After reading the archives, banging my head on the wall of current comps, this is what I came up with. My biggest struggle has been the series in my head is one far reaching arc, with each novel containing its own smaller arc. Trying to pare that down into something manageable and interest grabbing without tangling delicate threads that weave and weft has been quite the challenge. I believe in this story, my question is; did I convince you to pick it up and be transported too?
Not yet, but that's the whole point of QueryShark. Revise till you get there!
Don't pare down the entire story, just focus on the start of the story.
Dear Query Shark,
907 A.D. Britain is suffering birth pains of becoming a united land, divided into separate kingdoms, barely able to resist Danish assaults. Rhiannon, orphaned young during a savage incursion by the heathen Northmen was raised by a Viking warrior plagued by regret. Trained to be one of the best archers in the land, Rhiannon earns a name, The Northern Flame,
I suggest adding The Northern Flame here, so that when you use it below, your reader is not confused about who you are talking about.
and a vaunted place amongst King Anarawd ap Rhodri’s teulu, single-minded in her quest to avenge her parents.
What you need in a query is a sense of where the story is going. That's often shown by telling us what problem the main character faces.
Story is not events.
Story is NOT set up and background (what you have here).
Story starts with what problem does a character face, and what are her choices, and what's at stake.
How must she change/grow or what must she do to overcome that problem?
Rhiannon is a great archer.
She wants revenge for the slaughter of her parents.
What's the problem?
What are her choices?
What's at stake?
Mercia is ruled by King Alfred the Great’s daughter; the intrepid Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia.
It took a minute to sort out the who and what here.
The intrepid Aethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred the Great, rules Mercia.It's a tad awkward, but it's clear. Revise further as needed.
on all sides by invasion on all sides: of —Danes and Norsemen intent on conquering
everything in their path and subjugating her subjects.
subjugating her subjects is really awkward. You'll hear these things if you read your query aloud.
Revise here for smoothness.
Hearing tales of The Northern Flame’s skill, she makes a deal with the Welsh king.
To do what?
Foist her mean sister off on him?
Commander Wulfric, a man haunted by the past, leads Lady Aethelflaed’s hearth-guard and is sent to retrieve the infamous archer. Opposed to bringing a foreigner to his land during these tumultuous times, yet unable to disobey his liege, he discovers a passionate woman who tests his patience and makes him question his vows to absolve his family’s name from the shadow of treason that cloaks him like a death shroud.
Rhiannon and Wulfric must find a way to trust each other before the Viking warlord, Ingimundr, lays siege to the burgh of Chester, annihilating the dream of a united country. They try and fail to resist their explosive passion while struggling to keep their sworn oaths of vengeance.
What makes this hard to read and absorb is you've got too much going on. For starters, you've got too many characters:
King Alfred the Great
Six named characters is three too many.
See below for notes on how to focus the query, but also get a sense of the series.
THE NORTHERN FLAME (122,000 words) is historical fiction that will appeal to fans of early medieval history like The Last Kingdom, by Bernard Cornwell
Was first published in 2006 so it's not an effective comp.
Effective comps are recent; pubbed in 2019 or later.
as well as sweeping historical romances such as Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
First published in 1991, same problem
along with strong female protagonists as in The Warrior Maiden, by Melanie Dickerson.
Pubbed in 2019, so that's ok, BUT take a look at the publisher: Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson publishes Christian fiction. Unless your novel is also Christian fiction (which I don't get the sense it is) you don't want to use this as a comp.
Your comps should be in the same category as your book. Christian fiction is a separate category.
THE NORTHERN FLAME can stand alone but I envision it as the start of a series.
Here's where you develop the series idea:
Set in 907 A.D. Britain is suffering birth pains of becoming a united land, divided into separate kingdoms, barely able to resist Danish assaults.
develop this further of course.
New paragraph for bio.
I am a debut author, wife, stay-at-home mother working on my history degree, and wear so many hats I resemble the dog from Go Dog, Go!
this is a terrific line. It gives your reader a sense of your wit.
New paragraph for pub credits.
non-fiction essay, (Amazing)
has been was published in the literary magazine
(Woohoo!) winning and won 2nd place for best prose.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
As for getting the whole of the story line into the query, you can't.
What you can do though is give us the start of the story, and then sketch out the larger picture.
Using Game of Thrones as an example (cause almost everyone has read/seen it), Ned Stark has discovered the King is not the father of his children. When the King dies Ned is faced with the choice of staying silent while an illegitimate son ascends the throne, or going public and risking not just his life but those of his family.
That's the individual problem.
The thematic problem is who is entitled to rule.
You can get that on the page with meanwhile, or what he doesn't know.
Meanwhile, each of seven power hungry families is plotting to take the iron throne.
What none of them know is a pawn has just become a queen. And she has dragons.
We need plot and drama on the page to compel your reader to want more.
Revise and resubmit.