Saturday, December 4, 2010

#14 Fantasy: Crown of Stars (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Crown of Stars
GENRE: Fantasy

After a renegade sorcerer curses the last ruler of Aida, Amelia has to give up her soldier's life to guard the sickly prince. But the curse puts more at stake than one man's life, and if Amelia doesn't find a cure--and soon--the country she fought so long to defend will be lost.

On a dreary autumn day, Amelia's mother began to cough: and then she began to sigh, and her skin grew wan and translucent, and the tip of her handkerchief came away from her mouth wet and pink with blood. At night Amelia would watch the stars, waiting for one of them to flicker; she knew that soon they would spin the right way, and with their magic her mother would be well forever and her father would never need to use his sword again. Stars had told Amelia's father that he would marry Amelia's mother, and they had told Amelia's mother that she would have a brown-haired daughter, and Amelia believed in them, because in Aida stars could never lie.

In that kingdom magic flourished under the watchful, silent stars; magic, long ago, had chosen the first good and righteous king of Aida, and grown his castle up around him, high on a hill: and there after a thousand years the Hawthorne line still flourished under the heavy-handed reign of the Winter Queen.

Amelia's family lived in a cottage far south of the Aidan palace, in the tiny village of Dulayne. There were roses climbing atop the cottage and blooming down the house's sprawling lane, and hazelnut orchards and huckleberries all along the farm, soft white chickens and fat cows.

Amelia's father assured her that the stars had said her mother would be well again, and he told her the stories the stars wove, if you knew how to look.


  1. Pretty good. Be careful with too much world building in the beginning. I know, especially in fantasy, that setting up your world may be as important as setting up your plot, but it sometimes works best with movement. Someone should be affected by the sights, and so your reader is affected as well. I don't think it should be put there just for information. I'm rambling, sorry. I love fantasy. Anyway, I would like to know more about Amelia and her circumstances.

    Good job. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really like the first paragraph. It's got the sort of fairy-tale phrasing that sets the story up perfectly as a fantasy. It makes me concerned for Amelia's mother, and it makes me trust the stars. I would read this book.

  3. I love the premise, and I like your writing style, but to start with a dreary day and an illness is off-putting. This is all backstory - start somewhere more active, and then find a way to weave this in later.

  4. I like the fairytale tone of this very much. I found the reference to the Winter Queen a little confusing - are the rulers of Aida subordinate to her? I'd cut that and bring it in later.

  5. I liked the first paragraph and then stalled. The rest of the first page is filled with too much information. You should pick it apart and move it into the action. For today's readers big chunks of worldbuilding are a reason not to read on, regardless of how well you phrased it.

  6. I enjoyed this, particularly the fairytale feel, but had the same problem with back story that others did. It's actually not that the infodump bothered me, I thought it was written very well, but that I wanted the character to be doing something while she had these thoughts. I dunno, walking to draw water from a well or practicing archery or something.

  7. I'm really quite confused by this. The first line starts off almost like something is happening but then the rest is just narration and backstory. You need to start this in the present moment of the story and then look back.

  8. Logline:
    Love the title.
    Interesting logline--like that the solider is a girl

    Line comments:
    -I thought the first paragraph was powerful and lyrical.
    -The second paragraph felt a little like a fairy tale opening--not sure if that's the tone you're going for?
    -I'm not sure if you need the description in the third paragraph--don't forget the mother's dying; let's focus on that.

    I'm intrigued and would read on! This sort of thing is right up my alley.

  9. I, too, like the logline and love the first paragraph. (re: logline -- I wonder if you can't be more specific about the nature of the curse, or at least provide a hint about it? Only saying that it's a "curse" makes it read a bit generically.)

    Second and fourth paragraphs seem redundant though (you've already told us what we need to know about the stars in the first paragraph; tell us the rest when it matters), and the third comes out of nowhere and is really out of place. By then you've lost whatever amount of tension you set up regarding her mother's illness.

    I'd skip forward in time as soon as the first paragraph ends, but that's jut me. At any rate, really want to see something actually happening by the end of the excerpt instead of meaningless chatter about stars.

  10. I really liked the log line. It sounds like a very interesting story, but the opening line was off-putting.

  11. Logline - perhaps say what the curse is. Was the Prince always sickly, or was it the curse that made him that way? And why does Amelia have to find a cure? Why her, as opposed to all the other people on this world?

    Excerpt - I thought the opening line didn't work at all, but then was immediately caught up in the progression of her Mom's illness.

    Nothing held me after the first parg. It seemed you were trying to create mood, (which worked) but nothing happened. The story is about Amelia, but we learn nothing about her amd she doesn't do anything. And by the time I reach the end, the little bit of mystery there was (what is wrong with mom and what will happen to her)is irrelevant because the stars say she'll get better and the stars don't lie. So there is no problem presented, which means no conflict or tension.

    Perhaps consider a different type of opening, or give Amelia something to do.

  12. Logline - I'm a little unclear from the logline as to why Amelia has to give up her current life. Is she a healer? Is it simply because she's female? That could be clarified but otherwise it's a good logline.

    Excerpt - I really enjoyed your writing voice and the first paragraph starts off with some nice worldbuilding. But paragraphs two and three seem like too much background at this point in the tale. I wonder if you'd be better served moving the last paragraph up to the second position and progressing the story further before giving us that backstory (I'm not suggesting you remove it, just shift things around for a better hook to grab your readers).

    Good luck!

  13. I bid to read the first 100 pages.
    Kate McKean
    Howard Morhaim Literary Agency

  14. Here's a bid to read the first 125 pages.

    Weronika Janczuk
    D4EO Literary

  15. I bid to read the full manuscript.
    Kate McKean
    Howard Morhaim Literary Agency

  16. *pouts*

    This is too fierce for me. ;-)

  17. Hooray for this author!

  18. I was honestly blown away by the first paragraph. So much tension, so much atmosphere, so much of a reason to care-- all right there at the start!

  19. Author here!

    Thank you so, so much to the agents for bidding on my manuscript.

    And an especially huge thank you to everyone for leaving these critiques--while sometimes hard to hear, they all bring up excellent points, and I really appreciate all of you for taking the time to post your thoughts. This has been extremely helpful.

    Thanks so much, all!

  20. Unless you're British (and who knows, maybe you are), the use of the colon in that first sentence feels a bit too pretentious for me. American English doesn't generally use colons like that in fiction, so it immediately grabbed my eye in the wrong way.

    However, the voice of the piece is quite lyrical. Yet nothing really *happens* in the piece--we don't see characters speak or move--so I'd be looking for the next page to find out what happens, and if I liked that and got to the point of editing, I'd likely suggest cutting the first page (at least).

    Love the star-magic worldbuilding. But I'm unclear how they'd see the stars spin--they're too far away to really see movement unless it's a comet/meteor/falling star.

    Loved the line "because in Aida stars could never lie." Very nice.

    This one's a "moderately hooked" piece--very interesting to have a female soldier character in what feels to be a medieval-world fantasy. But the plot would need to move fast--really have something happen--for it to really hook me.

    The Winter Queen feels a little too Narnia-ish.