Please do comment on synopses and queries! We can all help!
Etan, a misguided student, learns how to open gates that will allow magic to return to Craie, believing it is mankind’s destiny to do so. After a harrowing escape from the guardians of Skull’s Passage, he makes it to the First Altar and performs the ritual necessary. But rather than finding the power and fame he sought, he finds death.
Magic does return, herald by pulsing orbs over stone monuments, natural disasters and monsters of lore. And the deities awaken, allowing clergy to use blessings for healing and protection. The day after Etan is killed the first orb appears in the barbarian lands. Mina, a priestess, is attacked by a griffon. Her death is imminent when she evokes mercy from her goddess and unexpectedly fire flies from her fingertips, slaying the beast. In the Jagged Teeth mountain range, geysers erupt. A trapper is killed and another cornered. Drake, a soldier, rescues him and they barely make it out of the mountains ahead of a fire. In the Six Valleys an old gypsy woman warns Lord Bruce that an exotic woman begins her journey soon and he will have a debt to pay to her. She further warns a time of darkness and evil is coming.
One year later, Ehlana, a gregarious street performer turned thief, is nearly killed in an earthquake that accompanies an orb opening near her city. She survives but hundreds do not, including her parents. Prince Corran and the Patriarch of the official faith of the Kingdom, along with a huntsman, Adair, visit the orb. They discuss the natural disasters, the broken-beasts and healing power of the priests. They further discuss the success and failures of trying to master the power. Adair informs the patriarch that he will be escorting a noblewoman Meria to the Republic so she can learn how to control her magical gift under their tutelage and to find out how successful they are at mastering it.
Ehlana after seeing strangers enter the sewers in her neighborhood decides to find out what they are doing. She witnesses a cult ritual where a man is enchanted to kill himself. A priestess explains that with the return of magic, worship of an evil deity has been revived, but without proof of wrongdoing nothing can be done to stop it. Ehlana infiltrates the cult, using her ability to talk anyone into anything, a gift that has grown stronger since the return of magic, and learns of its plans to assassinate a court official. The cult is raided but not all the leaders are apprehended and Ehlana is convinced to travel to the Six Valleys for her safety. She agrees but first she warns her brother he may be inadvertently helping the cult.
His involvement is far from unintentional and he sets her up for murder. Ehlana is saved from the hangman’s noose when a priest proves her innocence. Her brother isn’t finished with her yet and sends a fellow thief to murder her as part of his coup to overthrow their boss. She is saved by a friend.
Ehlana joins Adair’s party with Meria. She learns of the nightmarish existence of the common folk who have been left to defend themselves from the broken-beasts, bandits and corruption. When her barge is attacked by harpies half the crew is killed. Meria reveals that magic is being used to summon the monsters and for the ultimate evil of raising the dead.
In the Six Valleys, Ehlana masters her musical talents, learns the ancient language of the clansmen and becomes a bard. After helping to defeat an enemy clan by infiltrating it and stealing war plans, the army sees her as their lucky charm. But she is restless and haunted by dreams. She is warned that her nightmares will continue unless she heeds its warnings to travel to a mysterious temple. Advice she rejects. When her lover betroths himself to another for political gain, she decides to return home.
The clan has found her too valuable an asset to simply allow her to leave. In order to force her give her oath to the clan she is imprisoned. Spirits warn her that her food is poisoned and beseech to fulfill her destiny by going the temple. As she wastes away in her cell, refusing to eat or speak, mutiny is threatened and she is set free.
Adair agrees to escort her to the temple but they will need a guide to cross the barbarian lands. After a barbarian tribe is massacred by northern raiders, Mina believes Ehlana was a hero foretold of in an ancient children’s story. She becomes not only her escort but promises to be her shield as well. They hire Drake to be their guide over the Jagged Teeth.
At the temple she learns the orbs are gateways to hell and if they are not closed the
world is doomed. Knowledge how this can be done can be found in the famed Anarian Academy and Library.
On the way, they learn the northern raiders razed the Six Valleys using magic and the raised dead. The group is joined by a surviving knight, Lord Bruce. At the library, Ehlana uses her gift to understand any language she reads or hears and deciphers clues hidden in ancient songs. They also learn magic is exacts a price from its users – their humanity, leeching out all that is good within their souls. They also find Meria who is being held against her will. They rescue her and escape the city.
They must travel to the First Altar by the first day of spring in order to close the gates, which is only weeks away. They are attacked by a demon and survive. Ehlana performs the ritual necessary but before she completes it, Meria kills her. Ehlana’s soul ascends into the heavens, becoming a star next to other heroes who gave their lives in similar acts of bravery. Her friends are unsure whether they succeeded in closing the gates.
The author sent a long version (997 words) and a short version (552 words). I went with posting the long version because I had many of the same comments for both of them and the longer version gives everyone more meat to work with -- and more fat to cut away.
Reading through, I think it felt a bit listy -- this happens, then this happens -- and a bit rushed at the end.
