Here's the first 400 words from Cameo the Assassin (Book One), by Dawn McCullough-White.
Nice first sentence. If I were to get nit picky (which I always do) I would say to take out the ‘were’ to make the sentence more active. The adverb isn’t the worst in the world, so I won’t pick at it. I like the feeling this brings right here at the beginning. If she’s nearly sightless, something must be wrong. I’ll read on to see what else is happening.
She watched as the clouds drifted overhead, gasping.
This reads to me like the clouds are gasping. I know that’s not what the author meant, but I would suggest a reword. I also would take out the “She watched as”, because if she’s staring at the sky, obviously she’s watching it. It kind of repeats what the previous sentence already set up. However, the imagery is powerful, and makes me wonder what happened to this woman, that she’s staring and gasping.
She could hear her own blood bubbling at the corner of her mouth as it slithered out and slipped in a gob onto her neck.
Oh, she’s bleeding. She must be on her back or something. I might mention this. She also can’t hear her blood slip in a gob onto her neck, and it sort of reads like she does. I might say she feels it. Otherwise, good chilling picture this sets up. I want to read more.
For a moment she felt nothing, her eyes went dark, and she felt herself suck in the air once more.
Her vision probably went dark, instead of her eyes going dark. But again, this is a good image here. I want to read on to see what happens.
Never had simply breathing given her such happiness, at least, not as far back as she could remember. Maybe this is exactly how she felt with the very first breath of her life.
I like how Dawn compares death with birth here.
At her throat was the dead head of Adrian, his blonde hair was tousled gently about her.
I would try to get rid of both ‘was’ verbs, I just think it might read better. I might say “At her throat sat the severed head of Adrian, his blonde hair tousled gently about her.” I changed ‘dead’ to ‘severed’, because I liked the image better, but it might not be accurate. I figured the head was severed, but I’m not positive.
It was the first gentle thing he had done with her all day.
The first gentle thing was to die, and lie on her throat? Interesting. This makes me think he’s a kidnapper or an abusive boyfriend.
His blood was mingled with hers now, predator and prey, dead and dying lying in the beauty of the summer meadow.
Again, I’d take out ‘was’ here. It would read fine, in my opinion, to say, “His blood mingled with hers now...” Ah, and here we find out he was the predator. I wonder what happened to lead up to this.
Somewhere beside her lay sandwiches and colorful plates. Ivy had wanted pretty plates and had made certain that the silver was polished very well.
This makes me think they were having a picnic, and things got out of hand... as often happens at my picnics.
The last she had seen of her little sister had been her lifeless form, knocked hard into the Faettan soil.
This must be a fantasy novel. This beginning is quite sad and bloody. And violent. I’m usually a huge fan of action, but too much gore grosses me out. I’m saddened by her little sister, and I’m wondering if she’s still alive.
She was a few feet away now, a little body lost in the sea of tall grass ... like her own ... and like that of the young lord with his head still on her breast.
The sun was warm on her face, illuminating exactly what had taken place only a little while ago, showing all of Faetta true darkness in the brilliant light of day. Somewhere, drifting in on the summer's breeze, was the sound of people passing on the ridge, chatting about their lives as she was dying just down the hill, in the meadow.
Again, I’d try to reword some of the ‘was’ verbs in here. It’s just a weak verb. You can’t cut every one, nor should you, but sometimes it’s easy to substitute a better verb.
Her eyes were fixed; the transformation of the day into dusk was recorded behind those lenses. Her body rigidly awaited death.
Ack, this is a little disturbing. But I would keep reading, so I think the author successfully hooked me. If the character here dies, I would get disappointed and probably put the book down. Unless this is a ghost story, then I would read more. I’m hoping for a rescue though, for her and her sister. One thing I might suggest to the author, since this is in the woman’s POV, we probably should know her name. All in all, I would keep reading, so I’d say great job, Dawn!
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