a boutique agency with a slight shoe fetish


DarkMagicAre you guys ready to get your critique on? It’s time for another About My Query!

Dear Daphne,

I’m submitting this query for review because […] I admire both your blog and your dedication to awesome shoes. Days of Thunder, a YA fantasy complete at 90,000 words, is described below.

When Avery Imbyr ties her sister up and leaves her in the woods, she has two goals. First, avoid one of Adelaide’s legendary lectures. Second, travel to the capitol city and kill the Duke of West. The most dangerous man in the country has summoned the sisters to his home, supposedly to teach his heir about magic, but Avery knows better. For the last ten years, since the sisters died and were reborn as homunculi, his laws have treated them as criminals. To enter to Castle West is to face execution – and there’s no way that Avery is going to let her sister die. Not again.

Upon arriving in the capitol, Avery’s plan disintegrates. The Duke’s son, Kieran, is supposed to be her pupil, but he’s more interested in being her friend. He’s got bright eyes and stupidly well-defined arms, and even worse, he’s determined to show Avery that his people aren’t as prejudiced as she believes. When Kieran convinces Avery to explore the capitol, she finds dark power crawling through his streets. Soul-sucking curses are targeting children. Refugees from a foreign war hide in the sewers. The magic that the Duke despises is everywhere, and it isn’t just hunting his people – it’s hunting Avery’s.

Killing the Duke of West means the homunculi will be safe from his hatred, but if Avery can’t find the source of the darkness, then an entire city will perish. Avery must choose between the chance of saving her people and the increasing certainty of dooming Kieran’s to destruction. Either way, death looms closer with every day the curse-maker remains free, and this time, if it catches Avery, there will be no return from death.

I hope that Avery’s story would fit into the niche of character driven fantasy carved by Sarah J Maas, Rachel Hartman, and Leigh Bardugo. I am a graduate of the 2011 [Specific] Writing Workshop for Young Writers and last summer, I returned to the workshop to work aside the fabulous [BigName Author 1], [BigName Author 2], and [BigName Author 3]. I currently work as a writing tutor at the University of [State] and have a small following at [tumblr site].

Thank you for your time,

That first ellipsis in the the opening paragraph was a reference to submitting the query her for critique, and since it wouldn’t be in an actual query to an agent for consideration, I took it out. Moving on, I love the specificity of the opening. The author gives me a good clear reason why she’s submitting to me (shoes!), and then gets the title, genre, and word count quickly out of the way. One note about the title – I have a hard time (as a child of the 80s) looking at the title and not immediately picturing Tom Cruise in the movie of the same name, driving a race car and kissing Nicole Kidman and her natural hair. I’m not saying you have to change the title, but definitely be aware that you may find some agents and editors with preconceptions of the book based on that alone.

Moving on to the summary, I’m struck once again, as with the last query we reviewed, that we have an opening that deals with two sisters, and then we leave one behind (literally tied up in the woods) to go on with our main character. Given the length of a query, is it important that we even know Avery has a sister? I’m not advocating leaving her out of the story entirely, but if she’s important enough to serve as the impetus to begin the story, I feel like she should come back into the story later. And if not, if all we need to care about are Avery and Kieran, than why mentioned Adelaide at all?

In general, actually, I think there’s too much information here. I’ve read it through multiple times, and I’m still not certain what this book is about. Avery, Adelaide, The Duke of West, Kieran, the Curse-Maker — there’s just too many people. While there’s nothing wrong with a complicated, plot-driven story, within the confines of a brief query, you want to really only talk about the big story, and save the details of the additional plot lines to reveal in the novel.

Finally, I think your bio is perfect, as are your comparables. You’ve hit on a great way to allude to a similarity with other authors without slamming the reader over the head with it.

Readers, what do you think?

Photo above by Flickr user Jeff Krause, used under a Creative Commons license.

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