Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Secret Agent #16

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Tavor Castle is beautiful—for a prison. The white stone castle is small but well-kept, and its fields and woods cover almost a square mile. Even the looming, twenty-foot walls enclosing the grounds have an odd charm to them. To protect you, Father says, but I know better. It’s to hide me. The only ugly thing in Tavor Castle is its princess.

I jam my foot into Lulari’s stirrup and glare up at the walls, wishing my hate could melt them. Only a little longer, until the war ends, and I’ll be free. Father promised that much, at least.

I turn away and cluck Lulari to a walk. The warm breeze ruffles my fascinator and fills my nose with the scent of horse. I smile. Outside, there may still be walls, but at least there’s no ceiling. I brush back a lock of hair—and an ashen, black-cloaked woman appears in my path.

Lulari rears.

I clutch at her mane but grasp nothing. The ground races up to slap me, and pain jars through my shoulder and back. Breathing hard, I stir my arms and legs, then probe my ribs for tenderness. Nothing broken, thank Dal. A stablehand races toward me, calling my name. I sit up and groan.

“I’m fine,” I say. “Is she all right?”


The mysterious woman lies crumpled beneath her cloak, her face unnaturally gray. I crawl toward her, my shoulder throbbing, but the stablehand pulls me back sharply.

The black mass I took for a cloak is a vast, dark wing.


  1. I absolutely love this beginning. Some really great lines here. "The only ugly thing in Tavor Castle is its princess." And the last sentence: WOW! Who would not want to read on?

    As for picky comments, hmm. I can't come up with much. It was a bit heavy on description in the first paragraph (do we need to know the walls are 20-ft walls? or is looming enough?), but it didn't get in my way of enjoying the beginning.

    Great work and good luck!

  2. Hello there!

    I really loved the first paragraph, and the last line as well. I would definitely read on.

    I don't have much to say, I'm sorry, but I just wanted to let you know I would really enjoy reading more. :)

  3. This is very good.

    "The only ugly thing in Tavor Castle is its princess." I agree that this is a great line, and thank goodness 250 words was enough room to get that great hook in at the end!

    "Thank Dal." A quiet way of letting us know we're not in a familar world.

    I had to look up "fascinator," but it's a nice touch of language.

  4. Awesome first line!

    I also like the "Thank Dal" part, it let's me know I'm not in my own world.

    Great job.

  5. I'd definitely read on. Good job. The only place I hesitated was "The ground races up to slap me." Seemed odd.

  6. I like this. I think you have a good command of the voice, and the situation is nicely sketched out in so little space.

    It does seem strange to me that the woman in her path was hurt, since the horse reared and, as far as I could tell, they weren't going that fast. If there was a collision, I need it to be a little more palpable.

    I'm going to disagree with some of the others and say that the use of Dal throws me off. "God" in our world is really a generic term, so using it somewhere else wouldn't be necessarily a big problem. Also, just substituting Dal for God seems a little too pat. Why not come up with a unique phrase for your world (like God's Blood or Heavens Be Praised) (those are bad examples, of course) that fits the society you are creating?

    I would definitely read on. That is a great hook to end with.

  7. I thought this was just about perfect. You've got setting, characterization, and a mysterious creature at the end. Really amazing how much you were able to pull off in 250 words.

  8. I really liked this too. You've got a great YA voice and your world building is smooth. I want more though--you could take a little more time through this scene and still have enough tension since you've done a good job establishing it from the get-go.

  9. I am so intrigued. I love the voice and the build up. Your sentence structure sets the perfect pace for readers to follow and remain interested. However I don't quite understand how this wing had a face? I don't really picture wings with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth so I had difficulty imagining what it would look like. Maybe clarify this further.

  10. The build up in this is great. The pacing makes me want more, and I like the voice. The mystery of the bracelets is intriguing.

    My problem is with the sentence structure, which seems to get in the way. I love IM, but using it to show actions, dialogue, etc. makes me want to stop reading. Just show him/her pulling back his ponytail, don't tell us.

    Your concept is worth fixing these things for. The tension you've created in 250 words is amazing.

    Also, please give us a hint if Rhiley is male or female.

  11. Sorry I can't dump this comment erroneously posted here.

  12. Love this opening. Great voice, great setting description, starts off with action, and the ugly princess who views her castle as a prison is a new take on fantasy. Only thing that threw me was how she could think she saw a woman when in fact it was a wing? Or was it a man with wings? I was a bit confused.

  13. I would read on for the last line ... but ... I was a little confused in the first two paragraphs. At the start you say the castle is a prison because the princess is ugly. But in the second you indicate that she is locked away to keep her safe because of a war. So which is it? This makes me think that the first paragraph is only here as a 'hook' and doesn't actually have anything to do with the story - which would be disappointing.

    The description of the sky, horse smells, the woman appearing before her and the rearing are all a little lack-luster. I don't 'feel' any of this.

  14. The last line grabbed me, so I’d give it a bit longer. But what came before it, didn’t.

    I wonder why she’s kept in the castle. Her father says it’s to protect her. She implies it’s because she’s ugly. If that’s true, perhaps we need to see some of her ugliness. At this point, I’m thinking her father wants to protect her from people who would harm her due to her ugliness.

    Then we learn there’s a war, and that’s why her father wants to keep her home. So the reason for her confinement isn’t really clear to me, nor is it clear if she is really ugly or just thinks she is. Perhaps make all that clearer.

  15. I'd read further. There's a nice voice here but it feels a bit anachronistic in spots. But having no idea going in what kind of world this is, I shouldn't make assumptions.

  16. I love this opening. I would definitely read this. :)