I’m so impressed to have another query to critique so soon. At some point I’ll probably go to only doing one or two critiques a week. But as I’m building the blog, I’m going to try doing as many as possible. In other words, now is a great time to submit. See the query critiques link at the top for details.
My comments are in green.
At five years old, Zéphyrine’s father told her to throw an emperor out a window. At seven, she was commanded to brainwash her brother into submission. At twelve, she was forced to do the same to her sister; countless others followed. Although I get that the emperor thing is supposed to establish how cruel her father is, it’s a little distracting to me (it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the main plot, and since she was five, I’m guessing she didn’t literally THROW him). I’d consider combining this paragraph and the one after into a single hook sentence. Something along the lines of “Zéphyrine’s father has forced her to brainwash countless people, including her siblings. When she refused his orders, she was burned half to death.” You can play with the wording, but I think it would be stronger condensed to one or two sentences that establish that the father is cruel. Also, focusing on the brainwashing makes an easier transition for the reader when they later learn that she’s a mind witch (her power has already been alluded to).
When she refused her father’s orders, she was burned half to death.
Now, at fifteen, The content sounds a little dark, and I wonder if she should be older so that it appealed more to the upper end of the YA spectrum? Zéph is sent deep into the heart of enemy territory. Her father’s orders are simple: infiltrate the castle, manipulate her way into a noble family, get close to the king. Secondary plan: ascertain the truth behind the rumors of a mad girl who is not entirely from earth. This phrasing feels a little off to me. Why is this the secondary plan? It seems like the whole point of her going under cover. Anyone else would’ve taken years. As a mind witch — someone who can control other people’s minds and memories — Zéph has been given four months. She thinks it’ll be manageable so long as she doesn’t form any attachments. This paragraph does a good job establishing the character’s objective in the story.
For the first time in her life, she is wrong. She’s literally never been wrong about anything? Or just about a mission. But in her wrongness she might’ve This is a clunky contraction to me. Consider writing it out. found a way out of her father’s grasp. She allies herself with the prince and finds that the mad girl is, indeed, real — and she might just be the key to bringing down the Ravager of the East and end his ten-year reign of cruelty and horror Is the Ravager her father, or the king? It’s not entirely clear from the query, though I think it’s the father.
Zéphyrine has the most powerful mind in the world. Consider establishing this sooner, as it’s something that sets the character apart. Faced with choices between friendship and hatred, love and fear, cruelty and pain, This bit isn’t bad, per se. But I see a lot of similar sentences. she is finally ready to risk everything to rid the world of her father. Even if it means death. This last sentence seems unnecessary after the sentence before. I assume “risk everything” also means risk her life.
MIND WITCH is a gritty I think comparing it to Game of Thrones establishes that it’s gritty. “Dark fantasy” also suggests grittiness, dark fantasy novel that will be around 70 000+ words. The project shouldn’t be pitched until it’s done, so just say it is 70,00 words. Or “just over 70,000 words”. It’s GAME OF THRONES Write as Game of Thrones and Ubik. Using all caps is great for distinguishing your title from other titles mentioned. meets UBIK, but geared towards young adult readers.
Thank you for your time!
Dark Moon Huntress
I think it’s hard to pitch high fantasy. It’s been done so many times, and I get so many queries for it that sound very similar. I mean, people obviously like Lord of the Ringsesque stories, which is why we keep publishing them. But it is hard to make them stand out.
I think that is maybe the best strength of this query. It makes me want to read it, even though I’ve seen hundreds of other high fantasy, “chosen one must stop evil dictator” type stories. The idea of a mind witch lends a sort of unique flavor to this tried-and-true formula, and I like that.