Query Critique 84

Baronet Brandon Shrike is in serious trouble. Too vague! Give me something specific in the hook. King Justin Capet has been poisoned and is near death. Tasked with finding the perpetrator, Brandon, the king’s trusted bodyguard, has instead gotten himself exiled. The information in this sentence is what should be worked into a hook. He knows he’s been set up by ambitious General Kalt, but Justin is too ill to listen, and Brandon needs proof.
In the north, Lady Bria Perregal’s mother has been murdered, and if her suspicions are correct, it was her father who committed the crime. This is an abrupt point of view shift. Even adding the word “meanwhile” to the beginning could help smooth it out. Earl Rostis Perregal seems poised to seize power if the king dies, but Bria has no proof, only fear and doubt. With her twin brother hundreds of miles away in the royal city, Bria realizes she must act alone in order to avoid becoming a pawn in their father’s power games. I’d like to see how this ties in to the conflict from the first part.
Major Michael LeVay has been ordered to arrest Bria on sight–to his great consternation, as he has been secretly in love with her for five years. If he is loyal to the cavalry, he must obey his orders. If he is loyal to his heart, he must defy them. On top of that, he must make his choice while facing down his old mentor–and his old nemesis–General Kalt. There have been enough people mentioned in this query that I had trouble making the connection between Kalt in this paragraph and the first paragraph. So again, I’d like to see at least a hint of how the different narratives will weave together.
Pursued by both human soldiers and monsters that look like men but aren’t, Bria flees south. Brandon, risking capture and torture, defies exile to stop General Kalt from destroying both king and kingdom. Michael struggles to stay true to himself while serving the king. Renegade baronet, rebellious noblewoman, and conflicted soldier are on a collision course as they attempt to thwart not only Kalt’s plans, but those of someone even more sinister…the supernatural Dark King. As I’ve mentioned, I’d like a little bit more indication of how these paths collide. Also, the Dark King kinda comes out of left field. We’re not given a chance to see why he’s scary, so there isn’t any real reason to fear him. Which means the ending lacks the punch it should have.
The Loyalty Factor is an adult epic fantasy complete at 145,000 words. I have a rough outline for a sequel and plan to write several books set in this world.
Thank you for your time.

Query Critique 67

Memories.  They are one of the most important aspects of our very existence.  Memories shape our individuality, provide a roadmap as to how we should act, and serve as an aid as we travel through life, hopefully preventing us from making the same mistake twice.  Without our memories, we would walk the planet as emotionless husks, never evolving, stuck in one place in time.  It’s taking too long to really get to the meat of the story. I want the characters and world introduced as soon as possible. The discourse on memories isn’t enough to really grab me. When a man wakes up in the back of a merchant’s wagon driven by two goblins, without any idea who he is, he knows he’s in trouble. See, now this should be your hook.  He looks for clues to unlock his identity, but the task is difficult when no one else knows who he is either.

As the man struggles to learn who he is, a sinister Human by the name of Lutheras, leads a growing force of dark wizards and Minotaurs in the north. I’m a little curious why Human and Minotaurs are capitalized. If this is related to the world building, I think it needs to be a little more clear. He’s hell bent on gathering all seven of the orbs scattered throughout Askabar. The orbs seem to sort of come out of nowhere.  Lutheras has learned that the seven orbs are keys; keys imprisoning the worst wizard who ever lived.  Combining the orbs will provide Lutheras with unfathomable power, and unleash a darkness and evil the likes of which the planet has never seen. I’d maybe like a little more indication of how the memoryless man is at all involved with Lutheras.

The man without his memories arrives at the capital city of the region and arranges a meeting with the ruler.  Lord Brukahn of Havenbrook, intrigued by the stranger’s loss of memory, agrees to help him.  He sends the stranger on a journey to seek out an old and mysterious seer, who Brukahn believes can unlock his memories. This seems like a lot of and then he goes from here to there, and seems to detract from the main conflict.  The Lord knows he can’t send this man out alone, and offers his daughter, Liniana, as a guide. There are a lot of characters being introduced in this query. How many of them are really necessary? She’s a formidable soldier in her own right, and has learned how to harness her spark as a healer—an ability that comes in handy during their long and perilous journey.  As they head east, he feels a constant pull toward the seer—as if they are somehow connected. How important is this to the main plot?

