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July 8th, 2007, 07:27 AM
I have written a young adult fantasy novel titled 'Of Shadowcats, Unicorns and a Girl Named Dew'. You can find the first chapter and the start of the second chapter below. My concern is that some of the scenes might be too confronting or adult for your average 14-19 year old. Any feedback is appreciated. You can find the full novel at http://www.lulu.com/content/965256.

Chapter 1

Dew Mistwood had never felt so nervous in her life. Many girls wanted to the work at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals. Dew wasn’t like other girls, but she loved animals. She had grown up in Tanglewood Forest surrounded by wild creatures. Animals trusted her and she wasn’t afraid of them. Her father often said she had a magical bond with animals. Dew wasn’t sure about that, but working at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals would be the perfect job for her. She would be doing what she loved the most.
Dew needed the job. She had left school and while she knew her father would always take care of her, Dew wanted to contribute to the household as best she could. Her father had paid for her to attend school in Tanglewood with the daughters of the wealthy, but she didn’t like school or more precisely, the girls at school didn’t like her. Dew often cut wood with her father now that she had left school, but she wanted to prove she could achieve something on her own. The other girls would be at school now, listening impatiently to the tutor or gossiping about young men or clothes. Dew sat in the foyer of the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals, waiting to speak to the head druid.
Dew had visited the shelter last week to enquire about working there. The plump clerk had told her to return today and speak to Sonya Evenlake, the head druid. Sitting in the foyer, Dew felt almost as ill as when she had to get up for school in the mornings, although here she wouldn’t be bullied or teased.
There was a stone arch midway through the foyer, the stone carved into the likenesses of dozens of creatures both mythical and real. Dew busied herself identifying the different creatures in the carving, dragons, unicorns, wyverns and creatures she didn’t even recognize. She thought for a moment that some of the creatures were even moving, although she couldn’t be sure.
A wizard entered the foyer, a homunculus perched on his shoulder. The wizard ignored Dew and the others that were waiting, heading straight towards the red-cheeked clerk who sat at a table greeting visitors. Dew looked at the homunculus while the clerk and wizard spoke. Its flesh was deep pink, spotted occasionally with faded brown. Clear, filmy wings protruded from its back and its legs were tiny, almost to the point of being useless. The creature’s eyes were large and expressive, however, betraying a voracious inquisitiveness. It was a common knowledge that a wizard would abandon a homunculus that he or she had created when their power had grown enough. Dew hoped this one was safe.
A mother and her young son sat across from Dew. A cage sat between the boy’s feet. There was a fire salamander inside the cage, flames rising from its body as it searched for insects with a flicking tongue. The boy looked sheepish. Many boys wanted a fire salamander as a pet, but few realized how much damage a fire salamander could do. They burned constantly – even underwater – and more than one house had burned down when a fire salamander escaped its cage.
A striking woman came into the foyer. She wore a simple white dress tightened by a sash at her waist. “Dew Mistwood?”
Dew stood gingerly and smoothed out the mint-green dress her father had bought her for today. “Yes?”
“My name is Sonya Evenlake. I am the head druid here.” Sonya spoke with self-assured poise. “Please come with me.”
Dew guessed Sonya would be in her late thirties or early forties, although she was still very attractive. Her hair was like raven gossamer and her body slim despite her age. She led Dew into a small office. Two wooden chairs sat on either side of a large desk. An owl watched from a perch in a corner of the room. Dew regarded the owl cautiously. A druid could often communicate with animals and the owl might be listening to Dew as much as Sonya herself.
Sonya sat at the table, inviting Dew to do the same. “So, why do you want to work here, Dew?”
“I’ve always loved animals,” Dew answered straight away. “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. I grew up with animals. They are my life.”
Sonya smiled at Dew’s answer. “I had the same enthusiasm for animals when I was your age. I love them just as much now. Do you have any experience with magical creatures?”
“I grew up with three shadowcats.”
“You must have found that… interesting.”
“It was – but we only have one now, a ginger named Blaze. He’s fourteen years old.”
“He is in the twilight of his years, but the cycle must turn. We have over forty shadowcats here. You can imagine that our animal carers become frustrated at times. Do you get frustrated easily, Dew?”
“Not with animals. They can’t help what they are.”
Sonya thought about Dew’s answer and turned towards the owl. “Scratch behind her ear. She likes that.”
Dew rose from her chair and moved towards the owl. She was careful – it was a wild animal, after all – but there was no fear in her. Dew reached out towards the owl. It regarded Dew’s hand skeptically for a moment, then closed its eyes and titled its head as Dew scratched beneath its feathers. Dew felt the tension in her muscles fading away.
“She relaxes you, doesn’t she?” Sonya watched Dew and the owl.
“We don’t only have animals here,” Sonya continued. “Some of our residents are creatures as intelligent as you or I. They need more than just care. They also need reasoning, compassion and friendship. Do you know anything about magical creatures?”
“I looked after a squonk once when my father accidentally chopped down its tree,” Dew answered proudly.
“The squonk actually let you take care of it?”
“My father said I would find him a new tree. He stayed at our house for a couple of weeks. He even smiled when I visited his new tree with him.”
“You have the makings of a young druid, Dew Mistwood.”
“They just need someone to love them.” Dew felt uncomfortable when Sonya used both her given and family names. It made her feel like Sonya was talking down to her, but Dew had to convince Sonya to let her work at the shelter – and she wasn’t going to risk her chances by letting Sonya know she didn’t like it.
“I think I have spoken enough. Do you have any questions for me?”
“I heard there is a unicorn here.”
‘Her name is Eva. Poachers took her horn about thirty years ago. She probably won’t last another ten years. It is the way of the unicorn to slowly die when its horn is removed.”
“May I see her?”
“We don’t let visitors see Eva unless she wants them to. You will see her if you start working here, no doubt, but I can offer no more.”
Dew tried to hide her disappointment. She’d heard about the unicorn at the shelter and was looking forward to seeing it. They were a rare creature. It would be heartbreaking to see a unicorn without its horn, but they were still beautiful creatures.
Sonya rose and joined Dew by her owl’s perch. “I should also warn you, not all of the work here is happy. Some of it is… painful. Not all of the creatures we look after find new homes. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be merciful.”
“It is part of the job,” Dew answered diplomatically.
“It is the balance of nature,” Sonya told her. “The strong devour the weak. The fit survive and the weak die. We humans are no different, and we shouldn’t interfere.”
“Sometimes we are worse,” Dew said quietly.
“Thank you for coming.” Sonya opened the office door. “I have to consider what you said. You will be informed if you have been successful. I believe you left your address when you came here last week?”
“Yes, I gave it to the clerk in the foyer.”
“Excellent. Then I will send a message to your box at the Herald Exchange next week.”
“Thank you for seeing me. I didn’t think I’d make it this far!”
Sonya managed a half-smile. “Sometimes we surprise ourselves.”

