Welcome to First Impressions for the month of July. Today we have an NA Historical Fantasy by Mark Murata titled, TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA. Mark blogs over at Suburban Fantasy if you want to say Hi.
To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside.
At the doorway
itself she paused, heavy stonework on
either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to
blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like,
its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in
lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face
would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through
the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on
the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by
darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of
Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.
The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.
Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.
The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore
Silence greeted the words. If any worshipers had been present, they would be murmuring in awe and fear. As it was, only two guards from the palace stood in the place for worshipers—no one else occupied the temple grounds, bordered by sharp cliffs that dropped off on either side to the sea below. Beyond a heath a few young women watched in rapt fascination, hoping the distance would keep them from being rousted out by the spear butts of the guards.
My thoughts: In the first paragraph there is this: "...the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood." I want to know how Iphi feels about this. The fact that she thinks about it at all tells me she has feelings and I want to know what they are. Then there is the walk, the perfect walk of a priestess. "Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect..." This makes me feel distant from Iphi. I would think she'd be thinking how she was walking perfectly, exactly as she's supposed to. I also wonder about the word 'victims.' Does Iphi consider them victims? Or sacrifices, which is used later. There's a big difference.
In the second paragraph I get the sense that Iphi enjoys appearing foreboding. Is this intentional? Lastly, when Iphi pauses to contemplate this last thing she has to do, this might be a good place to tell us how she feels. Is she nervous? Confident? Excited? This will help the reader bond with Iphi and thus want to turn the page to see what will happen next...