I am looking for some beta readers for an epic fantasy novel of mine, titled Empire of Ruin. The novel is (approx) 120K.

Draft: It is complete and polished, though I have not done the extensive language-level revisions that I typically do yet. (I prefer to get beta reads before I do that, because why waste time tweaking the language on a paragraph that may end up getting cut out in response to a beta reader's critique?)

Critique Wanted: As far as the level of critique wanted, I am looking to address large-scale things in the story - pacing, character, plot, worldbuilding, etc. What do you like about it, what bores you about it, what confuses you about it. If you're new to beta-reading and want some guidance (or even if you're not), I can even provide a template with some questions for you.

I am NOT looking for someone to do line-edits or correct grammar. If you like to use track changes or something similar to note your reactions to or questions about things, that's fine. But no language editing.

And of course, if you get about a third of the way in and are just not feeling the novel, you can always let me know and back out, no hard feelings. Sometimes a novel isn't bad, it's just not your thing, and it's hard to offer constructive criticism if that's the case.

Synopsis: I wrote this novel for Nanowrimo last year. Here is the (rough) synopsis I used -

For hundreds of years, humans lived side by side with the Serypha'el, an immortal race of winged warriors, sent by the One God to protect and watch over the earth.

Until they all died.

From the bones of the watchers rose the Empire, who decried the Serypha'el for abandoning humankind and promised to protect the world from the unearthly terrors that threatened to destroy it. The Empire claims it wants freedom for the world, but the Empire's form of freedom comes with terrible prices to pay.

Jeb Amarian has lived his life for the sole purpose of bringing down the Empire, with the hope that his winged gods will one day return. But Jeb has done terrible things in service to his cause. When a chance mistake puts everything he's worked for at risk, Jeb must find another way to achieve his goals - or accept that all the harm he's done has been for nothing.

Tamar doesn't believe in gods or empires. She just wants to fly free in her vessel with her crew of thieves. It's the chance of a payday that brings her into Jeb's orbit, but by the time her job is done, she may find she's lost more than she's gained.

And in the wild, abandoned kingdoms of the Empire, Oraia the Sentinel hunts for a killer unlike any other she has ever seen. A killer who leaves its victims worse than dead, a killer that brings back whispers of those terrors the Empire promised to drive out. If Oraia cannot discover a way to rid the earth of this creature, then it may be too late for all of humanity, both those loyal to the Empire and those who fight against it...


Excerpt: And here are the first 1000 words or so, to give you a feel for my writing -

His name was Jeb, though Jeb was not his full name. His full name had been hidden so long ago that, at times, he could barely remember it. It was only when he closed his eyes that he could hear it said. When he closed his eyes, he could see the shape of her lips, the woman who had borne him, that woman he hadn’t seen in so long. He could see the shape of her lips, hear her voice, its tones and volume coming together like water rushing over rock, hewing it down. He could hear her voice, the sound of his name, see her lips, the way they shaped the sounds. Only then could he remember it. Only then was it real.

But he did this rarely. Because his name meant something, but it couldn’t mean anything here. Not in this life he lived. In this life, he was known by other names. Betrayer of the watchers. Scourge of the Empire. Valkara’s dog.

Merciless.

Heartless.

Empty.

The last, he truly was. That was how he lived, anyway. Day to day, as he walked in these footprints, a path laid out before him, he emptied himself. He did it now, as he stepped into the night. The streets of the Citadel spread before him, curving and ancient, rough-cut stone visible only by the light of the meraz gems strung overhead.

Jeb looked the streets over. Breathed the night in. Breathed himself in.

When he let the breath go, he let himself go too.

Empty, he started into the streets.

He walked the path from the palace to the First Quarter without really seeing it. The meraz gems bathed the city in a low, orange light, casting strange shadows over the pitted stone walls that lined the streets. The silent streets. By this hour, everyone was asleep in their beds, or if they were not, they were locked safe in their homes, shutters drawn shut, lights snuffed out. As though not to draw attention to themselves. As though to ward off the eye of the Empire.

Jeb’s eyes were all for a house in the First Quarter tonight. It was a grand house, long, low, and sprawling, incorporating ancient ruins, pieces of a structure built before the Cleaving, before the Empire. Other parts were new, built with the rose-gold brick that was characteristic of the Citadel, mined from the quarries north and west of the city. These walls boasted flat roofs and one domed top, near the front of the house. The dome was ornamental, the squat tower it sat atop ornamental, for that tower boasted no windows.

It didn’t matter, Jeb supposed. The man who owned the house would never have seen what was coming for him, anyway. Or had no need to. He would have known what he was getting himself into when the whole bloody business began.

