Free, honest, and in-depth reviews.
Item Reviewed: "Ajorian" by A E Willcox
Chapter: PART ONE: Velandra. ~ Chapter One: Blood from Ajorian
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️🌈
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful , and that you will discard the rest with good cheer.
What I liked best
There is much to love here. The writing is clear and immersive, the fictional world is robust, and the characters jump off the page. But I think I'll pick a geeky, technical thing to like: the use of free direct discourse. This is difficult to do well, and you've done it exceptionally well in this chapter.
Mostly we meet Valendra in this chapter. Her parents and a couple boys near her age make enough of an appearance that they are well-drawn, fully functional characters, but the action centers on Valendra.
She clearly loves her parents and share the pain at the death of her newborn infant brother two weeks ago. Indeed, the early part of the action centers on her attempt at revenge for mean comments from the village carpenter. This incident provides some tension at the outset, but the later tension in the scene with her mother is much greater.
This brings me to Valendra's goals. She mentions several, from being a dragon rider, to riding horses, to pleasing her parents. All of her goals share the obstacles of her gender, her standing the community, and her birth parents' poverty. Since she's young, however, her goals are a child's goals, so the stakes are rather low.
That's about to change, though, in view of the events at the end of the chapter. I think her goals and stakes are about to undergo revolutionary changes, and the obstacles are about ramp up as well--and all of this from the hook at the end!
The overt plot--the theft of the wooden dragon--is trivial. The underlying plot involves a courageous child lost in an uncaring and sometimes brutal world, sheltered only by her loving family. By the end of the chapter, we know that the shelter from her family is about to change dramatically, which will doubtless have an impact on her hopes and aspirations. I still don't have a clear idea of the plot, though that might be because I almost never read fantasy.
The most compelling hooks are disaster, dilemma, and decision. Ending with a goal, conflict, or reaction is weaker but can be effective, depending on the situation.
We haven't quite got to the disaster, but we're on the verge. You've got an awesome hook.
Style and Voice
Third person limited, in Valendra's head, including dialect. No slips.
I enjoyed the dialect, but I must tell you that I've had stories rejected because of it. Many publishers today rely on sales to countries where English is a second language, and those readers have a hard time with English dialects. I guess they'd never consider Robert Burns. For me, the dialect adds depth to the story and characters, so I'd not let anyone tell me to take it out.
Lots of little details slipped in through the running inner dialogues inside Valendra's head. I bet some reviewers will complain these are "telling." They most emphatically are not, as I'm sure you know. They are examples of direct free discourse masterfully done.
Immersive and detailed without being intrusive. All the senses came into play. Nice work in using the scene setting to advance characterization, plot, and world-building.
I thought I saw some comma errors. I'm terrible with commas, so I won't try to point them out. Instead, here's a great reference:
I've read it, and they're still a mystery to me. I hope it helps! Of course, you're using proper (UK) English as opposed to American English, and the comma rules are somewhat different. The places that looked like errors to me are probably just differences in practice.
Just my personal opinion
This is a good start to your novel. It's immersive. Valendra is a sympathetic character and readers will want to cheer for her. Jek makes a reasonably good villain, while Nep is a reasonably good not-villain and maybe ally. The hook is excellent. I might have asked for a bit more tension, but it's fine as is.
Thanks for sharing!
Your text is in BLUE.
My comments are in GREEN.
If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
The wooden dragon sat in its place on the stone bench outside the carpenter’s shop shimmering in the afternoon heat waiting to be stolen.
Velandra tucked a curl of dark-brown hair behind her ear, slipped her skinny body from a scrap of shadow behind the stack of new puncheons outside the cooper’s workshop into the sunlight, paused and took a deep breath.My Comment: This is a fine opening. It names the POV character, puts her in action, and orients the reader in time and space. My only quibble is that we don’t know who is seeing the wooden dragon in the first sentence. This would be more immersive from the outset if you reversed the order of these two sentences. Then we’d be in Velandra’s head when you describe the dragon, and be inside the story instead of on the outside, looking in.
She froze. Her pulse thundered in her ears. He’d see she had Oziko’s dragon and know she’d stole it. Everyone in the village knew her pa was too poor to buy one like it. What to say? What to do?My Comment: I’m admiring the use of free direct discourse here and throughout this chapter.
or laughed at her patched clothes. My Comment: typo—laugh, not laughed, right?
I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it.
Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!
Please visit my website and blog at