Peer Review by Lottifus (United Kingdom)

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in and out of the clouds (revised) #Helpme2020 #MagicalRealism

By: Wicked!


my grandmother says that the xarae are the children of fire and water. they live in the turquoise depths of the innumerable yagha in our land, lakes that formed in the hollow craters of perished volcanoes. but the fire of the xarae is all but dead, for it comes, as the tales say, from within their souls.

they are not what you'd call fierce, though they certainly look the part-- sharp claws, large wings, eyes as brilliant as molten gold and whip-like tails with tips that they can ignite in flames at will. as a child, i used to lie down on the soft green grass in the evenings, looking up at the flocks of xarae gliding in and out of the clouds, their lithe legs folded up under their golden bellies. sometimes i used to imagine myself flying with them, graceful, elegant, free.

my people consider the xarae auspicious, and it is believed that if a woman heavy with child sees her belly's reflection in the golden eyes of a xarae, her child will be as beautiful and elegant as one. many make the arduous journey to a yagha, hoping to see a xarae up close, hoping for a child just as perfect.

when she was heavy for the second time, my mother did too. before leaving, she had told me that within a month she would have a small baby, soft and supple, with whom i could play all the time. but she never returned.

grandmother told me that the xarae loved her so much that they kept her to themselves. when i said that i loved her more, grandmother went silent. other people said that she was blessed by the xarae. but i think that going to a volcano whose fire had died made the fire inside her die too.

‚Äčlying down on the soft green grass in the evenings, i still like to imagine her flying in the heavens with the xarae, gliding in and out of the clouds; graceful, elegant, free.

Message to Readers

Republishing for prompt 1 of HelpMe512's #Helpme2020 contest as well as The Great Gabs-by's contest. Go check them out!

Feedback. Please.

Peer Review

This is a beautiful and emotive piece. The first word that came to mind after I read it was 'elegant' - your writing is delicate and living, like some kind of plant. Your descriptions are vivid and your worldbuilding is some of the more interesting I've seen. I would be more inclined to categorise it as fantasy than magical realism, but either way it has a nice blend of high fantasy (Wow! Dragons!) and relatability (likeable narrator who's had good experiences and bad experiences.) I could visualise every element of the piece and it has a sad but peaceful atmosphere to it, which works well with the child's innocent narrative voice.

There are some moments where you come close to overdoing it with the description, but only when you're describing details that don't need to be pointed out, i.e. a 'small baby' or 'green grass'. I'm generally not a fan of the lowercase unless it's to prove a point - Eimear McBride's book 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing', for example, uses it alongside deliberately bad grammar to indicate the messiness of the narrator's mental state. Be confident in the artistic value and originality of your writing, since it stands out with or without the lowercase. All that being said, I understand that aesthetic formatting choices like this are down to personal opinion and there are no set rules about whether you should or shouldn't use it.

Reviewer Comments

It's been nice to read a piece that's very obviously come from a pure enjoyment of writing. Your writing style is still imperfect, as is everyone's, but this piece is a representation of a very clear and original narrative voice emerging from the outlines of the story. If I were you I would definitely consider entering some short story competitions about now, since it is competition season and you absolutely have the talent to build an audience for your work. I try to end my reviews with book recommendations, so for you I'd recommend Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (lyrical young adult magic realism that verges on fantasy), To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (literary stream of consciousness about family, time passing and death with some magical undercurrents) and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley (well-written, mysterious, slow but engaging magic-realism-steampunk-literary-romance mess of a book.) Keep reading and keep writing - your ideas are original and your style is unmistakably yours.