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8/17/2022 c1 4Son of Arryn
Hey there! I am so happy to be reading this (finally, sorry for the delay. Though really I should be sorry for myself because of how wonderful this story was!). Thank you from the bottom of my heart for pulling Jay to life from the page. I honestly wasn't sure if the vibe I was going for was going to be picked up, because I was floundering a bit when I was putting it on the page. You not only understood it, but you magnified it and made it a thousand times better than what I was doing! That was amazing to see. I'll be kind of adding comments here as I go along reading, and then have more comments towards the end about the whole thing and gushing about it all :) Thank you so much for your story and your time. I really appreciate it.

So, I'm at the end of the pre-games and I want to say - I love what you've done setting the world. The caps, the little asides in parentheses - all super, super well done. I wondered if Mariela was going to be the person he had stolen from that morning, and when it was confirmed, I was like "yes, got one thing right!" You portrayed him so well, especially as a youngster, which is honestly really hard to do as an author. So complete hats off for you. That's amazing and incredible. I think my favorite parts were the Russian Roulette itself, which immediately set the tone for the rest of the story (which was super well done, by the way), and my favorite overall was the first thieving scene. That was just amazing because I could feel how anxious he was to do it, but also that he had to do it. I wasn't sure how he was going to get out of that bind, but you made it make sense with the peacekeeper. There's so much to say with so little time, but honestly it's all the little things that make this so good. Like Iomhar said in his review, I just got transfixed and I'm not even sure what exactly did it.

Okay I immediately have to pause here. Mariela has a daughter! Holy crap! That's so intriguing as a reader to see where that goes, as well as Jay tying it back to where he stole the wallet and the pictures, 'Mommy' and 'Luci' was incredibly powerful. I can only imagine how this is going to impact the rest of the story.

Moving forward to end that scene, Jay not getting help from his mentor (at least at this time) makes so much sense from what the scene portrays. You honestly never think about what would happen to a tribute that someone else feels like they have to get home to help somebody out, but their district partner is there too. Are they supposed to just help them along and forget about their own odds of survival? That really hit me reading this part of the story. I love how you did that, it was so thought-provoking and made me question some decisions I've made in stories of my own or tributes that I've made before. Total kudos your way. Flawless.

I just had to point this out, because I couldn't help myself. It was such a coincidence that I absolutely had to haha. I decided to name Jay's last name 'Enerhodar' after a town near the Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant in Zaporizhzhia - district 5, power plants, perfect. I have a good friend from Ukraine and have been keeping a close eye on what is happening over there. Enerhodar actually lies pretty close to the front line. So for the title to be Russian Roulette (which was totally a coincidence) was really striking to me, but especially this line as I come across it. It's simple, but powerful for me, more than you may have expected. "Sighing, Jay makes his way to his own room, noting that his last name is misspelled". Enerhodar is the Ukrainian spelling of the town, whereas Energodar is the Russian spelling. I immediately thought to myself "wow". To me, it was a reminder of how 'mispellings' or, in real life, the erasure of culture and history and renaming towns were linked. Obviously, that's just a really minor example, but it really hit me. It was just a powerful moment for me and the fact that it ties so closely to something, someone that I am worried about was both SUPER coincidental and a very powerful part of your writing.

Okay, back on track with the training scores. A six makes sense, I was a little surprised to see Mariela get a 4. Not necessarily because I thought she would get higher because of any kind of skill, but I wasn't sure if the stage was set for her being a real threat to Jay or what was going on. Reading further, it appears not, at least from what I can tell. Their little deal makes sense, makes me wonder if she makes it to the end or dies before Jay has to fight her. I'm about 50/50 on that.

The scene between Mariela and Jay when she gets the wallet back is definitely a highlight of the story. So far my favorite part. I think what got me the most was the whole discussion about who means more - the three year old baby or the grandmother? It's a question that can't be answered. Someone else's loved one doesn't mean as much to you as your own. It's as simple as that. I thought of my own grandmother in that case. And besides, how was Jay really supposed to know that was all she had? Who keeps 400 caps in their wallet and not at home? Apparently Mariela! I assumed, like he did, that she was well off. Which was good writing on your part, because I was completely sold on that up until this point in the story.

