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Hi there fanon portal! I, Minnichi, notice that there's been an overwhelming amount of review requests these days; EVERY member of the FRS has completely filled schedules. Yikes! As soon as I finish this blog post I shall have to open up some more slots! It's great to see so much activity in the fanon portal, though. Tonight I'm offering my commentary on Avatar: The Sole Woodbender by Henryjh98, a very intriguing and creative fanon indeed!
The monks would tell me how since the time of the first Avatar, there have been four bending elements, and a nation to go along with each one; The Fire Nation, the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads.
But everything changed fifteen years ago, when the Earth Kingdom split and a new element rose. On that fateful night, the sky lit up a great, white color, the color of my eyes at my most powerful. Nobody knew what it was.
I do. I know. A fifth element has come into this world, granted by the spirits. The element's entry has defied the Avatar sequence. Defied the world. But the new element is our only hope, our only way to survive. We must protect him, we must.
I believe Mozukai can save the world.
Water. Earth. Fire. Air.
I think it's safe for me to say that I'll never find another fanon that explores the bending of wood to this extent...either that, or it'll be pretty darn hard to. If it DOES happen, I think it'll be safe to say the author won't pull it off as well as Henryjh8. The quality of this fanon already shows in its quickly increasing number of readers, and that's all due to the greatness of the writing. Now let's explore it, shall we?
- Plot - 8.8: I was really curious to see how the author would fit wood into the world of bending, and I was pleased to see that it seems to be working out really well so far. In the plot, however, the method in which he received his powers is described a little quickly and vaguely. This creates a slight lack of backstory, in which I'd like to see a little more spiritual action as to why he was granted Woodbending (such as how they deemed him worthy and/or deserving and such). Also, the introduction of the other main characters in the Fire Nation sends a clear message that Mozukai's story will meet with theirs eventually, but the two storylines at the moment seem a little too separate. While it's always nice to show two completely different worlds coming together, there always needs to be that one connecting element in both stories that you can tell will lead to their meeting. This fanon falls a little short in that area, which results in the story appearing to have two plots instead of one. When I say "little," I actually mean miniscule; looking closely, I can actually identify the connecting element, which is why the plot still has a high score. I would just suggest making it a little more obvious to readers.
- Organization - 9.2: It's a pretty well-organized fanon. The deduction here, however, comes from some confusion with antagonists. One plot has Earth Kingdom-ish villagers facing Fire Nation invaders, while the other has the Fire Nation facing Earth Kingdom (pirates) invaders. This also relates to that two-separate-plots vibe I mentioned earlier, since the enemy seems kind of reversed at times. A little more effort should be put here into making one true antagonist, because I'm not too sure who it is at the moment. Other than that, I think the jump back and forth between the two separate stories could be a little more smooth (perhaps have some kind of connecting statement that leads to the next chapter). Again, lots of two-plot confusion here. But in the end, anyone'll get it just fine. Just pointing out some little things.
- Creativity – 8.3: I always admire authors who take a chance with drastically new ideas such as a different form of bending. The deduction here comes from the kinds of things the protagonists face: one special kid that the enemy wants to capture (to which the kid's village tells him to flee), a young Royal who wishes to escape from the orderly confines of the palace, keeping a deadly secret of an awesome power, etc. They're all things that are quite common, but the writing quality is what makes this worthwhile. Henryjh98 can turn unoriginal ideas into an intense and chaotically engaging story of his own, which makes him stand out as an author (*glances at his ever-growing list of fan comments).
- Writing – 8.4 (x3): I do see a couple of recurring grammar issues that appear consistently, but they're hardly the focus here. One thing that appears a tad bit more than occasionally is a slight repetition, usually more common during action scenes. It seems like something more that the author overlooked rather than does from habit, but I suggest making sure the same exact word doesn't appear in 2 side-by-side sentences. It sticks out enough just to sound - well, repetitive to the reader. Although it doesn't occur enough for me to remember an actual example, you'll most likely find it during scenes with lots of physical movement, and the effect it creates is "didn't you just say he did that?" I guess it's more like repeating something already established, so I'd suggest paying more attention to that. Synonyms are always good to use, too. Also, repetition applies to the method in which very visual things are described. Physical items such as clothing naturally always have very unique qualities, just like the characters wearing them, so two of the same descriptions will stick out right away no matter how far they are from each other. An example here is the "swishing" of fancy robes in the Royal Palace, which seems to be used in the same manner whenever another regal figure appears. So to sum it all up, the main deduction in writing comes from its repetition. As a side note, though, I'd like to know a little bit about the weather actually...setting-wise, that is. The time of day, the appearace of the sky, the wind and temperature...they all contribute a surprising amount of quality to the setting, so it'd help to see more of that. Overall though, great writing here, no doubt. Most likely one of the few fanons in which my main deduction would come from something other than lack of description.
