Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #32

TITLE: The Sword and the Skull
GENRE: Adult Epic Fantasy

Ryn pulled the silver hand vase from the desk drawer and flooded the apartment with the spicy sweetness of mulled cider and strawberries.

The vase was the sort of accessory young women would use to carry nosegays at a wedding. But no cleric would have suffered the presence of this particular item in their chapel if they had known of its origins in a sorcerer’s summoning chamber.

Held fast in the vase was the Durassi sand lily Ryn had cut the night before. The heavy bloom was as broad as his outstretched hand—hundreds of delicate petals arranged in lazy arcs, shaded purple, violet, and indigo.

Getting the thing to grow away from its native soil was damned near impossible. He had cursed and fussed for two years to coax this single flower from among a half dozen plants. Thanks to the wraukuic enchantment upon the vase, it would never wilt or fade.

A sudden inhalation sounded at his shoulder, giving him a start.

“Smells heavenly, dear one,” Josalind said. Her milky gaze was fixed upon the flower as if she could still see.

“You scamp—I said to wait,” Ryn said.

“Did you, now?”

Josalind snatched the vase from his hand with an accuracy that never failed to surprise him and waved it beneath her nose as if sampling the bouquet of a fine wine. She loved to be among flowers. A dozen species crowded the rooftop garden above, tended by her gentle hand through touch and smell alone.


  1. Great world-building and character introduction of Ryn and Josalind. The explicit conflict isn't presented, but it seems like the flower is the key.

  2. I think you're falling into the trap of using overly ornate language because it's a fantasy novel. "An accessory for carrying nosegays," "no cleric would have suffered its presence," "smells heavenly, dear one," etc.

    And he spent two years fussing over this flower and puts it in a magic vase...and then just stuffs the whole thing in a desk drawer?

  3. I agree with Katz that the language does seem ornate, but I also think that many fantasy lovers expect it. However, I should also say that it doesn't need to be quite so wordy.

    However, for me, as an opening image, I'm wondering why we're focusing on this flower. It's a fairly passive opening. I'm not so good at judging a novel by its cover (250 words isn't enough to judge a short story) but I guess if I were to think like an agent I'd want something more hooking, more exciting, and if it can't be in the action, it should be in the prose: the prose should move, it should be leaping off the page and make us want to read on.

    I'm not sure if I was helpful. There was nothing wrong with the opening. I just didn't feel hooked by it. But then again, I don't read this type of medieval fantasy when the language is so ornate, so I may be biased. Correction. I AM biased.

  4. The language is a bit florid, but it didn't bother me so much. It's just not necessary. Nice world building. Nice character set up. (Why's she blind?) It's a little bit of a slow start though.

  5. I would read more. I liked the allusions to the sorcerer and the spells, but I would have preferred to see him do them. Rynn seems to be more like a nature fairy. Unusual. This opening would benefit from a little bit of mystery and a hint to the plot. It seems like the flowers will play a major role. What role?

  6. It felt a little wordy to me. And a little too much. Like you were trying to hard to be fancy. Which ended up annoying me a little.

    Also, clearly this flower is special somehow, but it didn't catch my attention. I wonder if there's a better place to start the book? I don't feel like its a very strong hook.

    I'm intrigued by the characters, though… especially the blind Josalind. Good luck!

  7. I think your writing is beautiful but the beginning felt a little slow to me. I have no idea what to expect from the next pages at all. I'd love you to hint at the plot and what's to come.

    Good luck!

  8. I enjoyed this but do think it is a little over-written, especially in terms of its genre. Not every noun needs an adjective. That's where I would start. Peel a few layers back and you'll be in good shape.