The Best We Could
Novels Judge’s Report 2021
Judge’s Report from Headline Publishing
The writer successfully created a real sense of character, place, and atmosphere in their first chapter, immersing us right away in the ‘pitch and roll’ of the ship that the heavily pregnant Aurelia finds herself on, and the somewhat hostile reception she finds there. We loved the historical detail and world-building of this story, which is no small feat – there was a really clear and compelling sense of time and place, grounding us well in the historical setting. And we felt comfortable in their evocation of a sixteenth-century warship! Aurelia was a wonderfully headstrong character, unrestrained by the expectations of the period, and we were interested to see how this might help to drive forwards the plot summarised in the synopsis: an almost quest-like adventure full of tangled webs and missed opportunities. The only note we had was to possibly tone down the Elizabethan language: make it more conversational and plainer – even earthier – in order to make it seem more authentic. In this way, the reader might feel closer to the characters. But an enjoyable read!
The Best We Could
We felt that there were a few entries that showed potential in their opening chapter, but we have chosen The Best We Could as the runner-up because we were particularly impressed by the author’s characterisation of Agi and Haris, especially Agi whose voice translates confidently on the page and draws the reader in immediately. In these opening pages, the author has set up the relationship between these two characters convincingly and we were intrigued to see how it would develop beyond this sample. From the synopsis, it sounds as though the author would take the narrative in some interesting directions, and touch on some thought-provoking subjects, but we did feel that certain areas would need to be handled sensitively and perhaps refined so as not to feel too contrived. A promising opening though.
Previous Winners: Novels
First prize: The Map of Lost Lands by Lucy Steeds
Second Prize: Without a Shadow by Helen J. Reynolds
First prize: Cabbage Island by Matthew Ross
Second Prize: Ten Virtuous Acts by Sandra Jensen
First prize: Fishermen’s Court by Andrew Wolfendon
Second Prize: Behind Me Lies the Desert by Kevin Gerard Neill