End of Interlude 15

That was… a lot.

Fuck, let’s split this up by the sections:

Darkness: A fantastic intro, raising many questions and getting the reader invested in where this chapter would be going and who it was about. Sets up the desperation of the trigger event as well as the way Carol would later feel about the long-haired guy’s betrayal really well.

Alan Barnes: By far the most mundane section, but it casually shows us who we’re following and how she’s dealing with what she knows of the Victoria and Amy situation by seeking more mundane work as a break from her endless search, while somewhat subtly making it clear that she favors Victoria. The section is not that interesting at first read, I think, but it’s not without purpose in the chapter.

It does suffer heavily from the inclusion of Alan Barnes and the fact that his surname was being kept from us until the end of the section, even though this was clearly the section’s second purpose: Telling us that Emma’s father, and therefore very likely Emma herself, is/are back in town. The fact that this happened just after we got rid of the other Alan, and only two chapters after the latest reminder of that name for the other Alan, made things extremely confusing for a while. Especially as this section happens early in the chapter, while we’re still trying to figure out exactly when things are set and how things are laid out.

Trigger events: Dandelions, fuck yeah. I love the fact that what appears to be their birth mirrors the spreading of seeds from a dandelion.

The action, and especially Carol’s reaction to the long-haired man attacking them, was also pretty decent, especially with the way the latter was later revealed to have affected her for the rest of her life.

Daughters, plural: A pretty short section, really more of a transition. Carol’s reaction to the others finding both daughters is worth a mention, though, and the way it reinforces what was subtly set up in the Alan section.

Marquis: Marquis is such a good character. Must run in the family.

The battle was very good. I love the fact that Marquis was defeated because he was acting differently than usual to protect Amy. It really helps to sell the love he has for her. And the way he acted after his defeat, entrusting his daughter to the people who were about to take him away from her forever? So good.

The battle was suspiciously different from what we’ve been told about it before, about how they sent in an all-female team to play off of Marquis’ honor. I suppose in retrospect that might’ve been a public fib made to protect the secret of how he was really beaten? Except I’m pretty sure we heard that story from Dragon, one of the few who seem to know the truth.

Anyway, I love how things come together in this section, between their trigger event and Marquis’ appearance and Carol’s behavior regarding Amy (as seen in two of the earlier sections and from Amy’s perspective).

Art: And the pain begins.

Carol confronting Amy and making it clear that only Victoria is her daughter.

Amy’s uncertainty and fear.

The horrifyingly beautiful sculpture that used to be Victoria, and the way that came about.

Carol picking that moment out of them all to finally realize that Amy wasn’t so different from herself.

Everything.

So much pain in all the best ways.

“Please tell me what to do.”

Birdcage:

AMY NO

One of my favorite characters just decided to take herself out of the story (as long as the Birdcage isn’t compromised, anyway). I’m fine. Sure.

You guys were just waiting for me to get to this, weren’t you. I know how liveblog readers work.

But seriously, this is a really painful but really fitting ending to her character arc. She’s been in so much turmoil since she found out about Marquis, and Bonesaw set her on a downward spiral of unethical use of her power. Now we got to see the climax of the latter and an apparent acceptance of the former – she must’ve known she’d meet Marquis in the Birdcage, and it might even be a part of why she volunteered to go.

And Carol’s found a certain acceptance. She’s not feeling good, but she acknowledges that Victoria is for all intents and purposes gone, and she seems to accept that Marquis and his daughter are reunited and may even be happy together in the Birdcage.

It’s bittersweetness at its finest.

Overall:

Holy shit, this was so good and so painful but so fucking good.

See you next time. I have a chapter to go recover from.

End of Colony 15.1

The Undersiders stick together! I honestly wasn’t entirely expecting that.

This was pretty good for a strategy meeting chapter. I very much appreciate that we’re finally making headway with Taylor and Rachel, and I quite enjoyed seeing Rachel’s reaction to Taylor making her a costume in spite of being told to fuck off. While I’m a little bit miffed we didn’t get to see the others’ immediate reactions, this was the one reaction that actually mattered and I’m glad we were allowed to witness it.

