Black As Night -- Opening Scenes (900 words)

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by The Judge, Oct 2, 2011.

  1.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    So, the curse of the 000th post has come upon me again, and with it the compulsion to abide by the terms of Ancient and Revered Custom (was it engendered by a prophecy we wonder...?).

    My previous entries have fought shy of my WiPs, but following where others, not least TEiN and Ursa, have bravely led, here is the opening of Black as Night -- which is meant to be the first book of The Mapmaker's Daughter trilogy. *cue hollow laughter once more*


    The first bit isn't a prologue, so all prologue-haters can calm down. I'm intending to drop in similar first person monologue bits every few chapters in order to info-dump her background and some history. After that non-prologue, it's straight into chapter one, first scene.

    I've a few specific concerns, which I'll wait to see if anyone else raises, but basically, does this make you want to read on? For those who like to start with action -- there's a sword fight in the very next scene, but the three together go way over word count so you'll just have to imagine something really dramatic and exciting. (And then write and give me the details...)

    *


    Father was a mapmaker. So they killed him.

    They tortured him first. Not in secret. Not inside the thick walls of the old castle or the dark cellars of the Merchants’ Hall – their God believed in showing His power. They brought their instruments and their braziers and their long, thin knives and tied him to a chair in the main piazza. A high-backed grandmaster chair. I think it belonged to the butcher’s guild.

    The summer-pole stood behind him, the statue of Keth, not yet defaced, before him; both still wreathed in their new ribbons, still garlanded with flowers, though the precious rosolacci had already faded and died, their red petals dropping to the bone-white paviors beneath.

    I remember nothing of his torture. I know that I remained there, at the Palace window, looking down onto the piazza. I know that he never spoke, never recanted his heresies, and that he died within minutes, thwarting the Inquisitors and their thirst for his suffering. But those minutes are closed to me, save for the memory of Mother at my side, her scent and her voice, and the crushing pain as she held my small hand tight in her fierce grip.

    Mother. Dark-skinned. Sloe-eyed. Sometime slave. Wife. Witch. Whore.


    *

    (Chapter One)



    “The black? You are certain?”

    The sharp voice pierced the thickness of the closed door. Chais stopped, her fingers already at the handle. Were they talking of her, or of her mother?

    “I heard them clearly; she is even to be presented to His Eminence himself.” Ardesine’s customary peevishness came with added bile. “She has no idea of the honour being accorded to her. The filthy whore.”

    Ah. Her mother, then.

    “What of the daughter?”

    Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood.

    “The Calte said nothing of the heretic’s spawn,” Ardesine replied. “But it would be impious, surely, for it even to be considered.”

    “My Lord and impiety have been bedfellows these twenty years. Why should we expect better of him now?”

    “I shall wear my blue gown to meet His Eminence.” Palaina’s slow, hesitant tones betrayed her discomfort at speaking T’densk, and, as ever, she’d clearly understood little of the native fluency of the other women. “Blue is the colour of piety, so Fra Benatido says, and it will match my eyes.”

    “You should wear brown, the colour of dung,” Ardesine spat, in Genovrese to ensure the invective struck home. “It will match your mind.”

    Chais straightened. She knew what would follow. The tearful response, the further spite uttered with increasing venom, and, at length, when her own malice was sated or the overflowing tears had tried her meagre patience too far, the Lady Sindretzine’s peremptory command for both the younger women to be still. Impassive silence was the only armour against both malice and spite, as Chais well knew; a lesson Palaina never seemed to learn. The disadvantage of a happy, loving childhood, no doubt.

    Treading softly, and taking care to avoid the plank which creaked, Chais retraced her steps along the gallery to the open, double-leaved doors of the perdonne – the women’s entrance to the Long Hall. The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza. With all the evidence of the earlier incident cleared away, nothing remained for her to do until the Calte finished his audience with his sons and kinsmen. She hoped it would be soon.

    No servants waited in the Hall. Nonetheless, as she drew level with the chapel’s open screens and the revealed cartouche, she paused and genuflected.

