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Stone Harbor

by Liza Daly profile

Mystery
2016

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Number of Reviews: 3
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Perfect use of the form in this compelling mystery, January 11, 2017
by streever (America)
I was ready to be disappointed. My expectations were so high that I wasn't sure they could be upheld. I hadn't seen much buzz about this piece, which was surprising; the author, Liza Daly, has an impressive background in ebooks and an incredible collaboration with Emily Short.

I was so impressed by this work that I'm writing my review after finishing the opening. The design is minimalist but extremely thorough: the typography is beautifully readable, and this work has clearly been laid out by someone who has thought about how people read online.

The prose is as clear and clean as the design, and immediately creates a sense of place. New Jersey comes through. The tent comes through.

Game mechanics are shockingly effective. The opening is linear, but choices feel meaningful. The protagonist is a charlatan who performs psychomancy readings for gullible tourists, and it feels meaningful when you ask your latest mark--or customer--for his hat.

Despite the attractive design, clean prose, and sense of place, I wasn't excited about the work for the first few minutes. This is my fault! I don't love reading online, and something of this length, I'd normally skip over. The design is so thoughtful though, and the writing so good, that I kept going--and then was completely and utterly hooked at the opening twist. I won't spoil it, but near the end of the opening, the story shifts from what feels like a slice of life tale to an engaging, compelling mystery story. This moment completely hooked me, and the following story keeps the pacing and tension building as it weaves an even more complex tale.

Some might complain that there isn't much 'game' here: you have a clearly defined character you inhabit, the story is largely linear. Whatever limitations may exist in that area, the story and the mechanics that do exist more than compensate, creating a strong, well-told tale.