Peer Review by anemoia (#words) (United States)

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On the High Seas

By: Stone of Jade

The crowd of people in the market was hard to maneuver in, let alone stay alert. Ladell made her way through the busy street, stopping occasionally to buy a few supplies at various stands. Ladell felt a tingling at the back of her neck. She knew someone was following her, but it did not give her a sense of danger. It was strangely familiar. She scanned the street but saw nothing suspicious. Whoever was following her was good. Ladell quickened her pace. 
    It was a small island but news travelled fast overseas, especially when it had to do with pirates. Ladell kept a wary lookout as she made her way to the docks. She took shortcuts through various alleys, backtracking more than once to throw anyone off in case there was a concerned citizen following her. She had just made the last of her errands and was heading back to her ship when a hand pulled her into a back alley. 
    A figure in a dark cloak shoved her into the wall, arm pressed against her chest. Ladell dropped her sack, the supplies scattered over the cobblestones. 
    “So you finally decided to show your face Golden Eye,” a gruff voice accused. The attacker was covered in a dark hood, which veiled his face from view. 
    “Who are you?” Ladell racked her brain for who this could be. She’d never been to this island before, let alone met anyone who lived here that knew her. She took a breath--she had to keep her cool. She quietly slipped her knife out of its sheath.
    “I know why you’re here. Just couldn’t help yourself, could you?” The attacker hadn’t noticed Ladell palm her knife. “You won’t get away this time,” he sneered as he pressed Ladell harder into the wall.  
    Ladell exhaled, which loosened the grip on her chest. She slammed her knee up into her attacker’s gut. Before he could fight back, Ladell pushed. He fell to the ground- and Ladell jumped on top of him, her knife blade delicately poised above his throat. 
    “I don’t play around,” she hissed, “who are you?” Ladell pressed against her attacker’s chest, but was suddenly taken aback. The person below her was laughing. He raised his hands above his head.
    “I surrender,” he said. Still laughing, the figure reached slowly and pulled back his hood, revealing his face. “Come on, Ladell. You know me.” Now unveiled, Ladell recognized the familiar smirk and shining eyes. She knew him at once, his identity proven once more by a deep scar that stretched across his nose and onto his left cheek. 
    “Tallis?” Ladell was shocked. Under the hood was her childhood friend and first partner in crime. Ladell scrambled off of her friend.“What were you thinking? I could have killed you!”
    Tallis brushed the dirt off of himself. “I saw you in the market, and wanted to say hello.”
    “There are easier ways to do that--ways that don’t involve being mugged in an alley!” Ladell tried to stay mad at her friend, but she was too happy to see him. “Tallis, it’s been years! I haven’t heard from you since the Mayborne job! What’s the Swindler been up too?”
    “Oh, you’ve heard about me?”
    “Almost everyone knows who you are now--we’re not small town criminals anymore."
    Tallis chuckled. “I’ve been travelling a good deal, seeing the world, meeting all sorts of people.”
    “So the usual? Stowing away on ships, stealing whatever pleases your eye, becoming enemies with the richest men alive?” Ladell saw right through his sugar-coated words. They had been in partnership for years, she knew Tallis would have gotten himself into all sorts of trouble.
    “Yea, something like that,” Tallis smiled. “I heard you made a name for yourself. Golden-Eye fits you nicely, and not just because of your thievery skills,” he blushed. “So...what brings the captain of the Manta to the Parconna Islands?”
     “We needed supplies and Parconna was the first island we came across. My crew is headed towards Conquest Reef. What about you? Is this the only place you aren’t wanted?”
    “For now,” Tallis whispered. “I have a small job. Have you ever heard of the Coral Globe?”
    “Tallis, keep your voice down!” Ladell sternly, suddenly stepping back. “You can’t cross Captain Colborne--not again.”
    “Oh please, I’ve met way worse than that rich captain. Besides, Mayborne was years ago. He’s not gonna remember me.”
    “No, Tallis. Boothe Colborne is the most dangerous man alive,” Ladell warned him grimly. “I raided one of his merchant ships on accident--”
    “Hold up--you raided a ship on accident?”
    “No, I raided his ship by accident. I’d have left it alone if I’d known whose it was. He didn’t stop chasing us for months. We finally lost him because of a freak storm. But the Coral Globe is his greatest pride. Imagine what wrath you’ll invoke if you steal that globe.”
    “Ladell, I have too,” Tallis pleaded. “You don’t understand.”
    “How did you even find out where he kept his globe? Who set you on this job?”
    Tallis looked down, “Thornley,” he whispered. 
    “You’re working for Thornley again! Son of a seagull, Tallis! What have you been doing to get roped into Thornley’s grasp?”
    “I got into a bit of trouble, that’s all. It’s nothing you need to know about. Look, once I do this job I’m free.”
    Ladell could see the pain behind his eyes. Her friend had been through much in the years they’d been apart. “When?”
    “Tonight,” Tallis said. “It’s an in and out job.”
    “Really? What’s your out?”
    Tallis shifted his weight between his feet. “Merchant ship?” 
   “They’ll catch you before they’ve even left the harbor! If you are going to steal from the richest man in this half of the world, you have to make a secure escape plan!” Ladell glared at Tallis. 
    “I know, that’s why it was such a great coincidence I ran into you!”
    “No, Tallis.”
    “Come on, Ladell,” Tallis pleaded. “You were always the brains of the operation; one more job, just like old times?”
    “Tallis, I’m not risking the lives of my crew.”
    “Ladell, please. If I don’t do this job I’ll be a dead man.”
    “By doing this job, you’re already a dead man. I’m sorry Tallis, I pick fights I know I can win. Boothe Colborne is one person even the Swindler can’t beat.”
    Tallis was silent for a long time before speaking. “I’m sorry for even asking.” He turned to leave but Ladell caught his arm. 
    “Tallis, wait,” Ladell said, her voice softening. “I set sail tomorrow. I can’t help you with the job but"--she took a deep breath--“if you need an out…”
    “Thanks, Ladell."
    “I leave at dawn, not a second later.”

