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If authors set out with the intention of shitting on someone else's work and proclaiming their superiority, their spite oozes out through the cracks and ruins everything.
To her credit, Vathara is an eloquent author. She has the breadth and depth of knowledge to deliver an excellent history lesson. Every action scene is a spectacular affair. Where the show couldn't expand on some detail, she used the advantage of an unrestricted word count to breathe life into features that quite plausibly could have been there. This was most apparent in the Ba Sing Se arc, where refugees and side characters and the Dai Li all had their chance to be special. They shone. It was brilliant.
I disagree with her opinion that the best 'oc's are made by adapting memorable side characters from other stories, but she made it work. I can respect that. The frequent little jolt of "Hey don't I recognize that person from somewhere" was a pleasant sensation, like meeting an old friend.
I didn't like the criticism of the show's 'lack of realism'. They sounded too much like complaining that Tolkien didn't spend enough time on Aragorn's tax policy, and rang utterly hollow when the solution was to make all firebenders descended from dragons or to give every nation a binding clause that grievously harms people for acting against their loyalty (fire)/rejecting family (water)/breaking a contract (earth)/abandoning a philosophy (air).
'All actions should have consequences', Vathara rails through characters and belligerent author's notes. In story, this phrase exclusively castigates Aang. The Fire Nation always has an excuse. Slaughtering the Air Nomads? They were forced to and if they tried to disobey it they'd drop dead of element sickness. Rebelling against the throne? Impossible, drop dead, element sickness. Zuko can't control his temper? It always works in his favor. Aang and the Ocean Spirit decimated an army? That was a tactical spirit nuke and now the sea is full of zombies. Vathara seems to have been personally slighted by the Avatars. She rants about them a lot. It gets tiresome.
Vathara rewrites the story's background but neglects characters she hates. Aang stumbles along acting, reacting and (very) gradually learning like he's still in the show. Zuko starts off unlike the early season 2 wounded teen, gets all his character development in before Ba Sing Se, and stays the same (grumpy but perpetually justified) for the next 70 chapters. Ironically, Aang got the most natural growth.
Remember the well-written side characters? They can be classified as "smart, endearing and Right" or "agrees with Aang". Everyone who sides with Aang turns out to be horribly compromised in some way which leaves a bad aftertaste. Everyone else inevitably winds up as a sounding board to tell us Zuko is awesome.
Zuko is awesome. But as Embers demonstrates, awesome doesn't make a story good.
...Man, this is a good review, but that opening was *so good* that it sort of leaves the rest of the review behind.
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