- Character Development - 7.0 (x2) Each character has very in-depth descriptions of their emotions and general personality, which I like, but they don't seem to be growing much as people so far. It's not that the characters don't have enough personality, but that they seem to remain unaffected by the disasters going on around them. Of course, they have the appropriate negative reactions to said disasters, but I don't see any remnants of the impact those incidents left on them. Looking at the specifics, for one, Mozukai doesn't seem to reflect on his woodbending abilities, nor does he wonder why he's the only person who has them. He also doesn't seem to think back on the village he fled from and returns to his normal cheeriness upon joining his new friends. The Fire Nation kids seem to be better about this (regarding their own disaster), but at the same time I didn't see any mention of their family while they were fleeing, or whether their thoughts reached out to them at all. So I do believe that the characters have much room for growth and that they're well on their way; it's just hindered by the lack of connection between the physical and mental aspects of the story. Other than that, the minor characters could use some serious physical/personality description. The protagonists are very entertaining to read about though, and Henry has definitely reached one of the higher levels of writing I've seen in the fact that I can actually see a different person in each of them. Kudos to the author!
- Action - 8.6: Once again, another author falls victim to my constant deduction that results from using the convenient term "(insert element)bending" during action scenes. It's not a bad strategy to use, but I can just never let it go because of the fact that it relies solely on the reader's imagination and knowledge of bending, and descriptions should never do that. "(Insert element)bending" should always be saved only when someone purposely names it, or when (insert element)bending is the subject in focus. It's like saying "She used kung fu to open the gate." Considering that bending is pretty much martial arts, something like that usually doesn't suffice when it comes to visuals. Sorry to the author for ranting about my reasoning for this issue, but I'm just putting it down now for any of you who keep up with my reviews and who'd like to avoid a similar deduction. But back to the fanon! Actually, this issue is kind of rare in Henry's case, and it only occurs when it comes to describing Woodbending...and as a matter of fact, this isn't where the main deduction comes from. There's a lot of bloodshed I noticed, and what leads to it is usually kind of quick and a tiny bit vague in my opinion. I'll read that the attacker prepares for the strike, sees a great opportunity to launch the strike - and then the enemy has something sharp sticking out of their chest. It seems like the journey of the strike is kind of skipped, I guess. It's important to include this when something's being thrown, such as an arrow or knife; it actually makes things a lot more vivid if you can let the reader know if it was shot in the blink of an eye, hurled from someone's arm, flung wildly, cut clean through skin, stabbed them brutally...etc..ahem before it gets more gory, the method in which a weapon was used should be clarified a little more, that's all. I sound so nitpicky but this is really a small deduction if you look at the score! Action scenes are clear enough for you to visualize and enjoy, which many of you already have. My advice honestly wouldn't contribute much to the greatness the author has already displayed so far.
- Believability – 8.0: The backstory on how Mozukai received his powers was cool and solved many of the believability issues, but like I said in the beginning it could be elaborated on even more. Woodbending is still a slightly hard concept to swallow the way things are right now, and I believe it'd improve if Henry could start exploring its connection to Mozukai and how the element really works (such as water being the element of change, air being freedom, etc.) Lastly, I always couldn't help but wonder exactly how Mozukai practiced Woodbending. How does his training work? What would be the basics, and what would be advanced? And...who taught him? (Himself works too, but just clarify that for us) I feel like there are many things the author is planning to explain to us, however, and the bizarre plot is pretty easy to get used to. Just a little touching-up on the Woodbending explanations would be nice.
Overall Score: 8.21
My advice for Henryjh98: You've already set up an impressive cast of protagonists, so just work on tying their emotions more to what's going on around them, and show what they got from it all. I know you can - you're a great writer! Only other thing worth mentioning here is to pay a little more attention to avoiding repetition. Things are unfolding beautifully so far in your fanon and I have no doubt that they'll continue to do so in the future.
Who should read Avatar: The Sole Woodbender? Those of you who just love wildly new ideas, come hither! Here's a writer who won't disappoint you. Calling out to all action lovers as well! Definitely one of the most chaotically unique (in a good way) stories you'll ever find.