Friday, November 29, 2013

(50) YA fantasy: ALL THAT REMAINS

TITLE: All That Remains
GENRE: YA fantasy

Murder is commonplace for seventeen-year-old assassin Lea Saldana, until her entire family is slaughtered in one night. When she discovers her boyfriend’s family are the traitors, there’s only one thing to do: kill them all. But when her estranged uncle—the only person who can find the traitors—is kidnapped, Lea must choose between killing her rivals, or saving all that remains of her family.

When I was seven, I told my mother I wanted to be a courtesan. I didn’t know what it meant, but courtesans owned all the beautiful things I could imagine: embroidered dresses and makeup and feathered half-masks. My oldest brother Rafeo said they spent their nights at balls and parties entertaining the nobles.

Rafeo was only trying to protect my innocence, but he simply encouraged me. I wanted their life of beauty and luxury, not one of blood and death.

Mother hadn’t been happy. My confession was more proof I wasn’t the daughter she wanted, I wasn’t the proud Saldana girl-child she deserved. After that, I stopped telling my mother what I found beautiful, like gold thread embroidery, silk dresses and feather half-masks, and instead focused on things she found beautiful: knives and poisons and masks crafted from bone.

Now, I squatted quietly on the roof of a bordello, cloak pulled around my body, bone-mask secured against my face. Below me, a man stumbled across the flagstones like a drunkard.

The man bumped into a barrel. He removed his expensive leather hat with elegant stitches and dunked his head, the rainwater darkening his silk collar. He shook his hair like a shaggy dog, the water flashing in the light of the sweet-smelling oil lanterns outside the bordello.

It wasn’t as if courtesans actually lived that life of beauty and romance. Their art and skills made everything seem pleasant and lovely, when truthfully there was darkness in their world, too. Even if it was concealed by rouge and paints.


  1. Ooh, I like the darkness and intrigue in this one.

    I think you could could make your first few paragraphs stronger if you cut out some of the repetition in the list of courtesan things/things the MC likes. You have "feather half-masks" down twice - I think if you cut it from the first list (maybe you could list sparkling gems or jewellery, or something), it would hold a better contrast for the bone masks in the second list. I also think you could replace the silk dresses in teh second list with something else: seed pearls? satin ribbons?

    In your second-last paragraph, I would also cut "with elegant stitches" a) because I frist read it as he used stitches to remove the hat and b) because I don't think you need the detail. Is she even able to see stitiches on a hat at a distance in the dark?

    Other than that, though, I'm hooked. Good luck at the auction!

  2. O_o

    Wow. I remember this logline from the critique round, and the beginning of the story definitely holds up to the premise.

    I agree with K Callard that the writing could perhaps be tightened in a few spots (re: some repetitions). But even as it stands, I want to read more, no question.

    Best of luck with it!

  3. I love the pitch--it's specific and the stakes are clear.

    The first page starts off strongly. I love the first line. I agree with the suggestion to clean up some repetitions.

    Something I noticed in the second to last paragraph is that the sentence structure for the last two sentences is the same, and it made me pause. (This is nitpicking!)

    I love the last line.

    Good luck!

  4. It's dark, and I love it. The pitch is crafted well, so I'll keep my notes to the text.

    The descriptions could use some tightening. Make sure the adjectives you use actually add to the story. I agree that "with elegant stitches" could go.

    Otherwise, it's good. I really want to read on!

  5. Ooooooo! I wish I could kill my boyfriend's fami--I mean, this sounds like an EXCELLENT premise.

    The sample is really good too. I love the beauty and luxury, not one of blood and death line.

    In para 3: I wish the line about what Mother found beautiful was pushed up a bit so I could have that comparison sooner (what Lea finds beautiful is pretty established by the end of para 2). Also, I just love what Mother finds beautiful in the most evil ways!!

    In para 4: I wish there was a little description around the man, instead of just "a man." Even if it's just one or two words (or push the staggering up to introduce him--especially since he seems like a courtesan)

    Para 6: I wish there was a smoother transition between para 5 and 6. Something to connect this man to the courtesans (which is where I think this is going).

    Overall though, this is a great entry! I'd definitely read on.

  6. I like the title and the logline is impressive. So much going on, but the stakes are clear to me. I wish mine were this tight!

    The sample is very strong. I am particularly interested in her relationship with her mother and the way she defines herself in contrast to her.

