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First Page: YA Fantasy

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The prince waited.

He was, of course, in his famous castle, which surmounted a steep spur of the Labyrinthine Mountains.   The walls of the castle were white, its roofs slate blue, the banners that flew from every parapet a deep sapphire.

Contrary to what mages from other realms often believed, the castle was a private residence and not the prince's administrative seat, which was two hundred and fifty miles west-’and currently occupied by the regent.

For the prince, at sixteen, was still a year and five months from taking the reins of power.   But it was not for the day when he would rule in his own right that he waited, but something else altogether.

Someone else.

He called that someone Fairfax.   He'd never met Fairfax.   He didn't know where to find Fairfax.   On some days, he doubted that Fairfax existed at all.

Yet he waited.

Because nothing else mattered, only Fairfax.

Chapter 1

For centuries historians and magical theorists have debated the correlation between the rise of subtle magic and the decline of elemental magic.   Were they merely parallel developments or did one cause the other?   An agreement may never come, but we do know that the decline affected not only the number of elemental mages-’from approximately three percent of the general population to less than one percent-’but the power each individual elemental mage wields over the elements.

This was already very much in evidence generations before the events of the Last Great Rebellion.   Long gone was the golden age of elemental magic, when mages could set a mountain in perpetual motion or cleave a landmass in two with surgical precision. In Y.D. 1031, the year Iolanthe Seabourne turned sixteen, the strongest elemental mages still managed impressive feats.   Some quarry workers regularly lifted twenty-ton blocks of stone, the record of the decade being one hundred thirty-five tons.   But most elemental mages were scarcely more than curiosities and made few uses of their dwindling powers.

–From A Chronological Survey of the Last Great Rebellion

Fire was easy for Iolanthe Seabourne.

In fact, there was nothing easier.

She also commanded water and earth, but the element for which she had the greatest affinity had always been fire.   With a mere thought, she could summon a roaring flame and bend it entirely to her will.

On this bright April day, standing on a high bluff, she did precisely that, sculpting a great mass of fire into a perfect sphere twenty feet across, suspended above the pounding surf of the North Atlantic.

She never directly touched fire, of course.   But always, when she manipulated fire, she sensed its docility, as malleable as clay.

Mastery, control, power-’fire gave her such sweet illusions.

She beckoned with her fingers.   Streams of water surged up from the waves, arced over the fireball, and spread to form a globe enclosure around it. Stray droplets gleamed briefly under the sun before falling into the flame and sizzling into puffs of steam.

Spectacle, originality, excitement: those were Mrs. Oakbluff's requirements.

Iolanthe flicked her nails.   The shell of water shattered in a burst of splashy glitter.   She yanked her hands apart.   The ball of fire split into sixteen trails of flames, one for each of the torches along the path of light at Mrs. Oakbluff's daughter's wedding.

Master Haywood's annual review was scheduled to take place the day after the wedding: Rumors were rampant that Mrs. Oakbluff planned to dismiss him from his current post of village schoolmaster.

And so it was that Iolanthe had volunteered to perform the lighting of the path.   I can give you a better show than any mage you can hire from the Majestic Circus, she'd promised Mrs. Oakbluff.   And with the money you save, you can serve white caviar at the wedding.

She knew Mrs. Oakbluff wanted to impress her snooty future in-laws.   White caviar might not be enough, but it was a start.   And maybe, just maybe, if the wedding proved a tremendous success, she might give Master Haywood another reprieve.

Mrs. Oakbluff had looked at her with an expression of kind pity.   Sometimes I forget which one of you is the guardian, which one the ward.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

17 Comments

  1. Ankaret Wells
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 07:19:20

    I really enjoyed this, and I was disappointed when I got to the bottom of the page and there wasn’t more. I love a well-worked-out magic system, and I also thought that what we saw of Iolanthe’s character and motives was really well worked out.

    The only thing that surprised me was the mention of the North Atlantic, because I’d assumed that the story was taking place in a fantasy world.

    ReplyReply

  2. okbut
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 08:38:33

    CONFUSED…

    This first page is very long, and contains three very distinct elements. The one constant ‘magic’?

    The writing is good, characters interesting, prose professional, voice appealing, plot has possibilities.

