Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mark Murata. TEMPLE BEYOND THE SEA is New Adult historical fantasy.
To be a priestess, the walk had to be flawless—the smooth heel-to-toe motion beneath the woolen robe that would soon be spattered with blood. Iphi had practiced this walk for two years, knew it was perfect, knew the ceremonial dagger at her waist was not bouncing from the motion. Sheathed at my navel, the center of life. Her slippered feet continued their smooth whisper on the stone floor of the temple, taking her through the darkness to the sunlight that shone through the linteled doorway, where the victims waited outside.
At the doorway itself she paused, heavy stonework on either side, the scents of life and fresh air greeting her. She had no need to blink—though the veil that hung in front of her eyes was thin and gauze-like, its deep-set purple shielded those same eyes from the sudden change in lighting. Iphi made the pause purposeful, foreboding. The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast against the darkness of her eyes, dimly glimpsed through the veil. Arms outstretched, she stood ready to receive the sacrifices lying on the altar. Any supplicant standing directly in front of her would have seen her framed by darkness. And further on, in the interior of the temple, hints of the image of Artemis herself showed—a pale statue in the same posture, lit by hungry flames.
The pause also gave Iphi time to contemplate this, the last phase of her training. She would ascend to the priesthood by performing human sacrifice. The dagger rested easily against her waist.
Her lips parted. There was no need for a last glance at any polished bronze mirror. The red on her lips was perfect, the same as the whiteness of her face. She stiffened her belly for the pronouncement, her voice deep and confident.
The goddess will have her sacrifice
Virgin am I, who serve her
All you who stand here, adore
First off, I thought this was an amazing beginning. The image of a blood splatted robe, the knife, and the sacrifices all promise an exciting beginning. As such, I don't have many suggestions for plot and character, but I do have a few notes.
This is written in third person. However, a few of the phrases place the action firmly inside Iphi's head. For example, "The whiteness of her face would sharply contrast" can easily be replaced with "sharply contrasted." This takes it out of her head and makes it active instead of passive.
I'm also unsure of why her speech is formatted the way it is instead of with quotes. Of course, it could simply have gotten formatted strangely through email, but if not, it's something to consider. As it's shown above, it looks more like a thought or even a different scene.
The last paragraph takes me out of the story a bit. At this point, I don't feel it's important to state what would happen if other people were there. I want to know instead about the people that are there. Perhaps it's listed later, but I'd like to know how the sacrifices are reacting. They are the other characters listed in the beginning of this scene.
Thanks so much for sharing with us, Mark. Based on this beginning, I would definitely keep reading!
Make sure to check out Mark's website at http://suburbanfantasy.