Calling All Critiques: Entry #4 (Adult Fantasy)

Kudos to Michelle Clover for taking the plunge! Michelle submitted the first 500 words of her Adult Fantasy novel, A Kingdom Betrayed, in exchange for an honest critique. Before you read the excerpt, let me remind you that you’re more than welcome to pitch in with your own critique in the comments section, but please make sure to:

Be nice. Be constructive. Be specific. Be polite.

For more information on this cross-blog event’s rules, read this: Calling All Critiques: The Rules.

And, as mentioned previously, just for helping out, please feel free to enter our Rafflecopter giveaway. One lucky person will win a $10 Amazon gift card, an eCopy of It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by Quanie Miller, and an eCopy of Guarding Angel by S. L. Saboviec.

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Now here’s Michelle’s excerpt:

Entry: #4
Name: Michelle Clover
Title: A Kingdom Betrayed
Genre: Adult Fantasy

The chirping of birds announced the approaching dawn outside Praiven’s window, a distraction he scarcely noticed. He had been up all night, hunched over his bedchamber’s small oak desk, studying from the hidden tomes the queen discovered the previous afternoon while making last minute preparations to the royal nursery.

Originally the room had been used by Thaddeus, the previous king, as a study, but Queen Sienna felt the location was much more suitable to house the child she and King Alexander were expecting in the upcoming weeks. While attempting to hang a painting on the far wall, she came across a loose stone. When she pulled it away, she uncovered two thick tomes, one right behind the other. Ancient writing she did not recognize graced the cover. Luckily, the queen was smart enough not to open the text herself, but instead called for the court mage.

Praiven had only to skim through the leather-bound books a moment before he realized what they were. When Sienna inquired about them, the elf told her they were simply relics that held no significance and he would make sure they were returned to the library. He could tell by the skepticism in her grey eyes that she did not believe his words for a moment, but she chose to remain silent in her misgivings.

Upon leaving the queen, Praiven carried the tomes back to his room and shut himself in for the evening. He knew there must have been a reason the old king had hidden them away in such a manner and he was determined to find out why. He had to carefully peruse them both to really understand the implications of their words on the actions he had taken over the past several months, but it was all there, plain as the nose on his wizened face.

The ancient elf slammed the book shut and cursed his stupidity and neglect. How could he have missed it? How did he not realize that the prophecies leading up to that point contained such a gap?

Praiven leaned back in his chair and began to rub his temples with his fingertips. His head was pounding from trying to connect the text he had been using as a guideline for decades with the newly discovered information. He allowed a small bit of magic to flow into his brain in an effort to ease the pain. Although the healing dulled it a bit, the headache was still present. A prophet would not have had such an issue, but Praiven was no prophet. Even though he could read the text without going completely mad, it was still not an easy undertaking.

A loud pounding on his door caused the elf to jump. Praiven did not even have time to respond before the soldier on the other side barged through the door. He appeared to be frightened and panic colored his voice when he spoke.

“My Lord Praiven, the midwife, she sent me to find you. There’s a problem with the queen. Please hurry.”


Did this whet your appetite for more critiquing? Then head off to the other bloggers’ sites and chip in there as well.




23 thoughts on “Calling All Critiques: Entry #4 (Adult Fantasy)

  1. This is definitely a promising start! In just a few paragraphs, the reader has both scene and character setting, and a sense of foreboding both regarding the “gap” in the prophecies and its implications and the impending arrival of the royal heir.

    I have one main observation: the golden rule as per the layout of the first pages of a book is to try to reel the reader in without any distractions, such as a chunk of back story (written in past perfect). Sometimes, this cannot be avoided, but I think in this case, the second paragraph where the writer explains how the queen discovered the tomes, could be merged with the third for a “tighter” feel of the scene.

    My suggestion:

    Praiven had only to skim through the leather-bound books a moment before he realized what they were. The Queen had discovered the tomes in the room that had originally been used by Thaddeus, the former king, as a study. Luckily, when she came upon them by pulling out a loose stone from the far wall, she was smart enough not to open the text herself, but instead called for the court mage.

    When Sienna inquired about them, the elf told her they were simply relics that held no significance and he would make sure they were returned to the library. He could tell by the skepticism in her grey eyes that she did not believe his words for a moment, but she chose to remain silent in her misgivings.

    I personally feel the text flowing better this way. Other than that, way to go, Michelle! Keep up the good work and good luck with A Kingdom Betrayed!

    Now, it’s your turn, dear readers! Any constructive opinions on Michelle’s exciting excerpt?

    1. Thank you so much for your critique and for the opportunity to allow my work to be posted in this type of forum. I have long been my harshest critic and it’s nice to have people outside my own circle giving honest reviews of my writing.

      I really appreciate your suggestion for tightening up those two paragraphs. They always felt a bit choppy to me as well, but I was never sure about the best way to fix them.

      I had gotten a little over halfway with this project before putting it on the back burner a few months ago to finish up something else I had been working on prior to starting it. Your review, along with the others I have received here, have encouraged me to return to this story. Thank you again. 🙂

      1. Lovely to have both you and your work here, Michelle! It was my pleasure! Good luck with working towards The End… 🙂

  2. My first thought was, simply, “Michelle writes like I wish I did.” 🙂 I was drawn into the story immediately, wishing to find out more.

