Editor’s Choice Award May 2021, Fantasy

The Editors’ Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories — science fiction chapters, fantasy chapters, horror, and short stories — receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author.This month’s reviews are written by Resident Editors Leah Bobet, Jeanne Cavelos, and Judith Tarr. The last four months of Editors’ Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop.

To Claim The Amethyst Throne: Prologue & Chapter 1 (Part 1) by Laura Ferriesa

This submission drew me with its gorgeous title, and the prologue and chapter promise a lush, intricate, elaborate fantasy full of court intrigue and, possibly, high magic—though we don’t see that here (or yet?). The prose is reaching toward the high style, more so in the prologue than in the opening chapter. It’s full of rich description and rhetorical effects.

I think the prologue needs a pass or two more of revision to prune the repetitive phrasing and fine-tune the emotional arc. The force of grief and the shock of betrayal come through clearly, but they could be more subtle and the evolution of the Emperor’s feelings more gradual, especially in the confrontation with Uzuri. It’s a bit over the top in this draft, a bit more overstated than it might most effectively be.

The same applies to Soria’s “crowing” over Nadira’s death. Her scorn rings true, as does her exulting, but again, it could be a little less in-Alarcon’s-face. A bit of polish, some careful toning down, will (in the lovely paradox of Less-Is-More) make the scene stronger.

Chapter 1 has a somewhat different voice and tone, and for me, through Shaylee’s eyes, the story comes alive. The pacing is leisurely, but it doesn’t drag. We learn things we need to know in order to understand who Shaylee is and what her world is like.

There is a some repetitiveness as the chapter progresses, a tendency to go over and over the same information, which can be pruned and tightened in revision. Just make a note of how often the same words appear and the same concepts repeat themselves: Shaylee’s background and family history, Aunt Lisel’s history, Shaylee’s desire to join the flock of her siblings, the awful saffron gown. Clearly she obsesses over these things, and it’s important we know that, but she might pare down her repetitions by just a bit.

I appreciate (and salute) the self-awareness of the narration and its viewpoint. Shaylee knows she spends a great of time in her head, and is well aware that she has a habit of running over and over the same ideas. For the most part it works; just once in a while the prose might be tighter and less inclined to spin in place.

It’s a pleasure to read a ms. that knows the rules (which are really just guidelines) and bends them to good effect. Tulia’s rattling on could become tedious, but it’s nicely balanced and the things she says are important for the reader to know. She’s a good example of her character type, just far enough over the top to be memorable, but not so much that she strains credulity. That’s the balance of detail and the narrative control that prologue needs—and, I’m sure, will achieve with revision.

As for the question in the Author’s Note, yes, I would read on. I want to know what happens to Shaylee, what’s been going on in court since Nadira’s death, and who claims the Amethyst Throne. It’s a good start. I’d like to see more.

–Judith Tarr



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