Book Jacket


rank 755
word count 28435
date submitted 29.03.2010
date updated 01.01.2011
genres: Fiction, Romance, Fantasy
classification: moderate

Darkened Voices


When magic is your gift, your curse, your life, your love and potentially your death, what happens when magic gets completely out of control?


The Order of Voice-casters provides the only secure means of instant communication across the Kingdom and beyond. Secrecy is fundamental to the Order.

There can be no secrets between the inseparable pair afflicted by a Caster’s Bond, if they ever survive the life draining and deeply taboo addiction to the Touch. The Order decrees immediate execution for any Casters cursed by a Bond for those two reasons.

Callien and Behran had fallen into a Bond as freshers, and spent their University years trying to keep their curse a secret, as well as cope with the involuntary intimacy.

When Behran is unexpectedly recruited as Caster for the Order itself, he can only pray that the Bond has gone unnoticed and that he can survive the separation from Callien, let alone keep secret his need for her Touch.

However, the ruthless Order is fully aware of the Bond and means to use the unmatched ability it gives Behran to carry out a daring assassination, on which the very fate of the world turns and in which Behran is meant to die too.

But Behran is stubborn, especially when he finds that the plots goes beyond death, beyond even the Walls of Creation.

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addiction to the touch, assassination, caster's bond, conspiracy, curse, cursed lovers, evil brethren, healer, magic, mysterious orders, necromancy, p...

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TRM wrote 1231 days ago

Dear readers, I'm going to do something a little unusual here.

Chapters 1 to 3 represent version one.

Chapters 4 to 9 represent version two.

Which one is best? There one way to find out ...

Cheers, TRM

TRM wrote 1315 days ago

Dear readers, if my scribbles here have moved you enough to read, back or even comment, do please visit this thread:

I am hoping to bring together like minded fantasy enthusiasts for mutual critique and betterment, and I would welcome your participation. Many thanks, TRM

T M Robinson wrote 337 days ago

I stopped to read your work -sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word. What jumps out at me is that you are overstating your descriptions. If someone slinks into a room, it is understood they're trying to be inconspicuous. White robes might denote the new arrivals to be students. Trumpeting is a stretch for a white robe. The first chapter is the most important because it sells a book, but there is always a tendency to over-write, which leads to a lot of arduous, raging, descriptors.

Don't try to fill in the backstory in the first chapter. Let the backstory unfold as the book progresses. Develop at least one character the reader will want to know more about in the first chapter. It doesn't have to be the protagonist, but the character does have to be interesting.

Work on ways to turn subtext into dialog and make the dialog snap! Verbage we use in everyday life simply dies on the printed page. Fictional characters are always wittier and more eloquent than real people. They have to be to keep the attention of the reader.

Also- watch for sandwiched dialog. You can preface dialog with subtext or append subtext to dialog, but doing both is problematic.

You might try starting the chapter with a stronger opening- like: 'When the midday bell rang, he would attempt to cheat death.' Then place your character in danger. Build tension with short concise sentences.Don't be afraid of ugly confrontations that expose the character's strengths and weaknesses.

Feel free to ignore any and or all of the above.

Best of luck

Kara Thrace wrote 874 days ago

Have finally got around to reading this (I read 4-9 and then scanned 1-3)

I prefer 4-9 personally, I think it flows better, it reads better and the scattering of back story works well. I noticed that a reviewer found the jumping backwards and forwards confusing, but I think this is something that can easily be rectified by perhaps titling each "flashback" with something like the name of Behran's village or the name of his sister in laws tavern.

The dialogue was lovely to read, the only thing I didn't like was the word "guys" I just don't think it fits the pattern of speech. I agree with what other reviewers have put - has a very posh Etonian / Oxford feel and I couldn't help but imagine the characters in straw boaters and stripey blazers! Not white robes! Part of me doesn't know if the style of speech fits the theme - but this is your book, and if it's a university - it's quite possible that the students would speak like this ... So ignore me!

I love the idea of the joining between Callien and Behran being taboo.

So the my Dark Lord - well done! I love it :)
Let's go get some cake ...

HarrietG wrote 897 days ago

From a sometime ally of the Alliance to the Dark Lord,

I read chapters one to three, hence I suppose only version one. There's a lot here that is familiar - in a good way - from real life... students drinking in a pub discussing exams, plans, relationships. And the ritual of the exams themselves, second-guessing the examiners and so on. Any ancient university is practically a fantasy in its own right... lots of dressing up in robes and rooms with strange titles. And Threshing Week. Ho-hum. So this is spot on for conjuring atmosphere. The plot is intriguing - I would like to know exactly what the Bond is (and why it caught Callien and Behran rather than any of the other students), and why it is so dreadful a thing that death is considered an appropriate penalty. I'm not saying that this needs to be in the first three chapters - not knowing makes me want to read on. That's the only important thing, isn't it, that a reader wishes for more?

I have to say that I didn't get a lot of sense of character from the dialogue - seemed, to me to be giving exposition rather than arising inevitably out of time place and character. That's necessary of course. I'm also getting touches of over-familiarity within the genre even if this wizards' school is a bit more reminiscent of Roke than Hogwarts; as is Behran's backstory, poor boy from the backwaters, his powers revealed by a crisis. Again, this is not a very bad thing; it's more important to have an original voice and twist on a story. So summing up, I'd read more to find out where this is going and to see if the original twist is there. The writing itself flows smoothly, aided by the easy tone granted by use of contractions in the text. I also liked, very much, the circular set-up in chapter three so we get to see how the story started, having already become familiar with the aftermath. I'll have a look at your other version to see how you've turned things about. Which version is the original?

