Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Secret Agent #12

TITLE: Time Bound
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

A jagged scar of lightning split the sky above the castle, illuminating the dead girl crumpled at the roof’s edge and the old man crouched above her. Ozone, sharp and sour, mingled with the iron-soaked scent of her blood. The trace of a smile curved her cold lips.

Tam anchored his feet against the slippery tiles as rain pounded against the terracotta roof. Fire burned through him and his shattered body started to re-knit. He gasped, knees buckling from the pain. He always forgot how much the mending process hurt, but this time he didn’t know if the agony was physical or emotional. What did it matter? He’d failed to escape and this girl had paid the price.

The old man, Akio, rose to his feet, pulling a dagger from the girl’s chest. Blood coated the blade and slid toward the tip to drop onto the roof tiles in a dark pool. Across the roof, Sensei Kimura leaned from the window, silhouetted by the blazing candles in the workshop. His long white beard quivered as he took in the scene. “Akio. What have you done?”

Akio shrugged. “She tried to interfere in my experiments. She had to be punished for her betrayal.”

A boom of thunder echoed off the mountains as the storm moved closer. Sensei Kimura jumped at the sound, but his gaze never left the girl’s body. “The dead are unclean. You must call for the monks from the temple to remove her body and prepare it for cremation.”


  1. I loved that first sentence! Gave me an instant image to lock onto. Also, automatically introduced conflict to the story. Nicely done. Really the whole first paragraph was nice (bringing in the sense of smell and also that creepy detail about the smile--loved that last sentence in para 1).

    As it went on, though, I had a bit of trouble figuring out who was going to be your main character. I assume it's Tam, but it switched perspectives on me a bit too much. I mean, we're being introduced to several people within a small amount of space. That's not a bad thing; I just think you might want to stick w/Tam and his POV so we get anchored in the story.

    In the third para, I would change the second sentence to "Blood coated the blade and slid toward the tip, dropping onto the roof tiles in a dark pool." Personal preference, but I think that way reads smoother. Also, maybe think about cutting "for her betrayal." Or even that whole last bit about being punished. If Akio is shrugging, it seems he might be more blase about giving an explanation. I think--Akio shrugged. "She tried to interfere in my experiments."--makes him sound like more of an unconcerned villan/jerk. Just my opinion.

    Great job, I really enjoyed the setup.
    Ninja Girl

  2. You have some vivid imagery that I love. The first paragraph really gripped me! But after that I felt like there was too much going on, and I had a hard time following. Too many characters, too much world building (him knitting back together, etc.) for the first page. Also, from the first paragraph, I felt like the girl was farther away and we were seeing the overall castle, but then it seems like he's right there with her, and a bunch of other people too.

  3. Agree with the above comments. If you can postpone the sensei's comments a little, stay with Tam longer so the reader gets to know him better, I think it would help.

    I would change Akio's dialogue to “She interfered in my experiments. She had to be punished.” Phrases like "tried to" and "started to" bog writing down.

    That said, the writing is incredibly vivid, and I'm hooked from the first paragraph.

  4. Some really great imagery here. There is a lot going on right off the bat and I had to read it more than once. But I think the writing is strong overall.

  5. Great imagery. I like your use of the word "ozone" and the fact she had a trace smile on her face. Well done.

  6. This is a pass for me. I find it too heavy on the description and the dialogue teeters on Evil Overlord. It seems like this scene should perhaps come later in the book, after we learn what's at stake if Tam fails to escape. Another girl dies, sure, but we're not attached to her and we don't care yet that she's dead.

  7. I'll start by saying that I thought the images were very vivid. Of the ones that I could easily place, I got a very nice (slightly anime-ish) scene from them. I also had trouble figuring out who was whom, though. At first, I thought Tam was the old man, but then it turned out he wasn't... but I still couldn't figure out where Tam was in relation to everything else.

    This sort of felt like a climactic scene, so I did get the impression that I walked into something I was wholly unprepared to understand. It feels like there's a really interesting story here, but I also feel like I'm only catching the last few minutes of it.

    I was a little confused about the switch from Tam's tense, painful-knitting, failed-escape moment to what looked like a housekeeping discussion about what we do with dead bodies. I mean, the murder *just* happened, right? Let's deal with that and Tam first, and then talk about disposal during the cleanup.

    I'm not entirely sure I like the word ozone because this is an historical piece, and the word seems a little anachronistic to me.