First Page Critique/Workshop: WALL OF KNIVES (Alternate History)



Critiquer: Nazarea Andrews


The Lady Shindao:
If tales are to be believed, then those of whom the tales are told are, from the beginning, set on a course as sure and unwavering as that of the sun from rise to set.  But I tell you this: for those about whom the tales are told, ‘destiny’ is nothing more than the weaving of circumstances and events by those with the advantage of hindsight. Despite what the stories say, before my birth no seer foretold in an ominous voice that I would in time be a worker of the Great Magic.  No storm or falling star accompanied my birth. No sign was seen that in my life I would be revered as a goddess and savior of my people. No portent that in my life I would also be reviled as the most evil of sorceresses. All the same, these things came to pass.
Shindao, Lady Xiul, chronicled in a Jian dynasty document. This passage is difficult to crit, because I get that it’s an excerpt. I will say you’re being repetitious. You don’t need The Lady Shindao AND the end sentence—I’d pick one. Also in your first sentence, you use tales twice. It pulled me out of the narrative—switch one to another word. Or cut the second one completely. The last third of the paragraph is also repetitive (no stor, no sign, no portent) but I think it works.


Chapter One
Ninghou Province, River Moon in the Year of Perfect Accord.

Six hundred times or more in her life had Shindao Word order makes this awkward. Try Shindao had trod the well-worn stone floors of the Temple, her hands clasped in the gesture of humility appropriate to a Novice, the bottoms of her feet stained with the sacred ochre. Six hundred times or more she’d knelt in front of the Great Visage of The Beloved One, making her offering of sweet smelling smoke before touching her forehead to the floor and waiting, rapt in joy to hear the Voice. Again, repetition. We know she’s done it six hundred times or more. So you don’t need to restate it.

There is a lot here that intrigues me. I’d like to know more and I like your style of writing. That said, I think your hook could be stronger. The first portion is strong—but when you start with Chapter 1, your doing set up instead of actually hooking us into the story. Does that make sense? Still—it’s very strong and I enjoyed it. Best of luck!! 🙂


If you have any thoughts or questions, the comments are open, but please keep it constructive. No douchebaggery allowed.

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