12.29.2006

HH Com 599

When 7-year-old Meredith Pennyfather is sold as an indentured servant (contradiction in terms) to Redwald Castle, she learns more than just how to serve tea. Vicar William Grimsditch teaches his young serving girl an additional lesson: evil exists. Meredith watches the vicar sell his soul to the devil and then try to cheat his way out of the debt. She watches him make mistakes, and she sees what happens when the vicar runs out of tricks. After the vicar’s “mysterious” disappearance, Meredith finds work at Strathclyde castle where the evil gets personal. Now she is desperate: desperate to find her parents, to clear her name of a false theft accusation and to save herself and her friend, Jonas, from burning at the stake for witchcraft. Despite knowing the deadly consequences, Meredith Pennyfather must sacrifice everything and face the devil . . . again.

SUMMONING is a young-adult novel based loosely on a “true” Irish witch story told from the point of view of a serving girl who, according to historical accounts, was caught summoning the devil years after the vicar’s mysterious disappearance. SUMMONING follows the fictitious story of this girl as she dares to face the same darkness that claimed her former employer. But while his failure was a corrupt heart, Meredith’s compassion is her salvation.


There's just nothing new here. You'll need a something that gives this a twist, or a new/fresh approach before I'd read further.

19 comments:

clarice snarkling said...

How old is Meredith when all of the action of the book happens? If we don't know that, we can't be sure it's YA (and neither can an agent who represents YA).

I read and write YA, but I haven't read enough YA historical fantasy to agree or disagree with Miss Snark as to whether this is derivative or not. Your hook is written very clearly and cleanly, though, so you definitely score points there.

author said...

Thank you, Miss Snark. You're absolutely right -- I need to get in in there that this work is new, fresh, original. Hmmm . . . that should be easy (HA!).

I also need to somehow include that while the story begins with the MC at 7, she is 15 for most of the book.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

I would read this. I think it has a lot of potential.

Patrice

Anonymous said...

I like what you've got. It seems original enough for me and I like that it is based on a historical incident. Don't be discouraged. There is an audience out there for this if it well written.

Anonymous said...

Indentured Servant = Slave who can work their way out after a period of X years work. Completely different from a) slavery without redemption or b) paid servant. But the people who used to employ them thought 'Indentured Servant' sounded more genteel than 'Slave'. Sorry Miss Snark, the author has that one right. They tended to be either orphans or petty criminals or debtors. Was less an American phenomenon. Happened lots in Australia, Ireland etc.

Anonymous said...

Indentured Servant is a real term. It's halfway between servant and slave. Someone could work off their sentence/debt after a certain number of years. Got around those pesky slavery laws and allowed those useless petty criminals, orphans and poor people to do something useful like clear land, clean house etc for rich people.

Anonymous said...

I don't think indentured servants were "sold" into servitude by others. They indentured themselves to pay a debt. Actually, early on, people did come to America this way. too (7 years of servitude, I vaguely recall from history class). It's possible that their servitude contracts, once entered into, could be transferred (that is the contracts could be sold) for whatever period remained on the contract. It may also be, though I am not certain, that they were effectively charged for room and board while in servitude and the increased debts forced some to extend the period of servitude. I also suppose it's possible that since women and children were considered chattel, perhaps a man could force his wife/child into prolonged servitude to someone to pay off his debts. Presumably, the author has done his/her research.

Anonymous said...

I don't read much fantasy but caught my attention. Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

More detailed history research on the Irish servant situation for the period is needed.

And rather than a YA with a 7 y.o. protage, make her older and do this as a short story. A compression of events down to 5K words would do wonders for the flow.

batgirl said...

Indenture is a contract, usually for a specific term of service. Apprentices were often indentured for 7 years, but it could be as short as 2 years. Trivia: the name 'indenture' came from the practice of having 2 copies of the contract, one for each party, which were cut apart in a jagged tooth (dente) pattern, so they could be matched up at the end of the term and compared.
Indenture contracts were also used for house rentals, transfers of land and other transactions. I own a couple of rental indentures from the 1800s, both on parchment.
The negative connotations of indentured labour are post-slavery, I think, and come from misuse in the colonies. Hang on, there's a useful wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indenture

A Paperback Writer said...

Uh, author, did you research the place names for this? I've never been to Ireland, but I know that Strathclyde is a region in Scotland. Granted, a lot of Scots settled in NI, so the name may have been transplanted too, but do make sure it's right before sending this out to agents.
As for the story line, I rather like it, although MS is right about it's being rather run-of-the-mill

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that if this is "unoriginal," I'd love to read the legions of similar books that supposedly exist. Does anyone have any recommendations?

McKoala said...

PW took the words out of my mouth. Actually none of the names sound very Irish (nor Scottish, other than Strathclyde). Maybe the legend has been transported?

Michele said...

I like that this is a fictionalized tale of a real event. Perhaps there is some way to play that up? For example to include historical details, or start with the facts before moving to fiction.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading YA fiction, and this definitely captured my interest. I'd read it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the others who are concerned about place names. Meredith is a Welsh name, and originally a surname at that. Pennyfather sounds English, as do Redwald and Grimsditch; Strathclyde sounds Scottish. As this is evidently set in the past, names wouldn't have been as international as they are now: a Welsh girl would have a Welsh name, an Irish girl an Irish one.

I'd be particularly worried about Meredith being a last name; in the era in which you seem to have set it, it would sound very strange and unfeminine, like calling a girl Robertson or Duckworth nowadays. If you wanted to keep it, you could call her, say, Megan Meredith, and have her employer address her by her last name as befits a servant, but, though Meredith is a pretty name, I really don't think it works as a first name in this context.

The story sounds interesting, but you need to get the furniture right, or it'll jar.

author said...

Because the names seem to be giving people so much trouble, I thought I'd mention that I found all of them on records dating from the time period of the story (mid-1600's). The story does move from Ireland to Scotland (thus Redwald castle is an Irish castle with an Irish name and Strathclyde castle is a Scottish castle with a Scottish name). It was impossible to add all of this in a 250-word hook, though.

Also, both the vicar and Meredith are transplanted Scots -- one an Anglican Vicar and the other a tenant farmer Presbyterian -- in northern Ireland. I didn't make those parts up -- that's part of the historical end of the story.

I did change the names, add backstory and give Meredith a voice and a "story." The only thing that history has recorded about her is that the vicar taught her to summon the devil and that she was caught doing it herself in Scotland by her new employer.

I don't mean to sound argumentative, but I thought some clarfication might be helpful (or is that just theraputic for me?).

Anonymous said...

So many of the authors here are being criticised for getting their facts "wrong" when they've actually been perfectly correct. I suppose it's an illustration of the high level of chance in the submission process - there's not much you can do about it if you happen to use a phrase the agent has never heard before and they assume you've got it wrong.

Anonymous said...

You don't sound argumentative, but - if the names are giving so many people pause, then you'll have to include the location shift and nationalities in the hook somewhere. Otherwise it'll look like a mistake, and carelessness about names (which you apparently haven't done) is a sign of carelessness about characterisation in general.

Besides this, going from one country to another is a big deal for a young girl. It's part of the story.

Is Meredith ever used as a first name?