Thursday, June 24, 2021

June 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #4


It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Michaela Whatnall, Rebecca Podos, and Elle Thompson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 4: Nightfall in Chains


I'm seeking representation for my historical fantasy NIGHTFALL IN CHAINS, set in Anatolia during a turbulent time of the late Hellenistic period. I believe this novel can help fill a gap for an often misrepresented and lesser celebrated culture as people of West Asian descent are often portrayed as villains, and I'd like to show that we can be passionate, kind, honorable, and flawed, just like those from other backgrounds.

Izel and her sister Azize spent their lives hiding from villagers who’d like to see them slain for simply being born shaman, but there are only so many places to hide in Anatolia. A warlord and his soldiers discover their clan of gentle healers, and then decimate them. Both Izel and Azize think the other died during the slaughtering of their clan, and it sets them onto very different paths.

Izel becomes a weapon for the warlord who killed her clan, persuaded by the warlord’s bold and idealistic daughter, Leyla. Izel and Leyla share a desire to stop the killing of innocent shaman, to bring equality to all Anatolians, and their desires bond them.

But Azize only craves revenge for the sister she believes is dead. Her grief turns to rage and she builds an army of rebel shaman, determined to kill the warlord who destroyed her life along with his bloodthirsty daughter[MW1].

Sisters, shaman, young women pushed to their limits by cruelty and hate, both battling on opposite sides. One fights to liberate her kind from persecution, the other becomes a warrior to avenge the fallen. The fate of Anatolia, of all shaman, may be damned or spared depending on whether Izel and Azize discover the other is alive, and how they’ve been using their powers[MW2].

NIGHTFALL IN CHAINS is an adult LGBTQIA+ historical fantasy complete at 104,000 words. The Turkish mythology gives the story a unique aspect, but the lore and legends have been portrayed in a way that’s rather accessible. This story has the tight pace and gritty action of Joe Abercrombie, the mystical and archaic feel of Brandon Sanderson, and the high-intensity romance of Charlaine Harris[RP1][ET1].
Michaela's comments: 
[MW1] I like how the experience and motivation of each sister is laid out clearly.
[MW2] I’m curious about what their powers involve—this could be something to mention in the second paragraph.
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] I love historical fantasy! I would have liked to know a little more about Izel and Azize before their clan is decimated, beyond their powers—what they each hoped for and how they differed, so that we have a hint of why they took such different paths when they believed each other to be dead. But I’m intrigued by the mythology here.
Elle's comments: 
[ET1] This query presents a clear and really exciting set-up. However, I’d revisit the ending of your pitch: “…may be damned or spared depending on whether Izel and Azize discover the other is alive, and how they’d been using their powers.” The whole of your story should be leading up to the confrontation of Izel and Azize as their grief is temporarily resolved, and then the conflict as they come to terms with how diametrically opposed they now are—framing it as “whether or not” they ever meet again feels like a huge deflation hit to my reading excitement.

First 250 Words:

Izel hid behind a tree at the edge of a forest. She peeked between waxy leaves and stared into a small settlement, watching villagers go about their daily lives. The people didn’t know she spied on them. They tended to the little gardens outside their cute cottages, stood in groups gossiping about friends and family, completely unaware Izel tried to remember their witty retorts and the new way they braided flowers into their hair so she could copy it later on. They had no idea how much she wished to be one of them.

Villagers had something Izel and her kind could never possess­. Pride, the type of pride that came with having roots. The men and women Izel observed were born in this village, as were their ancestors going back generations.

Izel had no village to call home, no roots to keep her grounded. Like all shaman, she’d been driven to the wilds long ago. The woods that surrounded her—the long and twisted tree limbs creaking in cool winds, the sunlight sneaking between fluttering leaves and shining onto rocks­—was the closest she’d ever come to a home. Comfort set upon her in these woods, but not security. Her kind was never safe.

Most settlements in Anatolia would burn a shaman alive before welcoming them into the bazaar to trade their services for goods, which would be the reason Izel hid behind a tree watching villagers instead of introducing herself to them[MW3][RP2][ET2].
Michaela's comments: 
[MW3] I'd love to read the first 25 pages!
Rebecca's comments:
[RP2] I love the world building here, though I feel as though we jump in a little too quickly, and are being told things I’d love to be shown, specifically Izel’s lack of safety and pride, as well as the danger facing her. That’s a lot to set up in the first few paragraphs, and like Izel, I feel a little like I’m outside of this world looking in, rather than immersed. For that reason, I think I would pass.
Elle's comments:  
[ET2] I’d linger more on description. You open with Izel hiding and, essentially, people-watching. Open more lyrically, telling us what she’s seeing. You’re writing in historical fantasy, so your opportunity for purplish prose and description is pretty vast, and at 104,000 words on an adult fantasy, you’ve got some decent page real estate to make use of. 

  Overall, you have a really compelling premise, and I’m interested in seeing where this story goes. I’m requesting PAGES—the full MS, in .doc format.  Thank you!



Michaela Whatnall: Pages!
Rebecca Podos: Pass
Elle Thompson: Pages!

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