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Fun and Games / Re: Love Letters - Spring 19 Prompt
« Last post by Vin on May 24, 2019, 06:10:16 AM »
I know, I know. I'm late, but I got 'er done. Here she is. Only did some light editing, so there might be some mistakes here and there, but overall I'm proud of the result. Not anonymous, but oh well. But if you want to give thoughts, go in on it anyway. I can take it.

The Bells of War

My dearest friend,

I pray these words find their way to you in these dire times. The hordes gather, teeming below us like the rising tide. These storied walls have held fast against their furor thus far, but I fear that their next assault shall be our last.

I know not whether I shall yet be drawing breath by the time this sparrow reaches your halls. And still, I find myself only able to write words of comfort and distant dreams. The words of an old, vain fool perhaps, but necessary words all the same. For it is in the direst of times, I think, and the darkest, that the light of hope burns brightest. Hope. A beautiful thing. A beautiful word. And yet it is one that I find myself repeating all too often these days, such to the effect that it is becoming a word that now begins to lose all meaning. Hope, I say to the brothers and sisters, when fire and death rain down from above. Hope, I tell the little ones, while they stand by and watch as their brave fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers are laid to rest. Hope, I reassure myself, in the dark and lonely hours of the night when even my resolve begins to waver and the heart feels the cold grip of desperation.

But what do we have to hope for, in times such as these? Is there anything at all? I think so, dear Urthstorm. I think so. Survival, surely, but also this: that whether it is this day or the next that is to be our last, whether we live or die, it is not the end— that death’s red tide shall one day subside, and from the ashes, like the forest following the fire, the world will be born anew. Though at times the sun may seem to die the night shall not last forever. It is for this that we must hope. That barbarity of the ilk we face today shall not and never shall extinguish the spirit of this great Wood.   

The whole of Mossflower stands on the brink. It is for us to keep it from falling over the edge.

Father Rodolphus,
Abbot of Redwall

The fires set by the horde below raged along the foot of the mountain in silent furor. Urthstorm gazed at the sea of flames in silence from the peak of the mountaintop. The songs of war drifted listlessly up from the bowels of the earth— metal striking metal as hammers clashed against the anvil, shouts of determination as warriors steeled each other for battle, and that grim resolve that always seemed to appear at times like these, hanging not quite like a sound and yet as tangible as any musical note all the same.

“M’lud.” A hare stepped up to his side with a casual salute.

“Colonel Highwater.” Urthstorm turned to acknowledge him with a nod.

“Quiet night, wot. Gives me the flippin’ jitters.”


Highwater surveyed the horde at the foot of the mountain. “I’m almost impressed. They’ve bally well managed t’raise the whole o’ Vulpuz.”

“My father used to say that this mountain would fall only when the stars, too, fell from the sky and set fire to the sands below. There are moments I fear that perhaps that day has come.” Urthstorm paused, returning his gaze to the dunes below. “I have ruled this mountain for nearly twenty seasons, guarding the shores of Mossflower from all manner of death and destruction. And yet those twenty seasons now seem like a lifetime, an era of peace that may never return.”

“Calm b’fore the bally storm, eh, sah?”

“I am afraid so. And we stand now in the eye of that very storm. The worst, I fear, is yet to come.”

“We’ll weather the blighter,” said the colonel. “Give ‘er the ol’ one-two, dontcha know?”

“Aye,” Urthstorm replied, nodding slowly. “I hope that you are right.” He paused, eyes drifting up to the stars. “Hope.” He laughed, shaking his head. He turned to Highwater. “’Tis a funny thing, hope. And yet it is all we have left.”

The hare grinned back at him. “Hope, steel, an’ blood ’n’ vinegar, sah. Sounds like more’n enough to me, wot.”

“Blood and vinegar, indeed, Colonel.” Urthstorm laughed again. He looked at Highwater with a smile. “Thank you, Clarence.”

“What for, sah?”

“For standing by my side. Now, and every time before.”

“Always, m’lud.”

