Reviews for Death of a Thousand Cuts
Righteousham chapter 28 . 9/7/2014
Hello and good day,

Well it certainly has been a while, if you'll allow me the presumption that you actually remember our brief exchange some months ago; this review will therefor carry an air of familiarity. In truth I'd read this story back in June but didn't have the time nor energy to submit a proper review. I made sure to keep it in mind since then and on more than one occasion found my thoughts drawn to it while at work or when reading something else. I've recently reread it to refresh my perspective, so let the review begin.

Right from the beginning the differences between this and Retroactive are obvious, and please do excuse the comparisons, but as it's the only other of your stories I've read I found myself continuously struck by this. It was at once, similar (style, voice, structure) and utterly alien (tone, flow, density). It was also obvious fairly early on that this was a story you seemed more adapt at telling. I don't mean to disparage Retroactive - recall I did love it - but there were problems. Most of which stemmed from your inexperience with world-building in large narratives.

You seem right at home with smaller character focused stories such as this. Basically that means I've no criticism regarding your plot. In fact I found it quite perfect. A story such as this could easily be slotted into canon, something I suspect you were aiming for in its telling.

As to the characters themselves: You have one of the best grasps of characterization I've seen from authors in this fandom. By this I mean that you're quite skilled at taking the core tenets of a character (such as Zuko) and effectively showing us another aspect of said character; enabling them to be used in a broader sense without ever being said to break them. Mai too is a perfect example of this.

Upon my first viewing of the series Mai was not a character that made much an impression on me one way or another. However, on my second and later third viewing I began to appreciate the subtle nuances of her attitude and actions more. Even with that in mind, she never really was one I'd rate as being in my top three (Sokka, Azula and Toph if you were curious) or even one I'd particularity care to read about. I might've been more liable to pass this story up for that reason, if I wasn't already familiar with your work from Retroactive.

I've read stories with Mai in them of course, but never before can I actually be said to have truly appreciated her portrayal. You took what we know of her from canon and really threw in a lot of context while appropriately extrapolating responses and behaviors based on said context. Despite Mai's rather dour, and let's be frank, oppressive upbringing you managed to keep the tone light and the dialogue snappy.

Which brings me nicely to my next point: This was a comedy; a romantic comedy of all things. Here's a fun personal fact about me: I hate romcoms. Yet, at more than one point I found myself literally laughing out loud. Immediately following that would be the thought, "this is the same person who wrote Retroactive?"

Speaking of things that kept me surprised. I've seen Azula in character before (plenty of stories for that) and I've seen her funny, but I don't think I can say I've seen her both at the same time done so consistently well. Vague notions of incest aside, I really liked what you did with her here. The scene where she was describing the perfect girl for Zuko and not realizing she was basically describing herself was comedy gold and all the more so for Azula lacking enough self-awareness to realize that.

What else can I say? Well, you had a few minor grammatical problems, typically they took the form of dropped letters. I remember a "her her" that was most probably meant to be "her here", but nothing that overly detracted from your work. I liked the inclusion of the planning document as the last chapter. I love getting into the nuts and bolts of the writing process and seeing behind the scenes, so to speak on what the author was thinking.

Soon I'll have to make a point of going through your backlog, I did glance at it seeing several things that I'd want to read, but if read I shall feel compelled to review lest my conscience chide me passively. It wears on me like Chinese Water Torture, light but persistent. My backlog of stories I need to review is longer than I'd like, mostly due to my lacking the time to sit down for this.

In any case, do keep writing.
Dis-Appearing Writer chapter 25 . 7/17/2014
"You two fight, I go potty" and than I picture him waddling away like chubby baby penguin. Adorably funny.
Dis-Appearing Writer chapter 20 . 7/17/2014
I'm sorry, stick what up where and light what up? Lol
Dis-Appearing Writer chapter 3 . 7/16/2014
So quick question, "glorious glutes?"
Dis-Appearing Writer chapter 2 . 7/16/2014
Kind of funny how they got so excited about the end of tea. Lol
Dis-Appearing Writer chapter 1 . 7/16/2014
"Sexy sulking" haha! Too funny
tsukinopen chapter 2 . 6/29/2014
lol haha
Private Fire chapter 28 . 6/10/2014
I missed this when you posted it.

It is interesting to see where you started and how it turned out. In the beginning, it had seemed to me remarkable how you strung the story along on random prompts. It is no less remarkable now. It just shows off your style, your cleverness and capacity for humor. :)
chelmsford37 chapter 28 . 6/2/2014
REALL REALLY REALLY GOOD JOB. This story was great all the way through. I really liked it, the characters and the emotions. Great job!

