For our final First Impression of the month we have the first page of Mary O'Donnell's YA+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Dianne Salerni will also be critiquing this first page so hop over when you get a chance and check out her opinion.
By time the world listened, the pain was too much to bear. A new dawn had risen above them that cast a shadow so large that the sun couldn’t fight it. Now all there was to do was become something else, a dweller.
It was a cold winter, and Merrow didn’t want to be out in it longer than she had to be. Her thin coat was a gift
given out of love, but it wasn’t as warm. Bright torches led her way
through the moist cave as they made the dust within the walls sparkle like the
diamonds she had seen up in the sky. The cave seemed to go on forever, and that
only fed Merrow’s fear. She didn’t know why she had to come here, this
forbidden place. All she did know was that you didn’t ignore a dying wish,
especially from an elder. The light ahead became warmer and brighter as she
walked. A smile crossed her face, Merrow was only ten, but that was old enough
to know that warmth kept them alive in winters like this. The opening widened
and there were places made for sitting cut of the rocks all around a large fire
that came from the very depths of the earth.
“Your footsteps are loud. Do you have nothing to hide child?”
Merrow recognized this man, he used to lead them many moons ago. It took her breath away to know that a man who had been dead since before she had ever been thought of was here, and talking to her. Donn didn’t look like a ghost to Merrow. She couldn’t see through him, and there was dirt over his shaggy black hair and beard. His leather winter wraps that protected him from the cold looked solid enough for her to reach out and touch it. Merrow stayed where she was, taking slow and careful breaths.
“No, there is nothing left for me to lose,” Merrow said, standing tall, her shoulders rigid. Her fear didn’t show, which she was glad of. It was only her pride that gave her away.
My first suggestion would be to get rid of the first paragraph. It's too distant and I want to be connected to a character.
In the second paragraph it was unclear to me at first who 'they' were until I read the sentence a few times and realized 'they' referred to the torches. I might reword that sentence this way: Bright torches led the way through a moist cave, the dust in the walls sparkling like the diamonds she had seen up in the sky. I also wouldn't mind a transition between the cold outside and the cave.
The cave seemed to go on forever, and that only fed Merrow’s fear. This sentence implies that Merrow has been afraid all along but her fear isn't mentioned. When did she become afraid? Either tell us or better yet, show us!
“Your footsteps are loud. Do you have nothing to hide child?” Do you mean nothing to fear? Just asking.
In the second to last paragraph, how does Merrow recognize a man who was dead before she was born? Has she seen pictures?
Lastly, how does her pride give her away? Show this if you can.
Oh, and two last things: 1. Love the title and 2. Love the idea that Merrow can see and converse with ghosts!
A big thank you to Mary for submitting and I hope my readers will offer any suggestions they might have. You know how we love comments - especially for First Impressions.