Those stairs are gonna be so worn out if they continue like this, though.

As for the actual strategy meeting part, that went quite smoothly. Alec decided to mess with everyone a bit – though he’s possibly more affected by the whole end of the world thing than he’d like to let on – but we got to a unanimous decision of “fuck Coil” fairly easily.

From there on out we got some strategy talk. It’s still not clear what exactly they’re planning, which is a good thing for their odds early on, but we’re playing secret chess and I’m very much here for it.

The ending line is a little bit iffy. It seemed to come almost out of nowhere, like Wildbow wasn’t entirely sure how to lead the dialogue into the line he had planned to end the chapter with, or wasn’t sure how to end the chapter, period. At least it’s a fairly good line.

Next chapter, we’re presumably beginning to put some of these plans into motion. We may also get more adventures in Taylor’s territory – I’m still fairly sure the chapter title is related to the territory in some way. Maybe Taylor will have to make the choice between her territory and Dinah by the end of the Arc, with her non-subterfuge activities in the Arc helping to build up how much Taylor cares about the territory a bit more?

Whatever the case may be, I’m sure it’ll be good. See you next time!

End of Interlude 14.5

In which Legend continues to be great as he says all the right things to Kid Win, learns some things we already knew while showing us things we didn’t and raising an alarming amount of death flags. Don’t think I didn’t notice that he still hasn’t gone home.

This was a very interesting one. Cauldron has been working with the Triumvirate, and two of them have apparently been helping to keep Legend in the dark about Cauldron’s true neutral alignment. Well then.

Eidolon also brought up that an Endbringer attack is likely to happen soon. I think we’re getting close to learning more about the Simurgh. I’m not sure if it’ll be next Arc, though, considering that that’s the only mention of such a thing in this Interlude – we’re not leading right into it like the end of Buzz did to Extermination. But the question of what’s up next still stands. Maybe the alarms will indeed go off in 15.1.

More on this in the Arc Thoughts, I suppose. See you there!

End of Interlude 14

This chapter was a mixed bag. It started out with some nice thoughts about the corpses and dealing with them, as well as setting up some Chekhov’s gunmen (though the one using the literal gun ended up being the woman), but then it proceeded to talk about soup for a while (admittedly we got a nice contrasting of Sierra and Charlotte, helping to expand on Sierra’s character, when they discussed caring for the children vs putting them to work), with a “Bryce is a little shit” intermission. It wasn’t bad, but it felt dull by comparison when coming down from the excitement of the miasma.

Then the ABB members in the crew threw away the hope of redemption, which I wasn’t thrilled about. I know this isn’t a story where redemption is easy, but I still kinda wish this had happened with some other people. Some jerks that weren’t introduced a couple Arcs ago as former antagonist mooks. Sure, it makes sense that it’d be them, and it helped make them a credible threat, but I had better hopes for them.

Sugita’s treatment of Charlotte and the way she reacted immediately made me very uncomfortable. I only tagged the initial bit of this with the rape and abuse TWs once I got to the later part where that was made a little more explicit by Sierra speculating on Charlotte’s behavior (the other post with those tags), because that’s when I realized I should probably go back and add those, but the warning bells for those things were definitely going off in my head when I first blogged that part too. I think this might be a part of why I had some trouble getting back to the chapter, mixed with the other criticisms I’ve mentioned so far.

I am interested in hearing Charlotte’s story later, though.

Things rapidly got better the moment Taylor showed up, though! We got treated to some fantastic character writing here as she displayed her theatrical and intimidating side while also being very transparently exhausted as fuck. I could almost hear the exhaustion in her voice, the matter-of-factness of everything, things said by someone who just doesn’t have the mental energy to feel the emotions right now. The casualness of her cruel punishments, even if some of that was for show. And then the way she briefly broke down afterwards, showing her human side to Sierra more than ever, before opening up about her plans. So much good character stuff in the latter part of the chapter.

