot with Achitophel's train of thought and disjars the reader as a whole. I however found the description aftewards to be interesting because we get a setting that is quite different and it does a great job showing the passage of time.
Spelling/ Grammar: The second sentences has a giant typo " he didn't ask after mine" which comes to disjar me from the piece as a whole and take me out of the narrator's mindset very rapidly. I also find the last line that Achitopel to be strange and I am not certain if it was intentional or not because it seems quite strange that it translates to a non-sense sentence.
Dialogue: I find the lack of dialogue for most of this chapter to be interesting because it seems to show the mental journal of Achitophel quite well and how he feels about being trapped. However, I do like the line of dialogue "Do this right - and we'll see about killing you." because it perfectly captures Nikolai and it is kinda of funny to think about.
Enjoyment: I really enjoyed this chapter because we got more into the psyche of Achitophel and seeing how he works. I also enjoyed how everything seemed to connect and you manage to incorporate some history because it reveals about Achitophel a lot.
Setting: I found this setting to be quite great because there is some real intense details that Achitophel is getting into and it helps the reader get a mental image. I also love the light imagery in the beginning because it comes to reflect Achitophel's emotion quite well too.
Characters: I feel terrible for Achitophel because he feels like a real person who has no control over his action. It also says a lot that he has not spoken because it comes to reveal that he has lost a very human ability for being a fox for so long that he lost touch with reality. I also find Nikolai to be quite good since we got a read on what type of person he is.
LuckycoolHawk9 chapter 1 . 4/28/2015
I like the way this chapter ended a lot because it tells a lot about Achitophel and his state of mind and how he feels at the moment, it shows how he hates being human now. I also like how he had been his fox form so long that he loses touch with his human appearance because it makes for a more complex character and story. I also love the metaphor " I'm in a cage in a cage" because it comes to show how trapped he truly is at the end of the day.
deadaccount2019 chapter 2 . 4/27/2015
[Opening] I kind of feel like the info in the opening paragraph could be used elsewhere. For example, Nikolai's name didn't feel necessary before they were in the office, and the surreality that Achi experiences doesn't seem to have the impact it would have if he was experiencing it later while awake. The opening line to the second paragraph also made for a stronger hook because the reader is hit with a dose of experience rather than exposition, and to be honest who can ignore scary hissing monsters?

[Writing] I'm definitely getting more of a sense for the manic Achi that I recall from the start of HTD. The timing for it feels right given that he's now been a prisoner of the witches for a bit, and there is definitely more of a sense of poetry in the voice. There are admittedly moments where the writing doesn't seem to stick as well as others and/or needed to be reread ("as rune magic coils hooked into my bones" as an example), but overall it feels like Achi.

[Plot] I really appreciate that we're getting a better idea of what's going in with Achi early on. Before, it had seemed like Achi was just the poor sucker who managed to end up tagging along with Charlotte, while in this version the witches are shown to have a reason beyond sadism to bind and keep him alive. It also serves as a great introduction to the backstory. Although it is a bit obvious as far as exposition goes, it's the good sort of obvious because it builds the intrigue for the here-and-now without getting too distracted with the past.

[Ending] The end surprised me quite a bit, as I hadn't expected Achi to translate. On the other hand, there is the technicality of the scrap reading "Danger. Gust says circle west." while Achi uses the words "Danger. The wind tells circle west." which could be indicative of a number of things, including a two-steps-ahead sort of deal. I mean, the wording is close enough that it could be a lazy translation, but at the same time it could also be an attempt to mislead the witches without it being too obvious. I want to say it's the latter, because of Achi's preceding introspect on human-shaper relations, but there isn't quite enough (obvious) evidence to be sure. This is a great way to end the chapter because the reader is left wondering just how desperate or enduring Achi truly is.
Virtuella chapter 7 . 4/27/2015
I liked how in this chapter ideas from the earlier part of the story appear and begin to make sense – the caches, the circling. Though much remains a puzzle, which is also good.

More thoughts on imperialism, about the arrogance of the imperialists that they are “improving” the land they stole of others. The backlash has, in this case, been terrible. I like how the story, set in an imaginary world as it is, still highlights stark truths about our world.

