Harper Collins Review of Lykaia

 Hello everyone,

As most of you know I posted a partial of Lykaia on Harper Collins' site Authonomy.com. It is a site for writers and basically serves as the slush-pile for HC. Each month the top 5 books are selected for editorial review by an HC editor.

When I first uploaded Lykaia, the last day of December 2011,  its entry rank was around 5600. Within 2 weeks it was 152 and by the end of the first month it was #10. It was selected as the #1 book on the site in March.

Generally, the reviews take months to come in, but today I received my review! I'm not unhappy with it. They said Lykaia was publishable and marketable. Which are good things. And keeping in mind that I wrote this in 7 weeks for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writer's Month) and while I edited for punctuation and grammar I've made no changes to the story. So, Lykaia in its current form is still a first draft.

Also, I recently signed a three book deal with Spore Press!  Lykaia will be traditionally published in both print and e-book form and should be out before Halloween to coincide with when the story starts.

Thank you to everyone who has come along with me on this journey. I promise to keep you posted as the adventure continues.

All the best,

Sharon

*************************Harper Collins Review of Lykaia***********************


When Dr Sophia Katsaros, a Forensic Pathologist living in modern day Chicago, receives word that her two brothers have disappeared from their apartment in Greece, she travels to Europe to learn more. Although characterised by her Western reliance on logic and empirical systems of knowledge, Dr Kat is unable to ignore her hunch that there is more to her brothers’ disappearance than is first apparent. Confronted by the cryptic reactions of the locals and disturbing body of evidence, she begins to consider the possibility that their disappearance might relate to the Lykaia: an ancient, cannibalistic ritual rumoured to transform men to wolves.

‘Lykaia’ falls within the fantasy genre, but stands out from the current fashion for epic Fantasy by using a modern setting and including elements of mystery and thriller. The narrative takes as its basis the Greek myth of King Lycaonas and his fifty sons, transformed into wolves by Zeus after challenging the God’s divinity. This works well as a hook; resituating the myth within the context of the 21st century helps you avoid ‘Lykaia’ being too niche or too overdone.

There are some areas, particularly where the plot and characterization are concerned, that are under-developed, but these could be resolved. On first reading I felt a key issue to be that, though evident, Dr Kat’s struggle to defy her natural reliance on fact and logical probability to consider the implausible is not complex enough. Further motivation for her entertainment of the possibility of the supernatural, even when the narrative sets her firmly against it, would make her dilemma more compelling.

Following on from this, Dr Kat’s inconsistent reaction to her brothers’ potential death is problematic – you need to tease out and clarify why she reacts in the way that she does: oscillating between extreme concern, grief, detachment, and curiosity. It’s not that these are an unlikely array of emotions to experience in her situation, but I didn’t believe as a reader that she was conflicted. I would have liked to have the narrative expand on the idea of ‘that other voice, the one that enabled me to do my job without breaking down [and] demanded that I set these emotions aside’ – this, I believe, could provide a rationale for what at times seem like paradoxical responses.

The writing is atmospheric and at times very effective: during the opening sequence the uncertainty as to whether we’re following a man or a wolf emphasises the animalistic nature of humans, unsettling the boundaries between reality and supernatural from the very start. You also do well to create good levels of tension throughout the novel, particularly where the narrative was both fast-paced and evocative. There are other moments, however, where you could pare the language down – sometimes the metaphors or descriptive passages can be repetitive and a hindrance to the story. The description of dawn/dusk ‘heralding’ the day/night , for example, recurs a number of times, while similes including the wooden staircase ‘that reached up towards the second floor, questing like a lover’ feel over written and not in keeping with the broader narrative tone.

At times the narrative voice can be a little wooden, mainly when in the first person. The overly-sentimental nature of Dr Kat’s emotional responses to her brothers (‘the bond that grew between my brothers and I was without measure...It was only now that I realized what I had squandered. Time. It was like the spoken word and loosened arrow, all things that could never be retrieved.’) can come across as contrived, contributing to a more general tendency to labour the point that she is dispassionate and rational without being emotionally sterile. You establish Dr Kat as likeable and relatable through other details – her sarcastic sense of humour, playfully chastising interactions with the young intern at work, and her tedious relationship with her mother – so I don’t feel that this sentimentality is necessary to ‘humanise’ her.

Structurally, I am unsure about the effectiveness of the short ‘sections’. At times these are illuminating, juxtaposing interesting elements of the text – Dr Kat dissecting dead bodies and wolves tearing them apart – while maintaining the fast pace of the narrative; but at other times they are under developed and occasionally distracting (the story hops around quite a lot!). But, I appreciate that this may be a personal preference.

Finally, the inclusion of different mythological narratives (Greek mythology alongside your conception of the ‘Queen of the woods’) could have the potential to confuse; it would be worth clarifying how these different threads are entwined. While the metamorphosis trope is clearly lifted from Greek mythology, the way it was reworked in ‘Lykaia’ wasn’t immediately clear to me: some of the wolves were more ‘man’ while others were more ‘wolf’. It’s not necessary for you to reveal everything early on or restructure the story, but you need to consolidate what has happened at each point. This might be accomplished in a dialogue between, say, Stavros and the Wolf King, who could state in more explicit terms what has occurred without detracting from the suspense. I found that it was only on a second reading that some things became clear, but you can’t rely on all readers taking such considerations, so it’s important to ensure the details are clearly drawn out for a first time reader.

In all, I think you have a very marketable concept and that that writing is generally good. It does need some work though, but if you are willing to take time to conduct edits, and work on some of the issues raised above (all of which are a testimony to how engaging your character and plot really are), then I think that ‘Lykaia’ has definite publishing potential, and I wish you the best of luck with it.

Comments

  1. I think that generally should be really happy with this. It seems that the reviewer has spent a good amount of time on the work and the points that are mentioned as potential problems are probably the result of this being a NanWrimo work. I think a great big pat on the back for you and go to it get this little tinker published - good luck - Diane (DDickson)

    ReplyDelete
  2. There were times in the past when I wondered about the people who wrote the reviews.

    However, it looks like you have gotten some useful information that will help you improve the novel.

    Best of wishes!
    Kat Jordan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Glad you liked your review! Congratulations on your publishing deal--impressive.

    ~AudreyB

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't really comment on the review as I haven't read the book but hey! You've got a publishing deal and that tells you all you need to know, really. Brilliant, well done you!

    ReplyDelete

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