Review (Juniper’s Knot)
This is my review of the kinetic novel, Juniper’s Knot. If you’d just like to check it out without reading my review, then there’s a link at the bottom of this page.
(There are some spoilers in this review. If you’d rather not read them, then please don’t. I’ll change the font color of the spoilers to one that shouldn’t show up easily, with a *SPOILERS* tag before it in regular color. Highlight the “hidden” text if you want to see what I wrote)
In case you don’t know what a kinetic novel is, it’s sort of a mix between a graphic novel and a visual novel. Think of it like a comic book. If you’ve played RPG games, it has many similarities to the dialogue sequences in those, minus the choices you’re sometimes offered.
Overall, it’s pure story, though. The characters’ expressions change depending on what they saying, and the scenes shift at times, but you should think of those as nice additions as opposed to the main focus.
First, I’d like to say I have no idea what the title Juniper’s Knot means. It’s a catchy title and I like it, but from what I can tell there’s nothing in the story that mentions it. I tried to look it up and see if maybe it was the name of those logic problems that are fairly popular(i.e. like the one about a farmer who has two sheep and a fox and needs to get them all across a river, but he can only hold one other animal in the boat with him at a time. How’s he do it, then?). Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything, so I don’t think that’s it, but maybe there’s something more to it.
The story starts from the perspective of the fiend. She’s never given a name and always referred to as fiend, so for simplicity’s sake that’s what I’m calling her. Anyways, Fiend is thinking to herself, going about her everyday business(which is none too happy, somewhat depressing), when suddenly she hears someone. As it turns out, it’s a boy(who is also never named, except as person, so…).
In the context of the story, Person has reason to be scared of Fiend. Like many other stories, in this one fiends are often treacherous and evil and enjoy eating souls. When Person first mentions this to Fiend she laughs it off, but later she admits to them doing it *SPOILERS* (But apparently they only do it for pleasure, and only when the soul of the person is seasoned through experience and things like that. Some fiends apparently obsess over it, though it seems Fiend does not. I guess it’s similar to a person enjoying a food delicacy. Some people are gluttons while others are content with never having rich food at all, and still more are somewhere in between)
The story progresses from there, with Fiend begging Person to stay for awhile and tell her a story. He does, though in an interesting twist he tells her a story of a fiend who tricked a man and and then ate his soul, afterwards moving on to go to a farm. The rationale behind a fiend going to a farm is unknown, and both Fiend and Person seem confused about why one would do that. A nice little bit there that gives some great perspective on how they both think. I imagine them both contemplating it in their heads, Person thinking how the fiend intends to trick the farmers so he can eat their souls and Fiend wondering why a fiend would want to go to a farm randomly after inhabiting a nice spot in a city.
The more interesting part comes when we learn Fiend is trapped in that area, doomed to stay there forever, because of a punishment bestowed upon her. She can’t leave a circular area on the ground, which keeps Person feeling relatively safe staying around her.
About halfway through, the perspective switches to that of Person, who holds our attention for most of the remainder of the novel. It does switch to Fiend again at the end, but that part is a lot smaller than her initial part.
I won’t go into too much more personal detail after that, but the story was artfully told and the expressions throughout were nicely done. Every time you move on to the next bit of text(which you’re allowed to control at your leisure, and rewind if you missed something), there’s a good chance one of the character’s expressions will change.
I actually had a gripe about this, though. The text is easy to understand, especially as to who is speaking(color coded with a chat bubble arrow style thing going on), but the text is always in the bottom center of the screen and the characters faces are quite a bit higher than that. Perhaps it’s because I went through the novel in fullscreen, but I found myself rewinding often to catch the expressions. What I ended up doing eventually was keeping my eyes on the two characters first whenever I moved on(which entails hitting a mouse button or enter on your keyboard) and reading their dialogue after, but this was still a little awkward to me. I’m used to reading subtitles in anime, but for some reason it’s easier to catch both the reading parts and the action parts in those, at least for me.
Aside from that, I loved it. The story had some really interesting sequences. It’s not a high action story by any means, but there is action in it, along with drama and emotion. The characters are somewhat stereotypical, in that Fiend is an attractive demon girl who is somewhat tsundere and Person is a young, naïve boy who’s got to prove himself and tries to act like he’s not scared of anything, but I enjoyed that aspect. Both characters are different enough from the norm that I didn’t find them cliché in a bad way.
I think the best part of the story comes at the end, with the reader allowed to consider the events before, the lines said, and what they think might’ve happened. The story eludes to more and shows off this interesting, lush background for the characters, but much of it is never flat out stated.
*SPOILERS* At one point, Fiend goes into details about what she’s done, both good and bad, and then says that none of that is the reason why she’s trapped in the circle. I don’t know if my thoughts are in line with the author here, but at one point Fiend mentions tearing down an olive tree that grew upon a grave she dug for a human girl she loved. The olive tree was “ugly,” she says, and so she tore it down but didn’t want to destroy the roots for fear of disrupting the human girl’s grave. When she came back again at a later time, the tree had regrown, uglier than before. I think this might be the reason for Fiend’s punishment, though as it’s never said this is just theorycrafting by me.</span
*MORE SPOILERS* Another reason I believe this is that at the end, in his quest to free fiend, Person brings back an olive sapling to plant in her place so something will be there(to leave the circle someone has to take her place, and Person theorizes that maybe it just has to be something alive instead of an actual person). Fiend seems surprised at his choice of tree and Person shrugs it off as her thinking of it as irony or a taunt against her, but he assures her it’s because olive trees are sturdy and if anything can grow in the circle, it’s this(another bit about fiends in this world, they sap up the life energy of the land they stand upon, which isn’t so bad except that if they stay in one place for a long period of time the land becomes barren).
Juniper’s Knot isn’t very long. I read/”played” through it in less than two hours. It’s still very deep and interesting, though. If you’re into psychological/emotional stories with interesting characters that grow a little along the way and have intriguing backstories, then you’d probably like this kinetic novel. It offers quite a lot for what it is. It’s also free and independently made, so that was great incentive for me. Seeing as my serial story goes along the same lines, I thought it’d be fun to check it out and put up a review.
Saying all of that, on a scale of 1-10, I’d definitely give Juniper’s Knot a 9. I might be biased, but it really worked for me and hit all of the points that I enjoy in a story. The art was completely in the styles I enjoy, the story was interesting and easy to read, and the loose ends it left open to make me think were all very entertaining to me. I enjoyed the music and sound effects too, though I honestly can’t remember a great deal about them because the story captivated me so much. Perhaps others might rate it a little lower, but I still feel, regardless of your inclinations, if you’re willing to give it a try then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how good Juniper’s Knot is.
And here are the promised links: