Author Topic: Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy  (Read 150 times)

Offline cwhiteford

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Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy
« on: March 25, 2021, 06:14:56 PM »
Hi all, I'm in the early stages of querying and have had one partial request, which turned into a rejection. I'm trying to figure out if something in the first pages isn't working before I query more. Thanks in advance for any comments!



CHAPTER ONE

Beware Meinor, lord of evil.
From the darkness, he emerged
to attack the Goddess Viera's people
and into the darkness he will drag them.
Beware his demons, empty with hunger,
who through Corruption seek to multiply.
Devote your life to Viera, Goddess of Love and Life,
 and to her works.
Kytali's Revelations 23


The kingdom of Viekartan, After Victory 40

Syrala knelt in the temple and prayed for her grandmother to die. She prayed for a quick death, a protected death. Prayer, usually calming for her, now only heightened the yawning emptiness in her heart. Her grandmother was dying. The knowledge drained the world of color. Syrala dragged in a hot, dry breath.

"Loving Viera, guide Lady Aestha ir Saevita safely to your light," she whispered. "Watch over Nairen and me. We will be alone in our parents'..." She hesitated. The obvious seemed inappropriate under the benevolent smile on Viera's gilded statue.

"Say it." Her elder brother Nairen knelt beside her. The window lattice cast patterned shadows across his black hair and ochre skin. He finished her sentence. "Our parents' vicious, depraved court." The familiar, caustic twist of his mouth comforted her when prayer did not. "Only one more season. We'll be free from them."

Nairen was right, she told herself. At the end of the rainy season, he and Syrala would begin a new life. She would unite with the heir to the throne, and Nairen would become his Companion. Even so, the increase in her political influence and ability to help Viekartan dimmed beside the imminent loss.

Nairen abruptly sat back on his heels and shucked a hand through his hair, a sign that he was as unsettled as she.

"I'm finished here."

Syrala nodded but glanced to see if his voice had carried to the back of the Saevita temple where a priest polished oil lamps and watched them. A priest would censure him for a tone Syrala alone understood.

The need to spend every possible moment with Grandmother pressed at her, even though there was nothing to do at her bedside but listen to a priest's murmured prayers, encourage her to eat, and try to ignore the coming peril. That last proved impossible. Her grandmother should be at an Eternal Life Retreat in the care of priests trained to protect the dying from the evil Meinor's opportunistic demons. Priests should have taken her immediately when she fell ill. Both doctrine and royal law required it. But Aestha had refused to go and, instead, demanded that Nairen and Syrala, not a priest, Watch at her death, a plan that put them all at risk. Syrala could not reconcile the constancy of her grandmother's love for her and Nairen and the care with which she had taught them with this final, unfeeling and incomprehensible demand.

As she followed Nairen, her ankle-length skirt brushing against silk kneeling cushions, she glanced at the gleaming statue of Viera. Her bare feet kicked up flames, her arms extended, inviting. The goddess smiled as if nothing could ever be wrong in a world she guarded. Syrala would have to continue to have faith in that assurance.

They emerged from the Vieran temple into oppressive white heat. Syrala raised a hand to shield her eyes. Sweat beaded along her hairline. Across the temple reflecting pool, she spied Mother, her face shadowed by her bamboo sun hat, her hands planted on her hips. Her posture declared that mincing across the stone path through the pool was too great a demand. Sunlight glinted on the jewels dangling from her short bodice. Flecks of light darted across the skin of her torso and the required Viera's Balm on her solar plexus and below her navel.

"What a joy," Nairen muttered. They both followed the path across the pool, the heat pouring off the stones warming Syrala's feet through the soles of her sandals. As they neared their mother, Syrala saw the harsh set of her mouth and pinch of her eyes. She reached for Nairen's hand just as he reached for hers.

"Is she dead?" Nairen asked.

Mother stole a glance at the temple door behind them to ensure they were not overheard. "No, she lives. Unfortunately. Stubborn, selfish old woman."

Nairen sucked in a breath.

"Thank Viera," Syrala said before he could accuse their mother of being self-absorbed, callous, or worse.