“We may not get another quiet moment like this in the coming days, I think. No more time for goodbyes.” Urthstorm sighed. “We have grown old together, you and I. We had a dream, ever since we were dibbuns stealing the pies from the kitchens and hiding with our spoils in the basement. Do you remember it?”

“Aye.” Highwater nodded. “To create a shining new Mossflower, free from the threat of warlords ’n’ pirate scum. For woodlanders ’n’ innocent vermin alike.”

“I am afraid we may not live to see that dream come to pass.”

“We’ll show these rotters wot’s wot, m’lud. Send ‘em scurrying back to Vulpuz with their tails between their flippin’ legs, wot.” Highwater grinned at the badger lord. “And if not, we’ll take as many as we jolly well can there with us.”

Urthstorm smiled. “Like the old poem. For us, there is only the final hurrah. One last eulalia, and into history we march.”

“One last good eulalia,” agreed the colonel. “I could bally well live with that.”

Urthstorm held out his paw. “Tomorrow, or in the Dark Forest, my friend.”

“Tomorrow.” Highwater grasped Urthstorm’s outstretched paw. “We’ll have a drink to celebrate. It’s been an honor, sah. Absoballyflippinlutely an honor.”

“Likewise. Now, go and rally the Patrol. We have a long day ahead of us."

Highwater nodded and sped off into the depths of the mountain after a final salute. Urthstorm once again turned to gaze at the fires below. From somewhere below, a bell rang the quiet mumur of the night.

“One last eulalia,” Urthstorm muttered. “Like my father and his father before him. Such is the fate of a badger lord.” He breathed a long breath, closing his eyes. “Such are my dreams of late. ‘The bells of war will toll, and your blood shall spill on the sand.’” He smiled and shook his head. “And on that earth, a new world will dawn. I can only hope that it is the world I dreamed of in my youth.”

With one last look to the stars, he turned and stepped back down into the mountain. 


Stand tall, my friend, in death or in life— however this letter finds you. Stand tall and we will stand with you.

I have little else to say because there is little to say. So I leave you with this, a poem left by one of the lords of this mountain long ago:

Where there is fire, there is blood.
And like a bloody fist, the sun shall settle in the sky

As ringing steel calls the dawn—
The song of war is pealing in the dark,

The song of a new world,
A world we will never see.

For us, there is only the final hurrah.
One last eulalia, and into history we march.

Tomorrow, a new world awaits. May it be the world we longed to build.

Urthstorm the Sage,
Lord of the Great Mountain by the Sea, Defender of the lands of Mossflower Wood.
General Discussion / Re: Anything open?
« Last post by Matra Hammer on May 21, 2019, 05:41:20 AM »
As the pink otter said: Discord is your best bet. Good clutch of people there, and the best place for starting up an idea or joining in one.

EDIT: Ask/PM the board admin "Airan" for the credentials if you're interested.
General Discussion / Re: Anything open?
« Last post by Vin on May 20, 2019, 10:56:05 AM »
Hey! There’s mini-“contest”— more like a challenge than a contest— that I’m running that is technically closed, but since I got no submissions I’ve made into a “finish-when-you-want” sort of deal. You can find it in the Fun and Games section, under the heading Another Story. We’re a little more active on our discord than we are here, though, so if you really want the 411 joining there is probably the way to go.
General Discussion / Anything open?
« Last post by Masika on May 19, 2019, 04:58:09 PM »
Are there any writing contests or anything that's still open? I totally forgot I even signed up here until now.
Fun and Games / A Story Within a Story - A Writing Challenge.
« Last post by Vin on April 23, 2019, 03:33:43 PM »
The dust has barely settled on our last prompt— me? I’m still writing my response— but here we are. Another day, another prompt.

I don’t want to keep you in suspense, so without further ado:

A Story Within a Story

(Note: I immediately retract my statement, by the by, about not wanting to keep you in suspense. Y’all ‘bouta get a dissertation now. You can probably skip this part and go straight to the details but it might help you understand what exactly I’m looking for here.)

