Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Friendsgiving Feedback, Critique 1: SILVER BLADE

To help distract us from the world around us and pay forward the help we've received over the years, several published and pre-published authors are giving away query critiques. The feedback will be posted on our blogs throughout the next two week, with a Twitter chat next Friday, Dec. 2. Join us at 4 and 8 pm EST on #FFChat.

Genre: YA fantasy

The night her parents are brutally murdered, seventeen-year-old Ylana Zsapoti[1] discovers she’s cursed with heart magic,[2] the kind that allows her to give the dead another chance.[3] Now an orphan, Ylana arms herself with her father’s sharp[4] silver daggers and embraces what she knows about her powers in a desperate attempt to bring her parents back.[5] She has to find their killers, rip theirs hearts from their chests[6] and use the still-beating organs to bring her family together.[7] If only she knew exactly how.

Halfway through her mission, Ylana is intercepted by royal forces. The Gabooran King needs her assistance to stop an imminent war. The Princess, promised in marriage to the Kalipe Prince as a way to forge a peace treaty between the rival nations, was murdered. Ylana needs to learn how to use her powers to bring the Princess back.[8] In exchange, the Gabooran King will give Ylana what she wants more than anything[9]—her parents’ murderers. With the help of a small army and the stubborn Kalipe Prince, who neither believes her magic nor seems too thrilled about marrying a resurrected Princess, Ylana faces the hidden dangers of her land.[10] To learn the truth about her powers, she’ll have to enter the Forbidden Forest, a place protected—and haunted—by one-legged, pipe-smoking boys, red-haired, green-teeth dwarfs, and fire serpents.[11] Ylana will not only have to make it out of there alive, she'll also have to make sure the Kalipe Prince doesn't get killed in the process.[12] If only he'd stayed behind.[13]

Ylana has limited time to complete her mission.[14] If she doesn't return in time to resurrect the bride for the wedding, a war between the Gaboorans and the Kalipes will be the least of her concerns.[15] The Gabooran King will make good on his promise and kill the men who took her parents from her, and she’ll never get her family back.[16]

Inspired by Brazilian folklore, SILVER BLADE is a Young Adult Fantasy[17] complete at xxx words. I’m a Brazilian lawyer and #ownvoice writer passionate about my country, its people[18] and rich culture.

[1] I’m not a fan of including the characters’ last names in queries. It’s just usually not necessary.
[2] Cursed is an interesting word here. Why is having magic a bad thing? As written, it sounds like her parents were killed and she can save them, and that would be completely awesome.
[3] At life? To find their killers? The way this is worded is a bit confusing. If she can bring people to life, I’d just say so.
[4] Sharp feels redundant here. I assume she wouldn’t take dull daggers with her.
[5] The powers still sound like more of a blessing than a curse
[6] Add a comma here
[7] Well, this is wonderfully horrific.
[8] I think you can condense/consolidate these three sentences significantly. “The Gabooran Princess was murdered before her marriage could solidify a treaty. The King needs Ylana to bring her back and avoid civil war.” We don’t really need the rest.
[9] This phrase is used so much, it’s become a bit clich├ęd. I’d cut it and just say “give Ylana her parents’ murderers.”
[10] This is too vague. Tell me what she has to deal with. Also, I’d break the paragraph here, because you’re moving from the setup to the conflict.
[11] Something about this doesn’t work for me. I really want to know more about what’s going on in the story. Not who the threats are, but what threat they pose. Or maybe it’s the boys being identified as one-legged and the description of the dwarves. It’s distracting me. I think it has to do with focusing on the antagonists’ disabilities to explain why they’re bad, instead of telling me what they do that’s scary. And then I get nervous wondering how these disabilities are treated in the story when I should be instead focused on wanting to read more.
[12] This sentence is 27 words, and it’s a bit awkward. I think you can trim it so it flows better.
[13] This has good voice, but what really jumps out at me is that the voice is different from the rest of the query. Look for ways to infuse Ylana’s voice throughout. That will make the query stand out more.
[14] I would cut this line, then change “in time” to the actual amount of time Ylana has. “a limited time” doesn’t tell me much.
[15] Consider using a colon here instead.
[16] These are excellent stakes. However, the entire paragraph IS stakes,  so I think you can combine it with the above and cut the longer paragraph elsewhere.
[17] No need to capitalize fantasy. Otherwise, this is good. If you have comp titles, I’d add them here.
[18] Add comma. (Yes, I like the serial comma. So do many agents.)
[19] Thank you for your time and consideration,
[20] A minor note, but don’t fully justify. Left justified with spaces between paragraphs. It’ just easier to read. Overall, this is really interesting.

Don't forget to check out Michelle's blog for yesterday's Friendsgiving Feedback critique. More coming on Emily's, Liana's, and Sarah's blogs throughout Dec. 2.

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