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3000th post: The Empyreus Proof ch1 start

HareBrain

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Three-thousandth post, time-honoured tradition, unaccustomed as I am, etc.

This is the start of ch1 of the second book in my WIP series. (There is also a prologue, but that has different characters.) As it’s the start of book2, I’m particularly interested in how it might come across to readers who haven’t read book1. My ideal would be to interest them enough to seek out the first one, without putting them right off with a load of completely impenetrable references to previous events. I'm aware that might be easier in an action sequence, which this isn’t.

All other thoughts and comments very much welcomed, of course.

****************************************************



There had been a soft breeze from the sea, and the dappled shade of pines, and quiet. There had been days when she’d had nothing to do but swim and think, and nothing to worry about. Less than a week ago, it now felt to Hana like another century. Saguna was jammed with traffic, with flies, with people, with sun-heat trapped in the canyons between buildings — and worries were at her like dogs.

The flat-bed cart creaked forward another yard, and its wheel jolted into a pot-hole. The others on the cart, crew and servants also returned on Aurora, whooped at the sudden lurch — they were happy to be back on the mainland, and would have whooped at anything. Hana pressed her palm harder against the long packing crate, trying to transmit reassurance through her touch on the wood.

‘Home soon,’ she whispered. ‘Then I can help you.’

She hated the necessity of the crate. If a jolt roused Tashi, how would she know? For more than a day, as Aurora had chugged through coastal waters roughed up by the first autumn winds, she’d stayed with him, frightened the pitching and rolling of the boat would disturb the fragile equilibrium within his demon-transformed body. Ashore, her unease had grown rather than calmed, especially in this crowd, this seething press and bustle — not just from fear that Tashi might stir, but fear of discovery. How the Sagunites might react if someone found out what was being transported through their midst, she didn’t dare think.

‘Hana?’

She turned. Her father stood next to the stationary cart.

‘Might as well make use of the delay, I thought.’ He carried several newssheets. ‘It’d be useful to know what’s been reported, if anything.’

‘I’m busy.’ Hana stroked the crate. ‘Orc and Cass can read, can’t they?’

Ferman nodded, looked as though he might say something else, then walked back to the open carriage in front, where he handed the newssheets round to Stefanie and the Strandborn cousins. Hana suspected his reasons for trying to include her. Maybe he worried she saw Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage; it must have occurred to him that any passer-by would assume them to be the Quallaces’ children, their northern colouring much more like his and Stefanie’s than Hana’s own olive skin and dark hair. She felt disappointed with her adoptive father for thinking she might be so insecure about her place in the family. She was too old for that.

She watched the fair heads of the cousins — the supposed cousins — bend over their reading, searching for news of the thousand deaths they had indirectly caused, of the warships destroyed by an abomination given physical existence only through some supernatural quality they possessed: the same quality by which Tashi’s demons had transformed him into a grotesque horror, as though in mockery of Hana’s efforts to save him.

Sometimes, she wished her new friends had never come within a thousand miles of her.

The jam took half an hour to clear, and they spent the same again following the rough course of the river through Saguna’s northern outskirts. Hana felt stiff and tired by the time the two vehicles rattled between the gateposts of The Cypresses and up the short drive. The shutters were open, so Mrs Baraktis must have received the telegram Ferman had sent from Carnega when they’d taken on coal. Beds would be ready, and water heated. An hour’s rest, Hana promised herself, and she would begin her work on Tashi.

The front door opened as they pulled up, and Mrs Baraktis appeared. Hana expected her to wait at the portal, with her usual chilly dignity; she was surprised and alarmed when the housekeeper picked up her skirts and ran across to the carriage.

‘Thank Harcassia you’re here, master!’

Ferman jumped down. ‘Mrs Baraktis, what is it?’

‘The doctor’s just left,’ she said. ‘He can’t do anything.’

‘Doctor?’ said Stefanie, climbing down after her husband. ‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Not me, mistress! He came yesterday morning, and now he won’t wake up!’