A Preface

The influence that a story, even a simple story, has in shaping an individual and their identity is tremendous. I think that we, as writers, can see this clearly through the echoes of stories we’ve read/heard/etc. in our own work, but it’s something that holds true even for your average person, whether they— and we— realize it or not. Stories inform belief, morality, ideology. They give us answers to the questions we can’t always answer ourselves and reaffirm the notions that we already hold. Everything, really. (I have, in fact, written multiple essays on this subject— maybe not “academic level” work but it’s something I’ve thought a lot about andd could talk for hours about.) Basically, a person is, in essence, a collection of stories, stories that others have told them and stories that they tell themselves.

Why is this important for us, as writers? Simply put, a good character is a person. That may seem like an obvious statement, but all too often you see characters who are clearly just that. Characters— individuals created to be a vehicle for plot, add color and flavor to the setting, or populate a world so that it doesn’t seem empty. Essentially, characters are all too often a whole lot of function with very little form. Function is important— every character needs a purpose and if they don’t have a real puropse their presence can detract from the story. (*cough*rose*cough*starwars*cough*.) That being said, the best characters, I think, have a bit of both function and form. Function being purpose, form being believability, relatability, etc.— humanity, or personhood, if you will. So if a good character is a person, and a person is made up of stories, then a good character must, on some level, be also made up of a collection of stories. I’m not talking just backstory here— though that is undeniably part of it, because what story is more influential than the story that we experience? Every character has beliefs, worldviews, wishes, hopes, desires that come from somewhere that give them a semblance of humanity and make them seem like a real person. That somewhere isn’t always discussed because it’s not always thought about. Today, I want you to think about that somewhere.

The Prompt

(Note: I’ll be following Matra’s prompt format fairly closely here, because I think it was very clear and answered everything before it was asked.)

Create a character, or take one that you have already written/are already writing, and have them tell a story. This story can be about anything and in any form— a silly ditty about bees, an epic poem about great warriors of the past, reminiscing about the days of yore, etc. etc. etc.— but what I want to see here is how this story that they are telling reveals something about them. Show us through their actions and dialogue, through the world around them, how they react to the story. I want the story that they tell to paint a picture not just of itself, but of its storyteller. This is, I guess, just a glamorized writing excercise, which is why I decided not to make it a competition. But I’m looking for specific things, which I’ve told you all about. Which makes it, at the very least, something of a challenge.

The Reward

You get a trademark Vin review— that is, only minimal grammar advice, wildly subjective, and with a big focus on characterization (which is maybe a given because of the prompt). You will receive this review fairly quickly, by my standards— within the week at the very latest, though I’m gonna push for within a day or so.

The 411

Due Date: May 15th. This gives you a solid 3 weeks to write and, maybe a little selfishly, means that I don’t have to worry about reading and reviewing until after I’ve finished all my finals.

Submission: Submit to me by PM, or a Google Docs link if that’s something you prefer. As long as I can access the story easily and copy/paste it quickly, I’m happy.

Word count restrictions: I’m gonna be a bit wild and say technically none, but I’m also assuming that nobody’s out here trying to submit a 10000 word epic. Please note that if you submit something over a couple thousand words, it might take me a wee bit longer to read and review. However, since I have had a request for an "unofficial word count", I think an optimum word count would be somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 words, depending on what kind of story your character is going to tell (are they singing a song? preforming a whole play?).

What do I need? You need a character, a story, and a story for the character to tell in that story. Secondary characters and plot are optional.

A couple of tips:

- Remember that this is all about characterization. The character is focal point of the piece and the most important thing here. Your main story can have a plot if that’s something you’re willing to tackle but I want a portrait of the character more than I want a shocking twist or hair-raising scheme.
- Secondary characters can be vital here because they can help show the inner workings of the primary character. Have the secondary character react to the story, and then have the primary character react to the reaction. All of a sudden, we know more about the primary character than we did before because we know what the story means to him.
- The story within the story doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be complete. It can have clear bias or lack thereof. Remember, it’s a reflection of the character.
- Create your character first— values, longings, beliefs etc.; this will help you shape the story within your story.

