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Well... It only took me about five months to finally review my first fanon! I do apologise for the delay; I'm anticipating that for the remainder of this year and next year things will be a lot less busy for me, and not only reviews but my wiki activity in general should be a lot better. But enough about me, let's have a look at Neo Bahamut’s fanon series, Republic City Renaissance!
So now that's out of the way, let's dive in shall we?
Republic City Renaissance follows the story of Aroma Gingerber, a Junior Healer at Dragon Flats Clinic, and a number of other residents of Republic City. The first book is set seven years before the events of The Legend of Korra, where an underground group known as the 'Purists' have set their sights on eliminating the benders of Republic City. After an attack at their clinic, Aroma and her superior Thiera Psyche somehow become involved in the Purist's escalating war, and after meeting a metalbender cop named Euryale, fight alongside the police to take down the Purist criminals ravaging Republic City.
While at a first glance this story may seem just like Book 1 of the Legend of Korra without the Avatar, but something I enjoyed most about this fanon were the number of original elements within the story, especially with the advancements in biology and science. We've seen through Future Industries how the modern world had evolved with respect to technology, but apart from the Spirit Vine content from Book 4 I can't really think of many examples shown where the world of Avatar have progressed in other sciences, and being a biologist I found what this story offered to be quite interesting :P. Republic City Renaissance also acts well as a prequel to Book 1 of The Legend of Korra, and as is especially evident in later chapters, could easily have fit in with the rest of the canon series with the whole bender/non-bender conflict brewing. Let's have a look at the scores:
Plot = 8.9: Generally the story followed a well thought out plot where things progressed in a logical and interesting manner. There were quite a number of examples however where the pacing was too fast; in chapter 3, an argument breaks out between two characters resulting in one of them moving out of the apartment, yet the characters hardly knew each other at the time and only a mere couple of sentences were exchanged before this happened. In chapter 6, Thiera introduces a new technique of waterbending which is rather different to anything seen in the canon series. Pacing can be particularly important in regards to believability, as a plot that moves too fast can not only be hard to follow but also feel unrealistic. Especially when introducing a new concept or in the case mentioned above, a new type of bending technique, where taking a little more time to explain things would go a long way.There were also a couple of turns the story took which were a little hard to understand, like the plan for Aroma to infiltrate the Purists by getting captured, as this plan seemed to rely on a lot of assumptions about other characters that weren't necessarily true.
One thing I will say that was great about the plot in this fanon is that it really does define itself as its own story. Yes, it does feature bender/non-bender conflict just like Book 1 of The Legend of Korra, but the way the Purists plan to defeat benders and the way the protagonists try to take them down are quite different to the canon series, and indeed original.
Organisation = 8.3: On the whole this fanon seemed well planned and events flowed nicely. One thing I will say is that there were sometimes time-lapses between chapters, especially between the earlier ones, without a great deal of explanation at the start of the next chapter of how things progressed. This was rather jarring at times, and I can recall one or two chapters where I had to read about a quarter of the chapter before it finally clicked how it related to the previous chapter. Just make sure to really guide readers through your story. It doesn't necessarily have to be like a 'three hours later' kind of title on the next chapter or whatever, but just make sure there is enough at the start of each chapter to ease the reader into the next part of the story.
Spelling/Grammar = 4.9: This category is where the majority of points were lost. There were actually not a whole lot of grammar mistakes, and a fair number of spelling mistakes. But the biggest issue was the use of digits instead of written numbers. What I mean is using '2' instead of 'two'. Sometimes, as many as eighteen examples of this were found in a single chapter. After consulting a number of resources, I managed to find some rules about when to use digits or write the numbers out in full:
Now, there is some disagreement between experts about some of the rules mentioned above, but I would argue that even if there can be exceptions it is not the norm to use digits in a way that disobeys those rules. And it can be very distracting especially in a sentence when they are used many times. For example, "The 2 earthbenders launched a series of 3 boulders, the 1st blocked by a wave of fire from their 2 opponents, and the 2nd and 3rd dodged by the other firebender..." The thing is, even though the same meaning is carried through either the use of digits or fully written out numbers, digits are normally used in other areas to fiction (for example, chemical equations or maths) and so it can become rather distracting using them in a story on a regular basis. Fixing all of these mistakes would certainly boost the score for this category, and the fanon as a whole.
In terms of how characters are introduced in each scene, it kind of became very predictable and repetitive at times. Almost every time a character would appear, their clothing would be described in great detail, and practically every piece of clothing they were wearing was mentioned. Now, I do believe that over-describing something is usually better than under-describing, since there was never a time while reading the story that I can recall where I forgot what any of the main characters looked like, but at the same time the predictable format of a character's entrance into a scene became just a little tiresome to read at times. And often it was done in a very 'factual' manner, simply stating what each character wore rather than weaving in quirky or interesting literary features to describe them. So perhaps try to change things up a bit from time to time. What can be seen in your character's eyes? Or what does their posture and how they carry themselves suggest about what they're feeling? You've already got the clothing down-packed, though perhaps don't go into so much detail every time the character appears, but just make sure to not be repetitive in how characters are described when they first appear in a scene.