This is exactly the kind of role I was hoping Sierra could play for Taylor, isn’t it?

So – there’s one more Interlude before we reach the end of Arc 14. I don’t know if I dare to hope that it’ll be Charlotte’s POV, though that’d be neat. She’s my favorite of the drones (Sierra didn’t manage to take over that spot in this Interlude), and there’s clearly a story to be told regarding her reaction to Sugita. And I’d like to hear how she perceives Skitter too.

But if it’s not her… maybe someone in the Chosen (Cricket in particular comes to mind) learning about Hookwolf having gone?

Or maybe someone who was deeply affected by the miasma, perhaps finding out the member of the Nine they killed in self defense was actually a family member or something? Except the Interludes usually have an impact on the main story somehow. Maybe they’d trigger in response to the realization, or something like that. But now I’m less speculating and more making up a fanfic premise (that has probably been done at least five times). What kind of power would that lead to… Maybe the power to know who anyone you see is?

Hmmm. Well, I’ll have to find out next time. See you then! 🙂

End of Prey 14.11

Not a bang but a whimper.

This chapter… didn’t add much, except an opportunity to find this note, a fate for Cherish, and the kissing scene. (The kiss-punch moment with Rachel was wonderful.)

Okay, so it added a bit. Still, though, I’m not sure the whole tracking down the Nine was entirely necessary? I don’t know, it feels a little weird, like this is a dénouement but not really?

But to be fair, it’d be strange for Taylor to give up on it that easily, and leaving the note wouldn’t work as well with the more dramatic escape we had last time.

Also, I’m not even entirely sure this is the end of the Arc. For all I know, we might have another chapter, of the Undersiders trying to figure out how to take this, especially with their knowledge of the prophecy in play. I guess I could check the link later in this post.

If there is a 14.12, it’ll probably be characterized by bittersweetness. They won, didn’t they? So why isn’t Taylor happy about it?

That’s if it’s not Taylor trying to stop Jack from leaving. Though I feel like we’re not going to see the Nine again before they leave – it’d mess with the finality of this letter.

If it’s an Interlude… fuck, Interludes are so difficult to speculate on. Maybe we’d have a look at what someone else has been up to under the miasma’s effect? Ooh, maybe we could get Legend’s perspective on the miasma and his head clearing? Though I do feel like if Wildbow had had a Legend Interlude planned around the time of Interlude 13, he might’ve saved the details on Legend’s family life for Legend’s own Interlude.

Another option is that we might follow one of the Nine – Bonesaw, Siberian or Mannequin if he’s alive – and seeing how they feel about the retreat. That feels wrong, though, due to the finality issue.

Alright, let’s take a look at the link.

Interlude 14.

Good. I think adding another dénouement chapter to this Arc would drag out a bit, and this letter deserves to be the end of an Arc.

So yeah! See you in the Interlude!

End of Prey 14.10

Thoroughly solid chapter!

I’m pleased with the fact that the Nine were trying to convince Amy to join them rather than to kill her. They need the members, and this led to a pretty interesting dialogue.

I’m not sure how much to care about the revelation that Jack apparently killed Allfather’s daughter rather than Marquis. It seems like Jack told Amy that to drive home that Marquis wasn’t all bad, but I don’t think his code against killing women and children redeems him much at all. I suppose it’s what Amy thinks about it that matters, though, and Amy is far more likely to respect someone’s dedication to a personal code of honor than I am.

(Let’s also take a moment to consider that – while children are one thing – specifically sparing women is not actually all that honorable in a modern setting like this. If he can spare the women, he can spare the men. If he can kill the men, he can kill the women. Treating them this differently is just sexist if anything, and I’m not even sure which gender it’s sexist against. Possibly both.)

