Friday, November 28, 2014

(55) YA Fantasy: AGE OF THE GIFTED

TITLE: Age of the Gifted
GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy

With her newfound power, fifteen-year-old Shyla summons rains and saves her desert village. She ages five years overnight. Horrified, she vows never to use her power again. But she can’t keep it a secret. Soon she’s hunted by a king who wants to control her, rebels who plan to use her, and sick and dying people who long to be healed. When war breaks out, Shyla must decide if growing old is too high a price for peace.

Clutching a large water jar to my chest, I raced down Shalot’s dusty streets.

The twin suns’ blazing heat scorched my skin. Sweat soaked my kaftan. But still I ran, skirting people and skidding around corners. Finally, I stumbled out of the last twisty side street into the village’s largest bazaar. Ancient limestone shops surrounded the market. The mingled scents of curry, garlic, and hot pepper clogged the air.

People milled around the bazaar, but the area surrounding Shalot’s only well was empty. A warder in a stained white robe was moving a wooden lid back over the rock-rimmed structure.

I was too late.

“Wait!” I shifted my jar to the crook of my arm, ran forward, and grabbed the lid.

The warder pushed my hand aside. “Come back tomorrow, girl.”

“My family’s out of water.”

“Not my problem.”

“But our camels are dying.”

“If I don’t do my job, people die.” The warder slammed the lid in place.

I felt myself slump. I could still see our camel lying doubled over and twisted, her mouth gaping at the cloudless sky. Above her emaciated body, shadows had seemed to flicker like ominous flames. The odd vision should’ve scared me, but in some strange way, it had compelled me to try to save her. I’d spent the morning dribbling the last of our water down her throat and trying to make her stand.

But nothing had helped. I had to make the warder change his mind.


  1. You do a great job with the setting in this opening. I can feel the heat and the thirst of your desert. And the desperation of your MC is palpable. I'm excited for her to discover her magic - and I love the costs associated with it. What an impossible choice she will have to make! Nice work!

  2. I don't know if you've ever read glenda lake's stormlord series, but this reminded me of it (but don't worry, different enough that I didn't think it's the same thing, it just also has a deserty place with a person who has rain magic)

    Anyway, I love that we are thrown right into the conflict and although the camel stuff is powerful, I hate reading about hurt animals -_-.

  3. Okay, I'm intrigued. Although I confess it's hard to picture a camel wasting away for lack of water since we're taught to think of them as animals that can go forever without water. But I'd keep reading anyway because the tension is palpable. Good job.

  4. I like that we start with the run without knowing the reason. That makes the importance of the water very clear. Nicely done, good luck.

  5. I really like the premise on this and your first page has me intrigued. I wanted to feel the main character's desperation a bit more toward the end but I imagine you were building into that. Otherwise I think you had some good tension building. I wish you luck in Baker's Dozen.

  6. I like how quickly in this short piece you've managed to get us to a conflict, introduce some magic, and get the setting started. You're an able writer. The pitch was wonderfully well-construed, too. I agree that it's hard to imagine a camel dying of thirst. It seems like maybe more is at work here. I'm also unsure of the kaftan together with curry. Not cumin? Small matter. I'd read on.

  7. I enjoyed this. You have an interesting character with a problem, as well as an interesting setting.

    I did wonder why nothing ever sloshed out of her jar as she ran, and then we learn later nothing was in it. Perhaps add the word 'empty' to your description of the water jug.

    Shalot made me think of Shallots, so the village name seemed weird to me, but that's subjective.

    The description in paragraph 3 seemed a bit overdone. Would the sun really 'scorch' her skin? That would be painful. Would her kaftan be 'soaked?' She could wring it out and save her camel. Can the air be 'clogged?" Perhaps reconsider those word choices for a more realistic description.

    You could cut 'I was too late." That becomes evident in the next two paragraphs. No need to tell and show. Keep the showing, cut the telling.

    And then she says her camels (plural) are dying, but she only tries to save one (singular) If she only has one camel, make the first reference to it singular. If she has more than one, tell us what the situation with he others is.

  8. This was an interesting one for me. Everything is here - a likable heroine, interesting setting details, conflict. But for some reason, it didn't compel me. I think it could, though, with a few tweaks.

    For me, the primary issue has to do with the nature of the conflict. The dying camel is sad (and very well describe, poor thing!), but I get the sense these are dire times where people and animals are dying of thirst all the time. I need to know why the camel is so important to her in order for me to empathize.

    And then there are a few places where the language took me out of the story. For example the word "clogged" felt odd. And I'd feel more inside her head if the line "I was too late" was simply "Too late." Otherwise, it feels filtered.

    Also, the "but in some strange way, it compelled me to try to save her" seemed like a missed opportunity. As a reader, I can't see or feel that important moment. A specific detail here would help me experience that with her (but kudos to you for introducing the magical aspect of the story on page one).