Probably the biggest non-technical writing issue appeared in many of the dialogue sequences. As mentioned before, at times dialogue was done really well; one of my favourite lines came from something Aroma said in chapter 10, and some great conversations with a good amount of spoken lines to narration ratio. But as evident in some of the middle chapters and those towards the end, the conversations became difficult to follow. It wasn't a grammatical issue (i.e. new line new speaker rule violation), but rather it was hard to tell at times who was speaking when there were only spoken lines, though this problem was a rarity. In most other cases, like the conversation near the beginning of chapter 13, it was clear who was speaking but the conversation itself was hard to follow and understand what was going on. This was partly due to events happening between chapter 12 and 13 which were only briefly mentioned to have happened, but also because the conversation was a little choppy and didn't exactly flow well. It can be good to break up dialogue with narration/description and not let every new bit of information simply be spoken, and as mentioned this was done well at times. But the other thing is to make sure that the conversations follow a sensible or logical progression; that each reply or statement made fits in well with everything else being said. In real life conversations can be dynamic and change topics often, but making sure the dialogue flows well and is easy to follow will help readers understand and enjoy those scenes a whole lot more.
The protagonists in this fanon are more of a mixed bag. Thiera's character has also been described very well so far, and there are some great moments of her development, especially in relation to family issues. Both her and Euryale had a couple moments where they seemed out-of-character, but on the whole were described really well. Aroma is almost a paradox because while she is an enjoyable character to read about there are quite a few times where she says or does things that seem out of character. She began the story with no knowledge of how to defend herself, and she definitely gave off the impression that she had a more shy or timid personality. Though part way through the story she begins to learn how to fight from Thiera's mother, and so it was a little surprising in chapter 19 that in the middle of the fight she decided to sit down against a wall with her head in her hands while an injured Euryale continued to battle her opponent. Now this itself was a more minor issue as Aroma only briefly pulled out of the fight and was injured herself, but you would expect her to at least look on in horror as her injured friend tried to save them rather than put her head in her hands. Occasionally there were other times where things that Aroma would say or do contradicted what the reader already knew about her character and development. But as said, Aroma is a likeable character and it was easy to connect to her. On the whole this fanon scored well in this category, and there are certainly some memorable and enjoyable characters to read about.
As a quick aside, many of the more minor characters were also very likeable and interesting, particularly Roatha. The chapter when he is first introduced was really well done, and he brought a different sort of flavour to the story since it tends to be a very female-dominated fanon (though obviously no marks were lost for that feature of the fanon since it's not an issue whether there are many female or male characters).
Action = 9.1 There were some really great fight scenes in this story which would keep any reader on the edge of their seat. Not only because of the fight itself, but at times everything else like the dialogue or tone of the narration for example, worked together really well to make for a tense and exciting scene. A few deductions came from confusing actions not in fighting scenes, but there were not many of them. Just make sure to pay attention to the details of how characters move, as it can be important for readers trying to picture what is going on as they read.
I would also like to point out that Neo has done a great job at keeping readers in suspense; there is a clever moment when the Purist Leader unexpectedly appears at the clinic which is probably my favourite moment in the series so far, and throughout the whole series the fights have been described really well.
Believability = 8.8 It is hard to pinpoint a singular cause for the deductions in this category, but rather there were many small and minor things which seemed a little too unrealistic at times. The appearance of certain things that felt out of place for the time period this fanon is set in, though there were only few examples of this, and some aspects of major plot developments are just some examples that contributed to the deduction of points. As covered in the Plot section, simply talking a little more time to explain new concepts further would make some of these things more realistic. There were occasional moments that didn't make sense, like in chapter 6 Aroma is panting heavily and exhausted after going down three flights of stairs, though you would expect that kind of reaction if she had gone up the stairs instead. But as mentioned these moments were very minor. As with the Action category, attention to detail would help with these mistakes.
Overall Score = 8.06
My Adivce: The most pressing issues are definitely with the writing side of things. The spelling should be easy to fix, and with the non-technical writing just be sure to be consistent with the way you craft dialogue scenes, making sure all of them are easy to follow and are interspersed with narration, movements, or describe what the speaker looks like when they speak. There are some great moments where this is done well in your fanon, and as mentioned, it's about making sure that standard is carried across all the scenes with dialogue.
Why Read This Fanon?: Republic City Renaissance has a number of aspects which fill a void in the canon series, and anyone interested in a crime sort of genre of fanon will enjoy this one. There are some enjoyable characters, exciting fight scenes, and an interesting plot which will not disappoint. Great work Neo! :)