Reviews for Shadow Over The Forest
RisanF chapter 1 . 2/18/2017
(From The Review Game: Stories - Depth)

Hi, I'm RisanF, and I'll be your reviewer today! Let's take a look at "Dark Forest"

- Writing: This chapter's biggest boon is its simple prose. It's easy to read, and moves briskly. At times, it seems a little "too" fast, spending only a little bit of time on each point before moving on. Still, in this age of short attention spans, this might be a plus.

- Characters: It takes a bit long for the characters to solidify, as they could be anyone at the start. Once Anya starts talking to Gabriel, and succeeds in winning him over by pure force-of-will, we get a better view of Anya's good-natured stubborness.

- Relationships: The relationship of Anya and Gabriel reads as simple and charming. You could probably expand upon it and add more dialogue in another draft; again, the story moves really fast.

- Other: "Sugarcloud" is a great name for a fantasy treat. Makes me want to eat one. ;P

Overall, this is quite the decent little piece. I usually tend to slow things down and add more description to my works, but this might work for a younger audience.
Sychronergy chapter 1 . 2/9/2017
I feel like the opening can be stronger, because "terrible nightmare" is not that descriptive in itself. The description of a fire (unless it was a special fire, most people know what a fire looks like) maybe could've been exchanged for a description of something more exciting/telling? Perhaps, describe the ruin the fire caused or how it danced closed to her skin instead. Beginning with a nightmare builds up the anticipation a bit, though!
Random thing: I am hesitant about the word usage of "churl" - my memory tells me that it has an offensive/insult-esque overtone.
I like the dialogue. The bit at the start reveals a lot about the character as well as gives backstory, which is clever. Anya came off as a bit young and disgruntle, which is acceptable considering she's talking to her mum. I feel as if Gabriel's italicized "live" is uncalled for, though? It makes the foreshdow punch out too strongly (of that was the case) or just sounds slightly odd. I am also slightly confused by the "irony" as, well, Gabriel doesn't quite seem to know what it actually means, but that's probably normal for a kid their age?
I also adore the writing style. It's sparse enough to not make me doze off wishing for a TL;DR but descriptive enough to tell me what's going on. I got the "this is kind of creepy... what are you doing... but kind of cute too..hmm" feeling and the conflicting feelings mean you're doing quite a good job with the piece. One tiny comment is that the POV switched from limited third person to omniscience third person in the line "She had never smelled..., otherwise she would have" in the end.
Maybe also make the ending stronger. "sounded" is a pretty neutral word after all that creepy, chilly stuff. Something like "A (insert a less cliche OR specific description of the voice - like, 'ghouish', or maybe it's drawing closer?) hissed, "[..]" would be stronger. ((Overall, I feel like the ending is very well-written, but tried to hard to convey creepiness, which dampens the overall effect). The chapter has a very good balance of suspense, mysterious, youthful cuteness as well as creepiness. It's spectacularly written :)
Dlombardi chapter 1 . 1/7/2017
Wow, amazing ending! I really didn't expect it to end in such a fashion with that start, but the nightmare she had should have been like a foreshadowing for me I suppose!
Gabriel is cute; I like his sarcasm, reminds me of myself :p
Overall this was a great intro. The mood was set beautifully in the beginning, playful, carefree, then the ending left with suspense. Very well written!
wisedec4u chapter 1 . 12/4/2016
RG-EasyFix - You have nice way of describing things. However, I was a bit confused as to what the time period actually is. In the beginning if seemed old world, but with the talk of camp and the fair it seemed the area was closer to modern times. I think you need some clarification as to not confused your reader. Also, Anya seems mature for her age, but then portrayed as naive by how quickly she ran of in the woods with a boy she'd never met before. I realize she's lonely but she came on little strong to have just met him. Lastly, the line: "She sensed the poisonous probing tendrils of a chilling malevolence floating near the edges of her consciousness." That's a mouthful and way to many adjectives in one sentence. Simplify it so it flows better. Hope this helps. Good luck!
m. b. whitlock chapter 2 . 12/4/2016
“"The blood of the innocent flow! Thus the Dread Disciples will rise! A feeble scrap of flesh and bones is all that stands in our way... BUT WAIT!””

I’m feeling the Brecht here too. I like Brecht’s work a lot, especially his collaborations with Kurt Weill, but I also feel that having your ‘big bad’ tell your readers everything she plans to do lessens the mystery a bit… Perhaps cut it down to just the first two lines…”

"By Carcescu... What is this?”
Is this a ref to Nicolae Ceaușescu?…Interesting…

You have some unnecessary and repetitive bits in here that slow down the action:
“*Then just like that,* the poisonous presence withdrew *and they felt like* they had both *felt* a sense of great relief, like they had been saved from drowning in icy water *in the grasp of a nameless horror*. Anya shuddered. *What in all creation could that have been? A demon?* Her skin was *still* crawling. Nothing had ever spooked her *out* anything like this *badly*.”
I would cut out all the ** marked sections. I don’t feel you need them, even Anya’s questions about what the voice was. You show us through the way the kids act that this is “a nameless horror” unlike anything they know. Also, I don’t see the advantage of pointing out possibilities to your readers. Like the villain articulating her nefarious plans, throwing out possibilities in the middle of an action paragraph decreases the suspense.

