|Reviews for Racks of Drying Flowers|
| Bunstyle chapter 1 . 4/23/2006
Great. It's good to see someone finely make a new story in JE.
Was getting a bit tired of so many stories with the same returning persons from JE - good to finely see some new characters.
| Deeply Darkly chapter 2 . 3/30/2006
There's an amazing amount of work and detail in this fic, and it really shows. Your characters are developed and illustrated beautifully through your writing, and there's a unique originality to the theme - which I found intriguing; a prisoner so candidly telling his life story to a typically blinkered guard. I loved just about everything about this fic - the interludes between the prefect and the prisoner, the way you expressed a lot of your characters' personalities through the dialogue, and the wonderful mocking obsequiousness of Shi Jixie himself... Please continue. :)
| Freesourceful chapter 1 . 3/30/2006
Dialogue and in medias res: two tried and true techniques for getting a reader involve din a story, and here you employ both to such effect that you demonstrate to us exactly why that is. The enigmatic and compelling voice of the prisoner who is charismatic and charming and exactly the sort of "confidence trickster" he dismisses himself to be, lulls the audience into a suspension of disbelief, so that we are drawn in despite the very reservations he says that others have had, and we want to trust him. Like the title of the story “Racks of Drying Flowers,” which imply in-animation, stillness, and a certain dry anticipation, there is a suspense and tension building in the waiting – we are waiting for his “confession” to take us somewhere, and so we keep listening, though nothing is happening, and like the promise in dried flowers that will become beautiful arrangements someday, we expect for these pieces to become transformed into something else. (But will this be a false promise?)
The prisoner’s dialogue is brilliant, and I’ve no doubt others will comment on why. I myself found the Prefect’s role deliciously complex. As an intermediary asking questions on behalf of the reader, supplying additional information, contradicting the prisoner, interrupting the narration, or becoming overly-involved in the story, such as in her outburst: "Cease your sneering, dog!" snapped the interrogator. "Return to your story without this editorializing. Why was the Yellow Sash Gang seeking your father? For the bounty?" She inhabits all the other roles which the narrator does not play. Although we range far in time and space in the retelling, the Prefect grounds the story in one time, one place, (ironically) unifies the story with her interruptions (very, very well-done, here). Of course, neither the father nor the bounty have anything to do with finding the woman the Prefect seeks, yet, like the readers, the Prefect has been drawn in, and wants to know the story, though for her it has nothing to do with what he is there to accomplish. In a way, she embodies our presence in text. Just as we were already promised in the prologue, we have been suckered in, tricked, and despite our doubts about his reliability (as voiced by the Prefect when she mentions that she’s been to the cave in question and has seen neither demons nor peonies – I love that last detail), we trust him as a storyteller to take us somewhere, we let him continue on. But the narrator is truly devious, and I suspect, won’t give us the satisfaction of telling the story as we think it will be told.
The relationship between these two is also well setup and subtly complicated. On the surface, they are at odds, they have never met, and their goals in this interchange are completely different. I like the build-up of tension between them, in small moments of discomfort and awkward glances, building but not always obvious because of the prisoner’s glib but definitely deliberate overlooking of these things… and I wonder if there might not be a surprise for us at the end. Whether this Prefect whom we think we have defined, who seems constant and more trustworthy than the narrator (if less charming) might not turn out to be someone different than what she seems. Regardless, I deeply enjoyed the characterizations of her in dialogue: "You were an excellent pickpocket at a young age, a prodigy, I have learned." intoned the Prefect, relaxing on her stool. "I managed to speak with the magistrate of your province about you. He was very aged but remembered you clearly. He called you a blight," with a twist of words at the end that clearly establishes the differences in diction between the egregious prisoner and his curt interrogator.
It’s not often I see this quality of work, even in professional publications. Thank you so much for sharing.