Ack! I really generally dislike prologues–both as a reader and as a writer. Besides that, I’ve heard often enough that agents hate them, too. But even I have to admit that sometimes they’re necessary. Unfortunately, it looks like THE BARD’S GIFT is one of those times.
You see, there’s a speculative element in TBG that will be somewhat important to the ultimate resolution of the story. And that element–a particular creature–doesn’t turn up as early as I’d originally hoped. Not until about three-quarters of the way, through, in fact.
In my opinion, any unexpected element that will affect the ending needs to be introduced at latest before the half-way point. Otherwise, you risk the ending feeling like Deus ex Machina–something the characters haven’t really earned. That’s just not satisfying for the readers, generally.
But there just isn’t any way to introduce this creature/character much sooner because my POV characters don’t get into his territory before that. My solution, at least so far, is a prologue–just a short scene involving this character that hopefully also raises some tension, but mainly lets the reader know that he exists.
Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do.