Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Shadows of Elfland
GENRE: YA historical fantasy

Henry crept along the forest trail, searching for the tracks he'd seen near the village. The lingering presence of magic prickled over his skin. He paused, rubbing the scars circling his wrist. Drixton was supposed to be his haven, a place he could pretend to be normal. He wasn't going to let the Fay destroy his life. Not this time.

He brushed aside crisp, fresh-fallen leaves, revealing deep paw prints as large as his hand. The villagers had little chance against such a beast. Henry smiled wryly. Depending on the creature, he might not do much better, but at least he had some idea of what he was facing. He touched the iron knife sheathed under his waistcoat. The weapon's weight anchored his courage, and he jogged in the direction of the tracks until they vanished onto rocky ground.

Scrambling up a stony outcrop, he surveyed the woods below. Life rustled and fluttered through the treetops, and the distant spire of the village church pricked the sky.

Henry bowed his head, opening himself to the forest. Its heavy, patient energy seeped into him: a slow pulse, the heartbeat of ancient trees. No nearby magic disturbed the steady rhythm, not even the flickers of lesser Fay inhabiting the deep caves and glades. The watchful stillness raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

He shivered and fumbled for his pocket watch. Almost noon. Time for his rendezvous with Domin. Perhaps his friend was having better luck.


  1. I like this opening. I'm not much of a high fantasy reader, but I'd read on.

  2. Nice entry! I enjoyed the sense of place and the thrill of the hunt. I would definitely read more.

    Just a couple super nit-picky questions --

    The only sentence that caught me off-guard was "He wasn't going to let the Fay destroy his life." since there's no explanation, but I assume that the details will come soon.

    Don't footsteps vanish "on" rocky ground, rather than "onto?" I don't know...

    Again, great entry! Good luck.

  3. I've never read this genre, but I like this. You paint great word pictures with your choices, and I'm quite comfortable with your style, which isn't true for some of the fantasy I've tried to read.

    the Fay pulled me out just a bit. At first I thought it was a particular person, but later on I felt it more likely is another race or species.

    Good luck. I couldn't really find anything else to complain about.

  4. Aside from the overtones of Tolkein's stories, I think I'd keep reading. I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I do love stories about hunting and the hints of impending danger. Good luck.

  5. I realize he's tracking something in the first sentence, but then you mention Henry not letting the Fay destroy his life and I wonder what that has to do with the hunt. Is he hunting a Fay? Also, I feel like in the 4th paragraph (Henry bowed...), I feel like you mention the stillness several times, just in varied ways, and felt redundant to me. Your descriptions give me a good sense about Henry being on a hunt in the forest, but hunting what? And what is Henry? I'm not connecting to Henry.

    But I'm a sucker for stories with magic, so I'd keep reading because I'm sure you explain some of these things in the following paragraphs. Good luck!

  6. I like this start of this. I like the way you immediately give Henry a purpose in your story and give us little hints about his special attributes.

    I loved the setting and phrases like 'the heartbeat of ancient trees'.

    I found myself wanting to know what happens when he meets Domin, and whether Domin has had better luck.

    I would keep reading.

  7. I like the visual and the voice provided here. I would like to know maybe a little something more about the Fay, as they're/it's (?) mentioned twice.

    Historical fantasy, neat! I'm getting a Salem-era feel here. I'm interested in knowing if that's accurate. :)

    Good luck!

  8. I thought the writing here was very smooth. I liked the sense of impending danger, but I felt like there might be a little too much going on here--unless the Fay are the same thing as the beast circling the village? I'm also just a little confused as to what's going on here--has the beast already attacked the village, or just threatening? (If he's facing the same threat that destroyed his safe haven, he might not be in the mood for smiling, however wryly . . . )

  9. I like the idea that there is a lingering presence of magic in this world, and this line, “The weapon's weight anchored his courage…” gave me a lovely sense of this character’s determination, bravery and fear. Some lines didn’t make as much sense to me – if he’s standing above the church, looking down, how would the spire look as though it’s pricking the sky? Overall, there’s some description and background information that bogs the action down. And, though this hunt gives us a clear sense of stakes, I’d like to connect more with this character, care more about the outcome. Cutting background should help us stay in the moment with him and invest more fully.

  10. I noticed that 4 out of your 5 paragraphs start with either Henry or He (same thing). Be aware of repetition in your writing.