|Reviews for The Epochal Chronicles II: Battlefields|
| Will9035 chapter 21 . 4/21/2017
And after a story loaded with action and people getting killed, it ultimately ends with Alex whispering to her unborn child. Perhaps I'm looking too much into this, but I noticed that in Alex's vision (which you definitely said was not just a dream here) Kyle was nowhere to be found. Perhaps this means he has a horrible fate awaiting him? My gut instinct says no, because he has to be alive for Cadence to exist, and I don't think you would end it with an entire alternate universe collapsing. But I can't imagine he'll spend the entire next story sitting on an isolated planet either while his childhood best friend, carrying an unborn child, is off in the middle of a war. Maybe Observer status will get transferred to someone else. It's happened before, so is there any reason it can't happen again? It would certainly give an excuse to get Kyle back into the action, where he clearly wants to be.
Also, Alex's words seemed oddly cold at the end. That's not a critique, but there was something oddly dissonant about it. Alex doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would resent her own child, despite the rather atypical circumstances that have brought about her existence. I suppose it could just be resentment over the fact that she had to royally screw up her longtime friendship with Kyle, and that she had some time to grow to dislike Arianna before she learned about the relationship that they will eventually share. (If the vision is anything to go by, it'll be a happy relationship. Eventually.)
Normally I would compare this installment to your last one, but I see them as two different animals; the first story introduced the characters, and this second one got the conflict underway and elaborated on the stakes. (As well as showing what a nasty dude Salem is) So in that regard, all I can say is that both of these stories accomplished exactly what I think you were trying to do.
I think this story somewhat fixed one of the weaker parts of Part One, which was the lack of attachment with a lot of the new SG members. Of course, that's not entirely your fault, because giving us a truckload of exposition on every single character as you're introducing them would've been murder on the pacing. Regardless, I definitely felt more attachment to the supporting characters this second time around - particularly poor Skylar. His arc was one of this installment's unexpected triumphs.
I also liked how you didn't fall into the same trap that I did during my "younger days" by inserting meaningless action scenes. After reading some of your battle sequences, it was clear the status quo was being shaken up and the plot was going to change or move forward as a result. Considering I've seen lots of movies with action setpieces that just had me asking, 'What was the point of that?' I think it reflects well on you that you avoided this pitfall. Plus, your action scenes would've been much more diluted if we didn't care about any of the characters, or if there were too many of them. Kudos for not falling into either of those traps.
And I'm not surprised by the lack of closure this story has given us. The first one had closure, and I'm certainly expecting the third one to do the same. But this felt like that inevitable conclusion to the 'midquel' where so much is up in the air. Again, not a criticism. But after two stories of building up the new SG, and the literally astronomical consequences of this mission, you've set the stage for a climactic and intense third act. And as someone once said to me, the time to fulfill those promises is a-comin'.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see what's going to happen in 'Children of Time.' After Imagine Dragons and Linkin Park, I suppose it would be too much to hope that the third installment here starts off with lyrics from The Killers?
| Will9035 chapter 20 . 4/17/2017
Hmmm...a thought occurred to me. Does this mean that in the third installment here, Kyle's not going to be the protagonist because he's going to be stuck on Cadence? It'll certainly be interesting to see how the Gang functions without its leader. (Yeah, the SG is whatever the world needs it to be, as you helpfully told us twice, but it's going to definitely be a transitory period if their leader and founder can't be there).
In fact, this whole installment has been pretty heart-breaking for Kyle. Having to ditch his new wife on their honeymoon, the stuff that happened between him and Alex will leave a wrinkle (that I daresay will be permanent) in their longtime friendship, and now he has to say goodbye to his group and family while he's stuck in Cadence because the world will collapse without him. Damn. For a guy in his early-to-mid 20s, he's holding up remarkably well with all of that in mind.
This chapter seemed like a perfect place to end this installment, so I'm wondering what the next one(s) will bring. Maybe just a quick epilogue? Or perhaps you have one last surprise in store.
| Will9035 chapter 19 . 4/13/2017
I do enjoy how you have your characters use their Chronometrics in battle, and I think you stopped it at just the right point before “And she turned around to preemptively shoot two people thanks to her Foresight” would have gotten boring.
