Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Query Quagmire #4

TITLE: Magic Undone
GENRE: YA Fantasy romance

Dear Agent,

Time can be frozen and magic can be undone in the world Shai lives in, but when it comes to reuniting with the prince she loves from afar, some things can seem impossible.

Shai used to be friends with Prince Jistan back when she lived in the Casland palace seven years ago. But when her mother lost her position as the Queen’s handmaiden, Shai grew up on the streets and became involved with The Cliq, a notorious gang of thieves. Since she’s an unmancer, meaning she can undo or break magical spells, she is valuable in helping her gang pilfer protected goods. While she’s now on the wrong side of the law, she can’t help but remember the past and her feelings for the prince.

Prince Jistan, tasked with leading the Royal Defense Patrol, is surprised when Shai is captured during a heist and brought into the kingdom. He pardons her on the condition that she joins his patrol and help in the Border Wars. Jistan’s magic involves stopping time, so together they are a formidable team against the enemy.  As they fight to save their country, Jistan can’t help remembering the Shai of his past and falling for her in the present. But she’s a former criminal, and now that she’s left The Cliq, there are those who want to assassinate her. Then there’s Jistan’s father, the Sultan of Casland, who may be sabotaging his son’s efforts in the Border Wars for unscrupulous reasons. So Shai and Jistan must survive the strife in their two worlds first, before finding out if their love can survive.
MAGIC UNDONE is a 74,000-word YA fantasy romance written in dual POV. This novel is middle-eastern inspired, and can be described as ALADDIN meets SHADOW AND BONE.

The manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Shaielle squeezed to the front of the gathering and strained to see down the street. She just wanted one glimpse of his familiar features, that smile that could light his entire face, showing his dimples. A hollow ache clawed in her stomach at the thought of seeing him again.

She adjusted her thin black headscarf so she could see through the eye slit better. No one could see her face, or the deadly knives tucked into her purple pantaloons, their steel weight cool against her hips. In the crowd she could hide what she was, but she could never for a moment forget.

Because of what she was, the one who made her heart flutter seemed a world away, even though he was about to pass right by her face.

A lively musical tune blared from the horns of musicians as they swayed down the cobblestone road. Behind them came ladies in knee-length skirts and midriff-bearing tops of rainbow colors, dancing to the music. Next came a group of male singers, their strong, baritone voices joining with the melody of the trumpets as they sang a song about the Pact Day parade.

It was the celebration of the Quint Pact, when the continent was split into five different countries over a thousand years ago. Five Sultans were chosen to rule over each country, thus ending the worse of the Mancer War. And Casland, the country in the middle of the others, always had the largest jubilee of all.


  1. Congrats on being chosen!! I really like this concept and would definitely be intrigued as a reader, especially with the comp of Aladdin and Shadow and Bone. I think all of your query is pretty strong, but your last line loses the voice you established during the rest of it. It's the 'so' that does it; it makes it sound more like someone casually telling a friend something that happened to them rather than a story with purposeful prose. Try something like this instead: Before finding out if their love can survive, Shai and Jistan must survive the strife in their kingdom. Hope this feedback helps!

  2. I agree with Tiffany Dawn's comments. I do think your comp titles are ON POINT. Love those. I think your first paragraph of the query is excellent--sets the stakes very well, but the second paragraph seems a little "and then..and then'

    Such a wonderful premise though. BE PROUD!

  3. I also agree with Tiffany. I thought the premise is really interesting and the first paragraph of the query very strong. The second paragraph is where you lost me a little. II thought it was too long. I think you could streamline it and make it shorter and punchier. And I like Tiffany's suggestion for the last line. I think that's a good edit. Good luck!

  4. You have captured in two paragraphs the essence of the book. I feel I have a clear idea of what you are proposing. I think that's great for an agent to see. The opening line is especially compelling. I'd like to see a line similar to that in the first 250 pages. There are hints that make me want to care about the character, especially the single line, "because of what she was. . . " You may need to follow up with just a bit more of a hint because that sentence didn't grab me the way the opening to your query did.

    You may want to connect that sentence with the paragraph before because you introduce the idea of "what she was" there. By the way, "steel weight cool against her hips" is so visual! Congratulations

  5. Strong opening to your query.

    Your introduction for Shai could be tightened and cleaner. There’s quite a few phrases repeating the same message: used to be friends, back when, years ago.

    Your introduction of Jistan blends right into statement of the stakes and in a romance, a reader might want to know a bit more about the hero as an individual. The information is provided in a repeated cadence of “this, so that” even when the word “so” isn’t literally used. It makes me wonder if the writing falls into the same telling pattern.

