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SciFi / Fantasy / Horror

  • The Sky Place

    by Lyla Cork

    Rating: 6.50

    Plot/Idea: Cork conjures up a narrative that, despite a simple premise, is built upon a layer of complicated characters that occasionally echoes twisted fare like Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart. However, cloudy morals and dubious protagonists may serve as worthy obstacles to more discerning readers, who might find little to agree with in regards to action and justification.

    Prose: Cork's prose oscillates between ergonomic and expository, with one often unsettling the other's balance. The dialogue struggles to manifest itself in an organic way, often the victim of explanatory bouts; however, Cork's descriptive work frequently sparkles throughout the novel.

    Originality: A highly interesting and unique concept loses its wind somewhat as the story unfolds, to ultimately reveal more familiar ground.

    Character Development/Execution: Cork's characters offer readers a more complicated dive into human affairs, though this often acts as a double-edged sword, painting portraits of people that readers may be reticent to root for.

  • Dusk Upon Elysium

    by Tamel Wino

    Rating: 6.00

    Plot/Idea: The concepts at work are interesting, but the mechanics powering them occasionally struggle to build up speed, which could hold some readers back from the full ride.

    Prose: Wino's prose is accommodating, though untested bouts with expository backstory and details tend to hinder the flow and disengage from the experience.

    Originality: Wino takes familiar, well-trod elements of science fiction and finds ways to inject life into them by splicing together other genres in a way that, while not always conducive, makes for an interesting read.

    Character Development/Execution: The cast of Dusk Upon Elysium are rendered with thought, but unsteady prose and a lack of energy surrounding their conception undermines their efforts to root themselves and their struggles in the reader's mind.

  • Cato's Choice

    by Juri Pill

    Rating: 6.00

    Plot/Idea: Cato's Choice is a layered sci-fi story that unfolds in the twenty-third century in the 'People's State of California.' Initially, Pill introduced dramatic worldbuilding elements that will capture the reader's attention. However, as the novel progresses, these attributes are somewhat diluted by aggressive pacing and thin characters. 

    Prose: Pill's prose comes off as rather rushed and unfocused, flitting from character to setting to exposition without settling in long enough to give them the full attention they deserve.

    Originality: Cato's Choice introduces some clever maneuvers and competent worldbuilding, but ultimately it falls short of truly innovative.

    Character Development/Execution: Pill's cast is intriguing, but ultimately difficult to connect with, particularly Cato, whose reactions frequently feel blasé and out of place with the story's events. The novel's breakneck pacing prevents in-depth character development.

  • Shadowmist Chronicles: Rebirth

    by Mark-Anthony Messina

    Rating: 5.50

    Plot/Idea: A rich premise with vivid imagery is somewhat weakened by an unfocused perspective, uncertain pace, and passive prose that may prove a challenging combination of obstacles to readers.

    Prose: While occasionally shining, Shadowmist Chronicles struggles with a passive, tell-not-show approach to its prose that reads more like an outline than a full-fledged novel.

    Originality: Shadowmist Chronicles lives firmly in the territory of its genre contemporaries, content to mix-and-match original characters with ones already established, and does little to break the mold.

    Character Development/Execution: Characters come across as rushed, their interactions, conflicts, and motivations feeling inconsistent and unfinished at times, and readers may struggle to latch onto them, and the story as a whole, as a result.

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