Editor’s Choice Award February 2023, 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.

Shadow of Karma Chapter 1 by Channon Wong

I like the idea of this chapter very much. I love that it’s set in a non-Western world, with non-Western culture and assumptions. It’s good for the fantasy genre to widen its horizons.

In the later stages of revision, I’d recommend a careful copyedit and a close line edit. Check the grammar and syntax in particular, and make sure words and phrases mean what they’re intended to mean.

At this point, there are a couple of structural issues to think about. The overall line of the plot is clear, but there are a lot of characters speaking and acting. It might help the pacing to combine some of the characters, and focus on one particular story in each scene as Malai passes through the ruined town.

It might help to rethink the order of some of the information as well. The story builds up to the revelation that Malai is a kiarh. That’s a nice bit of tension, a little mystery with a dramatic payoff, but we don’t know enough about what a kiarh is in order to get the full effect. Instead we get a block of exposition right at the climax. The tension dissipates; the moment fizzles.

If we’re given more information earlier, if we know what a kiarh is even if we don’t know that Malai is one, we’ll be ready for the climax when it comes. We’ll get the full effect of the Aha! moment.

Another piece of information that comes in late is the existence of Malai’s former husband. He’s introduced suddenly—with that actual word. It almost reads to me as if the author just came up with him at that moment, to serve that portion of the plot. If he’s introduced much earlier, if he’s part of Malai’s world from the beginning, he’ll be more solidly grounded in the story. He’s a nice foil for Malai; he’ll be an even better one if he’s woven in from the start.

This is a good opening chapter. I’m looking forward to seeing how the novel develops from here.

–Judith Tarr


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