Anyway, I did enjoy Jack’s attempts to convince Amy. He clearly knows what buttons to push. The parallels to Lisa are not lost on me, either – Jack is showing himself as roughly as much a dark counterpart to Lisa as Cherish is, and it’s very fitting that we got to see him do that to Amy in particular. I have to admit, he did manage to make some of what he was saying sound quite good – silver tongue indeed.

Incidentally, I’m oddly proud of this post.

The fight against Jack was very good. It’d be fun to see that one in motion, I think, with all the strategic moves and rapid slashes and everything. 🙂

Next chapter… well, the Nine have escaped and the miasma’s cure has been put into motion, so I’m not sure what Taylor can do from here. Range bugs or no, she can’t cover all the paths Jack and Bonesaw might’ve taken for much longer. She could try guessing, but she’d need quite a bit of luck. Besides, it’s a shell game, and Jack is smart enough to know that the ball isn’t supposed to be under any of the shells.

So if Taylor can’t catch the Nine… what’s next? Seeking out the rest of the Undertravelers to cure them of the miasma by sweating at them? Maybe asking Amy again whether she’d like to join the Undersiders? Whatever the case, I think we’re actually going into the dénouement this time.

I do wonder if Jack will bother with attempting to save Cherish before he heads for city limits. She’s certainly a useful tool for Coil and the Undertravelers to keep around if they can, so it might serve a story purpose for her to get busted out. I’m just not sure Jack wants to.

There’s also Siberian, who is apparently in a similar cocoon-like setup as Victoria. Will they fetch him before leaving? And then there’s Shatterbird, who could break free of Alec’s control at some point. The core of the Nine may be leaving, but we’re not quite done with the team’s members yet.

So yeah. This was a good chapter. See you next time!

End of Prey 14.9

krixwell-liveblogs:

AND I THOUGHT THE LAST ONE WAS AMAZING

The best twists are the ones that, in retrospect, make you feel blind for not managing to put the massive clues together, or alternatively, make you feel awesome for figuring it out ahead of time. This was one of the former for me and I loved it, even as it made me feel stupid.

And it was all hinted towards at least as early as the last line of last chapter, which I found really weird. Someone smarter than me could probably tell from that line what was going on (rather than look at the line like a joke that didn’t land mixed with a dramatic ending line that also didn’t land), and end up having a completely different experience of this chapter than I did. I think I would still enjoy this quite a lot if that were the case.

Sometimes it feels great to feel like an idiot.

This was extremely well crafted, with all the alternate options being available for the reader to explain away the various clues as other things, and the way everything comes together when the truth is revealed. Good work, Wildbow. Good fucking work.

The scene with “Brian” brutally manipulating Taylor in order to make her kill Battery was really well done too, though it’s not quite the same with the knowledge that it was actually Jack rather than a heavily mentally compromised Brian. Still, that was fantastically painful.

Cherish was pretty great, apparently trying to worm her way back into the Nine. The Nine could certainly use the numbers right now – they may be down to just the core members, Jack and Bonesaw, unless healing Siberian in ways Bonesaw can’t is part of why they’re tracking down Amy. In retrospect, that’s unlikely, since Bonesaw can do a lot.

The fight at the end had some good moves on both sides – the initial Bonesaw shield was a particularly good one – and really helped to set up the tension for the next chapter.

Next chapter, it’s time to visit Arcadia High, Taylor fighting the Nine as they move bottom to top in search of Amy and presumably Victoria Dallon. How tall is it, I wonder?

Obviously the Nine aren’t going to succeed here. We genuinely do need Amy to survive and I’m sure Wildbow isn’t going to let this mist kill off most of his characters. (I’m working off the assumption that Bonesaw was telling the truth about what the prions would eventually do, because Bonesaw would be compelled to brag about her art.) We also need a way to get rid of the mist, for that matter. Maybe Bonesaw has something on her that can remove it, if you can get it?

I’m thinking Bonesaw will die soon, but Jack may escape and make a break for the city limits. I don’t think it matters as much as everyone in-universe thinks whether he gets out of the city or not (in fact it might be worse if he doesn’t, as the characters get lulled into a false sense of security for the next two years), but he thinks it does and wants to see how. It also becomes a matter of survival when the girl who’s gonna “make sure he [survives]”… doesn’t.

