Thanks for this feedback, again very valuable to me. What I was attempting to do in scene 2 was to revive the sense of threat to the party after the lovers coming together in scene 1. (Then scene 1 of next Chap builds on this scene (or is meant to) and takes the conflict higher.) But ugh.... I will see how I could fix this scene on my 2nd draft for this book.
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Yes, I'm trying to drop bits about their culture here and there, as much as possible (that's why I personally love fantasy at any rate). I've never read Moby Dick before or even heard about the Cup of Gold (but I can tell you I can never finish Treasure Island, not even the kids' version but then I was reading a Chinese translation so that's a contributing factor as well). I'm currently re-reading Lord of Rings to learn from this absolute fav or mine but yes, Moby Dick will now be on my reading list. Cup of Gold? I have to read the abstract to see if it interests me enough to pick it up. There're classics that I simply cannot abide.
Well, I did worry about the surprise turn upsetting my readers b/c it's too far out of line from what they expected of a simple old-school fantasy story as it seemed up to the last Chap. But for good or for bad, Bortai's backstory in terms of the inter-world jump or whatever you call it was there all along from the first conception of this book. I couldn't really get it out of the story and as I myself am and have always been a fan of pure old-school epic fantasy, I actually feel a bit weird writing such a story. But I persuaded myself that I'm using it to just learn about the craft of writing and essentially just muck around so this is the result so far.
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btw, edited Chap 2 has come out with the last scene being swapped out to build up the amnesia plot more and I thought Bortai's characterisation came out more after this fix. Revised Chap 3 will contain 2 new scenes as well and I have finished with it pending small edit but I will have to bug Strolen to rename all Chapters from Chap 3 onwards to preserve our stream of correspondences before releasing it (else new readers will think us crazy to discuss things completely out of context).