Hey there. ARG here, giving my first review as an official member of the Fanon Review Squad, and today I will be reviewing , by . A shipping tale involving the canon characters of Azula and Toph, this fanon takes place years after the Hundred Year War in Republic City, when Toph was police chief.
Azula has recently been moved from her padded cell within the Fire Nation to a dingy cell in Republic City. It was done by Zuko so that he might protect her, however he cannot always save her from the monsters in her head; that's why Toph steps in.
Azula never expected to leave the asylum; she never, ever expected anyone to care enough about her. But that's not the reason–it can't be. No one cares about her, and no one ever will. It makes no difference to her where she rots.
Since there are currently six chapters published and each chapter consists of five drabbles, it's no surprise that this piece did not take very long for me to read. Writing something short can actually be a lot harder than it sounds, because when there are so few words, it's extra-important to find the right ones. Take Dr. Seuss for instance. Most of the lines of his work were fairly short and simple, but he would spend hours on end perfecting them. Let's check out Fruipit's fanon, shall we?
Plot - 8.6: As stated before, this is an in-universe tale centered around the shipping of two canon characters that I would not normally think about. The premise for this coupling has its foundation laid from the beginning, where Azula is relocated from her asylum in the Fire Nation, where she has been kept for several years, to Republic City, where she is under the supervision of Toph, who by now is police chief. From the structure of the events that follow, it's clear that Fruipit has put a lot of thought into the organization of the story. After the first six chapters, the story is in full motion, but it's still only scratched the surface of the potential for an Azula-Toph dynamic that the author demonstrates. A story doesn't have to always be moving fast, but it seemed to have slowed down to a pause and taken too long of a break from the Azula-Toph theme introduced in the beginning.
Execution - 8.9: Each of the chapters is essentially a collection of five snapshots, and I can tell that a substantial amount of thought has gone into each. With that kind of attention to detail, it's clear that no part of the story is neglected. In fact, seeing this approach has made me wonder if it has merit for a longer story, too, where each part of the story functions as its own standing-out building block. The characters are in-character and since it takes place years after ATLA, it's easier to believe the shifts in some of their personalities. Each drabble introduces a level of detail, and while that's good for the story, some of them seemed to drag away from the story and didn't seem as needed as the rest of them. Another point I want to mention is the tense, which I'll talk a little more about below. In the most recent releases Fruipit has favored the present tense, but this wasn't the case in early chapters. Every style of writing has its pros and cons, but it's important to be consistent.
Proper Writing - 7.0: There were not enough technical errors to ruin the story by any means, but its important to remember that each of them is a bumpy knock-back to reality for the reader. I understand that each drabble stands on its own, but keeping the same tense is still the most fluid path to take. Even if you do vary tense, it's nice to have each chapter have the same tense throughout and if not each chapter than at least each drabble. There were, however, some times when the tense changed within a drabble, and that's definitely a step over the line. In addition, there were a couple improper uses of commas and incomplete phrases. Some sentences were either improper by missing a clause or having a word that didn't fit. It's something an extra read-through can be beneficial for.
Creativity - 8.4: Shipping fanons are quite common, even if they aren't as much on the fanon portal here as they are elsewhere on the internet. Therefore, to fairly judge creativity I have to look below the surface a little. This kind of coupling for Azula and Toph, as for the manner in which it happens, is something that I don't see every day; that's for sure. While the character interaction comes together, I didn't really find myself being surprised all that much. For that reason, I can't give full marks for creativity. I was impressed by the plot twists and the setting put into place, but I can't say that anything truly knocked the wind out of me.
Description of Action - 8.5: This fanon does not contain much in the way of what most people call action. Nevertheless, the story elements in motion were described adequately in most places. There were some areas where I thought a little more description would've been warranted, but I understand that the author is working with word count constraints here. Although the characters did feel more believable through the actions they took, there were several instances of telling the reader things where showing could've been stronger, which is where most of the deduction comes from. The tense issue from the proper writing category also rolls over into this one a bit.
Description of Setting - 9.4: Of the static, or consistent elements in the story, the one which stands out the most is the cell. Most clearly, we can see Azula go from being in one cell to being in another, and what the life of the once-proud Princess of the Fire Nation has become. What I really enjoyed, whether it was fully intentional or not, was how this synced with other characters who seem like they're in cells of they're own. Obviously it's not in the same way, but we can see Toph being trapped between her career and her responsibilities as a parent, with Azula adding to the mixture, Zuko being hopeless with how to handle Azula and Lin being dragged to the police station and having to find a way to occupy herself in a place not meant for someone of her age. So far in the story, the trap that the lost souls of Azula and Toph - the "broken dragon" and the "burnt badgermole" - find themselves in is very much a constant, though that may later change with further character development. Like the above category, there was some telling where showing could've been stronger, but still, this is very much one of the stronger points of the story that allows Fruipit's writing to shine through.
Realism - 8.6: Through most of the story, the character action is handled pretty well, especially from Azula's point of view. She still has the stubborn side of her spirit, but hardened and softened - in different ways - from years of confinement. However, there were a few minor parts that did not seem to fit right for the characters and universe we've all come to know. For instance, when Toph - the worlds first metalbender and the self-proclaimed greatest earthbender in the world - made a clumsy mistake with a pebble, it seemed off. Furthermore, that she was so intimidated by the results of the mistake in her own territory also didn't add up. Then there was the reasoning given for Azula's relocation in the first place, which was for her protection. As I was reading, I failed to see the plausibility in her being safer in a place where there are people from all nations, including the Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom, who she fought against, than in an institution within her own nation. Since many of her guards are earthbenders, they might not be ideal for that purpose, which later comes into play, in face, bringing the contradictory nature of the arrangement to the surface level. It felt forced, and while I can definitely understand that a pretext is needed to setup a story, it still needs to be convincing to a minimal extent.
Character Development - 8.7: The characters consist pretty much of Toph, Azula, Zuko and Lin (the rest are background characters, mostly guards.) All of the development that they go through is shown through the interactions of these characters with each other. With Toph, we see her reaction to Azula's presence, her thoughts on the matter and her confrontation with Zuko later on, along with the complexity of her life and relationship with her daughter Lin. Through Azula, we see how she handles her continued captivity. Zuko's not as much a part of the story later on, but his relationship with his sister is part of his sister's situation and development. Perhaps some of the most well done scenes in the story so far come from young Lin, whose innocence turns her into an unlikely bridge to Azula. What could be better about the character development and the way the main characters reveal themselves is to tie the development more closely to the main storyline, so the plot and the characters move forward together at the same speed. There are some examples of this already, but the story and the characters could both be stronger if they lived and breathed through each other.
Constructive Criticism: A lot of the deductions that I mentioned revolve around easily fixable mistakes. The main piece of advice I have to give is to work on bringing the focus of the story up to the surface more. You can start by creating a "shopping list" of scenes, or individual drabbles, that you plan on writing, and then rank them in order of relevance or importance. Consider cutting out the ones at the bottom until every chapter, drabble and word of the story serves a clear purpose. Other than that, just keep on writing. You've got a nice thing going on here!
To whom I would recommend: I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys shipping tales or finds stories that give deeper looks at canon characters appealing. The "short and sweet" nature of Of Burnt Badgermoles and Broken Dragons also allows you to immerse yourself in it with less time commitment. In fact, if you like what you read about in this review, which is over 1,800 words, and you have that much spare time again, you might as well go read the first few chapters right now.