This is a review for Keyai's Chapter 1 of "Shadow Call"
Another stab at the vampire genre with obvious influences from Stephanie Meyer.
Despite the comments you find here, I still did my best in critiquing and editing and reviewing this piece.
Thomas paced back and forth on the field Lord Grey had marked, [Pacing back and forth is a very boring way to introduce ANYTHING] his gaze fixed on the plot of freshly broken but well packed dirt. [I’m more interested in the dirt if the dirt had any plot points, it makes wonder if something is buried down there] A worn down cathedral wasted away behind him. Overgrown and unkempt, the grounds and surrounding forest were beginning to become indistinguishable. Everything around the cathedral seemed alive. Green ivy climbed its walls and trees nestled in its side reached up towards its stain glass windows, the stories they told long faded and broken. Even the shadows of the cathedral’s spires stretched out towards Thomas like fingers imploring a desperate plea for help. [The cathedral is described nicely but I hope it isn’t a thrown away scene for something else later]
Regardless of duty or purpose, Thomas always dressed his best. White starch shirt, black leather vest over a solid black tie and freshly ironed black pants marked the occasion. While blood hadn’t flowed through his veins for a century now, something about the way he dressed always helped him feel alive. [Alive is pretty subjective here, if you were a vampire would you REALLY consider yourself “dead?” As long as you’re moving, you’re alive, no? Just like how some horror stories may have inanimate objects “come to life”. My suggestion, delete this paragraph.]
The night boasted a full moon like a lone street light amidst a blackout. The field cascaded bright and dim as clouds quickly passed overhead. Thomas pulled out his pocket watch; it was time. He set down his duffle bag and began to remove his tools. A spade head shovel, the ritual tome The Final Passage, his Sudoku book marked to a half finished page, and his sword. [This is more interesting than your first paragraph, I would really just start here]
The ground broke apart easily as Thomas dug. Effortlessly he tossed the dirt to the side, his muscles unhindered by mortality. Much like the moonlight, the wind would rise and taper around him. There was neither sweat to cool his brow, nor breath for him to catch so he kept at it rhythmic and dutiful. Thunder echoed in the distance. The next boom was closer, a blow that recoiled off the tip of his shovel. He cleared away the top of the plain wooden box, and climbed out. He opened the tome, to the pages marked by Lord Grey. The thunder rapped again. And again. That…was no thunder. [This makes no sense. Did something sound like thunder under a clear sky? Why not just say that?]
Thomas’s eyes rose from the pages and scanned the horizon. The clouds were sheen like a young bride’s veil. [Clouds NEVER look like this, do your research. Clouds are balls of gas consisting of mostly polar molecules, hence it usually looks like puffs, not like a cloth as the molecules want to form something ball like] Thomas stood in silence. The boom laughed again; this time he felt it. The earth trembled beneath him. Thomas peered over the edge of the grave; BOOM. The top of the plain wooden box shook in unison. Thomas unsheathed his sword.
[This is a fantasy, describe your damn sword, that’s a must. Is it a long sword, a short sword, a katana? Even if it’s a plain sword, tell that to us. One extra sentence wouldn’t be bad. Your spade head shovel from your third paragraph got more description than your sword.]
Darkness and shadows erupted from the grave, quickly engulfing him. The air turned cold and heavy; swirling around him like a vortex bereft of wind. Whispers and yells surrounded him on all sides. His eyes were open but he could barely see, a shapeless curtain of blacks and purples shrouded everything around him. The grave in front of him was pitch black, it’d become a seething pool of shadow swirling of its own accord. [You only needed the first line, the rest makes no sense or was cliche or just reiterates the first line.]
“What’s happening? Who’s there?” An ominous ethereal voice spoke, an androgynous tone of high and low pitches. [Androgynous, yeah… REALLY menacing.] The voice encircled Thomas as if the shadows themselves were speaking. [What does shadow sound like? If you’re simply describing the appearance, did the shadow grow a pair of lips?] The voice was young and daring; Thomas made no reply. Slowly he backed away from the pool, measuring each step with caution unwilling to slash at the unseen. [Why slash at something that sounds androgynous, if it was my dad, he’d simply tell the person to have a proper sexchange before confusion settles in] His eyes darted back and forth trying to discern anything in the shadows. From nothing a force struck him head on, [Androgynous adversaries and a vortex of nothing knocking your main character over. Someone in your story is starting to sound like a whimp. At the very least, don’t use the word “nothing”] knocking him back several feet out of the haze. The blow was hard and heavy, greater than anything Thomas had ever felt. He rose to his feet quickly, picking up his sword.
