Saturday, August 30, 2008

#71

Dear Query Shark:

In a sunless, frozen world, the landscape is difficult to travel, cities are built underground, and wars are fought with assassins, not armies. The king's city of Vastii is a corrupt metropolis struggling to recover from a recent plague that had ravaged the working class; its tunnels are rife with mercenaries, murderers, insurgents, thieves, and members of a secret police who feel that the sword is the best way to hold back a violent revolution.

Avoid the temptation to set the scene in a query letter. You don't have enough page space to do that. Start with who matters, and what's at stake.

When a lord of a prominent city north of Vastii turns hostile to the monarchy, the king takes his niece Wyrren Jadis as a political hostage to prevent her family from aiding the rebellion. The king also has a twelve-year-old grudge against the Jadis family, and with his niece under heavy guard in his palace, he attempts to make Wyrren accuse her father of murder.

Between betraying her father and endangering herself and her companions, Wyrren instead looks to fight a king in his own court with what little resources she has: a formal education in government, a specialty in a non-combative magic, three female bodyguards posing as her maids, a high ranking slave allowed access to the city, and whomever is willing to associate with a woman outside of the king's favor. The most powerful of her potential allies is an ambitious young nobleman who may or may not have honorable intentions.

This paragraph is where you finally get to what you should have started with. Wyrren is going to do battle with the king so she doesn't have to betray her father to her uncle. Ok...so what? Maybe her father IS a murderer and a snake (no offense to snakes of course, some of my dearest colleagues are rather slithery.)

And unless there's some sort of twist on this story, I'm left thinking ya ya ya, who isn't battling a wicked uncle these days.


Blue Crystal is a complete novel of 95,000 words, written for adults who enjoy action, intrigue, and dark fantasy. I've included the first X pages.

Thank you!

Right now you don't have anything that makes me want to call you up and demand pages instantly. There's no hook of any kind, and nothing about the plot suggests an interesting twist or dilemma.

Form rejection.

6 comments:

mnfaure said...

As a reader of fantasy, I can say this piqued my interest, and I'd read the first few pages to see if the prose held up. I'd like to find out how Wyrren keeps her head and, hopefully, gets ahead in such a situation.

If you follow The Shark's advice, you might well ditch the second paragraph; however, in case you decide to keep it in one guise or another, I just wanted to point out that it confused me greatly and is too wordy:

When a lord of a prominent city north of Vastii turns hostile to the monarchy, the king takes his niece Wyrren Jadis as a political hostage to prevent her family from aiding the rebellion. The king also has a twelve-year-old grudge against the Jadis family, and with his niece under heavy guard in his palace, he attempts to make Wyrren accuse her father of murder.

I had to read it several times to be sure Wyrren was the king's niece, and I still wondered what the father being accused of murder had to do with the story.* You mention the lord at the beginning of the paragraph, and then he is just dropped, the focus becoming Wyrren's father, who I assume is not one and the same with the lord. I'd like more connectivity between the elements.

A couple of examples of what I meant by wordiness:
~"as a political" can be deleted. "Hostage" says everything you need.
~"with his niece under heavy guard in his palace,"--All of that can be deleted. The reader has already inferred it.

Anyhow, I never speak up here, but your project interests me, and I'd like to see you hook an agent with it.

Good luck!

*Actually, I take it that the king is killing two birds with one stone, but I think you can make that clearer to achieve that connectivity that I mentioned. :)

kimzim said...

I like fantasy and I'd probably buy this if I saw it in the bookstore. A good review or two on the cover, a strong first page and I'd be sold. I like the way you've dealt your heroine some iffy cards--magic, but it's noncombative, high rank but out of favor--and I like the sound of the tunnel city too. If sounds just a bit like Daughter of the Empire in terms of the intrigue, and that's a plus for me too.

Anyway, my two cents, as a reader.

talpianna said...

In a sunless, frozen world, how could life evolve in the first place?

And how could the ravages of a plague be confined to the working class, which by definition must come into contact with those they work for, as opposed to, say, street people or gypsies, who could be isolated or driven out?

mikandra said...

Could be me, but 'the landscape is difficult to travel' does not parse with me. One travels across or over or through something. I want a preposition here, and I find that sentence enormously jarring for that reason. It's the first sentence, too. I think it could stand some rewording. I don't think the landscape really matters.

talpianna said...

Mikandra, try "The terrain is difficult to traverse." A bit too alliterative, but more accurate. Just "The terrain is difficult" would work just fine for me.

BuffySquirrel said...

What do they eat?