    Standing again, she remained still for a moment before the sound of laughter drew her out onto the balcony-loggia. Palaina’s three older children scampered along the walkway of the inner curtain wall making a game of the crenellated parapet: ducking their heads and crouching low at the embrasures, popping up again as they reached the tall, swallow-tailed, merlons. Further back, muttering soft reproaches, a plump nursemaid laboured up the stone flight from the courtyard one step behind a toddler, his two hands held high in both her own, while at the base of the wall another maid carried the imperious bundle of gold thread and fine linen that was the Calte’s youngest grandson.

    That Palaina adored her children wasn’t in doubt, but Chais secretly wondered if her motive for always bringing them with her to the castle wasn’t just as much driven by the prospect of some small revenge. Parading her impressive fecundity, and her husband’s affection and marital diligence, had to go a little way to avenging the many slights she received from the bitter, barren, Ardesine.

    The battlement game continued as the children raced towards the east wall and the Rivergate, the maid and toddler still trailing in their wake. Chais watched until they passed out of sight. She knew she ought to return to the Lady Chamber – her long absence had already stretched the courtesy due to the Calte’s wife and daughters-in-law – but for once duty could wait.

    She moved to the balustrade. The first real chills of autumn were still two or more weeks away, but as Chais stood looking down over the city, its splendour dulled and dying, a cool sea breeze seemed a harbinger of what approached ever nearer. She shivered.


  2.  
    Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    Ha ha! With the curse almost upon me, a chance to exorcise someone else's demons first. Although there are some weird symbols appearing, which I hope will disappear when it's posted... They weren't there until I pressed the 'quote' button at the bottom of the page, and if they're not they're as you read it, then ignore these ravings.



    But a great opening and I want more. Still uncertain about the time between the opening and the main section, and, indeed, if Chais and the narrator are one and the same. The use of 'intelligent' archaic language tended me to think that the narrator was chais, but the main section was many years later, when she was more educated.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  3.  
    thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Active Member

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    Wait, we're meant to submit stuff for critiquing every thousandth post? Nobody told me!

    Anyway, to the Critique-Mobile!

    Mini-prologue first bit:
    Really liked this, especially the last line.

    Main scene:
    "...her. The filthy whore." I'd make that one sentence with a comma, rather than two.

    Er, I don't have much else to say, except that I liked it. That's not very helpful, alas.

    I think it'd be interesting to know more about the general plot the story will take.
  4.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Blimey, that was quick! Thanks, both.

    Good-oh, because that's right. I was worried it might not be obvious, so that's one concern out of the way.
    This hadn't occurred to me as a problem, so I might have to rephrase this, then. In fact, the earlier incident she's thinking of is just an accident in the hall when wine is spilled, apparently innocuous in itself, but it's enlarged in her next scene when we see her with her mother.

    And yes, twenty years have passed since her father's death, but I wasn't quite sure how to get that fully across immediately, which is why her had "small hand" trying to show she was only a child then.

    EDIT: forgot this bit
    Palaina -- I'll add her name again to make that clear.

    Thanks!

    Well, you know what it is with these ancient and venerable traditions. And you know now -- so no excuse when you hit 2,000!

    That filthy whore sentence I always hear a pause as Ardesine speaks, but I'll try it again and see if I'm envisaging it as too long a pause.

    That's very helpful -- and thanks!

    Yes, I'd be interested to know that, too... :eek:
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  5.  
    J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    Nice spotting of spicy wordage; rosalacci, paviors, faience,credenza, fecundity and so froth, so one doesn't feel impelled or required to look them up.
    It reads OK, even in Starbucks at 9 AM.
  6.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Thanks, JR.

    The "rosolacci" was one of the concerns I had, since it's an Italian** word just dumped in the text for flavour despite the fact I could have translated it, and I was worried it might either put people off, or seem a bit daft stuck there on its own. But if everyone is happy to accept it just as some kind of unidentified red flower, that's good enough.


    **albeit one my partner's 18 year old Italian cousin didn't know, so it might be obscure or simply old-fashioned, both of which are fine by me.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  7.  
    chopper

    chopper still alive

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    oooh! WiP! tasty!

