Friday, December 2, 2011

#40 YA High Fantasy: Lament the Blade

TITLE: Lament the Blade
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

When The Long Dark casts half the world into an almost perpetual night, the four youngest mages in the lands east of the Silver Sea seek its cause to stop their world from falling into shadow. They're too young to know how much it will cost them in blood and personal sacrifice and too powerful not to try.

Cyran Averne often practiced killing imaginary enemies with a makeshift wooden sword. When the time came to actually kill a man, all the playacting in the world couldn't prepare him for the real thing.

The shackled prisoner stood in front of an old tree stump, his ragged breath visible in the chill air of the early winter morning. When Master Swordsman Gent arrived, a soldier shoved the prisoner to his knees. Battle-hardened, Gent was a survivor of the War of the Long Dark. Scars crisscrossing his cheeks told the tale.

He surveyed the recruits. "Which one of you skinny runts is up to a kill?"

Cyran froze, hiding behind a fringe of pale hair that had fallen into his eyes. Surely this was a test, but what was Gent testing? Strength? Skill?


When no one volunteered, Gent pointed to Cyran's best friend Balar, 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 heavy blade dropped to the earth, the tip sticking in the mud.

"Dark be damned!” Gent said and took it back, wiping it on his trousers. He shoved Balar aside. "Who among you can hold a sword?" He walked around the group, eyeing them up and down.

Gent pointed the blade tip at Cyran. "What about you?"


  1. I may not be your target audience here, because one of the things that struck me most was that I really liked Gent's voice. I got the whole brusque, grizzly veteran sense from him, and I actually sympathized with how he was trying to toughen up these recruits (presumably they've signed up for this, having practiced fighting and all).

    So I'm not quite as horrified by the scenario as you may be trying to set up the reader to be. But then again, you may be contrasting Cyran with the hesitant Balar; I liked how he was trying to evaluate what type of test it was. That cool thought makes him seem more competent than the rest of his fellows and gives me hope for his future quest and what more of his character will be unveiled.

    If you did want to make this a more daunting task, I'd suggest giving a little more description about the prisoner. If he isn't gagged; he could be begging for his life; or he could look particularly pitiful and despondent at his approaching end. Or maybe you do this a little further along, once Cyran actually has the blade?


    - whose bony limbs and gangly appearance got him the nickname 'Scare The Crows'.

    I'm curious: why not just "Scarecrow"?

    - the heavy blade dropped to the earth, the tip sticking in the mud.

    Almost sounds as though he dropped it entirely and it's sticking up upside-down from the mud. I think you mean rather that he couldn't (or wouldn't; again, they've trained, right?) hold the blade upright.

    But yes! Would read on.

  2. I remember this from October-- glad to see it here! I love high fantasy, and you do a good job here by not info-dumping. :)

  3. Really enjoyed your voice in the first 250 words. Sounds like a promising story to follow!

  4. Logline: So, they're doing this as a sort of self-test? As a dare? 'too powerful not to try' means nothing; people are powerful, or too powerful, all the time and still do nothing. Why are they really doing it?

    Excerpt: Second paragraph, an already-kneeling prisoner is shoved to his knees. Also, I thought that Cyran was going to be one of the young wizards fighting the war of the long dark, since half the world is in night; why are you talking about a veteran of it? Why is a wizard learning swordsmanship? But I will say, I like the voice. I like how nervous he is, the hesitation, the fear. It's very realistic.

    I would get this out of the library, but I wouldn't spend my own money on it.

  5. I'm not sure about the logline. The last sentence seems a little too removed, maybe? I don't know.

    BUT. I LOVE this. I love the voice, I love the situation, and I totally want to read more.

    Well done.

  6. Eek! Dark stuff already. Don't do it Cyran!! Love the logline, and the writing is good too. Nice!!

  7. Man, what a cliffhanger you leave us on at the end of this first page. I'd love to read page 2! (And 3, etc.) As Amanda said, you do a great job of not info-dumping but putting us right into the middle of the action and suspense. I also think you do a terrific job of delineating three distinct characters in the first page--not an easy task.

    The logline doesn't do much for me, unfortunately. I know that an epic story like this is hard to sum up in a couple of sentences, but I wish that there was a character mentioned by name in there for me to identify with/hang on to. If Cyran is the ringleader, maybe you could focus the logline more around him?

    Lots of luck with this!

  8. I remember the old logline from Secret Agent. Truth be told, I liked it better. This one doesn't have the goosebump-raising magic. I was nursed on high fantasy and my roots are there.

    I would take out the first paragraph. Yes it tells you where you're at/background, but it's telling not showing that actually becomes evident as we read. It's more effective as discovered.


  9. Love high fantasy, and Cyran is already interesting to me in the way he evaluates his circumstances.

    One thing I didn't understand was that the prisoner was standing in front of the tree stump, and then Gent arrived. So how long did Cyran and Balar wait there for Gent to arrive? I got confused about the time jump. It might be clearer and to the point if you just said "Master Swordsman Gent motioned and a soldier shoved him to his knees" for example.

    The opening paragraph makes it sound as though Cyran does kill the prisoner, but so far the prisoner sounds so helpless I hope Cyran doesn't do it!

    "Scare the Crows" tripped me up. I think it's been mentioned already, but I liked Scarecrow as well. It's simple and it seems to suit Balar already.

    Now I'm curious what the Long Dark is. I do like a good fantasy quest!

  10. Hmm, I actually liked the last sentence in the log line. I guess if I'm the only one, you might do best to follow everyone else's advice.

    I also liked the voice here, and while I'm not usually drawn to high fantasy, this does an excellent job of keeping me in the world - we're very present in this one scene with these characters, and the tension has me hooked. I'd definitely keep reading!

  11. The logline could be more focused on the characters. I gather this is going to be an epic story, but I don't know anything about the four MCs (besides them being powerful), and the stakes don't feel very personal. Saving the world is a mind-boggling goal, but saving your family or your love interest is something anyone can understand. Maybe you could tell us about the personal sacrifice you mention, so we see them as real people with something, besides their lives, to lose?

    The first paragraph tells us what you later show us. It kind of kills the tension because we know that Cyran is going to get chosen and that he's going to go through with it. It also makes me question the POV: the rest of the excerpt seems to be close third person, because we get Cyran's thoughts as part of the narrative (no italics or 'he thought'), but that first paragraph reads to me as omniscient and tells us about future events that the present Cyran wouldn't know.

    That said, I like that we start in the middle of such a high stakes conflict -- a boy's first kill, and not a very 'honourable' one -- and I'd read on.


    Logline: So, assume these “four young mages” are our main characters. Are they all boys? I’d love to have a bit more emphasis on character, here AND in the sample. Also, they go “out” to change fates, but where? What kind of a journey are we anticipating? Is this a quest story?

    Line notes: I stumbled several times with deciding who was who and who was speaking – the character introductions come late. For example, we meet Cyran, but have no idea he isn’t standing alone – Balar and OTHER boys are mentioned after Gent addresses a group. And we don’t know for sure it’s Gent saying “Which one of you…” until well into the next paragraph.

    Overall: There are some nice touches here – I think the scene details come to life, with the visible breath and the sword tip stuck in wet earth. The voice seems strong, and I’m beginning to feel for Cyran, wanting to know how he handles this moment.
    It can be difficult to manage a scene with many characters to juggle, however, and I think the bodies need to be better accounted for here. As you see, I have a lot of questions still about who I’m joining on a journey, and what kind of quest we’re on.

  13. Just wanted to chime in and say I LOVE your logline. It totally hooked me, especially that last line. I'd read this for sure :D