Best wishes, Harriet

I caught a couple of typos (chapter 1, 'indiscrete' should be 'indiscreet', tho' I'm not sure the word is appropriate; chapter 2, 'both Callien and he' should be 'both Callien and him')

D M Sharples wrote 898 days ago


You create strong images, particularly in reagrds to the characters. They come across as very upper class, the sort of students I'd expect at Eton, Oxford etc. This is primarily down to the dialogue, which is very prim and proper throughout, with only occasional dashes of a more 'common' speech. This is not to say that the characters aren't likeable of course, and they have the underlying cheeky and nonchalant approach to studies and exams that is all part of being young.

A large part of the first chapter takes place in a pub, and I like that you don't feel the need to over-describe the setting, instead giving a brief feel and leaving the rest to the reader. When we do venture outside, the description is strong and allows a firm footing to be placed in the world you've created.

I also really enjoyed your similes and metaphors, there's some good imagination there, rather than the usual cliches found in a lot of other work.

In terms of criticism, I think some of it could be tightened up. There are a lot of unnecessary adverbs, particularly around the dialogue. Your writing is good enough for the context to tell us how the characters are speaking, these adverbs only serve to detract from the overall experience. I also felt that now and then the dialogue felt a little bit too 'proper', with some parts favouring full words rather than the contractions I'd expect. But then, if the intent is to convey the characters as the type I mentioned above, this is also helping to do that. It's a double edged sword I suppose. Finally, I think a bit of grammatical polishing is in order, but not too much, just a few rewordings/commas etc.

D M Sharples.

gms1983 wrote 906 days ago

Right, this is only my second review of a book by my fellow Worldbuilders, and I choose the Dark Lord himself, you had the luck of the draw that you were first on the watch list.

I've only read the first version and apart from the chapters being a little long, I think it's really good, the characters are very vivid, you can see the characters, rather just get told about them, and I always like a story that's got a lady with red hair, maybe it's a Scots thing. :)

I liked the story and where you have taken the training of the Magic users of your world and made it much like University, with Freshers week (I don't know whether that's a British Thing or there is the same thing in American Colleges) and the final exams for a year.

I enjoyed your building of the relationship between Callien and Behran, and the suspense you leave chapter 2 with and go back in time in Chapter 3, flashback is often not done very well even by some great Authors, but I think by taking you back in a chapter as a whole, rather as part of a chapter, you have done it very well.

I would need to read the whole thing to tell you what I don't like about it, and maybe once I've read the second version there may be differences that I like more or don't like so much, but right now, I will say I enjoyed it and would very much like to read on.

Joshua Jacobs wrote 988 days ago

Right away, you begin with a very vivid description of the setting, but I love that you combined it with the lead up of the opening conflict. This is a perfect example of how this should be done.

You do a good job of building intrigue. Early on you have me wondering what they're doing there, what he means by cheating death, what his disguise is, who Callien is. While I would usually advice against this type of start, since it begins a bit slowly, the gradually rising tension works here. It does drag on a tad long, so maybe you could shorten it a bit. I think the sooner you can get to Behran and Callien fleeing the Raised Standard because they're anxious they might be discovered, the stronger this will be. For me, that's when I was officially hooked. I'd also see if you can heighten the fear a bit more to give the reader more to worry about. I think there should be a clear feeling of danger pretty much throughout the opening. Otherwise, I like the way this starts. It's a bit of a timeless beginning. Replace the abilities and setting with modern college kids and raise stakes and it could be a story about today.

Nice contrast between the three friends in behavior and appearance. It helped ease us into learning who they were and keeping them straight, especially with the unique names.

There are nice subtle drops of fantasy in this opening that will have any fantasy-lover eager to see it action.

Excellent twist with Callien showing up.

The end of the first chapter is effective because it brings everything that has happened full circle and makes the reader want to turn the page.

Suggestions: There are a few occasions here and there where this would benefit from a trim. The content is good and the writing is solid, but you used more words than are necessary at times. For example, why not, "...watching his friends fade into the smoky haze..." or "And despite the gnawing feeling..." Can you trim Michnem's speech that starts, "Well spotted. Yes it will be." It's a bit long at this point in the novel. In fact, trimming this is my best advice for you. You have a great story, but right now, it's getting a little lost in the length of the opening.

Typos: Should be "an hour until registration." Should be: "My long-suffering family has threatened" since family is singular. When writing a dialogue tag that is unrelated to speech, use a period. "None taken, my friend." Michnem smiled. Otherwise, great job editing!

This has the makings of an outstanding fantasy novel! The world is developed well through the opening, and you really know your characters. You're also a very talented writer. With a bit of a trim and some heightening of the tension, this will be even stronger. Good start! As I'm posting this, I see you're interested in seeing which beginning is stronger. I have some other reads I need to do first, but as soon as possible, I'll be back to check out version two's beginning. I'll let you know which I feel is stronger.

DragonLady wrote 989 days ago

I agree with M.P. FRY, version one grabs you better than version two. I prefer more description than less. Tried to rate/WL but came up with error message. Will come back and do it later.


M.P.FRY wrote 996 days ago

I have to say the first opening screamed out to me. The second felt a little like a wet firework.