Before him was a dome of swirling black and purple. Shadowy wisp like faces, mouths gaped into a moan, seemed to form and fall from the surface like leaves caught in a breeze. Thomas had read little and less of the shadow magic he appeared to be facing. The original manipulators of shadow, The Cilabri, had been presumed dead for centuries. Their blood fathers had gone mad and threatened to make them known to the human world. Prince Rasper had called the undead sects together and decreed open war on the Cilabri and ordered them destroyed. The Cilabri were said to be able to wield shadow itself, from the lowly and weak, merely able to blend into the shadows and make advanced shadow puppetry, to the old and gravely powerful, able to call forth great beasts of shadow to raze their opposition. Books from the time had said it was a great success, the hunt lasting no more than a decade. Whatever he faced here proved the contrary. [This is too much exposition for any reader who isn’t invested in your story or any reader who doesn’t have any idea of what you’re talking about. Learn to hint about these ideas in a sporadic amount if it’s that important.]
The shadowy mass before him flashed, burst and dispersed away. Left standing in front of him was a girl no more than eighteen. She stood at a moderate height; her black straight hair was cut ear length and hung to obscure part of her face. A long leather trench coat spotted with dirt hung over her jeans and black t-shirt, with knee-high leather boots laced up tight. Her stance was weak and her face was pale; she’d been suffering at her tormentors hands for too long. The Cilabri often tortured their new initiates by burying them and leaving them for sometimes weeks on end, releasing them several times only to beat and inter them again. Depriving them a fresh blood supply left them weak and oftentimes deranged. [Nothing you wrote hinted at another character approaching, this is just random now.]
“Not, not again, I’ll kill you first.” The girl said to Thomas with tension and defiance in her voice. The shadows behind the girl seemed to flicker and dance.
Thomas loosened his posture, “Do you know your name, and why you are here?”
“My name is Lacy.” She gazed around the field and the cathedral with a look of irate confusion, “and I don’t know where I am.” She gave pause as she noticed Thomas and his drawn sword.
“You aren’t who I was expecting. Who are you?”
“My name is Thomas, I’m from the Order.”
“What…Order?” [She’s probably too confused about what’s happening, she might mistake the main character for a waiter at a restaurant. Choose a better and more unique name please.]
“There is much and more you do not know Lacy. I could recount to you everything you thought you knew about your former life. I could tell you the history of the people I serve. I could tell you what you’ve become. In the end though, it would all be for naught. The outcome cannot change here tonight.” [Men of little words sound less like an idiot. My suggestion is not to have your character as if they’re reading the first paragraphs of a thesis paper while introducing themselves.]
“I…I don’t understand.” Lacy’s voice acquired some desperation. Thomas felt his shoulders tense.
“I know, and for that I am sorry.” Thomas charged. [Yeah, thanks for bombarding her with a PHD paper, you jerk.]
The girl made no effort to move as Thomas closed the distance. Her eyes were locked on his and he saw her mouth twitch with anger. She lifted her head and quickly swept the hair from her face. Her eyes were a crystal blue, almost white. All she said was “Fine.” [People really don’t simply say “fine” to large men carrying swords, they would usually run away and call the cops first]
Lacy threw her hands down and again darkness exploded, this time Thomas was ready. Thomas charged bullheaded through the darkness. His mind filled with the screams and shouts as before, his doubts and past failures started to creep in. This is only a trick. His eyes tried to find the girl. Only one clean strike and he could break her. [Don’t Thomas, you already broke her with nonsensical thesis, don’t break her anymore.] She was untrained, and that meant undisciplined. Being unable to control her strength was his greatest advantage, but it was also his greatest worry. His eyes and body trudged forward searching with sight and touch. I cannot fail, she can’t be loosed. He turned around and looked back. How deep is this? He felt her touch on his shoulder, like a lover’s sweet caress. He turned and slashed without hesitation. She stood without flinching as she laughed and wisped away. *CRACK*
[Seriously, if he was going to attack her, why didn’t he attack her earlier than to waste time in trying to give a bad lecture?]
A tremendous force fell on Thomas’s back, knocking him to the ground. As he tried to pull himself up something coiled around his leg, and another grasped his arm and shoulder. Shadowy tendrils began to wrap themselves around him. I can’t move. The tentacles began to envelop him head to toe squeezing and lifting him up, nothing giving way as he struggled. [Oh, a girl with tentacles, I see why she sounded androgynous] The dome of shadow dissipated over him, and the world opened up. The cathedral, clouds and stars returned to view. As the coils tightened around him he felt his shoulder crack and his world shrunk away just as quickly. The shadowy arms held him up to a standing position. He craned his head to see Lacy, who was whimsically flipping through the pages of The Final Passage.
“P...please.” Thomas choked on his words.
Lacy looked up from her book with a wicked smile across her face. She cocked her head to the side, put on a look of fake concern, and said “Something wrong?” A coy tone rippled through her voice.
“Y...you don’t know...what you are doing.”
“You got that right.” Lacy chuckled to herself and nodded in agreement, “the last thing I remember was being out at the bar with Erin and Chelsea. After that, I get a headache, and then I’m here fighting with you. Doing things that should be impossible. I don’t know how I know. I don’t know how I can flex muscles I don’t have; but I can. So...I need answers...quickly.” [OMG, they haven’t started dating yet and she’s already coming to him with her problems with her biology.]
