Hello fellow fanon writers and enthusiasts. It’s been quite a while since my last friendly neighborhood ghost review. For this one, we’ll be exploring the world of, written by . You may recognize him as the author of , as well as . Here, the saga continues:
A dark spirit from the past returns! What is his purpose? It will be up to the relatively young Order of the White Lotus to put an end to it.
With his refreshing cast of original characters going on an adventure centuries into the future of the Avatar world as we know it (in a somewhat modified timeline), this is something that can be frequented by both new readers and fans of his own work alike. So let’s check it out, shall we?
Plot - 8.8: Mage is creative at story-crafting, and that has only become more apparent here than it already was during the days of Aftermath and Burning Earth. For the most part, everything about the plot is well-designed from the beginning. Either Mage has planned everything out extensively, or he has a major gift for stringing things together on the spot. I would not be surprised if it was a little bit of both, given the consistency and the quantity of how much he's written on here since 2011. There's plenty of background information, which I'm a sucker for. Granted, I do like background more than a lot of readers, so I have to say objective on that count. Given how it's spaced apart, though, it shouldn't be much of a problem for those readers. However, some of the background in the first half of the arc could have been better placed earlier in the story, as reading a chapter of a story is different than say, watching an episode of a TV show. When it comes to main characters, it's ideal to get inside their head from the very beginning.
Execution - 9.1: As far as pacing goes, the story never falters, with plot twists and/or cliffhangers coming in every single chapter. Not too surprising, given who the author is and how he's written his past works on the portal. The pacing is good. Particularly, the use of flashbacks was well-timed and relevant, and each one brought further depth to the characters and the story. There is a carefully managed flow of the revelation of information. I don't want to go into spoilers for those who haven't read this or haven't read the other Spirit War stories, but at this point in time, the Order of the White Lotus is experiencing growing pains, being in the middle of somewhat of a rebirth. There's a new Avatar, politicians, police, spirits, the various members of the White Lotus as well as the foes they face. There are a lot of characters and actors to keep track of. Therefore it's pivotal that they all be identifiable, which can be tricky, and we'll get to that more later. How old are the characters? It's a legitimate question. Sometimes it's a distraction wondering if one should be picturing a teen, or a young adult, or someone more mature. Sometimes that comes later, but it's still distracting to leave the reader hanging on something like that.
Proper Writing - 8.4: As is usual in my reviews, this category is one of the lowest scores for the fanon. However, it is also the second highest for any fanon series in my reviews thusfar. As I've said on multiple occasions past, it's not a category to worry too much over. It's far easier to take a compelling story and tidy it up than to breathe life into a stale, but technically flawless work. Nevertheless, it can be a mark of the writer paying a close attention to detail, which is a good thing. Really, the only common error was with regards to capitalization. If a quote is in the middle of a sentence, rather than the beginning, the first word should not be capitalized as though it were a new sentence. Nouns should only be capitalized if they are proper nouns, and words like "sir" or "m'am" do not get capitalized when spoken. Apart from that, there were a few other occasional stumbling blocks, such as missing hyphens and an incorrect word like "your" instead of "you're".
Creativity - 8.7: Mage knows how to craft an epic, and the world it takes place in. One really does get a sense of the expansive universe in the version of the Avatar World he has put together through worldbuilding. Prevalent characters from previous works of Mage are a good presence for readers of the rest of the Spirit War fanons, as it gives us a chance to follow such characters beyond their story of origin, and even watch their development continue. And then there are many new characters that become introduced, which is fine. As long as each character has a role to play, there's nothing wrong with a huge cast. Though again, every character should play a role, and if its not distinct, it may be a good idea to even merge some of them. There's no reason that every group of main characters necessarily has to have one of each kind of bender, for instance, which is fairly common for an Avatar-based story.
Description of Action - 8.3: The battle description is comprehensive and brings out each of the actions of all the characters in play. That's pretty clear. I did come across some words and phrases that either were repeated or seemed very similar to other phrases not too far off. I would try to diversify the language with alternate sayings and synonyms to avoid this distraction and make the words richer on the page. The language can also be amplified with the other actions of the characters. A number of times, the text slipped into relying on adverbs a little too heavily. Sometimes what really should go in place of an adverbial phrase is a different verb, or perhaps a whole other saying altogether. Granted, I am someone who struggles with adverbs myself, so frequently I've come to notice their abundance in the work of my peers.
Description of Setting - 8.2: Reading along in this fanon story, it's pretty clear that Mage has a strong sense of writing, and can describe things well. Some of the comments and deductions for the description of setting category are similar to those already mentioned. Much of the description is simple. While it doesn't ramble in exposition and that can be a good thing, there are plenty of times when some more detail would be nice. There were times when there was telling when there ought to have been showing, or some telling where there ought to have been more showing. For instance, in chapter 7, when Yari is in the door, you could emphasize his imposing figure more instead of referring to him as large, and the reader will get the latter idea through the picture that you paint inside their head.
Realism - 9.1: As I said before, Mage knows how to craft an epic. For the most part, it's quite easy to picture taking places several decades down the line in the diverged timeline (see this one-shot). The antagonists have their own motives, and all the characters are understandable and realistically "human", even spirits who are not in fact human per se. The spoken lines seem to match up well, even if occasionally it seems like something is being said not because the given character would say it, but because the story requires it. Some parts appeared either unbelievable or all-too-easy. For example, Sukan, being a cop, should be skeptical of those she whom she perceives to be little more than a band of vigilantes. Given that, it did seem that she went with the whims of the budding order too easily.
Character Development - 8.8: With the first arc of two wrapped up, we've seen significant growth from a handful of characters, such as Sukan, Yoriko, Liung, Jing, Nana, Lyre and the mysterious Owl. Some others, like Hizumi and Yari, have been featured a lot so far, but their development hasn't been felt as much in an emotionally relatable way. Especially with such a large cast, it is vital that characters be identifiable. It's not just about their positions and their abilities. The other traits are what bring them to life. What do they look like? What are their quirks and desires? What are their favorite colors and foods? Okay, you don't have to have both of those last couple ready for every single character, but I think you get the idea.
Constructive Criticism: Look at each of your characters individually and see where they're going and how they can stand out in their role. Then, try to incorporate some more description sprinkled throughout the chapters in some moderate exposition. Given the pacing of the story, it's a style that would work well for it.
To whom I would recommend: Anyone who wants to read a fun tale set in the Avatarverse with an enjoyable cast of OCs. With the Avatar's journey coming up, it should continue to be quite the ride!