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Hey guys. It looks like it's been a while (again), but it's time for another friendly neighborhood ghost review, this time of, by . If you've spent a lot of time on this wiki, then you've probably spotted Minn at some point, whether it be publishing her own fanon reviews, working on one of the site newsletters, preparing for the Fanon Awards and sharing her stellar artwork with fanon authors. Somehow, after all that, she is also able to write her own fanon story, which today I have the pleasure of delving into.
Ba Sing Se is kept balanced by the Dai Li. Any signs of conflict or talk of war are silenced immediately by these elite Earthbenders, under the strict eye of Long Feng. Brainwashing, imprisonment, execution... Anything's acceptable to maintain order. Those who disrupt the peace must be eliminated at once.
Yuhan, a highly talented converter of rebels (a.k.a. brainwasher), never had any problems with the Dai Li's reasoning. He lives to contribute to the balance of the city since he doesn't really have anything else to do, anyway. After an unexpected twist of events, however, a childhood friendship resurfaces - and blooms into love.
It wouldn't have been so bad if the Dai Li hadn't deemed her a disruptor of peace.
This story has had some pretty positive reception since it first graced the portal, and it is definitely not one to miss. I will say that there are some unforgettable moments, but no, you won't find spoilers here. With no further ado, let's take a look!
Plot - 9.7: One of those seemingly robotic Dai Li agents we know and love from ATLA turns out to actually be human and even goes so far as to fall in love. That premise is already creative and good, so that part speaks for itself. The main characters are brought to life through their quirks and expression, and the story feels realistic in part because of it. Minnichi has a knack for introducing plot twists at the right time and in the right way in order to drive the story forward. New characters and elements are introduced quite smoothly and the romance takes center stage. Already pretty entertaining in the beginning, the story actually does get better as it goes along. Certain...strong scenes...are quite brilliant (must remind myself that this review is spoiler-free). To borrow words from, the "little things" are what bring a story to life. Some small additions, such as Long Feng's explanation of Yuhan's traits and why he was so good at brainwashing, were just that. Pivotal moments, like the first kiss, were carried out and placed in a way that I can hardly imagine them being improved upon. That said, the pacing did fluctuate at times, and that's a difficult part of writing to keep the timing in a story in sync throughout. The introduction of Suyin, for instance, seemed rushed to the point of being almost glanced over. Not only can this rush introduce something new too fast, but it can also give the disorienting effect of jumping around while reading when most everything else is so organized.
On another note, this fanon ties in-universe subjects to it such as the Tale of Oma and Shu that are a nice toss-in for the fandom. An example that stood out in particular was Azula's persuasion of the Dai Li to betray Long Feng and the Earth Kingdom, which was granted substance and believability beyond what it had in the show. But again, what stands out the most is the string of plot twists that the author throws at you - pivotal parts that you won't forget anytime soon. They'll leave the kind of impact on you where - okay I'm going to shut up now.
Execution - 9.5: The style of this story, you'll find, is a close, personalized use of third person. It's a casual, almost conversational narrative that puts the reader and the story-teller at a communicative distance. Silent Hero in Emerald starts nice and easy (comparatively) and a reader can feel the change in tone for the oncoming chapters. Visions and flashbacks are timed appropriately, and one foreshadowing example came to mind centering around Riya. (Must stop myself, cause after reading this fanon it does take self-control to talk about it for so long without running into spoiler territory) *Ahem* While the description is complex and concise in a lot of places, Minnichi is a master manipulator of different writing techniques and can work with a simple, effective delivery as well. Some similar words were repeated, and could've used more variation, which contributed to a minor deduction. Also, the vivid description is occasionally too vivid and could maybe use some trimming down in the delivery (not that I have anything wrong with vivid description, don't get me wrong, but it depends on the case, though in most cases this was not the case). Finally, some of the memories seemed to invoke head-scratching confusion if events haven't been referenced before and there's little indication on where and when they take place beforehand. Back to some parts being rushed, the Joo Dee relapse seems to happen so fast with Suyin that its hard to keep up with compared with the rest of the story, at least when she's initially introduced and before...something else.
