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Fanon Review: Enemies and Traitors, by Manzai

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I don’t ordinarily do these, but after reading Enemies and Traitors, I felt compelled to. Since review blogs are a resource that users on here regularly consult to discover fanons worth reading, and Manzai’s story was from before the “era of reviews,” Enemies and Traitors was never reviewed the way fanons are today, and having been written in it’s original form back in 2007 and published on here in 2009, I must say that it’s definitely still an Avatar fan fiction worth reading.

The story takes place over the course of several years, beginning with the childhoods of Sozin, Kuzon, Aang and Taro. Sozin and Kuzon, brothers in the story, were raised in the aftermath of the Fire Nation Civil War. Sozin, as first son and heir to the throne, receives constant pressure from his mother, Izuma, to be a strong leader so that civil war does not reoccur. Meanwhile Taro, an Airbender student and peer of Aang, is raised by his mentor Afiko. Afiko does not agree with traditional Airbender philosophies of nonviolence, feeling the other monks do not understand the harsh realities of the world, and places an emphasis on combat in his training of Taro. Enemies and Traitors continues to follow the characters during and after the start of the Hundred Year War.

Unlike most of the stories on this site, Enemies and Traitors was first drafted before the third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it does not take The Avatar and The Firelord into account. Sozin is not the same age as Roku, as he’s a young man and the older brother of Aang’s friend Kuzon when the war begins. The rest of the story is an action epic that follows Sozin, Kuzon and Taro through the genocide and into adulthood during the early years of the war.

Plot - 9.0: Manzai has crafted his portrayal of the initiation of the war and the Air Nomad Genocide well, organizing his events around the long journeys of the four central characters from the relatively peaceful climate before the war for the Fire Nation and for the airbenders, to the carnage of later on.

Execution - 8.5: Some parts were played out brilliantly, and it really merged with the canon (at least the background we knew after Book 2 of ATLA) without any trouble whatsoever. The broken-up scenes delivered as far as developing the storyline and keeping the reader interested in what happened next, and a handful of points, like the dual dao swords and the parallel with the balance of yin and yang, were quite impressive. One bit that felt somewhat off though, was the rapidness of some of the time jumps between scenes and chapters. I understand why they were necessary for the story, but the transition could’ve been eased with more of what happened in between, and while Enemies and Traitors was faster and more action-packed in the second half, some of it felt rushed and certain scenes, like the initial reunion between Sozin and Kuzon, could’ve been longer. Sure, moving everything along at an appropriate pace is sometimes the way to go, but there are parts that could use more elaboration.

Proper Writing - 7.5: The overall narrative and the general sentence structure of Enemies and Traitors was alright. However, I noticed several spelling mistakes, misplaced words, grammar errors and other inconsistencies as I read. I wouldn’t say that they were frequent, but they were surely noticeable, and they can be eye sores when trying to read a good story.

Creativity - 9.0: This is what draws one into Enemies and Traitors from the very beginning. From the plot twists to the backgrounds and parallels between the characters and the canon show, I haven’t seen another adaptation of the beginning of the war quite like it!

Description of Action - 9.5: Manzai’s writing of battles and duels is some of the most exceptional that I’ve read on here by far, and it makes the reader subconsciously picture what is going on every step of the way. The deductions from this category stem partially from that it is effected by the proper writing scores when spelling and capitalization are inconsistent during such parts, and also from some of the dialogue between the characters. These “speaking scenes” are often smooth, but other times choppy, so that it’s understandable what’s going on, but some of the nature of it is lost. Also, a few of the fight scenes, particularly in the early chapters, could’ve used more word variation, as I saw some of the same phrases used over and over. Other ones, like the duel with the swords in the Fire Nation Royal Palace, were from what I could tell, flawless.

Description of Setting - 9.0: Like the description of action score, this was somewhat effected by proper writing. Manzai did a superb job laying out the history of the Fire Nation before Sozin took the throne and also in setting the tone before a major confrontation. The changing state of the characters was well-done, but some opportunities were missed to give the characters a more complete feel and also to foreshadow later events. As the pace of the story was noticeably faster later on, I felt that some scenes were rushed which shouldn’t have been, and we could’ve gotten a better look at what Sozin had become through Kuzon’s eyes, among other things.

Realism - 9.0: Enemies and Traitors is believable for the most part, and the deep, human personas of the characters are a big reason for that. However, there were some parts that did seem a bit off. For example, during Sozin’s dilemma between executing his traitorous brother and exiling him. I failed to see why imprisonment was not also an option, and since his brother was already effectively living in exile, exiling him in this case would effectively be setting him free. Other examples were when the Fire Nation closed its borders for four years and from what we could tell, the other nations didn’t seem to notice, and that so many people could travel on one sky bison at a time - far more than Appa was shown to carry in the show.

Character Development - 8.5: From the very beginning, the main characters had depth and background. Even some of the supporting characters weren’t lacking, but as the story went on, it shifted more towards Kuzon and Taro’s point of view. Granted, that’s not in-and-of-itself bad, as they were the driving force behind the story by then, but I felt that it lost some of its flare by taking away too much emphasis on the other characters. I would’ve like to see a better description of what Sozin had become at the end, or at least Kuzon’s view of what he had become. Sure, the reader can imagine what happened in the ATLA timeline, but it would’ve been nice.

SCORE: 8.75

Constructive Criticism: It seems almost silly to give input based on this story, as I know from reading his other story, Avatar: The Heir of Ban, that Manzai’s writing style has changed and evolved significantly over the past few years. However, I will say that he should continue to play up his strengths on description and setting the tone of a chapter or scene as he goes along, as those are what brings his writing to life. Apart from that, watching out for editing mistakes, though they appear far less often in his most recent writing.

To whom I would recommend: I would recommend Enemies and Traitors to anyone who wants to read a fulfilling tale based on Avatar. More specifically, this one is great for those who enjoy background stories that follow minor canon characters and explore the origins of the Hundred Year War, and also for lovers of AU interpretations.

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