Mother's lip curled. Despite the stifling heat, she retained her impeccable appearance, the turquoise Balm between her eyebrows a perfect circle, her skin, a shade lighter than Nairen's and Syrala's, unwrinkled and plump thanks to her daily application of Viera's Youth.

"Your gratitude is premature. In his infinite wisdom"--her tone suggested the opposite--" Hareit has decided to honor your grandmother's request. Syrala, he is sending you to the hunting lodge with her. You will Watch for her at her death."

The shock was a physical blow, like being shoved onto the training ground clay by a surprise attack, the air knocked from her. Syrala struggled to comprehend her father Hareit's command.

Weeks ago, she had overheard Grandmother's demand that Mother advocate this mad plan. Peeking around the doorframe of her grandmother's room, she had seen Mother, ever-composed, ever locked between boredom and haughtiness, lose color.

"We cannot afford questions," she had said. "A priest must Watch for you."

"Mouthpieces," Aestha had spat. "I will not have one of those simpering fools tormenting me with empty prayers as I die. You will send me to the lodge with Nairen and Syrala. They will Watch for me."

"I sacrificed everything for Saevita," Enyka hissed. "And now you risk us all because of a selfish regret?"

"No one needs to know," Aestha said.

"Don't be absurd. My ayda will know."

"What of it? Hareit is a petty, small-minded bully. You used to be stronger, Enyka. You have lied to him before. I said nothing. Then."

Enkya froze. "You would not dare. You would destroy all of us. The king and queen would kill us and hand Saevita to some sycophantic peon."

"What is left to destroy? You forget who I am. I have not changed in this."

Hearing acquiescence in her mother's silence, Syrala had rushed to Nairen to report what she had overheard. Nairen had marched them back to their grandmother's room, and finding her alone, demanded to know her reasons for her heretical defiance of doctrine. She had not responded either to Syrala's pleas or to Nairen's mounting fury.

"What about me?" Nairen said now. "Grandmother asked for me too."

"Hareit forced her to choose. She chose Syrala. You will stay."

Syrala heard fear in the quick command and saw it in the strain in her mother's face. Their mother thought Nairen would disobey, Syrala realized. But only a fool would defy an order that came from their father, the Lord Protector of Saevita. As a Protector, he wielded the full power of royal law.

Syrala swallowed against a bitter taste. She was not a trained Retreat priest. She was not prepared to protect the dying. Demons would attack as her grandmother died, and even Syrala's best efforts might not save either her grandmother or herself. The future she had fought for was at risk. Her life was at risk. She realized she was rubbing the circle of Viera's Balm on her solar plexus, as if checking that it was still there and still blocking demons. At a death Watch, doctrine warned, Balm might not be enough. She forced her face into a neutral mask. Direct protest was futile and, against her father, would end in pain.

"Surely the House Priest would be a more suitable choice," she said.

Mother whipped up her fan and began beating it toward her face, the Vieran sun and herons embroidered on its silk a blur. "She supports Hareit's decision."

Syrala, who strove to adhere flawlessly to Vieran doctrine, stopped. Kytali's Revelations, 142, she recited to suppress her apprehension: "The priest's word is my own, and the word of Viera. To debate a priest is to debate Viera. This sacrilege attracts the attention of Meinor."


Offline Odd John

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Re: Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2021, 07:14:44 PM »
Hi all, I'm in the early stages of querying and have had one partial request, which turned into a rejection. I'm trying to figure out if something in the first pages isn't working before I query more. Thanks in advance for any comments!



CHAPTER ONE

Beware Meinor, lord of evil.
From the darkness, he emerged
to attack the Goddess Viera's people
and into the darkness he will drag them.
Beware his demons, empty with hunger,
who through Corruption seek to multiply.
Devote your life to Viera, Goddess of Love and Life,
 and to her works.
Kytali's Revelations 23


The kingdom of Viekartan, After Victory 40 A.V. 40 (After Victory)

Her grandmother was dying. Syrala knelt in the temple and prayed for her grandmother to die. She prayed for a quick death, a protected death. Prayer, usually calming for her, now only heightened the yawning emptiness in her heart. Her grandmother was dying. Sounds almost humorous here. I know your'e trying for emphasis, but it's just not working. Instead, it sounds like mere repitition, thus humorous. The knowledge drained the world of color. Syrala dragged in a hot, dry breath.

