Friday, December 2, 2011

#45 YA Fantasy: The Black City

TITLE: The Black City
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Fifteen-year-old Amalia, a pacifist witch unable to perform magic in a violent world, must journey to the Black City and battle dark creatures, flesh traders, and mixed-breed thieves in an attempt to find her twin brother before their sixteenth birthday. She has one month to restore the powerful twin magic fueled only by their connection. If she fails they will not only lose their powers, but their freedom, and ultimately, their lives.

The infant will be dead before the waning crescent.

It’s the fate of all witch boys—death within days. But I admire him anyway, bundled against the winter as he is in his mother’s arms. His mother is only seventeen, two years older than I am. I try to push down the envy I’m feeling—she’s important, respected. Pitied, yes, because her baby will die. But still, she is a mother; she is honored. She was chosen.

She smiles at me. “Send my gratitude to your mother for her assistance in Henry’s birth.”

My mother, the midwife. “I will.”

She nods and joins the throng of witches exiting the library, on their way to the Festival. Some of the witches approach her to greet the baby. Their stricken faces when they learn he is a boy make me wonder why she brought him out at all. Perhaps she believes he will survive. It is common for young mothers to think so.

I hug my arms around myself, my Christmas sweater weak protection against the windy winter solstice. None of the Selene Coven celebrates Christmas; it’s an old holiday practiced by the Ungifteds long ago. Strange as it is, I enjoy the knitted green tree adorned with red candles.


I look up, as do several of the older witches. I spot Tamryn’s head of dark blond hair swimming toward me in the sea of women. Tamryn—loud, bright, and extremely gifted—has never understood my desire to live beneath notice.


  1. This is beautiful. I want to read more!

  2. My first question from the logline: Is she 'unable' to perform magic, or chooses not to? You say she's a pacifist which leads me to believe she chooses not to...

    But these first 250 words are very cool. Death to baby boys :( so sad.

    I'd keep reading.

  3. I like this! In your first 250 you've already established a society/world which I understand, and a good voice which is just as important. This sounds like a great adventure and I'd love to read more. Great job and good luck!

  4. Really, reall stellar voice. The Christmas thing threw me off, but luckily you explained it well. :)

  5. Not sure why I'm in the mood for a good witch tale (because it isn't a tale about vampires??) and this looks interesting--a young witch, with limited powers, in charge of life and death problems--interesting. Then, all male children will die--really interesting.

    The writing style is excellent too

  6. I liked the entry just fine until I got to the Christmas sweater.

    Then, I loved it.

    It was just such an unexpected detail that moved me from reading into "picturing" the character, and liking her for liking a goofy sweater.


  7. I really like this! :) It's interesting and has conflict already set up. Well done. I agree with the others, though, about the logline. And the Christmas part threw me off-I'm thinking this is kind of a high-fantasy-ish thing, so introducing Christmas is intriguing and offsetting at the same time.

    Great job, and good luck! :D

  8. Really really liked the writing in this so bravo! Also like the world you've shown and the reluctance of the MC for it promises much potential inner conflict and drama. The Christmas sweater threw me but otherwise I really liked it. Good luck!

  9. I really love this entry. Great voice.

    The Christmas paragraph threw me off as well. I like the detail of the Christmas sweater. I think it's "strange as it is" that throws it off. Strange as what is? Her liking the sweater? Coming after the reference to it being an old holiday, it sounds more like she means strange as the holiday is. Either way, it's a bit unclear and leaves me a bit confused.

    But that's all extremely nit-picky. As I said, I really love this and hope it does well so I can read it one day. ;)

  10. I love stories like this! I had to read the first part of your logline several times just because there was a lot going on: pacifist witch, violent world, dark creatures, flesh traders, etc. It was a lot for me to follow right up front. Maybe you could condense it somehow? Then again, it's so hard cramming so much into one or two sentences! And that being said, I love the premise. Great opening line for the excerpt, and this just breaks my heart because I have two boys! I hope the baby doesn't die!! You've really built this world well!

  11. This was written with a fair hand, but I had trouble getting engaged because the hook -- the baby doomed to death -- turns out to be only peripherally related to the main character. Amalia doesn't even mention the mother's name, so this isn't really personal to her. It's just a symptom of the society she's in.

    I also couldn't quite wrap my head around respecting the mother of a child who's going to die, unless the child is going to be used in some sort of sacrificial ceremony? But that seems unlikely, since the other witches are stricken by his appearance.

    And I'm not on board about the Christmas sweater, either, especially after the solemn, mournful opening; I associate Christmas sweaters with office parties where people consent to look, well, ungraceful.

    There's something about Amalia's voice that sort of latched on to me, though; definitely throughout, but particularly that last bit of "Tamryn—loud, bright, and extremely gifted—has never understood my desire to live beneath notice." This is where I feel like I really get to see her, and not some other person's problem casting a pall over the community.

