Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #4

TITLE: Crown of Bones
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The stables reeked of death, but I marched toward them anyway. The tip of my nose froze as I walked, and I pulled the hood of my cloak lower in a vain effort to keep my face from freezing. The ends of my old emerald cloak dragged in the mud behind me, but there was nothing to be done about that. Instead I focused on my steps, avoiding icy patches. My toes were numb in the old riding boots, and I quickened my pace, grateful the sun had begun to rise and cast brilliant streaks of pink and orange across the sky.

When I reached the back door of the barracks I yanked the door open, fully expecting Alec to be in the small kitchen, waiting.

A new face greeted me instead. A boy no older than twelve, with a mope of curly brown hair, sat in Alec's spot at the old wooden table. He jumped out of his seat while I closed the door, his spoon clattering to the floor as he bowed down low.

"Good morning, Princess Anya," he said. "I'm instructed to assist you today."

No one else occupied the kitchen. My lips pressed together while I stared at the boy. "A little young, aren't you?"

"Alec thinks I have potential."

"Of course he does," I scowled. Though I wanted to yell at the kid to go home to his mother, I held my tongue. Something clearly required the assistance of the other grooms, and unless I wanted to do everything myself, I was stuck with the boy.

But I would be having words with Alec later.

"What's your name?" I asked the kid when he blinked at me.

"Jim, my Lady."

"Well, Jim, stick close. Don't stray too far from me, and pray the Da'ath Ras don't eat you."

His eyes widened as he rushed over, standing so close I could have hugged him. Smart boy.

"They say you keep them from eating anyone," he said. We left the barracks and headed to the stables. "That you can control a whole army of them."

They say a lot of things, I thought, but kept that opinion to myself. "I have the ability to keep them from eating people. But that doesn't mean you should be stupid around them."

He trotted beside me, still sticking close. We went inside, and I stopped at the edge of the first stall. "This is Alastir. He's big, mean, and likely to give us the most trouble. Muck out the stall while I walk him to the fields, and don't make eye contact."

Though he paled a little, Jim nodded. I peered into Alastir's stall and sent a quick message to him.

This is Jim. Don't attack him, or no breakfast for you.

Alastir whinnied in reply, and then swung his large head over the stall door.

Jim sucked in a breath. I studied Alastir, trying to see the Da'ath Ras through Jim's eyes.


  1. Hi everyone!
    The genre for this is YA Fantasy. Sorry for the mistake, apparently I was too excited to enter my submission to type the correct word! D'oh. Hope that clears up any confusion! And thanks Authoressbot for choosing my entry :)

  2. Perhaps this is just because I've never seen a stable, but how far are the barracks from the stables? IN the first sentence--which I love-- she's headed to the stables. But then she arrives at the barracks.

    If it was me, I would cut a lot of the description from the first paragraph. Just take a few of the most important details, and then get to the barracks.

    I really like the voice your MC has. I could definitely read more.

  3. Jen; Hi, I would definitely read on because I already have a feel for your strong gutsy MC, and want to know what happens next!
    Loved your opening sentence,"The stables reeked of death, but I marched toward them anyway."

    It sets the story up for the MC being some kind of warrior princess right off the bat!

  4. I really like this. In particular what stood out as unique and compelling was the way you blend elements of high fantasy with the MC's down to earth character and her use of contemporary language. For example, the emerald cloak trailing in the mud and the fact that she's so impatient with Jim and tells him not to be stupid. While I liked your introductory paragraph, I didn't think it was your most compelling writing. It sounds a little too much like every other fantasy out there. Perhaps start with your MC flinging open the door to the barracks and immediately being impatient with the boy? Also I didn't like the term "Da'ath Ras" It sounded a little derivative of other fantasy to me (Game of Thrones comes to mind). But again that's just me.Otherwise, I was pulled along nicely!!

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone! Sounds like my first paragraph will have some words slashed :)
    And THANK YOU Anon, I never thought how Game of Throne-ish Da'ath Ras was, but I will probably be thinking up a new word! Lol.

  6. I feel like a lot of the description in the first paragraph could be cut. I might have set down the book from that -- I have nothing to really hook me other than the stables smell like death, and maybe that's just the way your MC views horses to smell like.

    There feels like there's no urgency in the beginning. I don't know what the MC's doing, nor do I have a reason to care. I'd really recommend introducing a conflict within the first few paragraphs.

    Why did she head towards the stables in the beginning when she went to the barracks instead? And why is she doing any of this?

    Your writing is very strong, but I don't think I would read more of this. Maybe it's just my taste. :) Good luck with your writing!

  7. The first paragraph didn't capture me at all. It's interesting the different ways people perceive things. Some of the commenters above loved the opening line. I, on the other hand, took it at face value and was left thinking "how is the smell of death carrying so far when it is freezing cold. Surely any dead meat would be frozen and not stinky".

    After I got through the first paragraph I was more interested. You could easily start with "My toes were almost frozen in my old riding boots by the time I reached the back door of the barracks" and you wouldn't lose anything from the story line (which means none of the first paragraph added anything!)

    I did like the inclusion of the old riding boots because even though it turns out Anya is a princess, this gives us a good idea of the state of the nation.

    I enjoyed the story once we got to the barracks and the interaction between Anya and Jim. I would read on.

  8. I liked this and would read more. You've given us an MC who is doing something and is interesting, and you've set up a situation with some potential conflicts, but like others, I was confused by her heading for the stables and ending up in the barracks. I would also like to have had a description of the Da'ath Ras. It would have been nice to see these creatures.