A robot and a cup of tea. Two essentials in life. But what about that prologue?
Title: The Monarch Trials
Language: US English
Synopsis: In the kingdom of Aphedin, evil brews. A forgotten spirit, chained and imprisoned beneath the ground, is plotting her revenge. Will four youngsters–a dapper prince, a lovestruck peasant, a powerless heir and a coldhearted warrior–put aside their differences and defeat her once and for all?
The spirit burned.
She thrashed against her chains, growing weaker with every passing second. Sweat did not roll down her skin, nor did tears gather at her eyes—she was a spirit, after all. Spirits did not sweat or cry.
Senara was the name of this spirit, and she was beautiful; dark hair that cascaded down her bronze skin in luscious waves; hazel eyes so bright they were orange; a lithe figure tall enough to tower over the buildings above her prison.
Nobody could fight a spirit. They would not survive long enough to try. But an intelligent person could certainly trick a spirit, and that was what led Senara to her lifelong imprisonment. Trickery.
She was getting tired.
The spirit dwelt in a hidden dungeon, crouched in the shadows. To a stranger, she would be glowing, her eyes holding a blazing fire that would enthrall any mortal soul. But to herself, she was a diminished light—a candle whose flame had slowly eaten up the wick, until it could find nothing to hold on to.
She used to burn so much brighter.
“A fool,” she hissed in the darkness. Her voice had become sickening to hear after nearly five centuries of isolation, and she wrinkled her nose. “They have tricked me. Imprisoned me. Used me.”
She trailed a finger across the floor and looked up at the ceiling above her, shrouded in blackness. She knew that they walked above her, with their little feet against the pavement. They walked over her, on top of her, as if she were nothing—as if she did not even exist.
“I am their goddess,” she whispered, her voice dripping with vengeful desire. “They will see what happens to those who disrespect her.”
Then she rose to her feet, her knees raw and bruised, and writhed against the chains bound to her ankles and wrists. They did not break. She knew that they never would.
Yet she kept trying, and she would keep on trying, even if it took her an eternity.
CHAPTER ONE: NATHAN
There was once a prince by the name of Nathaniel Edwardson Fardane. He was incredibly studious and well-mannered, lived in a grand castle that had been in his family for seven centuries, and had the habit of disappearing into his study room for hours on end, much to the annoyance of his gregarious parents.
Nathan, as he preferred to be called, had been in said study room ever since breakfast one morning, and had not intended to come out until well past suppertime. Truth be told, he would have likely remained there for weeks, distracted by his books and his trinkets, if it weren’t for the sudden whirring sound that had startled him.
“Tea, Master?” Beezlebomb offered, his spherical—and slightly rusty—body hovering nearby Nathan’s head.
“No, thank you.” Nathan, slightly miffed, gave the copperbot a nudge with his elbow. “I’d prefer to be al–actually, wait, no–would you find me a new book, Beezle? One that I have not yet read?” His hazelnut eyes, which used to brighten hopefully at such a question, remained dull and dispirited.
“You have read all of them, Master.” The teacup on the metal creature’s head teetered precariously, its contents threatening to spill onto the map that Nathan had been studying.
Nathan merely sighed; of course he had.
The room, bathed in orange light from the fireplace, emitted a steady beat of clicking and clacketing from every corner. They came from the gears within Beezlebomb’s body; the automatic Solution Set that chirped behind Nathan as he worked, bent over his mahogany desk; even the books lining the walls of his snug office seemed to whisper to the boy, beckoning him to rifle through their pages.
Come read us, Nathan, they hissed between layers of ink and parchment. Read us again, again, again…
The clicks and whirs, while sometimes soothing to Nathan’s busy mind, now caused him a terrible headache. He shoved aside his map of Aphedin—he had been trying to figure out a way to establish a trade route between his kingdom and the neighboring one—and pressed his fingers to his temples, pacing the office with Beezlebomb in tow.
The earthy liquid within the Solution Set bubbled and boiled, creeping up the sides of the glass vial.
“I think I’ll have that tea now,” Nathan mumbled, collapsing into an armchair. His copperbot sped forward, cinnamon tea sloshing against the teacup.
“Tea, Master.” Beezlebomb inclined his head towards the boy; the teacup wobbled.
“Careful! Watch the—” Nathan started, reaching hastily for the beverage.
It was too late; a single drop of tea had found its way into the Solution Set, and the brewing solution began to let out enormous puffs of steam. A bubble started to form at the base of the vial, slowly creeping upwards.
