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The Teenaged Nitpick Critique: 9

Friday, 28 September 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake


Title: THE SHADOW KINGS
Genre: YA fantasy
The bayou stinks of blood tonight [something about blood “stinking” sounds odd to me. I’m not sure why, but it sticks out.], as if all the fish were dead. Blech. I plug my nose as tight as I can. If I had my way, I’d be back in the hammock on my cabin porch, eating buttered shrimp and lula beans with Grandma Apera. [I really want you to add a snarky or complaining line right here, to bring out the voice even more.] Instead, I’m sitting in a canoe with two armed gyos, and my sandals are getting wet.
The sticky night air clings to my skin, makingme and I itch all over. I slip my fingers under my headscarf to pull strands of black hair off my neck. “How much farther to the palace?”
“Not far,” a gyo [What’s a “gyo”?] grunts. Gnats buzz around his tawny curls. His arms flex with every heave of the oar, and the hilt of his dagger presses into his side.
“You’re sure you don’t know what Lord Nevu wants with me?”
“I don’t.”
I frown at him and the other gyo, whose nose is crooked, trying to tell if they really don’t know or if they’re lying. Crooked Nose’s [I know you’re going for voice here, but I don’t think “Crooked Nose” is very voice-y.] cheeks flush [Somehow, this is hard for me to believe. They’re portrayed as really placid, so why would their cheeks flush?] like he swallowed too many chika peppers, and he fumbles to keep a firm grip on his oar. I bet he’s afraid I’ll turn him into a squia bug [I’m a little confused on the world-building here. You’re introducing too much too fast.] or something. He’s silly [“silly” hurts the voice for me. It sounds too young.] for believing the stories.
I fiddle with my hands in my lap. Maybe the bayou lord wants my dreams, but I offered them before, and he laughed. He snorted so loud wine dribbled from his mouth and nose, and he had to call for another gourd. 
So, I think this is really good. I’d read on. My only issue is I feel like you’re throwing all this world-building at us right away; a little is good because it gets to your hook, but you I’d take out the “squia bug” part, for instance, since that confuses me more than it intrigues me. However, the last paragraph does a good job of hooking me with world-building. Don’t over-sell right away. Good luck!

* Comments are welcomed. Each critique comment you make on the entries’ posts, is an entry into the drawing to win one of five 500 word critiques from me (Brenda). It can be ANY 250 words — your query, the first page, or a page any where in the manuscript that you want a second pair of eyes on.

One Comment
  • I like the writing here and the concept. The bayou setting mixed with fantasy elements feels unique. I agree with John that your hook here is in the last paragraph. Why not try moving this up front and starting from there:

    Maybe the bayou lord wants my dreams, but I offered them before, and he laughed….

    At the beginning I happen to like the blood part, but I think a stronger word than stink would help. “Reek” works for me. You could slip in a little snark like John suggested by making a link between the blood stench and the smell of the food she remembers having with grandma. I know the blood would spoil my appetite.

    This feels different in a good way, I’d read more.

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