|Hello, My name is Jeff, and I'm reviewing "In The Time of Peace" on behalf of the WDC POWER REVIEWERS GROUP.
While I am by no means the ultimate authority on everything prose, I am, like you, aspiring to become the best writer I can be. Reviewing the work of others is a privilege, where we both learn something about ourselves.
My reviews are limited to The Hook, which is the first sentence of your piece, followed by the paragraph, and, finally, a general critique of the overall content of the chapter/story/item.
Every rating I give is 4 stars. Ratings are subjective and vary from person to person, adding little value to the review given. Ratings rarely please an author, and often cause angst. It's 4 stars to you, or you wouldn't have put it out there, right?
Take what I've written below with a grain of salt. Keep what you feel adds value and toss the rest to the wind, for in the end, it is your muse that you must satisfy. With that said, on to the review!
Let me open by saying up front that I did enjoy reading this story. However, I had some uncharacteristically harsh reactions because I felt you cheated me of a good read by doing some things that you could have done better. - Jeff
“It is a beautiful day, my love” said King Aldan Sutherwind, as he gazed through the window of his lavish bedchamber.
King Sutherwind admires the view of his kingdom with his wife/mistress present in an obviously elevated bedroom.
This is a safe beginning to a fantasy tale, but it isn't a good one. Sorry, I know that's harsh, but it is sincere. There is no hook present, no action is taking place, and it smacks of boredom. The king is merely surveying the scene out the window as if we were watching the opening of a movie, waiting for the action to begin.
Therein lies its major problem; we're all waiting for the story to begin.
I'm not saying you are a bad writer. I'm not saying this opening kills your story. On the contrary, I see the hook, way down there at the very last possible bit of the far too distant and ignoble second paragraph, THE KING HAS NO HEIR. That's a big, fat, juicy, GREAT hook! One that everyone can understand. But...
M'Lord, why doth thou maketh they servant, thy faithful readership, dither and dally until thine muse sayeth the time be nigh to shareth thy good king's pain? Shame on thee!
You could literally begin this story by saying "King Sutherwind gazed across his lands from the balcony of his bedchamber, from distant shores to the mountains beyond, and had but one regret: He had yet to give the fair citizens of Thellos a viable heir," and cut most of the two paragraphs. One of the major tenets in writing is to be sparing with your words and never, ever, include a single, solitary, unnecessary word, thought, action, or deed.
Outside, as far as he could see, was the kingdom of Thellos and encircling the base of his ivory palace were its citizens; fruitful and content. All within his land were pleased with their King's rule, as he showed them favor of lenient taxes, free trade in the markets and a vigilant guard, by his Peacekeepers; knights and mages of considerable skill.
In the rest of this paragraph, nothing happens. It's filler; desperate prose that occupies space until you figure out how to get to what your muse really wanted to say. Let's break it down:
1. He looks far and wide and sees happy people.
2. They're all happy because he's benevolent.
That's it. That's all you said.
Someone could say that to him, an advisor or his queen, and it would have taken place in the context of the moment. Instead, you TELL us these things instead of SHOWing us these things, and we feel cheated somehow. SHOWing happens in the context of discovery. TELLing happens when your muse doesn't trust the reader to follow the story without being dragged through filler and history until you get to the point. It may be a lovely, wonderful, interesting point, but we'll only wait so long.
IF, and I do mean if, the reader keeps reading to get to the actual dilemma, they'll find that all of this information could have been included in the conversation with King Aldan's advisors or someone else relevant.
Think I'm wrong? Look at how the story takes off after this nifty revelation about not having an heir! We're going places, we're seeing new people... Must we endure the pablum before being rewarded with such grace? I see your mind at work here. You think it's good enough, but it isn't. You can do so much better, but you need to put your mind to it. You have talent, but you need to work hard. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
THE GOOD: You write well, from a technical standpoint. The story is a great antithesis to the usual tale of kings, such as the Tudors in English history, who cared about nothing other than controlling people and leaving an heir. Your story is King Arthurian, and asks, "What if a good man was king, who believed in the collective moral compass of his subjects to choose (or elect!) a ruler to succeed him?" The tension and the strife from his visiers and relatives would be great for drama in the full blown story, and quite the interesting read.
THE BAD: Work on the opening. From "It's a beautiful day, my love," to "blew her a kiss and left to begin his day," you need to focus on that one essential thing Sutherwind NEEDS, and that is to put to rest his story worthy problem: Producing an heir or convincing those around him he doesn't really need to. "A king who weds for the sole purpose of an heir is a selfish king" is the greatest line in this story.
I didn't get the sword play. Again, it may all be part of the king's day, but it isn't really relevant to this tale. The king's story worthy problem is that he doesn't have an heir and doesn't intend to do what is necessary to produce one. You need to get to work establishing and resolving that problem from the get-go. We can meet Camdin later.
THE UGLY: I don't comment much on spelling and grammar, but there are a few things in this story that need to be reconciled. Check your usage of throne/thrown, to/too, adviser/advisor. Also, the king is obviously familiar with Camdin, yet you spend a considerable amount of time referring to him as "the man" and "the stranger." Camdin appears to take great pride in keeping the king on his toes and not complacent, and yet it has been 30 years since they last met? Nice thrust, but parried with ease.
With all seriousness aside:
Camdin is a nice ploy in an otherwise good story, but just out of sync. You have a great story here and I'd like to read more, in spite of the things I've written that I believe you need to work on. You show great aptitude for scripting conversations and situational action, but the story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end (even in a chapter!) to really flow and make the reader want to read chapter two. This is something I know you can do, and hope you put in the time and effort to make it so.
KEEP WRITING! It only gets better from here!