Wednesday, July 6, 2011

QUERY 98

Legacy

Dear Agent,

Danielle has looked forward to the day her magic would finally awaken and she could start putting her extensive rune knowledge into practice. As her 18thbirthday nears, and her magic remains dormant, Danielle only has one option left: frightening her magic into manifesting itself. But when a relatively safe experiment becomes a close brush with death, Danielle resigns herself to her reality. In a family of powerful witches, she was to be the ugly duckling.

When a sorcerer attacks her brother Jamie, Danielle’s attempt to help triggers a cursethat absorbs Jamie’s magic, then attacks his life-force, the very energy infusing him with life. Now, Danielle, with the help of Jamie’s best friend Chris, infiltrates the Consortium, an underground black market where deadly curses are a dime a dozen and blood magic is the only currency.

There, they learn that the sorcerer is guest to the City’s Master, who resides in a stronghold at the heart of the Consortium. With twelve hours left on the clock, Danielle and Chris must find and destroy the origin of the curse, or the approaching sunset will be Jamie’s last.

LEGACY is a 70,000 word YA urban fantasy. I believe it will appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series and Jim Butcher’s HARRY DRESDEN series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Comments

Nailing voice and getting all the engaging bits and pieces into a query is hard. This author has some engaging sample pages but her query hasn’t been able to do them justice. I think in this version she might be concentrating a little too hard on voice and not quite enough on leading the reader clearly through the story.

Danielle has looked forward to the day her magic would finally awaken and she could start putting her extensive rune knowledge into practice. As her 18thbirthday nears, and her magic remains dormant,

Is there a deadline for her magic to manifest? If it hasn’t by the time she’s 18, will it never? I think you’re giving us the birthday to establish her age and that this is YA, but the way it’s presented seems to indicate it’s some sort of milestone for her magic.

Danielle only has one option left: frightening her magic into manifesting itself.

This is probably OK for someone not doing a really close read, but I’m wondering if the magic is sentient or if this personification of magic is a symptom of some of the “trying too hard for voice” that’s leading to some imprecision in actual meaning.

But when a relatively safe experiment becomes a close brush with death, Danielle resigns herself to her reality.

It doesn’t take that many more words to be specific – and being specific can be an opportunity to maintain voice: When she jumps off a two-story roof and the magic doesn’t kick in to save her from some serious hurt, Danielle resigns herself to the hard reality.

In a family of powerful witches, she was to be the ugly duckling.

“Ugly duckling” as a metaphor doesn’t work for me, but that may be a personal quirk. Let’s see if anyone else has an issue. In any case, keep it in the same tense as the rest of the paragraph: “she was to be” = “she’s”.

When a sorcerer attacks her brother Jamie, Danielle’s attempt to help triggers a cursethat absorbs Jamie’s magic, then attacks his life-force, the very energy infusing him with life.

Is this sort of like a drive-by shooting only witch style? The query gives us no motivation for this seemingly random attack. To make room for a few words of motivation, you can delete the redundant definition of what “life-force” is.

Now, Danielle, with the help of Jamie’s best friend Chris, infiltrates the Consortium, an underground black market where deadly curses are a dime a dozen and blood magic is the only currency.

Chris doesn’t seem necessary to the query. Is Chris a witch/warlock? Does s/he have magic? Is Chris the linchpin who will destroy whatever needs to be destroyed because s/he has magic and Danielle doesn’t?

There seems to be a contradiction here over what kind of currency is used in the Consortium: dimes or blood? This is a phrase that sounds cool on the surface but is more like a mixed metaphor when you think about it closely.

There, they learn that the sorcerer is guest to the City’s Master, who resides in a stronghold at the heart of the Consortium. With twelve hours left on the clock, Danielle and Chris must find and destroy the origin of the curse,

Is the origin of the curse the sorcerer or something else? Do they have to kill the sorcerer to save Jamie? And do they know they only have 12 hours left? That seems pretty precise for knowing when the last of his life-force will drain away.

or the approaching sunset will be Jamie’s last.

This seems a little melodramatic. Maybe keep it simpler, like: … before the last of Jamie’s life-force drains away.

What seems to be missing in the query is a clear tie between the first paragraph where Danielle is trying to trick her magic into manifesting and the end where it doesn’t seem to matter whether she has magic or not. Or will she need magic to destroy the curse/sorcerer (I'm still not clear what she needs to do)? If it matters about whether her magic will manifest in the end, then mention that and complete the thought that was raised in the first paragraph.

LEGACY is a 70,000 word YA urban fantasy. I believe it will appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series and Jim Butcher’s HARRY DRESDEN series.

I’m not familiar with Mortal Instruments, but I do know Butcher’s series is The Dresden Files, and it’s not YA. I would choose something else that is YA to compare to. You want to demonstrate to the agent you know your market.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

8 comments:

Ryan Mueller said...

Does Danielle's knowledge of runes have anything to do with the story? If it doesn't, it seems like extra information you don't need in the query.

