Reviews for Sovereign: Echoes
Kam I Am chapter 4 . 12/23/2019
"Me skimming your thoughts", bwahaha that got me.

"Everyone has to deal with the fact..." This line was perfect, and more than a little relatable. Great way of endearing Bauer's plight to the audience in a real way.

"The sheer absurdity had cut through him easier than a piece of magically-charged shrapnel" - Another fantastic line. The fact that it can land as well as it did illustrates that a lot of nice pipe has been laid up until this point.

Bouncing off the last few chapters, I really do have to say this one was a breath of fresh air. As much as I enjoyed the island exploration and Bauer/Honor's dynamic there was a sense that we were starting to get a bit lost in the weeds. This chapter, perhaps because it aimed to wrap up 'Part I' in a satisfying way, found the right balance between introspection and forward plot momentum. I loved it. Kelso is a great character already, and I'm hopeful we get to see more of him, even just here and there. He's a nice counterbalance to Honor's more stern nature. Bauer's interaction with the sailor was comedic but also an important representative of what he'll come to experience in the future.

After starting out on a far-flung island it's exciting to hear we'll get to go to the Capital and meet Bauer's parents among others. I'm really hopeful that we'll plunge right into all that now that the groundwork's been laid. For whatever reason I have this nagging concern that there will be a storm or something at the beginning of Part II and the ship will wreck on another deserted island somewhere. Please say it ain't so, I wanna see Sov folk doing Sov things in Sov places :p.

"Which is I'm not telling them any time soon." Think there needs to be a 'why' in there.
Kam I Am chapter 3 . 12/23/2019
I've been meaning to get back into these chapters for awhile now. Ever since the end of Nano, actually, just got caught up with school and the usual Holiday shenanigans. On the whole, I'd say I liked this one.

You've set up a really nice dynamic with Bauer and Honor. If these are the characters we'll be following for the length of the story, I'd say they're as good a pair as any. It definitely feels like Bauer has shades of Lorrik in his characterization, but he's unique enough in profession and his observations that I don't mind.

The idea of an echo following Bauer around everywhere he goes, giving him advice, is a really neat one. I do worry that the sagely advice Honor gives at times might start to be too much, though. I liked the pep talk she gave for the most part, but it felt like she was eating up chunks of the page with all these rhetorical questions she's asking :p. I think ultimately how I'll feel about the dynamic hinges on how often Bauer - rightly or wrongly - gets down in the dumps about things and needs to be talked 'at' as opposed to with. I'm hoping their dynamic starts to feel more like a partnership between the two of them and less like Honor having to knock sense into him at every turn.

I definitely think some of the critique I had about the "And..." and "But..."-ing of the previous chapters was mitigated here. It's really only the first half of the chapter that they sprout up too much for my liking, as soon as you get into the dialogue and the action of the chapter, things balance out rather nicely. I wonder how much of my issue with the whole thing is a result of a clash in style. I'll always be the first one to encourage more 'in the moment' writing, and I feel like repeatedly opening sentences this way really takes away from that effort. Balance is important in every aspect of writing, and there's definitely an over tendency to parallel 'this thing' with 'other thing'. It can be very effective in spurts, but it starts to wear me down after awhile.

On the whole though, that's just one guys take on things. You know me, I never claim to be an expert on anything when it comes to writing. I just try and package my impressions in as useful a manner as I can :p.

I'm intrigued to see where things go from here. Great last line to end on, btw. Hopefully I can get to the other chapter before leaving for vacation.
Aminta.defender chapter 4 . 12/4/2019
Diving nice into the character's thoughts. Nice. Really feels hectic and panicked and confused.

Honor is so sassy. Love it. She can read minds awesome! And absolutely terrifying and I want Bauer to run away screaming.

Bauer deciding to shove his hands into his pockets is such a dork thing to do. Had to chuckle. And this entire dynamic with the sailor is wonderful to watch unfold and I'm feeling a bit too much schadenfreude. Poor Bauer... he just wants to be normal and now everyone is terrified of him and he needs to watch out for people killing him. He can't win.

