Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #31

TITLE: River Spell
GENRE: YA - Fantasy

The war was over. I repeated the words trying to make sense of them. "What will happen now?" I asked, voice trembling.

"We live, Arresa," my father said. "As much as we can. The soldiers claim to have wheat for us to plant."

Live. What kind of life was there left to live? Soldiers had never been here peaceably before. And they had never brought food instead of taking it. I’d heard it had once been different. We had lived in a nice house, with lots of food and happiness. I didn’t remember it. Though there were enough charred house remains and empty foundations around my village to support the stories.

“You can put down the knife now,” he said.

I unclenched my fingers and placed the knife carefully on the rough wood table, then wiped my sweaty palms on my skirt. Immediately my hand itched to pick it back up. Soldiers. In our village. Milling around in plain sight rather than sneaking around stealing or killing. I shook my head at the wonder of it.

"It's late for planting. Still, we might be able to get a small crop," Father said. It would be difficult for him to prepare the field with one leg. He thumped his crutch against the floor and gave me a twisted smile. "We'll manage. We may even keep the harvest this year."

My stomach growled at that. Keep the harvest? Have food for winter and seed for next year?


  1. Hi :)
    Interesting idea to start a book at the end of a war. Usually we think of that as the culmination of a story, so this is definitely unique! The only issue is I don't think we have enough context. We don't know who these people are, what the war they were fighting was for, who won, what world they're in, etc.

    Maybe instead of starting directly with dialogue and a scene, you could do a quick paragraph of the MC surveying the aftermath? The trick is to do it without too much backstory.

    Best of luck!

  2. I like this. It has a strong sense of setting, and I already get a feel for the character. I would keep reading. Could you use a different word than thump? It just threw me off, but it could be just me. :)

  3. I'm interested enough to keep reading, especially because of empathy for the MC. Nice characterization. I'd suggest tightening the 3rd paragraph. Use concise sentences there to give context.

  4. I love your title, and the set-up of a wounded father and his daughter who has much to learn. It seems like a story I would like to read.

    I would suggest dropping "voice trembling" from the first paragraph.
    Maggie May

  5. I like this and would keep reading if I had more, because it made me curious. Specifically because this sounded to me like the end of a story, a release of tension, a hope that good things are around the bend after a long, violent war. I'm sure that's not the case, though, so perhaps you might want to add more of an edge of danger, a feeling of something still not right, right in these first paragraphs (right now we mostly get the MC's wonder and hope and residual tension). In terms of grounding us better in what happened, the paragraph about the ruined houses or about the soldiers could perhaps contain a sentence to give us some political or historical context up front, to be fleshed out later.

  6. I like this a lot. it's a good setup without telling us too much. I think it would be stronger without the first two sentences. Open with the dialogue. Or something else, if you don't like opening with dialogue. The soldiers giving food instead of destroying tells us what we need to know.

  7. My thoughts align with lisbon's. This is a strong opening with good writing--particularly in terms of establishing your setting and laying down some initial characterization--but I feel that I'm missing what the story is about. Or, more importantly, I'm missing the tension. Given, things aren't completely at ease with your MC recovering physically and mentally from the war, and you do a great job of depicting her wariness, but I want some forward-thinking tension as well.

    In all honestly, given that I'm 250 words into your manuscript, this concern is a nitpick. Provided that you introduce that needed tension shortly after this excerpt, I have no problems.

    My one real note is that your opening sentences aren't as strong as they could be. Given that Arresa asks what happens now, it sounds like they *just* received news about the war ending. If so, maybe say that. Otherwise you'll have to tweak things accordingly.

    All told, this opening definitely works for me! I would certainly read on.

    Thanks for the entry!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this! My only gripe is that you can grab our attention even better. Why not some mention of the knife even earlier? First or second sentence? You got this!