I am curious now and a little confused – are ALL the witches and vampires and shapers male? Charlotte’s thought (“You Sick Fucking Men.“) seems to suggest that. Which opens up a host of new questions and links in an interesting way with the first Charlotte chapter.

I was surprised that Charlotte, with all her cynicism, has such an unfaltering belief in the afterlife, to the point of having concrete plans for meeting up with dead friends. It makes me wonder even more about the wider context and, of course, about where this story is going.
Virtuella chapter 6 . 4/27/2015
Rule 10 review:
It was good to get more insight into the background of the story here. The girls’ early career seems very fitting to me – reckless abandon to creativity and excess in times of looming destruction. Rather Decamerone, really. That idea is neatly caught here: “Even then, it was like everyone knew this was the only time we'd get to live like this. With passion. With security.” How much our emotions depend on a save environment for expressing them! And much of the risk-taking we see in young people would likely not happen if it weren’t for the safety nets they take for granted.

The mentioning of the witch-ghettos was interesting. So the Good Guys have not merely invaded the realm of Wonderland creatures, but have brought them back to their cities in true imperialist manner.

“The earth here's ripe with The Good Guys' rot.” That is a powerful sentence, very much in tune with Charlotte’s character voice. It is fascinating how she uses the term “Good Guys” with such biting sarcasm and yet the conversation between her and Patrice suggests that she genuinely believes in and depends on her own goodness.

It is shocking and heart-breaking that the very moment the two women let down their guard to come to terms with their feelings they are attacked with such terrible consequences. It reinforces the point made earlier about passion and security.
Virtuella chapter 5 . 4/27/2015
First of all, you’re a right tease to switch to a different character just at this point. But of course rightly so, keeping that curiosity boiling in the background.

I like Charlotte’s character voice very much. She comes across a tough and cynical, but also very smart and her sarcasm has a desperate edge to it that suggests she is somewhat at odds with her persona. This sentence is excellent and very revealing: “Being A Good Guy and not A Bad Guy, Catskill felt it was of the upmost importance that we, as benevolent humanity, give it our best shot to spread our wealth and knowledge to Wonderland's pagan heathens.” It is the kind of caustic political analysis that is very familiar from current contexts and is further fleshed out in the explanations about the Good Guys and their Guns.

The situation for women in Catskill – and everywhere else in this world? – is chilling to imagine. Decades of hard feminist work out the window because now survival of the species dictates that you must keep the gene pool varied. No wonder Charlotte and Patrice respond with drastic measures.

And my curiosity is very much peaked by Charlotte’s comment on shapers. The shaper in the first four chapters is so obviously a victim, the witches and vampires so obviously the villains there, that is seems strange Charlotte thinks the way she does. So this could be due to previous bad experience or, on the contrary, to a complete lack of any experience with shapers. And it would appear that the two characters are bound to meet in the wilderness. This is going to be interesting!
Jalux chapter 3 . 4/27/2015
I think the eating scene was quite effective, normally sections like this would be a chore to get through but I think by combining sensory detail with short sentences it reads well. As the reader you can really feel how hungry the guy is. I'm also interested to see what these witches do with the vampires below and even what special powers they have.

Something I found quite nice was how you characterized Nikolai by describing his room instead of the actual character. The photos, bags under cots and his clothes lying on the floor are just descriptions of the room but they also offer some insight into this character and how he likes to organize his things.

I do enjoy all the various mysteries you've set up here with the witches use of the vampires, the true nature of the book Nikolai holds, the shapers themselves. It gives the impression the world is very real and thought-out. I'm not certain if the narrator lied about the book but I definitely got the impression because he seemed to freak out as soon as he inspected it and feigned composure. He claims he doesn't know more but I feel he's hiding something or maybe he once knew and forgot? Interesting stuff.

