Jump to content

20131118 - andyk - Fire in the Blood ch.2


Recommended Posts

This is the second chapter of my fantasy novel. Thanks for the useful feedback on the first chapter last week.


While it doesn't hit any of our usual content tags, I should say in advance that this chapter touches on the subject of child mortality. It's not a big part of the chapter, but I know that this is an emotive subject, and I wanted to give you the heads up.


Other than that, the story so far...

Varus, a legionary in the armies of Rome, was badly injured in a battle in Gaul. He did this saving the life of Gaius Cadmius Murena, a general and senator, who rewarded him with a torc taken from a priest Varus killed, and with an offer of work.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello andyk, the following are notes I made as I was reading. Hope they're helpful!


I found myself having trouble following the first part. Things seem to get a little cluttered after the first paragraph.


For example:

>"A red-faced waggon driver blanched as Varus turned, revealing his scarred face and muscled body."


To begin with, we get the reaction of the driver before we see the cause of that reaction. It might seem nitpicky but I feel that its better on the microlevel to keep the events in a sentence in chronological order (unless there's a strongly compelling reason to do otherwise). As in, "Varus turned, and the wagon driver blanched at the sight of his scarred face and muscled body." for example. Also, syntactically it's a little ambiguous whether the scarred face etc. belongs to Varus or to the driver.


>"The driver was being hassled..." Normally I'm not very hawkish about passive voice. Here though it takes away from my visualization of the scene. Who's hassling him? How? What exactly is going on? I think the choice of verb 'hassle' also might be problematic. If you made the verb active, with the growing crowd doing the action, and a more concrete verb the image would come together more.


Then with the meeting of the girl, I think the description of her eyecolor is a striking enough detail that it should be presented up front, to "catch the reader's eye" so to speak and let that detail color our perception of her from the getgo. Also, that level of detail tells me that this girl will probably show up again, am I wrong about that? If she doesn't, I would make her a little more 'non-descript' as they say.


Also, I must say her behavior is quite strange, motivation-wise. I don't know a lot about gender in Roman society but it seems odd to me for a young girl to waltz up to some battle-hardened soldier in the street and offer him help. Or not. I could very easily be wrong. (Wait a second, i just read through to the end of the scene. Im guessing she's the one that picked his pocket. So yeah, there's her motivation. Scratch all that.)


Hey look, a manticore!! =)


Something similar to my qualms with the first scene happens again with the old wizard.


>>Someone barged into him and he turned, sword half-drawn.

>Get out of my way, you great lumox.' A man in long robes and a neat white beard was glaring up at him.

>Varus stared, angry and bewildered. Who was this little old man to boss him around?


Syntactically it's all a bit fuzzy what all's happening here. Which one says get out of my way? I don't want to have to read through a couple of sentences in order to figure out that it was the old man yelling at Varus and not the other way around. I think this could be fixed just by switching the dialogue with the 'beat', i.e. "A man in long robes and a neat white beard was glaring up at him. 'Get out of my way, you great lummox!'


Also, the 'f-bomb' that Varus drops in interior monologue struck me as being way, way out-of-place.


Honest questio(and a relatively minor point): did the Romans traditionally wear 'black' for mourning? How far back does that go?


Chapter ends nicely, on a down note. I'm a fan of that sort of thing. =)




Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a similar response to yankarro.  I didn't have as much problem  with some of the passive or descriptive sentences, but I agree with what was said.


pg 3: "'No worries, boss.' "
--this seems anachronistic.  Not sure if it really is.
pg 4:   Oh no!  A Manticore!  You and Yankarro might have to fight...  Manticore-o a Manticore-o.
I also assumed the girl picked his pocket, but you never confirm.  Otherwise her appearance doesn't do much.
Again, good description in this one.  You lay out Rome very well.  The biggest detractor in this chapter is the lack of action.  Most of the first half is taken up with Varus' reaction to seeing Rome, then the second half he stands around being let into the Cadmius home.  There isn't much opportunity for conflict, nor do we see Varus doing anything proactive.  
The action that does happen, i.e. the girl and the old priest, don't seem to add anything.  We learn a little about the Torc through the priest's actions, but nothing that couldn't be told elsewhere.
Overall, this chapter seems to be setting us up for later, but it may be that by the time you get to "later" you find this chapter could have been cut and the information interspersed into other chapters.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Historical fantasy always feels odd to me; I know a fair bit about ancient cultures, so the discovery of functional magic in a setting I already feel like I know always tends to send me scrambling.


The girl's character seemed strange to me; on the one hand, I felt like a thirteen year old shouldn't act as adult as she did; on the other hand, who can say what kind of experience she's had, given her line of work? But that whole scene felt odd to me, even though I know it really could have happened in the Rome of old. I guess my point is, dealing with a young girl in what's implied to be a sex trade is so fraught with peril that it is bound to be difficult to get right. I wasn't comfortable reading this part. Then again, neither was Verus.