Nice little background on Bauer having to retake the test multiple times. That's too familiar.

Very interesting chapter, but not much too say. Kelso is interesting but not sure how I feel about him (or if he'll show up again). Looking forward to the next chapter.
Kam I Am chapter 2 . 10/22/2019
Reading this again, parts both new and old, was a treat :). For something I originally blitzed through in its entirety before, I have to say getting to appreciate this smaller chunk on its own was a welcome change of pace.

I enjoyed Bauer and Emmerich's dynamic here quite a bit, even more so now that there's not a lengthy speech interrupting up things :p. In this version their dialogue was especially snappy and established their respective viewpoints and character traits really nicely.

Honestly, with so much of this section being the same/similar to what came before I can pretty safely say all my praises in the last review still stand.

One new/ongoing issue that I feel like I put a bit more of a focus on this go-around was a stylistic one. It's something I probably would have made note of in my original review were that one not already so damn long :p.

I have nothing wrong with the phrases "And..." and "But..." being used as sentence openers on principle, but the further along I got in this chapter the more apparent it became that there's an overly heavy reliance on them.

On the one hand, it's pretty clearly a stylistic choice. On the other, it becomes a bit of a distracting one after awhile. All the coordinating conjugations fit the tone of the narration, certainly, but I also feel like it becomes too predictable as things go on and more creative phrasing can be used. Your prose beyond them is plenty diverse and engaging enough that I don't think you need to open with as many conjugations, let alone combine them ("And yet," "And so", "And for" etc.) as much as you do here.

For 'and' and 'but' alone I found close to 50 instances of them being used as sentence openers. Which, no matter how you slice it, is kind of a lot :p.

Doubling back to the first section, the same is true there, to the point where I'm willing to concede it's just an inherent part of your narration - but a part that I think could use some tweaking.

It's something I feel like I've honestly noticed for awhile. Here however, it feels a lot more pronounced. Perhaps due to the focus on being more 'in the moment'. Idk. It was the biggest thing unrelated to story that I came away with after reading the chapter.

Enjoyed it otherwise, and am excited to see what sort of new content we get in Chapter 3 :).
Aminta.defender chapter 3 . 10/9/2019
That ending... :) Yes, Honor, shit.

I really like the chapter although it feels slower compared to the previous two which is to be expected, as the pace has to slow down some time. You did a wonderful job introducing Honor and teasing her mystery. I want to know more about her, although I hope that you maintain the suspense for quite a while longer. I do find it interesting that perceives herself as being "made" in a way that sounds artificial. She implies that other echoes are more primal and made by accident.

The dialogue is okay, but due to the chapter being dialogue heavy, it feels rather stilted. There is a tendency for fantasy and sci-fi authors to base dialogue off of other books in their genre. As a result, everyone has similar cadence which prevents your dialogue from standing on its own and being distinctive. I'm not sure how to fix this, but if you figured it out, it would bring your dialogue to the next level. Honor's speech patterns are fine, mostly because I can buy how she speaks due to being an artificial life form. Bauer, doesn't talks like a young person, and rarely like an academic.

The wording for the most point is great although I had a few moments where I stopped and went, "Wait a minute." You have a tendency to use adjectives/nouns that don't exactly fit with what you are saying. I would suggest toning it down just a smudge and use strong adjectives and verbs sparingly, to pack a better punch.

"Still carved and scathed" Word choice. Carved is ok, but weak. Scathed is this weird word which people mostly use in the form of unscathed because it accompanies all types of injuries. Basically, it is an empty weird. Puncture, perforate, gouge, abrasion, laceration, slice, etc... would all be better and more descriptive words in this case.
Aminta.defender chapter 2 . 10/7/2019
Ok, I'm sorry, but the first sentence being a fragment annoys me.

Now onto the rest of the chapter!
I adore Bauer. He is just practical while completely enamored with history. I really do hope that Bauer continues to look at the history, not the power, behind the artifacts, even if it seems that he will train to become a Sovereign.

Now who is Honor? Was she in the artifact? Or something else? Her name feels a tad too lazy and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I do hope that what she is, is a bit more complex.