    I think the excerpt should be on a page by itself, leaving room for more text and continuity between your first protagonist and the second, or more information tying the two together, or giving us a taste of the main premise or conflict of your story.

    Thanks you for submitting.

    ReplyReply

  3. Kristie(J)
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 08:45:14

    I’m afraid this one didn’t work for me at all. The sentences were short, static and jarring. And they didn’t flow into each other. They told rather than showed such as the description of the castle. I love castles but the description makes it sound boring as all get out.
    Why would he of course be in his castle – why would we think of course?
    I could give example after example. The idea might be interesting, but the execution needs a lot of work, at least for me it does.

    ReplyReply

  4. Ros
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 09:31:24

    I have mixed feelings about this submission. I found the prologue quite off-putting – I get that it was meant to be raising questions and making us wonder about the mysterious Fairfax. The problem was that I just didn’t have any reason to care about the prince or Fairfax or any of it.

    Second, the excerpt. I’m probably not your target reader here. I always skim these kinds of things in novels. Only if I really love a book and have read it half a dozen times would I actually bother to read these bits.

    But then, chapter 1. I was surprised to find that I really liked this bit. I liked Iolanthe and I liked the magic. I didn’t follow who everyone was and I think maybe you need to make the set-up a little bit clearer. But I would certainly keep reading.

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  5. Darlynne
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 10:19:54

    I enjoyed this very much and would like to read more, particularly the section about Iolanthe–great name, btw, not usual in the books I’ve read lately and as long as the Prince isn’t Damien or Lucan, I’ll continue to be happy.

    I like the world-building, and a writer who knows the correct use of “which” is always a plus.

    Mrs. Oakbluff had looked at her with an expression of kind pity. Sometimes I forget which one of you is the guardian, which one the ward.The use of “you” threw me, however, because the POV was no longer clear, but that’s a minor quibble.

    Thank you for posting and good luck.

    ReplyReply

  6. gwynnyd
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 10:47:09

    I like this and would definitely read on. But I think more people would keep going if you gave the readers a few phrases that let us know what’s happening.

    Is Iolanthe practicing this flashy maneuver or is this the wedding day?

    Who is Master Haywood and why would she care about some “annual review” the day after the wedding? It’s not clear from that sentence if he is doing a review or being reviewed? Is he her student or is she his? As a schoolteacher, is he associated with her magic at all? Er, I’m getting more and more confused the more I think about it.

    It’s also written with very passive sentence constructions. All this flash happens at the start and it is described with “was” and “could.” Why not, “with a mere thought she summoned a roaring flame and bent it to her will” rather than telling us she could do that and then having her do it in the next paragraph? Or show us that she never touches the fire directly without coming out and just saying so.

    “And so it was” – too passive again and a complete non sequitur. I see no connection between Hayward’s review and dismissal from a school master position and Iolanthe volunteering to light the path. Unless he’s her teacher and she’s trying to prove to Oakbluff that even if he is incompetent in general, he taught her something? Is that what that tag in italics at the end meant? Was that supposed to be Oakbluff’s thoughts not Iolanthe’s? What’s Oakbluff doing inside Iolanthe’s head?

    At the beginning, why not let the reader know that it was Hayward that taught Iolanthe how to control water and earth, but she had needed no help controlling fire or something? Unless that is not what is happening, in which case, I am really confused. Intrigued, still, but wondering if things are this unclear all along if I’ll just get frustrated and stop.

    ReplyReply

  7. jmc
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 13:00:55

    This first page lost me in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph. Logically, anyone who understands what a regency is should understand that the prince’s residence is not a seat of administration or power because he has no power, only the regent does. Which makes me wonder why the mages from other realms are ignorant about this kind of thing, and why this bit was mentioned at all.

    ReplyReply

  8. theo
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 13:27:28

    I have to agree with gwynnyd here on almost everything.

    I will add though that I am totally confused between ‘The prince waited’ and ‘Fire was easy for Iolanthe Seabourne.’

    Fire was easy is a much better place to start (at least to me) because for me, none of the first part including your intro with the subtle and elemental magics. So what? What are you getting at with that? There’s no mention of how that ties in and if I don’t know that within the first couple paragraphs after, I start skimming to find it.

    Skimming is not good.

    As far as the prince waiting, he’s 16 and thinks about someone he names Fairfax. Is the prince the one getting married further down? Is it Fairfax?