‘The doctor?’

‘No! No, the — no, I —’

‘Calm yourself,’ said Ferman. ‘Who came?’

‘Sir — your brother.’

A frown pulled Hana’s brow. Ferman looked baffled: he glanced round at the others, as though one of them might grasp a sense that he’d missed. ‘Jorik, you mean?’

‘You have only one brother,’ said Stefanie. ‘Show us,’ she told the housekeeper.

Hana slid herself off the cart, and followed as Mrs Baraktis led her parents through the hall and into the drawing room. A fire burned in the hearth, despite the warmth outdoors, but Hana chilled at what she saw. She barely recognised Jorik Quallace. The quick wit and enthusiasm that had animated his features the few times she’d met him were gone, replaced by absence and pain. He lay on a couch, shivering beneath a blanket, his head jerking from side to side. His red-blond hair was dark and curled with sweat, his forehead slick, his lips drawn partly back.

‘Fever?’ Stefanie’s voice was tight. She went over.

‘There’s no heat in him,’ said Mrs Baraktis.

Stefanie touched Jorik’s forehead. ‘Then why is he perspiring?’

Hana wondered that too. She had seen something like Jorik’s condition before, but that had been in the world she’d left behind. It couldn’t be here too.

‘The doctor couldn’t explain it,’ said Mrs Baraktis. ‘But the way it came on so sudden, and the way it happened …’

Hana noticed the small votives Mrs Baraktis had placed around the couch.

‘The way it happened?’ said Ferman.

‘I tried to do as he said, sir, but I’m only made of flesh, same as everyone —’

‘Speak more clearly,’ said Ferman. ‘What did he say for you to do? Why is he even here?’

The housekeeper smoothed her hands down her dress. ‘He came two nights ago.’

‘From Makassa?’

‘Yes. He said he expected you to return soon — I would have told him no, not for months, except your telegram came that day. And he said you might be with a monk.’

Hana’s chest squeezed.

‘A monk?’ said Stefanie. ‘Did he give a name?’

‘No, mistress. He just said he needed to speak to that monk, or if not, then to you, sir. He was in a terrible state. He told me he hadn’t slept for three nights, and must not sleep before your return. He ordered me not to let him.’

‘Heavens,’ said Ferman.

‘Whenever he was seated or resting, I was to watch over him,’ said the housekeeper. ‘I grew more weary than I’ve ever been.’ She sounded close to tears. ‘In the small hours last night, I had to answer a call of the body. When I returned a few minutes later, he was slumped over his book, and I couldn’t wake him, not with any talking or shaking. The doctor thought it exhaustion brought on by lack of sleep. He said to keep your brother warm and hope rest would bring him out of it. He’ll be back this afternoon, the doctor, and if there’s no improvement he’ll get him taken into the hospital.’

‘Did Jorik say why?’ asked Hana, words coming with difficulty from an empty-feeling chest. ‘Why he couldn’t be allowed to sleep?’

The housekeeper glanced at her with the same old look: if not quite hostility, then suspicion. ‘I asked, of course,’ she told Ferman. ‘He said knowing would put me in danger too.’

Ferman swallowed. ‘Exhaustion already working its effect, no doubt.’ He shook the sleeper’s shoulder. ‘Jorik, old man. You wanted to talk to me.’

‘And Shoggu,’ said Hana. ‘That must be who he meant. And this … I’ve seen this before. Or something like it.’

Ferman looked at her. ‘You think this is Daroguerre’s work?’

‘I hope not. But there must be a connection. With the island, I mean.’

‘But how did he even know about Shoggu?’ said Stefanie. ‘And if he did, why didn’t he know he was dead?’

‘He can tell us that when he wakes,’ said Ferman. ‘The way you freed Shoggu,’ he said to Hana, fixing his pale blue gaze on her. ‘Will that work here?’