Preemptive FAQ:

“What does my story within a story have to be about?”
Anything. The key here isn’t so much the story itself but how the story informs character.

“Will other people know that I wrote it?”
Only if you want them to. I will be posting them anonymously, but if you feel like revealing yourself feel free.

“Is this a Redwall Contest?”
No. If Redwall is something that you want to write then by all means write Redwall, but you are free to use any character and any world that you want.

“Whoops. I pulled a Vin and missed the deadline. What now?”
Don’t worry— you’ll still receive a review as long as you either a) submit it to me or b) post it either here or elsewhere. That being said, it will go to the bottom of the reviewing order and you may have to wait a good long while for me to actually get it out, depending on my schedule come May.

“What if I don’t want a review?”
Fair is fair. Just let me know.

“What if I want you to focus your review on certain things?”
Fair? Still fair. Again, let me know.

“I have things to say about one of the entries. Can I review them too?”
Absolutely. Just remember— and this is for posterity because I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this— be respectful and constructive.

“Is writing all of this just for a review from a university student who only just started his english major actually…worth it?”
Up to you, I guess. The main purpose of this prompt was to inspire you to explore the process by which you characterize your, well, characters. If I’ve done that, my work is mostly done. The rest is on you.

"I don't buy it. This theory of characterization seems a little wack to me."
 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It's all subjective, isn't it?

"Did you overuse the pink? I can barely read some of these FAQs."
Probably. But pink is my trademark, doncha know.
General Discussion / Re: Who’s Left?
« Last post by Airan on April 21, 2019, 09:19:52 AM »
We still have a small community set up on Discord. Mostly the people from Mossflower Odyssey 3 onwards. I'll invite you to the group if you want to join
General Discussion / Who’s Left?
« Last post by Istvan on April 21, 2019, 02:35:48 AM »
It’s been so long since I’ve logged into here, but I’ve never been able to forget this period in my life, and frankly I miss y’all. I miss the community we had, and I miss all the writing we used to do.

If anyone is interested in reconnecting, my Discord is Anthony#0812
Fun and Games / Re: Love Letters - Spring 19 Prompt
« Last post by Vizon on April 05, 2019, 10:29:24 PM »
Vin- totally agree with you on Ingela. If I'd thought she was dead, that would have been pretty powerful. Disagree with you on the paragraph breaks in RTT though. I think without the breaks it would feel too rushed. I like the breaks because they made me pause before moving on to the next bit, which helped emphasize the difficulty of climbing and how long it took whereas if it was all mushed together it would seem less so. Kind of like with illustrating a graphic novel if you want to stretch a moment out and not make it seem like it's over in a second, you literally have to draw more panels that force the reader to take more time to get through them and linger more on those small moments. Could be done with words, but there is a word limit. I think this was a good compromise (AND who really wants to read a huge paragraph about the difficulty of a climb anyway? Though there are certain authors  who would even be able to make that interesting, I'll bet).
Fun and Games / Re: Love Letters - Spring 19 Prompt
« Last post by Vin on April 05, 2019, 11:21:16 AM »
So. A quick breakdown: I'm gonna go through, talk about things I think need to be talked about, things I liked, things I didn't like, etc., though I'll mostly be ignoring spelling/grammar. This could be anything, really, and will probably be different for each story. I’ll be going in the order that I read: from the bottom up. I know. Wild. Who reads the last story first? What can I say? I like to live on the edge. Anyway, without further ado, I present to you:

Vin’s Guide to Getting Vin to Enjoy Your Story!
(Because my opinions, of course, are more than a little subjective.)

