Sunday, September 21, 2014


92,000 words
YA Historical Fantasy


Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden yearns to join the Luminate society that dominates an alternate Victorian England. But in a world where social prestige stems from blood, money, and magic, Anna needs magic—or a miracle. When her plan to join society via her sister’s suitor ends in the destruction of her sister’s debutante spells, Anna is banished to Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

But nothing in Hungary is as it seems. Fissures in the Binding that contains her world’s magic are expanding, and the ancient creatures bound by that spell clamor for release. As revolutionary currents envelop Hungary, Anna’s unique ability to break spells becomes the catalyst both creatures and revolutionaries seek. In the company of nobles, rebels, and gypsies, Anna has a choice: cling to the life she’s always wanted, or risk everything to free the creatures, win a rebellion, and change the face of magic itself.

First Five Pages:

London, April 1847

I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut.

Indeed, there were any number of things I deliberately did not do that day.

I did not pray for rain, as I knelt in the small chapel of our London townhouse that morning, the cold of the floor seeping into my bones. Instead, I listened to Mama’s petition for successful spells and sunshine. Peeking through my lashes at Elizabeth’s smug face, I yearned to ask for disquiet, disorder, and torrential downpours—calamitous words that might have eased, a little, the restless crawling in my heart. But I swallowed the words unsaid. Even should God heed such a treacherous prayer, my father would not. And though Papa’s weather magic would cost him a headache, my sister would dance under clear skies.

I did not argue with Elizabeth, when she banned me from the ballroom where she and Mama were laying the final grounding for her illusions. “You’ll break my concentration and spoil my spells,” she said, though it had been years since I had spoiled any spell, accidentally or otherwise.

But then I did not go to the schoolroom, where I was expected to improve my sketching while James studied his Latin. Instead, I lingered (Mama would say loitered) in the lower hall, watching the servants scurry back and forth with their brooms and buckets and cleaning cloths, in feverish preparation for the ball. I did not rest, as Elizabeth did.

Because of those omissions, I was in the hallway when Lord Frederick Markson Worthing came calling. I heard Freddy’s signature knock—two short, three long—and my heart leapt.

Barton reached the door first and sent me a cross look down his long nose. He accepted a small white visiting card from Freddy, and I slipped into the open doorway.

“Lord Markson Worthing!” I smiled up at him, remembering to use his formal name just in time. “Won’t you come in?”

I didn’t have to look at Barton to know his brows were lowering. Our butler disapproved of forwardness in general and me in particular.

Freddy returned my smile, his gloved hands tightening around the bouquet of roses he carried. “Thank you, Miss Anna. Only for a moment. I don’t want to leave my horses standing too long in this wind.” In truth, Freddy had no need for horses. As a Luminate of the class Lucifera, he could compel the carriage with spells. But he preferred the aesthetic of horses.

Barton led us upstairs to the Green Drawing room, so named for the ivy pattern sprawling across the wall and the deep emerald drapes.  “I will notify your mother, Miss Anna. And Miss Arden.”

Freddy and I sat on matching high-backed chairs near the window. Freddy leaned toward me, nearly crushing the roses he held.

“I hoped I might see you.”

My face grew warm as I met Freddy’s intent gaze. I had been alone with Freddy only a handful of times, usually moments stolen on walks through the park, but there was no one in the world I liked so well. I adored the way his honey-colored hair curled a little above the collar of his coat. I admired his eyes, which were not really grey, but a band of blue around a center of brown. And I loved him for the way the corners of his lips trembled when he was impassioned: When he spoke about his plans for Parliament or his dreams of a salon in London where Luminatecould mingle freely with artists, poets, politicians, scientists, even revolutionaries, where wit would trump magic and ideals would matter more than money.

There was little room in the real world for people like me, but there might be room in Freddy’s.

“I have something I want to say to you. Will you be at the ball tonight?”

“I am not yet out,” I reminded him. And Mama does not trust me around magic.

“Then meet me. In the herb garden, at midnight.”

The heat in my cheeks deepened. I adjusted my skirts, pretending a composure I did not feel. “Very well.”

“Good girl.” Freddy stood then and adjusted his top hat. “I must go.” He thrust the flowers at me, roses of a red so deep their centers were almost black. The petals spilled over my fingers like blood.

I watched him walk away, admiring the straight line of his back. In the doorway, Freddy spun around to face me. “The flowers are for Elizabeth. See that she gets them, will you?”

“Anna?” Grandmama stood in the doorway, her fingers tight around her cane. “Has Lord Markson Worthing gone already?”

I looked up from the flowers. “He couldn’t stay. His horses were waiting.”