As to the ugly duckling line, I think the tense switch bothers me more than the actual metaphor. I also agree with Phoenix that the sorcerer needs motivation to attack Jamie.

What exactly is blood magic? All I can tell from this query is that it's some form of dark magic. A little more clarity on that would be nice. Another thing: this may be only me, but the title City's Master bothers me. I'd write it either as city's Master or City Master.

I think there are some good things in here, but the query needs a little more. Here's my attempt at it.


Danielle has looked forward to the day her magic would finally awaken ever since she was a small child. But hope turns to fear as she nears the traditional deadline of her eighteenth birthday without even an inkling of magical powers. When she tries to scare her magic into being by leaping off her roof on a broomstick, she nearly dies. Danielle resigns herself to her reality. In a family of powerful witches, she's the ugly duckling.

When a sorcerer settles an old score with her brother Jamie, Danielle's attempt to help triggers a curse that absorbs Jamie's magic, then drains his life force. Now, with the help of Jaime's best friend, Danielle must infiltrate the Consortium, an underground black market full of deadly curses, where blood magic is the only currency.

There, they learn the sorcerer is guest to the city's Master, who resides in a stronghold at the heart of the Consortium. They must reach this stronghold and destroy the curse in the next twelve hours before all of Jaime's life-force has disappeared. If this predicament doesn't scare the magic into Danielle, nothing will...


Alternately, if the focus isn't so much on Danielle's quest to find her abilities, you could start out the query with the sorcerer's attack. It depends on what is most important to the book.

Michelle4Laughs said...

For the record, I don't mind the ugly duckling reference once it's put in the right tense.

When a sorcerer attacks her brother Jamie, Danielle’s attempt to help triggers a cursethat absorbs Jamie’s magic, then attacks his life-force, the very energy infusing him with life.

This sentence seemed overly long. I don't think we need a definition for life-force. Plus 'triggers' makes it sound like the curse is more Danielle's fault than the attacker.

vkw said...

Start with this frame and fill in.



Danielle can’t wait until she turns 18 and her magic powers awaken. But her expected freedom from ordinary is crushed when this doesn’t happen. She replaces healing runes with prom dresses, levitation spells with college applications as she hides her disappointment from her family and plans a new uture for herself.

Her magic awakens when she and her brother are attacked by a wayward sorcerer out to settle a forgotten score of family sins. Her magic saves her, but it doesn't remove the knife buried in her brother’s gut. Her attempt at saving his life with a healing rune triggers only a curse that turns his magic against him.

With Jamie’s life in the balance, Danielle must turn to his best friend for help – a boy that she can’t tolerate because. . . . After they get trapped in a deadly labyrinth, Danielle, Chris and a dying Jamie must battle mythical creatures, sorcerers, unwanted attraction and the biggest enemy of all: time.

vkw

K.C. Gray said...

With the tense change, I'm okay with "the ugly duckling," but this is something I don't hear often enough to feel trite to me.

The main issue I'm having with this is not fully understanding the world. Are there other people without magic? How often does this happen? I think this information would help others understand how much it means to her to have magic.

"... infiltrates teh Consortium, an underground black market where deadly curses are a dime a dozen and blood magic is the only currency."

Dime a dozen causes more issues with me than ugly duckling.

Also, if blood magic is the only currency, does that mean they deal in trades? I don't fully understand what blood magic is.

And I agree that the beginning set-up of Danielle needing to awaken her magic is lost by the end of the query.

Overall, it does sound interesting, but being specific would really help heighten interest.

Xenith said...

Is this before or after the version on EE? From that one, I like the line about "the knife buried in her brother’s gut would disappear too". It a concrete detail with emotion attached, and it's emotion that seems missing here.

Aslo (I hate it when people do this to me) the Demon's Lexicon. It's just Jamie + back market + sorcerers + brother cursed + infiltrating the stronghold to find the magician--- actually that's quite a lot in common. Is that a coincidence?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Xenith: The author sent the version that's on EE's site to me first as well, then sent the version posted after she got some high-level, general feedback on her query and opening from a "secret agent" crit on another site.

I'm glad I was able to post a different version from the one over at EE's, but since there's so much cross-over traffic between sites, I do suggest in the guidelines to submit serially to me and EE. You generally WANT multiple critiques, but you don't want to ask the same people to crit the same version or an outdated version and a new one simultaneously. There's only so much good will -- and free time -- to go around :o)

Sarah Laurenson said...

I just read this at EE's and now here and I, too, don't know which came first.

Only thought tonight is about the ugly duckling and why it doesn't work for me. The duckling was really a swan and therefore not ugly, just didn't match the others. By the end of the story, she's beautiful. So I'm at the end of the story when I read that and not thinking simple fish out of water.

batgirl said...

Ugly duckling sounds wrong to me too - that would suggest that her family are ducks and she's really a swan. Is the author thinking of 'lame duck'?