I guess I'll talk a bit about Nikolai here as well. He's a good character in my mind, there's a certain element of mystery to him and although he seems a bit brutish (threatening to kill, smoking alot) but you also feel he's very intelligent and curious about the world. The narrator or shaper is alright but I'm not sold on him at the moment, perhaps in time I'll warm up to him but he seems a bit of coward and withdrawn at this point in time, obviously this may be a byproduct of the circumstances he's finding himself in but I do hope he comes onto his own soon. That's not to say he's bad by any means, just his characterization "arc" seems like it's only just started.
deadaccount2019 chapter 1 . 4/26/2015
[Writing] One of the first things that stood out to me is that Achi's voice this time around feels more like Jude or Ellie's. I think the reason for this is that in the previous version Achi's chapters started out poetic and gradually became more lax. In this version his voice starts out lacking the heavy poetics. The drawback of this, imo, is that the reader may not get to see how far Achi comes or falls from having been bound, although this is something that might only be missed by those who have read previous versions. On the upside, the reader has a much clearer visual of what is going on, which makes it easier to dive in and get swept up with the flow.

[Other - Societal Building] The mention of man-whore seems to be a much earlier indication of male roles in shaper and witch cultures this time around. If you plan on rotating the perspectives in the final product, I think having this earlier indication will work well. One thing I recall being a bit out of the blue in the previous version was Jude's explanation of young witch men being trained to be good lovers, so the offhanded insult here serves as a nice little crumb trail into building social roles within the different races without it being blatant.

[Pace] I can't quite decide how I feel about the pacing this time around. On the one hand, there seems to be a lot more plotty content this version. There is definitely a clearer idea of the witches' intentions, but at the same time the writing comes across as more of a summary at some points (such as the alpha explaining the cleansing task). This ends up making the new content feel rushed where it seems like you could get away with elaborating on it more. At the same time, though, Achi's going through his own stuff, so moving things along more quickly does give that sense of time speeding up that sometimes comes with trauma.

[Character] One of the things I continue to appreciate about Achi is that he's easy to empathize with. It's quite possible the original title was meant to apply to all of the primary characters, but I've always felt "I never said I was brave" apllied most of all to Achi. He's a coward, but not in the snivelling-little-wretch sort of way. Here, we get to see him at what is arguably his worse, and I seriously feel for the guy because it's the stripping of such a core element of him that has broken him, not prolonged beatings or experiments with glowing hot objects, or whathaveyou. Of course, my impression of him here has been tainted since I already read most of what you had posted before of HTD, but essentially what I'm getting at is that this horrible experience isn't coming across as gratuitous angst or anything, and even without prior knowledge that would make me want to continue to find out what happens to the poor guy.
m. b. whitlock chapter 3 . 4/26/2015
RG Depth #4,793

I think what I am enjoying the most about this story so far is the mixture of the fantastic and the familiar. Piles of books with “taped up spines” and barrack-like quarters with photos tacked to the walls, make the setting feel like a real place even though all the characters we’ve met so far are supernatural, fantastic beings with magical powers.

Another aspect I’m really getting into is the multidimensionality of the magic spells the witches use. I like how sensitive the narrator is to their spells, even just witnessing another victim being restrained is painful for him in an intense physical way.

The world of this story is still very mysterious and there is so much I don’t yet know. I think that this lack of clarification is fine though. I still feel like we are at the very beginning of this and that with time mysteries will be revealed and the fantastic characters and their strange cultures will become more relatable and recognizable. Not that I’m expecting this story to ever become predictable or conventional. I like how weird and unusual it all seems, definitely has the feel of a journey into an alternate universe (one I am enjoying exploring!). :)

So I have some notes, sort of by topic:

Opening/Character:

I’m still not sure what you mean by ‘in my namesake’. Do you mean ‘wolf-like’ or ‘fox-like’?:
“Then I wolf down dried meat as if still in my namesake.”
Again, not quite getting what you mean isn’t bothering me. I figure you will make this and other aspects clearer as we go.

I find Achitophel’s sensitivity so interesting and compelling. He can barely stand to see the witches’ spells:
“The striking spells they peel and whip from their viper-magic are so barbed I feel pinpricks in my own skin and have to look away.”

Writing/Techniques/Style:

Really like this bit:
“Tendrils thin as threads of silk curving into my ear like a worm. Mai, brij, va hult'le kalhey, it says in shaper, so quiet and small it might've been mumbling to me since I arrived.”
You have a really good ability combining different senses. You give sounds tangible physical attributes. It works so well for your shaper narrator’s character. I can totally understand why a shaper would be able to see and feel sounds and smells, and spells for that matter. It makes me think about the way the minds of our higher mammalian cousins must work. The way so many animals map out the world is dependent on greater sensory abilities, like smell and sound and taste, visual acuity as well.
Animals can’t use intellectual, imaginary information passed verbally from one individual to another, so they have to use all the information they can possibly get on their own.

