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Ace of Hearts

4/25/22-Ace of Hearts-Red Angel draft 2 ch 2-4471 words

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for your feedback on the first chapter of this a while back. I'm going to sub a couple more chapters and then try to rewrite and restructure the rest of the story based on feedback. 
Any and all feedback appreciated! Since I'm basically scrapping the first draft this is exploratory, so prescriptive advice is welcome.

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I missed Chapter 1 so I am worried that has given me a skewed perspective on chapter 2.  With that caveat out of the way:

There is sooooo much world building going on here without a lot of plot movement.  The world you are building out seems really interesting and unique but I re-read multiple sections trying to connect all the dots in my mind (and remember them).  Some areas I think you just need some wording tweaks to remove ambiguity, but I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of details about the family dynamics, the religion, the magic system, the geography, who the characters are, and the details of the mystery all at the same time.

I felt like there was a lot of dialogue and the characters always speak in full un-abbreviated sentences which makes it longer.  Just as an example "I agree that we should relay this." feels a little robotic and makes the dialogue a lot longer than something like "I agree."  There are some sections where a single character talks for 5 or 6 sentences in one big block without any descriptions or breaks.  If I were doing a revision edit of this I would go through and ask "how can I say this more concisely?", "does the reader need to know this level of detail right now?", and "does this character need to fully explain their reasoning for their opinion here?" on each line to try and streamline for better pacing.

It's clear you have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the world and how everything should work together which I am very excited to see, but (from my "jumping in at chapter 2" perspective) it felt like too much new contextual information thrown at the reader at the expense of not moving the plot very much despite 4500 words.  Your synopsis of chapter 1 sounds like a lot more plot movement happened when compared to this chapter.  I look forward to learning more about this world you are building!

Take it with a grain of salt, sorry I wasn't around when chapter 1 was posted.



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Excited to read this!

I agree with @Warmacky that there is a lot here that could be condensed, but that can all be corrected easily in the next edit. There were several infodumpy sections and I also noticed some of the dialogue was a little stilted.

However, I thought there was a good arc to this chapter. We see S as proactive, taking the lead on the investigation, and learning more about the crystals. I enjoyed that we learned what the red ones were for. I didn't have a problem with the amount of worldbuilding, personally, but I like denser stories like this with a lot to learn.

The character interactions were probably the most stilted for me. I really like the characters that are here, but there were several places where it seemed like extra pieces were inserted to help tell what the character was about. Showing that more subtly would read smoother. Once we had the character building mostly out of the way in the first half of the chapter, the second half sped along nicely with the investigation.

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "She thought there was an ongoing infiltration into the palace"
--So I guess if this is happening, it's not to obvious.

pg 1: "do after his marriage"
--this was a little confusing. I expected he already had something arranged from this line, but reading further, it sound like he doesn't have any prospects yet.

pg 2: "still attracted to him"
--had something changed?

pg 2: "didn’t report it to authorities"
--there's some good potential conflict here, but I don't think it's big enough. This should be one of the first thing he thinks when running into the palace.

pg 2: "hide the sensitive parts from her"
--Is there anything not sensitive about one of the siblings of the ruler trying to create a coup?

pg 4: "And while it was now part of the unified religion"
--a bit infodumpy through here. Also, wouldn't S have sought her out before now, since she has information on the Red Angel?

pg 4: "They had some explanation about him having an additional nonmale inheritance unit when boys were only supposed to have one, but none of that made any sense to S"
--Could probably delete this sentence. I don't think this adds much.

pg 5: "his betrothed."
--oh, well that threw me for a loop. I assumed he wasn't engaged yet.

pg 6: "since palace nobles so much as knowing..."
--yeah, this echoes what I was thinking above.

pg 7: "What he needed to do was mediate the situation"
--This is good--it gives S some space to shine and be competent.

pg 10: good action through this part. S is actually doing something, which makes him more interesting.

pg 12: "We’re both playing with secrets beyond our station."
--Now I'm wondering where J is. He's talked about a lot, but hasn't made an appearance.

pg 12: Nice to learn what the red crystals do.

pg 15: The last half of this read very quickly and I quite enjoyed it. Nice flow and good tension!


