The Prophecy of the Four: In Pursuit of Vengeance
Relying on an ancient prophecy, friendless and orphaned Vardin sets out alone to kill Armoth, the tyrant who murdered his parents. To his dismay, he is joined by Malia, the resourceful, bow-wielding princess he saves from one of Armoth’s murderous mercenaries.
After the tyrant destroyed her city and her entire family with it, Malia wants her own piece of Armoth. She wouldn’t mind having a piece of Vardin either. But in a different way. Deeply in love, Malia can’t stand the thought of living without him, completely alone.
When Malia nurses Vardin back from a serious infection, the bond between them blossoms into mutual love. But this bond is soon tested by Armoth’s magical obstacles. In reckless pursuit of the tyrant, Vardin and Malia battle whirlwinds, sandstorms, and excruciating hunger.
Not until Malia deciphers an ancient set of symbols in the sand do she and Vardin realize the folly of their seemingly heroic quest. The prophecy is clear. Two heroes cannot fulfill it. Not alone. As much as Vardin thirsts for vengeance, he doesn’t wish to meet the same fate as his parents.
But, stranded in the desert, it’s too late to turn back. When the next city on their trek greets them with an enormous monster, Vardin and Malia face a decision. Will they take cover and hide? Or will they stand tall and defend the city? Can they put aside the prophecy and their selfish desire for vengeance to risk their lives for people they’ve never known?
THE PROPHECY OF THE FOUR: IN PURSUIT OF VENGEANCE is a standalone fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 85,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Overall, I think this reads better as far as character motivation goes. Still, the elements introduced in this version and the way they're introduced -- calling attention to the fact that Vardin is an orphan (which makes him sound quite young initially), Malia being a princess (who falls in love with the poor orphan beneath her station), the magical obstacles, the symbols that seem to appear in the sand just where the MCs happen to be, the enormous monster at the city's gate and, of course, the prophecy -- these all shriek quest trope. In brutal honesty, if that's the way the novel reads, then no matter how the query is massaged, this is going to be a hard, if not impossible, sell.
Let me share this personal tidbit: I wrote a trope-filled quest story, too, a long time ago. I had a little hook thrown in that I was certain made it different, but agents weren't biting. I'd get back that the writing was really good but no thank you. Then an agent who sees tons of fantasy queries (Jennifer Jackson, if you must know) did a quick online critique of the query. Her response was basically, "Well-written query but for the story line: Yawn. Same old, same old." Only then did the lightbulb go off. A little different wasn't going to be enough. It would have to be substantially different. I came up with a way to rewrite it, but it means a complete tear down and rebuild. I've done some of the work and may one day go back to it, but for now it's shelved -- a hard decisision, but the right one.
It's tough to take an objective look at your work, but I really think this is something you have to do. What about YOUR story DOESN'T follow trope? Concentrate on that -- both in your book and in your query. There are thousands of people out there whose first novel doesn't stray from stereotype. Be one of the hundreds whose novel does.
As for the nits in this version:
I still think it would be better to put some twist to the prophecy bit if you're going to lead with it. "Relying on an ancient prophecy" is standard fare. A reader is more likely to cut you some slack if you can hint right off the bat that there's something unconventional going on with it.
The timing here between Vardin setting out alone and Malia joining seems a bit off. It sounds like Vardin sets off first, finds Malia, and then she falls deeply in love and must have him as soon as she sees him.
I'm not sure why the physical obstacles would test Vardin (a better name choice) and Malia's bond. The obstacles might test their endurance and strength of conviction about what they're trying to accomplish. Most times, the heightened danger seems to draw people closer not force them apart.
Simply calling them "Armoth's magical obstacles" leaves it a bit unclear as to the purpose of these obstacles. Are the obstacles always in place around wherever Armoth lives to keep Armoth safe from assassins or raids? Or does Armoth know they're coming and is attacking them directly with magic?
I think, too, when you reveal "the prophecy is clear," that this needs to acknowledge and then refute what wasn't so clear about it when Vardin first chose to follow it.
The cliches toward the end start to pile up and call attention to themselves: "too late to turn back," "face a decision," "take cover and hide," "stand tall," "put aside." One or two well-placed cliches will read seamlessly; too many pulls the reader away.
And since you've come out and said that Vardin doesn't want to meet the same fate as his folk, it sounds like he put aside thoughts of vengeance at that time. So the question at the end doesn't seem to reflect the current situation. Since it's been stated that Vardin's number one priority now seems to be that he doesn't want to die, it seems the bigger question is whether he can overcome his aversion to death in order to risk his life.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Query Revision 68: Redux
The Prophecy of the Four: In Pursuit of Vengeance