Reviews for Dead Craft
Virtuella chapter 2 . 4/24/2015
In this chapter I like how the setting is slowly emerging. So, there was a war, and witches seem to have emerged from it victorious, while humans were wiped out or turned into undead or went into hiding. The cryptic messages are tantalising. Shapers have no reason to either love or hate humans. Their hidden city sounds fascinating.

The narrator conveys well a sense of numbness. The sentence “I'm doused with the sensation of guilt and a strange sadness” expresses this well. It was very believable how he/she felt so alien around the pencil and paper after having spent such a long time in fox shape. Also, the way he/she has dissociated themselves from the experience of brutality: “Everything before I stood in front of him is slated shut and gray.” It is a good detail that the rune magic causes pain, almost like internal wounds.

I am beginning to be interested in Nikolai. He seems very aloof, but not directly cruel. Interesting that he has a nickname, which suggests some level of intimacy between him and his minions.

Point of criticism: While on the whole the prose is very well balanced, I think in paragraphs two, three and four there are way too many words ending in –ing, most of the present participles. It’s a small matter that is easily fixed. Also, as the present participle implies simultaneity, I would revise this sentence: “I blink, staring at the edge of the desk,” because it is not physically possible to blink and stare at the same time.
m. b. whitlock chapter 2 . 4/23/2015
RG EF #6,963

I really like the way you describe the imprisoned vampires here:
“Turning my head against my cold bars, I see the writhing fluttering tangle of vampires clawing for the witches unlocking their cage door.”
“fluttering” of course conjures wings, “writing” always has a snaky ring to it, so the line makes them seem like scaly bats. Lots of images for few words, good technique. :)

“choking on their invisible thorny chains,”
The magic the witches use appears to have physical attributes. Even though the spells are ‘invisible’ Achitophel (who’s name we have yet to learn in the text, but I’m assuming it’s the protag’s name) can see detailed aspects of the magical torture/restraint devices. I wonder if all supernatural characters in this world can see/feel the spells or if Achitophel is unique or if different ‘tribes’ or ‘races’ feel/are sensitive to different magicks. Lots to the think about.

Like Achitophel’s borrowed clothes:
“I stand staring stiffly at the chair in a dead man's unwashed jeans the color of wet mud.”

“He tells me to sit, this time his magic laced *arrowed in* the word.”
Think the line above might work better if you dropped ’arrowed in’. Or do you mean magic ‘laces’ arrowed in the word or the word was laced with magic arrows? Anyway, might want to simply. :)

I really like how you keep us constantly aware of Architophel’s level of discomfort:
“I endure the feeling of needing to crack a joint, and try to stay still and unmoving.”
How unnatural these restrictions on his movement/physical freedom are. Definitely makes me think of my cat when she’s had to wear one of those plastic satellite things around her neck (had a minor eye thing but it cleared up). It just seems so in keeping with Achitophel’s shifter/shaper nature that any physical restrictions would be especially difficult to bear.

So this ‘coven’ or gang of witch dudes now seems like a military intelligence outfit. I am guessing they are gathering information (through detention, torture and interrogation among other methods) on the military movements of other supernatural gangs or insurgent companies or something… ? Very cool.

Might want to work on this sentence:
“Still alive—when I heard all of them either fled or were turned undead by the infectious disease of vampirism that was all but legend before the war began.”
I think if you break it up it will be easier to read. As it is now I’m not sure if the disease of vampirism was “all but legend before the war” of if the rumor that all the humans had fled was “all but legend”. Also maybe change “all but legend” to ‘just legend’ or something because “all but legend” means the disease (which I believe is the legend referred to) was anything but a legend, and thus frighteningly and glaringly real, no? ;)

Like Achitophel’s ambivalence towards humans:
“Humans mean nothing to me like they mean nothing to the rest of shaper kind.”

Enjoy this history about the shapers’ past:
“Because of our *little* interaction, we never saw reason to hate humans and *little* reason to even waste any thinking on them at all.”
Perhaps a little too much use of ‘little’ though. :)

“We liked to openly think instead, that we were more *refined*.”
‘Refined’ seems a bit of an odd word choice for a shaper. These beings detest physical restrictions of any kind, right? Like clothes and other aspects of ‘refined’ civilization (like using utensils and starched napkins to eat a meal I am imagining). I think it might make more sense if you use a word like ‘sublime’ or ’sacred’ or ‘moral’, ‘superior’ even… If this makes sense.

