Thank you so much for sharing this chapter with me! It’s been a fun and excited challenge to dive in to the middle of a lengthy, established work like this, and I had a lot of fun reading and immersing myself in your world. You have such a vivid imagination, and I’m in awe of how you’ve managed to juggle so many different worldbuilding elements, characters and subplots in such a lengthy work!
I’ve organized some general thoughts and notes in this letter, but the majority of my feedback is in line edits on the manuscript, which I’ve marked up with tracked changes. In the manuscript itself, I’ve flagged a few things that may be stylistic preferences that you’ll prefer to stet, if they match the style of the rest of the book, but I wanted to call them out in case you wanted to make the changes. One of the primary areas is connecting the speaker to what they’re saying on the same line. I know you said you don’t generally use dialogue tags, which mostly doesn’t bother me, but it helps when you connect the speaker to their spoken dialogue on the same line, makes things flow a little easier. The second is your use of italics, which got a little confusing throughout. I tried to clean up some of the spots that were confusing to me, but of course feel free to stet if that’s your stylistic preference!
One thing that I had difficulty with throughout the chapter was the quick leaping back and forth between point of view characters. We’d be in one character’s POV, and then with no warning, we were suddenly inside a different character’s POV. Especially when both of those characters are the same gender, so the pronouns are the same, it got really disorienting to follow whose eyes we were seeing through. I pointed out a few places where this happens in the chapter in the line edits, but I’d suggest keeping it in mind as you write. POV jumping can be a great way to give multiple perspectives to a single scene of course, but it gets a little choppy when you’re jumping back and forth in the same scene, within a few paragraphs of each other. It might be valuable to try to stay in one character’s POV for the course of a scene, and if you need to switch to give another perspective, make a scene break, and reorient us in the scene from someone else’s POV. That will let you deepen both the characters you’re playing with, and give us a better sense of the value of seeing things from their POV.
Obviously I’m coming into this in the middle of a long work, so it’s definitely possible that some of the things that were confusing to me are crystal clear to your readers, so of course take my thoughts with that particular grain of sand. But as far as I see it, there were a few different plot threads going on in this chapter:
- Mri as a Doombringer/keeping Mri hidden/trying to figure out the truth about Doombringers
- Gnoll attitudes towards the Humans of Earth, and deciding what to do about Earth
And as a smaller, but still significant subplot, Satar’s coming of age as she tries to sort out her writing career and future as a Shaman, Storyteller or Historian, and solve the mystery of the lack of Gnoll history.
All of these subplots are really interesting and compelling, and you do a great job of pulling the reader in and making us care about them and invest in them (even a reader who is just joining you for this chapter, like me!) But the way the chapter seemed to switch from subplot to subplot gave me a little whiplash. It felt like I was fully investing in one, and suddenly, with no transitions or anything to indicate that we were supposed to focus on something else now. Both subplots are fascinating and important, but it would have been helpful to me, as a reader, to have more transitions as we switched from subplot to subplot.
The Secret of Mri
This may be something that’s resolved in earlier chapters, but I thought Mrsha could be disguised as Mri because no one knew who she was or where she was from. If her parents are here at the Meeting of Tribes, and they are aware that they failed her, they must know that she’s a Doombringer, no? I’d imagine that’s why they gave her up, right? Doesn’t it seem risky that even more people know the truth about her? The more people know, the less likely it is that the secret can actually be kept.
Also: Mrsha’s parents wanting a second chance with their daughter is dropped in the middle of the chapter with almost no context, and then never followed up on again. If they’re truly repentant, why not give them a second chance and let them help protect her? And, wouldn’t Mrsha want to know that her parents are repentant and want another shot with her? Her parents come up in that one scene, and then never again, which feels odd. Perhaps it’s addressed in another chapter, but it definitely felt like it was left hanging in this chapter.
Where would the Gnolls have gotten all the details about Earth’s war history? Rose can’t even describe a suburb without struggling for the right worlds—which is fine! It’s hard to describe things that seem basic and mundane to you, but your audience has no context for. But if she’s working so hard to give the Gnolls a sense of Earth life, does it seem realistic that she would have paused her attempts to describe cities and airplanes and cafes to go into detail about world wars and nuclear history? Why would that have been a point of focus for Rose, a Human child?
Even if Adetr saw something of Earth war using his skills, where would the history and details of their war history have come from?
So this is another comment that may have an answer in an earlier chapter, but Fehotep is hugely important to the end of the chapter, but feels like he comes out of nowhere. He’s introduced offhand as Mri’s chess pen pal, and then basically drops the entire solution to Satar’s problem into their lap.
This is, of course, super helpful, but it also feels a little bit like cheating. Satar grows up so much over just the course of this chapter! She discovers the mystery of the Doombringer inconsistencies in their history, has started piecing everything together—and then the answer to everything is just handed to her by Fetohep, who is barely in the chapter at all. I think it would feel more satisfying if there were a few more mentions or touchstones in the chapter to reference him or his importance, even on the side during some of the Meeting of Tribes meetings or something. Seed him earlier in the chapter so when he comes up it feels organic and satisfying, rather than just dropped in.
On another note, I also wanted to add—I really loved the end of the chapter. It was so gorgeous, watching everyone’s skills come together to create this beautiful insight into Earth, giving the Gnolls a true view into the foreign world they were fearing and fascinated by. Just absolutely beautiful, and so satisfying!
And that’s that! Thank you so much for trusting me with your work and your words—it’s been a true pleasure to get to dip in and get to experience your characters and world like this! Once you’ve had a chance to sit with these notes for a bit, please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s anything further you’d like to discuss or talk through—I’m happy to answer any questions that you have, and I hope my feedback will be helpful to you!