J’dal

It’s pretty common, in heroic fantasy, to drop into a style of writing in which nobody behaves like actual human beings rather than third-hand genre conventions. J’dal does an awesome job of avoiding that. Its lead feels like a grouchy teenager, not an RPG cliche of one. I was won over at about this point:

I make a stupid sandwich with a whole apple between two slices of bread, and start eating.

Stupid sandwich! This is the perfect teenage petulant-irony response to a shitty situation that you’re powerless to fix.

It depicts inter-group tensions in a generally authentic-feeling manner, and at its heart there is this adoptive father-daugher relationship that’s complex and awkward and not all hugs and rainbows, but also involves genuine warmth on both sides. J’dal’s father sort of understands the racism she faces, but also sort of doesn’t get it; he’s often painfully oblivious in hurtful ways, he doesn’t really appreciate the sexism side of her isolation, and there’s some ambiguity about the extent to which he’s exploiting her for her race-dependent infravision. ┬áBut they do actually care about each other, although they’re both inarticulate about it. But this doesn’t actually make everything all right. If every relationship in heroic fantasy was this well-observed, I’d hold the genre in no small esteem.

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  1. Trackback: Sparkly IF Reviews | Emily Short's Interactive Storytelling

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