Reviews: The Stalking Zuko Series
Story is Good, Style Less So
This fic is excellent. The ideas are all very well done and the reasons Aang and Katara don't work out are deep and not just there to get her with Zuko. Frankly, the story on its own is very good with lots of Reality Ensues, political issues, and strong characters. I doubly know this because the incredibly long author's notes tell me so. By "Not Stalking Firelord Zuko" the author's notes are so long they can be up to a fifth of the chapter or more. I can understand wanting to explain why you wrote what you did, but sometimes it feels like the author is either so unsure we understand where they're going or so worried of flames that they justify every single thing that happened in the chapter in detail. It can break up the narrative. I feel like they should be their own separate section, like, "go to my blog for the notes on this chapter" or something because they are seriously driving up the wordcount. And sometimes it's redundant because we can figure out how the author felt about something by what is in the chapter and seeing it again in the notes is...confusing. Also I can understand needing to bold or italicize or both at certain times in a fanfic (I do the second and third when I need to), but it feels like it happens way too often here. Again, it slows down reading momentum and can really make a scene confusing since I start wondering how Katara's bold voice differs from her italic voice and so on. I wonder why something is emphasized instead of focusing on the story. Sometimes it's done well, but overall I think it's overused. One style element that's done really well is when Katara relates events that were related to her (as she was not there for them) or that she eavesdropped on in script style, making it clear that she was not there/participating in a very strong way while still giving her opinion on what happened. I feel it adds tot he fic instead of detracting from it. Overall, a very good story, but the style is its its biggest flaw and can potentially turn off some readers.
Good Writing, Hamstrung by Contradicting Intentions
The Stalking Zuko Series is an interesting concept for a fic, being told as Katara writing a diary about Zuko that chronicles her progressing from reluctantly accepting him into the Gaang, to befriending him, to falling in love with him, as well as her perspective on all the events that happen during this process. Unfortunately, it's also meant as both a Fix Fic and a "canon compliant" Zutara fic, and doesn't achieve either of those secondary goals especially well. Katara's narration is effectively done. It fits the mood of the story, being funny in lighthearted scenes, and helping us feel for her in more serious parts. It also nicely chronicles her changing perception of Zuko. The author generally seems good at characterization, but she's at her best when she's not trying to prove something. As such, some of the secondary characters and the OCs are the best written characters in there, while the narrative is quite harsh on Aang in a attempt to "correct" an alleged bias toward him in canon. At times, it's very clear that the author puts significantly more effort into understanding other characters' perspectives and motives and portraying them in a sympathetic manner than she does for Aang. Speaking of corrections, the author openly says this is a Fix Fic (she's particularly critical of the last few episodes, sequel comics and The Legend of Korra), but states that she's trying to achieve a "canon-compliant" Zutara. This means that the plot stays with canon until she decides it doesn't make sense/favor Zutara for it to do so, as seen in how the Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula goes the same as in the show (plus half an hour of prep work), until Zuko's rendered near death, prompting an Anguished Declaration of Love from Katara. The pacing is also quite slow, as more than half of Not Stalking Zuko, the longest installment in the series, takes place in the gap between "The Southern Raiders" and the Grand Finale. The chapters in that period provide a good amount of Character Development and can be quite interesting, but it's clear that no animation studio would pay to make so many episodes like that so close to the climax. All in all, the author is a very good writer, but this fic's attempts to prove points are flaws that prevent it from realizig its potential.
The Stalking Series
I was originally attracted to the series because of the premise. I liked the idea of Katara being so concerned about the welfare of her group that she takes to keeping tabs on Zuko. All of the stories are hilarious and realistic. They really go into what happened between the episodes. I don't usually like "Zutara" romances (too many cliches), but these are different and refreshing to me because the romance is evolving slowly and doesn't feel rushed. I also like the author's notes that describe the author's rationale behind certain scenes. However, I think that the best part of this series is the length and quality of these chapters as well as the amount of times that the stories are updated (every few days to a week). The predictability of knowing when it is going to be updated is very sweet to me. Highly recommended.