Now, given the length and amount of time that Minn has been on this site and I have been on this site, it's no surprise that Minn was able to make reference to the canon at several turns and it's also no surprise that I was able to get those references as I read. But what about the SHiE readers who really like Avatar and enjoy reading Avatar fanon but might not remember every single detail? They may not be the most frequent commenters, but I can virtually guarantee that they exist. The canon, while it's known, can't be taken for granted and sometimes a little exposition on something familiar can help "refresh" things. For instance, there was hardly any intro for Kuei as the Earth King, and he's not really referred to by name in the series, just as the Earth King, so "Kuei" seemed to pop up suddenly. Then there other examples like the bison bite mark which were brought up when relevant, and at the same time they appeared in the canon timeline. In cases like this, a couple more lines - perhaps of dialogue between the agents - on where the bite mark came from can be appropriate.
On a final note, the point of view of the narrator is not completely consistent. While it was normally up-close and in a style of third person not too far off from third person, sometimes it fades in and out to omniscience. Consistency in this is valued, though it's not the first priority in writing. In fact, if the rest of execution wasn't as great as a whole I might not even bring it up. It's not that transitions between narrations style and position can't take place, but they ought to be smoothly-handled and justified in what they do for the telling of the story.
Proper Writing - 9.0: The technical writing was flawless in many parts. Not much to talk about, and what there to talk about is falls into a few categories.. As far as spelling goes, a simple spellcheck on whatever computer program you're using (assuming you're typing your chapters in Word or something similar before you post them on here) is something good to use as a backup - though not to rely on. It seems you're quite proficient at ironing these errors out at any rate, as there were only a few - all of which were in the first half of the story so far I might add - and that's nod bad. Not bad at all, in fact. Especially for a story approaching 150k in length. Besides spelling, there was a presence of some words inconsistent with the appropriate tense, words being capitalized at the beginning of mid-sentence quotes and somewhat contradictory capitalization of in-universe words like "spirits" or "resistance". There were a couple other things that I noticed initially, but after doing some research online I found out that the rule regarding them was ambiguous and/or debatable, so no points were deducted for them, since they cannot be considered to be definite errors.
Now, onto the bending arts. Since waterbending, earthbending, firebending and airbending are usually not considered proper nouns, they should not be capitalized as such. However, that can be construed as debatable, and the wiki itself did capitalize bending forms for a long time before it was changed, so if you did choose to capitalize them, no points would be deducted for that. If you do or don't choose to capitalize them in your fanon, though, whichever one you choose should be done always and consistently. Otherwise it can not only be distracting, but it's contradictory. It seemed that up until Chapter 17 the dominant style was capitalizing and from Chapter 18 onward it was not capitalizing, but there was some back-and-forth throughout the fanon.
On a final note, certain words did not seem to have spaces between them. I discovered that these were all times where the font changed from regular to itallic and vice versa. I presume that this had something to do with when you brought the chapters onto the wiki, so while it was something I noticed and something possibly worth taking notice of, I did not deduct anything additional for that, either.
Creativity - 9.8: As I said before, this is a creative idea for an Avatar story. The canon parts of the story are integrated well, and the world of Silent Hero in Emerald feels "together" with the combination of canon concepts and fanon elements. The story, characters and plot twists and turns sync pretty well. Lots of good and bad happen to Yuhan, Riya and their companions here. No spoilers. But really, there are creative events and sequences that I want so much to elaborate on. The deduction of this category stems primarily from rushed sections where there was more room for fleshing out, and thus, creativity, but that should not deter you. Silent Hero in Emerald is a creative jewel.
Description of Action - 9.7: I probably mentioned it before, but Minn is definitely good at invoking emotion with her language when it comes to writing, and there is a progress in this quality as one reads along. Even at the beginning, though, she makes creative use of words in writing. One character walks "obnoxiously" and its an appropriate word choice, which proves that adverbs are not always lazy words. The action is phenomenal, and what makes the action in Silent Hero in Emerald stand out amongst other distinguished action writing goes back to Minn's close-to-the-character, casual narrative. It allows us to feel more of what the character is going through in the process. It works really, really well, and really leaves an impression. Occasionally, it can become long-winded and somewhat run-on, and the proper writing and repeated words do effect this score, but only for a pitiful, feeble deduction. The description of action was great.