Through his travels, the man learns his fate is tied to the peculiar events in the north. This seems a little vague to me.  Lutheras has already conquered one city, and has his sights set on the next as he marches on his ever-growing path of conquest. The fate of Askabar hangs in the balance and depends upon a man who doesn’t even remember who he is. I think these stakes could be made a little stronger. Overall, I think the query needs more of a focus. Stick to the main conflict, and don’t worry about sub plots. Make the logical flow a little more consistent, because right now the synopsis seems a little jumbled. Try not to jump from one idea to another. Make sure all the ideas are very clearly connected.

THE UKNOWN MAN is my debut novel, and is the first book of four in the high fantasy series, The Keepers of the Orbs.  It is complete at 114,000 words.  Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Query Critique 63

Dear __________,

While following your (webpage/twitter/etc) I have noticed that you are interested ______ and _______. I feel that A DREAM AWOKEN would be a good fit for both of these.

Valeria West is a girl trapped in between two nightmares.

By day, the nightmare is her time at Bellowes Charter School, where her choice of friendships has Valeria caught in the crossfire of a school popularity war.  At night, Valeria is plagued by dreams of hot sand, spilled blood, and a sword that somehow knows her name. 

After a particularly vicious attack by her schoolyard nemesis, Valeria finds herself overwhelmed by despair. While contemplating her final escape, she is drawn into the dream world instead, and finds herself being forced to serve the whims of a girl who shares her same face. Morning brings with it the uncomfortable realization that the other world was as real as the blood on Valeria’s hands. I would like a hint earlier on that this is speculative fiction. Try to weave in the fantasy elements sooner.

As she struggles to come to terms with the new reality, Valeria discovers things about herself, love, and her best friend Keiko that she never imagined. However, Valeria has little time to explore any new possibilities, for she brought home one other souvenir from the other world – a blood curse that is killing her from within. THIS. This is the big conflict. This is the main idea. And it’s only getting one sentence! Play this element up more because it’s the most exciting part of the query.

In the end, Valeria will be given a choice – to take up a sword once more to save the soul of an empire as well as her own, or let both be consumed by madness. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little confused by what “both” in this sentence is supposed to be referring to. Also, I think you could try to be just a little more specific about the stakes.

A DREAM AWOKEN is a completed 150,000 work epic fantasy that is my first novel, and can be either a stand-alone novel or part of a series. Is this YA? MG? Tell me who your audience is!   The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

U. Been Cursed

Query Critique 29

Dear Miss Nelson,

“Be wary, my friend… death follows on swift wings when a Raven smiles.” I’d work a little on the hook. It doesn’t grab me as much as I would like. I like seeing something in the hook that is very specific to the character, plot, or setting of the novel discussed.

Shadows and darkness are home to The Raven, who kills without thought and takes pleasure in solitude. Hunting men for the sake of coin consumes his waking hours, but when the flood of requests for his services come inexplicably to a halt, the Hunter needs to know why. Is the Hunter the same as the Raven? And is the Raven a human or an actual Raven? Or something else? Seeking answers to unknown questions, This phrase confuses me a little, as I generally don’t seek answers to questions I don’t know I have. Raven becomes the unlikely savior to a girl who promises truth, in exchange for her life. Now, the black-hearted assassin finds himself caught in a torrent that carries him away from the comfort of death, and into the world where he is forced to fight to hold on to his edge of darkness. Rework the way this last sentence is phrased, as it’s a little confusing.

Torrent is a simple serving maid. Lowly and invisible in her castle home, the girl is ill prepared for the dangers that pursue her when she unwittingly witnesses the unfolding of a conspiracy which threatens the very existence of her beloved King. For some reason the “very existence of” is rubbing me wrong. Maybe just say it threatens the life of. Forced to run from men who will take her life to protect the intricate web of secrets which are poised to crumble an empire, Torrent escapes with the knowledge that only she can warn the monarch of his impending demise. Frightened and alone in a world that seems bent on her destruction, Torrent finds herself face to face with The Raven, a creature who most whisper is death itself.

Complete at 100,000 words The Raven, is the first novel in an epic fantasy series which will captivate readers of all ages. The Raven, will appeal to fans of, Game of Thrones, Villains By Necessity, and Pitch Black the Chronicles of Riddick.

My work, is dark, thick with character development, and (though it is in the genre of fantasy,) does not contain characters pertaining to zombies, vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, witches, warlocks, or any other supernatural beings. I would say this paragraph is unnecessary. It’s better to focus on what the novel has rather than what it doesn’t. You don’t need to mention character development, because it should be apparent in the writing, and it’s expected that any author querying has adequately developed their characters (though many haven’t). And I think the query adequately portrays that the tone is dark.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


A note on capitalizing titles from a previous blog post.