“And you were with him alone this entire time?” Her mouth was tight, her Hungarian accent more pronounced. First Barton, now Grandmama. At least Grandmama’s disapproval stemmed from affection.

My shoulders lifted a little. “He left these for Elizabeth.” I held out the roses and wondered if Grandmama would guess how much hid behind that small truth. Though it was customary to bring flowers to a debutante, I could not fathom what Freddy meant by asking me to meet him at midnight but leaving me with my sister’s roses.

“Do not shrug. It is not ladylike.” Her dark eyes studied my face, guessing at my discontent. “And do not pine so for this Luminate society, for the magic and the dancing. In Hungary there is not this obsession. You are not yet seventeen, szivem. Your turn will come.”

 “Mama would hide me in the country if she could.”

“Your mama loves you. She is afraid for you, is all.”

I did not believe that. Mama was afraid of me, of my strange lack of magic and my caprices. My fingers found a missed thorn on one of the roses, and I snapped it off.

Grandmama sighed. “Give me those flowers. I will take them to Elizabeth. You should go upstairs before your mama finds you.”

I relinquished the roses, but their scent followed me down the hall like a promise.
I sat on Elizabeth’s bed, hugging my knees to my chest. As children, we had often sat like this, watching Mama transform through the artifice of her dresser from an ordinary mother into something resplendent and strange. I suspected, however, that Elizabeth was not thinking of our old habit when she summoned me to help her dress, but of flaunting her debutante status.

Elizabeth’s maid attached a small coronet of pearls to my sister’s mahogany hair. Elizabeth surveyed her reflection in the ornate mirror, smiling at the effect. Her image seemed unfamiliar, her usual severity softened by the glass and the late afternoon light. Behind her, I could see the smaller circle of my face, a pale smear of flesh with dark holes for eyes.

I disliked mirrors. Sometimes when I looked at my reflection aslant, I caught an uncanny doubled reflection, as if I were not one person, but two—as if I were a stranger in my own skin. I never knew if such reflections were a byproduct of my lack of magic, or merely a defect in my vision.

Elizabeth must have seen something in my look to distrust, because she whirled suddenly.

“Anna, you will be good, won’t you? You know how much tonight means.”

As if I could forget. “What would I possibly do? I won’t be anywhere near you.” Except at midnight, in the gardens.

“Strange things happen around you. You’re so very . . .” She paused, searching for the right word.

“Quixotic? Unconventional? Immodest?” All those, and worse, had been hurled at me by exasperated governesses in the past.

Her brows drew together, a faint tuck of disapproval. “You’ll never get a husband with that attitude.”

“Perhaps I don’t want one.”


  1. You pitch starts off very strong—the idea of an alternate Victorian England with magical elements is really original and interesting.

    I’m a bit confused by the second sentence of the pitch. It’s nice, but it doesn’t add a whole lot; same with the bit about her sister’s suitor. I wonder if you could rephrase the first paragraph to be a bit more concise: “Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden yearns to join the Luminate society that dominates an alternate Victorian England. But when her plan to join society ends in the destruction of her sister’s debutante spells, Anna is banished to Hungary.”

    With the extra word count available now, you may be able to explore why fissures in the Binding are expanding. Is this due to the destruction of her sister’s spells or for another reason? I love the ending to your pitch. It seems larger than life and exciting, what with these creatures and revolutionaries seeking her out. It definitely leaves me wanting to read your story!

    Your first five pages also immediately draw me in. I love the paragraphs of things she did not plan to do that day. It’s a great way to let the narrator’s voice shine, and we get to know her right away. I like the little hints of magic you throw in, but I wonder if they could be a bit more prevalent. Then again, we only get five pages here, so I’m sure that facet of the story amps up when she goes to the garden at midnight.

    I think this is the kind of book that would appeal to a lot of readers as it seems to encompass several different genres. I want to know what happens!

    Good luck =)

  2. I'm still so in love with this concept! The main question that I come away with from your pitch, though, is what does Anna want and how does she intend to go about it? The first couple of sentences tease me with it; she wants to join society, and she's going to use her sister's suitor to do it. But it leaves me wondering how. This is good because it would make me read on.

    I also love the bit of resentment that we get in Anna's voice, that she'd love to do something to ruin her sister's debut. But then it seems that the meeting in the garden is Freddy's idea, so I wonder how it's Anna's plan. It would help me some if she had more agency in arranging the tryst. I know it's not really societally-correct for the time period, but since they're setting up a secret rendez-vous as it is, I wonder if *she* could drop a hint to *him* about being close to the ball.

    Best of luck in the finals! Come what may, I want to read this someday soon!


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