"Loving Viera, guide Lady Aestha ir Saevita safely to your light," she whispered. "Watch over Nairen and me. We will be alone in our parents'..." She hesitated. The obvious seemed inappropriate under the benevolent smile on Viera's gilded statue.

"Say it." Her elder brother Nairen approached and knelt beside her. We must see him approach before we see him kneel. The window lattice cast patterned shadows across his black hair and ochre skin. He finished her sentence. "... In our parents' vicious, depraved court." The familiar, caustic twist of his mouth comforted her when prayer did not. "Only one more season. We'll be free from them." Not quite right. Words can be caustic, laughter even. But not features, unless you're attempting something metaphor-ish. Yet the description does not justify any metaphor. Maybe "arch".

Nairen was right, she told herself. At the end of the rainy season, he and Syrala She's referring to herself in the 3rd person? They would begin a new life. She would unite with the heir to the throne, and Nairen would become his Companion. Even so, the increase in her political influence and ability to help the kingdom of Viekartan dimmed beside the imminent loss. After the collection of names, I thought this was the name of another person, I'd forgot it was the name of the kingdom.

Nairen abruptly sat back on his heels and shucked a hand through his hair, a sign that he was as unsettled as she No such meaning for this word applies here. Maybe "raked", emphasizing the harshness of "unsettled". Or "coursed".

"I'm finished here."   ??? He just got there and didn't do much. If he had participated in the prayers, I might expect this announcement.

Syrala nodded but glanced to see if his voice had carried to the back of the Saevita temple where a priest polished oil lamps and watched them. A priest would censure him for a tone Syrala alone understood.

The need to spend every possible moment with Grandmother pressed at her, even though there was nothing to do at her bedside but listen to a priest's murmured prayers, encourage her to eat, If she's so close to dying, she's past the point of eating anything. and try to ignore the coming peril. That last proved impossible. Her grandmother should be at an Eternal Life Retreat in the care of priests trained to protect the dying from the evil Meinor's opportunistic demons. Priests should have taken her immediately when she fell ill. Both doctrine and royal law required it. But Aestha had refused to go and, instead, demanded that Nairen and Syrala, not a priest, Watch at her death, a plan that put them all at risk. Syrala could not reconcile the constancy of her grandmother's love for her and Nairen, and the care with which she had taught them with this final, unfeeling and incomprehensible demand.

As she rose, following followed Nairen, her ankle-length skirt brushing against silk kneeling cushions, she glanced at the gleaming statue of Viera. Her bare feet kicked up flames, her arms extended, inviting. The goddess smiled as if nothing could ever be wrong in a world she guarded. Syrala would have to continue to have faith in that assurance. Without "rose" it sounds like she's walking already -- with many cushions spread around the room.


They emerged from the Vieran temple into oppressive white heat. Too unusual, unless this is another planet. Maybe "bright". Syrala raised a hand to shield her eyes. Sweat beaded along her hairline. Across the temple reflecting pool, she spied Mother, her face shadowed by her bamboo sun hat, her hands planted on her hips. Her posture declared that mincing ??? across the stone path through the pool was too great a demand. Sunlight glinted on the jewels dangling from her short bodice. Flecks of The harsh light darted swept across the skin of her torso and the required Viera's Balm on her solar plexus and below her navel. You just stated that the day was one of "white heat".  Any "flecks" of light would be washed out unless their source was even brighter.

"What a joy," Nairen muttered. They both followed the path across to the other side of the pool, the heat pouring off the stones warming Syrala's feet through the soles of her sandals. As they neared their mother, Syrala saw the harsh set of her mouth and pinch of her eyes. She reached for Nairen's hand just as he reached for hers.

"Is she dead?" Nairen asked. Hmm... Sounds kind of self-absorbed and callous... Maybe soften a bit.

Mother stole a glance at the temple door behind them to ensure they were not overheard. "No, she lives. Unfortunately. Stubborn, selfish old woman."