    Then I read your point, and I was surprised to find out that you were right – it could be improved upon. So, I would have tightened it up even more, like this:

    “The Queen had discovered the tomes in a room originally used by Thaddeus, the former king, as a study. Luckily, when she pulled out a loose stone from the far wall to stumble upon them, she was smart enough not to open the text herself, calling instead for the court mage.”

    I changed come upon to stumble upon, as it felt like it emphasized her surprise a bit better.

    Having said all that, it’s a wonderful opening that left me craving for more! Darn it, it looks like I’ll now have to add a new entry to my “to read” list… 🙂

    1. Nicholas, thanks for taking the time to comment and your astute observation! “Tightening” one’s writing is always tricky and almost always required external input…

    2. Nicholas, thank you for taking the time to read and review my work. I love your suggestion for using “stumbled upon” as opposed to “came upon”. Also, your saying “Michelle writes like I wish I did” has to be one of the best compliments I think I have ever received. 🙂

  3. Eep! This is my first time to be critical of anybody, for anything, much less a writer!

    I like the story Michelle! I love magic and elves.

    My observation, and this may just be a personal preference, is that I prefer things to be written in present tense, and active, rather than past tense and passive. I am struggling to bring more of an active sense to my own writing! It ain’t easy!

    Good job and good luck Michelle!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ichabod! Definitely, the present tense adds vibrancy to the read, but it can also be limiting in narrative. Good luck with your effort! I look forward to reading your entry!

    2. Thank you for the critique, Ichabod. I have read many novels written in both past and present tense and have enjoyed both, but my personal preference has always been past tense. I have written small pieces in present tense, but it always seems more limiting to me. I suppose it’s all a matter of personal preference and writing style as well as the way in which a story is given to you. I often say that my characters write their own stories, I am merely the tool they have chosen to use to convey them.

      Thank you again for taking the time to read and review and the best of luck to you in your own endeavors. 🙂

  4. Ooo, what are the tomes and what do they mean? Something wicked this way comes…great suspenseful opening! I definitely want to know what the elf doesn’t want to tell the queen and whether the tomes have anything to do with the problem with the queen. I like the whole idea – uncovering something nobody has even noticed before and having unusual writing on it AND starting out with the elf trying to cover something grabs you right away and sucks you in. Nicely done.

    While the whole idea is great, my critique is that I felt myself skimming a bit because of the somewhat “plain” language used. I didn’t feel like the language expressed enough action or any particular “direction” to the action, meaning things like “two thick tomes” – what did they look like? Were they old? Heavy? Falling apart? I want to be able to picture them. I suppose, to clarify, the language is just a bit sterile in some place like that. Even the painting, while it seems like just a device to get to the tomes, could be described as a painting of something that either forebodes what the tomes mean or has some sort of symbolic meaning. Little things like that bring the reader further into the story faster and raise interest in every sentence.

    I really like that we see the difference in a very natural way between an elf and a prophet. Those details that bring us close to this world in a way that doesn’t seem like the author trying to do such a thing are really great! This clearly shows you have the skills to do what I mention in the paragraph above. I think you just need to look at every object and motion as a possibility to further the story, set the mood/ambiance, or expand the character development.

    Awesome excerpt! I’m looking forward to seeing this in its full version.

  5. I’m not sure what to say about this one other than I want to read more! I’m more of a fan of present tense writing, but this is a perfect example of entertaining past tense writing. I agree that it could be tightened up in spots.

    You could include more description of what the character(s) see/hear/feel/smell/etc.. The books should have a wonderful smell to them as all old books do. Anything your characters notice could be included to add more depth. Put your readers inside the story with a bit more description sprinkled in. I struggle with this myself, and it hurts my wordcount!

    I feel like this story should also start with the queen discovering the books, or the court mage being summoned. There is a lot of telling in this piece rather than showing. If you start the story at the beginning then you can avoid that. The telling is done well, but I think it would work better if you show instead. Telling isn’t always bad, but showing is usually better.

  6. First of all, I will agree with Brian that more senses need to be engaged in the text. We hear the chirping of the birds but there are no smells, no feel of the ancient tome or the room. Also, I would have loved an indication of what is outside the window, what kind of world/kingdom is out there and is there a certain view? How high is this room in the presumable castle? Why not have Praiven pace up and down the room in angst or mystification for a bit and let us take a peek out the window? I felt a bit cleustrophobic not knowing any of that. The other thing I will be critical about is the gradual information given on the character because it threw me. First it was “Praiven”, then the “court mage”, then “the elf” and then the “ancient elf”. I was initially unsure if Praiven and the elf were even the same person and had to read it again to make sure. Would have preferred the introduction in one go and otherwise, “he” would do nicely. It would be invisible and wouldn’t throw the reader as much, distracting them from finding out what’s going on. I believe this is the very beginning of the book and so, I find it is not as enthralling as it should be. Less background information at this point and more action or description of the room or Praiven’s facial expressions would be best. Some of the mentioned acts of the past can be relayed later perhaps. My positive comments include a flawless use of language and punctuation, and an intriguing theme that surely makes me want to find out more, especially as the queen’s in labour and we’re left on a cliff hanger! Well done Michelle and very brave of you to put your baby out there for ciritique. We all know how vulnerable that makes you feel and I respect you fully for this leap of faith 🙂

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