Jeb stepped inside the house. Light flooded his sight, bright, dazzling light, so different from the streets outside. Light cast from kryslar gems, the brightest known to man. Only the richest, most prominent citizens in the Empire could afford it.

The man who owned this house was one of those men. Ileyas Hedar, one of the most respected lords in the Citadel. He’d been a member of the Council of Lords—the ruling council, as it was sometimes known, even though they didn’t actually do anything except sit around and argue—for nearly twenty years, since Jeb had been a little boy. For years, he’d been one of the loudest supporters of striking against dissidents to the Empire with whatever force necessary.

But apparently, that had all been an act. Or perhaps it had been genuine, once, and the man had had a change of heart.

Jeb didn’t know. It didn’t matter anymore.

He stood alone in the house’s front entry. Two massive pillars flanked a wall of solid white marble, separating him from the rest of the house. Beyond that wall, he could hear them—the harsh voices of Imperial soldiers, barking orders and demands, and other, more horrible sounds.

He was still there. Not…empty. Jeb breathed in.

Breathed everything out.

Everything.

Empty.

There was a price to pay for this emptiness, this distance. It was a necessary price. Necessary, wretched, and deserved.

He rounded the pillar on his left and strode into the broad room beyond it.

His soldiers were already there, as he’d known they would be. Two stood guard at the back door, and another above them, on a balcony that ran around the whole room. A fourth stood guard at the mouth of a corridor on the left. A fifth guard roamed the room, ransacking it—not for anything in particular, but merely because he could. Kicking over chairs, tipping over vases and works of art, smashing them to the ground.

The sixth and seventh guards held Ileyas Hedar. He was half naked, dressed only in a thin robe of marigold silk. Expensive silk, imported from the far west of the Empire. The robe was loosely tied and gaped open, and since Ileyas was a large man, with a large paunch and a hairy chest, the effect was not a tasteful one. But then, nothing about this night was tasteful.

Ileyas was on his knees and an eighth soldier stood looming over him.

The ninth soldier stood before Ileyas’ wife.

She was a beautiful woman, shockingly beautiful, in a warm, voluptuous way. She had full, sensuous lips and lustrous dark hair. She, too, wore a silk robe, which showed quite a bit of her golden skin. In another place, on another night, Jeb might have been caught by her beauty.

But here, now, her lips were stained with blood, blood that dripped down her chin and onto the floor, splattering the dove gray tile with red. Her hair was disheveled, a mottled bruise forming high on her forehead. Blood dripped from a long rent in the right sleeve of her robe as well, and had quickly spread from another slice in her middle, staining her nightdress.

Her wrists were tied behind her back, though she remained upright, on her knees. Despite her suffering, her face was artfully impassive. Save for her eyes. Her large, dark eyes held a defiant glint, one she probably couldn’t have stifled for all the pain in the world.

Jeb had long ago stifled his. He still practiced in the mirror sometimes, deadening and deadening his eyes until nothing looked back at him but a corpse.

“Just give me one thing,” the eighth soldier said, the one who stood holding court over Ileyas. His name was Alamar. He held no rank over the other soldiers here, but in situations like these, he always seemed to take charge. “One piece of information. Where the rebels are hiding. Who leads them. Who else here in the city is aiding them? One thing, and this—” He pointed a swift, malicious finger at Ileyas’ wife “—will stop.”

“Soldier,” Jeb said, in his brisk, quiet voice, and silence swept over the room as every eye turned to him.

“Commander.” Alamar turned to him at once. “We’ve apprehended Hedar, sir, as ordered, but—”

“And what have you learned?”

Alamar’s eyes cut in the direction of Ileyas’ wife, his gaze deeply resentful. As though it was her fault her husband hadn’t broken yet. “Not much. Well, nothing. As you can see—”

Jeb held up a hand for silence and crossed the room, until he stood in front of Ileyas’ wife. Jeb struggled to recall her name and found he could not remember it. Something like horror threatened to rise in his throat, but Jeb choked it down.

Empty.


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I think that's about it. I don't really have a strict time scale, but ideally, I'd like it if you could get your final feedback to me within a couple of months. I am as yet unpublished and will be looking to get this novel traditionally published once all revisions are done, and my only goal for that is by the end of the year, hopefully.

I am tentatively open to doing a swap, if you're interested in that. I say tentatively, because I can't really make promises on getting back to you in a timely manner right now; I'm taking a summer class that's eating up a lot of my time. If you do want to swap, I will offer the same level of critique as I described above - addressing large scale issues in the novel. And there are some genres that I simply won't do, mostly because I don't feel I have enough experience with those genres to offer a good critique.