The walk from Tanglewood to the cottage was a pleasant one. The timber and stone houses gave way to small, neatly-cultivated fields and copses of trees. Tanglewood was only a small town, surrounded by the Tanglewood Forest on every side and hidden from the world in many ways.
Sonya would probably give the job to someone else. It was almost too much for Dew to hope she got the job herself. Dew could keep helping her father cut wood, although it would be nice to know that someone else actually put faith in her. There was a chance they might put her into service: it might only be a slim chance, but it was better than nothing.
Dew looked at her dress. Leather and other hard-wearing clothes were probably more appropriate to wear to the shelter, but her father had chosen the dress for her. Sonya had probably taken one look at her and thought she didn’t have the right build to work in the shelter either. Dew was tall and slender, and those who didn’t know better would guess she had elf blood. The girls at school had developed curves; Dew had only grown taller.
The forest began to thicken. The canopy overhead let dappled sunlight onto the road. It felt secluded here, away from the bustle of town. Dew never tired of the walk between Tanglewood and the cottage. It gave her time to think.
Three figures stood on the road ahead. Dew couldn’t quite make them out at first, but she recognized them as she got closer. The road was only narrow and she couldn’t avoid them short of plunging into the forest and cutting around the group. Dew knew the girls. ‘Queen Cassandra’ was the worst of them. She wasn’t royalty, but that was what many of the girls at school called her. She ruled the other girls at school with clawed fingers in a silk glove. They did what Queen Cassandra told them. If Queen Cassandra didn’t like anyone in particular, their life became a nightmare. Cassandra hadn’t liked Dew.
Alannah and Helena stood with their sovereign, although both were very different. Alannah was popular and loved to drink wine, dance and sing. Young men were drawn to Alannah and her love of pleasure and fun. Helena was more of a mystery than her two friends. She wore dark clothes and spoke little. That would usually have been enough for Queen Cassandra to exclude Helena from their group, but Helena Blackett’s family was the richest in Tanglewood – and that gave Helena self-assurance, arrogance and poise.
Please don’t talk to me. Dew put her head down and kept walking. What were they doing here? They were meant to be at school!
Queen Cassandra spoke. “Did you steal that dress?”
Dew tried to ignore her.
“Well, it’s only polite to answer when someone asks you a question.”
Dew tried to keep walking, but Cassandra and Alannah barred her path. “My father gave it to me.”
“Like he can afford it.” Helena stood a little apart from the others, looking slightly bored.
“It’s an ugly dress anyway.” Cassandra grabbed the sleeve of the dress and pulled Dew towards her. “Green? I can’t remember the last time I saw a person wearing green. Look around you, Dew. Plants are meant to be green, not people.”
“Maybe we should take it off her?” Helena suggested.
“Well if she’s stolen it, and it’s ugly anyway…”
Dew tried to break away, but it was too late. Cassandra grabbed Dew, Alannah pulling Dew’s arms behind her back. Dew screamed and Cassandra slapped her face, tears stinging Dew’s eyes. They dragged her off the road and into the forest, Cassandra flinging Dew onto the soft earth.
Cassandra knelt on the ground and tore at Dew’s bodice. It split, revealing the whiteness of one of Dew’s breasts. Dew tried to fight back but Alannah pinned her arms while Cassandra tore at her dress. Helena watched on casually. Dew thrashed on the ground, struggling against the girls, but they were too strong. Dew closed her eyes. She heard a loud rip and opened her eyes, looking down at her bare torso and the faded, red scar running from her right breast down to the skin just above her bellybutton. Cassandra sat back for a moment, shocked. “I never knew you were so ugly!”
Cassandra tore at Dew’s dress a little more then rose and stepped back from her. Alannah let go of Dew and backed away, but Helena had grown bored and was looking closely at a colorful toadstool. “The boys miss you at school,” Cassandra said. “They haven’t found a whore to replace you yet!” Cassandra turned and began to walk away, the other girls following her.
Dew closed her eyes and lay back against the earth, trying to control her tears. She didn’t try to cover herself. There was no one here except for the other girls, and they had already seen her body. It wouldn’t matter if they saw her for a little while longer. Cassandra had often accused Dew of being a whore. She didn’t know that Dew was a virgin – she hadn’t even kissed a boy – and Dew had never told Cassandra that she was. Cassandra would probably find some way to use that against her.
Cassandra was one of the reasons why Dew had left school. Her father and tutors didn’t know what it was like, lying in bed at night dreading going to school the next day. Cassandra had made sure that no one at school liked her. The other girls were rich, and Dew was poor, and that was reason enough for Cassandra to exclude her. Dew was pretty but even the boys had avoided her. Some had believed Cassandra’s rumors and spoke to her no better than they would a whore.
She didn’t know how long she was in the forest crying, but when Dew opened her eyes the shadows were long and the birds had ceased their singing. Dew tried to cover herself, but pieces of the tattered dress kept falling back down, revealing her skin underneath. Dew was a pretty girl, but with dirt smearing her face and tears staining her cheeks, she looked more like a frightened child.
Dew rose and stumbled, her legs numb from staying in one place for so long. She couldn’t use the road. Someone might see her. The forest around Tanglewood was safe, but occasionally an outlaw or deserter took refuge amongst the oaks and Tanglewood. Dew would take the safer route home, through the forest.
Tears welled in Dew’s eyes again as she hiked through the forest. No one would see her out here, but she was worried about what her father might ask her. He was the best father a girl could have, but he was protective too – and sometimes that was a bad thing. Dew thought of Cassandra and her friends. She had left school to escape their bullying and hoped that one day someone would teach them a lesson. Maybe it would even be her. But for now the forest would protect her.
It was one of the reasons she loved the forest so much. She could escape and hide in the forest. The animals were her friends, and Dew knew they would never hurt or betray her. Dew’s father said she had a magical bond with animals. Working at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals was not only about earning money for Dew. She wanted to do something that she loved, something that gave her life meaning. She wanted to do something that made her feel like she didn’t just want to die.