‘I’ll try.’ It felt inadequate, but there was nothing else to say. She felt scared of the dependency the seriousness of his face placed on her. She had never known siblings. It alarmed her how much the sick man on the couch might mean to her father. Although she liked Jorik, he was not of her blood, just an outlying member of a family who’d taken her in. A family she could now repay — or fail to.
 

Grimbear

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As I haven't read book 1 I'll offer some stuff.

Three-thousandth post, time-honoured tradition, unaccustomed as I am, etc.

This is the start of ch1 of the second book in my WIP series. (There is also a prologue, but that has different characters.) As it’s the start of book2, I’m particularly interested in how it might come across to readers who haven’t read book1. My ideal would be to interest them enough to seek out the first one, without putting them right off with a load of completely impenetrable references to previous events. I'm aware that might be easier in an action sequence, which this isn’t.

All other thoughts and comments very much welcomed, of course.

****************************************************



There had been a soft breeze from the sea, and the dappled shade of pines, and quiet.This sentence is a bit weird - you link the sight of the dappled shade with the sound of the soft breeze and it doesn't gel somehow. Pine forests are thick and you can't see dappling light like in a forest of deciduous trees, or feel a breeze. Once your past the first trees it's pretty airless. There had been days when she’d had nothing to do but swim and think, and nothing to worry about. That was Less than a week ago and it now felt to Hana like another century. Saguna was jammed with traffic, with flies, with people, with sun-heat trapped in the canyons between buildings — and worries were biting, snapping? insert an adjective here?
at her like dogs.


The flat-bed cart creaked forward another yard remove 'another yard', and its wheel jolted into a pot-hole. The others on the cart, crew and servants also returned on Aurora, whooped at the sudden lurch — they were happy to be back on the mainland, and would have whooped at anything. Hana pressed her palm harder against the long packing crate, trying to transmit reassurance through her touch on the wood.

‘Home soon,’ she whispered. ‘Then I can help you.’

She hated the necessity of the crate. If a jolt roused Tashi, how would she know? For more than a day, as Aurora had chugged through coastal waters roughed up by the first autumn winds, she’d stayed with him, frightened the pitching and rolling of the boat would disturb the fragile equilibrium within his demon-transformed body. Ashore, her unease had grown rather than calmed, especially in this crowd, this seething press and bustle — not just from fear that Tashi might stir, but fear of discovery. How the Sagunites might react if someone remove 'someone' and insert 'they' here? found out what was being transported through their midst, she didn’t dare think.

‘Hana?’

She turned. Her father stood next to the stationary cart.

‘Might as well make use of the delay, I thought.’ He carried several newssheets. ‘It’d be useful to know what’s been reported, if anything.’

‘I’m busy.’ Hana stroked the crate. ‘Orc and Cass can read, can’t they?’

Ferman nodded, looked as though he might say something else, then walked back to the open carriage in front, where he handed the newssheets round to Stefanie and the Strandborn cousins. Hana suspected his reasons for trying to include her. Maybe he worried she saw Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage; it must have occurred to him that any passer-by would assume them to be the Quallaces’ children, their northern colouring much more like his and Stefanie’s than Hana’s own olive skin and dark hair. She felt disappointed with her adoptive father for thinking she might be so insecure about her place in the family. She was too old for that.

She watched the fair heads of the cousins — the supposed cousins I would get rid of 'supposed cousins' as it makes it sound as if they are acting a role.— bend over their reading, searching for news of the thousand deaths they had indirectly caused, of the warships destroyed by an abomination given physical existence only through some supernatural quality they possessed who possessed? it reads as if your referring to the cousins here: the same quality by which Tashi’s demons had transformed him into a grotesque horror, as though in mockery of Hana’s efforts to save him.

Sometimes, she wished her new friends had never come within a thousand miles of her.

