Wednesday, May 13, 2009

22 Secret Agent

TITLE: Virgin Unknown
GENRE: Historical fantasy


To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless -- the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside.

At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink -- though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. Her arms were outstretched, as if to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar before her. She knew the whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. If any worshiper had been standing directly in front of her, that supplicant would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed -- a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.

16 comments:

Saltier said...

I'd probably read this because I like Greek mythology. In fact, I liked the whole setup and the talk of sacrafices ahead - it feels like foreshadowing.

Watch the POV change in the first paragraph (you go from 3rd person to 1st person), or denote it somehow as her thought.

Amanda said...

I loved your first line. Very nice writing and also the foreshadowing of something to come that hooked me.

I did find it took a little bit long to get to the action, though. As much as I enjoyed the writing, I felt there was too much focus on how she would appear to everyone. As a reader, I'm happy to just have a couple details and fill in the scene myself.

John Zeleznik said...

I don't know...I might read more but I'm not sure. It's well written but there's nothing there that really, really grabs me but there's nothing there that makes me want to shut the book either. I'd probably give it a little more before I made a concrete decision about it.

selestial-owg said...

I'm torn. I feel like there is something good coming, but this is all set-up and description (it's solid set-up & description though, so there is that). It's interesting, but I just don't feel hooked. I want something to happen, not just feel like it might happen sometime.

Omi said...

I agree with John Zeleznik and selestial-owg. It's good, but it's not... attention-grabbing. It doesn't shake me by the shoulders and demand that I read more.

And I have a problem with the sudden shift in perspective, with the 'sheathed at my navel' when the rest of it's about 'her'and 'she'.

JinaOravetz said...

I really liked the first sentence. This sentence "Sheathed at my navel, the center of life" confused me and you switched to first person and then went back to third. The second paragraph has nice imagery but felt heavy and could probably be cut down a little bit. I thought this sentence "If any worshiper had been standing directly in front of her, that supplicant would have seen her framed by darkness." was redundant since you just talked about a dark and light contrast with her face. I am intrigued and interested in what's going to happen, but not hooked. I might read a few more pages.

JAMS said...

Ditto all of the above. You have some nice description, but I think I might feel more of a connection with the MC if it didn't start off with sacrifices. Maybe we could see her getting prepared for her role, get a feel for her character first. I know we're supposed to have action/drama right off, so maybe it's just me, but the sacrifice/victim stuff right away didn't make me want to read on since I had no context to put it in.

The Screaming Guppy said...

The POV shift has already been address, but I agree for the most part with other comments.

I'm interested, but its a little slow. A little too much - like her describing how she knows her own face looks in such a dramatic description. With a little trim, I think it could be better.

Megs said...

Nice. Nothing really happening here, a lot of description - but you draw your character and setting out. I like<

Anonymous said...

From the author: Please, before anyone else mentions it, I submitted this snippet with the first person sentenced underlined, to make it clear she was thinking it to herself. The underline didn't come through.

Now I'll sit back and let more comments come in.

Cheryl S said...

I liked the premise and the focus on getting the walk right at the start, but I found the second paragraph distancing, as it laboured the impact of her appearance on the people seeing her.

Perhaps it could have focused on her feelings during the walk more

Joanna said...

Beautifully written, though maybe too creepy for me to stick with. The visual images are arresting. The one thing that jarred me was "Sheathed at my navel" when the rest is in 3rd person; maybe you had italics there that got lost in translation?

Barbara said...

Not hooked. I agree with everyone. Great writing. But everything is a description of her. There's no action, no dialogue. I could probably even live with a description of the victims' actual reactions to her, rather than her opinion of how they'd react.

I didn't have a sense of where she was. (Yes. I know she's in a temple, but I can't see it) I didn't get a sense of mood. I think what's lacking is that there isn't any emotion or feeling in it.

macaronipants said...

The writing painted a clear picture. But I'm wondering who the main character is. If it's this priestess who is about to lunge a dagger into some innocent victims, I'm not sure I'd want to read about her. If this is a set up or prologue to give us some backstory, I would read on.

It's so hard to tell with some of these! The writing is strong and clear.

Jada said...

I was hooked. I'd want something apart from her walking through the temple to happen pretty soon though.

Secret Agent said...

I like this one, although the title automatically turned me off. There aren't a lot of historical romances set in what appears to be ancient Greece, so I'd probably keep reading for that reason alone. I'm not sure how that would affect the marketability of the novel though.

Your writing is good and human sacrifice is always fun--so I'm tentatively hooked. Watch the third sentence in the first paragraph though.