Samuel Z Jones wrote 1006 days ago

I'm struggling to put my thoughts on this into words, which is very unusual for me. It's well written, but there's a tendency here for the point of a sentence to arrive at the end of the paragraph. This makes for a very evocative image once the whole paragraph has been read, but also creates gaps where the reader (or at least, this reader) is in a kind of limbo; it's as if the imagery arrives in vivid photographs rather than a cinematic stream. This in itself isn't a problem; the imagery is, as I said, vivid and evocative. But it does rather interfere with the flow of the dialogue. Looking at the way the writing style develops from the start to the finish of the chapter, I think the issue is just a case of too many concepts in a single sentence; it's difficult to pin down, since the style and the voice are obviously very well developed.

andrew DOYLE wrote 1041 days ago

I like portions of this...the premise is good...It would be healtyh to have an Editorial or proof read conducted by a pro eye, I have had similar work revamped and now most of my work is industry standard, DO NOT allow negative feedback to dampen your drive for publication.

I would suggest sticking to one version of your work and apply any feedback from the 'like minded' people who only wish to help.

Keep at it ...and dont give up.

Andrew David Doyle

andrew DOYLE wrote 1041 days ago

I like portions of this...the premise is good...It would be healtyh to have an Editorial or proof read conducted by a pro eye, I have had similar work revamped and now most of my work is industry standard, DO NOT allow negative feedback to dampen your drive for publication.

I would suggest sticking to one version of your and apply any feedback from the 'like minded' people who only wish to help.

Keep at it ...and dont give up.

Andrew David Doyle

Pam B wrote 1065 days ago

Hi T R M,

That was a really clever idea to put two versions up, I should have tried it before deciding to continue with first person narrative.

The first 3 chapters were a brilliant opening to what looks like a good story, it was so captivating that the few grammatical errors I noticed on the first page, faded into insignificance as I was hooked by the story.

The second version whilst giving more of the back story, did become confusing the way the chapters flipped time periods. Though the writing style was different too, much more descriptive, I think I prefer the fast pace & suddenness of the first version. However, I do think the back story helps to make sense to the overall narrative. Perhaps you could have some of that as a prologue, but you would have to lose any over lapping bits, like his telling of the story to Shomon in his flashback.

I did find the length & depth of the flash back a bit much & very confusing, when all I wanted as a reader was to find out what the Lords wanted of him.

I hope this is helpful, & I will look up your other book too when I have the time.

All the best.


P.S Forgot to plug my book, The King's Blessing, but I know you have a mountain load of other books to read so I won't expect anything too soon!

aurorawatcher wrote 1084 days ago

This is a really good book. I haven't got an answer for you on which version is best, but I look forward to trying to figure that out. Lauri

gilbertmartin wrote 1102 days ago

Im going to watch this, but for some reason its missing oomph. I dont generally attack grammar or writing style, because in my opinion this represents the writer. If we all we're (I did that on purpose) masters of English then every book will be perfect. I follow storyline and what grips me, or blows me away as unique and there is something here pulling me in, but not keeping me... Strange?

Aivia Belleth wrote 1117 days ago

My Lord TRM,

I -- your loyal servant in the forum-land of the Alliance of Worldbuilders -- have read "Darkened Voices" and would like to propose ideas as to how it could be better.
However, I want to mention that all of this is my opinion. I could be completely wrong in correcting you. Likewise, I could be completely wrong in praising you...

I always start out with the good things that I find when I critically evaluate someone's story. Here, I see great potential in your writing style. You can use a wide vocabulary without looking like you're trying and without creating broken sentences. A few sentences were a bit long in the first chapters, but that is a relatively easy fix. Overall, your style contributes to the tone of your story; I know how the setting and the characters *feel* to me, which will eventually help me to become a part of their world.

--First Three Chapters--
The first version of the beginning you wrote had many problems that it seems you have addressed in the second version. However, some of the problems from the first beginning are still present in the second one, but I shall go over those problems for the most part when I reach evaluating the latter chapters.
Your first three chapters suffer mostly because of their weight: they are both long and paced slowly. Several times while reading I found myself scroll to the bottom to see exactly how much longer until I got a chapter break. Pacing kept the story as a crawl, and I wound up skipping several chunkier paragraphs.
Lastly, and most importantly, nothing happened in the first chapter. In escence, several interesting characters gather to drink in a bar. The main character reflects on how he shouldn't be there, but his worries are shut down by his friends who assure him that he shall blow this test out of the water. Then, there is conflict! The Panel is coming, perhaps to reveal the main character's true identity? Almost immediately after -- before the reader can even muster sympathy -- the suspense is shot down. The Panel is not threatening, and both the reader and the main character are once again assured that Behran will smoke this test.
By the end of all of this, I realized that nothing had actually happened. I took a nap. Which, despite the fact that I am always in the mood for a nap, is not a good thing for you. The feeling I should have after reading your first chapter shouldn't be "sleepy", it should be "riveted"!

--Chapters Four and Onwards--
These chapters directly addressed the problems of pacing and length that I mentioned were occurring in chapters one through three. Chapters 4, 6, and 8 were far easier to read and were shorter, more chewable, chunks of Chapter 1.
Unfortunately, nothing happened. All of the characters did the same things in half the time it took for them to do it before, but still nothing hooking.
The subject of beginnings is far too big for me to tackle in one sitting, so I would highly recommend the book "Hooked" by Les Edgerton. This book focuses only on improving beginnings, which is something that I think that nearly every writer could work on. After all, (and I quote Les Edgerton:) "The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings."
Where I found the first inklings of being hooked was Chapter 5. Finally! Some magic! I felt riveted in this scene; if I were you, I would put serious thought into making this my first chapter, or at least make the chapter similar in quality. I found that I enjoyed reading about Brehan's colorful backstory rather than his test-anxious future. The Brehan in the past faces actual, and sometimes very direct, confict!

