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Tariniel - 7/31/2017 - Shadows Unite - Chapters 1 & 2 - 4,609 words - (v)

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These are the first two chapters of a new novel I started (my first, actually), called Shadows Unite. What I’m looking for right now is pacing, character, and readability, but I’m sure anything you guys care to say will result in a much improved second draft. So, fire at will!

Also, if anyone knows how to pick a lock, and wouldn’t mind explaining, there’s a part where I just wrote "he (did something).” Hopefully one of you will be able to give me a hand with that :)

Thanks for reading!


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- I like the opening. Definitely curious where this is going.

- I've never broken a rib . . . but wouldn't you know pretty quickly if you had broken a rib or not from the pain?

- I've never broken a lock either (I've clearly lived a sheltered life), but maybe you could find some other way for the protagonist to circumvent the security measures? If you do have to pick locks, they do make kits for you to practice on -

- Very curious to see where the rest of this goes. I like the pacing and the description. The action scenes really work for me. Anxious to read more! 


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Hello! Welcome back!


Just a small formatting niggle to start with: please remember to double space your submissions. 1) it's in the guidelines, and 2) for people like me who have trouble reading on the screen double spacing (or even 1.5 spacing!) is massively helpful.


Moving on...


This is very well done! It moves along briskly and much of the action is clear and entertaining. 

However... I don't mind things starting in medias res like this, but I felt like I needed a bit more background to really get into the action. I have no clue why R is breaking in, what a Shade is, why he (or his employers) needs it (is he employed or is he doing this on his own?), or even what city or country or kingdom this is. By the end I still don't know anything about any of those things, and have merely been told it's in a politician's keep. Are these city-states? what's the weather like? Why are politicians apparently assumed to have walled keeps with their own security force? Is this in a city? It seems weird for there to be walled and privately-guarded keeps inside a city, but conversely it also seems odd for a thief to be in the country and musing about union (?) guards.  I don't need everything in one go, but I need something to hang my hat on in order to get invested. The action is good but the world feels sketchy at best, which leaves the scene feeling untethered to me. 


Why are the guards wearing veils? This random tidbit seems to pop up too conveniently, and sounds like a pretty egregious violation of the Evil Overlords List. It also seems a little odd that the veil is lined, but that's a really minor quibble. 


I'm a little skeptical that this guy could manage all those acrobatics and fisticuffs after taking as much damage as he did. It makes his eventual take down seem arbitrary to me. 


I loved the bit about pole vaulting! And while I totally believe reeds could be used for such a purpose, their use in all the other things has me a bit skeptical. 


As for the locks, youtube has a bunch of tutorial and explanatory videos. Here's one and a couple of websites I pulled up with a cursory search:


The basics are that one piece of a lockpick set is used as a lever to turn the lock while one or more other picks are used to jiggle the lock pins out of their "locked" position. 


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Welcome back!!


The writing was just fine, but the story lacked buy-in. By the third page I really wanted to know who our protag was, and why he was doing the things he was doing, because without those things, I just don't care about his actions. I think you need more motivations and backstory, seeded in here or there, if you want the reader to connect with the protagonist.

The gender ratio around the palace also has me concerned, but it's just the first two chapters, so I'm going to just raise an eyebrow for now. Carry on, and thanks for submitting!

As I go

- redundancy on 'keep wall' and 'keeping', and then 'keeping up appearances'

- I love how well you built expectation with the vault, just to have him fall

- page three: starting to get a little long here with what the man is doing, considering I know nothing about him and am not yet invested in his struggle

- page four: screams of fathers, husbands, and brothers? Are there women anywhere in this land? If not, I hope you get into reproduction because I would be fascinated.

- oh wait, no, there is a mention of a mother and screaming. If the death of his mother is this man's motivator, I'll be back later with links and a firm head shake. As it stands, if there are women in this world, why are none of them guards or otherwise hanging out at this castle?

- on page five, the exposition about the baron seems out of place. Might need a better transition

- page six: yes, definitely hard not to skim since I'm not invested in this character. I need to know why  he does the things he does before seeing them, so I know why I should be reading


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Thoughts As I Go:

Pg. 1 – That is one horrible guard. I can see why anyone else would be more expensive because this falls into the category of ‘friends like these, who needs enemies?’

Pg. 2 – R is humming? Is he a thief? I mean, the bluff was decent, but he got caught by an amateur, and now he’s deliberately making noise.

Pg. 3 – The vaulting trick is cool. Not going to lie. It’s well done and executed too. The only thing is, R lands on grass, yet his staff lands on stone, which no one hears.

Pg. 4 – I’m not invested right now to care about what’s going on, because I have no idea what’s going on Things are hinted to, sure, but I have no idea about anything, save that R apparently wants to kill people.

Notes: Well, it’s a start. The action scenes are well done, and you have no hesitation of spreading hints everywhere about a greater plot. That’s good. The problem is that nothing is explained as of yet. I don’t know R’s motive. I don’t know if he’s a hero or a villain. I don’t know what Shades are or Passions.


EDIT: Locpicking! Well, you do seem to have information, but it's about mostly modern locks. Middle Age locks functioned a bit differently. You had a spring holding the end of a metal bar inside the lock (like a zip-tie lock, if that makes sense to you), and the key itself would compress the spring to allow the bar passage outside the the lock. My advice? Just give R a skeleton key.

Edited by aeromancer

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Hey, great to see you back submitting. Straight on with the comments.

