First Page Review Blog-hop

This post is for the October First Page Review Blog-hop, though anyone who shows up here is more than welcome to comment.  This is how it works: post the first 1,000 pages of something you’ve written or are currently working on, then sign up on this page, linking to the post. Then visit others on the list, letting them know what you think. Would you keep reading? What worked? Didn’t work? Any feedback is welcome. I’ve rewritten this so many times I don’t know if it makes any sense at all. Thanks!

Here’s the first 2/3 of of the prologue of my as yet untitled historical fantasy:

“She’s up there somewhere, the princess with the golden hair,” Miro sighed. “Ercos willing, we’ll make her a widow before sundown. Do you reckon she’s looking down on us?”

Braeden Terris tipped his head back as far as he could. The pointed towers of Birkenfels, perched high on the cliff over the river, emerged from the mist. “If she is, she can’t see through the fog. Stop worrying about the pretty princess, and start worrying that we’ll stumble onto her husband before Novitny and the rest come up. If we do, I’m sure she’d be happy to see your ugly mug on a spike over her gate.”

“One look at me, and that poor princess would forget all about that stupid prince of hers. It’s your scruffy head she’d stick up there, while I stick . . .”

“There they are thank the gods,” Braeden said, as he saw horsemen emerge from the fog. Prince Kendryk’s retreating army had burned the bridge below the castle, so the Sanova Hussars forded the river about a league downstream. In the dark before dawn, Braeden lost sight of his commander and decided to take his own vanguard to their rendezvous point. He didn’t want to stumble upon twenty thousand enemy in the fog by himself, so he was happy to see the rest of them.

Prince Novitny came up next to Braeden. “Good to see you Terris,” he said. “Was worried you’d gone the wrong way. Would be a shame to miss all the fun.”

“It would, About time we had a real fight.” He patted the neck of Kazmir, his charger, who snorted in agreement. “Think we’ll get it?”

“We will,” Novitny said. “He can’t go any further unless he finds a way to tunnel through those hills.”

By now all of the hussars coming up from the river had fallen into formation on the road leading away from the castle. Braeden spared one more glance for the princess barricaded in it, but Birkennfels was once again shrouded in fog.

Novitny followed his gaze. “He won’t get any help from there,” he said. “At least I hope not.”

“What do you mean? There can’t be more than a skeleton garrison there.”

“It’s not the garrison that worries me. It’s that girl’s father. If word reaches him in time and he finds a way to sail up the river, we’ll have some real trouble.”

“Think he will?”

“Likely not. Still, the general’s posted scouts at least twenty leagues downriver so we should have plenty of warning if any ships come.”

The prince rode off to take his position and Braeden turned his mind to the coming battle. Pale sunlight caught thousands of spear-tips as they reached open country beyond the river valley and enormous squares of pike and musket moved into place on the right flank. Solid and slow-moving, the squares were usually in danger of being outflanked, but Bernotas didn’t have enough cavalry to be a threat. Why Arian Orland wasn’t there with his ten thousand horse was anyone’s guess.

Braeden took his place at the head of his banner on the Novitny right flank while the horses walked slowly across long green grass already trampled by thousands of feet.

Franca Dura galloped up a moment later in a spray of mud. “I’ve brought your orders, sir. You should be ready to go soon and watch out for the Bernotas guns. With any luck they’ll hit the center so we can crush the right flank straightaway and swoop down on Prince Kendryk himself.”

Braeden pulled Kazmir to a stop as he stepped into a small stream. The fog against the hills in front of them hadn’t lifted and it was hard to see directly ahead. But to his right the fog had burned off and the sun shone bright so he could see the front ranks of the Empress’s personal troops. Teodora Inferrara wore a full suit of gold plate armor and rode a magnificent white courser. A deep red cloak fell from her shoulders. She wore no helmet and her heavy black hair hung loose to her waist, lifting like a flag in the breeze.

“Phwoar,” Miro said. “Just as good close up?”

“Better. But she’s still an evil bitch. I hate fighting for her.”

“Rather fight for the loser, would you?”

“He wouldn’t be losing if we were on his side.”

“Oh, there he is!” Franca said as a sudden breeze cleared away the mist clinging to the hills.

Braeden followed her gaze. Kendryk Bernotas was directly in front of them, conferring with one of his officers. His glittering silver armor and a blue plume rising high from his helmet would make him an easy target, even in the smoke and confusion of battle. He looked quite cool, sitting his horse with the same casual grace that had first impressed Braeden. If he was bothered because his position made retreat impossible and he’d just sent his young family into that mousetrap of a castle, he didn’t show it.

Franca sighed. “Oh, he’s lovely,” she said. “I hope I’m not the one to kill him. I don’t think I could bear it.”

Braeden silently agreed, and turned his attention to the enemy forces. Mercenary veterans of the long war in Zeelund, they formed tight, small squares of pike, with blocks of muskets in between.

“What did Novitny say about about the pike?”

“Not to worry about them,” Franca said. “They’re carrying extra-long, knowing we’re here, but he reckons they haven’t had time to drill with them and will be slow. We’re to mind the muskets,though. Some of those fellows are the same who wiped out Rykter’s cuirassiers at Kolnard.”

