Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Lament the Blade
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

Like many boys his age in love with war, Cyran Averne practiced the executioner's art many times on gourds and melons, but all the playacting in the world couldn't prepare him for the real thing.

The shackled convict stood in front of an old tree stump and whimpered, his breath visible in the chill air of the early winter morning. A soldier shoved him to his knees when Master Swordsman Gent arrived and surveyed the group. Battle-hardened, Gent was a survivor of the War of the Long Dark. Scars crisscrossing his cheeks told the tale.

"Which one of you skinny runts is up to a kill?"

Cyran froze. Surely, this was a test, but Cyran didn't know what Gent was testing. Strength? Skill?

When no one stepped forward, Gent pointed to Cyran’s best friend Balar, tallest of the boys, whose bony limbs and gangly appearance got him the nickname 'Scare The Crows'.

Gent held out a huge sword almost as long as Balar was tall. "You'll have to do. Have at him."

"What?" Balar's face blanched. "What do you mean?"

"Separate him from his head."

Balar took the sword, but the blade dropped to the wet earth, the tip sticking in the mud.
"Dark be damned!” Gent took it back and wiped it on his trousers. He shoved Balar to the side. "Who among you can hold a sword?" He walked around the group, eyeing them up and down. "What about you?"

Gent pointed the blade tip at Cyran.


  1. High fantasy isn't usually my thing, but I think I liked this. My main complaint would be with the first line because I'm not sure it's true. Do boys in love with war really practice executing people? I would expect them to practice fighting with the sword but I don't think executing captured prisoners has the glamour that makes boys love the idea of war. Also, you might want to break that sentence in two. It felt a little long.

    Once I got past that, it picked up. I like the tension you build up. Will Cyran execute this prisoner? Would that be right or wrong? What does Gent actually want Cyran to do? How this plays out will tell us a lot about Cyran, which is a good reason to turn the page.

    I had problems with the line "Dark be damned!" Who says that? Balar, weakly, as he drops the sword? Or Gent, in irritation, as he picks it back up?

    Also, I love the name of the war, The War of the Long Dark. Has a nice, evocative feel to it.

    Overall, I liked it. Well done.

    Good luck.

  2. I'm also not that into high fantasy, but this was well-written. The imagery is evocative.

    I wonder why the boys practice executing prisoners. Fighting the enemy, attacking straw dolls, sure; is there some cultural or religious significance to it?

  3. I'm with Abbe on that first parg. I think boys would play at war by swordfighting rather than executing people. I'd suggest cutting the whole first parg and starting with the 2nd.

    I also liked War of the Long Dark, and was confused as to who was saying 'Darkness be damned.'

    I didn't get much of a feel for Cyran, (how old is he? Does he want to be there? Is he regretting being part of the army? Is he hoping for a battle or longing to go home?) Perhaps give us a bit more about Cyran, rather than telling us about Gent and Balar, and even the prisoner.

  4. I was expecting a battle scene after the first sentence, so that was a bit confusing. You could remove that paragraph and it might be a stronger beginning. But on the whole, I enjoyed this.

  5. I agree with the others about the first paragraph. It's not really nessary.

    I think you've set up a great dilemma for Cyran and I want to know what he does. Perhaps a touch of body language could make how Cyran feels a bit clearer.

  6. I agree with some of what is said above, though I can imagine boys with swords running around cutting gourds and melons in half, during war-play... I suppose, during such wars as the War of the Long Dark (great name, by the way!) warriors would have to execute prisoners, or kill enemies in a similar fashion... But I can see where it could be confusing, so maybe even just changing the wording would help... but, as others have suggested doing, losing the first paragraph wouldn't hurt, either. If you wanted to show his "love of war" and "playacting," perhaps you could work it in elsewhere?

    Would love to see more of Cyran's character here, as well. Great tension. What will he do? I would definitely read on to find out!

    Good luck!

  7. I thought this was compelling; pulled me into the action of the story right away; do agree that it would work better without the first sentence....also I need clarification about the word 'execution'. Is he being taught to be a warrior or it important for him to cut off theman's head or simply kill him with a sword? Like others, I think the War of the Long Dark (and darkness be damned...good touch) sounds intriguing and I'd read on.

  8. I really like this.

    in this sentence:
    "Scars crisscrossing his cheeks told the tale."
    I wanted a simily to describe the scars, or an adjective to describe the tale, like "paintful, or gruesome"

    I'd definitely read on. I want to find out what the test is.

  9. I'm a fan of high fantasy, and you definitely get the tone right. Nice!

  10. Cut “Like many boys his age in love with war,” and you have something much more intriguing. There were a few other tweaks to be had, but overall, nice tension to the writing, good details without bogging things down, and I want to know what Cyran will do.