Peer Review by Daisy (United States)

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The Glowing River

By: thelumosduck

          The hull cut through the glowing blue water with barely a ripple, sending a cascade of sparks flying into the air. Asa flinched away from them as they floated back down to the water, missing the wood of the boat by mere inches. With a shudder, she pulled the oars faster, determination beading her brow as they sliced through the water. Already they were streaked with black, and it was only a matter of time before they would be useless.
          But the boat would be gone long before then. Water seeped into her boot from a hole in the stern, and her foot lit with a blazing pain, as if fiery claws had latched on and refused to let go. A scream slipped from her lips and she felt her resolve wavering; felt her mind dangling on the brink of despair. If she had ever thought that she could make it to the end of the underground river…
          Flowered vines fell across her eyes and she coughed, brushing them away, but not before the sickly sweet scent found its way to her nose. The weight of sleep pulled on her eyelids, forcing them down, and she fought back, but the tug was too strong. No! It can’t end this way!
          Choking, she leaned over the side of the boat and gagged until the noxious fumes were expelled from her throat and only dryness remained. So far, so good, she thought as the boat descended into a shadowy tunnel.
          Water was leaking into the boat faster now, and she tried to repress it with a sodden rag, but it was futile. She soon gave up, moving to the hull and staring out at the glowing river. The pain in her feet was constant now, but she tried to ignore it. It could only last so long.
          The oars had long since become charred rods that could hardly turn the water, and she discarded them, thinking that it was a good thing that the current was strong enough now to propel the boat on its own. The darkness deepened, and she lit a torch, holding it up to illuminate the tunnel.
          The river burbled an eerie song, the glow intensifying, and now sparks were spraying at every turn, at every ripple. It’s like it’s trying to stop me, Asa thought, brushing sparks off her nose, but there was no way she was going to let it. Even if she died trying, she would get to the end of the river.
          And she was almost there. Only one thing stood in her way, she knew… something that could by far prove to be more dangerous than anything else that she’d faced.
          Her eyes widened as a shadowy form appeared in the distance — tall and menacing, a gate forged of black iron stood in the river. Not far beyond it, she could see where the river dropped off. Yes. That was the place where she needed to be. But she could only get there by passing the Gate. She had to summon the Gatekeeper.
          Sparks flew up around her as she cleared her throat and said shakily the words she had been told to say: “O Great Gatekeeper, answer my call!” Then she tossed a silver flower from the vines into the water and watched as it disintegrated into the water.
          For a moment, all was still. Then out of the river rose a magnificent man, three times as tall as Asa and twice as wide, streaming water and sparks, with skin pale as moonlight and wearing a thin cloak that rippled blue. His eyes were pearlescent white and strangely mesmerizing, and she found her jaw fall open as she stared at his smiling face.
          His voice was soft but deadly as he said, “I am the Gatekeeper. What brings you here, young Asa?”
          Her eyebrows shot up at the use of her name and she tried to hide her surprise. “I- I need to get to the Cages. My parents are there.”
          He merely nodded. “I expected as much, after coming so far. Only you know it is beyond the Gate, and that I am its guardian? You must know that I cannot simply let you in. You can still turn back.”
          You can still turn back. The words turned over and over again in her mind. You can still turn back you can still turn back you can still — “No,” she said, wrenching herself from her thoughts. “I have to get through.”
          He nodded again. “Very well. Per usual, I think that a riddle is fit for this situation.” He paused and raised a blonde eyebrow. “One last chance to withdraw? Remember. If you answer incorrectly I’ll have to kill you.”
          Asa steeled herself for the last time and shook her head. He nodded, pale eyes shining. “Very well. Your task is to name this object. You have three minutes. Here it is:
A glint of gold in the ebony night
A call to action; a call to fight
Glass reflects the angry tongues
Of which, not long ago, you carried one.”
          He folded his hands and stepped back with a courteous bow of his head. She frowned, sucking in a breath. At first, she thought, stars was the obvious answer. But… it doesn’t work for everything. She glanced up at the Gatekeeper and he winked. “Your answer?”
          Panic coursed through her as he repeated his question. “Sta—” she began, but then a thought flew to her mind. Angry tongues… glass… something that she had carried… a call… it all fit. “A lantern,” she whispered, then louder: “A lantern!”
          He smiled and sank back into the glowing river, the Gate swinging open. “Correct.”
          Asa grinned as the boat rolled through the opening, surrounded in sparks. Soon she would free her parents. It was that thought that kept her going as she sailed towards the Cages, towards other unspeakable dangers — and towards her parents.

Message to Readers

I would LOVE for any sort of constructive criticism on this piece! If you could take the time to put what you think (good or bad) of it, I would really appreciate it!

Peer Review

The fiery river was amazing. I wanted to know why she was on it and what was going on! Great hook.

I feel like the gatekeeper could be developed more and really add to the story.

I am a little confused by the river. Why does it send up sparks? I get that it burns,but where are the sparks coming from?

I really loved this. Your very words seemed magical and enchanting! You were so descriptive and you caught and held my attention so well! Great job. I hope you turn this into a full length story or book even! :)

Reviewer Comments

Just be careful of balancing being in Asa's thoughts and describing it from outside of her.