You’ve already surprised me once with having Skylar “come back” from the dead after a mishap that for all intents should have killed him, so I guess I can’t count out the idea of Jillian making a recovery, either. That said, her death would most certainly weigh more on Alex’s soul, as if she wasn’t already freaking out about enough. By the way, I don’t think I ever said this, but kudos for coming up with a romantic subplot that is not only *not* intrusive, but necessary. I liked how you mentioned it just long enough so it was evident how much Alex was fretting about what she did, without hitting us over the head with it.
I get the sense you’re building up to a pretty colossal battle here that will provide exactly the shock that’s needed to kickstart the third story in this series. Alex’s survival is a foregone conclusion (as she reminded us here) and it sounds like Kyle’s pretty safe as well. Everyone else, though…honestly, I can’t make a prediction one way or the other. But with that long lineup of people who showed up at the end, I have to imagine at least one of them’s going to meet an untimely end.
| Will9035 chapter 18 . 4/9/2017
Very nice action chapter you had going here. As I've said before, your descriptions painted vivid pictures of the battlefield without bogging it down. It also moved at an appropriate pace; everything flowed smoothly together and it never became melodramatic. Well done.
I feel a little ridiculous saying this after how much I've pulled for the poor little guy in past chapters, but Skylar seemed a bit too different here. Don't get me wrong, it was great to see him marching forward (and even flirting a little bit!) while still assessing his weaknesses without beating himself up over them. But it did seem a little sudden. Unless I'm mistaken, we last saw him in his hospital bed when Maggie healed his battle wounds. He was still plenty hard on himself back then, and I'm not sure enough has happened to him since then to warrant this dramatic shift in personality. Although, I guess you could make the argument that he's *always* had this fighting spirit, and this was his first opportunity to show it without being shuffled to the back.
Anyway, it's not a huge deal. Like I said, good chapter and good descriptions about the battle. I feel like a climactic battle with Hakim is coming, which will lead the way into the third installment in this story where the Seminary Gang 2.0 takes on Salem.
| Will9035 chapter 17 . 4/5/2017
So this is how all of Alex's terrible visions ended up coming true, huh? Suddenly the cryptic knowledge Arianna demonstrated over the course of the story makes so much sense. That's got to be a weird feeling for her, knowing that she has to convince her father to mate with a different woman from the one he's married to. If I were in Kyle's shoes, I think I'd be freaking out much more than he was here. But then again, he is a soldier, so being able to keep calm is something he's moderately good at. Still, I would almost think that a situation like this had to be an exception for him.
As always, I liked how you wrote the interactions between Alex and Kyle. This would've been the easiest time to slip into melodrama and have them curse their destiny (to use that word) for making it be like this. But paradoxically you handled it coolly while still reassuring everyone how much emotion was flaring up here. Well done on that front.
And seeing as how Alex now has to give birth to Arianna, she's clearly going to make it out okay in this stand against Hakim. Everyone else...not so sure. (Ahem. Skylar.) I'm wondering how much this heavy development is going to affect both Kyle and Alex going forward. This is pretty clearly *not* one of those times when people can just move on from an intense conversation and pretend it never happened.
| Will9035 chapter 16 . 4/2/2017
I did NOT see that twist with Arianna and Alex coming. And that bit at the end served up the perfect amount of intrigue and dread for what was about to happen. It almost seems like Arianna is screwing up the flow of time in some way by doing something in the past that will affect the future, which I know is something that you've deemed impossible here.
I have to commend you for the writing in this chapter, especially the second half of it. That heavy conversation between Arianna and Alex was paced and spoken beautifully. And even though this chapter made it abundantly clear what's going to happen between Kyle and Alex now, I can't help but think you have one last little trick up your sleeve in regards to that *that* scene will play out.
| Will9035 chapter 15 . 3/28/2017
I'm glad you gave Skylar the awareness to recognize that his speech was not quite Churchill-quality. After putting himself down so much, and then seeing him in a weakened state after being directly responsible for saving someone's life, hearing him mope some more about how useless he is could've been when he crossed the line from being sympathetic to irritating. (Maybe that was the point?)
Regardless, it's nice to see him coming to realize that his self-defeating attitude isn't doing himself or the rest of the SG any favors. That gives me hope that you have something special planned. I'm not saying it has to be anything as obvious as him saving the day when everyone else is down for the count, but after all the time you've invested into showing how down on himself he is, I'm positive you're building up to something with him.
And, judging by the way this chapter ended, it looks like he's going to have another chance to prove himself really soon - provided he finds a shirt first, because it sounds like he hates being seen without one. He must be a shy one, though that does align perfectly with the personality you've crafted for him so far.
| Will9035 chapter 14 . 3/24/2017
Well, this was most certainly not an uneventful chapter.
