Mage Slave, by R.K. Thorne (3:50)

IOD-Mage_Slave.jpgToday we see that pronouns are like pit bulls.

What I gleaned about the story: Miara is a sorceress enslaved by the local landholder. She can read minds, shape-shift, charm animals and even command plants to do her bidding, but despite all this, she is unable to escape the clutches of the evil woman who runs the local castle.

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WTF #1: Confusing conversation

Analysis: The very opening of the story gave us an interesting situation: a girl watching a raven trying to open a lock. That’s a great image that immediately drew me into the story world, wondering what was going on. But the next paragraph confused me. “What are you doing?” The raven lifted the latch and burst through the cage door just as the Mistress arrived.

Who asked the question? Since there was no paragraph break, I originally assumed that Miara had asked it, although I couldn’t figure out what the bird had done that was so surprising to her. It might have been the raven who said it, since they are known to be able to talk, but the context didn’t seem to give any reason for the raven to have asked a question at all. After reading further, I think it must have been the Mistress who spoke, but if so, then why was the raven’s subsequent action not set in a new paragraph?

Overall, I was thrown off my stride and had to stop to try to pick up the pieces. And that’s a shame, because that whole raven scenario had already pulled me in.

WTF #2: Confusing ability

Analysis: While explaining her situation to us, Miara confides that she “could change form and charm animals, summon plants and hear the thoughts of men.” Excuse me? She can summon plants? As in mentally command them to come to her and they will do so? If this really is an ability she has, it is so strange that it simply cannot be tossed off in such an offhand manner. Without further explanation it stands out for me as a ludicrous impossibility, which completely jerked me out of the story world.

WTF #3: Confusing scene choreography

Analysis: Near the bottom of the first page I got this: “What happened to Dekana?” Miara asked as evenly as she could, as the Mistress yanked the neck of her tunic aside to expose the always-raw brand on her shoulder.

Ooo. The Mistress has a brand on her shoulder. Maybe she’s some kind of cultist. That would be interesting. But why is she exposing it in the middle of a conversation with her slave? Still, it’s a fascinating bit of character detail. Except that’s not what happened. Two paragraphs later it became obvious that it was Miara’s tunic that the woman yanked, not her own. Sadly, pronoun binding chalks up yet another immersion bust.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

The Seal of Throkar, by Marniy Jones (6:43)
Viridian System Sampler: Eight Short Stories, by Jemima Pett (5:55)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.