Thomas could see the anger flash across her face. The coil gripping his torso tightened around him. He felt a rib crack. “Oops” Lacy said in the background and giggled. The coil loosened.
“I was sent here, to kill you.” Thomas grimaced as pain shot across his chest and shoulder.
[Next time you kill someone, try not to weaken them with the power of your thesis paper, it’s usually not very effective]
Lacy looked at the sword in her hand. She flipped the tome closed and read the cover. Her eyes went back to Thomas. She sighed and looked at Thomas with exasperation and slight amusement.
“Duh. Now start talking.”
Thomas was unsure about what to say. The more she learned the more dangerous she could become.
“You aren’t human anymore.” Thomas paused as he let that sink in. In the Order, these things were generally handled more delicately. Initiates were brought in softly and with purpose that they themselves were aware of. With the Cilabri it was neither.
“So what am I?”
Thomas felt the coils relax around him. They lowered him to a more comfortable, albeit still restrained, position; his pain slightly receding.
Thomas sighed. He didn’t need to breathe, in a conventional sense, but it always seemed to relax him a little more, as if there was a human inside refusing to give way.
“I guess the colloquial term would be vampire. A lot of things the human race gets correct, but there is more they get wrong. You will not age; your skin will not rot. You still need blood, that your body will consume, and you will need humans to fill again. Most of us, you included, have a power that we draw from our ancient bloodlines. Those muscles you feel, are shadow. Unfortunately, this makes you very dangerous. Too dangerous; which is why I was sent.”
“How am I a danger? I don’t even know what I am.”
“You are a Cilabri. As your blood grows and spreads the result is either mad, or madder.” Thomas felt the exhaustion creeping through his voice.
“So there is not even room for debate? No chance of me not being crazy?”
“Do you not feel it?” Thomas asked with surrender in his voice.
“Well, I guess I need to figure out what to do next.” She slid the blade through Thomas’s chest. She looked down to see if the blood flowed. It did but barely. She listened to him gasp and watched his eyes widen with a smile on her face. The coils around Thomas tightened and tightened, the darkness crept into his eyes. She pulled the blade out, leaned in to Thomas’s ear, “Maybe I do feel a little madder.” [So when does the whole, “she doesn’t have control of her powers yet” fall in?]
Here's my edit to chapter one, removing all the obligatory writings as I can while adding in transitions to help create a better narrative structure.
The night boasted a full moon like a lone street light amidst a blackout in the Lord Grey Cathedral. The field cascaded bright and dim as clouds quickly passed overhead. A man in a white shirt and leather vest pulled out his pocket watch. His thoughts spoke to him, it was time. He set down his duffle bag and began to remove his tools. A spade head shovel, the ritual tome The Final Passage, his Sudoku book marked to a half finished page, and his sheathed sword. Everything about him seemed ancient, except for the daily newspaper he carried with the names of missing people and the obituaries.
A thundering bangs was made under the clear starry night sky, as if it was ringing in place of the cathedral bell.
Thomas stood in a brief and momentary silence. The sound of thunder however would soon crack again; this time he felt it. The earth trembled beneath him. Thomas peered over the edge of the grave; BOOM. The top of the plain wooden box shook in unison. Thomas unsheathed his sword.
Darkness and shadows erupted from the grave, quickly engulfing him. The air turned cold and heavy; swirling around him like a vortex bereft of wind.
“What’s happening? Who’s there?” A voice spoke.
Thomas replied with a slash from his sword.
Collecting himself when he wasn’t able to strike anything, his eyes darted back and forth trying to discern anything in the shadows.
From shadow, a force struck him head on, knocking him back several feet out of the haze. The blow was hard and heavy, greater than anything Thomas had ever felt. He scampered and reached for his sword that was tossed away from him by the attack.
The shadowy mass before him flashed, burst and dispersed away. Left standing in front of him was a girl no more than eighteen with her eyes shut.
Her face was pale while her black hair partially covered most of it. For a hazed view, she opened her eyes and saw the man in front of him. “Don’t kill me,” she said, but with a very practiced and eased tone, despite her choice of words.
The man looked beside him while still holding his sword. He spotted his newspaper before he asked, “are you Lacy?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Forgive me then, but you are too dangerous” the man replied and tightened his grip on his sword.
Within the cover of the night, amongst the blackout, the sound of battle could be heard. Swinging swords, whipping through the air and the screams of battle cries were sounded.
The last voice that could be heard from the cathedral, however, was a girl’s laughter.
Casually yet unseen, Lacy later found herself holding the head of the man who had threatened to kill her as she stood in the cathedral.
“Danger” she said with blood over her face, “am I?”
As much as I tried in improving this, the source material is still pretty bad.
To the writer,
You need to limit yourself in your narration if you intend to get others to read it. Most people don't have time to look over long-winded explanations of what a Cilabri is. Furthermore, characters that speak in exposition are really a bad idea unless they've established themselves as a mentor to the minds of the reader.
As for your story idea, nothing is set up yet in chapter one when the only character you introduced is killed off by cliche magical powers.
"Shadow magic" really isn't enticing.