Message to Readers

This is my first draft for the contest this month. I have to cut down on some of the word count.

I would absolutely LOVE some feedback! Anything--comments, or even better, reviews, are greatly appreciated. Thank you so so much!

Also I am looking for title ideas!

Peer Review

The sentence "She knew someone was following her, but it did not give her a sense of danger." As soon as the reader knows she's being followed, the stakes raise. Yet the familarity lends itself to backstory and hints at something important. And then, when the reader finds out who it is, and the story unfolds through dialogue... well, I love historical adventures. Personally, pirates appeal to me, so that helped. Also, when I decide to sit down and read something thoroughly, I usually get hooked. From the setting, the concept, the strong yet kind female character, and the charming Tallis, it all creates a magnetic pull.

Ladell feels like a "living person" in the small details: seeing her thoughts, her nickname, her actions like dropping her sack, and dialogue that reveals a young woman who is both fierce and compassionate, and loyal above all. I want to know how old she is, how she got into pirating, her family story, her adventures with Tallis, what her ship, The Manta, is for, who her crew is, and how they all came to be together.

I wouldn't recommend expanding, sadly, because I know you need to cut the word count already. If this was turning into a novel, however... I would say more small setting cues. The balance of action and description is fairly even, so I wouldn't say anything needs to be turned into a new scene in this excerpt. Using dialogue to do that was a smart move.

Absolutely! The first sentence lures me in with the crowded market, which immediately lends itself to a historical setting. The overseas mention also adds to the intrigue. I just love this kind of genre/concept! The actions also hint a time period: cloak, knife, ships, crewscaptains,reefs, thieving.

Your ideas are simply brilliant! This concept, this time period, this setting... it's a little sailpunk, a little pirates-of-the-caribbean, and everything creative and action-filled. I think I'll head over to your other story now... Traitors and Rebels!
Ladell and Tallis immediately provide both intrigue and a sparkling friendship (and maybe more?) as well as mentions of other crew members and the ominous Captain Colborne. Great name, by the way.

Reviewer Comments

Overall, I actually am in love with this story. I'm glad it's a piece that I really do have interest in, because it would have been much harder to review something that didn't intrigue me. But this genre, this style, and just the pirate-y element drew me in. One question: is this set in the "real world," an alternate world but without magic, or an alternate world with magic? And what time period are you imagining?
I'm not fantastic with titles either... sorry. I'll think about it, though, and let you know if I come up with anything!