Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Secret Agent #9

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Two hundred years after the drought began, on the bone-dry steppes just east of the Idylls, a tiny blue bottle lay in a patch of brown grass. Its surface sparkled in the morning light until the movement caught a young shepherd’s eye.

She was out scouring the ground below the Mountain Road for lily roots to boil for breakfast. She scooped up the little vessel. She fiddled with the opening. But the bottle’s red stopper was stubborn. When the shepherd ran her knife around it, the blade could get no purchase.

The girl rolled the bottle across her palm and smiled as the summer sun played magiclike with the facets cuts into it. How fine it would be to keep it! Yet the truth of the steppes, where second chances were few and far between, was different. Fine objects like this were meant to get sold.

So, that she did, and for a great sum, too. A passing tin trader laid out four whole copper florins for it, and in this way the bottle began its journey across the empire, bringing each new seller more money than the last. First, a water merchant bought it for thirty copper florins, and then a linen trader for a few coins more, until far from the steppes, in a bustling market city, a glazier by the name of Serra Bernar Tomas exchanged the bottle for a mere thirty silver florins.


  1. Aw, i was hoping the shepherd girl was going on a fantasy adventure ;) But interesting to start with the magic object on its own journey. Beautiful writing and setting, you bring us into the world well, but I do still wonder who the MG MC is.

  2. Interesting start. The movement caught the shepherd's eye? Did the bottle move on its own, or just the light moving across it? I was somewhat confused there. It's fantasy, so maybe the bottle can move? Unclear. And know that there should only be one or two exclamation points in the entire book. Editors hate them. FYI! ;)

  3. Loved the first sentence. Good descriptions. Second paragraph has three consecutive sentences that start with "she." Need to mix up the sentence structure within a parent to keep the reader's interest. This feels like a prologue, which may very well be what you have in mind. Perhaps the story (with the main character) begins at chapter 1 then.

  4. I could see the bottle's journey as an opening to a movie, but I'm not sure it works here. You spent so much time with the shepherd, I thought she would be the MC, then things suddenly switched to the bottle as MC. Perhaps cut down the shepherd's scene so it's as quick as all the othets, so we know right away this opening is about the bottle.

  5. Lovely world building and nice escort along the journey of the blue bottle until it falls into our MC's hands.
    I agree with Diane: fix the sentences that all start with she. This does feel like a prologue...which I personally like...but which I read agents do not like? I was wanting to know the shepherd girl's name until I realized she was not going to be the MC or focus. Therefore, you might shorten the time you spend on her with the bottle. I think the phrase should be "meant to be sold" not meant to get sold. And for a MG reader, could you explain what a glazier is? I don't think they would know. I like the beginning and would want to keep reading. Good luck with this ms.

  6. Nice, varied use of sentence structure. I'm immediately drawn to the mountains and shepherding, as well. I'm actively seeking nonfiction right now about modern victory gardens, as well, so the character's use of lily roots for breakfast is an instant connection for me.

    The pace of the opening reminds me of old fables, though. Not a bad thing, but unexpected, and if it happens too often would be exhausting for me.

    I'm not getting a sense of worldbuilding in this one, but rather a since of historical. I'm curious where it's going, and there's nothing in here that would make me stop reading, but I do wish I had synopses for these. I like the writing and the setting it opens with, but as I reflect back, I'm not feeling any sort of connection to the character; the point of view feels like distant third, which may be too removed for middle grade.

    Things I liked:
    • varied writing structure, well suited for readership
    • unique setting and opening scene

    • distant, storytelling POV in last paragraph
    • jump in time, feels more suited for the pace of a fable than a middle grade novel