Peer Review by ALangford (United Kingdom)

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A Trip to Aido Express

By: Gabriel Goodwin

A taxi pulled over at the side of the road. Hanabi came out rushing to run at the grassy patch that lied before her. Huge trees soon loomed over her head, and she burst with joy at the very sight. Nathaniel towered over her presence.
            “Are you happy so far, Hanabi?” She nodded.
            “But, where is the place? You lied didn’t you?” Hanabi’s smile quickly dispelled with a frown. Nathaniel smiled back saying, “The place is just past these trees, I promise.” Hanabi looked back at the trees with a newfound sense of joy. “Really?”
            “Yes, really. Now, we must be off before-” Hanabi didn’t even need another word, and she ran straight off into the heart of the forest. The wind fluttering through the ambiance. The trees filtering the afternoon light down the cracks and spaces between trees and leaves. The sound of birds chirping a sweet melody, perhaps greeting Hanabi warmly. Of course, she couldn’t understand ‘bird’ language. However she did understand that she’s starting to get lost in the midst of everything. Her quick steps shifted to curious wondering.
           A peculiar red bird flew past her, breathing crimson flames. The bird circled around Hanabi for a moment, then flying off to high above the trees. “Wait, are you helping me?” The bird disappeared among one of the branches. That is to say, it left behind a lingering trail of red stars; small and short-lasting lights trail off from the bird. Hanabi followed it.
            “Wait up!” She cried, running wholeheartedly, chasing her questions down the trail of red stars. Eventually, she saw the bird perched up on top of a low-lying branch within her arms’ reach. Hanabi approached the bird patiently, waiting for an opportunity to snatch one of its feathers. The reason: None, she just wanted one of the red bird’s feather. The anticipation grew as she came closer and closer. Her hands reaching out to somehow trap the bird. Just a few inches, closer and closer, but a barrier blocked her off.
            “Dad!” The bird was suddenly startled by her loud cry. It flew off higher in the trees, out from her reach. Her father appeared behind one of the trees. “Why’d you do that?! I almost snatched myself a fire feather!” Nathaniel, with a wave of his cane zipped Hanabi’s lips.
            “That’s not a fire feather. That bird is a phoenix spawn, and their feathers burn human skin.” Her father walked passed her, continuing his pace. The zipper unzipped itself. Hanabi ran past him. “But dad~!” She complained. Nathaniel only gave her a pat in the head. “Well, at least the bird showed you the right way to the station. Hanabi’s eyes suddenly sparked. “Really!” Her energy returned as her legs went running in auto-pilot.
            A clearing in the forest and a huge structure in the center. Hanabi recognized the station. She had a heartfelt cheer of discovery, quickly shifting herself to explorer mode. She scaled outside area.
            A short stretch of stone steps, leading to an A-shaped arch entrance with the doorway in the center. A stretch of glass panes and wooden frames on each side of the arch. A mountain in the background. There was a sign on the left side of the doorway, which was covered in moss, making the contents impossible to read. Her father finally came out of the trees. Hanabi called from the steps. She ran to inquiry, Nathaniel to be asked. “Is this really the place? Feels just like an abandoned mansion.” Again her eyes scanning the exteriors of the station. “Yup, pretty much abandoned.”
            “We’ll see about that.” Hanabi noticed the sun setting behind the mountain. She watched the sun touch its peak. A sight brimming in her eyes, while her father simply scribbling something on his pocketbook. The red bird from awhile back appeared at the corner of her eyes. The bird was flying straight to the sun. Shadows started creeping beneath her feet. It was then, she saw, life erupting before her. The empty, abandoned station became riddled with spirits, monsters and beasts alike. A variety of festival lights stretched from the station to nearby stores, booths and stands. Everything invisible became visible under the evening sky.
            The sign, originally covered in moss became clean enough to be read. Hanabi squinted her eyes to read the kanji characters from where she stood. Her eyes lit up like those festival lights around her. Her father realized finished his scribblings, returning the pocketbook to his attaché case.
            The sign read in English, “Welcome to Aido Station.”

"Aido" is my personalized fictional name for the story's railway station, which was inspired by a real-life railway station by the name of Doai Station in Minakami, Gunma, Japan. You can check it out! 

Message to Readers

Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you!

Peer Review

The beautiful descriptions! You're so good at the descriptive passages that you write. You strike a really original voice, making your descriptions totally unique, and you avoid cliches completely. For instance, the passage referring to the forest really engages the reader from the outset because it's just so beautifully written. You also do not simply use visual description, but you play on all of the senses, recounting smells and sounds and sensations as well. You're also really good at mixing plot and these sections, meaning that we get the right blend of action and sense of setting. All I would say on this front is that it might be a good idea to lead the piece with this rather than what you do start with, because it's such a strength that it would engage the reader straight away.

The character is very real because you make the tone of her speech really unique. We really get a sense of her character from this. However, I think we could learn more about her than we actually do - how about you elaborate a bit more on her background, why she's come here and how she feels towards her father? This might help to add depth to the character.

I would really like to see her arrival and conversation with her father expanded, not necessarily within the excerpt because obviously there's quite a small word limit but if you were to develop this into a novel. Attempting to understand a character's background and relationships will make us understand her a lot better and this could really help to make a reader more engaged.

This is something you definitely do not need to work on! Your description is really rich and full, elaborate yet succinct and very sensory. It's really, really appealing and amazing to read. Perhaps you could work more on displaying the broader scene - what's beyond the forest? What can she see apart from the 'green patch' as she leaves the car? But apart from this, yes, I have a complete sense of where it takes place and this was very well done.

Why wouldn't you keep at it? You're an incredible writer, you have such imagination and this was a really unique and incredible plot idea. It's a really colourful piece I feel, and I'd be very proud of myself had I written it because it truly is very beautiful. You could touch up a few pieces of grammar, but that won't take long at all and we all make those small errors. So essentially, I'd love to see this developed into a full novel and I'm very impressed with it and you.

Reviewer Comments

Well done - I really enjoyed this and wish you the best of luck in the competition!