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PW #113: Adult Historical Fiction, Own Voices: BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS

Wednesday, 2 November 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor Name: Holly Faur
Mentee Name: Hema Penmetsa
Title: BEYOND THE CARVED WALLS
Category: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Own Voices
Word Count: 98,000

Pitch:

Sold by her family into a Muslim harem, Hindu girl Sundari must rise in power, even at the cost of losing herself, or be crushed by the harem’s brutal politics.

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Hindu scriptures say forsaking one’s life for another is the highest form of sacrifice. Few humans are granted the gift of this ultimate redemption. I remind myself of this, clutching the Hanuman figurine to my chest, as keys rattle at the iron bars. I can’t tell how many days it has been since I was thrown into this dungeon, which stinks of feces and urine, slimy green mold breeding along its walls.

I rise, roll the piece of mat and set it next to the water pot.

“It be time.” A fat soldier in a dirty salwar-kameez lumbers inside. He grabs my arm, swamping me with the stench of stale wine and sweat.

“I’ll follow you, sipahi.” I shrug off his hand. “No need for roughness.”

He looks fully into my face—an insult for any respectable woman—with an insolent sneer and shoves me toward the doorway. I stumble against the iron threshold but right myself and step into the soft light of dawn. My eyes crinkle at the brightness; it’s more light than I’ve experienced in days. As a velvety breeze caresses my cheeks, I raise my face and inhale.

A high, circular wall hems us, and I crane my neck to see a bowl of clear, blue sky at the top. A flight of stairs coils upward to the ramparts of the fort. I’m obviously in one of the round watchtowers that had so fascinated me when I first saw them.

“Climb.” The soldier pokes my ribs with a spear.

Sweat breaks out on my forehead. I know what’s at the top of these stairs.

 

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