Dew sat on her bed and looked outside at Tanglewood Forest. The forest was dark at night, and silent except for the occasional cry of a night bird. Dew had grown up in the forest so the quietness didn’t frighten her. Dew’s father had cleared an open area around the cottage and Dew could see the stars at night. They were like tiny shards of ice in the deep purple sky. There was sometimes even a meteor shower, the bright streaks disappearing amidst the stars. Twin moons, pastel pink and powder blue, watched over the land.
Blaze lazily watched the forest with topaz eyes. He lay curled on Dew’s lap, purring contentedly. Blaze usually hunted at night, but sometimes he liked the company of his pride. He was a ginger shadowcat with darker stripes through his fur, and the finest hunter Dew and her father had ever seen.
Iron Mistwood stood in the door of Dew’s bedroom. He was a massive figure, broad-shouldered and tall. Blaze looked up at Iron momentarily before resting his head back on Dew’s lap. Iron walked over to the bed and reached out to scratch Blaze under the chin. He touched… nothing. Dew smiled as her father reached for Blaze’s shadow and ran his callused palm along Blaze’s back. Suddenly he was touching nothing again and Blaze looked up at him from Dew’s lap with what could almost have been a grin.
Iron Mistwood sat down on the bed next to his daughter. The wood groaned under the extra weight. Her father had still been out working when Dew got home, and now she wore a plain but serviceable night dress. Dew had discarded the ruined dress in the forest nearby. Iron would know nothing about it. “What happened at the shelter?”
“I don’t think I’ll get the job. They’ll probably give it to someone with more experience – or someone who knows the head druid.”
Iron placed a hand on Dew’s shoulder. “Don’t give up hope until you’ve actually heard back from them. You might just get lucky.”
“They have a unicorn there.”
“Did you see it?”
“No, the head druid said I would only see it if I began working there.”
“I have only seen a unicorn a couple of times in my life. They are magnificent creatures.”
“This one doesn’t have its horn.”
Iron thought about what his daughter said. “That would be sad.”
Dew added, “A wizard came in with his homunculus.”
Iron laughed. “I don’t trust wizards, but they are a funny people sometimes – and lazy. Can you imagine you or I making a little creature to find and read books for us?” Iron glanced sideways at Blaze. “Well, I can imagine him doing that.”
“How was your day, Father?”
“Tiring, but it was honest work. I’m not built like this for show.”
Dew had often wondered how she could be Iron Mistwood’s daughter. He was a bear of a man, and even Iron described himself as ugly. There was no hair on his scalp, although he made up for it with a massive beard. Faded scars flecked his brow and cheeks, a remnant from contracting pox when he was a child. Iron Mistwood’s eyes were sunk into his meaty face: unreadable, but with a hard and unyielding conviction. Dew had the same grey eyes as her father. Iron often joked that he didn’t know how such a beautiful girl could be the daughter of someone so ugly.
“Do you want me to help you cut timber tomorrow?”
“You’ll have to be up at sunrise,” Iron warned.
“I know.” Early mornings didn’t bother Dew.
“When will the shelter let you know if you got the job?”
“The head druid said they would make a decision by the end of next week.”
Iron grunted and got to his feet. “At least they gave you an idea of when they’d respond.”
Dew scratched Blaze on the cheek. “That’s all she told me.”
“There’ll always be a home for you here, Dew, you know that. Remember we have each other.”
Dew smiled. “Of course I know.”
“Well, I should let you get some rest.” Dew’s father walked to the door and turned. “I forgot to ask, did you like your dress?”
Dew thought of the girls in the forest and what they did to her. “I loved it. Thank you.”
“You’ll have to wear it one day when we go into town.”
“I will.”
“Goodnight Dew.”
Blaze jumped from Dew’s lap onto the floor, heading past Iron and out of the room. “Goodnight.”

