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Hey there. ARG here, writing a test review of, by .
It's been two centuries since the Earth Kingdom of old fell. Two centuries of warfare, betrayal and bloodshed. Two centuries in which realms and kings rose and fell, often just in the matter of a single battle. Two centuries in which the Avatar remained dormant. It's been one century since the Avatar let the greatest injustice of Earth Kingdom history happen to the Earth people...It is time for the people of Earth to rise up against their unjust ruler, against their Emperor. This is not a tale of heroes. This is a tale of rebels.
It's essential for a reader to want to read more as they read deeper into a series, and I feel that's the case with this one. This review gave me an opportunity to explore this fanon, and I hope more will discover it in the future, as it seems deserving of more readers. Against the Earth Empire and its vassal states rise a band of mostly teenaged rebels to fight back against the domineering threat, including: Senqok, from the Southern Water Tribe, a waterbender named Kabura, an airbender named Ranju, a firebender named Shizon, an earthbender named Noki and a non-bender named Skado. Along the way, you'll aslo find their generals and Zoruka, the Crown Princess of the Fire Nation. Let's check it out!
Plot - 9.2: The idea of a ragtag group rising up together against oppression is a common tale. So, naturally, the twists and details are what make it stand out. From the get-go, A Tale of Rebels proved to be a story that was worth looking into. The events of the first few chapters were already compelling, but it really took off once the action started. The background of the Avatar world that Sep0815 has crafted complements the setting well, and the journey of the protagonists is an epic and heated one. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into every step of the way for them throughout the ups and downs of the eighteen chapters already published. Even though they're not released yet, I'm sure that the author has a plan in mind for the upcoming chapters as well, and once you've read the first eighteen, you'll want to know what that is. However, it would've been nice to have found out more about the characters and their individual motivations in the beginning. Hearing more about why most of the protagonists were joining the rebellion in the beginning would educate the reader so they're not scratching their head waiting for more to be known about who these people are. In addition, it would be nice to have more introduction to settings. Even if they're in the show and most people are familiar with them, like the Serpent's Pass, some extra lines to make things more fresh for the story don't hurt. This goes for factions like the Liberation Alliance or the Earth Empire as well.
Execution - 8.7: A story should be constructed and presented in a way to create an experience for the reader. The story starts to take us into its brave new world by doing just that with one of the main protagonists, Senqok of the Southern Water Tribe, as he comes to Omashu. There's a little bit of action not too far into the story that helps get things going, but the part where the other heroes of the story are between trusting and not trusting the new arrival seemed choppy and rushed. If that part was expanded on, it would make it more realistic. In general, a lot of the "down time" in between major events and battles could've been expanded on, as its a good time to enjoy the "little things" that stand out to readers, and bring more information to light on who the characters are, which is particularly helpful with a large group of regular characters. Dialogue-wise, I found the flow of conversation pretty organized, and never once was it unclear who was speaking, even if they shared a paragraph with someone else. Most of what was said seemed to serve a purpose to the story, but one thing that felt funny was the use of capitals. A line spoken indicates shouting and possibly strong emotion, and while many of these lines were appropriate as such, other times it seemed to come out of nowhere and the lines may have been better spoken normally. In addition, the time of the story flashes forward a couple of times, and the stage could've been better set with what happened in the time in between. Once, a large gap of time went by and it was barely noticeable. In fact, it had already happened before I was made aware when a character mentioned "it has been X amount of time since X event." The execution of A Tale of Rebels is handled quite well most of the time, but could use some extra setting the stage in the transitions.
Proper Writing - 6.2: As I said before, a story is supposed to be an experience, and each mishap along the way can knock a reader back to reality. Every chapter had some, and while mistakes like spelling and repeated words are not common here, it's clear that some extra editing would not be uncalled for, though the most recent chapters were better. Remember that the tense and form of a word must match the sentence or phrase that it's a part of, which they did not always do. I came across a few grammar errors here and there where a necessary word or preposition was omitted, in addition to the wrong words being used, such as "accept" instead of "expect". As for punctuation, there were some places where an excess period, comma or apostrophe was used. Moving onto dashes, there are a lot of them, and while they're used correctly the majority of the time, having too many of them in intense moments in the story can be as distracting as everything else, since they by definition are a detour from what's already being talked about. The most easy of mistakes to correct at once are the ones that repeat multiple times, like the punctuation within quotations. Don't end it with a period unless it puts a full stop to the sentence (this is the case with both British and American English.) Also, styles and positions must be capitalized or not capitalized as appropriate. A word like "general" should only be capitalized when referring to a specific general, and a word such as "majesty" should likewise be capitalized when specified. For instance, "Your Majesty" is capitalized, but "their majesties" is not. Lastly, there was the line spacing in the first few chapters. First of all, formatting should generally be consistent throughout a work, but the paragraphs in the first few chapters were neither indented nor separated by an extra line. Under ordinary circumstances, formatting probably wouldn't merit mention in a fanon review, but it became hard to follow in sections where the final sentence of a paragraph ended close to where the line would normally end, and it became distracting and confusing to figure out if it was a new paragraph or not. Not the biggest of issues, but it stood out in the beginning.
