Hi Shelby, here I am with your requested review!
If there's anyone who knows how to create an ominous, unsettling-in-a-good-way kind of feel, it's definitely you. Goodness. From the very first paragraph, I knew I was hooked! The in-depth descriptions you use are so wonderful, and I love that you seem to know just how many words are necessary to make the most impact. The storm outside is beautifully described, and the birth scene is gruesome but not over the top. That image of blood dripping off the quilt onto Ursula's feet just really got me for some reason. It's just something I wouldn't have thought to mention if I had been describing something like this, and I love being caught by surprise.
My favorite line has got to be when you described Penelope's singing voice as "the high, sweet tinkling of breaking china." Just so perfect, and for some reason it made me sad. I guess thinking about china reminded me of how fragile Penelope is, and it just made her death feel even more tragic.
As for characterization, I thought Penelope was written well even if there's really no way to know much about her (which just adds to the mystery, obviously). But I really did feel an instant connection to Ursula. The little mention of her favorite quilt being damaged beyond repair just stuck with me. Her peaceful life is being thrown completely out of whack, and she's sacrificing everything for this mother and child. Not even the little things, like that quilt, are spared. But she can't just sit there and not do the right thing for this baby and his mother. I admire Ursula and at the same time I really do pity her. You did an awesome job of making her a well-rounded, sympathetic character; since she's only going to be around for the prologue, it would have been easy to just not bother with her characterization. But things like that really make a story stand out, so I love that you did her justice! Wonderful job :)
There are just a few nit-picky things that I think I'll mention, even though they're very small. First, there are a couple of spots where I think you could benefit from an active voice. Right off the top: "The shriek of a woman..." And again here: "It is three days since the birth of Reynold." Saying "a woman's shriek" and "Reynold's birth" would sound a lot less detached.
Also, there's a place where you say something about the ember of Penelope's life wilting. If it were me, I'd pick a different word than 'wilt,' because it seems to lend itself more to a plant metaphor. Embers fade, or they are smothered; something like that would make more sense with that fire metaphor you're using.
I absolutely LOVE the ending, how you begin to connect this prologue to the time of your story. It's almost like, it's a cliffhanger (because we don't know what the curse is) and yet it will still flow perfectly into the next chapter. Wonderful stuff, Shelby, really. I cannot wait to get into the rest of the story after reading this!
Thank you so much for the request, and I wish you luck in your novel-writing experience! You're off to a fantastic start :) Feel free to PM me if you have any questions, and to re-request any time!
Author's Response: Hello Maggie, darling! Thank you so much for stopping by!
Oh, you know me! I do love the horror/dark - I might need help, haha! I'm so happy you were hooked right off the bat! I worked super hard on those descriptions, so it's good to hear from such an awesome reader/reviewer that they worked! And the blood dripping off of the quilt! I wrote it and it gives me the chills! I always want to give striking and memorable descriptions - I'm glad it stuck!
Ahh, you see the symbolism of that bit of description! Success! No one else has noticed it - the fragility of Penelope's life - thank you for noticing (and liking) that part! That makes me giddy!
Characterization is something that I'm definitely trying to focus on and develop in this novel. I feel like my oneshots have been so description and image-heavy that I've neglected the humanity of the characters. It is important to me that my readers connect with the character(s) in some form or fashion. I don't pretend to be JKR, by any means, but I want that same sort of impact. I want unforgettable characters. I'm happy that you like them so far, that means a lot to me! (You are one of my favorite readers - always have been - and I always appreciate your opinions, CC, praise, etc.).
I didn't notice those things! You get so wrapped up in a chapter, you skip over things like that. Thanks for the head's-up!
Ahh, the ending! Everyone is loving the ending! I knew it was good, but I didn't know it would make such an impact!
Thank you so, so much for the wonderful review. I haven't done it justice with this nonsensical ramble! Thank you so much, again! I really appreciate it! :)