    First lines: good hook. the whole first-person section is tight - the only thing i would add is a sense of distance in time to reinforce the "small hand" description of Chais as a child. you can tell it is reminiscence, but the scale of distance isn't immediately clear. (Oh, and Butchers' Guild, rather than Butcher's Guild...)

    Second section: i got a bit distracted by trying to work out who the new characters were, so i couldn't focus fully on it. when the narrative came to telling me who Palaina was, i was still puzzled over Lady Sindretzine. perhaps i'm a bit slow. or maybe i need more fights.

    very interested in the world here though, especially one that detests cartographers. there's clearly something to hide...
  8.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Good thinking!
    Eek! How did I miss that?? :eek:

    I was worried about introducing all the names too quickly, so I'm not sure how best to get over that. Back to the thinking cap.

    Thanks, O Progenitor of Great and Revered Customs!
  9.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    Like the others I have to say: my word what a great first line.

    I don't have much to say apart from that. I loved the rest of it too.

    This sentence bothered me: "Chais held her breath and couldn’t stop herself from inclining her head nearer the gilded wood." -- I think it's the 'and' or perhaps it feels to me like it could do with more of a break between 'breath' and 'and' -- is it legal to have a comma there?

    I loved the exchange between Palaina and Ardesine.

    Sorry I don't have more to say. I want to read more. More more more.

    (It also really reminded me of Carol Berg, which is a Very Good Thing).
  10.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    This is very good. My only problem with it is this one

    although it's not so much a problem of the names as it is of introducing so many characters so quickly. If you can find anyone you think is extraneous to this particular scene, I'd say send them away to do something else for the the time being. (I suspect that some of them at least might have pressing engagements elsewhere.) When we've had a chance to straighten out all the other characters in our minds, you can being them back.
  11.  
    alchemist

    alchemist Not on holidays

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    Not much to say about the overall high quality here, but I have a couple of points. I'd actually prefer the first two lines joined together, separated by a comma. There, I said it -- hopefully everyone else won't want to torture me in public.

    At the risk of exposing my ignorance of furniture and crockery, I had to look up credenza and faience, and I made a guess at lustreware. I know what fecundity is, but I think the average reader may not, although they might also guess. What I'm saying is, dem dere's a lot of fancy words might leave folk scratching their heads. On the other hand, Fantasy may have moved on a lot since my heavy reading days, and I may not be the target audience.

    Apart from that, I understood who was who easily enough, and the leap from part I to II felt natural and easy. I look forward to publication!
  12.  
    TheEndIsNigh

    TheEndIsNigh ...Prepare Thyself

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    3000 posts is it? Well I never, I remember when you were just 500 posts high to a grasshopper.

    Brave indeed - Nerve racking isn't it. It took me a week to build up the courage to post some of my WIP and then only after Mrs Tein had given it a good going over.

    Before we start - I think it's excellent.




    OK obviously,as I said, its excellent and I have had to dig deep into the pickiest regions of my mind to find something to comment about.

    I would buy it (but then I'd buy it, knowing you wrote it, anyway:))

    I agree with alchemist that some of the words seem over complicated. As he suggests this might put off the casual browser in the book shop. Waiting a few pages before you hit them between the eyes might make sense - Get the money in before they back out etc.

    Hope I helped

    TEiN
  13.  
    Hex

    Hex Mod in tooth and claw Staff Member

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    Now that someone else has said it, I will confess to being a bit overwhelmed by the number of words I didn't know.

    I know lots of words (even fecundity) but I will admit that the rush of unfamiliar ones gave me the tiniest feeling of being lost. I agree that readers should be prepared to Look Things UP (dammit) but there are three words in the sentence below that I didn't know (although I think I have some sort of mental image of lustreware and credenza, I had no idea at all what faience was).

    The chamber itself was ready: the trestles set, though with only the local faience, the wine cooling in one of the wall-fountains, the imported lustreware and two of the smaller silver ewers standing on the credenza.

