Hi, WT. I'm so sorry it's taken me this long to get to your review request. Hopefully I'll be able to make up for it by posting something helpful!
I have to admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for a good prologue. As a general rule, I'm not big on flashbacks in the middle of a story, but I love the way a prologue allows you to "cheat" a bit by throwing in some information that otherwise might not really fit into the overall flow of the rest of the story. Of course, maybe you're not planning on telling a linear story at all, in which case the point is moot and please ignore it. But since your summary lists this as an Eileen/Tobias story, I assume we'll be jumping forward in time quite a bit at some point. Anyway, my (very rambling) point is that I enjoyed your choice to start the story where you did and am interested in how it will tie into the other characters 500+ years in the future.
And while we only spend a little over a 1000 words with them, I liked your characters here too. While not generic, they are familiar in a way that sort of lets the reader slip easily into the moment and instantly worry and care about the outcome. It will be interesting to see what happens once Eileen and Tobias enter the picture. Snape is one of my favorite characters, and I can't think of any stories I've read personally that center around his parents.
Just like with a well-written prologue, I do so love a good ending. Instead of offering clues, Penelope's letter only offers questions. And the last line was great -- not only the mention of the word "curse," but also that it is continuing. It opens up so many possibilities of what's to come. I think there can be a tendency to associate a good chapter ending with an out-and-out cliffhanger, but I don't think that's true, as you prove here. It isn't always about leaving the reader guessing what will happen in the seconds and minutes that follow, but teasing them about where the story is headed next. I love surprises in a story, but nothing is more frustrating for me as a reader than to feel as if I have no idea where we are headed -- that we're just wondering through random moments in time with nothing stringing them together. Already I get a sense that you have something lying underneath to push and pull the reader through the chapters.
Since it's so early in the story, it's hard to offer too much CC. But in an effort to provide some (hopefully) helpful food for thought, there were some elements of the chapter that, to me, didn't seem to fit with the time period. I'm not an expert in history my any stretch of the imagination, but the use of contractions in the dialogue felt a bit off for 1400. Also, I assume given the time period, her lack of wealth and the references to a Lord Alfred, that Ursula is some sort of serf...? If so, I'd be surprised if she had the ability to read and write, or have the supplies to do so in her house. It isn't a huge deal, obviously, and I'm not sure how important historical accuracy is to you. But since you said you were open to all areas of comments and suggestions, I thought I'd mention it.
Sorry again for taking so long to stop by. Please feel free to re-request anytime!
Author's Response: Hello AW! Please don't worry about the delay! I'm a very patient woman! Besides, I know that things can get very busy!
Yay - a reader who likes prologues! I was a bit nervous about dubbing this as a prologue, to be honest. I know that many readers don't like prologues and just want to get to the "good stuff" but that's not how I roll. This chapter is essential to the story, as will be every other chapter. The novel will be linear in the sense that Eileen & Tobias's story will develop chronologically, but there are going to be multiple pieces and stories beyond that - so basically, nonlinear in the traditional sense! I'm so excited that you enjoyed this chapter. It's not going to come together immediately, of course, but as the novel progresses, you will see how everything begins to tie together.
So happy you liked my characters! I'm really trying to focus on making well-rounded, plausible characters. I feel like my other stories have neglected characterization in lieu of descriptions and imagery. Eileen & Tobias are my OTP and so writing this is basically my fanfiction dream. I know many, like you, love Severus and so I hope I do his parents justice!
You are so perceptive - I love it. I like to leave my readers with a sense of frustration, but the frustration that leads to a need to know more. I want you to be intrigued and eager to know more. There definitely is something underneath all of this that, I believe, will be a good plot twist - the driving force is something I don't think many people will be expecting and I really hope to keep up the momentum toward that eureka moment.
You know, I honestly didn't think about that. I was so careful in my planning and writing, that I neglected the idea that Ursula wouldn't have the supplies or the ability to read and write. Such good CC and yet, I have no idea how to change it. The letter is, unfortunately, a crucial part of the story. I like to be as accurate as possible, but I think I might have to let this slide - frustrating! If I come up with something, I'll definitely change it. Thank you for mentioning it! I appreciate it.
Thank you so much for the wonderful review! I enjoy thoughtful readers/reviewers who just know their stuff. Thanks again! :)