    Finally, for what it's worth, i've always heard that starting sentences with "ing" words is a bit distancing (I think it draws attention to the sentence structure instead of the story), so starting the story with that might be something to avoid.

    The author clearly has an interesting premise and excellent command of world building. Add in more about the heroine's personal stakes and I'm there.

    Best of luck

  9. I really like the twist in this premise, re: aging. Very cool!

    I also love how you threw us into the moment and trusted us to catch up. I felt like it was tight and urgent and we were moving with her.

    You've also done a really great job giving a sense of setting with only a few details.

    I agree, though, that the second paragraph might sound a touch hyperbolic. And given the dire state of water, would be extra conscious about using any descriptions like "soaked" and would instead opt for the image of the cloth clinging to her or some such.

    I also think the mention the people milling about is a missed opportunity for one or two words about the state they and by extension the village are in. Same goes for the warder.


  10. The premise grabbed me immediately! The stakes are so high already with Shyla aging whenever she uses her power. I'm really curious to see how the 'aging' affects her body/how she knows she's aging... I've never considered the exact change's one's body goes through between ages 15-20, and I think that's a fascinating to explore!

    I did feel the pacing was slightly off here throughout the intro. We start with a bang, and I was pulled in immediately. But then I felt the pace slowed toward the end of that paragraph - since the situation is so urgent, the descriptions of limestone and scents felt a little out of place. Perhaps this is just a matter of contextualizing the descriptions through Shyla's eyes, rather than cutting out the descriptions. For instance, maybe Shyla will notice the scents, but she won't have time to enjoy them because she's in such a hurry.

    I also felt the pace sped up and slowed down after that, as well, for a similar reason. Perhaps there's a way to make sure all of your descriptions match the same rushed and tense tone you establish in the first line.

    The concept really hooked me here, and I'm definitely interested to see where it goes.

  11. Great opening and well done POV. The log line was engaging, but could use a little smoothing.

    More please, more!

  12. I really love the premise of your story and was very drawn in as well by her compassion for the camel--coaxing him to stand with those last precious drops of water (that I imagine her family might not have wanted her to share). I also was very intrigued by the allusion to: "The twin suns’ blazing heat…" Does this mean that there are two suns in the world you have created? I loved that visual. Good luck!

  13. I agree with much of what's been said. You set the scene better if you start with 'empty water jug' rather than 'large' -- it makes the references to heat stronger.

    Question: Why is the area around the well empty if the warder hasn't closed the lid yet?

    Near the end, I'd delete the 'seemed to' And I'm thrown by the 'odd vision'. Does Shyla normally see visions?

    Lastly, the last sentence doesn't work. The opening phrase goes with the paragraph before and the 'but' doesn't really join the two ideas. Make it two sentences. IMO

  14. Hi
    I'm your tweet diva for the contest!
    Good Luck

  15. I like this one a lot, as it does a good job of painting a vivid scene and setting up a believable and compelling situation.

    But I do agree that you might want to reconsider a few of your word choices. For instance, since it is such an important detail, it would be best to say that the jar she carries is empty, as others have suggested. And since it's likely she's at least somewhat dehydrated herself, saying her kaftan is 'soaked' with sweat is a bit much.

    But what jarred me the most was "seeing our camel lying doubled over"; people can 'double over' because we bend at the waist, but camels can't bend their backs, so I really don't think that's the right way to describe the stricken camel's position -- and in any case I'm quite sure a dying camel would be lying flat on its side (as would a dying horse or cow or almost any four-legged animal) rather than sitting with its head up and its legs folded as camels normally do when lying down to rest.

    A couple of other nitpicky details: first, I would delete the comma after 'Finally' in the second paragraph, as it isn't necessary and the sentence flows better without it. Second, there's never any reason to contract 'should have' into 'should've', except perhaps in dialogue.

    Also, be careful of filtering unless there's a good reason for it (such as when a character is feeling really dazed or disoriented). Rather than saying "I felt myself slump", perhaps you could say something concrete about her leaning against the well and feeling the rough stone.

    But I think you have a good start here, and the concept of the heroine aging when she uses her rain-bringing magic is quite intriguing -- the most believable magic is almost always the kind that comes at a cost.

    Good luck! :)

  16. I'll start the bidding at 5

  17. Rena, you've got to stop showing up on my manuscripts!


  18. 75 - well look at it this way - one of us is bound to get one of them.

    Also, great minds think alike.

    Also: you're going down.

  19. I'm just going to go ahead and raise you to 80, Rena. What are you going to do about that, huh? Huh?

  20. You beat me on that other one though so I guess we're about even :)

  21. CLOSED! Full goes to Danielle Burby.

  22. ah... I liked this one, too. Congratulations, Danielle!

  23. LOVED this one, so glad you got a full

  24. Congratulations, this is a wonderful story. Hope to see it in print soon.