Nathan cried out, snatching the vial from its container and hurling it out of the window.
The vial landed on the street outside, smashing against the pavement. The bubble, which had grown to be the size of Nathan’s fist, deflated instantly, sinking into the puddle of brown liquid that now stained the road.
Nathan sunk into the armchair, shakily running a hand through his tawny hair. Angrily, he glanced down at Beezlebomb, who was still offering him tea.
“Beezle, I could have died!” he exclaimed indignantly, seizing the teacup before it could cause further damage. Brewing brassol, a liquid that made gears run smoothly, was a delicate process; any foreign ingredient would likely cause an explosion, which would have most definitely blown him to bits. “And I lost a perfectly good vial.”
“That is not good,” Beezlebomb replied, oblivious to his faults.
Nathan sipped on his tea, leaning back. He didn’t bother about the mess outside; one of the servants would clean it up.
He stared into the flickering fireplace, his mind drifting to what awaited him tomorrow. His father, High Monarch Nelio, would be taking him to his very first Gathering.
I wonder if you’ve read any of my other pieces on the wisdom of starting your book with a prologue? It might be that the storm has passed, but there was a period when the word “Prologue” was an almost immediate rejection by an agent, so widely had the device of a prologue been abused by so many new writers. It was generally the case that they were almost always overwritten, irrelevant, distracting, and quite often only there because they recounted some exciting interlude that the author imagined would be a more engrossing beginning to the book than their actual opening chapter one, because, they had to quietly admit, their chapter one was “a bit dull” by comparison.
A prologue has to have relevance, should probably be describing events of a different time or place to the main story, and also describe events that are vital to the understanding of the main story that couldn’t be included in some other way (flashback, epistolary episodes etc.) How does your prologue stand up to this kind of critical analysis? It’s difficult to tell without reading the whole book, so you are probably the best judge of whether those kind of criteria are satisfied.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with your prologue as written, anyway. The third and fourth sentences seem to be unnecessary, and are certainly repetitive. In your fantasy world, you write the rules. There’s no need to tell us the rules (even if we needed to know the rules, for some reason, then show us, rather than tell us). In your world, spirits don’t sweat or cry. That’s fine. But we don’t need to know that she’s not sweating or crying, do we? Why tell us what is not happening? Particularly, why tell us twice? It’s as if you think that we’re so unlikely to believe that spirits don’t sweat or cry that you need to tell us again, in plain English, in case we’re too stupid to get the message the first time round. I can’t think it’s that important that you spend 50% of the very first few lines of your story telling us about a spirit’s lack of sweat or tears. It’s perhaps a good example of why writers need editors. It’s probably hard to see, as author, that in just those few lines you’ve got bogged down over-explaining an utter inconsequentiality at the very beginning of your story when you’re most trying to impress an agent (or reader) with your utter command of the genre. You just don’t need it.
Then there’s the size thing. She’s described as “a lithe figure tall enough to tower over the buildings above her prison.” So how does that sit with “The spirit dwelt in a hidden dungeon, crouched in the shadows”? There might be a perfectly rational explanation why she’s taller than a building, but also stuck in a dungeon. After all, the dragons in the Game of Thrones were kept below ground, but the way you’ve written it you’ve given us just enough information to confuse us, and I suspect that, again, it’s not a really important part of the scene.
The prologue is all about endless torment and destruction, yet the actual beginning of chapter one begins with (some kind of robot? I guess this is steampunk, or some kind of subgenre?) Beezlebomb asking his master Nathan if he’d like a cup of tea. Nathan answers by wearily asking instead to be surprised with a new book that he hasn’t read yet. Perhaps when you wrote this you thought that this is not as dramatic and portentous an opening as it should be (hence your prologue) but I can tell you that it’s a far more engaging and interesting beginning to the story than some spirit chained for eternity in a dungeon. We immediately get a feel for Nathan’s character and his engaging robot sidekick. These are the pairings that great stories are made of.
My advice, ditch the boring prologue, and the needless backstory (we’ll find out about Nathan’s bookishness and rather nerdy personality the first time he opens his mouth) and start with the first dialogue – “Would you like a cup of tea?”
There may be other issues with your opening (is this scene really where your story starts? What happens in the next few paragraphs that gets the plot advancing quickly?) but that’s a good place to start fixing it.
A strong start, but needs some tightening up.
Thanks for posting!
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