Friday, November 28, 2014

(48) YA High Fantasy: THE DEMON PRINCE

TITLE: The Demon Prince
GENRE: YA High Fantasy

Ashira wishes for love, excitement, and adventure far from her desert village. When her coming-of-age prophecy states she will “live a life of no renown,” she becomes determined to change it, utilizing a lazy and cynical djinni. Her errant wishes trigger demon outbreaks and darker prophecies. Now, Ashira must contain the magic she unleashed before it destroys her world.

Ashira stared down the dirt road, longing for a glimpse of her future to form in the horizon like a heat vision. Instead of the endless sand of Saban, she would sail oceans. She would bask in the luxury of the northern kingdoms and master the magic there—fight past drakes and any other beast she could imagine with a brave and handsome man at her side. Find the forest fairies and even taste snow.

Camel groans and the stench of sweat reached her first. With her prophecy still days away, Ashira had to settle for dreams and vicarious adventures. She held the skirt of her sari away from her sandals as she moved from the village gate, weaving around the returning caravan. She tried to guess at their last stop, but nothing stood out among the cloth bags and worn baskets until she found Vaslin, the merchant’s daughter.

The girl had a light in her brown eyes that said she had a secret—a secret Ashira would have to spend most of the evening wheedling out of her.

Ashira swallowed past the dust in her throat. “Do you have a letter?”

“Let me think.” Vaslin pushed a stray lock of hair under her veil and sorted through her satchel with agonizing deliberation. “You’re expecting to hear from Isila?”

“Isila, Liaha, Jalila—it doesn’t matter. Do you have a letter or not?”

“Yes, I think . . . Jalila. That’s her mark, isn’t it?” She held a bundle of parchment just out of reach.


  1. I love the idea of your heroine ignoring a prophecy and deciding to take her future into her own hands. I think that points to a character with a lot of agency, which is a much more interesting read.

    There were a few moments in this opening that read a little choppy to me. The first paragraph - I assume drakes are magical beasts, but when you say past drakes, I'm not sure if past is referring to time, or distance. If the latter, I'd just remove it so that it reads "fight drakes". Also the the last sentence in that paragraph feels misplaced. I'm all for that sort of choppy, stream of consciousness imagining that you're going for, but the previous sentence about the handsome man at her side feels to long, like we lose the stream of daydreams when she focuses too long on one. I think a simple re-ordering would make it stronger:

    "She would bask in the luxury of the northern kingdoms and master the magic there. Find the forest fairies and even taste snow. Fight drakes and any other beast she could imagine with a brave and handsome man at her side."

    Also, I really love the line about camel groans and stench. It's great imagery, and I'm a little grossed out, which is awesome. I'd love another line about her watching the caravan approaching over the dunes or something, because at first I had no idea what she was referring to. I thought maybe she was sitting on top of a camel. And they could interrupt her attempted heat visions, and I think it would ground us a little more in your present.

  2. I love the title and the log line.If I read the log line on the back jacket of a book, I would probably buy it.

    I like the opening image of the MC staring down the road.

    However, I was not pulled in by reading about everything the MC wanted to have but didn't. Maybe it would help to know her world a little, before being told about the world she'd like to live in.

    I need a few more details before I can picture the opening setting. i.e. Could you describe the returning caravan a little? Right now the MC is weaving around it before the reader knows it's there.

    Similarly, I'm told she sees bags and baskets but I don't know where they are. On a camel? On the ground?

    Where did she find the merchant's daughter? Mounted on a camel? Standing near a well? A couple of words telling me her location would root me further in the setting.

    You don't need much. Just a few phrases here and there.

  3. I like the desert setting very much. I would say that it feels a bit rushed...could use a bit more description and transition from her thoughts to the caravan, so that the setting feels more concrete. Also some description of Vaslin. Since she's the only other person we meet in this scene, I'd like to get a feel for her. Just fill in a few gaps to give the setting weight.

    Best of luck to you!

  4. You definitely have an interesting story here. The logline made me want to read it right away.

    I agree that it seems a little rushed. I like where it starts, her looking down the road, but then it jumps right into the letters. Her 'I Want More' narration goes on a bit, maybe try cutting a line or two out.

    I was a little confused when it jumped from prophecy talk to the merchant's daughter (also "The girl had..." could be changed to "Vaslin had") For the part where she's asked about the letter, Ashira rattles off a bunch of names. Maybe cut that and go straight to "It doesn't matter who."

  5. High fantasy licenses you to take your time describing the dunes-caravan-details of the gate and what's within the gate. You don't need to tell us about wheedling the secret out of Vaslin, instead, let it be revealed in the dialogue. Love the premise and your first line! I'm sure you'll get many bids on this. All the best come Tuesday!

  6. I really love the premise and the setting, but wasn't as pulled in by the opening page. It's always tricky opening with moments of introspection, and I think you'd be aided by grounding her in action a little first, even with just a few lines.

    The current opening sentence is a wonderful image, but structurally it's reading a bit cumbersome, so I'd see if there are ways too smooth that.