So, transferring Observance...I take it that works in basically the same way as transferring chronometrics functions? I'm almost a little disappointed in myself for not picking up on that. Mentioning that people could "share" chronometrics, knowing that there couldn't be two Observers (I think that's what you said), and Nona was most definitely the Observer when Kyle found her but somehow Cadence didn't disappear when she was killed...yeah, I really should have figured that one out.
I'm not so sure transferring Observance to Kyle was the wisest move, though. That's not a storytelling critique, but my thoughts were much the same as his: he's the guy in charge. Is the SG supposed to charge into battle now without a leader? Sorry for stating the obvious, but that certainly adds a little bit of tension. I'm almost wondering if Kyle is actually doomed now, and Observance will be passed onto someone else and one of the other SG members will take the reins? (Perhaps Alex? Kyle getting killed would certainly fire her up.)
...Oh, and poor little Skylar's okay too. He has a chance to redeem himself.
| Will9035 chapter 13 . 3/20/2017
Hmmm...you said this was going to be a three-parter, right? And "Raquel in Cadence" was supposed to be more of a stage-setter rather than an actual entry, right? So if this story is really just the second act in a much larger work, I'm assuming the Darkest Hour (or, to use your terminology, All Is Lost) is going to be coming up in the next few chapters. And seeing how disastrously this chapter went for the Gang, I'm wondering how things will get worse from here.
Also, that was quite the cliffhanger you left on. I must tip my hat to you; amidst all the chaos of these last two chapters, I had forgotten that Alex's weird dreams (?) still needed to be explained. Somehow I get the feeling that if Arianna really knows everything and tells all to Kyle, that will create a situation that is so awkward for Alex that she might honestly prefer getting some nasty cuts on the battlefield. (By the way, terrific job writing Kyle's dialogue when Alex started blabbering about her visions. The confusion and discomfort came through tremendously in those last few lines.)
| Will9035 chapter 12 . 3/16/2017
...Day-um. It was all but assured that this wouldn't be a quick and easy Here's-Nona-Here's-Maggie deal, but this went even worse than I thought it might. So Nona's quite clearly dead now. Unlike last time with Maggie, we have confirmation on the battle field that she's gone. And yet the world hasn't ended. I'm wondering what all this means. Was she just not the Observer to begin with? That would be quite the twist. My other gut instinct would be inclined to say that there were multiple observers, but I remember you explaining to me how that's not possible from a theoretical point of view. I think.
And, I must say...I got the feels for Skylar. Based on how much you were building up his "uselessness" in both this chapter and prior ones, I thought for sure this was going to be his moment to shine. But instead, I guess this is a cold case of reality ensuing. Poor guy. I wanted to see him fulfill that inspirational arc and become a valuable asset to the SG. But as this chapter ended when he was fading, the optimistic part of me is thinking that he'll wake up in the next chapter and have the resolution of this little skirmish explained to him (and us). And I've already been tricked once for believing someone was dead too early, so I'll do my darndest not to repeat that mistake.
| Will9035 chapter 11 . 3/12/2017
I must say, Nona's personality wasn't at all what I was expecting. For some reason, I was expecting the exact opposite: quiet, few words, and reserved. Although I guess it takes a certain personality to agree to mate with Salem.
Refresh my memory: has it been established that people can "link" their chronometrics? I remember having a question about some other alteration in one of the previous installments, and I can't remember if it's about this topic. Either way, it'll be interesting to see how this unconventional "Trojan Horse" operation turns out, especially since it's pretty clear that something will be going awry.
The next chapter should definitely be interesting. I think that much is clear.
| Will9035 chapter 10 . 3/9/2017
Given my knack for getting confused once the sci-fi concepts start flooding in, I’m relieved to report that I already understood precisely what the implications were of Nona being exchanged before you explained them here. Obviously it was a good idea to include that expository passage, both as a recap and for the sake of readers who just started with this story without reading “Raquel in Cadence” or “Rising Generation.”
On a side note: shame on me for assuming Maggie was actually dead. I had my suspicions she was okay at the end of last chapter -honest!- but the characters seemed so sure she was dead that I just went along with it. That’ll teach me to remember that rule about not finding the body…
It was also smart to have the SG be suspicious of Hakim because, let’s face it, there was no way someone like him or his father would ever just do a prisoner exchange in a fair and honorable way. Something is going to go down during that exchange. And I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that handing over Nona is a bad idea, even if Kyle is insisting with pretty solid logic that it would be in Hakim’s best interest to keep her alive, too.
