Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #6

GENRE: YA - Fantasy

Needing directions to the king’s house was a new problem for the courier. Palaces and mansions were generally easy to spot. Even a fortress was conspicuous, though sometimes out of the way. He turned onto the rough dirt track, which wound high over the quay onto the clifftop. A single lit window showed a house built against the sheer rock face.

           Windswept scrub trees lined the pebbly road, their tortured limbs pointing the way upward as the rain gave up and the moon lit the foam on the beaches below. The house shrank as the horseman approached. It was smaller than the other village houses.

           Feeling foolish, and wondering if the villagers had tricked him out of directions and drinks, the courier knocked. He heard voices, then a woman, half-smiling, opened the door, stopping when she saw his clothes. He cleared his throat, removed his hat, and took in the fire-lit room. The ham, pots, and bunches of herbs hanging from the ceiling. The fishing-net spread on the floor. A bearded man looked up from where he sat on the rug, mending one part of the net. A girl of fifteen sat cross-legged next to him, helping.

           The courier’s embarrassment rose. “I come bearing a message for King Camberden of Ebbo, concerning his daughter Princess Synne.” Silence met this announcement. “Do you good people know where I might find him?”

           The man rose, wiped his hands on his trousers, and held out his hand, “Actually, it’s just Cam.”


  1. My first thought was--king's house? Then of course as I read I understood, but that question overtook my enjoyment and just left me confused. I'm assuming the king is a man who is hiding? Or doesn't care to live in a castle? Either way, I think it'd greatly benefit by planting a little seed in the first paragraph hinting as to why the king lives in a house... Other than that, I think it's a solid beginning. Good luck.

    1. Thank you, Kate! Yes, your guess is right - a king who doesn't live in a castle because he doesn't care to/he's a fisherman. I'll try to plant a hint like you mentioned so confusion doesn't obscure the opening.

  2. Very nice. I am drawn in right away. Imagery well done. I can totally see this:

    Windswept scrub trees lined the pebbly road, their tortured limbs pointing the way upward as the rain gave up and the moon lit the foam on the beaches below.

    The one nitpick I have is minor, and I see in very popular books all the time.

    A girl of fifteen sat cross-legged next to him, helping.

    How do we know she's fifteen? maybe she's twenty-five and looks fifteen. Maybe she's ten and big for her age. It's a small thing, and maybe most read right over it, but it pulled me out of the narrative. Overall very nice writing. Good luck!

  3. Oh, good catch! Thank you so much for that, you're right of course!

  4. I like this! I can relate to your MC right away, and I like the way Cam presents himself.

    Imagery is fantastic.

  5. I read this a few times, because something wasn't quite making sense to me. The questions all seem to be about Cam/King Camberden- why is he in a house, why is he so casual, etc...but the majority of the intro is about the courier. So I'm left wondering who the protagonist is. The writing is strong, and I like the premise, but I just don't know who the story centers around, and therefore who I should start investing in.

  6. I love the line about the moon lighting the foam below. Your description is great. I, also, liked how the personality of the King - its just Cam - came across immediately. I am wondering who the protagonist is as well. Is it Cam? Is it the fifteen year old girl, since this is YA? But I have a feeling this will be clarified as I read on.

  7. Lovely imagery in the second paragraph. Beautiful language. I had the same confusion re; the protagonist as the other commentators. . Also, consider changing the passive voice in the first paragraph and tighten. I loved the last sentence. It effectively characterizes the king and makes him an interesting character. Best of luck!

  8. Your last sentence absolutely hooked me. I love coming across a new idea, and in all the fantasy I've read--published and submissions--I don't think I've ever come across a king who introduces himself quite so casually and lives this humbly (presumably by choice, though that remains to be seen). It's so rare to find something unique, and you've got it in your first few paragraphs.

    I also really loved the opening paragraph. The idea that a courier is frustrated by not being able to just head towards the huge palace is hilarious, though I do agree with other commenters that the "king's house" line was a little confusing. Followed immediately by "Palaces and mansions were generally easy to spot" I assumed that this was a palace or mansion that went against that norm. I think you need to clarify a bit.

    All in all, that's a minor issue. Your imagery and tone are excellent, and again, you bring something new with Cam. If this were a submission in my inbox, I would absolutely continue reading.

    Thanks for your entry!

  9. I enjoyed this entry. Your descriptions are beautiful, and your story is easy and interesting to read. I did notice one small thing that I thought I would mention. When the courier comes to the door, the lady stops when she sees his clothes. I pictured him standing in the doorway with the door half open (because she stopped) and the lady staring at him. But then you mention him taking in the room. I wasn't sure if he actually entered or when he did because you never mention him physically stepping inside. This is small, but it did cause me some confusion as I read. You hooked me, and I would love to read on.