Creativity - 8.8: Sep0815 does a superb job worldbuilding with his version of the Avatar world and those that occupy it. I found the dynamics and evolution of the story pretty creative, as was the politics between the nations and the factions involved. The path of the characters and the trials they faced as members of the Liberation Alliance was unique enough to not predict everything before it happens. The prominence of crossbow combat was a nice touch not seen often in an Avatar fan fiction. Like I said before, though, the basic premise for the plot is a common one, so the creativity lies in the details. Some more details in the beginning would be helpful to distinguish the characters faster, as having a group of main characters which include at least one non-bender and at least one type of bender from every nation is a natural one. Since Noki is a blind female earthbender, I couldn't help but picture an older version of Toph when I pictured her. Fortunately, we get to learn more about the original characters later on, several chapters into the story, which improves the score from what it would have been with only the earlier chapters taken into account.
Description of Action - 9.4: Ultimately, for a reader to feel immersed in a story comes down to how engaging the writing and description is. That said, the description of subjects which are in motion was of high-quality in the beginning and in the chapters following the introduction of all the characters. The "down time" when most of the character bonding took place was well-described, such as during the "massacre with chopsticks" and other bits in between major conflicts. And the battles themselves...wow. They make me wish that I, personally, had set out to discover Sep0815's writing on the wiki earlier, because they're pretty good, among the better on the wiki, I'd say. Granted, this was more the case in later battle scenes in the more recent chapters, and the action in earlier chapters employed the use of more generic bending descriptions and phrases to talk about the struggles, but once the stakes were raised, they blew me away. That said, I did come across some awkward phrases and breaks within the fluency of the words used together. Additionally, both Description of Action and Description of Setting are somewhat effected by the deductions of the proper writing category, though moreso by the words used than things like punctuation and spelling. In addition, keep the character performing or on the receiving end of a certain action in mind when describing what's happening. This story is in the third person, so it's not all about focusing on one perspective like a story told in the first person, but you can still exploit the benefits of a single perspective by shifting the balance of your description to what that character is experiencing.
Description of Setting - 9.1: There was a lot of good prose to help set the tone for certain scenes and chapters. Most of the description is fluent, though I did find it broken up by occasional awkward phrases that proved distracting. Much of the dialogue between characters was appropriate, like the "history lesson" in the fourth chapter. As I said before, the battles and action sequences were described pretty well, but there were many parts in between which could've used some more elaboration, such as description of relevant objects or physical descriptions of characters. When it comes to keeping it fluid, a simple trick that I've found sometimes works is reading your chapter out loud to yourself, so that you hear how it sounds and can make corrections when something sounds off. This also helps for the above category, and it helps weed out proper writing mistakes, too.
Realism - 9.3: Just like any kind of story, an Avatar fan fiction must be believable in its setting to feel real. The politics are believable. For the most part, the character interaction is believable and the setting seems just as I would have thought from the premise of the story. While Yi Ming seems almost god-like as the head of what appears to be by far the most powerful country on earth and he's an intimidating figure in person, he has just enough flaws and missteps to prove that he's human and that he's not infallible. Part of the deduction here comes from the rushed feel of Senqok's judgement, how it was on a thin line one moment and resolved without question the next. The characters are well-portrayed, although they seem moreso in the later chapters, as it took a while to get to know them. Apart from that, I had trouble believing the logistics behind certain things, like the idea that an army of multiple thousands would have only one piece of rope in their headquarters, which would seem like a pretty basic item for a small army to stockpile. I had more examples, but I wanted to keep this review spoiler-free, and I figured the author would prefer it that way as well.
Character Development - 8.0: Quality characters are a backbone that a good story cannot exist without. The first main character that we meet in A Tale of Rebels is Senqok, trained swordsman and waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. After that, we meet most of the rest of the protagonists at once, and thus they're basically introduced together. How they handle the situation next tells us a little more about them. To some extent, getting to know characters can come through character interaction, but once in a while, its good to focus on them individually in the interest of getting a closer look. In the best of stories, a reader will grow close to all the characters the author has introduced them to time and again. They will run with them, laugh with them, weep with them, bleed with them, and if the time comes, mourn for them. A reader will not, however, mourn for a character that they hardly know. It was fun to read about their trials and evolution, but a lot of the revelation took place in later chapters, more recently in the story. Some of the development should be saved for later, but its better to start at the beginning and unveil one step at a time so there's more to learn about them, but they never seem like cut-outs. The struggles, aftermath and revelations in the more recent chapters do raise the score considerably from what it would've been with only the earlier ones, so I'd like to see more from all the characters individually going forward. Balancing a cast of characters does require ample focus on each.
Constructive Criticism: As you may have noticed, a handful of the points I wanted to address transcend into different categories. Overall, Sep0815, the story is very intriguing overall and most of the areas where the deductions came from are fixable, with a little extra effort. You've got a great mind for story-telling, so I'd never shy away from playing up your strengths in your writing. What it could use is some extra thought and polishing before proceeding, as well as taking the time to build up to events and take advantage of the time in between to shed light on the struggles of those involved. Seeking an editor might help out in this. Other than that, keep these chapters coming!
To whom I would recommend: I would recommend this to anybody out there looking to be drawn in by a fresh fanon about a new band of original characters in a brand new setting of yet another unexplored time and setting for the Avatar world.