I began reading this page intrigued. I don’t read much fantasy and never have, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I can’t really explain why I never read much of it—when I was younger, Archie comics took a lot of my time, and by the time I was one of those kids who never went anywhere without a book, I was reading mysteries (starting with ten Nancy Drews per week, followed later by Dean Koontz, Sidney Sheldon, and Mary Higgins Clark). I suppose I just didn’t have the time.
That said, I find I’m easily immersed in fantasies and was excited by Daughter of the Sun’s first sentence: “If for no other reason than the nightmares that came this time each year, Elena hated her mother.”
Yearly nightmares and a little girl who hates her mother. Ooooh…
By the start of the next paragraph, however, I’m confused by the waking of the character. The first sentence leads me to believe she’s awake because of a nightmare, but she isn’t; she wakes in paragraph two with a start. From there we’re given no details of the nightmare, which annoys me—I want more nightmare!—and confuses me (why mention it if it’s just going to fall away?)
It’s easy enough to ignore that and drive on when I get a brief glimpse of the room Elena occupies. The cold stone floor and latticed windows opening to a heavy breeze draw me back to my extreme youth and my enthrallment with movies like “Escape to Witch Mountain.”
But then I’m disappointed when I’m confronted by a pet peeve: the impossible simultaneous action.
“Reaching under the bed, she withdrew a small wooden box.” I want to be excited by the box (boxes hold so many mysteries, and the older the better), but I can’t be because I’m stuck on Elena simultaneously reaching under the bed and withdrawing a box.
It’s just not possible.
The placing together of clauses that combine two actions that can’t be achieved simultaneously has always bugged me. Ex: “Ironing his shirt, she hung it in the closet near his ties.”
Ezell’s sentence should read, “She reached under the bed and withdrew a small wooden box,” or “Reaching under the bed, Elena scraped her wrist on the bed frame. She checked for blood before reaching back under for the box.”
This impossible simultaneous action happens a few times in the first few pages.
I was interested enough to continue reading. When I did, I discovered a better place for Ezell to begin her story: in medias res, as we writers are all instructed. Not at the end of a dream, not waking up, but right in the thick of a drama. I’d like to have seen this story start on page three (or, page nine, as this book has some questionable page-number formatting) with this sentence:
“She wondered if her mother had felt this cold fear.”
Reader: Fear of what? Why is she wondering about her mother? Is her mother dead? When would her mother have experienced this fear? Cold fear is worse than regular fear – something absolutely fascinating and dreadful must be happening!
In short: “Daughter of the Sun” is something I’d be interested in reading past page three (or page nine). In the span of one page, we’re given nightmares, Elena’s fear that something horrible is going to happen on the same day each year, a castle-like bedroom, a mysterious old box, and an old piece of jewelry inside that box.
However, Ezell may want to go back and tackle the dreaded formatting, do some editing for grammar and style (if a character thinks a line of dialogue, as Elena does at the top of page 2/8, it should be written in italics), and consider cutting unnecessary descriptions that slow down the movement.
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About Kristen Tsetsi
Author of Homefront.