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When it's good, it is very good and when it isn't...brrr
Up untill the point where Aang gets involved in Zuko's colloney the characterisation is (with two notable exceptions) consistant, deep and generally very good- likewise for the plot. However Katara and Aang come in for some vicious character bashing- though even some of these lead down interesting roads. The main problem is the inconsistant use of anthropology - which vears from insiteful and thought provoking to subjective and disturbing at regular intervals. Similar levels of cultural relitivity (violence vs nonviolence and religeon vs family spring to mind) are used to either exclude all members of one culture from wrong doing or to condemn another completly. Furthermore after around chapter 60 major author favouritism becomes apparant annd screws with the otherwise brilliant writting.

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Take It With a Grain of Salt
As polarizing a fic as Embers is, I'm going to try to give it a fair review.

The good points:

  • The author has a very good mastery of English overall, and from a purely technical standpoint the prose is well-written and easy to read.
  • The world-building was well-done, especially what with filling in the gaps in the history of the Four Nations and the Dai Li in particular.
  • The OC's were likeable, well-developed, and felt like real people—Shirong and Amaya were personal favorites.

YMMV on:

I want to like this story, I really do. But these are not the characters I came to know and love.
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Like any of the characters in ATLA?
Then you will not like this fic.

Because none of them are actually in it. And everybody acts dumber than the idiots from Game of Thrones.

Prose is somewhat decent, though.
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Outshines all other fiction; Published or otherwise
To avoid latecomer spoilers, this troper will instead list reasons WHY "Embers" is so mind-blowingly awesome

Vathara doesn't write flat characters, period. From the main cast to the villains, right down to the spear holder roles, Vathara gives every character a real, human feel. Flanderization? Not in Embers.

Hand Waves, Fridge Logic, A Wizard Did It, and every "Rule Of" trope have no place in this fic, and Vathara does her best (which is pretty darn impressive) to explain canon fridge logic, point out unfortunate implications, and make sure everything is not just plausible, but believable. A lot of world-building gets accomplished this way.

All actions actually have consequences. Even if it means disastrous results, nothing gets left as a loose end. (ESPECIALLY if it means disastrous results!) Hero Insurance? Status Quo Is God? Both have been munched by Vathara's thorough Deconstruction.

Gambit pileup is prominent here. While the canon plot of ATLA gives the protagonist (Aang) a task (defeat the fire lord by the end of summer) that ends the series when completed, the cast of Embers finds the gambit pileup to be higher and higher the farther in they go. Defeat the fire lord? Sure. The REAL problem is WAY bigger in scope, complexity and overall gravitas; and Vathara doesn't do the cast any favors by leaving a Trail of Breadcrumbs. The crumbs they DO find aren't even in the Convenient Correct Order.

Vathara has to be the most extreme case of Writer Did Her Research that this troper has ever seen. She applies an extensive knowledge of psychology, biology, mythology, real world history and an absurd number of other studies to Embers. She will often have a list of recommended reading in her author's notes that she herself has read, and used while writing the fic.

To wrap this all up, Vathara's "Embers" is this troper's favorite work of fiction. This includes ALL works of fiction, published or otherwise, and yes; including the canon ATLA series. This troper holds Embers in such high regard that an update for Embers holds significance on par with a religious holiday. Make sure that your schedule is clear when sitting down to read it for the first time. It's a powerfully addicting read.
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Embers
This is probably the best Avatar: TLA fanfic I've read. Most of the characters are spot on, simply taken to their logical extremes. The author also has a good grasp on Unreliable Narrator, effectively getting the points of the character across.
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An unsigned review
Giant wall o' text moved to the Discussion Page. Needless to say, this is a polarizing fic with some declaring the changes better than canon and others not buying into some of the characterization. No matter what your feelings are, please keep discussion limited to the discussion page.
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An unsigned review
Though still obviously less than half-finished, it's a fascinating in-depth examination of Fire Nation culture, as Zuko's surprisingly good motivations and Iroh's experiences humanize the Fire Nation like few other works, including canon. Don't worry about slow updates — Vathara has yet to abandon a fic, and does have classes. Currently the schedule is every three weeks.
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