It's cool to see your planning stages. I have so much respect for writers, because I can do this part. I can come up with an idea, and maybe even sketch out the details. But writing is HARD! To go from an outline to something like this is very impressive. You deserve a lot of praise. :)

chelmsford37 chapter 27 . 6/2/2014
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LETTER! I love the letter! So good, so ZUZU! :P Especially the hinting. :)

Mai's denial, then realization are good. I like the title placement. Very poetic. Moving. :)

I like the postscript. There is an undercurrent in a lot of your fics of an understanding of history. It adds a nice touch. :)

The world may never know how such a doofus as Zuko got all the breaks in his life. Maybe being earnest and hardworking actually counts for something in this life. Also Mai. (The good version of Azula. ;) In terms of politics.)

Also the references to Maiko breaking up and getting back together...several times. :)

Something I forgot to mention, was how much I appreciated all of the "To be continued" and "Not the end"s at the end of seemingly closure chapters. They helped me stay on point. ;D Now there's another chapter. I wonder what's enclosed? ...

Good Job, Loopy. :)
chelmsford37 chapter 26 . 6/2/2014
I love Ty Lee's semi-scandalous attitude about Maiko. It makes sense in context, but we never get to see her complain about things like that. Although I also love how she leaves herself open to "sleepovers" with Zuko, when he's single of course. :P So she is pretty free love. I like the airbender reference, and Ty Lee's conversation style. If you don't object, she will just keep talking. :D Such a good conversationalist. She could talk to a sleeping man. :)

Iroh knows better than to test Azula. You don't get to be that old by tempting fate. And I like how Azula is gloating in her superiority over Iroh in all respects. :)

I also like the reference to Azula studying the human animal and then putting her knowledge into flawless effect. Especially the part where she's gonna perve out by asking Mai the details. Probably on a sleepover with Ty Lee. See? She's not so weird! :P :D

And of course you meant sisterly tricking the info of how babies are made out of Zuko. :) Be careful, Azula, I don't think you want to know that badly! :P I would say I'm sure she could actually trick him, but it might backfire like it did with Jin and Mai, and the mere chance that Zuko might figure it out would actually make Azula moe in his eyes forever more. We wouldn't have to wait for the Search for Zuko to start seeing Azula as the cute little sister she is. :) (With help from Sokka. By the way, why was Sokka so concerned with Azula anyway. ;))

Heh heh, of course Mai would rather "maikout" (:P) than deal with her mom. Although the mother is starting to grow on me. I see where Mai gets it from. Pragmatic advice about the black. :D Also, Tom Tom wasn't gonna let you get away without a real gesture of love. :)

And nice end to the chapter with yet another reason why Mai is good for Zuko. And Zuko is good for Mai, if only letting her un-repress. ;)

Good work, Loopy! :)
chelmsford37 chapter 25 . 6/2/2014
I would say Zuko's over-thinking things in the beginning, but he has some legitimate points. :)

I love Mai and Tom Tom's game! An unexpected side plot in this story has been how cute Mai and Tom Tom are. :)

Ouch. Mai heard that part, huh? I was wondering how she would react.

I love how Mai and Zuko are both appealing to the two year old. :) And we always think we are so mature. :P

I guess that's the rub. Azula is the cause of, and solution to, all of Maiko's problems. Kinda.

I really love Mai's reactions to Zuko's speech. It's really skilled to portray someone like Mai, who is so dry and sarcastic, but also so romantic and up for anything, in the right circumstances.

Then Zuko has to lay the heavy. I mean, good points, but still? :) I like how Mai calms their doubts. Sometimes I think hormones are the only reason anyone ever gets and/or stays together. :P

Good job, Loopy. :)
algebra123230 chapter 25 . 6/1/2014
Tom-Tom cuts right to the point every time. Smart kid.
Lunatique chapter 28 . 6/1/2014
Ah, the travails of the writing process. The writing itself presents new angles and developments that can't be foreseen at the planning stage, as shown in the contrast between your notes and the actual story. I like the flip on the "thousand cuts" theme - that ultimately it was Mai herself whose barriers were worn down so she found the strength to love, and deeply enough to risk her life. I'd actually expected a bit more of Book 3 stuff depicting how that eventually happened, but this story showed the seeds of that transformation and I enjoyed reading it. I also liked how the occupation angle was eventually handled, especially as shown in the riot scene and in Zuko's internal struggles.
Lunatique chapter 25 . 6/1/2014
Nice acknowledgement of this very salient issue in Mai and Zuko's relationship, and particularly great comic touch in handling it. Their each making their case to Tom-Tom was priceless. Also good foreshadowing of their later choices, along with Mai's earlier disparaging mention of dying for love, with Mai pointing out she could hardly take the risk of displeasing Azula when he wasn't. I like that they're going into this eyes without illusions, especially Mai.
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