Wednesday, February 10, 2010

42 Secret Agent

TITLE: Hatshepsut: Female Pharaoh
GENRE: Historical Fiction

If only the gods had made her a boy. A boy wouldn’t be stuck in a tree to escape Thutmosis and his slingshot. A boy could pummel her brother and break the slingshot over his smug little face and get away with it.

If only.

"Stupid girl!" Thutmosis’s voice cracked. “I’ll climb up there and get you.”

"I’d like to see you try." Hatshepsut rubbed the pebble bite on her shoulder, clutching the sycamore’s branch in her other hand. He was bluffing. Her scrawny half-brother was terrified of heights, always had been. However, one wrong move would send Hatshepsut plummeting to the grass below. That was an experience she could live without.

"We’re late for our lessons," she said. “Let me come down.”

"I don’t care about being late," Thutmosis sneered. "You’ll just show off and Tawi will gush over what a perfect student you are. He’ll wait- I’m the prince."

Hatshepsut rolled her eyes. She wished Neferubity was still at her side, but her older sister had died from a fever almost a year ago. She would have to fend for herself.

"I'm sure Tawi would consider himself blessed by Amun if he didn’t have to teach you today,” she said.

Again, Hatshepsut received the sharp reply of a pebble, this time between her eyes. Squealing in surprise, both hands flew to her face, upsetting her precarious balance. She reached out to the tree’s limbs, but they mocked her, already out of reach as she fell back, the green leaves disappearing into the blue swath of Egyptian sky.


  1. Nice sibling tension and characterization from the onset. And we have action right away with Hatshepsut falling from the tree.

    My one hesitation with this opening is the smart girl upstaging her lazy, cruel brother has almost become cliche for a historical. :P BUT, at the same time, knowing who Hatshepsut will become when she grows older, you do need to present her as an extraordinary female right at the beginning. I can understand why you started with the scene you did.

    I have no problems with this opening--it's well-written and interesting with good characterization--but I wonder what other choices you have to present her as a strong girl in a time when women weren't expected to be.

    Glad to see a story about Hatshepsut, though!

  2. I liked this, but I had a major issue. It doesn't "Feel" historical. The tone and voice could be right next door or down my street today.

  3. I liked this opening. The voice, the mood, felt authentic. I'd definitely read more.

  4. This is a nice interactive setup for what’s to come. I like the way you describe the pebble as ‘biting,’ and ‘replying.’ I think it’s well written, and if the pace picks up a little more in the next few paragraphs, I’d read on.

  5. I enjoyed this, it was well written and I would want to read more. The most important thing for me in a historical, though, is to know that a large part is based on actual history. I obviously don't know how much research you've done for this, but I would hope you've done an extensive amount to make it worth my read.
    And yes, I will reference tidbits I read in historical fiction novels in discussions as fact :).

  6. I liked this a lot. I'm embarrassed to say how little I know about Hatshepsut, and so I don't know where the story is going, or if I'm missing something obvious in the opening, but I thought you did a good job of showing us who Hatshepsut and her brother are and how they get along. I would keep reading to see how that relationship grows as they age.

  7. Moderately hooked. The writing's clean and reader-friendly, and your voice is strong. However, there were a couple spots I stumbled over.

    First, while I loved the opening line, I didn't like the rest of the paragraph so much. It comes across as either sexist (if you're trying to say little boys are naturally more able to defend themselves than little girls) or not fully explained (if it's the getting away with it that makes the difference).

    Also, a few paragraphs in, Hatshepsut rolls her eyes, then goes on to tell us a bit about her older sister. The eye roll doesn't match the I-wish-I-still-had-someone-here-to-defend-me tone of the rest of the paragraph - and those bits about Neferubity strike me as unnecessary asides to fill in backstory.

    On the whole, though, I'd probably keep reading, at least for a few pages.

  8. Definitely hooked. I really love the voice! I don't read a ton of historical fiction, so this might be too modern for the genre, but for me it was very engaging. I like getting a feel for the rivalry between H and her brother and having her stuck in a tree adds another layer of tension. Great start!

  9. Hooked. Your voice is very easy to read. Good job of creating a character with very few lines.

  10. Like it. Great tension and easy to read--which isn't easy to achieve with difficult names. I'd read more. Great sense of pace.

  11. I love it. But then, I am biased since Hatshepsut is my all time favorite Egyptian woman. Also, this is easy to read and flows well. Good luck with it.

  12. I like this, and I liked the typical sibling rivalry, ancient Egyptian style. I don't know anything about Hatshepsut, but this would make me read on to see what she made of herself (which I could take a stab at from the title :-) ).

  13. I liked this one. Lots of info in a short space that really gave a feel for the character and her place in her world. I'd read more.

  14. I love this! What a great concept. Hatshepsut plays a major role in the back story of one of my characters. I'm a big fan.

  15. I like this but was a bit confused about the pebble bite on her shoulder. A person can't sneer a line of dialogue so I'd change it to just plain said and then describe him sneering. Why did she squeal in surprise when she could see him aiming at her? Perhaps have her try to avoid the shot and then fall out -- it would make her appear more active rather than passive. Also, I don't think tree limbs can mock. There is some real promise here!

  16. "Squealing in surprise, both hands flew to her face"

    I didn't know hands could squeal.

    I kind of hate it when girls wish they'd been born boys, but I agree with the others that this opening is fairly strong--the backstory's interspersed smoothly enough that it's not too distracting, and the action kept me engaged.

    With historical fiction I guess you can't get away from a name like Hatshepsut, but I wonder if you could introduce her name a little later. My mind kept struggling to decide how to pronounce it, and if that happens to others too, it could be distracting to readers at a point where you want them to be drawn smoothly into the story.

  17. I liked it. I'd keep going.

    Note: One uses the subjunctive mood for wishes. So, she is wishing Neferubity were still by her side.

  18. The writing is nice and lively, and you start immediately with action, but this didn't hook me.

    There wasn't anything here that placed me in ancient Egypt. The only images I have are a boy and girl with Egyptian names, speaking like modern American kids, and a sycamore tree that never would have been in ancient Egypt.

    Perhaps consider a different setting for your opening? Maybe an Egyptian bazaar, the palace, something that says this is ancient Egypt?

  19. I like the setting, but the voices didn't really sound like children to me and it drew me out of the story.