  12. I thought this was a very interesting start! Although I don't usually read a lot of YA, I'd keep turning pages at this point. :-)

    Best of luck!

  13. Oooo baby boys dying? (good thing it's fiction) This is an intriguing thought. Sad as hell, but interesting and there is a huge possibility for conflict. Especially, if she's searching for her twin brother.

    Your logline is precise and written well. LOVE the Christmas sweater bit ;o) I would totally read this!

  14. This is intriguing to me. I would love to see more. I want to know what the "chosen" thing is regarding a mother.

  15. Not being a reader of YA anything, I am not certain that this is a unique as it sounds to me. However, the voice is great, and I find myself desperately hoping, even though you don't mention him in the logline, that the baby boy, this baby, is chosen to live. I would read on, to find out. But then, I'm afraid I'd be heart broken if he died. The question is, would I still be hooked enough not to throw it at the wall? Or pick it back up if I did. I must read more to know.

    I'd have to say this is a successful story if you're already evoking such strong emotional reactions!

    Best wishes,

  16. Your logline left me wondering how a pacifist could do so much battling. I think your first 250 are very strong. Just one nitpick.
    I think this:
    Their stricken faces when they learn he is a boy make me wonder why she brought him out at all. Perhaps she believes he will survive.

    Would be stronger/more logical as:
    When they learn he is a boy, their stricken faces make me wonder why she brought him out at all. Perhaps she believes he will survive.

    Good luck!

  17. I was hooked from the beginning. I love your voice and am amazed you are able to tell us so much in so few words. We learn much about your protagonist. I like her immensely. And we learn so much about the world you've conjured for her.

    I've packed my bags, ready to accompany her on her terrifying quest. And I want to read more.

  18. I am intrigued from the beginning. What does it mean to be chosen? And why does she want to live beneath notice? How will the society survive with all the males dying? Though she wears the symbol of an ancient holiday, which comforts her, what lies ahead for a witch without powers? Or will she find her twin brother and restore their magic?

    I want to read it now!

  19. I'm already hooked. I wish I could read more. I'm sorry for the baby boys. I would love to hear how they keep up their population with no boys. Very cool!!!

  20. This is not enough - I want to read more!

  21. Good strong opening, in that it gives us both the character's voice and a sense of the society in which she lives with just nips and tucks of backstory. This story oozes conflict!

    I'm dense and was briefly stumped by the line, "My mother, the midwife. "I will." Dodo that I am, I initially thought it was the mother saying I will. "My mother is the midwife," would make this clearer.

    Apart from that, I liked this very much and would read on in a jiffy.

    Good luck!

  22. I got excited about this when I compared the logline to the excerpt, because if all witch baby boys die, how does Amalia have a live twin brother? Maybe together they're the answer to it all, which is so awesome.

    I know characters in Fantasy novels talk in a more archaic style, but I still felt the line of sending gratitude to her mother felt very unnatural and a little cliche, to be honest. Maybe something along the lines of, "I'm glad your mother was there" or "Will you thank your mother again for her help with Henry?" might be more suitable? Particularly since you clear up in the next line that she's a midwife.

    The Christmas sweater also tripped me up. Is it an important detail? It seems a bit random after the more epic setup of all the boys dying and the Festival they're attending. Or wait, is she wearing the Christmas sweater to the winter solstice celebration? If so, bring that out a little more because that's a neat detail--she's sort of defying her own culture by wearing something inappropriate to the festivities. It shows she's a little different.

    Interesting idea, and I'd like to learn more about this coven. Fantastic hook with the witch boys' fate.

  23. You had me at "pacifist witch"

    Love the voice. Love the set-up. I'd definitely keep reading.

    Good luck!

  24. Darn! Too slow again. Good job, ladies!

  25. It's okay, Danielle, I was too slow, too.

  26. Damn. I'm 5 minutes late and this one is gone!

  27. #45 THE BLACK CITY

    Logline: I’ll admit some confusion: Amalia’s a pacifist, or she’s unable to fight with magic? And does she have powers, so she can lose them, or will she gain/restore her powers if she finds her brother? I get the general thrust, but the details (and so the motivation) are fuzzy.

    Line notes: See above. Clarity is key.

    Overall: I’m interested in the world, what I think I’ve worked out of the futuristic, magic-saturated world where “Ungifteds” are outside of this society. I’m compelled by the world-building here, and want to know more. I really like the detail about the baby boys who always die, though I want to be sure that that point is key to the story, that it SHOULD be the opening sentence. I guess it will, since finding Amalia’s brother is at the heart of the pitch above, but again it throws me into a little confusion – did he live?
    Anyway, amid all these questions, I’m still interested in reading more.