Not sure what Achitophel means by this:
“I've never seen a human in my birth shape.

Only in my namesake, from afar.”
But I am eager to find out!

Very cool developments!

vb,

mbw
Shampoo Suicide chapter 2 . 4/23/2015
I like the mention both here and the previous chapter of the way the wind speaks to him. It's interesting as a power and character trait and I think handled subtly. Again, it goes with what I mentioned before about the handling of magic and powers, the way you've done it makes it feel very real and immersive for the reader I think.

"I see the writhing fluttering tangle of vampires" I really loved this line and wanted to highlight it to illustrate what I'm liking a lot in this. I've left so many reviews for you talking about how I just love your way with words, the ear wormy turns of phrase you come up with. I think sometimes it could present as challenging to someone just reading through though, and I think you've said "confusion" is a normal response from FP folks heh, but I think here you've managed to keep a lot of that language magic that I love while still making the story, the action and plot and world, all seem more accessible than they may have previously. The writhing and fluttering, for example, is a great sounding description as well as one that presents a clear picture.

I think, and I may be remembering the earliest chapters of HTD wrongly, the plot and conflicts seem to be laid out better in this reworking so far. The narration does seem a bit more clearheaded than before and that may be why this is easier to follow in the early going (or, again, perhaps it's the familiarity!).

I feel like I remember more backstory early on before that was used to explain what's going on rather than the more immediate feel you get here, and I like this way quite a bit. Like it feels woven in perfectly toward the end of this part. So, enjoyment wise this is very compelling so far! I like the newer approaches you're taking, as I may have made clear by now, and I think they're overall so far shaping an already entertaining work into an even better one.
Jalux chapter 2 . 4/23/2015
The imagery is quite nice in the opening with him shivering in the light, it gives you the feeling that he is trapped and can't escape from these people. This is basically touched on straight after with him waking up and attempting to shapeshift. It was an interesting piece of characterization to have him react that way to the noises he hears, his reaction suggests to me he's someone who'd prefer to slink away then fight. The witch is pretty funny with her nicknames of Shaper and Nikky.

I really like how you wrote the history of humans and shapers right after he contemplated one what species wrote the lines he was translating. It's information dumping I guess but it's done in an extremely clever way. Information dumping isn't even bad in most cases but the fact that you kind of lead in nicely with his translation makes it seamless. I feel that the shapers having this perceived superiority over humans will prove fairly important as the story progresses.

The chapter as a whole is fairly tense because of Nikolai's threat of killing him depending on his translation efforts. Obviously the MC isn't going to die in the first two chapters but it does leave us on the edge of our seats because they could still torture him, cut off limbs or something. There's also the mystery of the translation so plenty of material for the reader to ponder on.
Shampoo Suicide chapter 1 . 4/23/2015
I love the opening line and paragraph. The construction of the sentences, some short and some longer with the commas splitting them up the way they do helps create the harsh tone and flow and makes the words and scene depicted seem very vivid. I love the standalone line about the bruised skin, because it's a great description that's clear and still has that poetic loveliness to it.

What I mentioned in the opening, about the sentence structure, continues throughout and I really like the feeling it gives this. It's clear and easy to understand, but the flow of it all feels urgent and muddled, not unclear to the reader but like we're in his head and the thoughts are being fed to us as he's experiencing this taunting and beating.

I really like the depiction of the magic in this part. I like that you focus on the effects, the way the hex hurts and prevents him from shifting. I like that it adds to the sensory experience provided by the narrator rather than getting deep and obscure with the little details of how the magic is getting this done which I see sometimes in these fantasy heavy stories. I get it because you get so wrapped up in the world you create and wanna share these types of details with the reader, but they're best left for later parts of less heightened moments I think so that was cool for me. Definitely the more engaging approach I feel.

This chapter feels familiar as someone who's read a lot of the previous draft but still somehow more accessible. It may be due to familiarity with the material or your writing style but I think it's just that you've painted such a clear picture here of what's going on and the world it's happening in in such great imagery and action.