Anya and Gabriel do appear to recover remarkably quickly… Perhaps consider making it a bigger deal for them. I think this scene and the last one in Gabriel’s bedroom might have more impact if you show that they are still very shaken up, especially Gabriel. Gabriel might well be feeling like his entire world is off-kilter––Anya is strange enough, but combined with the encounter with foul evil… He could really be a near wreck…

From your references to goddesses and gods and the priestess in the first chapter, I sense that these people are polytheists…Cool. }:-)

I like how Anya is hurt by Lotte’s disregard but she still doesn’t get that Lotte can’t see her. Good way to keep your readers interested. We wonder when Anya (and Gabriel) will realize that she is a ghost.

I would use ‘her’ or ‘she’ instead of ‘Anya’ in these sentences:
“Why would she deliberately ignore *Anya* like that and hurt her feelings? Did she think that *Anya* was not a suitable playmate for her brother?”
These questions are Anya’s thoughts essentially and it sounds awkward to have her refer to herself by name.

Interesting how Anya’s parents seem to be stuck in a ghost version of their former lives while Anya is able to penetrate some unknown veil and travel into the present.

“"Listen Anya," her father *cut across her*,”
Maybe change to ‘interrupted her’ or ‘cut in’…?

“She wouldn't have thought he would ever get that way *in his entire lifetime*.”
Don’t think you need the ** mark section. “Ever” is enough.

I don’t understand Anya’s reasoning here:
“They would be better able to handle it together.”
I think an earlier scene where Anya gets an idea of her difference from Gabriel would help. Maybe something as simple as she doesn’t feel as frightened of the evil voice as she thinks she should…?

“The windows of Gabriel's brick house were still lit up by oil lamps. Evidently they did not have to rely on candles and the hearth fire.”
Perhaps describe the oil lamps in more detail and show us that they are ’industrial’ or machine manufactured devices, more modern than what Anya is used to. The reason why is that oil lamps are actually way *older* than candles (in our universe anyway). Archeologists have found 8000 year-old clay oil lamps at sites in the Middle East and North Africa, long before people molded tallow or wax candles.

I like how agile Anya is climbing up the side of the house and how she feels she is lighter than she recalls. More subtle hints that she is a phantom.

“But the girl was gazing into a mirror on her *desk*.”
It’s called a vanity. :)

Good atmospheric portrayal of the evil plunging the scene into darkness. Gabriel is understandably shaken. Very touching how Anya comforts him. I would break up the huge, really long paragraph where he relates his dream however. The images are good and freaky but I think the scene will be more compelling if you take more time with it. Space out the parts of the dream and use some physical actions between the kids to give those horrifying visuals time to sink in…

Good stuff!

Looking forward to Chapter 3!

Very best,

m. b. whitlock chapter 1 . 12/4/2016
**Please read Chapter 1 before checking out this review. Spoilers ahead!**

Hi Electrumwriter!

I like the way you begin this ghost story. You show us Anya’s last ‘living’ memory. From this first chapter alone, I wouldn’t know this was a ghost story, though you do drop quite a few hints––Anya’s missing a number of years, and Gabriel’s confusion when she tells him where she lives are probably the biggest ones.

I like how you ease readers into the story. Good choices keeping things simple, like not mentioning Anya’s last name or her parents’ names. This makes the setting and the characters more iconic and gives the story a fairytale feel which I think is what you are going for. Good work. :)

The few details you do give us are generally well chosen. I especially like Anya’s “little table” and “light blue frock” in the opening, and later on, “A pair of pale gold butterflies”, “painted with bright pink stripes” and “poisonous probing tendrils”.

There are a few places in the early paragraphs where I feel confused about the time period Anya is from due to a few anachronistic-feeling details. Maybe it’s just the ‘camp’ thing. See descriptions like “the little stone kitchen”, and “spluttering old quill” make me think Anya was born sometime in the 18th or 19th century (you certainly had ink pens into the 20th century but they wouldn’t have been quills) and children (especially girls) didn’t regularly attend summer camps until the 1930s or 40s in the US. I know the practice began in Germany (for the most part) and as a result started there earlier, but I feel some significant dissonance reading about a girl writing to her friend at summer camp with a quill pen.