    I'm a reader who's normally pretty happy to go: OK I don't know what lustreware is but it sounds like shiny pottery so that's the image I'll have in my head. A credenza is obviously something you put things on. I would have missed (because I rarely, actually, look things up unless it seems absolutely central to what's going on) that faience is also shiny pottery, and the point of this sentence is that the table is set with the cheaper shiny stuff, while the expensive things are still on the sideboard.

    There's nothing wrong with the words. It's just that the three of them together were, well, a bit of a barrier.
  14.  
    Peter Graham

    Peter Graham New Member

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    May it please yeronner,

    Genuinely literary fantasy is a rare bird and I think you do it well. Good pace, good character development and plenty of hints of a broader and well-defined world. It's good. It reminds me slightly of Marion Zimmer Bradley, but that's no bad thing either - and perhaps just underlines what often seems like a lamentable paucity of work which actually puts the underrepresented female persepctive at the fore.

    Two issues did spring out. Firstly, your choice of a very precise, flowing literary style means that you have set yourself a significantly higher target when it comes to self expression. To pull it off, each sentence therefore has to be as tight as a gnat's chuff and polished up until it glints. Occasionally, a sentence falls short which runs the risk of undermining the effect you are so carefully creating:-




    The third sentence goes on too long and undermines the punchy staccato you are aiming for with the first two. At the very least, I'd lose the dash and make that last clause a sentence in its own right.




    I don't know why I don't like this, but I think it is perhaps because of the rather clumsy "instruments". Later on, you are talking about faience, pavior and so on. "Instruments" has none of the subtlety or poetry of your other word choices and comes close to sounding like "stuff".

    I also feel that the last sentence detracts from the image. I suspect you are drawing a link between the butchers' guild and the imminent butchery of pater, but, if so, I feel it is a little sledgehammer. The character would be highly unlikely to notice where the chair came from when she can see what is about to happen to the old man. It might be that you mean this passge to be a recollection rather than what she thought at the time it happened. If that is the intention, I think you need to make that more explicit.




    To balance the image and make each end of the sentence talk to the other, don't you need another "stood" in there ("...stood before him")?



    Sloes are purple (although they look black on the tree), but it's still a nice image. Unfortunately, many readers will unconsciously read it as "slow" (as did I) and may be jolted out of the passage whilst they do a double take. Picky, I know......


    The other issue is your slight tendency to come out of your chosen narative voice to give a little bit of infodump. It's pretty subtle, but on two occasions it strains a bit:-




    This is perhaps not an entirely convincing version of what the character would actually be thinking - and you have gone to some trouble to let us know that we are indeed hearing her thoughts at this moment. I reckon you could make all of the same points but keep it tighter to the character p.o.v.


    If we are still close in to character p.o.v, I think the same applies. She might use a somewhat catalogue-ish phrase like "imported lustreware", but might she not be more likely to say "French crockery" or whatever.




    I think you could work the dialogue so as to show us her bile and peevishness, rather than just telling us about it. Maggie Smith's lines on Downton Abbey come to mind.




    This might just be me, but it looks as though she is only obliged to genuflect if servants are watching.


    It's all minor stuff, I grant you!

    Regards,

    Peter
  15.  
    ctg

    ctg weaver of the unseen

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    Fantastic to see your work darling. Thank you for such rare privilege. I haven't read any other comments but Peter's as it's rare to see him commenting, and it also marks the quality of your work!

    I'll skip some of stuff and do my contextual analysis for you if you don't mind.




    Although great opening line, I'd like to see pain included in it. Maybe you could add there a slight swear word, or even drop "bastards" on its own line.

    Why?

    Well, you want bring in the character straight in and show the readers great personalisation that you are able to weave in the prose.



    I know this a high order and so far you have done well, but if I look this as personal entry in a diary or as a story she's telling to someone, it falls short on personality level. And it is almost as if she's telling this through a third person as she's skipping over all the personal painful thoughts that someone could say to another, or even disclose to a diary.