Description of Setting - 8.9: LIke the above score, the description of setting progressed in quality somewhat. It produces a clear picture and gets the point across to the reader as need be. As much as it sets the tone right, the imagery wasn't as full-on immersing and didn't leave as much of an impact as the description of action did. Nevertheless, the physical description of characters was fine-tuned and settings were described somewhat, though occasionally taken for granted, like the canon. A more vivid image of the Dai Li headquarters for instance, might have been appropriate. By this, I of course mean blended up and drizzled into the exposition so as not to slow the story down. To sum it up, Silent Hero in Emerald has a really creative plot, brilliant characters and character development and exceptionally well-handled plot twists. Then, it is complemented by still-above-average setting and imagery that is not quite as strong. The atmosphere could be felt well at times, but typically wasn't immersing. Then, there were similar minor deductions as in the above category.
Realism - 9.1: In Silent Hero in Emerald, the characters and the actions are on the whole believable. The background and politics are well-put-together, as are the dynamics within the Dai Li life. Given who she is, it's no surprise that Minn brings the dark, secret organization to the surface in a manner quire worthy of praise. That said, there were some occasions where the believability fell back a little. For example, there was the time when the two main lovers recognized each other after so many years mainly by their eyes, a scene with Iroh and Yuhan where so much was conveyed in a stare (though Minn somewhat explained it) and the time when Riya "sorted out" memories from an early age. While the last one isn't totally unbelievable, its generally much easier to "sort through" overlooked details in memories from when you're a little older, as when recalling something from early youth it can be more like a flash or "snapshot" that stands out in your mind and remembering overlooked details much later can be more difficult. There were also some too-over-the-top expressions by some of the minor characters. I know that it's fiction and sometimes there's exaggeration, but still. Then there's the question of Riya's second parents being adopted when they are called "step" sometimes, which is another thing entirely. That would imply one or both of them had a marital relationship with her birth parents, which was not the case.
Character Development - 9.6: Front and center we have our main couple Yuhan and Riya (they're the "ship" of this story, there's no secret about that) as well as Yuhan's savvy patrol partner and buddy Hiroshu. Take Yuhan, he's good at his job, he does what he believes his right to the point of exhausting himself for it. It's a day-in, day-out, neverending and thankless crusade for peace. Then, as the synopsis indicates, Riya comes along and that shakes things up for him. His whole world becomes conflicted and the rest is history, one plot twist and shard of development after another. Enter Riya, sweet and a little naiive, she has her part to play and as she develops, she and Yuhan become closer. Hiroshu is someone who Yuhan shares his history with and while he was fairly over-the-top to start with, he has some good development of his own, and his story becomes somewhat of a companion arc to Yuhan and Riya's arc. There's lots more I can say about all of them, but, no spoilers. The minor characters include Riya's neighbors, other Dai Li agents and canon characters like Iroh/Mushi. For the most part, their position in the story becomes established, but some of them seemed introduced in a hurry. When names seem to appear randomly and its as if we should already know them, it's usually not a good sign. Tyru is an example. Anyone more significant than a background extra should get at least some thorough introducing.
Constructive Criticism: A lot of the points that I made are nits. This is already a really good story, so keep up a lot of what you're doing already. Apart from that, the most important things to remember are keeping consistent with the pacing and narration and further exposition where necessary. Managing the story progression as you go along will help iron out any wrinkles on this great piece of work. That's pretty much it.
To whom I would recommend: It would be easy to recommend this to people who like romantic stories or Avatar stories about the Dai Li, but speaking of genres wouldn't really do it justice. This one stands out, so if it doesn't sound like something you would normally read at first glance, you might want to make an exception. In fact, if you're reading this review, you should probably give Silent Hero in Emerald a shot.