--Final Notes--
I guess I shall have final notes, because I doubt that they will fit anywhere else.
I would tone down the relationship between Brehan and Callien, as it has been said before me. But there is a reason for my thinking this: first of all, when readers like myself read that you categorize this story as romantic as well as fantasy, they expect to watch a relationship build up between two people. In the case of Brehan and Callien, they are already joined at the hip. Reading about them is similar to watching a couple PDA in a high school hallway: we don't know their backstory, we don't even know what they are like, we just see them being together and their relationship is as much of a stranger as they are. It is hard to represent love if you didn't see it happen. This belief is further supported by the scene in Chapter 9 where Brehan falls in love with Callien at first sight.... it's too easy. Like you don't want them to *fall* in love, you just want them to *be* in love for your convenience.
On the other hand, all of your characters are intriguing and deep. None of them are (from as far as I can tell) cliches, or look-alikes of one another. Their dialogue feels like an extension of their personalities rather than forced, and that makes it a genuine and believable read.
I hope that you update your story soon so that I can not only read more about Brehan and Callien, but see if my rambling has brought you any benefits.

Your loyal citizen,
Aivia Belleth

Bradley Wind wrote 1167 days ago


COVER: I like the monk image..but the white box is not doing it any favors...and I somewhat wish the whole of it offered more "magic" feel. Let me know if I can help you out.

TITLE: I think it good, especially if the book is about the kind of magic that entails a lot of chants, spell announcing etc. heh

SHORT PITCH: It's pretty good, I'm not completely convinced of it. I have to say it doesn't make me want to read the longer pitch (sorry) Where is the magic?! Why is the magic out of control? How does it affect his love/life/death? Is there a way to bring that into the pitch?

LONG PITCH: I think its pretty good. I'm hoping for some steamy bits from the sound of it. heh. Steamy magic bits.
I think it feels a litttle bit longish. But it is better than the short and it does make me more interested in reading the text. I'd kind of like to feel a little of the magic in this too... with these kinds of books I think giving the audience a taste of the glitter is good. Probably difficult to do

TEXT: Opening sentence isn't compelling (sorry) has an awkward feel. Might rework that.
hm...well...where's the magic? heh. This opening chapter is long. It feels like its trying to establish too much too soon. I hate it when people think they know my book well enough from reading one chapter to tell me how to rewrite it and so PLEASE take what I say as complete non-sense or merely a place to ponder alternate universes, etc...but I'd bring people in with the smokey scene and give them a taste of Behran, enough that shows his situation, friends, and power. Then move on to another scene...I don't know him enough to want to hang all night with him and his friends at a bar and hear all their life stories...and definitely not without them accidentally coughing and turning their beer into a glass of boobs or well...some such college years fun. (I know that's not what you're going for...just threw that in for shtsNggles. sorry) There's also a bit too much description of characters.
You've developed a good college age atmosphere in many ways. I like the ideas/conflicts you've set up.
I just went to 4 to see what you've done there. Still think the opening line/paragraph could be more enticing.
The "a dirty colour..." line is confusing...
I think it much better than the other chp1 ...but i felt the ending a bit...abrupt. I still think I deserve a bit of a good magic twinkie served here. I want that yellow sponge cake even if its a little nasty. Please! Maybe you don't have Twinkies in the UK...ah well.
Best of luck with this!

ed_larel wrote 1169 days ago

Definitely a more refined read from 4 onward. I am enjoying this very much so far, and wonder if you will be adding more or considering (self) publishing so that I can read it.

On Worldbuilding; your unique view of this "curse" is something I can say I haven't seen before. The way it is viewed by others is clear, even though the story itself hasn't gone so far as to show what happens. Also, the relationship you build between Behran, his friends, and Callien gives them a feel I, as a reader, can relate to.

J.S.Watts wrote 1182 days ago

Chapter 4 works much better than chapter 1, in my opinion. It is slicker and seems to have shed the slightly jarring contrast between the amusing jollity of the first student's faux pas with the slightly "purple prose" tone of Behran's inner turmoil.

A Darker Moon

Ryan Holmes wrote 1188 days ago


This is a great read and promises to be a greater tale. You have a natural gift for storytelling that interjects a large helping of intrigue and complexity. I read chapter 1 and thought it quite good. Then I read chapter 4 and was blown away by what a difference the subtle rewrite did for the work. The second version is superb, and I could find no fault with it. Darkened Voices is now my top shelf! It shall be the standard for which I judge all others, truly excellent penning.

Ryan Holmes
Age of Resurgence

Hyperion wrote 1192 days ago

The premise of this novel is excellent, and I was looking forward to joining Behran and Callien in his adventures but I fell out of the story because of the holes in the plot lines. The Pitch promises so much but the first chapters seem a little weak to me? Moreover, I consider that you give us very little descriptions of the actual people expect their names, and we are forced to invent them for ourselves.
Your opening sentence is a case in point We are introduced to a door when you could have opened with Behan trying to control the powers he has within him.
As you can see I am confused, not by the alternative chapters, I started reading at number 4 and have read through 5&6.
What are you trying to show us here, if I had not read your pitch, I would be well and truly lost at sea or up to a creek without a paddle to use so many metaphors. You have not tried to set up your world, and we jump right into a scene where we learn a little of why these three men are going to get drunk and realise from the inferences that this is not a good idea. However, where are we and when? Is this a medieval tale but then your language and dialogue do not fit this period certainly? 'Look Guy's' did not sit well with me, and before we knew it in chapter 5, we have some sort of back story that does not relate except that Behran is there a young lad.
Ok I have read enough fantasy to go along with it, but once again you have not set the scene well enough for me to imagine the circumstances. In chapter 6 we are back in the Tavern where we encounter Callien and learn of the close bond they share and fear being exposed.
These chapters are quite short, and I would have thought that they could warrant some explanation of the order to which they all belong and some background concerning the powers they are trying to gain or control.
I appreciate that all this will soon be made clear in the later chapters but will your readers still be with you to read them?
I see that this has great potential and I have backed it fo that reason. All the very best Ray Jones.(The Chosen)