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Thanks for the feedback @Mandamon @Warmacky. I had a feeling this chapter was a bit info-dumpy. Me trying to take a bunch of time to show character aspects in the first draft took up so much space that there was no real story to contextualize it, and so this draft I leaned hard the other way intentionally and tried to condense info into exposition to get the story moving (especially since these characters stand out a lot in the world; for example in the first draft when we see C it's all about them being nonbinary for 3k words but here it's not mentioned yet at all since they don't have a reason to out themself yet and it's not really plot-relevant). Now it's about finding that middle ground while further cutting dynamics that aren't needed. 


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I think there is some room to tighten up this opening paragraph—a lot of little repetitions and “helper” verbs in here that could be trimmed. That will probably help make S’s sense of urgency even more clear.

...still attracted to him” I was wondering above if D actually had any interest in being in a romantic relationship with him, which seems to be assumed by S’s dialogue. I wonder if it might make more sense to get at that question here rather than just physical attraction? Or if D is attracted to him but NOT interested romantically, have him react to that.

...he could land both himself and D in prison or worse.” Good tension, but I wonder how they’re going to get around this?

...which meant that the planned attack on the palace was something she overheard” I’m confused. That who overheard? Is S lying to D here about the specifics?

P2 “don’t think she was lying on me” should be “to me”

bottom of p4 repetition of “ruminate” which was used only a page or so ago, it’s uncommon enough to be noticeable.

P5 “This...could get awkward.” lol

D knew little about palace politics…” Really? She works there, and with the one of the wives of the emperor, and is apparently pretty sharp. I find this tough to believe.

I guess D is doing most of the talking here because she’s the one who knows about C? Because I’d expect S to be doing most of the talking given his position. But I’m also wondering, if crystals can block psychics, why S didn’t do this on his own.

I’m also surprised that W seems to hold so much sway in this conversation, since she’s presumably from outside of S’s family if she’s betrothed to him. Also, how imminent is this marriage?
Edit: I see this is addressed below, and “a few days” is what I was expecting from this conversation. Carry on.

To be honest, I don’t like it… you should be enjoying your last days of freedom” This threw me. I was expecting raise objection about the actual arrangement, but she actually just things S… works too hard…?

Please believe me… When I tell you that” I’ve noticed this in several places, so this, but whenever you have a single sentence of dialogue split up by a dialogue tag, the piece of dialogue that comes after the tag is not capitalized.

From the narration, S seems to suspect C of being a danger, but I think that you can lean into the emotions more here. How big a threat does S think C poses? Is this a surprise to him?

But that wasn’t possible…” Here’s another area where I think you can dial up the emotion (and having S struggle to conceal it from C, or even slipping up, could really increase the tension, I think).

I’m confused by what parts of this are supposed to be sensitive information vs. not. They don’t know why J has the crystals, but shipping them is normal, but S doesn’t know what they do?

P12 “Non-conventional purposes” I have no idea what constitutes a “non conventional” use for a magic crystal. If S has something in particular he’s thinking about it may be helpful to spell that out.

Overall: I’m struggling with this chapter, and having trouble putting my finger on why, but I think it might be that I’m not feeling very grounded. Obviously there’s a ton of world-building going on, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the problem (though I do think it could be condensed or at the very least smoothed out in places). I think I want a better sense though of the emotional grounding. How much does S distrust C—does he think that she’s mostly out for her own gain and might stumble on the wrong truth, or does he think she’s actively dangerous? What about W, his betrothed? How does he feel about these relationships being so fraught? And is he only protecting his sister because of their relationship, or does he think she’s right? Etc.

I do like that we see S being so proactive and I think there’s room for lots of great tension here. I just need something to anchor me a little more.


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Thanks @Silk! I agree with your assessment and I think part of the issue is that S doesn't really know since it's too important for the authorities to want him to be involved with. Which I think is all the more reason he does need to come to those conclusions. I think reframing Samai's expository thoughts in light of how much he trusts people and what he makes of their motivations could kill two birds with one stone: 1. gives the opportunity to show rather than tell and 2. gives us the grounding that you're missing. 


