|Reviews for The Return of the Riders|
| Sauron Gorthaur chapter 15 . 2/25/2011
Here's Part 2 of my review.
I said above that you have a strong plot. You do, but it is weakened by the fact that you move way too fast through it. Towards the end (after Amber and Elle are captured by Arilia on their way to the Varden) you don't have as much of a problem with this, but everything that happens before seems incredibly rushed. Amber finds Elle's egg and Elle hatches and grows up in less than two chapters compared to Paolini’s “Eragon” where it isn’t until Chapter 8 that Saphira becomes mature. I know you are going off of the movie here, but I think one of the biggest problems with the movie is that it moves too fast and doesn’t allow believable amounts of time to pass. Amber and Elle hardly receive any training from Eragon and Saphira before they are off on a mission of their own and are fighting enemy riders. Christal and Anora receive even less training than Amber, but they somehow are still good enough fighters to defeat the bad Riders and dragons at the end, something even Eragon and Saphira fail to do. The part with Amber and Arya in Uru’baen is very short, as is Amber and Elle's captivity in Chapter 22. You have no word limits here, no reason to make everything happen so fast. It's OK to give your characters some downtime, a breather or two.
Look at Paolini's books. Sure, there's lots of fights and battles and excitement, but there's a whole lot of resting, admiring the scenery, and training too. Eragon and Saphira don't become great fighters in two days or two months. Let some time elapse for your story, too. Instead of fighting and defeating Ra'zac on their second day of Rider training, let them train for two months. You don't have to show all the details, but let some time elapse, so that it's believable that Amber and Elle could work together and be good fighters. Same with Christal's training. Take time to develop parts like Amber and Arya’s escape from Uru’baen – tell the reader more about what Amber is thinking. I also think you could have developed Amber’s flashbacks about being a Shade a LOT more. She stays a Shade for a very brief time, and other than her guilt about Brom, it doesn’t seem to have impacted her much. All your episodes are like this – rushed through and brief, as if you are overly eager to get to the next adventure. Take the time to develop each separate adventure, instead of feeling like you have to get on to the next thing. Give more descriptions of places also – you have very little of this, and although that may seem like the boring part, it is essential for your readers to be able to “see” where your story is taking place. Good description can really make the story come alive.
I said above that characters can always be further developed. You have begun the process of creating believable characters and have begun it well, but I don’t feel that it’s finished yet. You have spent lots of time fleshing out Amber and Elle, but your other main character, Christal, feels flat. Remember what I said about Amber having flaws as well as strengths? Well, I don’t feel that Christal has any flaws, and she doesn’t have specific strengths the way Amber does. You have the little quirk with her getting her dragon’s name wrong, but you don’t develop that any further. Does she have trouble remembering names, maybe? How could this become an important flaw in her character? Or a strength? Her grief for Friciey does not seem to last – for losing the most important person in her life, she gets over it very quickly and hardly mentions Friciey once she has Anora. Compare this to Brom, who is still grieved by his Saphira’s death years later, and Galbatorix, who goes insane from his dragon’s death. Even though she was a main character, I didn’t feel like I got to know her well, the way I did with Amber and Elle.
For the canonical characters, the one that need the most work is Arya. She did not seem to be the same strong, stubborn, and often hot-tempered character that is in the Inheritance books. Yes, she is doing a good job of being a “big sister” to Amber, but she seems to be all big sister in your story and has lost much of her fierce warrior and noble elf-lady side. She acts far too casually. For example in Chapter 17, there’s this sentence: "Amber!" Arya cried, throwing her arms around me.” This does not seem like the way Paolini’s Arya would act. For this, the best thing you can do is re-read some of the prominent Arya sections in the Inheritance books. Study how she talks and behaves, then when you are writing her, think about whether or not each action and each line is something Paolini’s Arya would do or say.
With the way you have written the story, particularly the dialogue, you have fallen into a trap that I see a lot of fanfiction writers succumb to – the dialogue sounds like it could have been copied from a conversation in a high school hallway. It sounds REALLY modern. Granted, the Inheritance books sometimes sound a little too modern as well, but I often couldn’t believe your dialogue was medieval/fantasy dialogue at all. This does not mean you should have them all talking like “Greetings, fair friend, and how art thou today?” as that is equally bad, but “Hey, what’s up?” (which you use in a few places) does not fit the setting. What you need is a happy medium, something that doesn’t sound pseudo-medieval, but doesn’t sound like modern high school girls chatting either. Something like “Hello, how are you this morning?” is neither overly medieval or overly modern. Modern-sounding words that you should avoid are things like “Yeah”, “OK” (which you use a LOT), or “Sure”. Again, re-read passages of dialogue from the Inheritance books. See what sort of words the characters do and don’t use. As I said, the Inheritance books aren’t the best example for fantastic fantasy dialogue, but since you are writing an Inheritance story, go off of how they talk. And I can guarantee you won’t find Eragon saying “Hey, what’s up” to Saphira.
