By David Hogue
“The brave are filled with fear, but they do not close their eyes,” whispers the rhinoceros Forticor to Boshko—just moments before Forticor is killed, his horn hacked off, and Boshko himself is kidnapped.
Boshko has always been the runt, the loser, the frightened one. It’s no wonder that his father, the great warrior and chief of the village, has so little to say to him. Now, dragged away from the pastures of Africa and shipped to cosmopolitan Rema, he must consider what Forticor’s words mean as he labors beside hundreds of other slaves in the state-owned Complex. It is here that objects of power—like Forticor’s horn—are stored in shrines and used to make Reman weapons powerful enough to rule the empire. Boshko’s bravery is soon put to the test when the powerful Senator Julius makes him a secret offer—freedom and a voyage home in exchange for stealing the horn for his private use. Would Forticor have approved? Probably not. But if instead, Boshko steals the horn for himself and smuggles it back to Africa where it belongs—now that will take courage.
I am a high school Latin teacher, who has been telling Greek and Roman myths to my students for the past ten years now, and I have enjoyed exploring what I consider the magical world of Roman culture.
The Book Doctors: What a slam bang crackerjack opening. So filled with action. Shocking and gruesome. Plus surreal magic realism of a talking rhinoceros. Tied in, no doubt, we already suspect, with the horrific hot-button topic of the extermination of animals because humans believe they have magical and powerful qualities. We love that you then give us a thumbnail sketch of our hero, the detail of him being a runt and the idea of him being a loser. We immediately find ourselves rooting for him to succeed. You have very quickly gotten us to emotionally bond with this character. Very well done. We also see that he’s been rejected by his father, by his family, and now he follows in the long tradition of innocents enslaved against their will by cruel greedy masters. The pitch loses us a little when we get to the part about the objects of power being stored and used to make powerful weapons. How are these weapons different than all the other weapons we’ve seen in all the other stories we’ve read? But you put us right back in the saddle when he is called upon by the rich and powerful Senator to steal the horn. And thus the plot is set into motion. The problem is, we really only have what amounts to a great set up for a story. We want to know more about the escalating series of events as our hero goes on his Odyssey with the rhinoceros’s horn. And we want some kind of answer to the question: How does the rhinoceros talk? If he’s not in an Ionesco play, that is. You say that you want to explore the magical world of Roman culture, but we don’t get enough of that in this pitch; particularly the nuts and bolts specifics of what is magical in your world. Fascinating story about the power of animals, the resilience of runts, the horrors of slavery, Africa and courage. We need to see more of the plot, and understand more of the machinations of this strange and fantastical world the author is taking us into.
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