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That sounds like a good potential solution!


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I don't have much to comment on, as I didn't connect with most of the material. It was hard to stay focused on the narrative when I was connecting with S, but not the greater world. There was so much talking and set up without a lot of progression, so it just felt like talking heads trying to set the stage for future movement. 

As I go

- ah, the handling of the intersex condition is much better!

- pg 6: an evildoer <-- this is childish and makes me not take the narrative seriously. Can we get a more menacing term?

- pg 8: it's chapter two and I still don't really have any idea what is going on. I'm engaged with our MC but the political situation, the greater world, I remain floundering

- pg11: I'm much more engaged when they find the crystals. There was just too much talking in the first ten pages. It needs to be condensed down



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I like the progress here, and S’s actively searching out answers a lot.  I do think there are some things that need to be nailed down a little more clearly in regard to the religion and S’s view of it (shocking, I know), and about his relationship with C, but this is a big improvement on previous versions.

I do think there are several places where things are dragging a bit due to some extra wordiness and vagueness. Instead of concrete details that would be useful in a second chapter, we’re getting hints at things in roundabout ways. Which I am 110% guilty of, but it was something that was tripping me up.  Especially because roundabout explanations are bogging down some of the conversation.  

Pg 1:

D’s name still feels far more modern-American to me than fits the setting.

Also, would he be allowed in the female wing of the servant quarters?  How much of the gender segregation is based in general human propriety, and how much is based in some sort of divine instruction? If there are religious ties to the gender segregation, I would expect the female wing to be off-limits to S. Or at least be a place he’s not comfortable just strolling into.

“my thoughts went to you.” We could have probably gotten a little more of this in the previous chapter.  At least in some urgency to get back. Or to ask Z if they’ll hurt anyone. I’m not sure how difficult it would be to show that he’s specifically worried about D there without a big info dump on who D is, but there might be a way to get that across with a couple lines of dialogue/thought.

“after his marriage” Would be helpful to get a note here of when that marriage is expected to take place.

“weren’t supposed to…” Without going into nitty-gritty detail, do they have reliable birth control in this world? Because if not, marrying off brothers and expecting them to not father children seems like an unreliable way to run things.  Unless they’re a culture that is fine with infanticide or exposing male children born to the HR’s brothers?

 Pg 2:

“caged away like a bird” this also feels a little off if both families involve actually want the alliance. I’d almost expect things to lean more toward the marriage and spouse being put on show as a “See how important this alliance is to us and how well we honor it?” even if they’re plotting betrayal in the background. And if the spouse is a person who they can turn into a tool for their use (putting their magic hand-crystals to use, for example), I’d think this would be even more the case.

“she was still attracted…” could use a little more information around this. Even just defining the details in the paragraph here a little further. What their relationship used to be and what it is now, if that’s different. Or what he has felt all along vs. what she has felt all along if they aren’t on the same page.

“head back to my room” again, in a place with strict gender segregation and strict expectations on royal brothers in regard to any potential accidental children, this seems like it would be frowned upon to an extreme or forbidden outright. And if that’s the cultural standard, there would probably be ways for people to have private conversations while visible to anyone who might otherwise gossip about what they might be doing in secret.


Nit-picking aside, I like that S is actively trying to make plans to deal with what’s going on.


Pg 3:

A lot of the dialogue here could be trimmed down a bit and still get the full point across.

Same with some of the exposition. I don’t think there’s too much to absorb to have it here, but the sentence structure and wordiness are interfering with it a bit.

Do people use arrows to hunt snakes?

Why hasn’t S talked to C about the RA before now if she’s from a place with more information about it?

Pg 4:

“His father told” do we know if his father is alive? The phrasing here makes it sound like this was a recent conversation, but I assume not, if J is HR? Might be helpful to call out the political structure a little better to confirm that the HR position is equivalent to some sort of priest-king or prophet-king (depending on his supposed role in the religious structure). As it is, I don’t have a good sense of how the political and religious lines intersect, or what is expected from S on either side of that.

