Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My manuscripts : Before the Storm

A little description of one of my fantasy manuscripts, the one which gained representation from an agent.

The world

Dagre, one of the lands in the continent of Eden. Dagre is Victorian England's bastard child by medieval fantasy, so people might sit down to a properly laid dining-table and discuss magic-using Iternan fugitives over the white wine (and imports from Lunacy over the red wine). Dagrans are physically identical to humans and can't use magic. This has led to their progress in science, to the point where the land is on the brink of the Industrial Revolution, but it also means that they're highly xenophobic and distrustful of foreigners who do have magic. Dagre's social development is still considered backward by other lands, since women and foreigners do not have the same rights as Dagran men.

The story

Alex is a mare, a woman kept for the use of the nobility and considered lower than a prostitute. Hardened though she is to this existence, she is still terrified when the overlord Stephen Garnath gives her to Robert Demeresna, who is called the Bloody Baron for the atrocities he's supposed to have committed. Alex forces herself to stay calm as Robert orders her to strip, burns her clothes and gives her a sedative drug. Once she's unconscious, Robert and Mayerd, the Iternan captain of his household guard, discuss what to do with her. Even though it's evident she's not carrying any weapons on her, she might still be an assassin. Stephen Garnath is not known for his generosity, and Robert's reputation is an act intended to lull Garnath's suspicions while Robert secretly tries to rally the east of Dagre against him.

With no choice but to take his new gift with him, Robert returns to the east while Alex makes plans to escape from him. But both of them are unaware that this mare is a Trojan horse, carrying magic that Garnath plans to use against his enemies. Meanwhile, Robert's efforts to unite the east against Garnath have attracted the attention of the Quorum, the church of Dagre. The Quorum has developed crude machines such as steam-carriages and calcium carbide cannons, but refuses to give these machines to Robert unless he makes a stand against Garnath's army. Pointing out that Garnath's forces outnumber his own ten to one doesn't work, and even Alex's insider knowledge of Garnath's troops and tactics won't be enough - especially when Garnath orders the magic trap she unwittingly carries to be activated...

The characters

When I first thought of Before the Storm, I wanted it to be a romantic fantasy, but as cliche-free as possible. So Alex isn't a virgin, nor is she an ice princess who never experienced pleasure before she met the hero. She's also sterile, since otherwise she'd have to worry about pregnancy interfering with her duties as a mare. She's cold, proud, manipulative and unscrupulous - but at the same time, she's intelligent and tough and not in need of self-esteem boosts from anyone.

Robert isn't handsome - in fact, her first impression of him is that his attempt to conform to current fashion calls even more attention to the plainness of his appearance. He's also sexually inexperienced compared to Alex (but that goes for pretty much anyone), and that inhibits him from making the first move. However, he's loyal, generous and warm-hearted, with a sense of humor that's directed at himself as much as at others. He'd be good for her, in other words, if not for his also being conservative and traditional about the kind of woman he'll marry - one who, at a minimum, will give him an heir.

Fantasy and romance, thunder and lightning, machines and magic, psychic powers and chemical explosives - all that and more in Before the Storm, which is now out on submission to editors.

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