Nairen sucked in a breath. Not after his abrupt question. Your intended contrast has been lost already, so this isn't credible.

"Thank Viera," Syrala said before he could accuse their mother of being self-absorbed, callous, or worse.

Mother's lip curled. Despite the stifling heat, she retained her impeccable appearance, the turquoise Balm between her eyebrows a perfect circle, her skin, a shade lighter than Nairen's and Syrala's, unwrinkled and plump thanks to her daily application of Viera's Youth.

"Your gratitude is premature. In his infinite wisdom"--her tone suggested the opposite--" Your father Hareit has decided to honor your grandmother's request. Syrala, he is sending you to the hunting lodge with her. You will Watch for her at her death."

The shock was a physical blow, like being shoved onto the training ground clay by a surprise attack, the air knocked from her. Syrala struggled to comprehend her father Hareit's command.

Weeks ago, she had overheard Grandmother's demand that Mother advocate this mad plan. "Mouthpieces," Aestha had spat. "I will not have one of those simpering fools tormenting me with empty prayers as I die. You will send me to the lodge with Nairen and Syrala. They will Watch for me." Peeking around the doorframe of her grandmother's room, she had seen Mother, ever-composed, ever locked between boredom and haughtiness, lose color.

"We cannot afford questions," she had said. "A priest must Watch for you."

"Again, mouthpieces."

"Mouthpieces," Aestha had spat. "I will not have one of those simpering fools tormenting me with empty prayers as I die. You will send me to the lodge with Nairen and Syrala. They will Watch for me."

"I sacrificed everything for you" Saevita," Enyka hissed. This is the first time we hear Mother's name. At first I thought it was a new person interrupting. Only a distant logic told me it was Mother. Easily fixed. Also it's been a long time since "Saevita" has been used alone for Grandma. "And now you risk us all because of a selfish regret?"

"No one needs to know," Aestha said.

"Don't be absurd. My ayda will know." Capital "A"yda?

"What of it? Hareit is a petty, small-minded bully. You used to be stronger, Enyka. You have lied to him before. I said nothing. Then."

Enkya froze. "You would not dare. You would destroy all of us. The king and queen would kill us and hand Saevita to some sycophantic peon."

"What is left to destroy? You forget who I am. I have not changed in this."

Hearing acquiescence in her mother's silence, Syrala had rushed to Nairen to report what she had overheard. Nairen had marched them back to their grandmother's room, and finding her alone, demanded to know her reasons for her heretical defiance of doctrine. She had did not responded either to Syrala's pleas or to Nairen's mounting fury.

"What about me?" Nairen said now. "Grandmother asked for me too."

"Hareit forced her to choose. She chose Syrala. You will stay."

Syrala heard fear in the quick command and saw it in the strain in her mother's face. Their mother thought Nairen would disobey, Syrala realized. But only a fool would defy an order that came from their father, the Lord Protector of Saevita. As a Protector, he wielded the full power of royal law.

Syrala swallowed against a bitter taste. She was not a trained Retreat priest. She was not prepared to protect the dying. Demons would attack as her grandmother died, and even Syrala's best efforts might not save either her grandmother or herself. The future she had fought for was at risk. Her life was at risk. She realized she was rubbing the circle of Viera's Balm on her solar plexus, as if checking that it was still there and still blocking demons. At a death Watch, doctrine warned, Balm might not be enough. She forced her face into a neutral mask. Direct protest was futile and, against her father, would end in pain. "Rubbing" suggests application of the balm, which sounds absurd here. Maybe "massaging".

"Surely the House Priest would be a more suitable choice," she said. Is this not "direct protest"?

Mother whipped up her fan and began beating it toward her face, the Vieran sun and herons embroidered on its silk a blur. "She supports Hareit's decision." "She" is grandmother?

Syrala, who strove to adhere flawlessly to Vieran doctrine, stopped her protest. Kytali's Revelations, 142, she recited to suppress her apprehension: "The priest's word is my own, and the word of Viera. To debate a priest is to debate Viera. This sacrilege attracts the attention of Meinor."