July 8th, 2007, 07:29 AM
The air was warm and birds called from the trees. It was the perfect morning for a long walk. Dew was happy to be going into Tanglewood. The days had started to feel the same for her. Every day she woke up and went into the forest with her father, helping him fell and cut timber. Dew wasn’t nearly as strong as her father, but she did what she could, removing branches or cutting dry firewood with a small axe. Iron Mistwood didn’t like going into town and was happy to let Dew visit Tanglewood by herself, buying food and other supplies and collecting any letters from the Herald Exchange.
Dew kept looking further along the road. She would enter the forest if she saw Cassandra and her friends. At least there she would be safe. Dew was confident she could elude them in the forest if they chased her, but she needn’t have worried. The only living creature she saw on her way into Tanglewood was a squirrel scampering up a tree after its mate.
Dew spent the morning buying staples for the cottage: butter, bread, a matured orange round of cheese and an earthenware jar of dark, rich honey. Her father loved eating honey and would complain bitterly if she returned with none. Dew and her father shared their home with Blaze and there was a chicken run behind the cottage, but they kept no other animals. They bought all of their food from Tanglewood.
It was close on noon when Dew entered Tanglewood’s Herald Exchange. Rows of cherry tree boxes lined a wall of the old exchange, each with a surname carved into the timber. Dew took a skeleton key from her pouch and opened the exchange box bearing the name ‘Mistwood’.
There was something inside. Dew took the message from the box and looked at it. The message was addressed to her. A wax seal bearing the white hart of the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals was affixed to the message. Dew’s arms grew weak. She thought of waiting until she got home before opening the message and decided against it. She wanted to know now.
Dew broke the seal and opened the message with trembling fingers. The letter was written by hand on soft creamy paper, the penmanship flawless, with ink the color of blood. Dew could even make out the watermark of the white hart beneath the handwriting.