Missing a word or two here?:
“I rub my ear. I rake my hand through my hair and can't shake ** like I've just walked through a spiderweb.” ‘shake *it off* like I’ve just walked through a spider web’…?

Perhaps something (a verb) missing here too?:
“My legs *?* like lead.”

Character/Setting/Plot:

Interesting how Nikolai is the only witch named (until Robbie shows up at the end):
“He looks impatient on the landing as I stagger up the last step, then shows me into the room where Nikolai waits.”
Of course Nikolai is the guy in charge so it makes sense that our narrator and the others in this facility all know his name. But I also think it’s interesting how you are taking your time introducing new characters. None of the vampires appear to be very individual or any of the other witches yet… The good think about this small number of individuals is we aren’t getting swamped with a ton of names and when you do introduce somebody we get reasons to care about how they are different from the others.

This sounds like a pretty typical military barracks:
“There's bedding, clothes strung on the floor, bags tucked under cots. I see photos tacked above some of the sleeping spaces, old and frayed.”
Again, as I said above. This works well to make this story seem real and relatable. Which is really important I feel because there is so much magic everywhere from the very beginning. Since you aren’t doing a story where magic hides out in the background until we get a firm notion of the setting, having a world with recognizable aspects makes it easier to buy the plot, believe these dudes are kick *ss witch men, that shapers exist etc…

Really like this part:
“In the swell of our silence, I just make out his magic stifling down an aura of strange knotted sadness—and fear. I blink. I wonder what Nikolai fears.”
I bet something really bad is out there. Good foreshadowing. Increases the suspense I’m feeling and gives me an idea of the plot you’re constructing.

Not sure what you mean by “recklessly nothing”:
“When he looks at me, I feel recklessly nothing.”
Are you saying that Achitophel is so numbed and despondent at this point that he may be acting recklessly? Or that he senses his lack of fear and concern and is admonishing himself, telling himself he better start caring about all this or he’ll end up dead?

Wondering what a ‘scryer’ is!:
“"Whoever maintains the caches—well, I've got scryers out scouting.””
Cool concept. :)

Confused by your use of ’When’ here:
“When I near I see a compass, crumpled plastic water bottles, a folding knife…”

Like the “taped up spines”:
“Most are ancient looking hardbacks with taped up spines.”
I am so pleased the books are NOT thick, leather bound tomes or scrolls. They sound like old textbooks that might smell like peanut butter or something… Like what you’d find in an old high school building that had been abandoned.

Powerful moment here:
“My grimy finger smudges the star-shaped official stamp from the shaper city, indented into the upper corner. Margott, says the title page. Like at the desk, my throat catches on a hot knot. I make a choking noise. Achitophel Majwer.”
So, I’m assuming this book belonged to our narrator. It makes me very curious about him. What was his life like when he wrote his name in this book? How has the world changed since then?

All very cool questions. :D

Nice jolt here, right at the end:
“When Nikolai exhales, he squints. "A human?””

Psyched to read more.

vb,

mbw
Hedonistic Opportunist chapter 1 . 4/26/2015
Definitely smoother than what I remember from the second draft (which I had enjoyed a lot, but you know that).

I think it's undeniable that you have a way with words: there's a lot of beautiful phrases in this that capture your attention, but I like that you don't make it a constant thing. What I mean is that your writing is pretty, but you don't prettify it too much, so that it draws too much attention away from the plot. And for a plot heavy story, yes, pretty writing is important, but you never want to break the flow of the actual story unfolding too much.

Things that you could maybe improve upon in the writing front is that it’s still a bit heavy at times – not too much, no, but I feel you could make your writing just a bit lighter, maybe render Architopel’s feelings of despair even sharper? I think you’ve got a very good thing going on here already – I definitely feel his sense of fear and desire to die, but I think you could work in the franticness just a bit more :D. I feel that can always be done by keeping the writing in terms of introspection as minimalistic as possible, but that’s just an idea/YMMV. Eh, sorry for being all vaguey-wavey about this – I think it’s more towards the end, where – maybe – you could trim the writing a bit?