I have a sense that these anachronisms are purposeful and that you are conveying that this is an alternate universe, one where technology developed more gradually. But it takes a world with somewhat technologically advanced food production capabilities to have summer camps for children be a common thing. Throughout most of the 19th century, in the United States and Great Britain and Europe, the majority of children provided very necessary farm labor in the summer. In the US (a majority agrarian country until the 1940s) this is origin of summer vacation, not summer camp. And a society that has tractors, etc. would certainly have industrial produced steel-tipped ink pens and not be reliant on feather quills. Feather quill pens only last for a single letter. Only the wealthiest, aristocrats, etc. wrote letters back when people depended on quills––very expensive (and ink and paper were too). So a ‘poor’ girl, or even a moderately well off one wouldn’t be writing letters like this.

Another issue with the time-period-blurring in the introductory section is that it makes the contrast between Anya’s time and Gabriel’s less distinct. I have the sense that Anya may have been born a decade or two in the past, but if she lived in a world with summer camps alongside quill pens, it’s harder to pick up much of a difference between her time and the present with its aging carnival attractions. I realize that Mrs. Wolle’s presence doesn’t fit well with Anya being from decades in the past, but I think it might be a good idea to change this part––like have the wool lady’s stall replaced with a glass-front general store or something that would give your readers the sense that Anya feels displaced.

I like the interaction between Anya and Gabriel. His reaction to her when they first meet is quite well done! I do feel this part could use a little work though:

“"Wait, why are you leading me into the wood?" he asked her as he came to a halt, panting.

Why the tone of suspicion on top of the strange looks and head shaking?

She put her hands on her hips and looked him full in the face. "Don't you trust me?"

He shrugged. "No, I'll follow any stranger deep into the forest."

Anya shook her head. "No you shouldn't do that, it's just you hurt my feelings asking that."

"Come on, don't you get irony?””

Firstly, I don’t think you need this line: “Why the tone of suspicion on top of the strange looks and head shaking?” We get that Anya feels this way from the dialogue.

This line feels awkward:““No, I'll follow any stranger deep into the forest.”” If he’s being ironic he should be agreeing with Anya, not disagreeing…

Perhaps something like, “Of course I trust you. You’re a total stranger and you’re leading me deep into the forest.”

You’d have to alter Anya’s response as well. Suggestion, “You really think I want to hurt you? I would never hurt anyone…”

I like the irony-spiced flirtation between Gabriel and Anya on the Ferris wheel. :) I do wonder how they got down though. Why do you skip it? I’d like to see that part. :D

The ending with darkness falling precipitously and foul smells arising is quite good. It seems like trips to ‘the fair’ often start out wonderful and then become frightening and freaky… An entertaining though somewhat conventional development. It works I think because of the fairytale quality of the piece. I like the evil hissing voice too…

Okay here are some notes:

“Anya awoke from a terrible nightmare. She shivered at the memory, her heart thudding”
‘Thumping’ or ‘pounding’ or ‘fluttering’ might be better than ‘thudding’… Just sounds a tiny bit off to me. ‘Thud’ in my experience is more often used as a noun than a verb… I really only mention it because it’s your first sentence and I feel it’s best to avoid anything that might pull people out of the story for those first few lines. :)

“The life of a churl” Think you had ‘kerl’ in an earlier story… ;)

This sounds very Brechtian. Like it!
“"I don't want the whole summer off. I'm bored and lonely.”

This sounds like exposition though:
“How long has the big house beyond the copse been empty? But I am grateful.”
Maybe work on those lines.

This dialogue paragraph is long and unnatural-sounding:
“"Sorry mum. It's just I've no friends in the village this summer, Jana hasn't written – there aren't even any neighbours. How long has the big house beyond the copse been empty? But I am grateful. We're all still alive and well... the priestess of Grace educated me as part of her charity work. More I should be grateful for. So I can write to Jana and let her know I'm cross with her.””
I’d cut most of it. Let us learn about Anya’s education later in the story when it fits with the plot.

You repeat this bit: “It looked *complete and yet…*” and “A fairground stood around them, nearly *complete and yet…*”

“"Sweetmeats?" Gabriel *prized* open the lid of the cart and peered inside. He reached in and extracted a pink sugarcloud.”” I believe ‘sweetmeats’ are cow or sheep brains usually…and perhaps you mean ‘pried’ instead of “prized”. :)

In the dance hall I wonder if the mannequins are actually people in a different dimension in which time is running far more slowly…?

Like this line: ““A little. But you dance as if you were light as air. You'd probably prefer an expert. Like one of these mannequins.”” Gabriel’s irony is again in fine form and you hint at Anya’s spectral nature.

“She had *mercifully* never smelled human putrescence or bloated corpses before, otherwise she would have recognised the stench.” I don’t think you need “mercifully” here. It’s bit like the narrator is editorializing and it pulls me out of the story just when things are getting scary and intense… };-)

Fun stuff!

