Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #6

TITLE: For Sparta
GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction

Her mother's words echoed in the dark of the bedchamber, athough they had been uttered weeks before. Be happy for him. Or act as though you are. Melaina's duty was made quite clear on that day during the month of Karneios when she and her brother turned seven. For that was the age Niko would leave forever with the army and train to be a soldier. Now, that day had come. And now, her duty haunted her.

Melaina squirmed on the hard floor and leaned her sweaty back against the wall. The summer air hung heavy in the room, hot as a brazier being fed fresh coals. But it wasn't the heat that had kept her awake for so long. She had sat on the floor all night, avoiding her bed and hoping to avoid sleep. The same nightmare about her brother had invaded her dreams the last two nights in a row, and she wouldn't chance it again. Was it an omen? She swiped at her wet cheeks.

Be happy for him. Or act as though you are.
Those were her two options, her obligation to her brother and to Sparta. Yet while the first rays of dawn pierced the black night like the bronze of her father's spear, Melaina failed miserably at both.

She sniffed, halting Niko's snores across the room. He sat up and rubbed sleep from his eyes. Never again would she see that familiar head of loose dark curls before anyone else in the household.


  1. A historical set in Ancient Sparta! I was intrigued by the first paragraph with the words "Be happy for him. Or act as though you are." The voice is good too, but it doesn't sound like a seven year old, even if it's is written in third person. That was my biggest issues. Maybe there's a way to keep the lovely writing, but somehow adjust the opening to reflect that Melaina's a child?

  2. I'm interested! My only critique is that, like Blue, the voice felt a little odd to me for the age that she is. Is this being told as she's 7, or is this a brief (or not brief) retrospective memory of an adult? Otherwise, this read beautifully, and I really like the idea of a Spartan woman's storyline. I would definitely read on.

  3. I really liked this! I love anything that has to do with ancient Greece, especially when it's as well-written as this. But I do agree with Blue and Robin that Melaina sounds much older than seven. She sounds more like a teenager than a child, in my opinion. But then maybe I'm more out of touch with how kids think than I realize. :)

  4. I'm not sure I care how old or young the voice sounds...the uniqueness of your subject material and how worried Melaina is brought me past all of that. I really want to read more!

  5. I agree with the above comment that the age of the voice does not bother me as I can accept that it is memories perhaps of an older narrator remembering back. Even apart from that, I can accept the internal, more mature voice because that allows for the canvas of the story to be vast and lyrical. The age-appropriate voice can perhaps be established in dialogue. But, a very unique setting and the quality of the writing in the excerpt - it is unrushed yet uncluttered - would definitely have me reading more.

  6. I agree about the voice sounding too mature, but I also agree about not caring that it does :) Since it's not YA or MG, the more mature voice isn't a problem to me. Great subject matter and way to open with conflict. I'd love to see where this goes! Best of luck!!

  7. I think this is a nice opening, although it doesn't blow me away. Melaina is sympathetic and your prose is smooth, and you work the historical details in well. But I'll admit, I think this could be punchier. I wanted a clearer, more immediate sense of Melaina's emotions, which seemed to get a little lost in the long senses. Especially for historical (and especially if she's still a child) I think the voice needs to be stronger to draw me fully into the setting.

    But this is a good start!