Friday, November 30, 2012

(58) YA Historical Fantasy: The Age of Divination

TITLE: The Age of Divination
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

When a young female warrior discovers she has the gift of prophecy, she must undertake a perilous journey to find her sacred circle of stones and proclaim her prophetic truths to the multitudes before a corrupt Roman king and a vengeful demon can silence her,  the ancient world’s last free sibyl.

I watch as thirty soldiers dismount onto our sacred Isle’s shore. One falls, weighed down by his cumbersome armor and it takes him several tries to regain his footing as the waves thrash about him. They are so misplaced in our homeland where the winds never cease, the seas roil constant and colossal stones jut from the earth.

Yet still they come.

I scan the hillside behind me to assure the other girls are concealed and am relieved to see only the tips of their long bows peering out among the tufted reeds.

As the men fumble about, I call to those behind me. “Hold your places while I give them fair warning.”

Upon seeing me, the men begin to let down their guard, more concerned with adjusting their drenched and tangled tunics like prissy maidens.

I come to a stop about twenty hands away from their leader. His full plumaged regalia is now flaccid from the ocean spray and falls limp to the side of his gaudy helmet making him look defeated and pitiful.

I wait.

He gives me the once over, peers up into the hills and asks, “Where are your men?”

I cannot help but roll my eyes. “You are on The Isle of Virgins where no men traipse lest they be fools or allies to our purpose—and I do not recognize you as an ally.”

He scoffs. For to him, I appear to be just a young savage, but soon he will know better.


  1. Sounds like an interesting story! What I like about this is that I can picture the scene, particularly the soldiers, very clearly, and there's some nice humour in the description. Although I presume she is on the beach, so perhaps say that in the first line, or mention the sand beneath her feet.

    Suggestions: It should be 'seas roil constantly' not 'constant', and 'assure' should be 'ensure'. Also 'He gives me the once over' sounds very anachronistic.

    Good luck!

  2. This paints a vivid picture. I did have to read the seas roil line twice.

    I love the last four lines. Perfect set up.

  3. I like this--intriguing scene.
    Love the MC's dialogue at the end and also the "soon he will know better" line. :)
    Like others, I stumbled on the line with "the seas roil ..." I suggest a comma after constant (or constantly).
    I also was a little thrown by "dismount" in the first line. Are they on horses? Dismount seems like a weird word if they're getting off a boat. ?? Maybe I'm missing something?
    But I really like this--the vivid picture of the heavy, awkward soldiers who have no idea what they're in for!

  4. I really like this one.

    I just want to point out:

    "seas roil constant" is not necessarily grammatically incorrect, but you would have to make it "sea's roil is constant," so that constant is clearly an adjective, and not an adverb.

    Obviously the other suggested option could work too (seas roil constantly), but I kind of prefer the adjective construct. It feels more medieval that way.

    Good luck!

  5. Love the image of the virgin warriors hiding in the grass with their bows. Should make for a good scene.

    The word choice puts me off, though. To what the others have already said, I'll add that you're saying the same thing 2 or 3 times when you tell us that the soldiers plumage is flaccid, that it has fallen limp, and that he looks pitiful. A stronger description might include only one of those details.

    Good luck!

  6. I'd read more. I can picture the setting very well. Good Job. The one thing that stopped me was the distance - twenty hands. I'm a horse person and a hand measures 4". That's too close to a perspective enemy, even if you're conversing with him. Now, you may have an entirely different measurement in mind. You might make it clearer.

  7. I loved this opening. And I agree with the others, you did a great job of painting the scene in my mind.

    A few nitpicks - just little nuances that if tweaked will only make this awesome scene/story even better!

    I agree that the sentence "His full plumage...." may need to be looked at. First, the word flaccid pulled me out of the story - sorry, when I see that word I'm thinking something completely different ;)
    Also, full plumage regalia is redundant. IMO when I see the word regalia - it triggers for me the whole kit and kaboodle. But I do write historical, too.
    Also, someone mentioned making it clear the reader knows she's on the beach or has walked down to it?? Which also makes her calling to the other warriors something I noticed - wouldn't the Romans hear her and notice the warriors with their bows? They are soldiers, even if they discredit that she's a girl, they should have some reaction???
    And this is my final nitpick -
    would she roll her eyes? For me that is too modern for this time period. And everything else in the passage points to her strength as a leader. Rolling her eyes makes her seem snarky and as a way to hide her weakness. That is totally just my opinion.
    But I LOVE the premise. One of my guilty pleasures is the not-so-great movie King Arthur with Kiera Knightly - and shoot me - but I totally see the MC as Kiera. LOL

  8. This is good, but it keeps feeling off to me. It may be that the voice, with its odd grammar, is deliberate; having her think of herself as a young savage threw me out of the story, because usually it's only people thinking of others that way, and never thinking others view them that way.

  9. I really love this beginning. In just one page, you give us the impression that your main character is strong and brave and I was able to connect with her. Nothing is cooler than a virgin warrior.

    I could picture some of it very vividly. The virgin warriors hiding in the weeds, the men fumbling to get their footing. But other parts weren't as clear. When you said "dismount," I expected horses. If they came on boats, you might want to use "disembark." Assuming it's boats, you should mention them and maybe tell us how many.

    You talk about their armor, but don't mention what kind. Is it chainmail? Is it plate armor? Maybe mention a breast plate or whatever. I can't remember what kind of armor the Romans wore and would have to look it up.

    Also, I would be clearer about what the main character is doing in the beginning. Let us know she is standing out in the open in full view and is not concealing herself like her sisters.

    "Yet still they come," makes me think more men might be coming besides these 30. Is that what you mean? I don't think you need both "yet" and "still."

    I would advise you to look closely at your adjectives and make sure you really need each one. With adjectives, sometimes less is more.

    I love the last few lines and can't wait to read more and see these guys learn their lesson.

    Great work!

  10. Oh, also I forgot to mention that I think your should tell us your main character's name, at least in the logline.

  11. There's about to be an ass-kicking, and I'm all in.

    I do agree with other crits that suggest you cut down the descriptions and pick the strongest one. I get where you're going, making the point that the soldiers are impotent, but don't make it too obvious. Show us that the girls can pick off dudes who aren't pansies so we know their true worth from the outset.

  12. There’s a great sense of place and purpose in this entry. I really like that you’re starting just on the brink of conflict. I like, too, how you show the strength of your narrator and her fellow maidens, and how you juxtapose that quiet strength with the male warriors who are so smug in their superiority, yet who present themselves as preening and fastidious. Oh, the show down that you seem to be laying out.

    I do agree that the use of “gives me the once over” seems anachronistic, as does your main character rolling her eyes. And I think that you can do some cutting to tighten this throughout. Do the robes really need to be “drenched and tangled?” Perhaps you really only need one of the adjectives?

    A question that’s popping into my head here, and which I’m sure you’ll address at some point in the manuscript – how is this teen the head of her group? Wouldn’t an older matriarch be taking the lead?

    A nice start.

  13. I'm with Alaina on this. Something feels a bit off to me. Maybe, like other critters have suggested, the screws need to be tightened a bit? On the plus side, that last line is killer and makes me want to read more, as does the premise. Very cool! Good luck!