Friday, December 2, 2011

#4 Fantasy: Traitor's Plight

TITLE: Traitor's Plight
GENRE: Fantasy

On the run from assassins, Lydia seeks uncertain asylum in war-torn Mudamora. But her magic is a foil to the life-draining powers of the kingdom’s enemies – a valuable commodity, which, if discovered, will jeopardize both her freedom and her life.

Lydia’s heels clicked on the tiles as she descended through the spiralling hallway leading to the bathing caverns. Only a few candles lit the corridor. As the sulphurous air thickened, she took advantage of the rare moment of privacy and allowed her shoulders to slump, the false smile to slip from her face.
She had little enough to smile about; what pleasures and freedoms allowed to her would soon be at an end. Her father’s misguided attempts to secure her future had made that certain. Not that she had any right to begrudge Senator Vinia his decision; all her life she’d wanted for nothing though she was no blood of his, not patrician blood at all.

The air grew warmer. Reaching the bottom, she pushed open doors emblazoned with the golden dragon of Celendor, and a wave of steam rushed over her. Torches ensconced throughout the chamber crackled in the moist air, and shadows danced up the walls before disappearing into the darkness of the cavernous ceiling. She was alone, the baths devoid of both patrons and slaves until the formal opening two days hence. Reaching down, Lydia fumbled with the buckle of her shoe.

The doors slammed behind her. Whirling around, she stifled a gasp as her eyes came to rest on her future husband. Lucius stood between her and the entrance, flanked by two of his men. His blue eyes regarded her with amusement and an inexplicable dread seeped into her veins.


  1. Huh, interesting title. Not normally a perspective one considers.

    The logline left me a bit confused. If she's on the run from assassins, isn't her life already jeopardized? And if she's seeking asylum in this kingdom, wouldn't she want to help them out by countering its enemies' powers?

    The opening was a bit slow; the first sentence gives us an unexciting destination and no conflict. It's not till she relaxes that I got interested, and even then it's a bit disjointed, since I've no idea what situation she just escaped from that was so painful, or what "pleasures and freedoms" she used to enjoy. I'd like to get a stronger sense of her oppression right off. Instead, bits like "she’d wanted for nothing though she was no blood of his" just make her of spoiled. I would like to feel for her, but don't have much to base my sympathy on.


    - Torches ensconced throughout the chamber crackled in the moist air, and shadows danced up the walls before disappearing into the darkness of the cavernous ceiling.

    I didn't find this sentence necessary. It's descriptive and a bit spooky, but overdone (with distracting verbs like "ensconced" and "danced"). At the least I think it could be toned down.

    - His blue eyes regarded her with amusement and an inexplicable dread seeped into her veins.

    I found it very explicable. Marriage to this man is presumably what will restrict her future life, and he just trapped her in a bathing chamber alone with two of his men; not a calming situation.

    I think this could be tightened, and less space given to physical description and more to the emotional turmoil.

  2. Like the previous poster, I found the logline to be a bit confusing and contradicting of itself. It might be something to look at as far as clarification.

    I also think you miss a real opportunity to pull in your readers by giving us too much basic detail of her trip to the bathroom. (bathhouse).

    I wasnt really engaged until the door slammed shut and it became clear soemthing would happen. Id suggest a little more active writing in the first few paragraps to really suck the reader in.

    Best of luck with the auction!

  3. I have to disagree with some of the above.

    I enjoyed this piece. When you described the MC's false smile slipping and explained how she doesn't despise the man responsible for her plight, I fell for her. Nice job.

    The setting feels very real with its moist air and flickering candlelight.

    The logline could use some work. I had to read the second sentence twice before understanding whose magic was being "foiled" but that might just be me.

    Nice job. Good luck!

  4. I sort of skipped over the logline, but as a reader I rarely read summaries. I prefer diving into a book without a preconceived notions. I found your passage luscious and I would totally keep reading to find out more.

    Good Luck in the auction!

  5. Other reviewers have mentioned log line/story discrepancies, but I think that's more an error in log line construction than it is in the prose itself. The log line could include something about running from this dreaded fiance, and that would solve all the problems.

    That said, get to the man faster. Description is beautiful, and certainly a staple in traditional fantasy, but you can take away here and there and still have this be both atmospheric and genre appropriate, not to mention pacier. Keep things that speak of emotion--the dread (not inexplicable) and the shedding of her fake smile speak volumes, and I'd recommend you cut the physical descriptors down to three. The rule of three works for a reason. You can feed all the rest of the beautiful things back in after we get a better idea of what's going to happen between the two characters. i.e. Does she dread him solely because she has to marry him, or is he as despicable as I think he is? Get to that faster, because it's much juicier, and juicier = hooking in the first pages.

  6. I didn't find the logline confusing. It has a lot of action in it, which is great. I do worry about the word "foil." It's not strong enough compared to your other word choices and it's a big vague. Since so much hangs on that word, I would recast.

    I do like Lydia so far. She's struggling against her father and a senator and a prospective husband to decide her own fate.

    I also like that she ends up face to face with Lucius and it's a bad thing. It ratchets up the tension. There is erotic tension throughout the entry. Good work. :)

    Leading up to the Lucius encounter, there is too much detail. Bring him up faster. There is too much sulphurous air thickening and moist steam rushing. I like these sensations--that helps create the erotic atmosphere--but pace them more. You have a whole book to show off sensory writing chops. Give us character conflict a bit sooner.

    Finally, can someone descend "through" a spiralling hallway? And why is she going down there? Tell us her motivation overtly. Does she want to take a bath? But a girl who wants for nothing would not be bathing all alone, would she?

  7. The title is eyecatching and your descriptive energy is great.

    My concern is that we see Lydia going through lots of motions, but no reasons for them. We aren't given enough of a sense of why she's doing any of the things she's doing. Is she going to the bathing caverns to bathe, or to hide, or to meet someone and do something about these freedoms that are ending? Or because she's already on the run from the situation set up in the log line?

    As they say in theater, what's her motivation? When she gets there, she fumbles with her shoe. Was it giving her trouble on the way down, or is she taking it off to bathe?

    Readers have a "this will make sense later" bucket that they're willing to put some of these sorts of things into, but you can't overflow the bucket or leave things in there too long. (I'm not being critical of you in particular here or saying that "page 1" is too long, but it's something to be aware of. It's a helpful exercise to look at when/whether these hints get explained and these motives become clear, or whether the reader gets stuck running behind Lydia trying to figure out what she's doing now.)

    Little things: in torchlight and moist air, can one see eye color that clearly? And the dread doesn't seem inexplicable to me. It's already been made clear that she's not marrying him because she wants to.

  8. An effective location for opening the story. Sauna-type bath houses, the closeness and weight of the air, the weakening warmth -- all these seem to reflect well the reality of her situation.

    It's your story. Every reader is different. Some will want more or less of this or that, earlier or later, more or less detailed, but I feel your story begins well. It sets the tone with effective brushstrokes.

    From this 1st page, I would anticipate a Romanesque drama with political intrigue and erotic components as Lydia preserves her independence in an unfair, patriarchal system.