    Think about those memories that are most painful to you and how you would disclose them to another person. Would you or would you not include there swear words, or even start ranting?

    For example you could write:

    My father was a mapmaker. So they killed him.

    Bastards.

    You know they just didn't kill him. They tortured him. Can you believe that? Someone told me that they dragged him through the streets...


    I really hope this helps.



    What can we do? We cannot shoot them, we cannot divorce them, we cannot leave them behind. They stick with us till the end of days.

    Great bridge. You have learned well and started being innovative on how to weave scenes together and on how to present information to the audience. So allow me say this: you are going to be as great as Ursula Le Guin one day. And people will know your name.

    Are you ready for such fame?

    (I'll leave word choices to those who are better at that.)

    If you don't like naming the first bit as first chapter then don't do it else where as you can separate chapters with a single asterix.



    Last dialogue line and a response feels as if they are out from the context and you put them there as a filler. I might be wrong. Maybe you need to add there a bit of description or an image that the character conjures in her mind.

    You move nicely and so elegantly out from the close personal remarks to show grand scene. Very well done. I wouldn't add there much. And what I personally would do is by showing some of the character thoughts. And I know that it's about personalisation, but how much you can have that in the close third? Not enough, if you ask me. Then again, it's your prose and you are a master of this craft. So well done.
  16.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Good grief -- an early night and a morning out and I log on to find everyone's piled in here!

    Thanks everyone! Lots here to think about -- all of it very helpful.

    Not at all sure what to do about the introducing of the unseen characters because we don't actually see them in person for several chapters and I want to get some feel of the family and the antagonism facing Chais and her mother out there immediately. Losing Palaina would be the obvious answer, but I also like her exchange with Ardesine (thanks, Hex!) and the use of the children to bring Chais to the balcony. Shall have to think on that one.

    As for the fancy words... er... I didn't realise they were excessively fancy, to be honest, but then I have been immersed in books of the Italian Renaissance for the last 6 months -- hence credenza which before then had never passed my lips. I shall have a think about how to pull a few of them out to avoid overwhelming everyone. I'll have a go at tightening, too, Peter -- thanks for those thoughts.

    And yes, TEiN, map-making is perilous where this particular religion holds sway, thanks to fundamentalists who have taken over the church, though there might be more to it than simple map-making in her father's case. And all shall be made clear as to Keth and his significance.

    The genuflection bit is slightly complex, and I was trying to say too much, without saying it explicitly, which is perhaps why it's confusing. She knows there are spies among the servants, and that Sindretzine would like nothing better than to have her hauled before the church on a charge of heresy, and failing to respect the cartouche would be a good start. So though Chais doesn't believe, she does what she has to in order to survive -- think Elizabeth at RC masses during Mary's reign -- and she conforms to the extent that she does it whether or not anyone is or even might be watching. Her mother, who we see in the next scene with her, doesn't because she is more confident of her power over the Calte (Sindretzine's husband -- hence the animosity). I'll see if I can get a little bit more across without being heavy-handed. On the other hand, I might just take the sentence about servants out and leave it.


    ctg -- you sneaked in as I was writing the above. You've actually hit it right with the first person bit -- she is relating this to someone, so no outright emotion there for that very reason (not that a lady, as Chais is, would actually use such terms as you've employed, anyway!). Her third person is also a bit constrained here, since it's only when something happens to her that she's able to loosen the strait-jacket she's imposed upon herself and her feelings. I'm hoping that the restraint here makes those later scenes more powerful.


    Thanks again, everyone. All good and helpful stuff.
  17.  
    Mouse

    Mouse roar

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    TJ, I love the first mini-prologue bit. Perfect as far as I'm concerned.

    But you lost me after the colour of dung bit. I spent too much time puzzling over why she was suddenly snapping at the other person and then just lost concentration, which admittedly isn't hard at the moment. I didn't know what 'impiety' meant either, though I can guess from the context.
  18.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Thanks, Mouse!

    I'll have to make things clearer with the three women. Thinking cap time.
  19.  
    Percival

    Percival New Member

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    This is a great opening, I wouldn't change it. The two sentences have just the right level of disconnection.