Tom B wrote 1201 days ago

Like most other people I think version 2 is better, as it gives much better background information. I made my mind up before checking to see what everyone else thought.

One grammatical thing. I think thirty seven should be thirty-seven.

Right I want to read more. thoroughly enjoyed it.

Criticisms - I felt you over did the bond between Callien and Behran, I know it's important, but it did feel mentioned an awful lot in repeating stuff you've already told us. Each time it is mentioned perhaps a little more detail needs to be dropped in. However that could be because I've read both versions and therefore read the same thing twice.

When you introduce the three companions at the beginning, I got a bit confused between them, I kept having to go back and check who was who. When I read the second version it wasn't so bad, but that could be because I'd already read the first chapter.

I did notice an unexpected POV change at one point. It was a female character and I think it was in version 1. I'll try and find it again if you like.

And that was it, tell me when you upload any more and I'll definitely take a further look.

Oh and grammatical error in the pitch 'plots goes'

clara_w wrote 1208 days ago


I have to say I prefer version 2 (chapter 4) so much better then the first.
In the original version, I got lost pretty easily with so many terms I was completely unfamiliar with. In this version you explain it way better to us what is what and who is who. Also, on your first version there was a lot of telling and no show, and also, some inneficient dialogues. Not the case at all for version two. However, you did keep your narrative and I honestly love the way you use your words.
So great job!
Im putting this baby on my next batch for my bookshelf =)

LL Su wrote 1216 days ago

I actually opened Ch.1-3 and Ch. 4-6 sided by sided for a comparison. I was more impress with version two. Less was better in this case. You have a great opening line "Rarely used..." Hooks the readers in wondering what this door is and why it's opening now. You created a mysterious mood going and version two kept it going whereas version one got readers distracted with details. After reading several paragraphs, I decided to settle on reading version two and closed version one. You should chuck version one into your draft folder and have version two available for readers here. That's just my opinion. :) Like the hint of romance between Callien and Behran in the beginning. Love/hate thing going on. Like the humor using insight into Behran's personality through Michnem's words. I enjoy discovering character's personality through other character's dialogue.
Powerful storytelling so far!
Will read more later.


bookjacket wrote 1216 days ago

Umm...they're both good yet completely a different style.

I prefer the second one, but that's because it pulls you into the story quicker, imo. I vote for the second, but I'm sure will be many on here who'll disagree with me.

This is too difficult!

I do like the story's beginning and I want to see more.

-Judith B. Shields
[Twice Reborn]

cicuta wrote 1217 days ago

Dear TRM, a brave attempt to persuade your reader, that not all is as it seems! As they slip into your recherche of the bait and switch style. That certainly had me guessing. A great read, rounded, passionate and very polished. Your blend to bridge the two elucidatory events together, was quite clever. I can see that you invest a lot of heart in your work. I have recently bought the new Brandon Sanderson Novel, and I was just as consumed by your character driven plot. I have no claims of being any sort of critic. But I am a collector and reader of fine literature! And yours wouldn't be lost alongside those that have already been published. This is polished, professional and very passionately written. Good luck and best wishes with your book. It'll be a pleasure to find a place for it, on my shelf. Take care, Cicuta, [ Carl, Arcane ].

Vice Captain Sam wrote 1231 days ago

Okay, I've had a read. The new bits (4-9) are better written (you've given the story more to Behran and Callien), and the flashbacks work. But...initially it does make the pub scene go on, and on, and on. Also it might help to flag the flashbacks via the chapter headings or even font change to italics (several published books do this).

The flashbacks are put in the right places, except one I found a bit jarring. It's a bit complicated so I'll break it down:

Flashback Chapter 5 (2)- fine.

Present Chapter 6 (3)- break the scene to just before Callien arrives. You could add here Behran reflecting on how he's come to get to this stage of his life from such humble beginnings if it makes the chapter a little short to break it there, which would then nicely run-on to the flashback.

Flashback Chapter 7- fine.

Present Chapter 8 (5)- Callien's reference to the Panel arriving is a little sudden and abrupt. The reaction was better in the original when there was some more build-up.

Flashback Chapter 9 (6)- fine.

Doing it this way does make it clearer, but as you say the problem (or at least perceived problem) is that the story then becomes Behran's almost exclusively. I see what you mean about Callien not being so prominent, but perhaps if you follow Behran up to the point where he's taken to see the Panel, and then cut back to Callien, possibly giving the flashback of their First Touch from HER POV, until she is called for her exam. Then you could cut back to Behran in the Panel room, and we'd know why he is in such a tricky predicament. And it would hopefully give Cal some more weight in the story.

Dunno if that helps?

TRM wrote 1231 days ago

Dear readers, I'm going to do something a little unusual here.

Chapters 1 to 3 represent version one.