‘Dear Miss Mistwood,

Thank you for coming in and speaking to me about the possibility of working at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals. We have many people interested in working at the shelter however, we cannot hire them all.

I was impressed by your experience with shadowcats, but your comparative lack of other experience concerns me. Working at the Harthome Sanctuary for Magical Animals will be a different matter to looking after shadowcats in your home.

You will learn how different it will be. I would like to offer you the position of ‘Magical Animal Carer’. Please come to the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals early after sunrise next Monday. You will be paid three silver and two copper pieces every week.


Sonya Evenlake

Head Druid
Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals’

Dew let go of the message and it drifted to the floor of the exchange. She stared at the message on the floor, almost unable to believe what she had just read. Dew picked up the message and read it again. Then she closed her eyes and screamed in relief and joy. The other customers in the Herald Exchange turned and stared, but when they saw her smile, they smiled as well.
Clutching the message tightly, Dew walked from the Herald Exchange onto the street. Her legs felt shaky but she kept walking, determined to share the good news.
Dew broke into a run when she reached the edge of town. She had never run all the way from Tanglewood to the cottage, but she did today. She looked down at the message often even though she could feel it in the palm of her hand, just to make sure it was still there.
Dew found her father felling timber in a grove a short distance from the cottage. Sweat beaded on his face and bare, corded torso. Dew ran up to her father and wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, ignoring the sweat and the smell. “What’s this for, love?”
“I got the job!”