The Travel Adviser

Regarding the World:
For starters, I actually liked how you ignored artistically chose to augment the prompt. It’s a fairly sparse world you’ve created at times, but it mostly works as a vehicle. For the most part, you know what’s happening and it doesn’t feel like you’re missing any details that hard to understand what’s going on. I think the fact that you chose such a basic scene helps that— and I don’t mean basic in a bad way just that it’s a very simple scene: lizard critic eats at a restaurant. That being said, while simple can be good don't make it too sparse. It doesn't detract from the story, sure, but it also doesn't add much and the world itself feels very empty. Occasionally you get details— Monsters? Lizard people? Oh my!— but it's not very clear how they fit together. It doesn't feel like a world so much as a painted set that doesn't look quite real. An example of this is the fact that we don’t really realize that our scaly friend is in a human’s restaurant until over halfway into the middle section. This makes it kind of a surprise, and not a good one so much as one that pulls you out of the world, when this is shown. It felt like you were just telling us, "Oh, by the way, there are humans in this world." Try to make things like a little more natural. Maybe describe the waiter so we know he’s human (but remember: always show, never tell), I don't know. But with worlds like this they need to feel natural or the story just feels like an anecdote rather than an actual story. See Vizon's point about making the world seem consistent. Sometimes it feels like a whole bunch of interesting ideas thrown in a pot to create something of a Frankenstein-style world rather than something cohesive.

Regarding Gunther:
I want to like Gunther, because he seems likable enough at times. But…then he doesn’t? The main issue for me is that there seems to be two different characters that you’re trying to portray here. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’d like to contrast two quotes I’ve extracted from your story:

“Um, n-no. No thank you. I think I’ll burst just trying to finish this!…A check will be fine.”

Gunther is a nice guy. A little awkward and hesitant with the occasional nerve-induced stutter, maybe, but nice. He’s polite! He cracks jokes! He may be having a crappy day in a crappy town, but at the end of that day he’s still a solid, stand-up dude.

”I am a traveling critic. I make my living traveling from city to city, leaving reviews in papers about the sights to see and places to go. I’m quite famous in the western parts…Gunther. Gunther Von Kruqop. Perhaps you have heard of me?”

Gunther has an ego. A big one. He’s quite famous in the western parts, after all. You should’ve heard of him. His job? Judging the plebeian masses. God, what a jerk.

See the difference? Not only do there seem to be two completely separate characters, they seem to be polar opposites of each other. Try to keep it consistent, even for what is ultimately a bit part whose purpose is to create payoff for what is essentially one big joke/humorous situation. Really lean into one— the nice guy or the egotistical food critic.

Regarding the Accent:
Ah, accents. The bane of any Redwall writer. The thing is, you aren’t writing Redwall so I’m not quite sure that you even needed an accent. But you still went for it with the waiter, and I respect that. Unfortunately, the accent comes off a bit like Cameron Diaz’ accent in Gangs of New York— that is, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it inexplicably…isn’t? Note the shift in accent in the following example.

You go from this:
”Sorry, I’m so sorry it’s just… I’m laughing at the irony.”
To this:
“Ya see, yer not the first scaly critic…”
To this:
”…that has graced our town this week.”

See how each of these three sections of a single line of dialogue sound like they were said by completely different characters? Character one is sort of an average guy without any distinct accent. Character two is a sort of rough, hardworking type. Character three is a bit more classy, maybe to the point of seeming standoffish.

Now, I would like to note that I have very particular opinions about accents and how they should be used that maybe not everyone agrees with. But there are two main things that I think are massively important when writing with accents.
First is that accent is a reflection and even an extension of character, not just a few funnily spelled words to add some kind of "flavor" to your work. Every accent tells a story, and it needs to be consistent to keep that story consistent. You probably wouldn't, for example, have a hardcore vermin accent on a character who, despite being a rat, is a scholar who reads books for a living. You probably would use it for a rat who grew up on the streets living the thug life but is trying to turn things around and signed up for the police force. If you're just going for flavor, don't bother. Sometimes less is more and unnecessary flair can unnecessarily distract from the story. If there isn't a purpose, ditch it.
Second, if you do decide that the accent is necessary, remember that an accent is still more than spelling words funny. Word choice, dialect, slang— these are all things that go into creating a believable accent. Somebody who speaks with "yer"s and "ya"s probably wouldn't use a phrase like "grace us with your presence". If you like what that phrase is trying to say, but want to use the accent, make your own idiom that sounds more believable! Flex that creative mind!