Chapters 4 to 9 represent version two.

Which one is best? There one way to find out ...

Cheers, TRM

Vice Captain Sam wrote 1231 days ago

OK TRM, how could I forget to comment for the man who started it all? As always, what I say is purely opinion and you are under no obligation whatsoever to listen to a word of it.

I've chosen this book as its pitch really gripped me- so well done on that!


First line is good...but starting with a participle for an inanimate object doesn't feel very natural. When you start with a participle, to me it's like giving the subject of the sentence some personality. But giving it to a door just startled me.

'trying to be inconspicuous'- bit more detail? Are they looking around furtively? Muttering quietly? Hiding in their robes?

Hmm...I get what you're saying in the opening. Depending on whether this event is important or not, I think you need to set it out to give some more 'oomph'. So space out the actions and give them more drama. Only if this event is significant, mind.'re quite fond of adverbs, eh? Not to jump on the 'ADVERBITIS' bandwagon, but you use three in one paragraph, and two of them are basically synonyms (painstakingly and arduously). You can simplify it- 'to lay aside the semblence of normality he had crafted piece by piece over the last three years, and to break free from the iron control raging within him.'

'more than any other day he felt'- don't need the 'he felt'. Just 'he could not surrender to that desire'. This makes it more dramatic and brings us closer to his viewpoint.

'For within the hour'- what a nice set-up! Slowly building and building from the start, very good!

I like how you use the three friends' to play off each other and reveal their distinct personalities (and dress sense!).

'a very pretty barmaid'- tell us some more? Is she tall, long-legged, voluptuous? That can give us some insight into Pellag's taste in women :)

'Behran grinned at the scene, his mood lifting'- the mood lifting part, go into more detail? Does his mouth flicker into a smile? Does he chuckle?

Dialogue is smooth and natural- excellent!

'rubbing his bruised ribs'- wow, how hard did Michnam elbow him?! Perhaps 'sore' would be more appropriate.

Wow, I got really into the story- amazing job! Just one thing: When Callien arrives, Behran seems to totally sink into the background. I think you need to bring him forward a tad. True, this is Callien's point of view and she may not be noticing him as much, but I'd go easy on her reaction to the other two so she gets to her big concern (of Behran not controlling his Bond) earlier, as I'd assume this is her greatest worry at this time.

Okay, so having read on, I think it's omniscient POV? In which case, play off Callien's anger earlier with Behran's guilt. this will contrast them well.

The banter between the students is great- really realistic! Just like being on campus :)

That was amazing- I've never been sucked in to a narrative like that. And I love your names. Well done!

Having said that, I have one tiny issue, and that's with Behran. You start the chapter with him, you end the chapter with him. In the middle he drops off the radar. He needs to be more in the forefront. My book Zodiac Hunters used to be multiple POV but for me it diluted the characters too much so now it's variable 3rd person POV (locked to one of my three main characters). This is only a suggestion but I'd say for every scene break stick to either Behran or Callien for the whole scene. That would help set up their thoughts, feelings and reactions in a bit more of an organized manner. Of course, you can stick to omniscient POV, in which case get Behran to come forward a bit. Even if it's a line saying how he feels intimidated to speak when the girls are around. Just so we don't forget the poor soul!

Oh, and at the beginning, I had no idea the name of the pub was in the first line. That wasn't clear to me- maybe clarify a little more?


'suddenly and worringly'- don't think you need both! 'Round the back of Conclave Hall, the busy lanes had suddenly emptied, causing a stir amongst the group.'

'There were made entirely of wood'- just 'made of wood' is enough.

I like the disorganization in trying to get to the exam room (been there, done that!), but it comes off as rather odd. It sounds like they're exploring an ancient crypt or something, not looking for the registration desk. I think you should clarify that a bit more earlier.

Going strong so far. Only thing is when Behran is summoned for his special exam, I'd like more of a paniced reaction from him. Rather than just go with the dialogue (which is great!), intersperse it with his reactions. He is stalling to avoid the inevitable. Give us a taste of his fear.

Ah, see the next bit you've given us great insight into Behran's racing thoughts. Having his fear earlier would only add to this.

Incredible- I absolutely adore every aspect of this story. I think you've introduced me to a new genre!


The opening here doesn't fit with your previous style- I'd cut it out and go straight for the next line.

Ah I see, this is a might want to change the first sentence then and keep it closer to Behran's POV.

No way, you left it there on a cliffhanger?!? I have never said this about any book on here before, but dear me I want more!!!

Gosh TRM, I am so sorry for letting you lag behind on my list. This was absolutely AMAZING. I simply must read it all! I really hope you manage to get it finished.

All the best


Winterflood wrote 1291 days ago

Had a look at the first two scenes of the story, I assume the * denotes a scene, so thought I would comment on what I see so far.

You set up the characters and give us their personalities and what is happening here, but there were a couple of things I would like to mention.

Some of the words you use conjured the wrong images to me - “robes trumpeted” “puffed out a sigh of relief”

I also got the impression that it was set at night with the start, as I assume it was in a tavern and they usually are featured at night. But then you say morning so that threw me slightly.

You say “his portly companion followed” to me that implies there was only two of them when there was three

Not sure why you have that first scene break as you carry on with the same scene from the looks of it. And at this point you give us detailed descriptions of the three characters when we have already been through a scene with them. So should we have already known what they look like, or do we need to know now what they look like after we have already got to know them?

Near the end of scene 2 when Michnem is talking he says “All the scrolls. Yes?” should it be “All the scrolls, yes?” as it is one statement?