    A minor note: romance is usually written in dual POV. There’s no need to state this in your query. On the other hand, the comparison statement is a good idea. Many agents do like the awareness of what your story can be compared to, so this is a great detail to include in your query if the agents you’ve been researching have indicated they expect to see it.

    For your sample 250 words, you have a solid first sentence and good use of physical reactions to illustrate what the heroine is feeling in the first paragraph.

    A couple of sentences are awkward to read because of the phrasing and use of commas. The selection is also starting to head into an info dump and I’d have wanted to experience more of her seeing the prince, the hero. As it stands, I’m not hooked.

  6. I love the idea of an "unmancer." I get a good sense of who Shai is now, but I don't know how she could have fallen in love with the prince seven years ago if this is a YA book (meaning she's currently 18 or younger). If they really did fall in love at age 10-11, how was it strong enough to survive? It also sounds like they were just friends as kids, which makes sense, and they're falling in love now as teens, but I don't realize that until we get to the second paragraph.

    I like the idea of a condition for her pardon, and that the Border Wars might not be as straightforward as they seem, but assassins, wars, etc. don't give me a clear indication of what's keeping the two apart (other than physically separated). What's the conflict in the romance? Just that she's been a criminal now? Would that seem untoward to Jistan's subjects?

    I love the idea of the world and it sounds very interesting. Your opening query line is a great hook. I think just a little clarification is needed!

  7. My thought is that the query is much stronger than the page. I read the page first and the first two pargs caught my interest. In the third, you started losing me. Perhaps tell us who 'he' is. Knowing creates interest. Not knowing just makes the reader wonder. Then a parade passes by, which would be fine if it kept her from seeing/finding 'him,' but it doesn't. It's just a description of a parade. Even description has to do something. Perhaps let it interfere in her task in some way. The last parg is back story. It doesn't do anything for you at this point. Perhaps cut it and just continue the story, and rework the parade so we see events happening while a parade is passing by, rather than showing us only the parade.

    Perhaps start the query with parg 2. It gets right to the meat of things, and nicely explains what the story is about.All in a single parg, which is hard to do. For me, anyway.

    The first parg just feels off, like the last half doesn't really relate to the first half, but I can't fugure out exactly why. And both Shai's and the prince's magic abilities are mentioned in parg 2, so do you need to announce them in parg 1?

  8. This is definitely a winning query! The only thing missing is your bio, which is something I'm always a little surprised to find excluded from queries, though it happens quite often. The bio is a gimme--you can't make a mistake there because you're just introducing yourself.

    When I'm looking at an author bio, it is to get a sense of who you are, what your background is, and how you present yourself to the world. An author's novel is definitely the main product I am selling, but the author is the person a publisher is investing money in and I need to know the author and how to pitch that author to publishers. I will say that, while a lack of a bio won't prevent me from requesting, it does always make me wonder why the author made the choice to exclude it. On the flip side, an impressive bio or a bio with personality can tip me over the edge on a manuscript I am on the fence about. I work very closely with my authors so I like to have at least a sense of who I'm dealing with from a query.

    I noticed that one commenter recommended not mentioning that this is dual POV and I actually disagree with that. Other agents may feel differently, but I like to know genre, word count, POV, and comp titles. This is especially important if you have multiple POVs. I probably would have guessed you were writing in two voices by reading the query, but that is honestly a question I'd prefer the author have answer for me before I request pages.

    I found your opening paragraphs of the novel a little familiar. I think a lot of fantasy novels begin with a girl in a crowd looking around/watching a parade/looking for someone. I really enjoyed your query, but, as an opening, this didn't grab me. I don't get a sense of the character or her personality and I don't really understand the stakes at play.

    This would be a little more attention-grabbing if, say, she was in the middle of pickpocketing someone when she saw Jistan for the first time since they were children out of the corner of her eye and was completely distracted from her task. Maybe it didn't even occur to her that she'd see him until he was right in her line of sight. From that, we immediately get a sense of who she is now and the history she shares with the prince.

    That's just one of dozens of examples of how you can throw us into the story from a slightly different, more immediate, angle.

  9. And I can't believe I forgot to say this, but keep writing!!! This query is truly standout.

  10. Sorry to be so late with this...

    I like the basic premise, and Shai's power is really cool! I would consider cutting the first paragraph of the query, it doesn't say anything that isn't restated in the body. Unfortunately, it's also the only part of the query that conveys any emotion... the rest reads kind of like a book report. All the pieces are there, but I'd love to see some of the feel of the narrative coming through in the query. There's also room for a fair bit of tightening, but I'm sure you'll get there.

    Good luck!