    "Thick" walls? Whereas "dark" cellars are obviously obscuring, thickness doesn't have the same direct strength of connotations. "Behind" instead of "inside", culling "thick", would have a similar theme of hiding in both parts of the sentence. Is this one sentence or two? In some ways, the staccato feel that has been mentioned could be exploited here to make it two (before we even get to "their God" - which would then be another). On the other hand, I don't know that a long sentence here doesn't add to the music of it. It certainly reads well for the most part; I wonder if there shouldn't be two dashes, making "their God ..." a clause wrapped in them. That would require some reworking.

    When we get to the tying to the chair, there needs to be a break. We had a sequence of "and"s joining things they were bringing - when that sequence seems to continue with their actions it breaks the flow. You could reiterate "they" (as in "and they tied him ... ") or you could throw in a comma.

    Piazza is a stretch, but not (for me anyway) a stretch too far. I think it establishes a mood nicely. Less successful as I read it is the chair. Firstly, I don't know what a grandmaster's chair is - it doesn't evoke anything for me so I can't visualise it. And it sounds terribly prestigious - what are the butcher's guild doing with it? This was jarring for me in any case. It would have been a lot safer to describe the chair. And if you're going to do the butcher/butchering thing, I would go the whole hog ("the butchers' chair and they butchered him in it") and let it work itself into some righteous indignation.

    This sentence runs long, in fact I find this a tricky sentence to parse, too much happens in it. I don't know what rosolacci is: I don't think it needs to go, I just think you need to reorder the sentence so I know it's a dying flower by the time I get to the word. In terms of introducing flavour, it's lovely. But I would be tempted almost to treat Italian like Elvish (and variants) and try to work it into sentences in such a way as what it means can always be inferred by _prior_ context.

    I also didn't know what a pavior was, but I'm guessing some kind of stone - same suggestion as before (e.g. "dropping to the bone-white stones of the pavior"). Is bone-white really the colour you want here? I see that it could be bleached of colour, but it's a little awkward I think and is the symbolism working? I see blood on bone in rose petals on white stone, but I think it would be better to drag that idea of the stage mimicking the act out more fully.

    I like sloe-eyed. It's not an uncommon way to describe women of certain races, at least in some forms of literature I've read, and I think it works well. In particular, I think it continues to add detail to the back-drop in a neat and relatively subliminal way.

    I do wonder about the balance of these sentences. Some of these words are titles or roles, some are adjectives. I don't really think they work as a progression or as equivalents. I don't know that it matters, I guess I'm really worrying there's something great hidden behind what's there, which is good. The mother - slave - wife - witch - whore steps could almost be a swift, bitter life story. I like the adjectives, but they don't aid that feeling as they are.

    I don't know why "black" doesn't work for me here. Maybe because it's too modern, it's only been a couple of decades that black women have been politely described as such, before that it was "negress"? And before that many other options ("Numidian" and "Saracen" were popular at one point?). What about an Italian slang term here? It will be obvious from the context, and it will fit the world better?

    I don't know why "talking of her" doesn't work for me, it could be just a passing phase. But "speaking of" seems natural and "talking of" doesn't; "talking of" is a topic, "speaking of" is a subject? I can't really justify it. Just a hunch.

    The sentence with "came with added bile" doesn't work for me. Maybe "came through"? I think as it is, it's a mix of a steady state ("came with") and a particular instance (implied by "customary"?). Is "being" needed in the next sentence? Something about "the filthy whore" doesn't ring true to me at the end, but I don't know what - I guess I read it as a reaction to something (as though she has slept her way into these graces), where I think it is intended as a well-worn insult.

    "Gilded wood" is difficult for me here. Is it really gilded? A golden door? That seems quite extravagant and maybe you could bring it out more clearly? She would smell metal, feel its sharpness, at the range she's at?

    I don't like "impiety"; I'm not saying it's not a word, or that it doesn't mean what you used it to mean, I just don't think it scans well.

