Friday, August 1, 2014

First Impressions - Jaguar

Can someone tell me why Summer seems to fly by? I can't believe it's August 1st already. Anyway, you know what that means; it's time for First Impressions, whereby author Dianne Salerni and I critique your first page. Today we have the first page from Carl Hackman's YA Contemporary Fantasy, JAGUAR. This is Carl:

And this is the first page of JAGUAR:

Her eyes of fire burned through the darkness, fuelled (sp) by hatred so intense the very center of her soul was a furnace.
     Valaria’s amber coat rippled in the moonlight as she glared through the mesh of her enclosure. A low, threatening growl rose from deep inside her chest. She paced up and down the perimeter, the frustration of her bondage clearly visible to anyone who might be watching. (I actually remember seeing a cat like this once at a 'zoo.' I was horrified that anyone would keep a cat like that in those conditions.) Aurelius, her mate, lay at the back, near the entrance. His pain wracked form shuddered; each breath sending spasms through his body. No amount of licking could stem the flow of his life’s blood ebbing from the wound inflicted by his keeper earlier that day. (you are going to punish the keeper at some point, right? Please?)
     ‘Don’t let our cubs be born in captivity, Valaria,’ he whispered, consciousness slipping away from him. ‘My time is near but you need to escape to ensure our young are born free.’
     Valaria patrolled her prison, her gaze alternating between the only thing she loved and the vast expanse of freedom just outside her reach.
     Aurelius had told her to escape, but how?
     He had said he wanted the new life growing within her to be born free. She could see no way to make his wish come true. All she could see was a lifetime of captivity ahead, for both her and her unborn offspring.
     Her attention snapped back to Aurelius as her mate’s final, shuddering, breath left his body. Her roar of anguish echoed through the countryside, sending startled birds into flight and animals scurrying for cover.


My first thought is that this is an emotional and compelling opening. Valeria's mate his been killed by their keeper and Valeria needs to escape before her cubs are born so they can be free.How can she possibly achieve this? I assume they are in some sort of zoo and knowing that the cages are kept locked, I wonder how Valeria will accomplish this, too, and I would keep reading to find out. I am, however, curious about the YA contemp/fantasy label. If Valeria and her quest is the main story, I'm not sure how YA it will be, but that's just me and I'm just a reader. Maybe it doesn't have to be labeled as YA. There was a great book by Tad Williams called Tailchaser's Song which also featured cats (domestic/feral cats as opposed to big cats) and I think it was simply labeled fantasy. But I digress! Bottom line, I think this is a great first page and I hope Valeria eats the keeper on page two...

Readers, what do you think of this first page?


  1. If she's about to be a mother, she's definitely adult.
    Took me a second to realize she really was a cat.

  2. wait, jaguars can talk? :)

  3. Interesting, and I would have to agree about the YA label. I think a gory death is in order for the keeper.

  4. I really like it. I think I would ditch the first sentence altogether and begin with "Valeria's amber coat..." It is a stronger opening, leaves no doubt that we are talking about a jaguar and that this is from the POV of the cats. Leaving the first sentence as is, forced me to go back and reread it because I was momentarily confused by the "her" in the first sentence. Yeah, I thought it was a human even though the title is Jaguars. Also, I am not crazy about the use of "very" at any time.

    However, the ending left me wanting to know how this turns out. I like that conflict is introduced so quickly. And I really want their keeper to get what's coming.... vengeance is mine and all that.

  5. Marcy, In other news, I dedicated something to you on the Thursday post. I hope you like it.

  6. It is a compelling opening. I'm not very familiar with fantasy, so I'm not sure--could this be a prologue or something that doesn't star the main characters? I seem to see that a lot in fantasy.

  7. I like the first because it sets up the who and the why very quickly. Plus, it makes Valaria appealing because of her prisoner status and the fact she's pregnant and will soon have little ones to protect. Unless this is going to be a shifter story, it will be hard to get teens to read a story from an animal's POV. Good luck!

  8. Thanks for the comments, I really appreciate them :)

  9. I enjoyed all of it and would keep reading, (except the first sentence which put me off a bit).

  10. I like the set up of the story and would keep reading but since you're going with Valaria's POV, I'd like you to go a little deeper. The narrative seems a little removed from the character.


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