    Also the mention of the prophecy being still days away feels summarizing.

    This is such a vibrant setting, and I love the evocative imagery, I just think it would do well to balance it with a bit more of a hook. The STORY sounds so cool, and has so much *personality* and I want that to come across more here.


  7. My thought was that this is basically all telling. Instead of telling us what's going on, allow it to actually happen. For example --

    Camel groans and the stench of sweat reached her first.

    Could be --

    Camels groaned and she smelled the stench of sweat.

    Consider the verbs you're using. She 'moved' from the village gate. If she twitches, or inches forward, they're both movements. Choose a stronger, more exact verb. She ran from the village gate, she wandered from the village gate. Each verb changes the sentences slightly. Pick one that says what you actually mean.

    weaving around the returning caravan. -- Show this. Show her wandering among the camels. Show us the merchants and what they're wearing. Give us a sense of the hustle and bustle of it all, or the neat organization. Get rid of as many 'ing' words as you can.

    She tried to guess at their last stop, but nothing stood out among the cloth bags and worn baskets until she found Vaslin, the merchant’s daughter. -- What's important in this sentence? She found Vaslin. What comes from her guess? Nothing. SHe doesn't even make a guess. Cut it.

    All small changes that will make a big difference.

  8. I'm impressed with all the previous critiques on your piece. They articulated what I was thinking beautifully. I don't normally read this kind of fiction, but the idea that she bucks her prophecy is intriguing. I always love a story with a strong female heroine. Too bad she had to wish for a strong man behind her.

  9. This sounds like it might be Jacque's Faust, and a piece of writing that asserts the eternal feminine archetype, as much as it challenges it. I believe works of this nature are necessary, and stories like this need to be told and retold. I think as you move forward, if you haven't already, I would look to the literature that sought to tell this story before.

    In particular, I would collect as much feedback as you can about the resolution of the story. Even Geothe amended the ending of his Faust to suit his audience. Will Ashira be saved? That's the question the audience should be asking throughout.

    I think Ashira's desire for fame, and the terrible cost associated with it, has contemporary value. Our social media driven world is full of examples of people possessed to do extremely destructive things in the name of clicks, followers, and re-Tweets. There is already social capital out there for Ashira's plight.

    This story has an audience, even if they don't know it yet.

  10. Wow, I'd want to change that prophecy, too! I'm very curious about this world that has everything from demons and fairies to djinni and other beasts.

    As with others who have commented, I would have liked a bit more grounding in where exactly she is. I really liked the opening image, and I actually didn't have a problem with the list of things she'd like to do. It was the first line of the second paragraph where I got a little lost. Is she in a village and a caravan is approaching? It took me a couple of reads to be sure, and I think it would be a simple fix in the first line of that paragraph.

    This might just be me, but the mention of a sari placed me somewhere other than I originally thought we were. I could be totally off-base with that, though, so feel free to ignore.

    I actually like the tension of her waiting to find out if Vaslin has a letter for her. Granted, I don't know yet who any of these people are, but I'd be willing to read on to find out.

    Good luck!

  11. What a great hook! I love both the hints of the Middle Eastern-esque setting and the premise of a girl fighting against a prophecy. You can really play with the concept of fate vs free will here, which is fascinating!

    I agree with the other comments in that this opening didn't completely pull me in, even though the logline did. I think that we're maybe a little too entrenched in Ashira's internal thoughts here. I also didn't find her train of thought to be that compelling - rather than hearing a summary of her desires, I wanted a sense of her voice and how she interacts with her world. From the logline, she sounds like a rebellious and determined girl, and I really wanted to see her great personality brought out in the writing.

    This is such a fantastic concept, and I would definitely keep reading. Good luck!

  12. "When her coming-of-age prophecy states she will 'live a life of no renown,' she becomes determined to change it." I loved that as a pitch/premise. What a way to fire up both the character and the reader. I also--as others noted--didn't feel as compelled by these opening paragraphs as I was by your premise. And then I thought it might distinguish your work if you actually studied camels (and perhaps other animals that figure in the text). I have no idea for instance what "camel groans" sound like and want to rely on you to bring camels to life for me on the page. Good luck!

  13. The Middle Eastern setting here is great, but the opening paragraph is a tad awkward and I think it might work better to bring up the images of the places Ashira is fantasizing about a little later. I also agree that it feels as if you've rushed this scene a bit -- I think you should really immerse the reader in Ashira's reality first (and that would also make the contrast with what she's wishing for stronger).

    A few little things that tripped me up include "form in the horizon", as I believe it should be "on the horizon", and "held the skirt away from her sandals", as it seems that should be 'above' rather than 'away'. And in that first paragraph, "Instead of the endless sand of Saban, she would sail oceans" doesn't sound right because the construction isn't parallel; you'd need to do something like: "Instead of walking on the endless sands of Saban, she would sail oceans."

    Again, you have a great setting as well as an intriguing concept; it just needs a little more development to really pull the reader into this world and a little more polish on the writing.

    Good luck! :)

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  15. CLOSED! Full goes to Rena Rossner.