This is a very engaging scene. You've brought it to life with descriptive detail and charged emotion, both. I regret to have suggested so many changes, but mostly they are purely diction choices and some logic difficulties. There are perhaps too many characters and their relationships introduced so early, all at once. Most of the characters seem so important, I'm not sure who to fear the most. However, Grandmother's station, and thus power, is not made clear at all, except by her own assertion. What is her office, if any? Is Syrala important enough to wed the heir to the throne? Not clear. And if she is so important, why is her Grandmother being so reckless with her life? Why aren't the rest of her family being more adamant against her and Hareit? Especially the heir Prince and especially if she is to be Queen apparent. Also, where IS the heir apparent Prince in all of this? Does he care nothing for Syrala? I believe these issues must be addressed with more clarity. Otherwise, this is an imaginative and engaging beginning to what looks to be an adventurous and frightening tale.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2021, 06:34:13 AM by Odd John »
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Offline cwhiteford

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Re: Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2021, 02:39:01 PM »
Odd John, Thanks so much for your comments. If you have a moment (and see this), do you think that these questions need to be answered at this point, or could the answers unfold in the next fifty or so pages? In other words, is not having the information here a deal breaker? Thanks again for your comments--and no worries if you can't reply.

Offline Odd John

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Re: Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2021, 05:10:07 PM »
Well, that's one of the trade-offs of being an alpha reader, it's difficult to make that call without reading the entire MS first like a beta reader. Going chapter-by-chapter, I have no comparison text to distinguish the better placement.

Having said that, one can set a minimum standard to which the novel opening must adhere. Note that you shouldn't be worried about future repetition of elements of the opening as they will certainly be more detailed and plot-strong than their earlier rendition, the introductory version here. However, suffice it to say that you can't just drop a main character into the opening without some kind of thumbnail sketch, at least one sentence of depiction in addition to title. A few words on professional function might do for this or that character, or a nasty bit of habit or history on others. You already suggested this with Hareit. Something general that can be stand-alone without requiring follow-up description. I think somehow you have to introduce fewer characters than you have. The ones that remain can get better treatment.

The essential logical/social relations between the main characters must be established quickly and early. This is vital or clarity may be contaminated for the duration of the novel. Early mistakes are the worst since they may compound over the story arc. But there is no need to do full portraits early on. In fact, that would actually be distracting, and in addition steal away the reader's right to speculate. (A large part of the pleasure of reading.)

It strikes me that perhaps your chosen scene may be the wrong one to open the story. Also, having Syrala and Nairen hear of her fateful task second hand drains the scene from an awful lot of drama. I can't help thinking that the opening scene should be of Lady Aestha ir Saevita revealing to them directly her mission. Along with a suggestion of why. The readers will need something to hang on to, something mysterious that can't be entirely revealed for whatever reason or non-reason. There is much more room for fear and confrontation in this approach, much more engagement for the reader. Of course, finally she must reluctantly accept. I think this is your real "hook". Compare to the early scene in DUNE where Paul Atreides is tested by Mother Gaius Mohiam.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am. This isn't just one vital scene. It's your inciting event. Never tell your inciting event in summary narration. I believe you'll have to write a living scene, whether as the opening or very soon after.

I might even preface this scene with a "flashback opening", a family tale of a historical family member's destruction by demons. Something kind of general which hints at horror but doesn't spoil the "real" scene later on. This would put a spotlight on the danger Syrala will be facing, amping up the drama of Gram's ultimatum.

The fact that your story spurs me to this much attention tells me that it is a story worth telling!

« Last Edit: March 26, 2021, 05:24:47 PM by Odd John »
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Offline rivergirl

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Re: Kingdom of Silence and Shadow -- Adult Fantasy
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2021, 10:29:57 PM »
Beware Meinor, lord of evil.
From the darkness, he emerged
to attack the Goddess Viera's people
and into the darkness he will drag them.
Beware his demons, empty with hunger,
who through Corruption seek to multiply.
Devote your life to Viera, Goddess of Love and Life,
 and to her works.
Kytali's Revelations 23
This definitely seems to set up a mood for your story