Pg 5:

Is W staying in the palace? It seems odd that he would be surprised to find her there.

Also, why is D the one to open the conversation? I’d expect most royal protocol to have servants (even the more elite/important servants) only speaking when spoken to. She might have had the appointment to study with C, but even then, I’d expect C to be the one to initiate that discussion when D got there.

“D knew little …” this seems unlikely to me. She’s managed to navigate the politics and protocols to earn herself a place doing research with one of the HR’s wives. I don’t see that happening unless they know she’s politically aware enough to not be accidentally sharing royal secrets with other servants.  

Pg 6:

“We’re not certain.” Same here, where her sharing the information sort of implies that she was the lead person in the process, not the friend who S shared the information with. And if S is concerned about what W thinks of his relationship with D, having D referring to herself and S with “we’re not certain” and “we’re not sure” is a big problem.  The wording makes claims on his thoughts/opinions/person that she doesn’t have any place to make, and doing so in front of his betrothed seems especially rude/unwise.

“in her expression” and “she was the youngest” not sure if these are referring to C or W

Pg 7:

“Why did she care…?” …because they’re betrothed? You could probably trim down this section (from here into the top of the next page) a good deal. Showing his mediating through conversation is going to be far stronger than explaining what’s happening. And it should be pretty much assumed that his ties to her family would include her family having more access to knowledge about what’s going on with the royal family. I don’t think that needs spelled out as much as it is now.

Pg 8:

“Lady C” would “Lady” be correct? If the HR’s siblings are princes and princesses, his wives should probably have more significant titles.  With corresponding forms of address depending on how close she and S are.

Pg 9-12:

Main comments through here are that things could be trimmed down a little bit. The progress is interesting, but is getting bogged down a bit pacing-wise.

Pg 12:

Knowing that C has a red crystal before S asks her about it would be helpful. Otherwise the question comes out of the blue. He could probably even reference it when he sees the crushed one in chapter 1. To point us more in this direction from there.

Also, isn’t this something S would know if she’s a member of his family?  Seems like the sort of thing that would have been part of his education, since it’s tied into the politics, geography, and religion of the world.

“as a status symbol…” but S and the others do use the powers in their crystals.  What would it mean to just have it as a status symbol if it becomes inherent to their person? S mentioned above that he feels people’s emotions in his body. How are red-crystal users’ lives affected by their powers?

Pg 13:

Is S aware of any non-conventional purposes that the other crystals could be used for? If not, it seems odd to suspect the red ones of having special bonus features that the others don’t.

I feel like some of the explanation of motivations could be cut back here. Most of it should be evident in their conversation and actions.  You’ll just want to make sure that it doesn’t get bogged down in expositional description. Same into the next page.

Why does he seem convinced that C isn’t on his side? I don’t think we’ve seen anything thus far to suggest that they might be at odds with each other.

Pg 15:

“A shiver ran down S’s spine…” I’m pretty sure this is the first hint of actual religious belief we get from S.  Even in the introduction to the FCity, his awe is more about the physical majesty of the caves, and of the power that the FCitizen had.  It’s not really awe or fear of the gods. All of that together makes me wonder what exactly S thinks of his religion, especially when his brother is supposed to be some sort of representative of the god(s?) in the world.  Even here. Is he shivering because the thought of having a prisoner there taints the holiness of the place? If so, is J disrespecting the god by keeping a prisoner there? Is that thought what makes S shiver? Might be worth thinking a bit about how S thinks about his religion. How much of it is based on faith vs. moral laws vs. tradition, and how much he thinks of it that way (it will likely be a blend of the three). He might think of it in terms of faith, when it’s actually just that he likes the sense of tradition and structure it provides. Or he could be fully aware that he mostly values it for the moral structure it creates.  Just some things to think about when working with a religious character  (or a character in a very religious setting).

Why does he have to get all of this figured out before his wedding?
The closing paragraph is good, but I feel like it states things in far more definite terms than have been given to us previously.  Especially in regard to the wedding timeline and his feeling that he’s really close to the truth.


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