    The world-building feels seamless, nice use of details. Reminiscent of R.L. LaFevers' Grave Mercy. I would keep reading. Good luck!

  7. I generally don't like openings where the MC explains themselves to the reader, but I liked this one. I think it works because you're not explaining all the back story, you're just commenting on one aspect of her life, and it doesn't go on for the whole 250 words. You given us mood, mystery and a sense of expectation in this opening.

    You could cut the elegant stitches, because could she possibly see them at that distance in the dark?

    You might add 'in the barrel' after dunked his head.

    Good luck!

  8. So much awesome.

    I'm not sure I agree with some of the talk about repetition in the first bit of the sample. I read some comments first, so I was specifically looking, and it didn't strike me as particularly redundant. Also, considering how important the masks are, I'm not sure you should diminish their presence, but that's a personal vote, not a real recommendation.

    Concept: awesome. Writing: Awesome. In short, I love this!

  9. When you said her "entire family" is slaughtered and then an uncle showed up, it made me do a double take, but maybe just me.

    I don't think you should waste space with the repetition of things she likes (embroidered dresses, feathered half-masks). Although in the first instance you call them "feathered half-masks" and the second time you call them "feather half-masks" so if you are going to do it you should at least be consistent!

    Other than that, I like the contrast with the mom, I like the atmosphere here and I think I would like the MC!

  10. This is well-written and intriguing. I agree with K Callard's crit about tightening a few of the descrptive sentences. One other thing - is the man she decribes who she's going to assassinate? Because if so, I think you could make this first page even punchier by telling us that straight out. Perhaps something like: 'Below me, a man stumbled across the flagstones like a drunkard. The man I had been sent to kill.' Just an idea.

    Overall I like your writing and setting, have a great sense of who your MC is, and am gripped! Good luck!

  11. If I were to judge on the first paragraph alone, I would ask to see more.

    There's something vulnerable yet fierce about this little girl who grows up in the family business.

    I can empathize with this character. Who among us hasn't wanted something other than what was expected of us?

    I don't agree with some of the others about the repetition. I think it was necessary in this opening. A little repetition provides an eloquent beat to the read.

    Well done.

  12. I am completely biased, because I have read this manuscript, but I think it's fabulous.

  13. I love the inherent tension between the family killing business and the young girl who likes pretty frilly things. Just love that. Love the possibilities in the death of her (immediate) family and the revenge factor of her (hopefully now ex-) boyfriend and his family.

    Yes there are some minor problems with repetition and logistics (those stitches on his hat, and the fabric of his shirt. Yes it sets her up as an expert on spotting silk from a distance in the dark but it's not really necessary right there is it?) but overall this was just a fun read, very engaging MC with an interesting voice.

    Good luck!!

  14. This is excellent. The logline works for me. I don't mind the repetition of the pretty things she likes, but I think maybe you could leave out the brother at this point. I think the last sentence of the third parg could be tightened to make the contrast between what she likes and what her mother likes stand out more. Maybe something like: After that I stopped telling Mother what I found beautiful. No more talk of gold-thread embroidery, silk dresses and feather half-masks. Instead I focused on knives and poisons and masks of bone--all the things Mother loved.

    Also, I stumbled over the beginning of the 5th parg. I think the elegant stitches could be omitted and add in "into the barrel" because at first I read it as he ducked his head and wondered why he'd take off his hat if it was raining. Maybe that's just me.

    Good luck. I'd definitely keep reading.

  15. Oh, I think this is fabulous. The only things that caught me up were "all" her family was killed, then there was an estranged uncle (maybe drop the all or add 'she knew') and then the repetition of feathered half masks in such a short space seemed redundant. LOVE this premise though, and I definitely want to read more.

  16. I'll see your 35 and raise you another five. 40 pages!


    The full goes to Victoria Marini!

  18. Hi there!

    I really enjoy your premise—it reminds me slight of CROWN OF MIDNIGHT by Sarah Maas, which has been a HUGE commercial fantasy hit for Bloomsbury, but is different enough to still be intriguing. I would love to see the full manuscript some time!

    Your dialogue and descriptions are very on point. You immediately immersed me in the crux of the action—I love the juxtaposition between what Lea thought being a courtesan mean and the actuality. I feels like Lea and her brother are close—I love the intimacy of your siblings’ relationship and look forward to seeing how it is developed beyond this point. I also found the revenge thread to be incredibly compelling.

    You hooked me immediately! Great job.