Anyway I hope this has helped, and I might be back to comment further on the story. Good luck with it.


DMR wrote 1294 days ago

Intriguing and compelling, this promises to be an enjoyable read - it was easy to get through the three chapters posted here - keep up the good work - Backed !
Good Blood

M. A. McRae. wrote 1295 days ago

Check my latest comments. I don't rave. I'll rave over this. I love it, and only wish I had it in real book form to read properly. A thoroughly intriguing pitch, an absorbing read, and I even approve your book cover. A minor error in Ch 1, 'indiscrete reprimand' should be 'indiscreet.' Backed without question. Marj.

Vanessa Darnleigh wrote 1298 days ago

How can one of the newcomers slink into the tavern one minute and stride in the next?
Strangers arriving in hooded robes in a tavern with unconcerned locals and buxom wenches sounds a bit familiar even though I'm not an avid reader of the fantasy genre. Nothing wrong with your skills as a writer...I just wonder how original this is going to be.
Good luck

Herschel Shirley wrote 1301 days ago

You have a wonderful story and you are an excellent writer. This deserves an audience. Backed with pleasure.

I hope you will take a look at my novel, Earth Reaver. I would welcome any comments and your backing.

Herschel Shirley

K A Smith wrote 1301 days ago

Hi TRM. As good as A Ratter's Tale, so far, which is high praise. I have noticed one typo, Nemi turns up with a bevy of 'wide-clad candidates' I think that should be white? KA.

Simon Verde wrote 1305 days ago

Really enjoyed this, read it all and was entertained throughout. There are enough hooks and promised mystery that the readers keeps doing what you want them to do - read. My only nit pick is that of the Conclave and the expectation for a punishment to come, it's almost as if they are forgotten about as the pre-story unfolds. That said, I would have kept reading with pleasure if there had been more posted.



Sly80 wrote 1305 days ago

The first real clue comes with 'why Pellag did nor know what the place looked like on the inside'. Pellag is a Seer, and Behran a Caster ... and Michnem a Healer, who is not the fool he at first appears - that seems to be reserved for Pellag. Clearly there is more to Callien and Behran than a simple romance, but romance there seems to be too. It's a pretty exhausting relationship though as they first imagine the best about the visiting envoys, then the worst, then Mich speculates it's something else entirely. Seems not ... 'They had come to Westview for him'.

Excellent and subtle world-building, the city having grown up from a small religious settlement devoted to the mountains that now looked down with disapproval 'on the little peasant who had defied them'. There are some really neat ideas adding interest to this fantasy. The notion of making exams open to the public being one of them - well chosen name for the week too (as a contrast to 'Freshers Week'?). The 'Touch' is another example, which has most people jerking and jumping in surprise, but which can become much more intimate and dangerous.

Description is neatly slotted in with the action, creating a non-stop cinematic experience, e.g. the spiral staircase 'creaked loudly at almost every step ... drawing nervous giggles ... pitch black ... no windows in the wooden panelling'. And at times, it is just plain dazzling, 'a cathedral of ribs', 'as if embraced by pure sunlight'.

The teenage characters are refreshingly modern in attitude and dialogue, with a fair measure of humour and irreverence, without it ever seeming out-of-place or jarring. Overall, this is an engrossing fantasy based upon a solid foundation of logical magic and an evolved society. It sets the readers asking questions, and plants seeds of worry which heighten the tension and keep the pages turning ... backed.

Possible nits: 'Everyone that [who] matters'. There are odd occasions when the story jumps inside a minor character's mind; this can be slightly unsettling, e.g. 'Well, Ghille thought, he doesn't have many friends'. It's not a major problem, just means the reader has to stay more alert about who is thinking what.

Eunice Attwood wrote 1306 days ago

This is a very intelligent piece of work. The great use of words brings colour to a wonderfully well thought out canvas. Inspiring imagery and good plot makes this a fascinating read. Backed with pleasure. Eunice - THe Temple Dancer.

CarolinaAl wrote 1313 days ago

This is an intriguing romantic fantasy. Pleasingly visual. Crisp dialogue. Clever wit. Vivid characters with meaningful relationships. Realistic emotional friction. Tension mounts relentlessly. Captivating pacing. Well thought out, robust storyline. Awesome world building. A highly enjoyable read. Backed.

TRM wrote 1315 days ago

Dear readers, if my scribbles here have moved you enough to read, back or even comment, do please visit this thread:

I am hoping to bring together like minded fantasy enthusiasts for mutual critique and betterment, and I would welcome your participation. Many thanks, TRM

Jen wrote 1317 days ago

In general:
You do an excellent job with scene setting and world building. The camaraderie between Behren and the other students is good although Caillen has a couple of off notes here and there where she descends a little too much into nagging girlfriend mode.
You're doing great withbuilding up atmosphere and seeding mysteries.
Chapter 1 has a few wobbly patches but by chapters 2 & 3 it's picked up beautifully.

Nitpicks & comments:

Chapter 1

'trumpeted' their arrival doesn't quite fit the atmosphere you're setting up. Something like 'blazed' might work better to contrast better with the shadows of the beer hall. (It's the contrast of the audio description with the visual descriptions that jars)

2nd para - 'brazenly' - you don't need this qualifier.

From 'It seemed so little to ask...' to '...attempt to cheat death' Good! Sets up an intriguing hook that makes the reader want to find out more.

From '...dogged his every step...' to '...consumed him' feels more overwrought. Personally, I find it a tad too overdramatic and with the paragraphs that follow you hammer in the threat enough that you could get away with cutting this bit.