My main peeve is that there doesn't seem to be enough motivation put forward for why things happen:
- Why does Ehlana go into the sewers? Why does she step outside her comfort zone to infiltrate the cult if she doesn't care about anything?
- Why does her brother want to murder her?
- Why do spirits suddenly take an interest in her since it seems they haven't bothered before?
- Where did Mina come from and why does she think Ehlana is someone out of legend?
- Who is Meria? And for me, the biggest question of all, why does she kill Ehlana? I simply don't see any reason for it in either version of the synopsis. I think it's critical to give a woman beholden to Ehlana for rescuing her a reason to kill her.
I noticed, too, that Ehlana seems to need a lot of rescuing by others. Could just be the way the original synopses portray it, but it stood out for me.
This first pass is 857 words and could still use more character development and "reaction shots," I think. I made some guesses and added a couple of elements, such as Meira being her brother's wife, just to demonstrate motivation.
When a misguided student stumbles upon the secret to return magic to Craie, the gods reward him with death for performing the heinous ritual. Magic floods the world, heralded in part by erupting geysers and wildfires in the Jagged Teeth mountains and the reappearance of griffons, chimera and other monsters of lore across the land.
The first to harness the magic are the clergy who use it to heal and protect. But the world leaders have other plans for it, and as they race to master the power, the common folk are left to defend themselves not only against the broken-beasts but the corruption and criminals that rise in its wake. The gypsies see the magic for what it is and warn that a time of darkness and evil is upon them.
A massive earthquake triggered by the opening of a magical gate near her city nearly kills Ehlana, a gregarious street performer turned thief. She survives – but hundreds do not, including her parents. After seeing strangers enter the sewers in her neighborhood, a distraught Ehlana slips after them. There she's horrified to witness a cult ritual where a man, enchanted, is forced to kill himself. Till then Ehlana had little interest in magic, or for that matter, anything beyond her own day-to-day existence. Confronted with the brutality of what it can do, Ehlana decides to challenge those who would turn the magic to evil. That decision is reinforced when she sees cult members purchasing weapons from her brother's shop. Concerned for his safety, she infiltrates the cult using her ability to talk anyone into anything, a gift – along with other unique language skills -- that has grown stronger since the magic's return.
When she saves the life of a court official after discovering he's targeted for assassination, the king's guard raids the cult. Not all the leaders are apprehended, though, and the king convinces Ehlana to travel to the Six Valleys for her safety. She agrees but, sticking true to family, she warns her brother first that he may have been inadvertently helping the cult.
His involvement, however, is far from unintentional and, in a cunning act of betrayal, he frames her for murder. Ehlana is saved from the hangman’s noose when a priest proves her innocence. But her brother isn’t finished with her yet and sends a fellow thief to kill her as part of his coup to overthrow their boss. The plan nearly works; she's cut down and left for dead, saved only by the kindness of a passing clergyman with a touch of healing magic.
Ehlana escapes the city, throwing in with Adair, one of the prince's huntsmen on an escort mission to the Six Valleys. The ravaged countryside and the peasants' nightmarish struggle against magical beasts and outlaws tears at Ehlana's soul. When harpies attack her barge and half the crew is slaughtered, Ehlana is forced to see that whoever wins the fight for control of the magic gains the power to summon monsters and to command the ultimate evil: raising the dead.
In the Six Valleys, Ehlana's silver tongue and thieving ways prove quite useful, gaining her notoriety and wealth as a spy for the local clan. Success brings another unexpected pleasure: a lover she's becoming more attracted to every day. But a growing restlessness and nightmares threaten to suck her spirit dry. When her lover deserts her to marry another for political gain, Ehlana, hurt beyond caring, decides to return home.
The clan, not about to let such a valuable asset simply leave, imprisons her. Drawn by her natural magical talent – and perhaps something more -- spirits swarm about her, beseeching her to follow them to a temple that holds her destiny. With their help she escapes, finding the huntsman Adair and others equally drawn to her plight, waiting to escort her out of the city. They are not long gone when the Six Valleys are razed by an old enemy -- her brother has raised an army of the dead, and he's now on a search-and-destroy mission for Ehlana.
She and her company soon understand why. The gates through which the magic came into the world must be destroyed before the magic tears the land apart and leeches all that is good from the very souls of those that try to wield it. Ancient texts hold the key to how to close the gates – a key Ehlana discovers using her unique abilities to comprehend any language she hears or reads. But the ritual must be performed in the same place the gates were originally opened. A place guarded by a demon Death Knight.
And there is a traitor among Ehlana's company: her brother's wife.
After the company defeats the demon, Ehlana performs the ritual necessary to close the gates. But just as she's completing it, her sister-in-law attacks and slays her using magic. Ehlana’s soul ascends into the heavens, becoming a star next to other heroes who gave up their lives in similar acts of bravery.
Her friends, mourning, can't be sure whether she succeeded in closing the gates. They'll have to wait till tomorrow's sun to find out.