“Any sign at all of Orland’s cavalry?”

Franca shook her head. “Not a single scout saw or heard anything within a day’s ride from here, sir.”

“All right. I don’t like that we don’t know where he is, but with any luck he’ won’t sneak up on us today.”


21 thoughts on “First Page Review Blog-hop

  1. Lots of thought and work went into this beginning. I love fantasy, and would definitely read on to see what was what. You certainly have a good command of war strategy. I thought it was easy to get into.

    1. Thank you so much! At some point it becomes so difficult to tell if it makes sense to anyone besides myself. I’m a military history buff, so I finally got to put a bit of that knowledge to use!

      1. Sorry to repost, but for some reason my avatar does not redirect to my Word Press blog where I posted my 1000 words for the blog hop. And the Select Profile option doesn’t believe I have a blog called Impromptu Promptlings. Go figure. So here’s the link to my entry, Glencara’s Bane. I hope you’ll stop by. Thanks so much. Calen~

        And btw, what does a military history buff read? I’ve been obsessed with WWII books the last couple years. But nothing about strategy.

      2. I’ll be sure to check out your link. Gravatar + WordPress is such a pain. I had to fiddle with mine too, recently.

        It’s actually pretty hard to find books just about strategy. I guess it makes for boring reading. When I started this whole thing a year ago, I realized I knew nothing about early modern warfare. Fortunately, one of my NaNoWriMo buddies was a history prof who pointed me int the write direction. I’ve picked up quite a bit from Peter Wilson’s history of the 30 years war, although it’s a horribly boring read. I also read about the strategies developed by people like Maurice of Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus. I found reenactment groups to be a good resource- those guys try to get it right down to the last detail.

        I’ve read a ton about WW2- have you read Absolute War, by Chris Bellamy? It’s a pretty great read about the Russian front and very up to date. I love just about everything, though. In the past five years I’ve read books about the Peloponnesian War, the American Civil War, WW1 and some stuff about the Royal Navy, which I’m always obsessed with. I’m very much not an expert in any area, because I keep seeing new and interesting things.

        Right now I’m really trying to focus on my fake time period, so next on my list is Geoffrey Parker’s “The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road.” Though I’m sure I’ll be distracted by something else before long!

      3. Geez! I’m impressed with all that reading up there. (There was no reply button with your post. It’s been one of those days.) I haven’t read that book. I’ve actually been more focused on Hitler himself and some fiction writing. You’re a real bulldog, girl!

      4. Is it difficult for you to write while you guys are rolling along there? I have this picture in my head of you with a laptop on your lap. I’ve never been able to work on mine that way. I’m assuming you guys make long runs?

      5. My handy hubby has strapped my laptop to the dash, and I type on a wireless keyboard/mouse. It’s just too hard to keep a laptop on the lap. I can type pretty well most of the time, unless the road is very bumpy or curvy. Cutting and pasting can be a bit more challenging. I usually save that for when we’re parked.

    1. I’m glad it works. There’s a bit more action later in the prologue, but there can’t be too much without giving important later bits away, so I was a bit worried about keeping it interesting. Thanks so much for the comments!

  2. Great job with the world building and introducing the conflict through the characters, I love how you immediately pull the reader into the center of the action and you show everything rather than telling. Well done!

  3. Love it! It reminds me of a video game I used to play long ago in the days of Sega Genesis. Can’t remember the name, anyhow Franca is an interesting character. I love how she’s hoping she’s not the one who has to kill him, I could really feel her strength in that statement. You did a great job of setting the scene and getting the reader involved.

  4. If I were speaking this, it would be in a timid voice because everyone else loved it as is, but please keep in mind that all readers are different. I might be just really different. 🙂 I had a hard time following all of the characters, and I wondered which ones would figure prominently in the story and which ones were supporting, and if maybe some of them were walk-throughs.

    Having said that, Christina, I love the worldbuilding! And I like a good fantasy tale. The imagery is wonderful, and I’d be flipping the book over and reading the blurb. For me–the story has great potential. You’ve inspired several questions with this opening–and that’s a good thing.

    1. Thank you, Teresa! Your feedback is very useful. One of my concerns was that it could be confusing, and i already cut several other characters or references to them in an attempt to simplify. 😀

      I think i got rid of the walk-throughs, but i might see if i can distinguish a bit better between primary and supporting characters.

      Thanks again for your comments; they are very helpful!

  5. Wow. I can already tell based on your world-building that the work and research that went into this story are spectacular. Consider the following suggestion high-level nagging: You’re executing the “show”-part flawlessly in your writing, but I’m suggesting that a little sprinkle of “tell” here and there could put it over the top. 🙂

    1. Thank you! You’ve actually hit on something that’s been bothering me. At some point, I went through and relentlessly pruned out all of the “tell.” Now I feel like I went too far in the other direction, but I don’t know how much to put back in. I think a “sprinkle” is a good way of looking at it, so I don’t get carried away., 🙂

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