Friday, November 28, 2014

(29) YA Historical Fantasy: CHILD OF THE STORM

TITLE: Child of the Storm
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

When the fourteen-year-old Amargi finds his mentor brutally slain, he leaves his tribe in the Zagros to petition the kings of Sumer for justice. Skilled, clever, but too innocent for politics, he soon becomes the pawn in a deadly game for supremacy. At a time when deception means survival, Amargi must trust the girl who once betrayed him, else forfeit his dignity, his plans for vengeance, and his life.

A storm was rising; Amargi could smell it in the air. The wind already shook the tent walls, and the skins snapped hard against the support poles. Amargi searched the tent with his eyes, clutching his knife, certain something menacing had come.

“Kutik?” he whispered. “Adda?” He peered through the darkness inside the tent.

Snoring softly on the mats were only his brother’s wives and the children. Outside, the darkness had already eased into a bruised dawn.

He’d been up for hours already, to sharpen the knives and axes, and to get the dogs fed. At thirteen, and the youngest, if his adda said to stay and watch over the cattle, who was he to defy? An uneasy feeling had brought him back. It was early, still. He thought he might still find his brothers and adda here, but no such luck. Amargi wished the holy shatin would acknowledge him a man already. Then perhaps he could have told adda about this bad feeling, rather than staring at the snoring forms of the women under the sheepskins.

Amargi heard grandmother’s humming outside. That old witch was always awake. Thunder cracked and popped, making the earth beneath him vibrate. Amargi stared at the moving shadows of the trees against the tent skins, his knife firmly in his grip.

The shatin would laugh at him if he saw him now. “So now the boy reads omens like a holy man? Why don’t we just let him invoke the gods, then?”

But Amargi was worried. The feeling was real.


  1. I'm very interested in the era that you've chosen. Sumer! One doesn't see that very often. I think you're first few sentences are especially strong ('the skin snapping against the poles').

    A few things: Adda is not capitalized three times. Is this intentional or is this a typo?

    Also, where it says "an uneasy feeling brought him back"...I would add "back to the tent" just because I had to read over that twice.

    Good luck!

  2. I agree -- cool idea to chose an ancient civilization like Sumer.

    A couple of small things. First, "he searched the tent with his eyes" strikes me as an odd phrase, versus just saying something like "he peered around the tent."

    I'm also wondering just how large this tent is, given who all sleeps in it. Even if you just characterize it as large or big would be enough.

    And you reference his brothers, so he has more than one, but then you reference his brother's, not brothers', wives and children. Not sure if that's a typo.

    Other than those little things, it's a strong start that makes me want to read more.

    Good luck!

  3. Not a genre I normally read, but the excellent logline along with the beautiful prose makes me wish there was more!

    I love the descriptions: the skins snapping against the poles, the dark easing into a bruised dawn. So lovely!

    I do wonder who Adda is. Is it a name? Or a title, like grandfather? No matter, I'd definitely read on to find out!

    Best of luck in the auction - I'd love to read the rest of this someday!

  4. Hi there!

    First thing, be aware that you're bordering on Upper MG/Lower YA, with the age of the protagonist, yes, but also with the writing. To me (and this is of course a personal response) the nature of the writing and degree of exposition reads to me as Upper MG. I can only go off the first page, and of course the concept description suggests it could feel older as it goes, but something to be aware of, since publishers are very conscious of that line.

    There are some confusing sentence structures (i.e. "At thirteen, and the youngest, if his adda said to stay and watch over the cattle, who was he to defy?") so I'd recommend reading out loud for flow. Once we're accustomed to a voice in a book, we might noticed these things less, but on the first page it's something to be very aware of.

    There are also some wonderful lines. Things like this--"That old witch was always awake."--are great ways to help give us the voice of the character.


  5. I love the hero, and you've done a great job of getting us inside his head. I can feel his nervousness, and am worried for him already! Awesome! I also like the setting, which you've rendered very well.

    I was a bit confused about the "if his adda said to stay and watch over the cattle" line - after rereading, I think you are saying that he was somewhere else tending to the cattle, and some feeling of discomfort brought him back to his camp?

    Best of luck!

  6. I too feel like there is a possibility that this may be Upper MG--though that is hard to tell with such a short sample. With that said, I thought you had some very strong writing! The one phrase that confused me was "An uneasy feeling had brought him back."--brought him back where?

    Good luck!

  7. Great writing! I especially liked, "Outside, the darkness had already eased into a bruised dawn." And I like how describe your hero's plight--staying awake sharpening knives, while the women slumber. It's a really good beginning. I definitely would read more.

  8. Very cool setting! I love the promise of political intrigue and deception, and the fact that the story is set against an unconventional backdrop makes it all the more interesting. There are some beautiful moments in the prose, too, like the "bruised dawn."

    I do agree that I'm not sure this is YA. As an editor, I wouldn't know exactly how to position this, due to both the character's younger age and the voice, which doesn't quite feel "teen" to me (especially with Amargi dwelling on "becoming a man"). The plot in the logline does sound like it could skew older, so if you truly see this in that older category, I'd age up the main character a couple years and try to age up the voice too. Maybe it would be helpful to brainstorm what currently published books you'd see this sitting beside on a shelf, as that could help you decide what age category it would fit into.

    I see a lot of potential in the concept and the writing. Good luck!

  9. This one caught my eye because the vivid details such as "the skins snapped hard against the support poles" make the scene very real, and this also has wonderful tension right from the beginning.

    I see just a few things that could be tidied up in this passage. In the fourth paragraph, the phrase "who was he to defy?" isn't quite right -- you have to defy someone or something. So if 'adda' means father or mentor, it would be "who was he to defy him?" Also in that paragraph, "acknowledge him a man already" isn't really grammatically correct -- the shatin would have to acknowledge that Amargi is a man, or acknowledge his 'manhood' or some other word with a similar meaning.

    So you want to be careful to check for those subtle grammar issues and the correct use of idioms in your manuscript. Also, watch out for places where you might be 'telling' the character's feelings when they're already clear from the context -- I would suggest cutting "Amargi was worried" and just say "But the feeling was real." as I think that has more impact on its own.

    You have a strong opening here, and I love the setting -- I agree that doing historical fiction set in ancient Sumer is a great idea. :)

    Good luck!

  10. Thanks. I know it was said not to reply but this is really, really YA. In the opening, he's 13, but we jump forward and for most of the book, he's 16/17

  11. Hint -- in your logline, you say he is 14 (which is a tricky age for protag -- mostly too young for YA). If he's 16, then you should say so in the logline.