Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July Secret Agent #22

TITLE: Elixir Bound
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Snowflakes swept across the southern tip of the Great Peninsula and covered Faway Forest. The snow weighed the branches down on their trunks, like the limbs of a predator closing in around a victim. Unlike the more northern Blanchardwood, which was always blanketed in white, Faway hadn't seen snow in hundreds of years. Snow like this usually bore a message, but not one that was easy to discern.

The wind whipped a snowdrift off the trees and into the small town of Tussar. It blew into the outskirts of town and settled for a moment on the roof of the wooden house that belonged to the Kase family. A gust grabbed the snow off the roof and deposited it on a young woman who stood among the vines that grew in neat lines in the field behind the house.

Katora Kase shook the flakes off her thin cloak. Like all the other Tussarians--even the elderyears--she had never seen snow before. She liked the way the flakes tickled her face as they melted. Down the aisle, Katora's younger sister, Kylene, twirled with the swirling snow, her arms straight out and her face to the sky. This weather suited Kylene; Katora was more like the rain, deliberate and relentless when she needed to be. The white flakes made Katora feel like she was in her youngeryears and almost allowed her to forget she was a young woman in her primeyears who was about to take over her family's farm.


  1. nicely written. Hope it picks up a little on page two. But good.

  2. Hooked! I really like the atmosphere here. It has a definite fantasy feel, and I like how you use the girls' reactions to the snow to start establishing their characters. I would def keep reading~ :o)

  3. The writing and description is good here, however, beginnings that start with the weather are being overdone. Most of the time it's better to just start right with some action. That's what I've heard some literary agents say.

  4. Your description is written very well, but it's still description, and it lags a bit. If you really want to keep it, I'd start with the third paragraph, then work in the first two after it. That way, we at least get a character connection to hold onto as we explore the weather.

    Good writing. :D You tend to use a lot of longer sentences, but it's not terribly noticeable.

  5. It sounds like you have a very interesting story starting. This is probably something I'd buy, too.

    You may want to shift paragraphs around though, so you begin the first chapter with some kind of conflict/inciting incident. I would still keep the beautiful descriptions you have, just throw in a hook in the first paragraph. I can tell your story has a lot more to it than is showing up in the sample. That's the tough thing about the 250 word limit.

  6. I'd suggest cutting everything in the first paragraph after 'closing in around a victim." Tell us about the northern forest when we actually encounter it.

    You could also cut the second paragraph because you have the wind picking up an entire snowdrift, dumping it on a roof, picking it back up and dumping it on a young girl. I know that's not the image you're trying to portray, but it's what your words say as written.

    Perhaps go from the first two sentences in the first paragraph to Katora Kase shook the flakes . . .in the third. That would give you more room to introduce a problem. As is, nothing really happens. There's nothing that makes me say, Wow! I've gotta read this!

  7. You have a knack with discription and it sounds like you've done some cool world building.

    At this point I feel distanced from the story and there's nothing wrong with that if it's what you intend. But if your intention is to have the reader engage with Katora and see the world through her eyes, then I suggest you start with her doing some everyday farm task (I'm sure you could come up with some cool task that is unique to your world) and then pan out to show the world.

  8. Some nice imagery, but it feels a little over written and I think it goes on a bit too long about snow. The opening paragraph and its descriptions is good to set the scene, then it should move on from there.

  9. I love to see other people writing YA high fantasy :)

    The beginning was a little slow for me. It reminded me of a Robert Jordan opening (he starts the first chapter of every book with a description of the wind). I think it would be better to start out with character and situation, rather than description.

    It's clear that you have done your world-building; however, I think it would be better not to start out mentioning so many place names. Also, since this story is being told from Katora's POV (and I'm assuming she's lived here all her life, which may not be correct) she might not think of the forest nearby as 'Faway Forest', but just as 'the forest'.

    I'd like to read more to find out what happens.

  10. I felt the first few paragraphs, although wel written, could be incorporated after the 3rd. Character first, setting described through the action of the character.

    Good start, otherwise :-)

  11. Very nicely written, but as the others indicated, the pacing is rather slow. If would read a few more pages to see where it goes.

  12. It's interesting and since I like high fantasy, I would be patient with the weather/omniscient voice opening, especially since we soon see the character.

    I'm also going to disagree with those who said there were too many strange place names. This might just be me, but it gave me a sense that this is a complete world, with many interesting places and a long history. Unlike a lot of readers, I love strange names and elaborate world building.

    One nit: I like elderyears, youngeryears, and primeyears, but maybe not all bunched in one paragraph.

  13. I liked it, especially how you compared the girls to the weather. I found that gave me a good picture of the girls already. Good job!