Pet peeve of mine: The line where Verus says "storm the gods"- in addition to the anachronism, this idea is incredibly off-base from how the majority of the ancient world seems to have thought about the gods. Further, such sentiments have become something of a fashion in fantasy, so hearing again makes me roll my eyes at something I've seen before.

Perhaps more generally, the implied threat in that scene of Verus losing control and then it not happening takes a lot of strength out of it for me. He seems so much like he's going to do it, and the reconsideration may not be necessary- it was already clear to me as the reader that acting agressively was a bad choice.


The weakest part was likely at the end, when he meets the family. It just feels like not much has happened, and the chapter ends on a low note.


Still, I have to echo what others have said, that you draw Rome very well. I'd say this has good prospects.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I like the description of the city through Varus’ eyes, very evocative images.


Varus’ embarrassment seems a little overplayed, I didn’t quite believe that of him, but his exchange with the girl is well done, there’s a nice dynamic there, established very quickly. The joke around ‘Old Lady Rome’ is a nice touch too, well judged I think after the pretty full-on first chapter, to show a touch of a different mood away from the heat of battle.


Ha ha, love the description of his difficult progress, I HATE it when people stop right in front of me without looking round!


Okay, we’ve had magic introduced at the first chapter, but the mythical creatures came as something of a shock, in a good way. Maybe I'm just a simple soul, but I wasn’t expecting mention of Cyclops and Manticore, so they were a slight slap in the face when they appeared, but I think that’s could, letting the reader experience something of the wondrous and unexpected on entering the city, a bit like Varus.


The encounter with the priest is well done, but I struggled a bit with the premise. I can understand Varus’ angry reaction, but then he seems to spend quite a long time assessing the situation. I appreciate that he’s a bit wondered because of the blood lust and the voices, but at the top of Page 7, he thinks ‘He might not follow Jupiter, but he certainly feared him.’ If that’s the case, I'm not convinced he wouldn’t drop the priest’s hand like a hot coal as soon as his status registered.


At this point I’ll say that I think there’s a nice flow to the writing, not too heavy on description, but enough to form a picture, although it’s being ancient Rome is, I suppose, an advantage, as most readers can probably form a reasonably representative view from movies, pictures, etc. The reason I comment on the style here is that I found the first instance of phrasing that made me stop. ‘Down that path lay losing himself...,’ doesn’t sound right, I think it’s more ‘Down that path lay the loss of self...,’?


Another thing that I only realised when it was pointed out is that Varus is now a ‘scarred freak’ – well, scarred by his burns anyway. If it was mentioned previously in the chapter, it didn’t register with me. Perhaps it would be better drawn out in the first encounter, so that it is in the readers’ mind as we picture Varus travelling through the city.


I'm actually a bit of a Romanophile, have visited the city twice – majoring on the historic sites, and was caused to pause again when you described Varus running off on sandals along the cobbled streets. I have no real objection to this, artistic licence being entirely acceptable, however I’ve attached two images (hopefully showing a gallery link below) that I took near the Colosseum. I'm not saying one couldn’t run on it, but I think it would be pretty easy to go head-over-heels.


I quite like ‘grime and crime’, but to follow it so soon with ‘hearth and hearts’, for me, is too much, then ‘hustle and bluster’, too much again, I think – and ‘fortress and front’, it’s a bit of a barrage, an alliterative assault!


I like the picture you pain of him knocking on the door.


I think Thirteenth Legion might be capitalised as a name.


I like the sniffing comment, nice twist of humour. The tone of this section has several moments like that, and I like them, interspersed with the tension of Varus’ experience with the voices and the torc. Also, I'm conscious that I don’t know whether the voice behind the door belongs to a man or a woman. Clearly, Varus must know this, so for some reason I feel my knowledge is incomplete.


The ‘men and pigeons’ comment struck me as a bit strange, unless it’s a reference I don’t know? That aside, the description of the surrounding buildings and streets it lovely, I feel like I'm back in Rome and the sun is shining.


I think the street would be nowhere near as busy as the one at the gate, this seems a very obvious statement – redundant I think. ‘Babes and bags’ – alliteration is a powerful thing, with great power comes great responsibility...


I like Sepunia – she seems like a character that will provide some conflict in an interesting way.


Nicely handled final scene, the tension in Varus at meeting Murena in the civilian setting, the salute providing some grounding, the family dynamic is also intriguing, I'm keen to learn more about that.


Overall, I really enjoyed this chapter. I'm pretty much thoroughly drawn in now and ready to read more. The one thing that is troubling me a bit is Varus’ lack of questioning of the voices that he can hear. While he hasn’t really had a spare moment since entering the city, he’s clearly been living with the voices since Gaul, plenty of time to contemplate what happening to him. To not question them makes me think that he is already much closer to losing his sanity than I might have expected this early in the story. Then again, maybe that’s the case and I should shut my yapper, but it not, I think he might recall earlier conclusions that he might have reached on the subject of the voices.


Road near the Colosseum in Rome

Road near the Colosseum in Rome

Edited by Robinski
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...