The jam took half an hour to clear, and they spent the same again same again what? same time? please specify or leave it out? following the rough course of the river through Saguna’s northern outskirts. Hana felt stiff and tired by the time the two vehicles rattled between the gateposts of The Cypresses and up the short drive. The shutters were open, so Mrs Baraktis must have received the telegram Ferman had sent from Carnega when they’d taken on coal. Beds would be ready, and water heated. An hour’s rest, Hana promised herself, and she would begin her work on Tashi.

The front door opened as they pulled up, and Mrs Baraktis appeared. Hana expected her to wait at the portal, with her usual chilly dignity; she was surprised and alarmed when the housekeeper picked up her skirts and ran across to the carriage.

‘Thank Harcassia you’re here, master!’

Ferman jumped down. ‘Mrs Baraktis, what is it?’

‘The doctor’s just left,’ she said. ‘He can’t do anything.’

‘Doctor?’ said Stefanie, climbing down after her husband. ‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Not me, mistress! He came yesterday morning, and now he won’t wake up!’

‘The doctor?’

‘No! No, the — no, I —’

‘Calm yourself,’ said Ferman. ‘Who came?’

‘Sir — your brother.’

A frown pulled Hana’s brow. Ferman looked baffled: he glanced round at the others, as though one of them might grasp a sense that he’d missed. ‘Jorik, you mean?’

‘You have only one brother,’ said Stefanie. ‘Show us,’ she told the housekeeper.

Hana slid herself off the cart, and followed as Mrs Baraktis led her parents through the hall and into the drawing room. A fire burned in the hearth, despite the warmth outdoors, but Hana was chilled at what she saw. She barely recognised Jorik Quallace. The quick wit and enthusiasm that had animated his features the few times she’d met him were 'was' here not 'were' gone, replaced by absence and pain. He lay on a couch, shivering beneath a blanket, his head jerking from side to side. His red-blond hair was dark and curled with sweat, his forehead slick maybe say 'wet' or 'damp' as slick sounds too much imo, his lips drawn partly back.

‘Fever?’ Stefanie’s voice was tight. She went over.

‘There’s no heat in him,’ said Mrs Baraktis.

Stefanie touched Jorik’s forehead. ‘Then why is he perspiring?’

Hana wondered that too. She had seen something like Jorik’s condition before, but that had been in the world she’d left behind. It couldn’t be here too.

‘The doctor couldn’t explain it,’ said Mrs Baraktis. ‘But the way it came on so sudden, and the way it happened …’

Hana noticed the small votives Mrs Baraktis had placed around the couch.

‘The way it happened?’ said Ferman.

‘I tried to do as he said, sir, but I’m only made of flesh, same as everyone —’

‘Speak more clearly,’ said Ferman. ‘What did he say for you to do? Why is he even here?’

The housekeeper smoothed her hands down her dress. ‘He came two nights ago.’

‘From Makassa?’

‘Yes. He said he expected you to return soon — I would have told him no, not for months, except your telegram came that day. And he said you might be with a monk.’

Hana’s chest squeezed.

‘A monk?’ said Stefanie. ‘Did he give a name?’

‘No, mistress. He just said he needed to speak to that monk, or if not, then to you, sir. He was in a terrible state. He told me he hadn’t slept for three nights, and must not sleep before your return. He ordered me not to let him.’

‘Heavens,’ said Ferman.

‘Whenever he was seated or resting, I was to watch over him,’ said the housekeeper. ‘I grew more weary than I’ve ever been.’ She sounded close to tears. ‘In the small hours last night, I had to answer a call of the body. When I returned a few minutes later, he was slumped over his book, and I couldn’t wake him, not with any talking or shaking. The doctor thought it exhaustion brought on by lack of sleep. He said to keep your brother warm and hope rest would bring him out of it. He’ll be back this afternoon, the doctor, and if there’s no improvement he’ll get him taken into the hospital.’

‘Did Jorik say why?’ asked Hana, words coming with difficulty from an empty-feeling chest. ‘Why he couldn’t be allowed to sleep?’

