The first rays of dawn gleamed off the mosaic domes and spires of the palace with triumphant fervor as they banished the night. Abalone tiles reflected shafts of blue and green, a reminder that the great desert capital of Sabalan was once an island kingdom of the sea ruled by powerful water mages. Malik Kazim still carried the bloodline and the powers, but they were useless in this kingdom of sand. That should have made him weak but the people loved him. Iba understood. She had loved him once too, before he stole their child and left her for dead.
Sand and wind roiled beneath her bound within the serpentine form of the dragon she cast, flying over the dunes toward the ancient walled city. Her dark hair was the only shadow and she... ***
I haven't done a first thirteen in a while, but I have a very short turnaround on this story so I thought I'd throw it up and see what you think. I'm going for something a little more atmospheric than my usual. My biggest question is whether you would read on?
If anyone is willing to read on a fast turnaround, I hope to finish the story by tonight and be able to edit on Thursday and Friday nights. I'd rather not wait until the last day to submit. I am always happy to return the favor on crits.
The opening visual sensations are sharp, and arftully introduce orientation to time, place, and situation: setting. The excerpt sets up a dramatic complication; that is, contention between Iba and Malik Kazim. Not clearly what Iba most wants or what impedes her getting it, though Kazim is posed as an adversary.
I didn't know the viewpoint character is Iba seeing the domes and spires and abalone tiles until the end of the first paragraph. The third and fourth sentences suggest Kazim is. Accessibility feels a little difficult for what I tihnk the intent and meaning are from not being sure who's seeing what in the middle of the paragraph.
Two instances of "of" in the first sentence, three in the second sentence, two more in the excerpt remainder. Preposition clauses mixed with other complex and simple sentence-building-clause types create a glorious, artful variety, but I feel the sentence variety doesn't take artful advantage of other complex and simple sentence types.
In all, although I feel there are a few raw draft narrative distance--voice--awkwardnesses, I think this shows promise. The opening craftily orienting readers in a setting and a complication stands out.
Thanks for the comments, extrinsic. I have finished this at 3k in a 24-hour period. Though it had been mulling in my brain for a week. It was total immersion for me. On my day off from work, I ate, slept and wrote. Not that 3k is truly a lot of words, but this is a different style for me and it was like trying to rein in a dozen horses from a tiny little chariot.
I'm on the fence about the 'triumphant fervor'. I know it's a little over the top, but I'm not sure it doesn't fit the mood I'm trying to set. I will certainly be thinking hard about it.