Plot = 8.9: Only in the second book do we truly start to see the influences of Avatar, and I feel as though something like that should have been introduced from the get-go. This is not a typical 'person discovers they are the Avatar and learns to master the elements' story, however there are definite signs of this. The story is interesting, and the goal seems to be for Wake to discover who he is. Unfortunately, it's not always clear to the reader that Ty has a plan. There have been several climactic moments, however there has not yet been a 'climax'—that pinnacle of the story. There is still so much story left to tell, and while it has a very specific A-B-C progression, it isn't always clear exactly what's going on, or why. The story thus far has been rather mild, and I noticed several chapters that could have been compressed into less.
Ty has an incredibly original plot, it's just that sometimes (particularly in the first book), a reader can forget that this is an Avatar fanfiction, and forget where the story is going.
Characterisation = 8.5: The initial introduction of the characters was absolutely superb, and it didn't matter who the character was, whether they be major and minor, because they all had a different personality. They all had substance, and they all felt real.
That being said, I found that they didn't really progress much. When Grace met Sikhi is notable because I felt that something had changed within her. This kind of development was very small and, frankly, rather late. I honestly expected something to change within her before then—she had witnessed her parents burn to death, along with the rest of her village. Her friends. Another thing I found myself wondering was 'where are the faults?'. We have Wake, who is skilled with fishing, mahjong, building boats and teaching himself to read. There is Grace, a natural prodigy in The Way of the Sword, and the only person to survive a fire that wiped out her entire village. When he was eight, Sikhi saved Monk Sidd, and is the best at hide-and-seek; he was also the first to befriend and fly on a sky bison. The point is, there comes a time where the readers sit back and wonder whether these characters have any faults at all.
Believability = 8.3: I found the boy teaching himself to read to be somewhat unbelievable. As an Avatar fanfiction, I took it to mean that the scrolls were written in Chinese characters. It's impossible to know the meaning of a character, unless you actually know what it's trying to say. That is, a single character might make up a number of different words or sounds, and a single word or sound might have a hundred different characters. The Chinese number one, 'yī', has 479 characters that it could be, and many more meanings depending on the character and whether is is used in another part of a word (yīyuàn, for instance).
Another gaping question was 'how did Grace survive, when absolutely everyone, save for Wake, perished'? Another moment in that same chapter was when the boy sailed home after spending the night out to sea; he looked at the entire village as though each had been a personal friend. It's not to say that he would be sad that his culture had died, however the audience is never given any hints that he looked at or noticed anyone else. In short, he was remembering faces of friends, and yet the audience were never shown that he had any contact beyond that single game of mahjong.
Don't get me wrong; the plot is incredibly believable, however it is the few, larger holes that affected this. I could see that most of the actions taken by the characters would be something that people do, and certainly what they are most likely to do, however it was just the questions above that left down this category.
Technical writing = 8.4: There were a number of missed punctuation marks, such as a forgotten comma and question mark in the prologue. These errors were especially prevalent in dialogue, and a number of times I noticed a comma missing before a proper noun. There were a few nouns that should not have been capitalised (such as 'mahjong', and the four directions), and I notice a few spelling errors interspersed throughout the story.
Another note with the dialogue was the author's proclivity towards having one speaker on multiple lines. This is really just a formatting preference, and not an issue, however it did make it hard to follow what was happening sometimes. This is due to an actual technical error. When the same speaker is talking on multiple lines, the closing speech marks are not used until they are finished. The opening ones, however, always are, to tell people that it is still dialogue. This issue was especially prevalent in Chapter Twenty-Two as Grace prayed.
Other than that, the technical writing was rather well done, and Ty certainly knows his language and how to use it.
Non-technical writing = 8.9: There were some jumpy sentences that didn't fit in with the rest of the poetic imagery Ty uses. The tense jumps from present to past and back again within a few paragraphs; "Ren and his wife, Fay, lived happily together in the village" changes to "Ren and Fay live reasonably well" only two paragraphs down. This is expanded on in several scenes, where the different page breaks introduce a new idea without giving the reader enough time to expect it. Suspense works in this way, by jolting the audience, but that doesn't work in this story. The most memorable one is the almost random shift in Chapter Thirteen that puts the reader in the fire's perspective. This doesn't quite gel with the rest of the chapter up until that point.
The mahjong game is something I read, quite fascinated. I've never played the game, and barely know the rules. That being said, it didn't feel very... Avatar-y. Avatar has its own version, pai sho, and I would have loved to see the author try and imagine actual rules for the game. The game was mentioned briefly, however Ty focuses on the real-world version.
There were several moments of a random event, and while Ty tries to make light of it—"Gee thanks! Random huge guy!"—it still feels out of place. This story is not humour. Far from it, and the additions, while minor, certainly interrupt the story. A similar feel is felt when the language becomes extremely casual—"A tall skinny guy". It is possible to keep the same effect while using less casual words; even replacing 'guy' with 'boy' or 'man' would help that sentence feel less jarring.
However, I really have to commend Ty on his style. The poetic nature of the story really is refreshing, and paints a gorgeous picture in the reader's mind. The style is not a common one in any type of prose. The adjectives, and techniques such as metaphor and simile, really define this story, and separate it from.
Organisation = 8.8: This story is fairly well organised. It's constructed linearly, and has a definite orientation. There have been a number of climactic moments, however we haven't yet reached the climax of the story.
The deduction in score comes from the strange way the beginning of the story is set out. There are a number of time skips that show a glimpse into the characters' lives, however some lines are not fully justified; the ending to Chapter Five states that "this loss only marked the beginning of a long line of hardships he would face", however the readers aren't really made aware of these hardships. That section of the story is talking about how he lost the game of mahjong, and I expected his 'hardships' to relate back to the bar. This didn't happen. I also don't want to include story-induced hardships, such as the events of Chapter Thirteen, because that type of progressions is expected. It was the lack of character-induced hardships pressed on him by the other people in the village.
The other reason is purely just because there are almost thirty chapters, but it's still hard for a reader to understand exactly where the story is going. Wake is going to find himself.... and? There just seems to be a purposelessness in some actions and character-lines, most notably that of Grace and Sikhi. I know what Wake is doing, but I've no idea what the others wish to achieve.
Total score = 8.63
My advice: Focus on your characters. At the moment, they're very static, and very perfect. They occasionally have flaws in their actions and words, however I have yet to see a genuine character flaw. With the actual writing, I think you do a wonderful job with the beautiful, poetic nature, and the phrases used to remind your readers that the characters are still human. That being said, sometimes the balance between the two isn't quite there.
Why I enjoyed this story: Honestly, the maturity of the plot—the creativity—really got to me. I have a feeling Ty shared his initial idea with me months back, and I loved it then, too. You have the advantage of being an incredibly creative person, and I love how your passion really flows through this story. It's obvious the authors who love their work, and you share the top of the list with only a few others. Kudos!