On to Chapter 2…

Very best,

Sjoorm chapter 2 . 11/22/2016
Lotte and Gabriel seem to be two very different names. Is there a reasoning behind the choosing of them? If not, I would recommend having the names at least somewhat similar considering their parents are most likely from the same region, especially if they are poor working class. Working class people historically speaking aren't very inventive with their names.

I understand that this demon is supposed to be terrifying for the children, but as a reader I don't quite get the feeling of terror that is supposed to be conveyed through the dialogue, and it might have something to do with the long drawn out s' but it feels like this scene falls short to me. Is the demon supposed to be part snake?

Anya seems very logical, is there a reason she's not as terrified as Gabriel clearly is?

"A most dire peril" seems far too advanced in terms of dialogue language for a child to use, especially when in the next scene she is moved to tears because Lotte doesn't seem to like her.

Phrases like "I bear serious news" seem out of place with the rest of the dialogue used. If you're going for a more "older" feel to the dialogue, words like grave and dire were used a lot more often. Though again, with working class people I feel like they would incorporate a lot more slang as opposed to "proper" terms.

"The whole atmosphere over THE forest" missing the capitalized word there.

You do a great job not only showing the area Anya is in in the scene where the moon is looking over her, but also the poverty her family experienced when you describe her "ragged old cloak" that is too big for her. Obviously a worn out hand me down from her parents because they can't afford anything else.

In one of your scenes you describe oil lamps as being "on" rather than being lit.

I like Anya struggling with her own mortality in this story, again she doesn't quite know she's dead yet but she's very confused, why is she so light why can't Gabriel's sister see her. You do a great job with this, again, very great. One of my favourite parts of the whole story so far.

The s' over pronunciation is still falling a bit short for me from your description of this demon I don't know why she would sound like she's supposed to be a snake.

In this alternate universe do these people worship like pagans? Who are their multiple gods?

I enjoy Gabriel's dialogue for the most part because you can imagine he is uneducated, especially when he uses phrasing like "I never even imagined anything like it before", it helps a lot with character building when you describe them to be poor, working class, and everything about them right down to their speech and mannerisms suggests it. Good job here.

Overall it was a good story, but like I said if you clear a few of these things up it would be great. This is of course, only my opinion so you don't need to take any of this to heart :)

Looking forward for your next!
Sjoorm chapter 1 . 11/17/2016
I'm a bit confused in some parts here. I get the feeling it's supposed to be like old world technology, maybe 16th or 17th century, especially by the way Anya uses the term silver for their currency, but at the same time the language used seems to almost depict modern day dialogue, or at the least late 19th century to early 20th century language. I feel like this could be easily fixed if you combed through the dialogue between Anya and her mother, her letter and some parts with Gabriel, read them aloud to yourself and see if you could picture somebody in say the 30's talking like this. If you are going for a semi modern feel I apologize.

Before I go on, I feel like you keep subtly dropping hints that Anya isn't actually as alive as she wants to think, and if so I love that! I got the feeling once she got to the fairground that was supposed to be new, but was all of a sudden overgrown, that and when Gabriel seemed very confused that she lives in the house next door. Perhaps hers has been the abandoned house all along?

The paragraph where she selects her blue frock could do with a period or two to break it up, as it stands it feels very run along-like, perhaps to separate where she brushes her hair and when she runs down to her mum?

I feel like her mother describing her father's "life as a churl" is too much exposition to the reader between mother and daughter, something that Anya should probably already know if that makes sense?

As a small side note to go with the dialogue, I feel like Anya and her mother speak very properly considering they are village folk in the countryside who most likely haven't received any formal education. More odd contractions that aren't grammatically correct or sentences that wouldn't sit right with an English teacher would be my recommendation. Especially since Anya seems at most 11 or 12 here.

The "met any cute boys?" Question doesn't sit well with me for the same reason of era/timeframe as I outlined above with dialogue.

I kept feeling like the irony was actually sarcasm, but then I learned that those two words are actually synonyms of each other, so that's probably a personal choice here. Learn something new every day!

If it is true that Anya has been dead the whole time, I think the best part of this story is the subtle hints you've placed throughout it, but I might be reading too deep into it, ya never know.

Overall I liked the story, and you've ended this chapter on the perfect cliffhanger gah! I hate that! :P I'm a stickler for dialogue points and getting into the feel o a story with the right word techniques for the right time frame though, so if those were cleaned up a bit or if it was a bit clearer what time period you were going for i think that's all you really need to change :)
shika-paprika chapter 1 . 11/8/2016
You have a decent understanding of imagery, but overall, your narration felt choppy, especially near the beginning. You're missing a lot of punctuation, mostly comma and periods. Make sure you put a period after "Mr" and "Mrs" and a comma after words like "Oh" and "Well". The dialogue is a little weird but I'm guessing that's because this takes place in an earlier time period. I think you have a decent start, but you just need to work on making the story more interesting with your narrating.