The housekeeper glanced at her with the same old look: if not quite hostility, then suspicion. ‘I asked, of course,’ she told Ferman. ‘He said knowing would put me in danger too.’

Ferman swallowed. ‘Exhaustion already working its effect, no doubt.’ He shook the sleeper’s shoulder. ‘Jorik, old man. You wanted to talk to me.’

‘And Shoggu,’ said Hana. ‘That must be who he meant. And this … I’ve seen this before. Or something like it.’

Ferman looked at her. ‘You think this is Daroguerre’s work?’

‘I hope not. But there must be a connection. With the island, I mean.’

‘But how did he even know about Shoggu?’ said Stefanie. ‘And if he did, why didn’t he know he was dead?’

‘He can tell us that when he wakes,’ said Ferman. ‘The way you freed Shoggu,’ he said to Hana, fixing his pale blue gaze on her. ‘Will that work here?’

‘I’ll try.’ It felt inadequate, but there was nothing else to say. She felt scared of the dependency the seriousness of his face placed on her.This sentence is clunky - maybe say 'she felt scared of the responsibility he'd thrust onto her. She had never known siblings. It alarmed her how much the sick man on the couch might mean to her father. Although she liked Jorik, he was not of her blood, just an outlying member of a family who’d taken her in. A family she could now repay — or fail to.
IMHO it's very good. I would read on.
 

The Judge

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Woo-hoo!! Congratulations on the 3,000th!!

As excellent as ever. It links in well with the end of TGP so those who have read the first book will know where we are and what's happening, but at the same time it's introducing new characters and new places immediately to ensure we're interested and not about to take things for granted. Since I do know what's happened before, it's a little difficult to approach it as if I'm in ignorance of everyone and everything, but it doesn't strike me as being impenetrable, and although in one or two places you might have been a little more forthcoming about what had happened, it's better perhaps to err on the side of less than give too much of an info-dump on the first page.

I've a few nit-picks (don't I always have...), and I'll try and get back later and pull one or two out. In the meantime, well done. A very good start to the book.
 

Boneman

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Congratulations on the 3,000th post. I have read the first book, so I won't comment....

Except they'd better not get out into the yard and find Tashi's gone, and this is all a distraction. I did wonder where Orc and Cass went, while this was going on. But it's ramped up the tension superbly right from the off. Sorry, that was a comment. Oh, and I'm sort of surprised at the separation of Hana from the others - makes it seem that Hana is the only one concerned about Tashi. I know there's been a passage of time, and I'd have expected hana to have a decent understanding of what Orc and Cass have been through, (and vice versa) as they'd have been talking on the Aurora, getting to know each other better, and the beginnings of a friendship. Sorry, more comments...;):)
 

HareBrain

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Thanks, you two (edit: three). Grimbear, you raise an interesting point about the pines. Natural pine forest (rather than plantations) is much more open even in the UK (such as old-growth Caledonian pine forest, of which there isn't much left), but the pines referred to here are Mediterranean stone pines, which give a more open cover still. I've worried from time to time that calling them just "pines" would give the wrong image to your average Joe Brit, but I've never managed to come up with an alternative.

Edit @ Boneman -- you are allowed to comment! :) I'm also interested in how it reads to those who have read the first book.
 

ctg

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Congratulations. You have posted more than what I could do in a year's time. Well done.

I'm afraid that the immediate start felt to me as if I was waddling through a puddle of softly thickening honey. The prose tastes good, but it flows so badly. Others, as you very well know, might not have the same impression.

But what comes the action, you know that I have said before that the action doesn't have to mean "tension filled action" as it can be any action that hooks the readers and makes them to want to read more. In here, the readers are a bit more confused about what is happening than what they are in the beginning of the first, where Orc and Cass goes through the underwater portal and ends up in the beach at the other world.

Therefore, I'd like you drop in a bit more backstory rather than going boldly from the spot, where you left the readers in the first book. However, don't go overboard, but please, expand the original expositions.




