Review of the first 1000 words of “Raven Song” by I.A. Ashcroft
I asked the author to send his first 1000 words, and he literally sent me 995 words exactly. Usually I review the first 1000 words via Amazon and the preview system, so this was different. (Note: Sometimes I will read a few thousand words to get a better sense of the story for a better review, and sometimes I don’t pay attention and go much farther an in depth)
The story opens with a prologue. It was about a half-naked boy shivering on a sidewalk. Overall, it was hard to really associate what was going on outside this basic image along with a man in a suit and a raven. It was mysterious, but I wasn’t quite sure if it sold me to buy the book.
But then I read about the Barrier, which was a shield that covered a ruined New York. Awesome. This is pretty much all you have to say to get me to turn the page, so good on the author.
The story then jumps 18 years in the future. Wow. What a jump. Part of me didn’t really know what was going on. Then he gave a time reference: July 21, 2147. Awesome. For what remains of the 1000 word book submission, there is much talk on dreams and ravens and insomnia of the main character, Jackson. Then it ended at the 995th word.
Pros and Cons.
Pros: I like the city shield and the time reference. It is more than enough to get me interested in the story. Shows some imagination, though it reminds me of the Simpsons, Stephen King (referenced by author below), and Highlander 2.
Cons: I am not exactly sure what the genre is from the first 1000 words. Is it a paranormal dystopia? Science Fiction? Mystical parable? Hard to tell from the intro. Also, I only really know one character at one point. With no dialogue, this makes it a little harder to get into the action. Lastly, the main character opens chapter one by waking up from a dream sequence. People are split on the “waking up in bed” opening, but the author doesn’t use it as a trope to undo a prior scene, so people might not mind. I didn’t, but then again, I wanted to hear more about the city shield.
Does the first 1000 words show it as edited?
Yes. Grammar was good. There were some odd things, like in the 2nd paragraph he used the word “eyes” in three sequential sentences (Raven Song Fact: eyes are mentioned 9 times in first 995 words). He also starts 3 out of 4 paragraphs in a row with “Jackson” in Chapter 1. Some authors try to mix it up a little.
Also the story has a third point limited narrator that trails off after “once upon a time.” A bit of an odd place to do that. When I write, I usually only trail off with dialogue or first person narration.
Do I care about the characters after the first 1000 words?
No. For me, I cared more about couple of the scene details more. Jackson’s mysterious prologue and dream reaction didn’t really get me to care about him yet. It would probably take me to see him interact with someone first.
Do I like the world building?
Yes, for what was mentioned. I liked the shield over New York. (Any dystopia of New York, I am a fan of, probably going back to my days watching Escape from New York)
Overall Assessment: Would I continue reading past the 1000 words?
Yes. I want to know more about this version of New York.
One thing I would have liked seeing:
Get rid of the prologue, and open up with Jackson doing some action or at least interact with someone. Then tell me about the backstory slowly. George R.R. Martin used a prologue, but he tells 800+ page books. He also used a dream sequence with Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones, but that is in the middle of the book to a crucial moment at the Tower of Joy.
Overall Story Beginning Rating: 4/5 Happy Go-Lucky Red Pandas
Q&A with the Author: I. A. Ashcroft
How long did the first draft take to write?
Almost a year and a half! The idea was germinating for about three months in my head, and then I spent six months dickering around with scenes and short story snippets. Finally I realized it was a novel, and for around seven months, I put what I had through the shredder, began structuring things so the pacing didn’t drag, refining subplots, re-writing, etc. It was my full time job after my full time job ended business hours! Of course after that was done, it needed a few months of editorial revisions, but at the point I was having so much fun finishing my first novel, it didn’t seem like such a long time.
Did you change the ending in the middle of writing?
Yes. I had an ending planned at first that felt a little sitcom-esque… all of the characters made it out relatively unscarred, and then they were chipper and ready for their next adventure in book two. It was awful. Sounded quite… false. The new ending, I felt, came organically out of all of the difficulties the characters face in this story, and though there is joy and hope, it’s the regrets, unfulfilled desires, and unanswered mysteries that I think will set the stage for a truly intriguing second book.
Did you submit traditionally?
I did not. I considered it carefully, and I’d love to submit traditionally some day, but I discovered that I really enjoy the world of indie authors and publishing. So, I never did send my manuscript to anyone but readers and editors. It gives me a lot of happiness to put my efforts into getting this out there right now, connecting with my audience today, rather than waiting for an agent, a publishing house, a release date, etc. So, for the Inoki’s Game series, it will all be independent! But after that, I am considering going down the traditional avenue for a couple of other book ideas – I’d love to reach even more readers.
Where do you want to go with the series?
Book Two: Eclipse of the Sun will be done with its first draft by end of May, and it’s going to set the stage for a complete upheaval of the world where Jackson and Anna live. There’s a lot of secrets and string-pullers that will be revealed. I have plans right now for four books, though a fifth is possible (I find I go crazy if I outline too far ahead. But, the ideas are seeded). I also found a fantastic audiobook narrator, Mikael Naramore, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear his reading of this series.
Favorite author who has influenced your writing?
Stephen King’s ideas shaped my style a great deal (I was reading The Dark Tower and On Writing while crafting this story, though I don’t 100% agree with every notion he sets forth). His efficiency of narrative though, when it’s at its best, is something powerful. Neil Gaiman’s weird, dark, and humorous descents into myth and folklore deeply shaped the way I try to approach a story, too. And finally, I don’t think I can leave J. K. Rowling off my list – she left with me a fascination with magic and those that use it, and a readability I find I just slip right into, even years later.
You can follow I.A.Ashcroft on twitter @ia_ashcroft