Chapter 2

Dew’s father always said the first day at work is never the hardest; it is the weeks following the first day that test your mettle. Dew had never worked before, but she thought it was good advice. Dew stood outside the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals and hoped that everything would go well. She took a deep breath and walked through the gates of the shelter, into the head office where Sonya Evenlake had spoken to her just a couple of weeks ago.
The clerk greeted Dew with a cheery smile. “Good morning! How are you?”
“I’m starting work here today.”
“Oh, you must be Dew. Sonya and Whisper are waiting for you outside.”
“Thank you.” Dew looked around the building and back at the clerk. “Um, where do I go…?”
The clerk pointed. “Just use the side door there.”
Dew walked towards the door the clerk had indicated and paused just before heading outside. “I forgot to ask your name.”
The clerk laughed, her cheeks growing even ruddier than normal. “Oh! My name is Tide.”
Dew left the building. Sonya Evenlake and a pretty girl with red hair about Dew’s age waited outside. Sonya wore the same dress as last time, but the girl had much rougher attire: a leather jerkin embroidered with the white hart of the sanctuary, hard-wearing green pants and a green long-sleeved top. Dew wore similar clothes to the girl although hers were stained with sawdust, a relic of working with her father.
Sonya smiled and walked to Dew. “It is good to see you.”
The girl next to Sonya came forward and offered Dew her hand. “Hi. I’m Whisper.”
Dew shook the girl’s hand. “I’m Dew.”
“Whisper is going to stay with you until you get settled in,” Sonya explained. “Do you feel comfortable with that?”
“It will be good to have someone with me.”
Sonya smiled at the girls. “I’m sure both of you have much work to do. I shall leave you alone.”
Dew and Whisper smiled inanely at each other for a moment after Sonya left.
Whisper spoke first. “I’ll show you the hide hounds.”
Whisper led Dew through the shelter. The hide hound cages were divided into four rows, the back and side walls made of stone. The front of each cage was made of wire tightly meshed together, with an iron gate towards the right hand side. “Hide hounds and grice take up the most room here,” Whisper explained. “So many people get hide hounds and then decide they cause too much strife.”
“I’ve always wanted a hide hound,” said Dew. “My father would never let me get one.”
The hide hounds in the cages on either side raced to the front of their pens and barked or howled at Whisper. Occasionally one of the hide hounds would vanish, reappearing moments later in a different section of the cage. “You can’t take food out until you get inside their cage,” Whisper explained. “We’ve trained them to stay in their cage and not teleport out of it, but they forget about that when there’s food around.” Whisper opened one of the cages and walked inside, holding the gate open for Dew.
The hide hounds ran up to Whisper, craning their heads upwards. Several went to Dew when they realized Whisper had no food. Dew stroked one of the dogs, who looked at her with disgust when it realized she had nothing either. They were thin creatures, although their neck and muzzle were quite broad. Dew guessed they would be fast runners and strong despite their lack of weight.
“We have to change their water and food every day,” said Whisper. She walked to a shaded corner of the cage where a couple of hide hounds were growling at something. They looked around and saw Whisper, but kept worrying and growling at whatever was in the corner of the cage. “Back away!” Whisper growled harshly, and one of the hide hounds disappeared in fright, reappearing beside Dew moments later.
A small bearded man barely the height of a hide hound’s shoulder sat on the lip of the hide hounds’ food bowl, picking up the dog meat with his little hands and eating with gusto. A look of pure hatred came across the small man’s face when he saw Whisper. “You know there will be more, Robin,” Whisper promised.
The man looked for a moment as though he didn’t believe Whisper, then he jumped from the lip of the bowl onto the ground and picked up an old-looking stick. He put the stick in his mouth and chewed on it, unconcerned that it had just been on the ground in a hide hound cage.
“Robin, this is Dew,” Whisper told the small man. “Dew starts working here today.”
Robin stared at Dew with a look of unadulterated suspicion.
“Dew, meet Robin. He’s our resident leprechaun.”
Dew moved close to Robin, knelt and offered her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Robin.”
Robin bared his teeth.
A few hide hounds moved in front of Dew with their hackles raised, growling and baring their own teeth back at the leprechaun.
Whisper scowled at the hide hounds. “That’s enough!”
Robin watched the hide hounds as they backed away, the leprechaun’s face still taut with anger.
“There won’t be any food for a while,” Whisper told Robin. “Why don’t you go and look for a pot of gold? You won’t find any gold if you’re not looking for it.”
Robin considered Whisper’s suggestion for a moment, cocking his little head to one side. Then he walked out of the cage, still chewing on his stick.
“Why is there a leprechaun here?” Dew asked Whisper.
“Robin is poor. He’s never found a pot of gold. He’s only ever managed to dig up clumps of dirt. Sonya took pity on him. He can’t even afford a pipe. That’s why he chews on that stick all the time. You just have to watch him, because he gets into the dog meat a lot.”
“I didn’t realize there would be a leprechaun here.”
“Oh, we have a menagerie,” Whisper said, but didn’t say anything more about it. She picked up the hide hounds’ food and water bowls. “First we clean all the food and water bowls, and clean any cages that need it. By then it’s usually morning tea.” Whisper walked out of the cage and Dew trailed after her.
Another girl walked along the row towards Dew and Whisper. She wasn’t as tall the other two girls, but she was blonde and pretty. She was only young – about Dew’s age or maybe even a little younger – and slight, but her face was cloudy. “Whisper, did you check the grice pens this morning?”
“I always do. There was nothing wrong with them.”
“A section of the fence is damaged. The grice must have tried to break through.”
“It wasn’t like that when I was there,” Whisper said.
The girl looked irritated. “Well, can you make sure you fix it before lunch time? We don’t want grice wandering through the shelter. Someone could get hurt.”
“We’ll do it straight after morning tea,” Whisper promised. “This is Dew by the way.”
“Ah, the new girl.” She looked Dew up and down with an expression bordering on disgust. “Hi.”
Dew smiled at the girl. “Hello.”
The girl walked away without answering, seemingly more concerned with other matters.
“That’s our overseer,” Whisper told Dew quietly when the girl was out of earshot. “Her name’s Leticia.”
“She’s not very nice,” Dew observed.
“She wants to be a novice druid,” Whisper explained. “Sonya loves her, but she treats everyone under her with contempt.”
“I know what that feels like,” Dew said, remembering the way she had been treated by the girls at school.
“Keep out of her way if you can.” Whisper turned back to the hide hound cages.
“Well, we should get started on these. Do you want to get the food and water bowls from the other cages?”
“As long as there are no more angry leprechauns.”
Whisper laughed. “No, Robin is the only angry leprechaun here.” She opened the next cage and walked inside. “Hopefully we’ll be finished with the hide hounds by morning tea. Then I can show you Eva.