What felt most familiar was the discussion of his human shape and the feelings he used to have versus now. I think again it was the some most powerful stuff here and "humanizing" (heh) in the sense that you really feel for him how tortuous this situation is beyond just the physical pain. It's really fantastic and a great thing to see as a reader so early on in the work.

Quick typo:
"suck in my breath, panting, constricting by the weight on top of me." Constricting should be constricted, maybe.
Jalux chapter 1 . 4/22/2015
I liked the opening, especially since early on we find out the narrator is basically a magic user who can shapeshift. You mention they catch him as a fox but force them into a human form, I was wondering how do they know that? Did they see him transform or can they sense it? The narrator himself (I assume since he was called a manwhore) seems very self-deprecating which is usually not a good trait but an interesting one and opens up avenues for complex development. It is interesting to think why he loathes being human shaped so much, I think you touch on it briefly with how weak the body is but perhaps there are psychological reasons too.

I think the writing is sublime for the most part, sentence structure is excellent and the style itself suggests to the reader this isn't set in modern times. Of course with witches and magic we usually don't assume that but I thought it was also cool how the writing style shapes the world so to speak. Obviously some more information is needed on the world itself but world-building is usually not optimal on the first chapter. Good read.
Virtuella chapter 1 . 4/22/2015
This is a very, very powerful opening chapter. The nearly incessant brutality, physical and mental, is hard to bear. This character does not merely get beaten up and captured, he gets his very identity torn from him. It is heartbreaking to see him at the end contemplating his meagre life in a body he does not identify with.

The prose style reflects this very brutality. The many short sentences or single words, the dashes, give a disjointed, shattered, chaotic feel. Word choice is stark, especially the verbs: claw, barb, split, spill, bleed, taunt, swell, pry, choke etc. Nonetheless there are sentences that have an almost lyric quality, for example “Their magic is never seen except in rare instances when it shivers like mirages of heat off a faraway road.” I really liked the synesthetic descriptions of the witch magic.

The setting is sketchy, which is fine, since the focus is on action and emotion. There are enough hints to suggest rich and detailed world building. Chilling to think that the famished vampires are not the worst…

In spite of the chaotic, disjointed quality of the prose, which serves to convey the main character’s feelings, I found the plot easy enough to follow. During the first couple of paragraphs I was worried that it would be confusing, but it wasn’t.
m. b. whitlock chapter 1 . 4/22/2015
RG EF #6,956

So parts of this do feel familiar but I can tell you’ve really refined and sculpted this opening. I think iteration and innovation are very potent writing tools/techniques and you are obviously mastering them. Really like this opening chapter and I am quite eager to read more. :D

Really like the opening sentence:
“They catch me shaped fox and draw me human with a hex that rips and tears like nettles and barbs against my bone.”
Immediately we know this is a story about shapeshifters (or at least one shifter) and that shifters are being hunted. You establish the voice of the protagonist too, she or he feels pain and displays a sense for metaphor. This consciousness is very human, no base beast. Really good. Pulls me in. :)

Like your use of ‘shades’ as a verb here, also like ‘shaped’ in the first sentence:
“My skin shades in yellows and deep purples.”

Really interesting linguistic contradictions here:
“They taunt my goddess, then taunt my kind. Feral. Beast. Barbaric. Man whore.”
Man witches taunting the goddess of a shapeshifter/animal magic user and called them a ‘man whore’. Like it.

What a horrible state to be in, shifting yet being restrained:
“Time whirls up alongside my instincts. I shape.

Only I don't. Because I can’t.”
Visceral stuff.

Really love the importance and resonance of language in this piece so far. The different languages, powerful magic runes carved into skin, words have a multidimensional physical presence in this world. I bet knowledge of names is a pretty damn potent skill/tool as well. ;)

Really great almost synesthesiastic descriptions here:
“Witch magic feels like tasting the ache of a bruise. Like seeing the sound of a scream. Like hearing blood staining your teeth.”
Like the switching of predictable sense/verb pairings.

Very cool resonant symbolism with the totem here:
“After a year as my totem, its now become hairy, tangled, dirty—flea-bitten with blood or grime under every crevice—beard patchy and unkept.”

Enjoying this lots!

vb,

mbw
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