Friday, 27 June 2014 00:00

Mentor's critique - Intimations of Evil

Cary, your narrative is very spare and you convey meaning directly, with almost no use of metaphor or simile. You concentrate on action, and the language does not carry the reader deep into the characters’ thoughts and feelings—these are simply stated and the story moves on. The dialogue is in contrast to the narrative, being more elaborate, with many polite terms of phrase. You also take care to convey different patterns of speech amongst the various races in the lands of Vhast. You use kinaesthetic language (that of physical movement and touch) almost exclusively, without the other senses being strongly evoked. This gives a powerful forward impetus to your narrative, an advantage where your purpose is to keep the reader moving on an epic journey.

You have been very thorough in creating the world of your novel, having the characters appear from several points of the compass and travel through diverse environments and climates to meet at the far destination, Evilhalt. One also gets a sense of the plurality of peoples in Vhast, because the characters themselves are aware of differences—between human and other races, and between religions, customs etc. It is initially easy for the reader to relate to your world because in many ways it echoes Earth. There is however a risk of reader confusion when an imaginary world is dotted with proper names that belong to our planet. I wonder if you have given thought to making up all the names of places, religions, languages etc, so that Vhast is a complete fabrication?
You create distinctive characters by concentrating on appearance, clothing and accoutrements. You also match their approach to others with their function in life—for instance Basil, who is a trained army officer, is extremely observant of behaviour and facial expressions, and his thinking is always strategic. Theodora, by contrast, is so inexperienced at negotiation that she asks Basil what she ought to pay him! Moments like the latter are amusing and subtly make the reader smile.

The situation in which the main characters find themselves at the beginning of an epic story is of the utmost importance—because it provides the reason for their unique journey. For us to keep turning the pages, we must be engaged with the characters from the start. Your novel begins with Theodora, the highest-ranking person amongst your band of heroes, and you make this young, gifted princess easy to like. Linking Basil with her destiny is a clever device and you have made his reason for departure from the capital, Ardlark, different from hers—he is being employed to spy on her. Thereafter, the situation of each character should be equally interesting (or preferably more so). You would be wise to use your inventiveness once again and come up with more distinctive motivations for them. Boredom with existence might do as a driver for just one—the first, Theodora—but in the MS it is shared by Thord, Bianca, Rani and Stefan. Similarly, two women are fleeing an unwelcome marriage and three of the males are sent away from their homes because of directives from their seniors. And a female character also gets sent on a mission—Ayesha is flown to Evilhalt for the same purpose as Basil’s: to surveille Theodora.

You have written a novel that is full of action and forward movement, in which event succeeds event in a strong imaginative succession. However, in a novel that consists purely of events, there is a risk that the reader comes to see them as a repetitive blur. What engages us with a story of this kind, and keeps us enthralled until the last page, is the sense that we are travelling with the protagonists towards an understandable goal. As they meet and share their dreams/aims/motivations, a collective purpose unfolds. Ideally you need this to lead to a climax in the final events of this novel—thus tempting readers to eventually read your second.

Cary, you have created a rich and complex world, you move your characters around in it with speed and economy, and you intrigue the reader with your descriptions of weaponry and the characters’ magical powers. You expertly sketch in the potential of your protagonists, which encourages the reader to follow them and watch them develop. If you can give them a collective task in which they triumph at the climax, you may well create a convincing novel that stands proudly on its own and provides a worthy beginning to the heroic fantasy series you have planned. If I may make a suggestion about the title: the conceptual Intimations of Evil might be replaced by something that more concrete that expresses the core of this novel, such as Warriors of Vhast.

Additional Info

  • Written by: Cary Lenehan
  • Country: Australia
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