QueryDice #32

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours.

Dear Ms. Ruth,

Assistant to the Royal Advisor, Adalmund Port returned home to Norwyn from her first job with an arrow in her shoulder and a murdered princess in her arms.

This sentence takes too much work from the reader. My brain hurts. I know this is a different world, but you so casually toss information to us as though we should already be familiar with it. I’m not so sure you need any more information here than just the fact that Adalmund has an arrow in her shoulder and a dead princess in her arms. That was a compelling and intriguing line that you’ve saddled with unnecessary details.

A war veteran at seventeen, Adalmund was sent to advise her country’s princess during a routine, perfectly safe peace treaty signing. Needless to say, it didn’t go as planned.

Why is a seventeen year old girl advising the country’s leadership?

Sent back to Amleth, the country that murdered her princess, Adalmund is tasked with finding the man who ordered the attack and killing him. It’s an old law between the nations—the life of a noble for another noble life—but it doesn’t take into account the revolution brewing in Amelth. Adalmund didn’t take it into account either.

You might be able to begin your query with the above paragraph. We don’t need to know that Adalmund returned home wounded with the princess in her arms. It’s compelling and intriguing, but it is best reserved for the synopsis, in which you’ll have more words to play with. For now, it might be best to begin with something like, “As assistant to the royal advisor of [enter brief two-word description] Norwyn, seventeen year old Adalmund Port is charged with exacting revenge on the country’s princess….”

That being said, we don’t need to know the old law between the nations. It is interesting, but keep it out, and if you have room later, put it in. And, especially for words we don’t even know, inconsistent spellings give readers the feeling even you don’t know your world. And that’s just chaotic.

Peace is rising in Amelth. Peace, a masked man with the same magical powers as Adalmund (what? Adalmund has magic powers? We need to know how this comes into play and what is means to the story and the main character. Preferably, we need to know this from Jump Street.) and a desire for sweeping, if misguided, social change, is leading the revolution against the Amleth Royal Court. He also knows which Amelth prince was in charge of the military unit that murdered the Norwyn princess.

This last sentence lets the cat of the bag with a thud. In fact, I don’t think you need the sentence at all.

Peace wants Adalmund’s help.

Adalmund wants Peace’s information.

She also wants nothing to do with him, but Norwyn’s Royal Court strikes a deal with Peace: Adalmund’s unlimited help in exchange for a magically binding agreement that he’ll never declare war on Norwyn.

Adalmund will do anything to save her country. She’s been to war, she’s been an assassin, and she’s sacrificed her arm to save the princess.

But asking her to work with Peace might be too much.

Without further exposition, I don’t find it believable that Adalmund, after all she’s been through, would care about working with Peace. What’s so horrible about him?

I don’t see a strong enough conflict here. The princess is already dead, so you’ve snuffed out any tension around that. We also didn’t know or care about her so we don’t care that she’s dead. There’s an external conflict surrounding Norwyn’s vulnerability, but we don’t know the country’s people, so this is not compelling enough. Aside from Adalmund’s (whiny, to me) refusal to work with Peace, I’m not sure what the problem is and for that reason I would reject this.

[redacted] is a young adult fantasy novel of 75,000 words with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Posted on May 10, 2012, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. No one else mentioned this so maybe I’m just dense, but I found it jarring to say that a revolution was brewing in Amlath and the next line says Peace is rising. And my confusion was increased when the next line spoke of Peace as a person. I get that there’s symbolism in Peace’s name but it took me a minute to work it all out.

    Despite all that, I really liked your premise. It reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief-a young, kick ass protag in a wonderfully detailed, politically charged, fantasy world. Check out that book jacket and see how she presented her story. If I remember rightly, she kept the hook focued on Gen’s immediate problem-quest- and we learned all the politics as we read.

  2. I agree on trying to find the conflict here. Also, my head hurt too with all the names. Perhaps stick to one or two. This description doesnt seem to fit a peace treaty signing but more a medical procedure: during a routine, perfectly safe peace treaty signing. I recommend stronger language that evokes war-peace images.

    Now these 2 sentences did intrigue me, perhaps start with this?: Adalmund will do anything to save her country. She’s been to war, she’s been an assassin, and she’s sacrificed her arm to save the princess.

    With these 2 lines I want to know more. Good luck! I know how hard it is to get that query just right.

  3. The comma in the first sentence after “Advisor” should not be there.

    I agree with everything Lauren said.

    And, well… look. I’m as tired as the next person of wispy teenage heroines who spend all their time panting after some hot vampire/werewolf/angel and have no lives or abilities of their own. So kudos for a girl who kicks A. However, she has to kick A believably. When you’re 17, nobody listens to you. You desperately wish you had experience and expertise and that people relied on you, but you don’t and they don’t.

    It would be more believable if your protagonist had the answers but just couldn’t get anyone to respect her enough to let her save the day.

  4. I think with not one but two instances of misspelling Amleth/Amelth, the entire query comes across as a bit careless/rushed.

    There seems to be a vital bit of information missing here. What are Adalmund’s powers? What makes her “unlimited help” such a valuable asset? While I think the world and the ideas here could be intriguing, I don’t feel connected to the MC at all, and unfortunately have no sympathy for her. If you shared a bit more about her powers, it might pull the reader in more. I agree that the conflict seems thin. What does Adalmund really want, and what’s stopping her – other than working “with Peace might be too much.” Why is it too much?

    Just food for thought. Good luck!

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