Oh, and those visions that Alex is having…so, maybe they’re not meant to be taken literally? Is that what you were getting at? Or maybe her visions do reflect actual events, but it wasn’t actually her forcing herself on him in a sexual manner? But they were both naked in that image, right? And there’s only one reason I can think of why one naked adult would be on top of another naked adult. Maybe they were having a SG skinny dipping session and Kyle almost drowned, so Alex is taking it upon herself to perform CPR. Okay, that was a joke, but now I’m wondering what Arianna meant by that.
| Will9035 chapter 9 . 3/6/2017
...Yyyyyyyyyeah, I can see what Arianna meant when she said that this mission would end in failure. Or as Kyle considered it at the end, "a royal failure." And so the new team's already lost their first member? That is a rather grim reminder about how the characters in your stories aren't ever guaranteed survival. Silly me for saying in my last review that I thought everyone would make it out alive in this fight.
That battle sequence was very well-written and enjoyable to read. The descriptions of the gunfire, explosions, and some of the carnage were vivid and helped me to picture everything that was happening. You did a great job of explaining step-by-step how Kyle and co. were becoming increasingly screwed as the battle continued on.
But the thing that stood out most to me was Salem. I really, *really* liked the brief period when he showed up and completely stole the scene. In a story like this, he's my favorite kind of bad guy: imposing, confident, and powerful enough that he paralyzes his opponents by making them lose the "balls" to attack (it did kind of surprise me that nobody fired on him immediately, though this is far from the first time a good guy has had the bad guy in sight and hesitated to shoot). Oh, and he treats his kid like crap, just to make him that little bit more contemptuous. I'd been looking forward to seeing Hakim emerge again after appearing so sporadically since "Raquel in Cadence," and in that one scene Salem totally upstaged him.
Well done here. Let's see what kind of effects this battle and Maggie's demise will have on Kyle. I'm guessing this is far too early in the story for the "darkest hour," so it has me wondering how much worse things will get before they actually get better.
| Will9035 chapter 8 . 3/1/2017
Well, the foregone conclusion of Kyle's confrontation ending in failure is striking a little bit earlier than I expected.
As I was reading this, I couldn't shake some nagging feeling in my head: Skylar is fitting the classic archetype of a guy who's going to eventually turn on the SG. I mean, I know I've made this prediction several times over and I've been wrong every time...so the law of averages says I'll be correct eventually, right? Between the self-loathing at his "inferior" chronometric (okay, it's no future sight, but being able to see what's going on around you is still pretty damn useful, in my opinion) and his resentment at being left to do guard work strikes me as a recipe for a turncoat. The fact that you've spent a lot of time on him when he's just being a guard is reinforcing that sentiment, but I guess we shall see.
For now, it looks like the stuff's about to hit the fan pretty hard. I think it's safe to assume that everyone in the SG will make it out alive, but it's going to be ugly.
| Will9035 chapter 7 . 2/25/2017
For starters, I don't know how intentional this was, but I liked the use of the medical operation imagery in the early parts of this chapter. Lines like "one quick, surgical strike" and "the decisive scalpel that cuts out the tumor before it gets cancerous" gave some reinforcing imagery into how critical this raid will be, and how precise the S.G. must be when they carry it out.
I also liked Kyle being overtly assertive in this meeting, especially like how he used Raquel's real name even though she hates it and his mental reaction was "too damn bad." Obviously I know Kyle's taken this whole thing seriously from the beginning, despite the more boyish and cavalier attitude he's shown to most others over the course of both this story and the last one. Seeing him here getting straight to business and not caring if he makes someone uncomfortable shows his true mettle as a leader.
But the end just had me a little confused. (Guess it was bound to happen again sooner or later) So, Arianna has already seen the future of the raid that the S.G. are about to embark on, but she knows it's going to end in failure and so she's riding back that "casual loop" to warn the Gang ahead of time. Is that right? I'll try to remember everything you've told me so far-is a "casual loop" when somebody travels to a different time period, and they don't do anything to interfere with the timeline? Normally I wouldn't fret too much about understanding the specifics so long as I think I have a general enough idea, but this is an assault on the big villain(s), so that strikes me as something moderately important.