July 8th, 2007, 11:13 PM
Holy wall of text batman!

You probably need to separate those paragraphs from each other and from the dialogue. Reading this hurts the eyes :D

July 8th, 2007, 11:33 PM
Dew Mistwood had never felt so nervous in her life. Many girls wanted to the (delete) work at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals. Dew wasn’t like other girls, but she loved animals. She had grown up in Tanglewood Forest surrounded by wild creatures. Animals trusted her and she wasn’t afraid of them. Her father often said she had a magical bond with animals. Dew wasn’t sure about that, but working at the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals would be the perfect job for her. She would be doing what she loved the most.

Having already used the full name of Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals at the beginning of the paragraph, you should probably just call it the Shelter, when it comes up again.

Dew needed the job. She had left school and while she knew her father would always take care of her, Dew wanted to contribute to the household as best she could. Her father had paid for her to attend school in Tanglewood with the daughters of the wealthy, but she didn’t like school or more precisely, the girls at school didn’t like her. Dew often cut wood with her father now that she had left school, but she wanted to prove she could achieve something on her own. The other girls would be at school now, listening impatiently to the tutor or gossiping about young men or clothes. Dew sat in the foyer of the Harthome Shelter for Magical Animals, waiting to speak to the head druid.

Again, you probably don't need the full name here.

James Carmack
July 9th, 2007, 10:36 PM
Hey, Jem, in the future, we'd really appreciate it if you post your submissions in the Stories section of the site, save the threads for critique and discussion of the piece in question. If you don't like how the Stories section is set up, feel free to provide an off-site link if you've got one.

July 9th, 2007, 11:37 PM
Dew is a nice name. It's common in Mexico (well, Rocio is, same thing)
But Mistwood? That's pushing it.

There are problems of course.

Who did that?
No it's who DID that, not who Do that.
Dew did that.
Don't do that.
Do what?
No, Dew who.
Who do that?
Use proper grammar!
I do,
No SHE Dew. I mean, she IS Dew.
She is do what?

James Carmack
July 11th, 2007, 02:12 AM
As you've already published the story as an e-book, I'm guessing you're not wanting the same sort of treatment given to a work in progress. If not, I'll tailor my response accordingly.

In general terms, it's an able piece from what I've seen so far with a good premise. That's definitely a start.

To address your chief concern, the only conflict I can address is the scrap between Dew and the Queen's entourage. I have to admit, my Whiskey Tango Foxtrot light came on when you got into the stripping and the whoring. Little energetic, aren't we? (And how the freak does party girl and Queenie overpower junior woodchopper? Unless Cass is a "queen" in the British sense of the word...)

I wouldn't weep if that little incident got scaled back a bit, but is it something that'd be shocking to your average 14-19-year-old? Please. Kids these days would make a sailor blush.

To lin I say that the name Mistwood works just fine for a pulpy YA fantasy novel. I mean, you complain about "Mistwood" and not Pa's name? The man's name is Iron. Prioritize your targets, man.

Also, to answer your dangling question, she is do great things for make benefit of glorious nation.

July 11th, 2007, 06:48 AM
Thank you very much for the feedback, and I apologize for posting the story in here rather than the stories section. I think the names were inadvertently influenced by Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy (Chivalry, Regal etc.) however I can understand what you mean. The names probably wouldn't gel with me for a start, but I did want to create a 'whimsical' sort of atmosphere with a darker storyline.

James Carmack
July 11th, 2007, 08:45 AM
And interesting approach. Make us think we're wading in soft, safe pulp and then skewer our feet on punji sticks. How delightfully wicked.

July 11th, 2007, 11:18 PM
To lin I say that the name Mistwood works just fine for a pulpy YA fantasy novel. I mean, you complain about "Mistwood" and not Pa's name? The man's name is Iron. Prioritize your targets, man.

Neither complaining nor "targetting". Don't worry about it, OK?