I know you are able to do it. Arilia and Brom’s Saphira talk in a more sophisticated, elegant way, much more fitting for the medieval setting. This is also one of the main problems with your Arya. I said above that she is too casual. That’s because she talks in this modern way with Amber a lot, not the way an elf-princess, and particularly Arya who speaks quite elegantly in the books, should sound. Again, this is a common problem with fantasy fanfiction writers, and unfortunately, the only way to fix it is to read lots of good fantasy dialogue and to practice it in your writing.
This last section of constructive criticism may be a little nit-picky, but it’s important for making a good readable story. I don’t know how much the fanfiction website is responsible for, because it can be rather aggravating in this area, but most of your story is formatted poorly without any breaks between the paragraphs. This made it very hard to read because it was difficult to tell where new paragraphs began and it was hard to keep my place. Chapter 20 through the end were fine – they were formatted in traditional web format, with breaks between the block paragraphs. If you could format the whole story that way that would be great, as I imagine the poor formatting is turning a lot of readers off.
So, there you are, and I hope some or all of this advice is helpful and that you are not discouraged by my constructive criticism. This is one of the largest scale works I have read on fanfiction, and I’m guessing many hours of well-spent time went into making it. However, I don’t think it’s quite done yet. If you have any questions about anything I have said in this review or if you want further detail, please feel free to PM me, and I’ll try to get back to you as promptly as I can. I would love to see you take this work as far as you can, and I would be happy to help out in any way I can.
The best of luck for both this book and your sequel. Good work and keep on writing! May your sword stay sharp!
| Sauron Gorthaur chapter 16 . 2/25/2011
I do apologize for the long amount of time that it took me to read through your story. I recognize that this is an immense piece of work that you have obviously spent a great deal of time on, and I have tried to spend the large amount of time reading and reviewing it that it deserves. There is a lot of constructive criticism in my review - this is by no means because you have a bad story and I did not enjoy it. I am offering you my constructive criticism with the hope that you can make this epic work even better. However, I will start with your strong points and the things I liked about The Return of the Riders.
First off, I must congratulate you for persevering all the way through this story and finishing it. That in itself is an epic achievement. I am always disappointed by how many stories on fanfiction are abandoned half-way through. The very fact that you have a complete, and quite lengthy, work here shows that you are a great writer. I hope that you are continuing to write the sequel with the same perseverance. (And you might want to consider posting individual chapters on fanfiction as you write them, rather than posting it all at once when you finish it. That way you'll get more feedback, and you'll get feedback while you're still writing it.) And I hope that perhaps someday you might consider writing original fiction novels that one day you might be able to publish.
Strengths of The Return of the Riders:
You have a whole host of characters, both canonical and original, in this story, and all of them have vivid, differing, and interesting personalities and character traits. Of all the characters, I think your original characters (OCs) were the best done, and of your OCs, your best characters were Amber, Ellestygia (who for the purposes of this review I am going to call Elle if that's OK), and Arilia.
Amber was a well-developed character (although characters can always be developed more, but I'll talk more about that in the constructive criticism section). You did a good job of not making her a Mary Sue - she has faults and flaws, as well as strengths, like any good character should. She doesn't always trust her friends, is rash (rather like her brother), and sometimes over-curious, but she's also loyal, cares deeply about those she loves, and is keen-minded. In other words, she's a whole mix of things that create a believable character. Her curse was a particularly intriguing thing for you to throw in, and I liked it very much. A hero always needs to have some weakness or vulnerability to make him or her believable, and the curse provided that weakness. It was also an interesting idea, and Amber's dual reaction to it, both her fear and hatred of it and her longing for it because it allows her to see Brom, made her a deeper, three-dimensional character. Her feeling of guilt over Brom's death that you developed throughout the story also made her a deeper character. You probably know that in any story, however long, there needs to be change in the main character. Amber did indeed change throughout the course of the story. Not only does she come to conquer her feelings of guilt about Brom's death, but she matures, going from having to be rescued by Eragon and Saphira in the first chapter, to killing Arilia and being a hero in the end.
Then there's Elle. I think Elle is your best OC, and I can tell that you had a good time writing her, just as I think Christopher Paolini did when writing Saphira. Elle is definitely a dragon - she shares a lot of characteristics with Saphira - but she's also quite unique and separate from Saphira or any of Paolini's other dragon creations. I liked her playful sense of humor - it was less sarcastic and more mischievous than Saphira's. This playful mischievousness was in Chapter 23 when Elle pays back Amber for putting her into a magical sleep and in Chapter 21 when Elle offers Amber help at making a fire. She also is wise in a very dragonish way. I really liked her line about Marie in Chapter 24 "brave in words, but weak at heart." This sounded like a very dragonish line, and it particularly had Elle's mischievousness in it.
