Wow. This opening left me with a real sense of dread. The entire concept – a vile stone beast rising from the ground that will eventually come to life–is quite engaging (and terrifying!) The descriptions you use throughout are great and very disturbing. You have some real talent here. A few of my favorites:
“The horizon tilted drunkenly.”
“…recognizable with his fierce red hair.”
“Charcoal clouds moved like swift horses across the sky.”
Below are a few thoughts of mine. Please know they are simply that. Some thoughts and impressions. Feel free to ignore anything you don’t think makes sense.
I get a sense of hopelessness. Of real struggle and defeat. Scorched land. Everything barren. There isn’t much life in this world. I’m not sure if you are going for that with your setting, but I do think readers like to sense a bit of hope, even in the darkest of places. Just a thought.
I had somewhat of a difficult time orienting myself in the space of the story. If you hadn’t told us with your intro paragraph that the Beast was a huge statue, I’m not sure I would have guessed that. Maybe consider beginning the chapter with the paragraph: “The Beast rose out of the ground like a hellish stone pillar, hundreds of feet high.” That would better help a reader understand what it is they are looking at, then go into the stuff with the hammer.
I’m not sure I was able to clearly pick out the inciting incident (or the hook). Was it the raid by the Flock? Or was it the Chancellor touching the Beast? Or was it the Beast itself? You have a lot of good options to work with. I think what would really engage a reader is if you were to more actively describe Gil rappelling down the Beast as the Flock attacks. You could describe the chaos they are inflicting and really amp up the emotional loss of Helman. I take it he is a critical to the Chisler effort? If so, I didn’t really feel the impact of his death. It seems to be a bit glossed-over. That said, an inciting incident should really change a protag’s way of life. I’m not sure I spotted anything like that in this chapter. Maybe it’s in chapter two? (which could work as well.)
Just my two cents here, but I think you have too much exposition at the beginning. It’s well-written, but I’m not sure it pulled me in as much as it confused me, though I did smile at “Not if I kill you first, you son of a bitch.” I liked Gil’s voice there. I love a fiery protagonist. And speaking of Gil…
Gil – Ravaged. Worn out. Bitter and hopeless. A pariah. The same question as above…is this what you are going for? I’m not sure I fully connected with him because in one spot he is fighting the Beast for all he’s worth, and toward the end, he’s letting
Rebecca touch it without caring much about what happens to her. I get that the Beast corrupts, but I think Gil would be more intriguing (and interesting) if he knows this…and is still fighting against the corruption for all he’s worth. And why is Gil fighting this thing, anyway? What has it done to him? What has it taken? Consider weaving more of this into his character. It would help a reader more actively connect with him and his struggle. I have to feel for a character to keep reading. One other thought—maybe give Gil a more kick-ass title than Foreman. A title that sticks out a bit more. Stonebreaker or something. That’s lame, but hopefully you get what I mean.
The Beast – Great. Freaky. Love that it invades thoughts and corrupts. I think a reader needs to understand exactly why this awful thing is growing out of the earth. We need to know the rules of your world, but you have to be careful in the first chapter as I mentioned above, or you wind up with too much exposition. It can be sprinkled throughout the first third of the book.
Chancellor – Petulant. He seemed naive to me not to believe the Beast is trouble and that all of the damage to the land will go away once it stops growing. It seems like a guy like him should be absolutely panicked to destroy the thing. To get rid of it because it is crippling his kingdom. One thought: maybe have Gil rip him forward and slam his hand against the statue. Make it so the guards try to stop Gil. It would amp up the tension and conflict. If he’s a high-ranking official, it’s doubtful guards would let Gil drag him toward it, even if they hate him because the Chancellor would put them to death for blatant mockery like that, or something along those lines.
Rebecca – I wanted to learn more about her. Her reaction to the Beast was interesting…and I wanted to find out why she reacted that way. Why is she interested in touching this horrible thing, when she full well knows what it will do to her.
Take a spin through the chapter to tighten up adverbs. I did a search for (“ly”) and got 60 hits. Consider deleting or replacing them with a strong verb. Consider tightening up filtering. Eliminate “see”, “feel”, ”hear”, etc. and just write what happens as we as the reader know your protag sees or hears or feels whatever you are describing. Ex. “He could see the plumes of dust coming toward them.” could instead be “Plumes of dust rose on the horizon.”
Again, lots of awesome potential to world build here and develop some well-rounded characters. It could very well be a fascinating story and I’d be excited to see where it goes…but for me to be interested, I would need the chance of some hope and redemption, however slight.
Good luck and thanks for posting!!