Sand and Blood, by D. Moonfire (31:01)

IOD-SandBloodToday a good story is eventually worn down by the accumulated abrasions of many tiny grits.

What I gleaned about the story: An impatient young man, living in the shadow of a respected older brother, and many other youth who seem more capable, nevertheless burns for the day of his trial to come so that he can take his place as a clan adult and get out to start having a real life with real adventures. In the desert. Running errands. For his strange, Japanese-style steampunk messenger clan.

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Kudos: I love the cultural richness of the opening scene, in which our stealthy hero is caught trying to steal the ashes of his great-grandfather in a ritualized “prove you are a man” prank. It’s odd, and something I haven’t seen before, but at the same time it feels very real.

WTF #1: As with most clans, only the elderly and the youth remained 

Analysis: This is one of those books that balances right on the threshold for me, between holding and breaking immersion due to editorial quirks. There are very few outright errors, but there are these regular, recurring little “frictions” that slow me down on the read. The quoted passage here is a good example. I was able to read it, and I understood it, but it tripped me up as slightly wrong. In my mind, it should be “the elderly and the young,” or maybe, “the elders and the youths.” Certainly, one such issue does not a WTF make, but having one or two slight hiccups on each page begins to wear after a while. Little hitch-steps in an otherwise smooth reading journey, but they came often enough to annoy, and eventually, the pattern of them became more distracting than any one occurrence. But when I notice the pattern, immersion has broken.

WTF #2: Every other day, the valley was quiet except for the occasional sound of children playing.

Analysis: What the author meant was, “On all the other days…” But as written, it can also mean, “On alternating days…,” which is how I read it. So it confused me for a bit, making me back-pedal to see what I’d missed. Like WTF #1, these ambiguous readings are not problematic enough on their own to break immersion, but hitting one and picking the wrong interpretation is like missing your turn on the highway. You just have to jam on the brakes for a while until you get it sorted out. And I found two or three of these in the section I read, so I eventually had to raise the caution flag.

WTF #3: Rutejìmo didn’t plan on obeying to his brother.

Analysis: Spelling and grammar were good, but I tripped over a number of bonus word and missing word problems. The one quoted here was just the last one to catch my attention, and triggered the final WTF.

Kudos: This actually seems to be a good story, well told, so if you’re a bit less distracted by minor editing issues than I am, you may want to give it a try. It really does seem to be a world and culture that I haven’t seen before.

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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 underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.