Hm. I suppose if the news say that Jack’s dead, that would remove Theo’s motivation to become a hero quickly. Maybe it’s not as irrelevant as it might seem.

Of course, that’s all assuming my theory is correct. If it isn’t, well, then it matters a lot whether Jack gets out or not. In which case I’m pretty sure he’ll get out.

So yeah! Hella good chapter, A+. See you next time!

End of Prey 14.8

Ahh, yes, a lightweight, low-intensity dénouement chapter indeed.

Sure.

No, but seriously, this was great. I really love everything about this one, from the aesthetic of the city under the miasma’s effect, to the mad scramble to avoid the effect, to Sundancer revealing how much she’s a dark mirror of Taylor in terms of loneliness and friendship as Taylor is facing her friends giving themselves up to an unknown threat, to Legend and Vista, to the precise effect of the miasma, to Lisa bringing them together but Brian ultimately being the one to make Taylor trust them… Just, everything. This was a damn good chapter and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this plays out from here.

The final line of the chapter was kinda weird, I suppose. It feels like a joke I didn’t quite get, but there are ways to read it that don’t seem so jokey.

Anyway, next chapter, I guess they’re off to find proper reception so they can call Cherish and find out where Amy is. Man, if Cherish enjoyed trying to sow seeds of discord before… Hell, she might even be jealous at Bonesaw for managing to do this so effectively.

There’s also Coil, who’d be a good resource if Lisa is right about him being safe from the miasma.

Finding Amy isn’t enough. They also need to get rid of the miasma, which would likely require finding either Bonesaw, a fuckton of salt, or both. This ain’t gonna be easy, and I’m surprised it seems we’re doing this in the same Arc. Unless we’re going right into the next one from here, perhaps with an Interlude next chapter. We’ll have to see.

If that’s the case, maybe the next Arc is titled something like Spray (might be a little too close phonetically to Prey), or Cannibal(ism), or… something else that might indicate bugs turning on each other. I don’t know.

So yeah, see you next time!

End of Prey 14.7

That was… inconsistent.

I feel like this was… not as tense as it probably should’ve been. Parts of the chapter dragged – admittedly that hurts more than normal because I’m liveblogging – and Taylor’s attack on the shelter was relatively tame because she wasn’t in much actual danger herself, apart from the possibility of Siberian deciding Taylor was a higher priority target than Legend. It didn’t help that I got temporarily confused by the fire tactic, though that may be more on me than on the writing.

Basically, the pacing and tension in this one was kind of weird. It had a long stretch of being… not much in order to set up Taylor being on her own, a somewhat undertensioned assault on the Nine, and a slow (but interesting and mood-appropriate) dénouement.

Anyway, I may sound very harsh on this one, because I don’t usually criticize the chapters this much, but I did enjoy it. 🙂

The climax in particular was great! The spectacle of the Bakuda bombing was very well written. Previously, I was expecting the Undertravelers, or at least Taylor, to get stuck inside it and have to dodge the effects, but this was better. I’m very glad we got to witness it from the outside.

The Nine are down to three members. Damn! But they’re not out of tricks yet, and they’ve still got a pretty harsh one: Bonesaw’s bioweapon. What’s it going to do, anyway? Turn Brockton Bay into a zombie apocalypse? Turn the capes’ powers off? Make all bananas evil? Who knows…

Y’know, maybe Leviathan did the city a favor. He eliminated the water taps as a way for Bonesaw to spread whatever this is. But I’m sure she has her ways. Maybe it’s airborne?

I suspect next chapter might be the dénouement of this Arc and then we’ll find out what the bioweapon does in the Interlude or the next Arc. I doubt we’re skipping ahead to find out in the next chapter.

I don’t really have much else to say, and I should be getting to sleep soon, so yeah. Good night, and see you soon for more Worm!