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 conflict development, dos and donts, fantasy, Lauren Ruth, making your query interesting, making your query stand out, queries, query, query example, query for YA, query problems, querydice, rejection, slush pile, standard query format, world building, writing, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.