Bloodbath time! I really like the arena, I could tell exactly what you were going for and could almost hear the thunder rumbling and rain pouring down. I'm really intrigued about who yanked him out of the way of the blade. I think I may figure that out later, but I'm still curious. I also want to say that the asides about the gun is really well done, too, I'm just noticing it more as the Games begin. Seven total dead in the bloodbath, that's a pretty average amount (at least on haha).

Me: going along, happily watching as Jay is about to make a nice alliance with this girl from 6 who will probably have a heartwrenching death later. Nope, he kills her. Wow! I was beyond surprised, but not in a bad way at all. It turned my expectations upside down for sure. I'm starting to wonder if I should be cheering for Jay or not. On the one hand, she did kind of bash his grandma to his face, but on the other hand, she did save his life. I'm starting to wonder which way he's going to go as we end this. You've done a wonderful job at keeping me guessing and also at cultivating a compelling story.

I'm at the end of the Games now, and I like how you turned the (I am not a monster) into (I am a monster). It just encapsulates where we are and what has happened. I can't put into words exactly how much I loved the Games and watching him turn from just a thief from 5 who would do what it needed to survive, to a tribute, a Victor who *would do what it takes to survive*. I think a lot of us, me included, don't think enough about "doing everything it takes". You dug into that question with Jay, and I for one, loved it. That honestly was probably the most powerful for me reading this whole story.

The end was also incredibly well done, as well as thought provoking. The conversation Lloyd and Nook has is exactly what I was thinking as I read it: what happens when she finds out? The grandmother being dead was something that I thought could happen, but it made so much sense when it did happen. I honestly didn't know what would happen to him if it did happen. Really well done.

All in all, as I get to the end of this story, I don't want to give it up! :) You did a fantastic, wonderful, amazing job with Jay and created something beyond my wildest dreams. I loved it. I could feel everything very viscerally and it gave me a lot of new insight into how to handle different things in the Hunger Games itself. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I'll never forget it.
Arryn
8/11/2022 c1 5Iomhar
As I read this, I kept thinking, “Jay will be a damned good victor.” He’s a great character, and though I don’t know what his original form looked like, you wrote him very well from my perspective. He has skills and he has drive, but he doesn’t really know where he stands in the world and how to handle the difficult decisions he’s made in the past and the ones he is forced to make in the present. Reading his story was a delight.

Throughout the story, Jay is contrasted with his district partner Mariela who, like Jay, has someone to return to. However, Mariela’s “person” is deemed more worthy than Jay’s “person,” and Jay has to constantly justify to himself that his reason to return is just as valid—moreso, even—than others’ reasons. In the end, he has to fight against Mariela despite their pact to never turn their weapons against each other. Mariela begs Jay to kill himself because she wants so badly to return to her daughter and I just . . . okay, I’ll admit that I wanted to punch her. Throughout this entire thing, Jay is viewed as selfish because his grandmother has lived many years but Luci is still a small child. Nobody seems to take into consideration that Jay himself is still a person and he wants to live for himself. The fact that he’s expected to kill himself for Mariela’s sake—Mariela who never gave a shit about him—is very infuriating. At that point, I was just happy that Jay silenced her and her self-righteous bullshit. (Not sure if that’s the reaction this story was supposed to elicit but there you go.)

I fully expected that Jay’s grandmother would be dead at the end, but it was still good to see how it would play out and how he would react to the news. I also expected him to adopt Luci, but again, I was interested in how it would be handled, and I wasn’t disappointed. I like that Nook and Lloyd voice their opinions about it, one supporting and the other criticizing, because it’s such a complicated scenario to adopt the child of the person you murdered. I hope that in the end Jay will be able to put down the revolver for good and live a life of happiness.

Honestly, I just love this guy so much, and normally I’m not attached to tributes right off the bat like this. Not sure if it’s Jay or your writing or the fact that I have a thing for District 5 (probably all three, though), but it’s been awhile since I’ve been so invested and interested in a character. Thanks for making me feel something deep here.

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