Another thing I’m definitely enjoying this time round is how you’re telling the story: there’s no info dumping (THANK YOU), and you’re really showing us the story rather than telling us upfront what’s going on. I enjoy that tactic a lot, because it’s natural storytelling to me, and if this was a published novel, I’d definitely consider this an intriguing first chapter. Don’t think there’s anything that could be improved upon here. Actually, I’m really excited as to how you’ll tell the story this time, and how much has changed/remained the same. I remember that you pretty much stopped updating the second draft when stuff got really interesting ):

I really liked the reference to the vampires, as subtle as it was. It gives off a sense of doom and danger – kind of this epic, lingering sense of threat that’s bigger than either the shape-shifters or witches (and wizards. Or do you collectively just refer to them as witches?).

Nothing much to say, really. I’m a bit scared to get invested, because I never know when you will remove this, but thanks for sharing this again :)
Tony Alford chapter 2 . 4/25/2015
A very good chapter, that does a lot for establishing the world in which the story is set. The inferred connection between witch magic and pain, is interesting and helps create characterization indirectly. As much as I love the style this is written in there are few parts where things become unclear. I found myself understanding more of the feeling of what was going on, than what was actually happening. I'm not entirely sure if that was intentional or not. You've done a very good job of creating intruge up to this point, both around the main character and the condition of the world. Like I said a very well written chapter
Tony Alford chapter 1 . 4/24/2015
This definitely feels familiar but feels deeply refined. I love the concept of magic, and in general the way you describe things is impactful, often heavy, without becoming weighted.

"Here I've been stripped clean.

I am a coward."

In my opinion these lines are among the most powerful in the chapter, they not only summarize personally left me understanding the gravity of the chapter. I appreciate the way in which you introduce the reader into the world, showing rather than telling.

Also you do an amazing job of allowing the syntax and format of your writing assist in conveying tone and mode.

My only recommendation would be to revise some areas slightly, there are a few areas were the sentence structure becomes slightly confusing, and I found myself having to re read to to make sure I understood what was being accurately described.

That all being said this is a great start and i'm really excited to see where it goes.
Virtuella chapter 4 . 4/24/2015
I like how you have managed to make the witch magic appear so overwhelmingly physical. There are many excellent word choices that let it seem tangible, and a sentence like “There are so many spells it takes two witches just to sort through the threads and unlace them” add to the overall effect. I was surprised that the witches invoked Gaia and their “mothers” while at the same time they all seem to be males. It makes me curious about them.

The narrator ‘s claim that he/she would embrace death like a lover is a great touch – it evokes many traditional images and yet is worded in a way that seems fresh and new. The fact that fear appears as a welcome feeling simply because it is pure and straightforward illustrates in what a state of confusion and disorientation the narrator has been.

The scene in the dark with the apparent vampire is very intense, albeit a little confusing. It is a fascinating idea that magic could become independent from its user and develop a will of its own and even feel sorry for whatever havoc it has caused in the past. It seems plausible in the context of the very physical magic, as I’ve mentioned above. The plea for the “mother” takes on a new aspect in this context.

I find myself really fascinated by this story, even though it is not a genre I usually enjoy. I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapter.
Virtuella chapter 3 . 4/24/2015
I feel really on edge after reading this. The creepiness of that barely-heard voice coming up from the floor, combined with the ominous mentions of “down below” is very effective. Someone wants their mother – in a world where the very existence of motherliness seems unlikely – and is asking for her so politely.

You did an excellent job of making the book seem absolutely intriguing. I am very curious now to find out what is so special about it and why the narrator was so affected by it.

The witch magic comes across strongly again here. “The striking spells they peel and whip from their viper-magic are so barbed I feel pinpricks in my own skin” - this is a very powerful sentence. Oddly in contrast that one of the witches should have such a commonplace name as Robbie. I wonder what the others are called.

So Nikolai is beginning to reveal layers of complexity – sadness and even fear. It makes me wonder about him. And just as I was thinking he might be kind to the narrator, he sends him/her “down below,” seemingly to be eaten alive. Mind you, the narrator had begged to die – but surely not in this manner?

Same issue in places as last chapter re present particles, but less so.
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