I really enjoy this new work of yours. Unlike the first Sovereign series, you are handling the pacing much better. Every character has just enough lines for you to sort of care about them and feel like their deaths are impactful. Also the way you're sprinkling worldbuilding, specifically power structure, is great.

"We Imps gotta... stick together." That was one of my favorite lines. It so clearly showcases the divide between the "normals" and the "mystics." I personally feel like this world is a powder keg, almost ready for a revolution.
Aminta.defender chapter 1 . 10/5/2019
The first paragraph is great. I chuckled to myself and it really set the scene.

"This was supposed to be my tomb." Lol. Really like how it is going so far. Everything works very well and the setting is well established. I'm also getting a good sense of the characters.

Nice reversal from the minion. Why are there only footprints going in? Perhaps there are traps inside? Although Falke seems a tad dense.

Nice moment between Bauer and Falke right after he is saved from death, although Falke continues to act stupidly.

"They're like cheese." *snort* Great job Falke.

Really like Bauer's more anthropological musings. It shows a great contrast between him and falke.

Not alone... Geeze. That's a promise of trouble and seriously Falke, did you think there was only one person in the tomb? Of course it could be a monster, but you already know that the tomb was opened...

...
Great first chapter Os. Your writing has improved by leaps and bounds. I really enjoy this story and look forward to reading more. the more active phrasing is great and really draws you into the story. I also feel like I ca keep track of the characters which is often a problem in stories with a bunch of original characters.
Guest chapter 1 . 5/30/2019
This is my first foray into the Sovereign series, and I'm enjoying it. You mention in the note at the beginning that this work is supposed to be an entry point into the series, and I think, thus far, that you've succeeded with that. Immediately, the reader is thrust into your world, with its intricate plot (that seems to hint at larger, more labyrinthine stories still), its idiosyncratic classes of characters, and the like, but rather than feeling lost or over my head, what I am presented of this world whets my appetite to find out more. I love the concepts of Sovereigns as an elite magic-wielding few that appear to be above the constraints of their subordinates both morally as well as practically. I don't know if this scenario (or implied scenario) of the various Sovereigns having a band of followers that they use as pawns in quasi-legalistic power games against each other is something unique to this story or indicative of the series in general, but either way it is employed here in a way that clicks perfectly with the specific story you're telling, yet also gives us a strong sense of some greater context.

It comes out a little bit like high fantasy in the form of Indiana Jones-meets-Nietzsche. I think that all of this very deftly links what are obviously larger Sovereign-canon themes with the specific vibe of this pseudo-1900s setting. The tomb-raiding scenario is great, and having these superhuman, amoral demigods searching for lost artifacts out of boredom kind of just jives and gives it the veneer of early 20th century modernism. I think the characterization of the Imperials is critical here though - otherwise a story like this runs the risk of sounding like a tale Indiana Jones' antagonists would spin, if you catch my drift. But I think you avoid that masterfully, as the meek-yet-pragmatic underlings come off as more relatable, and indeed, more sensible than their superhuman masters. I think Bauer being revealed to be a mystic at the end is entirely appropriate - I was kind of hoping for something like that from the moment he was introduced - but with the above in mind, I hope you continue to provide compelling Imperial characters as the story unfolds.

One thing I did notice, though, is that there are a lot of incomplete or improperly formed sentences in the narration. I don't know if this is a stylistic choice to give it a more casual tone (which is a valid path), or just something that needs to be caught in editing, but for me it stuck out. There were a lot of examples of this, but I'll give two:

"Instead, he fished a small, metallic tube from his pocket. A flashlight, which he promptly shined on the 'floor' of the tunnel."

The latter sentence isn't a sentence isn't a sentence. Again, I can see how writing in this way comes off as conversational, and there is value in that; I personally, though, would write work around that with something like "...from his pocket - a flashlight, which he...etc". (Also, I think the correct conjugation of shine is "shone" in this context, but don't quote me on that).

Here's another one:

""But while the world outside was jagged and uneven, the path downward was little more than a gentle slope. A perfect square corridor... etc".

There are a lot of instances of that same issue, which I'd similarly revise.