The kingdom of Viekartan, After Victory 40

Syrala knelt in the temple and prayed for her grandmother to die. good opening line. It raises questions and propels the reader She prayed for a quick death, a protected death. Prayer, usually calming for her, now only heightened the yawning emptiness in her heart. Her grandmother was dying this sentence feels odd after the preceding ones to me. consider: Her grandmother was dying so she prayed for a quick death, a protected death. The this knowledge drained the world of color. Syrala dragged in a hot, dry breath. why is her breath hot and dry? I'm not associating this with mourning

"Loving Viera, guide Lady Aestha ir Saevita safely to your light," she whispered consider putting prayed here to reinforce its a prayer. "Watch over Nairen and me. We will be alone in our parents'..." She hesitated. The obvious seemed inappropriate under the benevolent smile on Viera's gilded statue. I'm not understanding what she's asking or what's inappropriate. you may spell this out a bit more

"Say it." Her elder brother Nairen knelt beside her. The window lattice cast patterned shadows across his black hair and ochre skin. He finished her sentence. "Our parents' vicious, depraved court." The familiar, caustic twist of his mouth comforted her when prayer did not. like this "Only one more season. We'll be free from them."

Nairen was right, she told herself. At the end of the rainy season, he and Syrala would begin a new life. She would unite with the heir to the throne, and Nairen would become his Companion. Even so, the increase in her political influence and ability to help Viekartan dimmed beside the imminent loss. I"m really confused. So her brother is to be companion to the unnamed heir to the throne? But Syrala is also uniting in some sort of threesome? I'm also not clear on what's going on with the parents. I'd suggest more investment in these early para to spell this out more clearly.

Nairen abruptly sat back on his heels and shucked a hand through his hair, a sign that he was as unsettled as she.

"I'm finished here."

Syrala nodded but glanced to see if his voice had carried to the back of the Saevita temple where a priest polished oil lamps and watched them. A priest would censure him for a tone Syrala alone understood. The priest is a good image but I think the reader needs more. Is she in a straw hut or a marble palace?

The need to spend every possible moment with Grandmother pressed at her, even though there was nothing to do at her bedside but listen to a priest's murmured prayers, encourage her to eat, and try to ignore the coming peril. That last proved impossible. Her grandmother should be at an Eternal Life Retreat in the care of priests trained to protect the dying from the evil Meinor's opportunistic demons. Priests should have taken her immediately when she fell ill. Both doctrine and royal law required it. But Aestha had refused to go and, instead, demanded that Nairen and Syrala, not a priest, Watch at her death, a plan that put them all at risk. Syrala could not reconcile the constancy of her grandmother's love for her and Nairen and the care with which she had taught them with this final, unfeeling and incomprehensible demand. this is clear!

As she followed Nairen, her ankle-length skirt brushing against silk kneeling cushions, she glanced at the gleaming statue of Viera. Her bare feet kicked up flames, her arms extended, inviting. The goddess smiled as if nothing could ever be wrong in a world she guarded. Syrala would have to continue to have faith in that assurance.

They emerged from the Vieran temple into oppressive white heat. (I actually liked white head. I did pause briefly, but then had an aha moment. It's super bright outside compared to the temple and really hot-hence the white heat) Syrala raised a hand to shield her eyes. Sweat beaded along her hairline. Across the temple reflecting pool, she spied Mother, her face shadowed by her bamboo sun hat, her hands planted on her hips. Her posture declared that mincing across the stone path through the pool was too great a demand. Sunlight glinted on the jewels dangling from her short bodice. Flecks of light darted across the skin of her torso and the required Viera's Balm on her solar plexus and below her navel.

"What a joy," Nairen muttered. They both followed the path across the pool, the heat pouring off the stones warming Syrala's feet through the soles of her sandals. As they neared their mother, Syrala saw the harsh set of her mouth and pinch of her eyes. She reached for Nairen's hand just as he reached for hers. What a sweet relationship she has with her brother. Good imagery above

"Is she dead?" Nairen asked.

Mother stole a glance at the temple door behind them to ensure they were not overheard. "No, she lives. Unfortunately. Stubborn, selfish old woman." for some reason I thought they were at their grandmother's bedside.

Nairen sucked in a breath.

