Thursday, April 2, 2015

First Impressions - Riddle of the Ten Kingdoms

We have another First Impression for you today, this one from Deborah Graff who has submitted the first page of her MG Fantasy, RIDDLE OF THE TEN KINGDOMS. You can find Deborah on twitter comments will be at the end (mostly) and to see what Dianne Salerni thought about this first page, head on over to her place.


A wooden sword’s better than no sword at all. That’s what Renn told herself as she circled Leo on the path bordering Father’s grapevines.
Villagers arriving to pick grapes muttered complaints as they dodged around her, though most had their eyes on the road where it twisted south into yellow-brown hills.  Soldiers were coming today to recruit for the king’s army. Everyone wondered when they would arrive, and which boy would win the test.
Renn got a better grip on her sword and shuffled side to side. Stay in constant motion, Father would say. She wished he were watching, but his eyes didn’t leave the road. Maybe if she got a hit, he’d notice. She could already beat every boy in the village except Leo. Maybe today was the day to change that.
She aimed for Leo’s heart and lunged. He parried with his own wooden practice sword, forcing hers to the side.
Leo smiled and raked his fingers through his springy black hair. “Too bad you don’t have a battle charm.”
“I don’t need elf magic.” Renn tried to think what a soldier would say and boomed, “I’ll win a place in the king’s army with my strength and my sword.”
“Your twig, you mean.” Leo came at her. Renn tried to block, but he was faster and jabbed her shoulder.
“That almost hurt,” she said, rubbing the spot.
“You’re not the strongest or fastest, Renn, but you’re bricky enough to beat anyone.” He grinned. “Except me.”
She couldn’t help but smile back. “Maybe we’ll both win the test.”
He drew in the dirt with the tip of his sword. “You know there aren’t any girls in the king’s army.”
She slashed her wooden sword in the air. “My father’s taught me as well as you and the other boys, even if he won’t let me use steel. He always says, ‘Train everyone for battle, try every day for peace.’ I just have to show how well I’ve been trained.” She pointed her sword at his chest. “Go again?” 
Instead of answering, Leo shaded his eyes from the rising sun and pointed south. Past the borders of Rowntree Village, where their own little path met the wide Victory Road, a cloud of dust rose between hills.

My thoughts: There are a couple of places where I think rewording would help:
Instead of "A wooden sword’s better than no sword at all. That’s what Renn told herself as she circled Leo on the path bordering Father’s grapevines." How about: Ren circled Leo on the path bordering her father's grapevines.
A wooden sword's better than no sword at all.
This way you're starting with Renn, who I assume is important than than the wooden sword.
Instead of "Soldiers were coming today to recruit for the king’s army. Everyone wondered when they would arrive, and which boy would win the test." How about, Soldiers were coming today to recruit for the king’s army and everyone was wondering which boy would win the test.
I think it reads a little smoother, but that's just me... 
‘Train everyone for battle, try every day for peace.’ Love this.
As for the rest...I might consider mentioning the fact that Renn's father is present earlier, only because it's obviously important to her that he's there. Other than that, I really like how much info is conveyed in this first page. We have Renn, a girl who knows how to use a sword, but will never be allowed to because girls aren't allowed in the army (although I suspect Renn's proficiency with the sword will come into play later...). We also have a contest, and elf magic, both of which should be enough to get any middle grader to turn the page and find out what's going to happen. I know I'm curious!

Deborah, thanks so much for submitting your first page and I hope my comments help. Readers, I hope you'll add your thoughts because you know how much we love comments on First Impression days. Ok. We like comments all the time, but we especially like to get as many comments as possible for our First Impressions, so thank you in advance!

Meanwhile, I'll be leaving soon for my ever so wonderful vaca to warmer climes and will be back at the end of the month, perhaps with something from the pawn shop files...


  1. Yeah, I wasn't sure if her father was really there or not. But I did like the way this began!

  2. The title had me right from the start, and I do love me a female protagonist.
    Agreed on the father front, but there is a promise in this excerpt. I would like more. Soon.

    1. PS: Happy holidays. Very happy holidays.

  3. It's clearly very polished already - but is at that stage where you get around to tweaking sentences one at a time. Good start though!

  4. I got that dad was there. I really like this. It reads smooth and true and I like the premise. Well done.

  5. I'd skip some of the background info. Even so far as cutting "on the path bordering Father’s grapevines"
    Add this later rather than diluting the action.
    Also, careful careful with the 'ing' words. Cut back on them.
    But...that said, I love the Voice in this. I'd definitely turn the page.

  6. Thank you, everyone, for your encouragement and advice. It's really helpful to have some fresh eyes on this page! Thanks, Marcy, for the opportunity to be on your blog and get such great feedback. I really appreciate it.

    1. Deborah, you are very welcome - and if you ever want to send us another first page, we'd love to see it :)

  7. If I'm not too late, I did wonder about the relationship between the villagers coming to pick grapes and the boys who would be testing for the kings army. Were the grape pickers the families of the boys? Would the boys who did not get picked return to picking grapes? That sort of thing.

  8. I like the interplay between Renn and Leo, but I wondered how old they were. Leo felt older, but I don't know if that's accurate. The story is definitely intriguing, with a lot being hinted at.

  9. Hope yo have a wonderful vacay, Marcy!
    And, I really liked the scene and agree with your comments. Thinking about Shannon's comments, I thought they were between 12 and 14 in age . . . but I'm not sure.

  10. I think Deborah did a great job on this. I'm very nit-picky and I couldn't find any nits to pick. lol Good luck!

  11. This is really good. I liked all the bits of information woven in this first page, it flows nicely and doesn't feel heavy. The suggestions were great too and I can't find anything worthy to mention. Good luck Deborah, this is a great start.

  12. have a nice time at the vacation! I will be out of the blogosphere tomorrow too due to a business trip to the capital!

  13. I don't always feel like commenting but- this page really grabbed me from the start. What I liked particularly especially after Marcy's advice was how you didn't waste words (my pet peeve) but gave us so much in a very short time.

    I want more!


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