I'd also point out that you start a lot of sentences with "But". This isn't a grammar issue per se (depending on whom you ask, as it's kind of contested whether or you can start a sentence with a conjunction), and I personally don't have an issue with it, I just think you've overused it a tad.

I'm sorry that I'm nit-picking the writing here, because I actually really enjoy it and think that overall, it's written very well. I really like the line about exhaustion "bleeding" into his voice - that's quite poetic. I'd just give it a couple of scans to tighten it up, because the text definitely deserves it. And again, I get that it might be a conscious choice to write that way to a degree - there's definitely a strong voice coming through - but I'd maybe just exercise that more sparingly. If these suggestions aren't helpful, or I'm missing the mark in your writing, kindly ignore me. :p But overall I liked it quite a bit, and I feel like it gave me a perfect taste of your fictional setting, and I hope to read more.
Kam I Am chapter 1 . 5/26/2019
Alrighty, let’s crack open this bad boy. There’s probably no good way to approach a chapter that’s 7000 words long, but I’ll give it my best stab. First section will be my general thoughts as reading, second will be my overall impressions.

This intro dives us immediately into the story - something I know that you had some hesitations about, but I think works really well here. A story of this scale doesn’t necessarily need to have a prologue, especially when the focus is on exploring the ‘spirit’. That’s something that I think naturally works a lot better with a more character focus as opposed to an expositional section right at the very beginning.

Before even getting to the first piece of dialogue you establish the setting and characters very well. We’ve got the wastes of an island, a batch of determined explorers, and the esteemed Sovereign leading them on their expedition.

Then of course, the Sovereign opens his mouth and all expectations have been shattered :p.

The conversation back and forth here between the Sovereign and his underlings establishes a dynamic far from what the opening paragraphs would have us believe. Something, something, subverting expectations :p. I’m liking this a lot, though, Falke practically clawing at his face did seem a bit over the top xD.

Also, in the line “… shall be granted to Lord Benedikt Falke. Exclusive!.” There’s a period after the exclamation point that doesn’t look like it should be there.

I see a flashlight popping up here, technology! Now I’m curious when exactly in the timeline this is taking place, *double checks*, ahhh, early 20th century, huh? I’m trying to think what else of yours I’ve read that would have fallen in that period. Maybe something from the Tales collection.

Wait… is Falke giving Bauer a noogie? Oh lord xD.

What kind of band of explorers only packs one gun? Come on man, you know I crave some shootbangs, dated as they may be :p.

Having not read any further than the dead end that the band stumbles into I’m kind of curious if this band of explorers is going to become another one of your patented ensemble casts. Though, with how unorthodox a Sovereign Falke seems to be I wouldn’t be surprised if we run into another Torrid Squadron situation here either and most of these folks are gone by the end of the chapter :p.

‘Magic is infinite, we are not.’ Simple as the saying is, it gives an insight to the framework of the universe in a way that’s not expository or overhanded, and I appreciate that a lot. This chapter in general has been a nice change of pace to your usual work, I definitely encourage more experimentation like this, getting a side of your stuff that I hadn’t really been exposed to before :). Considering how much of your stuff I’ve read/reviewed over the years, I do think that’s saying something. Old dog, new tricks.

All these darts and ancient traps inside this cave, definitely getting an Indiana Jones-type vibe of things.

We get a nice character moment with Falke and Bauer here, it continues to establish the dynamic between the Sovereign and his men, and how that relationship differs from the other Sovereign across the realm. That was a nice way of bringing things full circle, though the paragraph that really establishes that dynamic felt a bit too lengthy for its own good, a bit overhanded in its approach. I like the content, just think it can be broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks that really emphasize the impact between the Sovereigns and the Dominion they serve.

Regardless, that was a pretty good pep talk for Bauer and the other folks. Enough so that he starts to open up and we get some insight about his passion with these magical artifacts. I feel pretty confident in saying that Bauer’s either the protagonist or second-only to Falke (an entire story from this dude’s perspective would be a hoot and a half xD), and in predicting that, I feel like I’ve noticed a common thread between most of your protagonists now. At least, between Ascension, here, and maybe Beasts as well. They all seem to be pretty optimistic, sharing a pluckiness that’s easy to root for. They also all have a pretty unique passion, whether that’s archaeology, cooking, or whatever. Not really sure where I’m going with this, just an observation I’ve made having bounced between all these stories. You very much have a ‘type’ for protagonists, from what I’ve read :p.

