Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #39

TITLE: The Falcon Spy
GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

In Russia, a bird in the house meant death, and one just landed on my windowsill.

I ran for the window. My poor seamstress trailed behind me, sticking pins in the hem of my dress. The pins scraped my bare legs, but I took no notice. I couldn't let the bird in the house. Not with with my brother Alexei riding off to face Bonaparte tomorrow.

"Natasha! What are you doing?" Mademoiselle Touneau hissed through the pins in her teeth.

At the window, I saw no ordinary bird, but a gray falcon, no bigger than my forearm. Black marks lined its chest like someone had dabbed it with ink, its head dark like a helmet. It peered at me with eyes almost human in their intensity.

All the more reason to keep it out.

Mademoiselle waved at me to get back on the stool in the parlor, but I ignored her. My gown could rip to shreds for all I cared.

"Go away," I whispered to the bird.

The falcon dug its yellow talons into the windowsill and scraped up bits of blue paint. Stubborn thing.

My sister Olga would say it was just like me.

Behind me, Father and the governor of Mosow mumbled about Napoleon's invasion and the state of the Russian army near our unlit fireplace. The governor blew a puff of smoke from his pipe, and Father coughed. Had they not seen the bird?

"Alexei?" I called.

No answer.

A crackle of gun fire erupted in the garden.


  1. Really nice description of the falcon. I like how you introduce some of the stakes right away.

    "'Go away,' I whispered to the bird."

    This line facinated me. Why would she whisper? If she doesn't want the bird to get into the house, woudln't flailing arms and yelling be more productive?

    I liked how the bit about Olga reveald something of the narrators character, but I think it might be better to show us she's stubborn rather than tell us she' stubbor (or at least her sister thinks she's stubborn, not that I would doubt her sister!)

    I think we need more of an explanation as to why Dad and the governor had no reaction to the narrators antics. That struck me as very odd.

    I love the last sentence. Its a great hook with enough grounding that I didn't feel lost.

  2. I really enjoyed this. The pace is excellent and I loved the subtle character building. The only concern I have is with the paragraph that begins "Behind me." It seems a little out of place. I'm also wondering why the father, governor and seamstress don't react to the bird, but maybe that is the intention. Nice job overall!

  3. I love your first line...almost. I like that you tell us that a bird inside means death in Russia, but you don't specifically say that you're in Russia. It's implied and I understand that it is, but I had to read the first sentence again. Other than that, I love the interaction between your MC and the bird, especially the part where she whispers to it. Your description of the bird is vivid, creepy yet intriguing. I also like that you liken the bird to the MC. I want to know more about what its appearance means, what happens to Alexei and Natasha. I'd read more if it were here.

  4. I found this quite intriguing. Loved the ominous bird warning, which seemed really unique, and then the gunshots. I'd definitely read on. I noticed a slight tense issue in the first sentence.

    "In Russia, a bird in the house meant death, and one just landed on my windowsill."

    That "one just landed" reads like present tense, when the rest of it is in past tense.

    Other than that, great voice, interesting concept. I like it a lot!

  5. I loved this. Excellent job of dropping us right into the action and setting. I loved the first sentence as well. I wonder if it might be a tad better if you broke it into two? "In Russia, a bird in the house means death. And one just landed on my windowsill." This also takes care of the tense problem. Good job. I would definitely read on!

  6. "In Russia, a bird in the house meant death, and one just landed on my windowsill." I would suggest re-wording this - since we don't know you're in Russia yet, it sounds like either the narrator is just fascinated with culture in this other country or is setting up a bad "In Soviet Russia, something something YOU!" joke.

  7. I thought the first sentence made it pretty plain that we were in Russia, although you might change 'meant' to 'means.'

    The pins scraped my bare legs, but I took no notice. -- Actually, if she feels them scraping her legs, she is noticing. Perhaps she tries to ignore the pain?

    The bird - a nice description, but her intent is to frighten it away since it's a portent of death, and her brother is going off to war, yet she only whispers for it to go. SHe doesn't shoo it. She doesn't shout at it. ANd really, all she has to do is shut the window. And when it doesn't leave, she doesn't try a second time. She forgets it and pays attention to what her father and the governor are doing. If the bird is supposed to be a big thing, it should be made bigger and handled better.

    And as others have said, wouldn't her father have noticed her running about and ask what she was doing, or at least watch to see what she was doing?

    WHat you're trying to do works, I think. It just has to be done a bit better. Work on the logic of it all.

  8. This is a great place to open. Personally, I think the first line would read better as two sentences, and the “My sister Olga would say it was just like me” line sticks out a bit, but overall the scene is engaging and ominous and certainly makes me want to keep reading.