It is a fact that having a great villain is an important part of any good story. Arilia is a good villain - at least, she's very good at being evil. Although she was very much a Durza-prototype, you still managed to bring out her characteristics of cruelty and cunning in different ways. And as Durza's sister, it would make sense that she is similar in demeanor and attitude to him, so it did not bother me all that much that she was almost identical to him. As I said under the part about Amber, the curse was a very interesting idea, and it gave them a neat sort of connection. It was similar to Eragon's scar and Durza, but it was different enough to be interesting. I think the best Arilia scene was in Chapter 22 when Arilia captured Amber and Elle. The way she taunts Amber with lines like "I beg to differ, you see, I have taken your sword and your dragon can't help, and can you even remember one word in the ancient language?" and "You want to test me? I like challenges, so let the pain begin." showed her character really well. She speaks more elegantly than many of the other characters, in a smooth and sinister way. Like Durza, she obviously enjoys taunting and baiting her victims, which you play with very well, like in Chapter 22. Overall, she was a good villain, and I always enjoyed reading the scenes she showed up in.
Although the canonical Inheritance characters did not play a large part in your story, you still did a fine job with portraying Murtagh and Saphira in particular. You got Murtagh just right – he’s bitter, rather arrogant, but not altogether evil. The scene outside of the Varden’s entrance with the fight between Amber and Murtagh showed his character particularly well, especially when he mocks Amber with reminding her that Brom is dead. You also did a good job with the difficult character of Saphira. You did a good job of expanding her character, showing what she is like as a teacher, not just a student, as you did with Eragon. Both of them retain their original characters, but it was cool how you showed them mature a step as they are the ones who have to teach Amber and Elle. Their protectiveness towards Amber and Elle, while still getting into trouble sometimes themselves, was both true to their characters and showed the expansion of their characters.
You have a strong plot and you obviously know quite a bit about the world you are writing in, although it was sometimes confusing when you switched between book-reality and movie-reality. You have some very neat ideas in the story, like Arilia's curse and the whole idea of the silver dragons replacing a fallen dragon. The story is also quite exciting with the fights between various Riders and dragons, with Amber rescuing Anora's egg from Uru'baen, and with the battle at the end. Friciey's death came as a surprise to me, and Akarclio with its ice powers was neat and a nice contrast to Brisingr's fire powers. The idea of Amber having been a Shade was also a really cool idea, although I think you could have done more with that idea.
Overall, I can tell you worked hard on this, and you have a fine work to show for it. You should be proud of it. Good work! However, now I will give you my tips for improving it.
As I said above, my goal for this constructive criticism is to give you tips for improvement. Clearly, it is your story, and this is merely advice, but I would recommend that you at least consider deeply what follows. Having written a book myself, I know how uncomfortable it can be to be told the weaknesses of your own story, but I hope that by pointing out the weakness in Return of the Riders, I can help you make it even better.
Ellestygia, Galbatorix, Islanzadi, Amber: which one of these is not like the other? If you said Amber, you’re right. Every time I saw Amber's name I imagined a girl with a blonde ponytail dressed in modern clothes with make-up and fingernail polish - not exactly the image I believe you want you readers to have, right? Names are one of the most important parts of a character - if you don't get them right, the character will have lots of trouble coming to life, and I'm not sure you got your heroine’s name right. I also had lots of trouble taking Zoey seriously. I know re-naming a main character is a big deal, but you might want to consider doing it. You are very capable of making names that fit in Alagaesia: Arilia, Felvera, Ellestygia - these are all great names that fit right in. Yes, Paolini does use a few modern names, like Katrina and Angela, but these are old fashioned and uncommon names. I had no problem with your Marie for that reason, but Amber and Zoey just sound too much like fashionable modern girls.
If you consider re-naming anyone, here's some options to consider. Paolini uses a lot of Norse names, like Horst, Brom, Hrothgar, and he also uses some Irish names, like Murtagh. Look up lists of Norse or Irish names and you'll find plenty of names that will fit in a lot better than Amber and Zoey. You also might consider re-naming Tabascco, which I could not take seriously either, although I understand the reasoning behind the name. It just doesn't fit in with the other elvish names well at all.
| Sauron Gorthaur chapter 1 . 11/15/2010
One question about the prologue - for the summery of "Eragon", why did you partly use the book and partly use the movie? For those differences, like Brom's death, are you using the movie version for your book? I was just a bit confused about that when you switched back and forth between events in the book and events in the movie.
It may take me a while, but I'm working my way through your book, and I'll submit a full review for it when I get to the end. Until then:
Keep on writing and may your sword stay sharp!