There had been a soft breeze from the sea, and the dappled shade of pines, and peace. There had been days when she’d had nothing to do but swim and think, and nothing to worry about. Less than a week ago
[*]
, it now felt to Hana like another century. Saguna was jammed with traffic, with flies, with people, with sun-heat trapped in the canyons between buildings — and worries were at her like dogs.
I didn't like quiet word much and thought peace would reflect better the mood. The asterix indicates the point that I found confusing as less than a week ago happened something that you wouldn't disclose to new readers.

Why?

Ferman nodded, looked as though he might say something else, then walked back to the open carriage in front, where he handed the newssheets round to Stefanie and the Strandborn cousins. Hana suspected his reasons for trying to include her. Maybe he worried she saw Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage; it must have occurred to him that any passer-by would assume them to be the Quallaces’ children, their pale tones [?] much more like his and Stefanie’s than Hana’s own olive skin and dark hair. She felt disappointed with her adoptive father for thinking she might be so insecure about her place in the family. She was too old for that.
Why northern tones? Why not to use something more universal that the readers can associate better to the northern people, like the pale skin and blond hair.

Sometimes, she wished her new friends had never come within a thousand miles of her.
I wish you would expand this just a little bit more and fill in a bit more of the backstory.
 

Jo Zebedee

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this is third time lucky; the chrons keeps taking me back a page before I post....

Hi HB, I really liked the writing and dialogue.

I found it hard to get immediately engaged in the world and I think there were two reasons for this. Firstly, we talk about carriages and carts and such like and I have a view of the era and then newssheets are mentioned, which seems a modern term, and I wonder if I'm wrong about the era.

Also, I did think there was a hint about a back story which I didn't know, and so I felt kind of left out a little. I know from your synopsis that TGP is pretty complex, and I do wonder if a story so far would have helped me.

Would it encourage me to pick up TGP. Yes, in the sense that I rarely, if ever, read the sequel first, for the reasons above and the writing is good and smooth. No, in the sense I didn't get a feel for the first book and what had happened through this.

Right, posting before I lose this one.. Congrats on the 3000th!
 

Glitch

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Congrats on three thousand posts. At my current rate of posting I should get there in about 90 years !

These comments are from someone who hasn't read the previous work.

It does read like it's missing the beginning. I agree with Grimbear about the first line.

I guess Saguna is a city. Are we in Saguna? It felt like we are in Saguna and some recent event/festival has just passed which has made the city feel quieter. The next paragraph says she has returned, so now I'm confused. Are we in Saguna or have we come from there ?

I also assume Aurora is a ship. Sounds modern, I'm picturing a metropolis; but then you mention cart, which suggests horse drawn to me. Again I'm confused about what I should be picturing here.

I was surprised when they cleared the jam in half an hour. It felt like they had been stationary for many hours. You don't mention what has caused the jam; this adds to my confusion regarding the first paragraph. If we are in Saguna then it's just as busy as it was ?

From here the pace picks up quite well and starts to make more sense. Although you skip over Ferman not knowing who it brother was. I assumed it was some ruse the housekeeper was unaware of, but it goes unmentioned. Unless I've read more into the situation than there was.

The housekeeper's paragraph ‘Whenever he was seated or resting, I was to watch over him,’ breaks the flow for me, I had to re-read it.

If that was the first page of a book I would probably put it down and look for the first book in the series.

Hope that helps. But, feel free to ignore me; I'm not an expert on these things :)
 

Bowler1

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I'm also going to add the opening line as needing more, its good don't worry. But that 1st line, ohhh, thats the hook, and I was not 100% hooked, 90%+ yes.

She watched the fair heads of the cousins — the supposed cousins — bend over their reading, searching for news of the thousand deaths they had indirectly caused, of the warships destroyed by an abomination given physical existence only through some supernatural quality they possessed: the same quality by which Tashi’s demons had transformed him into a grotesque horror, as though in mockery of Hana’s efforts to save him.

