Excursions from the Citadel- A Review by Moonlake

I’m really happy with the overall quality of the epub at the moment and this is what prompts me to write up this post in which I would give an outline and reviews of all the pieces included.


Let’s talk about Thread first (this is my blog so of course I come first :P). I feel this is the stronger of my 2 pieces in the underlying ideas. However, since I wrote this whilst the closing of submission is real close, I fear that my execution might not have done the underlying idea justice but judge for yourselves. Shapeshifters only come into this story in a very peripheral way and that’s the way it’s like for all except for a single chased-by-shape-shifters story in this collection. Thread part 1 sets up the journey that two Chinese wizards or Geomancers will set out on to search for a plant that is part of the cure for the Crown Prince who have fallen to a fatal malady. It includes two coolly described scenes of how a Geomancer divination is done. The setting is a fantasy version of ancient China. It has 100% genuine Chinese feel to it because it is written by a Chinese, yours truly. And me and another collaborator of mine on this issue are pretty much head-over-heels in love with my prose on this piece (he is, I’m a modest person so I will just say I’m solidly happy with the prose I’ve produced). But enough of tooting my own horns.


Next, I want to move onto my personal favourite in this collection, which isn’t written by me. It is also the only novella in this collection, titled Winged Invasion. It is the story of a false hermit asked by a group of shape-shifters to undertake a ritual for them and instead of the shape-shifter being forced into a situation of being pulled between two conflicting allegiances, it is the human protagonist that is in such a situation. As I said, I think that’s one “turning things on their heads” approach that can be done with a shape-shifter theme. And it’s my personal favourite because it chimes with me on a personal level. And there’s also a lesson that I think everyone can take away from this story in general.


My second favourite, titled Grey, is a work written by yet another of my collaborator. It is a very dreamy, slightly sad story interspersed heavily with poetry that unpacks a lot of the feel of this piece in a very tight way that leaves a lot of ‘aftertaste’ in one that I personally always appreciate in a piece. In fact, it could just as equally be one of my favourites except that it doesn’t really chime with me on a personal level despite that the writing really wooed me. And I was wooed both on the idea and execution. This story only relates to the shape shifter theme insofar as a key character has the ability to shift forms. We have half of the pieces which aren’t really about conventional shape shifters so that’s why we are calling this issue “Shifting shapes” instead. A subtle change in wording but more encompassing in meaning.


Here’s another piece by me but in collaboration with the author of my second favourite piece of the collection. The name of the story is Labor of an Empress. It is basically a long poem in the words of my collaborator who wrote all the poems in this piece that were only edited or changed in minor ways by me. One can also call it a mood piece but it is also a character growth story for the protagonist, the Empress in the title. In the words of my collaborator who authored my personal favourite, it’s a very lyrical piece. In my own words, it is a quite charming piece containing a substantial number of imageries that I hope readers would appreciate.


We’ve also included a piece for a mature audience. The title for it is Lady down the Hall and the last word in the title should tell you that the sole theme of this story is decadence in a particular way. The title of this story is how the shape shifter in this story is known as.


Last but not least is the shape-shifter chase story that I mentioned previously, titled Atop a Pine-covered Mountain. It introduces two new elements/twists to the mould of a chase by not only shape-shifter but what-have-you. The first one is that the protagonist is someone with a lot of false bravado rather than any of the innocents or character you are really fond of nor any of the villains or manipulative people with ambitions. The second one I will leave to you to discover at your leisure.


That’s all for stories outlines and reviews. Again, stay tuned over next week for excerpt releases. I will release one for all six pieces from Monday-Saturday Australian time.


Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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