    It reads as if the first part regarding the prince is a whole different story than Iolanth’s (and I’m guessing here that her name starts with an I and not an L). If they don’t tie together within the first two pages, you’ve lost me as a reader.

    Admittedly, I’m not your target audience here, but I’ve read novels I never thought I’d be interested in because the author had such a good grasp on craft and putting everything together in such a way that demanded I keep reading. Right now, this is just too confusing for me.

    Sorry, but kudos for putting it out there! It’s a hard thing to do.

    ReplyReply

  9. theo
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 13:31:11

    Fire was easy is a much better place to start (at least to me) because for me, none of the first part including your intro with the subtle and elemental magics.

    Should have said ‘…magics makes no sense’ after.

    Headdesk

    ReplyReply

  10. Connie
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 15:46:28

    If I picked up the book and started reading at Chapter 1 I would be like “Oh cool~!”. That first bit about the prince is weird…and not saying that all books concerning with magic need to have unique names but Fairfax…well it’s very reminiscent of Jane Austen. Maybe a name not so iconic would be better? Though I would still leave out that entire first bit and start with Chapter 1.

    Then there’s the weird part about lolanthe being recorded in what I’m assuming a book of some sort? So she is important enough to be recorded though there was no reference as to why it was important to mention her birth. But maybe that will come out later.

    I think the first page of any novel is to keep the reader want to keep going. I would definitely be the target audience but I have to say that first bit throws me off so much that I may not be interested.

    ReplyReply

  11. Ciar Cullen
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 15:47:00

    I agree with some others that starting with the heroine’s POV might be better. I, too, started skimming, which is bad. And got thrown by the trifeca going on. I’d say either stick the Prince some more or go right to Io. Thought the writing is good, though!

    ReplyReply

  12. Elizabeth
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 16:18:21

    I really enjoyed this excerpt. I like to be intrigued at the start of a story, and I don’t think that you need everything spelled out in the first few pages. I am happy to keep some unanswered questions in mind, trusting that the author will bring them together in a way that I will enjoy. The formatting of the book would probably help make the different parts clearer than they are in this extract, but I thought the three parts were different enough not to confuse me. I would happily buy this book.

    ReplyReply

  13. Julia Sullivan
    Aug 28, 2010 @ 16:51:07

    I think it’s hard to judge from this; preludes/prologues and epigraphs really aren’t, strictly speaking, a “first page.”

    If you’re going for an arch Terry Pratchett- or Diane Duane-like tone, it’s almost working and just a bit of tinkering will get you there. If you’re going for something more serious, more major rewrites are needed.

    Good luck! I like the idea of the passive prince and the active heroine—makes a nice change.

    ReplyReply

  14. hapax
    Aug 29, 2010 @ 10:11:40

    On the whole, I liked it, and would probably read more.

    I personally love the style of epigraphic chapter headings. For this FIRST chapter, however, I would make them much much shorter extracts, so as not to confuse the reader as to where the “real” story was beginning.

    Also, was I the only one a bit squicked out by a sixteen-year-old prince apparently being set up as the romantic hero? I mean, I’ve known a few sixteen year old boys and… ewww.

    ReplyReply

  15. The Author
    Aug 29, 2010 @ 13:13:38

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you so much for your comments. Gave me lots of food for revision thoughts.

    And @hapax, as for the 16yo prince being set up as the romantic interest, this is a YA book after all. And he’s almost 17, isn’t he? :-)

    ReplyReply

  16. Blog Interviewer
    Sep 02, 2010 @ 13:45:42

    Three Pipe Problem: Cleopatra Rules! Interview with YA Author ……

    We’ve linked to you on BlogInterviewer.com . Could you put a link back to us?…

  17. Manoj
    Jan 21, 2014 @ 16:30:34

    There are still some flowers left but the big show is over. Postberg is open until end Sept. Entrance at the gate is now R33 per adult and R22 per child (2-12). Gates are open 9 to 5 7 days a week. To get there just fololw the West Coast road from Blouberg. About 10km AFTER the Yzerfontein turnoff you will see the first Park Gate on your left. There is a little white house and big sign boards. You cannot miss it. I think it must be about 100km from Blouberg. When you enter the gate they will give you directions to Postberg.

    ReplyReply

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