Blade of the Destroyer, by Andy Peloquin (4:46)

IOD-BladeDestroyerIn today’s report we are reminded that if the author doesn’t properly establish the scene geography, readers can easily get tripped up trying to fill it in from scant clues.

What I gleaned about the story: The Hunter has killed again, and for now, the hunger of his blade lies dormant. But how long will it stay sated? I’m guessing the answer is, “Not for bloody long.”

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WTF #1: Echoing headwords

Analysis: I count about a dozen echoes on the first page, most of which are successive “The”-headed sentences. This repetitive sentence structuring quickly gets monotonous, and I was not yet sufficiently invested in the characters or events to be distracted from the pattern.

WTF #2: Confusing geography

Analysis: The protagonist is known only as “The Hunter,” and we are introduced to him as his latest victim “plunges to the forest floor.” My immediate vision is of his target having been brought down from somewhere high in the trees. Okay. That might be interesting.

A bit later we are told that the victim has no hands – only stumps – because the Hunter’s crossbow bolts severed his hands, apparently employing one wide-bladed quarrel for each. So here I paused to imagine this. The Hunter fires bolt #1 and severs one of the victim’s hands. Then he reloads and shoots bolt #2. Even assuming the crossbow is magic and only required 1 sec to reload, what was the victim doing during that second? Swinging wildly from whatever handhold he had left, flailing and screaming? He didn’t let go? After losing a hand?

To make matters less clear, we’re also told that the vic had a third quarrel in his lung. When did that hit him? Before he lost his hands? So he was just hanging there by his courageous double grip after taking a crossbow bolt to the lung? And then, after losing the first hand, he still managed to hold on and wait? Or maybe the lungshot caught him after his hands had already been severed, but if so, he must have just been hovering in the air there, handless, and waiting for it. I’m sure the author had a specific sequence of events in mind, but they are not coming through clearly for me, so I find myself distracted by trying to piece all these details together into a sensible history of the event. And when I’m struggling to make sense of what I’m told, I’m no longer immersed in the story.

WTF #3: Incorrect word

Analysis: So the kill itself is over and the body now lies on the forest floor. But we are told that: Green blood now oozed from the dead man’s severed wrists, staining the forest canopy a sickly color.

Whoops. The canopy of the forest is the top, where the leaves merge into a seemingly continuous layer. If those wrists are staining the canopy, there would have to be some prodigious fountain of blood jetting skyward to accomplish it. But since no such fountain is reported, I’ll assume it’s just a misuse of the word “canopy.” Unfortunately, the misfired visual popped me out of the story.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Rotten Bodies, by Steve Jenkins (2:53)
Dark Matter, by Brett Adams (40:00)

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.