Regarding the Twist:
I thought it was funny. While the fact that the whole story is essentially one long joke sort of makes it hard to judge any of the characters in the piece as characters, per se, I still enjoyed it. With a little more polish, this could be something.

Beyond the Walls

Regarding the First Letter:
Honestly? I adore this letter. It's my favorite part of the whole piece. It really captures that warm, familiar, comfortable, and yet slightly rambling tone of someone writing to a beloved family member, and I think you get a firm image for a character that you never actually meet. Was it confusing? Sure, but wouldn't any personal letter written by an unfamiliar person be as such? It felt very personal in its references and its tone. Kudos.

Regarding the Accent:
It's a little all over the place. You're using "Yer" but also "You" and also "Yah". You use "COMING" but then "peepin'" and "listenin'". (That one could be believable if she was trying to put on a "proper" accent except for that fact that previously she miserably failed to put that proper accent on— "damnable ick"; "My illness is met wit’ quizzes?"; "im-per-ten-nonce"; etc.) Consistency is key to a good accent. It's not bad, because I think the accent reflects the character well and what Ingela says is reflective of the accent you're trying to make. But polish it up a bit. I'll say again— consistency!

Regarding the Story:
I like it. Other than Beatrix going from angrily yelling to laughing with the pups a bit too fast, I think the way you showed her slow realization of the true circumstances of this "gang of thieves" was done really well. This line, especially: 
Instead she locked with Beatrix across the room, who no longer trembled with anger or mirth or much of anything.
The only thing: the first time I read this, I thought Ingela had been killed. And honestly, I appreciated that choice, because it was done very subtly and adds a lot of emotional heft to the ending. And then I read it again and noticed this:
Madame Ingela claims it is hazelnut and something she calls “Cohkow” but I’ve not the faintest idea what she means.
All of a sudden Ingela isn't dead, and the story loses a bit of what is, in my opinion, very necessary emotion. 

Regarding the Second Letter:
Like the first letter, very well done. While the middle chunk of the story focused on Ingela and we only saw a bit of Beatrix, this letter really compounds her character. My only critique would be the one in the previous section, about Ingela surviving. (Almost sounds a bit callous to actively ask for a character's death, but I...felt the story more when I though Ingela had been killed by the Knight Braxton.)

Redwall's True Treasure

Regarding Altaaf:
I think you captured a character very completely with this letter. A sort of tough-love matriarch who isn't willing to admit she cares for her offspring but quite clearly does. A not-very-important side note, in one of my (never before seen, only in the vaults) stories I have a character named Alar Quickclaw, also a weasel and also something of a thief like the A. Quickclaws in your story seem to be. Guess I'll have to change it, since you beat me to the Quickclaw name.

Regarding Line Breaks:
This is probably the most subjective thing in these reviews, but I don't like how you break your paragraphs up. They feel short and stilted at times. I'm not asking for 5000 word paragraphs, but take this for instance:
Little by little, all other sounds died away, leaving only the standard night noises. Tadmor slunk from his hiding place, ears perked, eyes wide and watchful. He padded across the open space between the woods and the wall, then, using moonlight to guide him, he found pawholds in the still-warm stone.

Tadmor swallowed down the lump that had risen in his chest, gritted his teeth, and began the climb. He'd show them all that Tadmor, the youngest son of the Matron, was a weasel worthy of being one of the Claw.

Little by little, while the moon rose higher in the east, Tadmor inched his way up. Twice he ran short of pawholds and had to backtrack down to find a different route. Once he held by barely a claw as he stretched to a pawhold almost out of reach.

Limbs trembling, gasping for air, he finally pulled himself over the battlements and flopped, exhausted, onto the stone.

