Let me begin by saying that this is by far one of the best works of fan fiction that I have ever read. Period. From the astounding amount of detail and creativity that you have obviously spent much of your precious free time putting into this, to the way you handle yourself with critiques, making sure to respond to every review with tact and professionalism, you have an impressively well-rounded presence here. While it needs to be said that this story deserves way more praise than it gets here, your tenacity and dedication are remarkable in the face of the sometimes desolate atmosphere of readership in this section, as you push willingly and eagerly forward to complete this epic tale. I have no doubt that you will see it to completion, and I can't wait to be there when it finally comes to a close.
Read the story now
With regards to the story itself, you have truly made this game come to life in ways that I have not seen in any attempted novelization. The landscape is rich here, from the sprawling stronghold of Angkor (Baron), to its surrounding townships, to the vast underground network of Kitezh (Damcyan) and the gallant palace of Koba (Fabul), everything is vivid and imaginative. The characters even more so, from Bram's (Cecil) hard shell with the soft center, to Kane's (Kain) more sinister motivations, to Samuel's (Golbez) enigmatic persona, to Virgil's (Baigan) pure evil. I feel connected to these characters, and I'm committed to them, and that speaks to your abilities to draw readers in with their individual personalities. I feel like every action and every word has purpose, which is incredibly difficult to do, even for published authors. It is the mark of someone constantly improving their work, striving to be better at every turn.
When I first started reading I admit that I was put off by the changes in the names, and I made that clear in my first review. But what sets you apart, I think, is that you not only took the time to respond to my review, but to explain in detail your thought process behind the name changes. It really put my mind at ease about the whole thing, which allowed me to continue on unrestricted. It's amazing how far we have come since that first back-and-forth, and I feel like we have grown a little bit together over the time we've spent reading each other's work. This is what makes a community great, and I must thank you for making the effort to reciprocate.
Now as a fan of Final Fantasy IV, you would probably like to know how I think it stacks up to my headcanon of the game. And I would say it is much better! Your attention to detail allows me to make sense of certain events in the game that were never explained, and also makes nice sidesteps out of the canon to improve certain events that either didn't make sense or were just plain ludicrous. While you have maintained the core plot up to this point, I am very excited to see what deviations you have in store for the next installments.
The only critique that I have left after having digested this whole story is the tone of the book. While the game always found moments to insert some light-hearted, humorous sidenotes, your tale is consistently dark, and it suits your writing style and storyline quite well. It should be dark! My only worry is that it is pervasive in nearly every moment of the book, which means the tone is riding on a straight line, with very little in the way of peaks and valleys. So while the plot is effectively a really fun rollercoaster ride, the tone is a train ride. Comic relief or simple moments of happier times, wherever these characters can find them, might increase the overall strength of the story. And no, I'm not telling you to reinsert Palom ;-)
Thank you so much for writing this, Jeff. You are an inspiration to me and to many others, I'm sure. You have a loyal and dedicated reader here, and I only hope that others will soon realize the gem that they are missing when they pass over this story.
With Highest Regards,
P.S. So I figured I might as well post my review from ff.net up here as well, in hopes that it boosts your readership. I also have one critique that is unique to the way your book is presented on this site. On ff.net you have the chapter broken up into sections, which makes it much easier to read and keep up with. The way that you have posted the seven chapters here, each in their entirety makes it feel like a bit overwhelming. This actually made me think of something that could possibly even transfer over to ff.net, as well. If I were you, I might consider labelling your "chapters" as "parts" or "acts", and then posting your smaller sections as individual chapters. It feels more natural that way I think. The result would be something like: Part I - A Prelude followed by smaller chapters, then Part II - A Journey to Ur, so on and so forth. Whenever I have read novels broken into sections, the smaller chunks of text have always been labelled as chapters. You seem to take the opposite approach. Not that it is a bad thing, it just goes against the grain.