Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September Secret Agent #40

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Dawn trickles through the narrow windows as I race toward the stairs. Noor pants beside me, her dressing gown billowing in her wake. The slaps of our bare feet echo through the empty corridor.

A corbie. A real, live corbie, here!

It makes no sense. None. The winged witches never leave their forest, not since the Great War. Besides, Tavor Castle is a tiny, nowhere fortress, not a palace. My father’s infrequent visits are the closest we come to real excitement. Why would a corbie come here?

Noor and I dash around a corner—and come face to face with the Dalmother. Our religious guardian never looks happy, but now her wrinkled face quivers with anger. Despite the early hour, her starched wool dress and linen headscarf are immaculate. I cringe under her glare.

“What foolishness is this?” she asks. I struggle to explain, but she cuts me off mid-stammer. “No excuses. Go back to your rooms and stay there, both of you.”

“We were just going to see the corbie,” Noor says, her hazel eyes fixed on the floor.

The Dalmother’s nostrils flare. “I see. You wanted to visit the little savage, did you? Small wonder you didn’t bother with proper clothes!”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “It was my fault. We’ll…”

“What in Dal’s name is going on up here?” Nurse Ofra marches up the staircase, and I sneak a breath of relief. She fixes her impatient scowl on the Dalmother, who swells and turns a brilliant shade of red.


  1. I love your sense of excitement. The world is easy to picture. I didn't like the first paragraph. Somehow the voice feels different and I'm not sure how dawn could trickle. The next line drew me in.

    My only other complaint is the Dalmother feels like a cliche character. The religious figure is always cold and unyielding. It probably wouldn't matter if it was deeper in the manuscript, but since it's in the first page, it does.

    That said, I like it. I would read on.

  2. I actually loved the line, "Dawn trickles in." I thought it very descriptive. I was very interested to know if the corbie was a good thing or a bad thing. Nice hook!

  3. I'd didn't mind the overbearing religious figure, the DalMother so much, because Nurse Ofra was clearly going to put her in her place.

    The setting of a small castle in the middle of nowhere was great. I could anticipate a good bit of personal interactions with the characters. The world drew me in and I was excited to meet the corbie. Great hook - can't wait for me.

  4. I like your first line, I'm interested to know more about corbies and the world of your novel.

    Nice work!

  5. This isn't bringing me into the story. You have way too much new information being injected in the opening paragraphs. It feels like you introduced a dozen characters, then went into some winged creatures, a great war, a castle, an overbearing, cliche character, on and on. So far, it seems more MG to me, as in the "a real, live corbie, here!" which is cute, but doesn't seem right.

  6. I love the description and the explanation of this world that you present so naturally. For example, "Our religious guardian" follows so naturally after you first drop Dalmother into the story. Also, the way you drop information in general ("little savage" for the corbie, "winged witches") defintely has me hooked. I would love to read more. You show so well.

  7. I was a little overwhelmed by the world-building, but I'm not really a fantasy reader, so it might just be me. I had to read "Noor pants" twice because I didn't realize Noor was a name the first time, and thought you were describing a type of pants people wore in your world.

  8. I really liked the storyline. For me, it did feel like way too many characters for the first page. If you can find a way to disperse the character introductions, and even some of the world-building info it might make it stronger. Great job!

  9. I agree with Candyce. Find a way to better disperse your characters instead of just hitting the reader all at once with multiple characters. Also, unless I'm missing something, I don't think you even let us know what the name of your MC is .. would not continue.

  10. I enjoyed this and would read on. I want to "see" a corbi too.
    I did think Noor was a kind of pants though.

  11. I also thought Noor was a type of pants. Then I went back and read it again and thought maybe it was the MC's dog. Then I finally got it. This is an easy fix. Change the verb choice.

    I would also to know the MC's name. Maybe have the Dalmother use the MC name when she asks "what foolishness is this?"

    I like the world-building and was interested in the part: "my father's infrequent visits" - made me wonder if he is one of those men with multiple families :)

  12. Fantastic. Really pulls me along, there's a real sense of excitement, and I love the interplay and tension between the Dalmother and the Nurse.

    One thing; these girls seem a lot younger than YA. That means absolutely nothing when I've read so very little of your story, and maybe if I read on my impression would change. If you get similar comments from people who've read the full, then maybe pay heed.

    But really, really good.

  13. This drew me in - I've read it before in another contest. I think you've given a good sense of your world in the opening. I'd read on!

  14. I thought there was too much in the first 250 even though what was there was written skillfully. I think all I needed in the first 250 was a corbie and that they two characters were there because of it. But I was not clear whether they were running away or running towards it? At first a "winged witch" sounded like a threat but then when it is said that they wanted a look at the "little savage" it sounded like a novelty and not a danger. I think that could be made clearer. The references to the Great War, an absent father, and the other character perhaps could wait and come later in order to more effectively focus the scene. I likewise thought Noor pants were clothing. I got no hint of the gender of the MC - guy or girl, I have no idea. I also had an image of young children so it seemed more MG to me than YA with two teen girls or a teen boy and girl wandering through the castle. To me, they seemed VERY young.

  15. I tend to agree with Daniel's assessment of too much in too short a span. I'd like to see a little more emphasis on the characters leading up to the run in with the Dalmother but I like where you're headed with this. Good descriptions and definitely intrigued by the remote castle and winged witches. I'd keep reading.

  16. It took me a couple of reads to understand that corbies were winged witches, and I think I'd work in the MC's name during the scolding from the Dalmother in the 5th paragraph, and I'd have to read more to understand why this is YA instead of MG, but it's very well done, and I'd read more.