Thursday, February 18, 2016

Agent Wish List: Deidre Knight #1

GENRE: YA - Historical


The Games at Olympia have ever been a competition of men–until Cynisca enters her chariot.
Seventeen-year-old Cynisca is the awkward princess in the Spartan Royal House. Unlike her savvy siblings, her only talents lie in horsemanship, and to her politically minded relatives, she's useless. But everything changes when her crippled brother abruptly inherits the throne. Controversy erupts, and when an anti-royalist insults the new king, Cynisca snaps. A hostile exchange leads to a racing challenge, and Cynisca trounces the scoffer. That gives the king an idea: demonstrate royal authority by having Cynisca defeat his detractors in the great Olympic chariot race.

Cynisca jumps at the chance. For her, it's a rare opportunity to make her family proud. But the stakes–Olympic glory and unparalleled clout–are enormous. Moreover, no woman has ever dared enter the Games. With hostility from officials and entrants alike, the journey to Olympia may prove more treacherous than any track Cynisca's raced.

Based on events from Greek history, CYNISCA AND THE OLIVE CROWN relates the tale of the first woman to compete in the ancient Olympic Games.


A model Spartan princess was as skilled in the social arena as a veteran on the battlefield. Dignity was her armor, wit her blade. She could win allies with a glance, thwart rivals with a word. And she never ever embarrassed herself in public.

I was not that princess.

My ears burned as my sister pressed that point within the storeroom's thick brick walls. "Gods, Cynisca! How could you not remember Lord Polycles' wife?"

"I said I was sorry." In retrospect, I probably should've known better than to assume the pretty young woman accompanying the graying Assembly Leader to the town square was his daughter. Hoping to cast my mistake in a positive light, I said, "Maybe his wife was flattered–"

Proauga's fist slammed a shelf, rattling the clay lamps within. "Maybe you should have thought harder before opening your mouth. Considering how often you race against Polycles' son, you should know the man doesn't have any daughters."

"We don't exactly chat while harnessing the horses," I mumbled beneath my breath.

Proauga inhaled deeply, regaining composure with an effort. Her anger was far from spent, but with Agis returning from Delphi in two days, she had more important things to do. "Anyway, try not to insult anyone else. And fix your hair." She snatched the hairpin from my drooping knot and tossed it at me. "You're the king's half-sister. Look like it."

Easy for you to say. Envy wormed up as Proauga sashayed out.


  1. I found the opening line in the query a bit of an mouthful, but the rest made me really curious about Cynisca. As for the first page, I loved the opening. I think you did a great job with characterization and voice, and the dialogue between the sisters felt realistic. I just got a bit confused when you mentioned Agis without much of an explanation. Maybe qualify the person instead of using his/her name?

  2. It seems like the first line is missing the word "only" -- "have only ever been..." The rest of the query gave me chills and made me really excited to keep reading.

    You jump right into the tension on the first page. The first paragraph is exposition, an unusual start to a book, but it totally works because we can see you're setting up a contrast and we really want to know what the not-model princess looks like. The dialogue flowed naturally and Cynisca was (for all we got of her on in one page) cohesive.

    Cynisca is a devilishly hard name to spell, and hard to pronounce too (and I know koine Greek), which makes it hard for readers to talk about her! The first two letters are a trip-up for English speakers. I'd recommend renaming the protagonist or re-spelling her name.

    1. The intro paragraph kind of made me think of this: Maybe not exactly the same thing.

  3. This is a fascinating premise which will probably appeal to readers looking for historicals that have a feminist bent, and I think your query expresses the voice very well. I agree the name is a mouthful, unless you give the reader help with it somehow (a shortened, easier nickname or something in your opening chapter that clues the reader in to the pronunciation). I also think it's neat that this has roots in a true event.

    The first sentence is off kilter because it isn't quite parallel: A model Spartan princess was as skilled in the social arena as a veteran on the battlefield [in warfare {or whatever military skill you like)]. I do love the metaphor-they are both battling in a manner of speaking, and the rest of the paragraph works well.

    You have great tension in the opening and reveal quite naturally some important info about your MC, her personality, and relationship with her sister, which all help to set up the conflict you mention in the query. I would probably keep reading.

  4. "Seventeen-year-old Cynisca is the awkward princess in the Spartan Royal House." I love this line! (Full disclosure: I've had a love affair with Sparta for many years.) I would start the query there: it gives us who, what, where and most likely when, since the Spartans haven't had a royal house for a while. The Olympics are mentioned later and it comes up naturally.

    I like the suggestion to give her a nickname (Kin, Cyn, or Niska, depending on how you want the reader to pronounce the name). You could drop it in the first sentence in parentheses or say something like, "Kin, as her savvy siblings called her, had no talent but horsemanship..."

    I agree with the other comments. I would keep reading!

  5. Love this premise - what a great topic! I agree with Melissa's point about the first sentence needing a little tweaking, but I love how it leads us to "I was not that princess." Using a nickname probably will help younger readers with an unusual name, although once I stopped to figure out how I'd hear it in my head, it wasn't a problem. The only (slight) issue I had was with the last line, which felt a little forced. The up/out rhythm is nice, but that coupled with two high-impact words (wormed and sashayed) in a short space kind of made it "sound" like writing. That said, this is a heroine I want to spend time with, and that coupled with the great topic would have me picking this book up. Good luck!

  6. I'm finally here! Apologies for being a bit tardy. We were away on vacation when this posted, and I hadn't thought through that I couldn't pop on right away. First of all, GREAT concept! I love the idea, and it's very easy to pitch the story in one line. I immediately wanted to read more. Great job!

    I saw someone mentioned the opening line's awkwardness. I actually see it as writing in a more historical voice. Still, as an opening sentence, it does give pause. Also, later, you say of the main character that she "snaps." If you're going to aim for a historical voice, then it needs to be consistent. In general, I'd avoid anything that sounds too modern. On the whole, the pitch grabbed me, but that might well be because I'm so fascinated by Spartans. I would have requested the material based on the pitch, however, so you obviously did a good job of painting a compelling story.

    As for the opening pages, they absolutely caught my interest and I'd like to keep reading. I would note, however, that like in the pitch, the writing alternates between a more historical voice and modern. For instance, "I said I was sorry," is much more modern in tone than some of the rest of the prose. You just need to decide how you want the book to read, and be consistent. I'm not sure the best way to request the pages, so I'll simply say please email me the first three chapters by attachment at THANKS! I'm excited to read more.

    1. I will add -- please put AGENT WISH LIST REQUEST in your subject line! :)

    2. Yay! The first match is a winner!