Ah, here we get some of that good old Sovereign voodoo coming into play. Deflecting all the darts was a good display of Falke’s ability, maybe I was judging this guy a little too harshly at first glance :p. I will say all the Imperials sucking up and applauding his every move just inherently makes me like him less. Especially when this dude just drops his sword on the ground and expects one of his subordinate’s to pick it up. Like, I get that’s part of the culture and everything, but screw that kind of authority, man :p.

‘Artifacts are like cheese’, oh man xD. I’m curious about this Adagarus guy, can’t recall any Sovereign of that name from my readings, so I’m assuming he’s a new ancient one. Would be neat if he actually stemmed from an already existing work, even briefly.

Gheran definitely sounds familiar, is that from Beasts?

Also, yay for Bauer finally voicing some annoyance/having ‘doubts’ about Falke. Glad the explorers aren’t just mindless followers.

A new challenger approaches - this one actually stocked with guns, smart move. Bwahahah the subordinate silently running over to Falke and placing his saber in his expectant hand is a beautiful mental image xD.

Ah, Haraldr came for the artifact himself. Sovereigns trying to outclass each other like always. Also, competing treasure hunters waiting for one to do the dirty work while the other claims the spoils, Indiana Jones vibes for sure.

Oho, Bauer falsifying his credentials to get aboard the treasure hunting crew, I respect this dude’s moxie. The fact that he’s continuing to come around to Falke being a bit of a jerk is also nice :p.

So, on the whole while I like this conversation between Emmerich and Bauer, and what it’s signifying for Bauer’s character, I also think, once again, that it’s a bit heavy handed in its discussion. Your character’s dialogue have always been a highlight for me, but this one in particular, especially the paragraph that starts with “Now it was Emmerich’s turn to sigh”, was a bit hard to suspend my disbelief with. These are two folks watching their Sovereign leaders clash in a dark cave, how does Emmerich have that much time/indifference to what’s going on to wax poetic about the Sovereign and the Dominion in general. It’s great information, but the way it’s presented in one giant paragraph makes it a bit hard to accept that one guy would be spouting all this knowledge offhandedly to some guy in Bauer that he just met.

You kind of lampshade this with Bauer’s ‘despondent’ reaction to all this, but I still feel like it’s asking to suspend the reader’s disbelief a bit too much. I would have preferred there to be more back and forth here instead of the beefy paragraph we’re supposed to expect one character is all saying.

“So as Haraldr continue”, should ‘continue’ be ‘continued’ here?

I really like how you contrast Emmerich and Bauer’s interests here, with the line “Emmerich the duel, Bauer the artifact”. It’s simple in execution, but really effective and well done.

“to go four hours”, think ‘four’ should be ‘for’. And when taken out of context, it’s fortunate that Sovereigns can’t ‘go’ for any longer than four hours. Might need to call a doctor if they ever did :p.

Nice, I stormed through the last chunk of this, pretty much captivated. It was a very slow burn to get to all these events at the end, but I’d say it was worth it. The spirit is awakened, Bauer is passed out. Interesting things are a head, I dig it.

On the whole, I enjoyed this chapter. The tone of the narration definitely feels different from some of your other work, a little more casual in places, but, like I’ve said more than once, it’s one that I really enjoy. I do have to admit I think this chapter could be shorter if you really wanted it to be - for a new reader coming in, they might not be able to stick with it all the way to the end. Which is a shame, because there’s some really compelling stuff to follow-up on. There’s areas to be slimmed in terms of that conversation passage with Emmerich, a long with some of the trap descriptions early on, but on the whole, this was an enjoyable piece. Quite a journey to analyze too, think this is my longest review I’ve ever done :p.

Solid work as always, Os. Great way to get out of your writing slump.