The above lost me, sorry. Was this trying to fill in the action from the 1st book, not sure!

However, that was the only section I had any problems with. When I was reading I thought, what do they look like now, when, presto..... you did it. The poor sleepy guy, made me wonder what had happened to him, just enough to make me forget I have no idea what happened in book one, very good.

Would I read more, hhmmmm, YES!!!....

Technology is always a problem, but as print has been around since the middle ages, then maybe carts are ok. But Spring1971 does show reader perception, daily newspapers are a fairly modern industrail thingy, delivery being one of the barriers, ie, carts. To be fair, I never clocked that one until I read what other members wrote.

A nice end to my sunday night thank you.
 

Hex

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Even if we're being conservative about what counts as a newspaper/newssheet, the rotary press was invented and developed in the mid-1800s. You'd easily have newspapers alongside horses and carts.

I loved this as ever. I read the first sentence twice but it worked for me. I wondered a little about 'worries were at her like dogs', but my conclusion is that I like it.

I also wondered about: 'abomination given physical existence only through some supernatural quality' (my wondering this time focused on the 'only').

Finally, 'She felt scared of the dependency the seriousness of his face placed on her.' -- I know we're told to excise 'that', but I wondered if it would simplify this sentence to have one after 'dependency'.

It connects beautifully. Can't wait to see where it goes.
 

Ursa major

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Congratulations on your 3000, HB! :)

There had been a soft breeze from the sea, and the dappled shade of pines, and quiet.
I have no problem with this line (even though I don't think I've read anything from the previous volume).

I will say, though, that I took care in reading it. For me, it says that the prose of this work isn't strictly standard 21st century fayre but perhaps more in line with (though far from identical to) the period in which it's set. As you've said that there's a prologue -which is, presumably, written in the same, or a similar, stye - there should be no issue at all when this sentence is encountered by a reader.

The use of this style, though, did highlight some issues. I'm no scholar of late 19th literature, but I expect it to be more formal. Now while I don't think you need to write in that past style, I found that the writing was, occasionally, too informal and conversational. One example:
Maybe he worried she saw Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage;
I feel that there's a 'that' missing between 'worried' and 'she', although when I read it with the 'that' in, it still doesn't sound quite right. It's almost as if there should be something else in there but you're not sure (and I'm not sure) what it should be. I've tried making it a question, adding 'in case' between 'worried' and 'she' and changing the 'saw' to 'would see':
Was he worried in case she would see Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage?
Still not very good, so I changed it to:
Did he think that she might see Orc and Cass as usurpers for riding in the carriage?
 

TheDustyZebra

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Colorado
Congratulations on 3000!

I have not read anything of the first book, so this is all fresh to me. I think it's close to a good balance of what needs to be told of the backstory and starting anew, although I don't have a great sense of what came before. If I knew all of that out of this, I wouldn't need to go and buy the first book, would I? :)

I was confused about Stefanie being Hana's mother -- I had to go back and look when I got to the point of "her parents" being led into the house. It's probably just me.

There is a little bit of misdirection implied in the bit about "my brother?" and the looks passing back and forth, but then I get the impression that it really is his brother, so I'm not sure about that part.

I do agree that the first sentence is a bit odd, mixing the senses as it does.

And there is that bit near the end where one wonders where everyone else went, but perhaps they are just forgotten in the shuffle.

Overall, however, I think it's really great!
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
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Thanks all, some interesting (and gratifying) reactions there, and some useful tips. The "tech level" is late 19th century, but I might try to slip in something that makes it more obvious, like referring to Aurora as a steam-yacht. (I don't think there's anything in the prologue that does, either, though there was in the prologue of the first book.) Ferman's confusion about his brother was only supposed to be because his brother is meant to be hundreds of miles away, but from some comments here (and looking at it again) I think I've overdone his reaction.
 
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