TheCheeseGirl

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An Action-packed Adventure

Sci-Fi is generally not listed among my favorite genres, but I was pleasantly surprised by this; and I would love to read more. The introduction is handled extremely well, and does a fantastic job of introducing not only Cross as a main character, but the underlying conflicts between classes (in the many definitions of the word), before he even sets foot in the heart of campus. Cross himself is refreshing as a protagonist, lacking the typical ego or self-deprecating humor usually found in a hero. The battle scenes contained an even balance of description and action that gave a nice change to the overall pacing of the story.

That said, I would love to see this expanded upon. While it works as a short story, there is definitely room to further develop the story and its characters. For example, as a reader I was disappointed we didn't get to watch how Cross spent those four weeks between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. How many challenges did he receive? How did he select his opponents? How did he prepare for battle?

All of this information could have helped to build tension prior to Chapter 3. This addition of time would have also lent itself really well to getting to know your supporting characters Banksy and Makina, especially given their involvement in the final scene.

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Nightmare Fuel

Terrifying does not quite do this piece justice. As a rule, I don't read (or watch) much from the horror genre, and this story is exactly the reason why. The overall pacing is handled extremely well, shifting from short, abrupt phrasing to build tension, to the longer, more descriptive lines that give you chills. The stump (in both sense) serves as a reminder of those imaginary boundaries that keep us safe from irrational childhood fears. The dialogue of the creature itself is potent fuel for nightmares, delivering disturbing threats with a whimsical tone that makes you certain it likes to play with its food, and there will be no quick escape. In contrast, I think the description of the actual chase and attack could have been stronger. The tension that was established early on began to fade, and even during the creature's munching and crunching, I wanted to worry more about Alex's survival.

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Engaging and Imaginative!

This easily grabbed my attention from the very start, and I read it all in one sitting. You quickly established Marlia as a strong and consistent character, which lent itself well to your use of first person POV.

There are times when first person can be a bit jarring, and clash with the tone of the story, and I'm glad to say I felt none of that in your piece.

While Marlia was solid, there were a few moments where I wished some of your supporting characters were equally fleshed out. It's clear Marlia has strong relationships with her family, friends, and the village as a whole, but as a reader I didn't feel as though the emotional connections were as defined as they could have been. I really wanted to feel the shock, sadness, and even acceptance that all took place during and after The Picking.

The world you've built was extremely interesting, and with each new chapter I looked forward to the bits and pieces that you continued to reveal. I particularly enjoyed your use of the idea that history and civilization will continue to repeat itself, and how it was tied into the tradition of The Picking. When I started reading, I wasn't aware that this was a contest entry, and so I became pleasantly surprised by the seamless transition from what I had thought to be a subtle fantasy setting, to what could easily be a futuristic version of our own world.

There were a few grammar/punctuation and phrasing issues that threw me off, but nothing major enough to ruin the story's flow as a whole. Overall, this was really well done!

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Thrilling and Quirky

Reminiscent of authors like Jim Butcher and Jonathan Stroud, this excerpt wastes no time in seizing the reader and carrying them along for the ride. Adam Saint is a quirky character that paints a gritty, yet humorous picture of the world he calls home. The supporting characters are equally sound, even Adam's mentor and uncle, Pete, who is only seen through brief glimpses of Adam's narration. Every aspect of the world, from the chalk runes and creatures of the otherworld, to the details of Portland and the grubby Lester Weisman, meld together for a well grounded and believable setting. Extremely well done! I look forward to one day reading more.

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A Riveting Thriller

From the very start, it is easy to get swept up in this chilling story.

The reluctant protagonist, Mark, and his friends each read as distinct personalities with a longstanding friendship that only supports the constant rounds of peer pressure. Mark's discomfort and restlessness continue to build, carrying the tension right through the surprising revelation, and up to the final line of the piece.

It would have been nice to see a few more subtle hints to the past encounter between Mark and Terry. Why, given past events would Terry be so insistent? Wouldn't Shane remark on how he missed out the last the group went out? Either could have helped to build a little mystery, that made both Mark's fear and the final revelation more powerful. Aside from that and a few typos, this was very well done!

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