"Thank Viera," Syrala said before he could accuse their mother of being self-absorbed, callous, or worse.

Mother's lip curled. Despite the stifling heat, she retained her impeccable appearance, the turquoise Balm between her eyebrows a perfect circle, her skin, a shade lighter than Nairen's and Syrala's, unwrinkled and plump thanks to her daily application of Viera's Youth.

"Your gratitude is premature. In his infinite wisdom"--her tone suggested the opposite--"the punctuation is wonky here Hareit has decided to honor your grandmother's request. Syrala, he is sending you to the hunting lodge with her. You will Watch for her at her death."

The shock was a physical blow, like being shoved onto the training ground clay by a surprise attack, the air knocked from her. this description is overboard imo Syrala struggled to comprehend her father comma Hareit's comma command. I thought she'd be happy to be with her grandmother at the end

Weeks ago, she had overheard Grandmother's demand that Mother advocate this mad plan. Peeking around the doorframe of her grandmother's room, she had seen Mother, ever-composed, ever locked between boredom and haughtiness like this, lose color. I'm missing something. Grandmothers mad plan to not go to the death centers but stay at home? Explain to the reader why this is mad

"We cannot afford questions," she had said. why not start with this scene? I think John suggested this? Flashbacks are never as fun to read as reading what's happening currently. This information is also needed to understand further "A priest must Watch for you." There are too many unanswered questions and not the good kind. please explain why this is all so bad so the reader can be appalled too

"Mouthpieces," Aestha had spat. "I will not have one of those simpering fools tormenting me with empty prayers as I die. You will send me to the lodge with Nairen and Syrala. They will Watch for me."

"I sacrificed everything for Saevita," Enyka hissed. "And now you risk us all because of a selfish regret?"

"No one needs to know," Aestha said.

"Don't be absurd. My ayda will know."

"What of it? Hareit is a petty, small-minded bully. You used to be stronger, Enyka. You have lied to him before. I said nothing. Then."

Enkya froze. "You would not dare. You would destroy all of us. The king and queen would kill us and hand Saevita to some sycophantic peon."

"What is left to destroy? You forget who I am. I have not changed in this." This is reading very stiff. That may be intentional and the way these characters speak, but consider using contractions for an easier more natural feel

Hearing acquiescence in her mother's silence, Syrala had rushed to Nairen to report what she had overheard. Nairen had marched them back to their grandmother's room, and finding her alone, demanded to know her reasons for her heretical defiance of doctrine. She had not responded either to Syrala's pleas or to Nairen's mounting fury.

"What about me?" Nairen said now. "Grandmother asked for me too."

"Hareit forced her to choose. She chose Syrala. You will stay."

Syrala heard fear in the quick command and saw it in the strain in her mother's face. Their mother thought Nairen would disobey, Syrala realized. But only a fool would defy an order that came from their father, the Lord Protector of Saevita. As a Protector, he wielded the full power of royal law.

Syrala swallowed against a bitter taste. She was not a trained Retreat priest. She was not prepared to protect the dying. Demons would attack as her grandmother died, and even Syrala's best efforts might not save either her grandmother or herself. The future she had fought for was at risk. Her life was at risk. She realized she was rubbing the circle of Viera's Balm on her solar plexus, as if checking that it was still there and still blocking demons. At a death Watch, doctrine warned, Balm might not be enough. She forced her face into a neutral mask. Direct protest was futile and, against her father, would end in pain. This is a great para. Can the reader get this information sooner?

"Surely the House Priest would be a more suitable choice," she said.

Mother whipped up her fan and began beating it toward her face, the Vieran sun and herons embroidered on its silk a blur. "She supports Hareit's decision."

Syrala, who strove to adhere flawlessly to Vieran doctrine, stopped. Kytali's Revelations, 142, she recited to suppress her apprehension: "The priest's word is my own, and the word of Viera. To debate a priest is to debate Viera. This sacrilege attracts the attention of Meinor."

Hope these comments were helpful. You've done a great job infusing this with emotion. While I struggle to understand what's happening, I can feel the urgency of these characters
« Last Edit: March 27, 2021, 10:34:05 PM by rivergirl »