I read a lot of fantasy, but generally avoid retellings of the Arthurian stories. I decided I wanted
to be a medievalist early in life and threw myself into reading the texts written about knights,
tournaments, jousting, and chivalry written in their own time. So, I bring to your novel a pretty
firm background in “real” chivalry (whatever that means, because it’s all based on
literature/fiction), but not much familiarity with the standard tropes in twentieth-century
retellings of this iconic tale. In other words, I feel pretty qualified to judge how to make your
story seem more “authentic” in its world-building, but not very qualified about how to make it
stand out in its genre.
My favourite Arthurian story written in our time is, thus far and by far, Guy Gavriel Kay’s
I would consider starting the text with a copy of the prophecy about Mordred. If you are looking
for a model of how to phrase such a thing, I would suggest Geoffrey of Monmouth’s writings on
Arthur in History of the Kings of Britain. Giles’ 19th century translation, which is fun, of the
Arthurian passages are hosted by University of Rochester here.
I would definitely explain how it is that the protagonist already defies destiny early in the text.
Why a young man who has been spurned by his father would be so reluctant even at first to side
with his brother is not entirely clear to me – give the reader more meat about this man’s
exceptionality. You can either include a historical document to accompany the prophecy, have
the protagonist overhear someone telling the story to a newcomer in a hallway, or something less
Does the story flow well?
Yes, I think it does. The pacing is nice. I would try to keep it at about this length though, so
some stuff may need to be shortened to fit in newer parts.
What about the weather? The weather sets the tone for scenes and provides obstacles for
characters to overcome and develop their personalities without the use of description. Changing
weather is a good transition from scene to scene. I would add this element to the flow of your
Are there any inconsistencies?
No obvious ones. I think perhaps you should think through instances where V might be likely to
use his powers where he doesn’t. there seem to be instances where, if Merlin insisted he practice
all the time, he would be used to do more everyday tasks on his own magically.
You asked: Is there enough world-building?
How soon are you looking to publish? This, I think, is close to what it should be before you start
working with an agent if you are looking to publish with a press. If you are looking to selfpublish,
no, it needs more world-building before then. I would add references to other historical
I really like the ending. It leaves it beautifully open-ended for a sequel and reiterates the driving
Does the relationship between Mordred and Vael seem rushed?
Yes. I think you need some more bonding scenes early on.
Grammar and Style
You have the core narrative for a strong novel here. Your syntax and structure are clear and to
the point. The text is in much better shape grammatically than most of the work I see, including
articles that academics are preparing to submit for publication. Usually in this section of the betaread
comments, I advise my clients to review specific chapters in Strunk and White’s The
Elements of Style. This is always good advice, but I think that you need to focus your energies
more on making the text sing and having an appropriate tone more than clarity and punctation.
This is the hard part about writing well. The poetry of it. It requires divorcing one’s self from the
original, perfectly correct line, and thinking about the effect sentences have on a reader more
than just the transmission of information.
Trying to do this from the beginning on your own will probably make you want to weep. I would
instead recommend identifying the key moments in narrative and revisiting each sentence asking
questions about word order and tone. I have taken the reader’s first glimpse of Modred as an
example and broken down the possible change I would suggest in this sentence.
Two guards at the entrance bowed then marched out, returning with a young man in plain brown
This construction might not place the emphasis where it should be. Let’s think about it a little
more. Here, Mordred appears like an after-thought. Grammatically, he is buried in a subordinate clause
describing the two guards who, though the subjects of the sentence, are actually pretty
If this is the effect you are going for – great! I would build this more throughout the text. Tell a
story about him being forgotten. Make it a core component of his character. This is the reader’s
first introduction to him, so it will be easy to strengthen.
If this is not the effect you were intending, instead try:
Two guards at the entrance bowed and then marched out into an adjoining hallway. I stood
waiting. I pulled at a red thread that was hanging from my doublet. They returned less than a
minute later with a young man in plain, brown attire.
This option is more descriptive. It provides more character development about the impatient
mind of the prince (without the use of adjectives). It doesn’t bury the arrival of Mordred, who is
important, in a dependent close describing the subject of the sentence, but rather makes him the
central component of his own sentence. A position with a lot more oomph and punch.
The grammatical rule at play here would be: Make the main forces in the narrative the main
grammatical components of your sentences.
Note: Using the word minute here would actually be pretty anachronistic. People didn’t think in
terms of minutes and seconds before the widespread use of clocks… but sometimes historical
accuracy gets in the way of good storytelling.
This is a daunting task ahead of you. The hardest to complete on your own. Even great authors
work hand-in-hand with editors to polish their texts in this way – indeed, it is how I make my
living. I wish you the best of luck. Don’t be shy to share your work with friends and family. You
should be proud of what you have accomplished, and they are useful resources to the aspiring
artist. I enjoyed reading your text. If you would like me to spend more time with it, I would be
happy to. You can contact me to discuss services and rates.