This is all one moment, really, one scene. It feels broken up. It could be one paragraph and the "flow", if you will, of the moment wouldn't be lost.

Regarding "Little by Little":
If you're gonna use a common, verging on cliche phrase like that, don't use it more than once, especially in a short story like this. You used it twice, and not just twice but twice in quick succession. In fact, unless you're using repetition for some kind of effect— "Little by little the ground grew farther away. Little by little Tadmor rose higher. Little by little the moon rose with him", for instance, and that's not a bad thing (I even overuse that technique myself)— don't start paragraphs with the same line ever.

Regarding the treasure:
Ah, yes, the famed food of Redwall Abbey. I figured that was what the "real treasure" you mentioned in the title right away, but I don't think that speaks to your story so much as how synonymous Redwall is with damnably delicious delights. However, the "treasure" is key to my main critique of this piece. Tadmor is looking for treasure, finds food instead, then realizes that this is the true treasure. The issue here is that the shift in Tadmor's thinking isn't really shown. He wanders into the kitchen and, yeah, it smells good but how does it shake him to his core and fundamentally change him? We don't see that. He smells the food, sees the food, hears a hare call the cook a treasure but it just doesn't feel like that would instigate the massive shift from Tadmor à la beginning to Tadmor à la letter. What I think this is missing— and this is probably due to word count restrictions but I still would've liked to have seen— is a scene where Tadmor watches the Friar cook and is blown away by the smell and the taste and the awesomeness of Redial food. I wanted in depth descriptions of the treasure, not just to be told, "Oh, food? That's the real treasure."
Fun and Games / Re: Love Letters - Spring 19 Prompt
« Last post by Vizon on April 02, 2019, 09:45:32 PM »
Redwall’s True Treasure
I think this is my favorite of the three because it is easy to follow and true to the Redwall world, written like a neat little package with all the edges tucked in. I was able to predict the outcome, but enjoyed it all the same. Anyone and everyone can appreciate Redwall’s delicious banquet foods – even a sneaking weasel. I like that he stole recipes rather than treasure, and the author wrote a fine hare accent as well, brief as it was.

Beyond the Walls
A bit confusing at first. It takes a lot of deciphering to figure out the letter and is best read again once you’ve read through the entire story. Of course, this is probably realistic, as it is a personal letter and none of the references within need explanation for the recipient. Still, puzzling out who was who and what was what took a bit of time. I like the idea of the rat family being “adopted” by their victim and their little family dynamic (the kids braiding the squirrel’s tail and Ingela leaving the pearls for the preserves), but I take some issue with the passage of time (it would take more time to create an entire costume than I think would have feasibly passed between the initial knock and the forceful entry). Also I feel somewhat unsatisfied with the explanation of what happened at the end. Did they actually believe Ingela’s ruse? I guess it doesn’t matter in the end, but then why put all that time into describing her disguise?

The Travel Adviser
I like twists in stories, and I am somewhat curious about this strange world of beast-men and dragons, but I feel there are so many gaps in the world setting that it is difficult to follow easily. What were the monsters Ryrry and Junni mentioned in the first letter? What would monsters be to dragons? The scene painted with the waiter and Gunther was also difficult to imagine and believe – where did the “sea of hands” come from that caught him? And the dynamic between Longhorn and the villagers is also difficult to decipher. They knew he was a critic, he burned down a good chunk of their village’s main attractions, yet they seemed largely unmoved by his presence. Also they seemed a bit too happy about tossing the lizard-man to their “guest.” I guess they’re just glad that they have a stranger to offer instead of one of their own. It’s all a bit confusing. But I do appreciate the fun little reveals – that the writers are dragons, that anniversaries are measured in centuries, and that Gunther, who the reader is fooled at first into believing is Longhorn himself, is actually the “sacrificial meal” for the real critic.

Oh – and one spelling error really jumped out – “desert” instead of “dessert.” That’s one that spell check can’t catch!
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