The 'One path led to success..' paragraph - oooh, another intriguing hook!

'Michnem pulled a purse...' paragraph - excellent scene setting.

'Pellag on the other hand sulked...' paragraph - the second half (with Michnem ordering the drinks) seems slightly out of synch with the first half. Perhaps make them separate sentences?

'...perilous swoop of her low-cut bodice.' Good one!

Good grief Michnem gets some long speeches. (and very successfully depicting him as bombastic!) :-)

Caillen's entrance - good!

Although the later description of Callien's appearance goes on a bit too much. You lost me around the 'auburn pennons' bit.

The Mich speech re. the different explanation for the Panel - where you've got 'Michnem suggested, dropping his voice..' would read better if you went straight to 'Michnem dropped his voice...' I think.

' will be the exam rooms...' the 'be' makes it lumpy, so needs a slight rewrite.

Liked the explanation for why it's called threshing week. and 'the harvest of hopefuls,' is a good turn of phrase!

Chapter Two

Ooh, now we're getting into things!

The roof beams as a whale paragraph - good! Like it!

'He turned to observing the tide of candidates' - this is clunky - maybe just go with 'turned to observe.'

The brief switch to Ghille pov is out of place as we've been sticking with Behran.

Otherwise, the scenes in the exam waiting room all good. And the Touch promises interesting things for later.

Great ending to the chapter - very suspenseful.

Chapter Three

Oh that's such a tease - doing a flashback after the introduction of the Panel! But, yay! We get to learn a bit more about the Bond.

'...a grubby, ink stained lectern of crudely carved wood smoothed by the ages' - ditch the comma after grubby as it distorts the flow of the sentence.

'Many of the students...' paragraph. Very good. :-)

This is an extremely well written and very good chapter.
And dammit, you can't just leave it there. Not like that. More chapters!! (By which you can gather that your evil plan to make readers want more is working! :-) )

EsmeCarpenter wrote 1337 days ago

Really wonderful, subtle description, creates a beautiful atmosphere. Brilliant humour, too. I can feel the bond between the three friends easily. I'm intrigued by Behran and his powers - wanting to get further into the story and sink my teeth further into your world.

Something that did bother me slightly was that it was a little wordy. It felt like you constantly had to find different words for something you could say very simply.

Apart from that, I love it.

Esme C
'The Summoner'

lizjrnm wrote 1357 days ago

Very imaginative - easy to back!

The Cheech Room

nsllee wrote 1362 days ago


I like the idea and the whole university student opening - it reminds me of La Boheme and adds poignancy to Behran's predicament. Having said that, it does go on a bit - maybe a bit of judicious pruning is in order? Definitely very readable though. Backed.

Nicole (Chosen)

beegirl wrote 1365 days ago

I came to see if you would read mine--read your pitch and read yours instead! LOL Good pitch! Well done on that. Marvelous little world you are creating here. This is enjoyable with great characters and a story I would love to follow.

Surabhi wrote 1368 days ago

This is a well paced prose. Brilliant choice of words.
Do find some time to check out my book A Skein of Geese, and kindly give me your support and comment.


zan wrote 1391 days ago

Darkened Voices


Your short pitch grabbed my attention - "When magic is your gift, your curse, your life, your love and potentially your death, what happens when magic gets completely out of control?" This is a lot to chew on and it feeds the imagination outright. Imaginative plot - is this targeted at YA? I thought "Bad News at the Raised Standard" a good opening chapter and found Behran a likeable MC. A sudden painful memory of home seized him. How his family would glare too! Well, they could glare all they wanted. This was his destiny! Interesting storyline TRM. Coming back when I have more time to see where this is going. Happy to back you.

JCHernandez wrote 1394 days ago

A very involved, descriptive fantasy. I enjoyed it, only I wish there had been more. Good Writing, my friend.

Josh Hernandez

djinnia wrote 1394 days ago

very good.


Barry Wenlock wrote 1396 days ago

Hi TRM, I liked your first chapter and thought you develop your story well. The dialogue is good, generally, but occasionally seems a little anachronisticly modern. I wondered why you had P say 'there's no one here' and then have the tall one explain what he means to the regulars.
Good stuff, backed with pleasure,

Lady Midnight wrote 1400 days ago

The opening chapter is very well written with tight, focused narrative and wonderful descriptions: ...bearing a dangerously red label. Pellage tried very hard to ignore...more akin to a tumbledown, badly-thatched cottage...

Nitpicks. There's a slight tendency to occasional repetition: Temptation welled up (within) him...won over the power raging (within) him. Would suggest omitting the first 'within' and leave it at, Temptation welled up

...but (today) more than any other (day)... I think you can do without the 'day', just: ...but today more than any other...

Wordiness:(And that) despite the gnawing feeling, this could be his very last chance... I don't think you need the bracketed words.

Change of pov. Callien drew a ragged breath and clutched at Behran's arm.. she had not thought of that. Up until now the narrative has been done from Behran's point of view, then suddenly it's switched to Callien's.

Dialogue: The dialogue is well written and very naturalistic, however it's also very modern. I had the impression that this is a medieval setting and phrases such as: "Have you all lost it?" "Oh crap..." jar with this. I felt as if I had one foot in a fantasy world and the other in the contemporary world. This is just a personal observation and it might work for some readers, but not for me. Having said that, I think this story holds great potential. You obviously have talent as a writer and a great deal to offer the fantasy genre. I wish you the very best of luck with this. Backed.