Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #42

TITLE: Riverborn
GENRE: YA Fantasy

There is a god at the bottom of the river.

Some folks will tell you that’s not real magic. But us wherrymen know different. When the reeds along the banks whisper that a squall is rushing across the marshland, we listen. When the tide flows up from the sea and floods the river with muddy brown water, we know enough to watch.

The god in the river speaks to us in the language of small things.

That’s how Dad knew something was wrong even before we rounded the bend into Venkirk and smelled the smoke on the late afternoon air.

“Caro, take the tiller.” Dad leaned over the stern.

He dipped his hand in the river. The Cormorant was loaded up with timber for the lumberyard in Siscema, so we rode low in the water. He had no trouble reaching. A tiny wake curled after his fingers, forming a wobbly line of bubbles on the surface. The sun had disappeared below the moss-draped trees, and the river grew stiller by the minute.

He pulled his hand back as if it had been burnt.

“What?” I sat up straight. “What was that?”

“I don’t rightly know.” He looked as if he wanted to say more. But all he said was, “He’s unsettled tonight.”

He meant the god in the river, but everyone knows it is bad luck, even dangerous, to speak of a god by name.

“Fire,” whispered Fee. The frogmen aren’t a people of many words.


  1. Um...awesome. No critiques, I just had to say that this is awesome! Can't wait to read this book when it's published!


  2. Oh, nice leading sentence. Could be bad, could be good. For Caro, it doesn't sound good. There's some great imagery and description here, I was definitely in the moment while I read. I loved the worldbuilding in this first 250, and the tension was very strong.

    However! I was kind of thrown by the last sentence. I had the impression that it was just Dad and Caro in the boat. I'm wondering if Fee couldn't be mentioned sooner, just to give a headcount.

    I'm also curious about what Fee means by "Fire." There's smoke, yes. I'm wondering whether Caro and Dad see a fire up ahead in the next paragraph or so.

    Overall, though, I would keep reading. There's enough promising meat here that I know I'd be in for a fun ride.

  3. LOVE your opening sentence! This all reads really well, with lovely language and imagery. The last comment by the "frogman" threw me a bit, but you've for sure got me wanting to read more.

  4. Nice opening. I like the voice and think you've done a wonderful job with the setting by the river. I am intrigued by the fire and the god at the bottom of the river. I would definitely keep reading.

  5. Your work is so lyrical and poetic. I'm jealous of this talent!! Your opening hear begs to be read aloud. Very sweet. That flavor matches your genre.

    Love the opening. Great polish. I have the distinct feeling we'll be reading a success story about you here on the blog soon. Good luck!

  6. Good writing, good setup of the world, and you had just enough room to introduce the concept of "frogmen." I think we all know we aren't talking scuba suits here.

    Well done.

  7. Very nice.

    I'm wondering what "that" refers to in the second sentence. The fact that there's a god in the river? A little confusing. Why would the god be magic?

    Loved the voice in this one and the sense of foreboding you've built in such a small space.

    I think you could change the order of the telling of the events a little. While the piece flows well now and is beautifully written, the forward (smoke) and backward (dad dipped his hand in before the smoke) and the forward (dad dipped his hand in) and the backward (the boat was low in the water and that's why he could reach) makes the reader work a little harder than just a straight on telling in consecutive order.

    What if you told about the evening being calm but Dad can tell something's wrong? He dips his hand in, whips it back. They round the bend and smell the smoke. "Fire," whispers the frogman.

    But you have set a mood, and started with a lovely voice. Great job!

  8. Interesting! I think this is fresh--a story about frogmen. And there's trouble right away.

    I wasn't sure about the second line and the reference to magic because I didn't think there was any mention of anything magical happening. Saying that a god lived at the bottom of the river wasn't the same thing as saying, for instance, that the current reversed direction at night, or something very "other" that could be construed as magic.

    I want to know what's caused this fire. Good hook.