  • CHAPTER 1 – I like the title, suggests mystery and cooperation against a larger foe, perhaps by a band of miscreants, a la Mistborn.
  • I don’t understand the religious observance comment. I don’t see the sense that guard placement could be that.
  • “That guard wouldn’t be back until the next shift” – that seems like a really long guard circuit, seems pretty pointless. This description implies to me it could be 15/20 minutes before another guard comes around.
  • I like the subversion of the expectation with the guard coming back.
  • The comment about the guard not doing what he’s supposed makes Ray look kind of naïve, a bit incompetent.
  • “always a man behind the magic”- never a woman?
  • “what he judged to be a proper distance” – I'd like him to be more obviously competent than this. Rather than just judging the distance, I'd like him to be pacing it out and knowing, being without doubt that it is the right distance.
  • As an engineer, I don’t really believe that you can form a 15-foot pool from individual reeds that’s going to hold a man’s weight in a pole vault. I'm thinking of watching Olympic pole vaulting, and the stresses that go through that pole. My inquiring mind wants to know what mechanism or what magic is going to hold those joints together. I'm trying to suspend my disbelief.
  • “grip on the vaulter” – no, surely he is the vault, the pole is… the pole.
  • “left him within the inner area of the keep” – this feels unnecessarily complicated.
  • Why would his best jump make it feel like too long? Surely, if he’s still improving, it’s a sign he’s just reaching his peak.
  • “severe cases of disappointment” – lol, funny line.
  • “a layer of grass around his walls” – how did the pole clatter when it landed then?
  • Rather than intriguing me, the references to Am and Passions leave my frustrated, like there’s not enough to intrigue me, maybe. Dunno.
  • “The vaulter lay in two pieces, strewn across the grass” – why only two? Can two pieces by ‘strewn’? I don’t think so. And that ‘vaulter’ thing is annoying. You don’t call a golf club a ‘golpher’, or a baseball bat a ‘batter’.
  • Ah, now you mention clasps. No, I really don’t believe that. There’s no way that reeds have sufficient tensile strength to function like this. Maybe bamboo, if the fixing were magical or really, really clever. The problem is that the force is not evenly distributed, but focused entirely on the clasps, which I dare say fix at a very small point. The clasps itself may be strong metal, but it will just rip through the reed at the connection point.
  • “the loud clatter his fall had caused would draw unwanted attention” – sometimes, the style is a bit indirect, but that’s just wordsmithing – plenty of time for that later.
  • “then ran down the steps” – I don’t believe he can do this with two broken ribs. He seems completely unaffected by his injuries. If there is no cost, the injuries are pointless. I don’t mean this in a nasty way, it’s only figurative, but I'd be interested to see you running with two broken ribs :o
  • “sprinted towards it, ducking into a roll to pass a guardsman” – per my comment above, if I was reading this in a store, I would put the book down at this point and move on.
  • “shot up as the Point groaned” – the description of the explosion, I presume that’s what it is?, is not very exciting. Underwhelming. It’s the big crescendo moment of the chapter. I want a MUCH bigger boom.

The first chapter has good potential. Ray is an engaging character, although he doesn’t display a great deal of character, he is obviously taking great risks for some cause – that came over well, I thought. There is a ‘wow’ moment with the pole vault, but you really need to sort out the physics and the mechanics of it. Could he not have some kind of enchanted pole (Ooh, err – more tea, Vicar?) Secondly, the broken ribs are a BIG issue. You really need to research the actually effects of broken ribs – no way he’s going to be jumping, sprinting and rolling. No way. Maybe give him cracked ribs? But really, research required.

  • CHAPTER 2 – “Like most things, it simply needed someone to fix it” – great line. This really punches up Ray’s motivation, shows great determination in these couple of lines. Nice work. I don’t mind waiting to get this motivation, because i can wonder about it during Chapter 1, but don’t have to wait too long to understand why he’s doing it.
  • “His side burning” – Hmm, research. Is that how broken ribs feel?
  • “Oh, just the rusted wind” – What?! A tower just blew up!!
  • “. Years of potting and positioning” – plotting, I guess, unless he’s a keen gardner.
  • “find a way into the house”
  • “The ease at which they passed through all the house’s defenses seemed to imply they were expected somewhere” – this is a bit annoying. Ray has very conveniently attached himself to a group of guards going the way he wants to go (I guess). It feels rather like the author manipulating events to suit the plot.
  • “His newly-reset shoulder twinged” – yeah, this bothered me at the time. Again, I would suggest research a dislocated shoulder, and I would use words that imply the dislocation before he pops it back in. The dislocations I’ve seen on the sports field (on TV!!) are excruciatingly painful, and seem to render the sufferer pretty much incapable.
  • “like a dockworker’s catch” – I don’t know what this means.
  • “took a lot more than a few punches to knock out a Malt” – is this the explanation for the ribs not affecting him so much, nor the dislocation? If it is, I need this right up front, to know that it’s not poor writing, but that he is ‘immune’ to pain.
  • Good climax to the story with some interesting question flashing around before Ray is subdued. Everything going black is a real cliché. There’s nothing in the writing rulebook that says a character needs to pass out at the end of the chapter. Sometimes chapters just end and the character is still conscious!

I enjoyed this. My main bugbear was facts and names and things flashing past which were sort of reveals, but actually didn’t really reveal much of anything, so more just hints. Too many hints without explanation become a bit frustrating for the reader, after a while. Generally though, I think there’s some good stuff here that is worth working on through however many rounds of edits to iron out the wrinkly bits.

I hope we’re going to get some more. Is this a finished project?



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