    Who are these people? One generally did not speak disrespectfully of one's betters in anything but extremely safe company I think. If this is a mediaeval world, at least one with an Inquisition, then are they not likely to be rather more circumspect? The power of absolute authority is chilling up close.

    I got lost here because suddenly we went from her mother being presented, to Palaina being presented. The first time I read it I was scanning back to see what her mother's name was, in case this was the same person, especially given the disrespect she's being treated with. Some kind of cue that they're all going would be helpful.

    I think "invective" is overkill. If you have the words, you don't need to further explain them: it's obviously invective and you effectively waste a word.

    I struggled with who "she" ("her") is in the third sentence. I don't have a major problem with the last sentence. I do think integrating the "lesson ... seemed to learn" part from the previous sentence with the last one would make it clearer.

    There's one plank that squeaks on an entire wooden floored gallery? This is somewhat implausible? If it's only a few steps, maybe describe them?

    I would reverse the order of occurrence of "perdonne" and its definition, as per earlier comments. It's a much lower cognitive load if you already told me what the hard word I'm about to see means. Treat it like Elvish(!) Same for "faience" - I'm still not clear after reading this what it means. "Lustreware" is a nice word, but I don't know what it means and more importantly, I'm not sure what _kind_ of thing it is - dishes, ornaments?

    Lost me a little. I don't know how she got in motion, where she's going or indeed where she is. "Genuflected" is fine; "cartouche" is more of a problem for me - I'd rather at least have some kind of description hung on it so I know what, roughly, it represents. It is colourful? Big, small? Sacred? The mark of a secular power or a god?

    The hyphenation of balcony-loggia took me aback. Having looked up loggia I see this is some kind of outdoor gallery. I think honestly I would find it easier with some description of where she is instead. How does the air smell? What's the floor like? Sounds of the city, traffic, animals? Anything blowing in the wind if it's partly outdoor? You can work in "loggia", but really I want to know where I am: "loggia" will give the right period atmosphere to that place when I know what it is, but on its own it conjures nothing for me personally.

    The servants feel generic, which is fine - servants were not noticed by persons of quality - but I wonder about her quality? Is she so far above these servants that they're faceless and beneath notice, even as the daughter of a whore and a heretic? I don't say it's impossible, I was just struck by the total non-interaction of the protagonist and these new characters. The previous set were hostile, what prevents this set from either (a) snubbing her (b) curtseying or at least acknowledging her or (c) befriending her?

    Overall, I really enjoyed this. I tried to give meaningful critique, but I think this has some remarkably strong parts. The start is excellent. I feel that just a little more care over the way vocabulary is introduced, not even which words are selected, would yield something I found more approachable. I enjoyed it enough that I would read on, but it was mostly not sharp or concrete to me, because too much of everything was encapsulated in single words, whose meanings I don't know (and even if I look them up, they'll still be bleached of overtones or sensory associations).
  20.  
    hopewrites

    hopewrites Happily Ever Aftering

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2011
    Messages:
    2,180
    I pictured a room full of unseen women at the beginning, and put about ten years between the not-a-prolog and the start.
    I was so utterly captivated that it took reading others comments for me to realize i hadn't caught the religious references. I assumed genuflecting was thinking, and that a cartouche was where someone was laid out like a pyre. Now i'm rethinking that and beginning to grasp that it is something catholic in nature.
    While i absolutely love your characters and their relate-ably realness, I will confess that the last series i read that was heavy handed with the Catholic references i couldn't follow or at least imagine i dropped out at book 7/11.

    I like that she is relating this emotionlessly. it makes it more real for me, not less. probably because i have been through experiences young that dissociated my memories, I identified right way with 'this is what happened but i dont remember it' and the impersonal touch. remembering those things is like watching a muted tv through running water, if i reach too deep for them the icy splash sends me reeling back out of memory, ripples distorting it beyond recollection for a time.

    I love that you have the world opening up before us and am more then willing to look up all the words i didnt know (though now i dont have to because everyone else did and said what they were) because the story dances in my mind and the lyric of the words makes me want to know.
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us I look forward to reading more :)

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