Query Critique #1

I love writing queries and helping others with others whenever I have a chance. Add your critique in the comments!

Dear Natasha,

Five thieves break into a moving mechanical library in order to win the throne to their city’s underground court. While I find this very interesting, it’s a mouthful. Consider tightening this sentence to really hook your readers. While ‘moving mechanical library’ is intriguing, I wonder if cutting that and starting off with ‘Five thieves must break into their city’s underground court in hopes of winning the throne’ or something like that. 

Questions that arise from this paragraph: 1. Are these thieves working together or are they in competition with each other as they attempt to win the throne?  2. Who are they taking the throne from? 3. Where is this city? 4. When they win the throne, what do they get from it? Is it a new life? Maybe include that so it feeds into your characters better.

For Wyn it’s a way home: kidnapped from the shores of her homeland and placed into the deadly Arena, Wyn has been searching for where she is from for years. The Rogue King’s network might just be what she needs to find her lost homeland.

In this paragraph, you’ve thrown a lot at the reader that we don’t understand. What is the Arena and what is The Rogue King? Is the Arena the moving mechanical library? Searching for home and the repetition of homeland could be eliminated here. Maybe focus on her returning to her family. 

For Therin it’s a way to freedom: a runaway librarian, Therin has been living in the margins, searching for a way out. When strangers enter his home, he thinks he might have finally found it. I’m really curious about the role libraries and librarians have in this world. I’m not sure the second sentence is helping the way it’s written. It seems too vague. Try inserting a more detailed reason, especially if it shows how he’s connected to The Rogue King Rephrasing might tighten this. 

For Rika it’s a shield: in a ruthless and brutal world, the one thing that Rika wants is to keep her son safe. The Rogue King has been doing that for years, but with this job, she might just be able to do it herself. Since you’ve mentioned The Rogue King again, it makes me wonder if it would be stronger if you inserted it in the first sentence.  So maybe, Five of The Rogue King’s thieves… if that works with the plot, of course. 

For Ella, it’s a debt: with a life debt hanging over her head, she’s willing to brave the depths of the library just to get it paid. I want to know more about why libraries are so dangerous in this world. Consider going into more detail with your first paragraph and hooking us right then and there.  A debtfree existence will allow her to finally rebuild the theater of her childhood, the only place she’s ever felt safe. Try to reduce the number of times you use the word debt. The second paragraph just feels like extra information that doesn’t do anything for me as a reader. 

For Lio it’s the chance to make his family love him. If he can make it out of the library, then he can move up in the world and show everyone that his illegitimate birth means nothing, he was always supposed to live a life of wealth and influence. I immediately thought of John Snow 😀 I’d cut the repetitive beginning and combine the two sentences. I get what you are trying to do with the repetition of For XX it’s, but as a reader, my brain starts to gloss over the information because it feels too repetitive. You need to keep me hooked with every sentence. Within this section, you have introduced your characters, but you haven’t given me many details relating to the plot. You’ve set us up with a lot of backstories when I want to know what’s happening now. Give me the juicy plot details for each of these characters. 

For all of them, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

For all of them, they will be risking life and limb for a chance at their greatest desire.

Unfortunately, getting in is the easy part, it’s the getting out that’s going to be a problem. 

The first two sentences are repetitive because you’ve shown us how it’s an opportunity for each character. Try showing the stakes in a less cliché way for the final wrap up paragraph. What happens if they fail? Who is working against these five? I’m getting a Hunger Games vibe from the library assuming to fail means death because of the lack of details. Whether that is or isn’t the case, you need to seal the deal and make me want to find out what happens. Show me the stakes!

With the intrigue and mystery of THREE DARK CROWNS and the character dynamics of SIX OF CROWS, A BENEDICTION AND A CROWN, is young adult fantasy with 105,000 words. I’d flip this around to put your novel title first to make it stand out more. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Feel free to revise and resubmit! This novel sounds very exciting. 

One thought on “Query Critique #1

  1. Hello!

    I remember we traded first chapters once so if I remember right, the first chapter started with the Rogue King being dead, therefore his throne was vacated. I definitely think that’s worth mentioning in the query because it seemed like the inciting incident that gets the whole plot moving, and then you can also explain who the Rogue King is 🙂

    Also, I’m kinda confused about the five of them trying to win the throne together? Are they going to have to kill each other for the throne eventually or are they going to share the throne? I think when you write the final paragraph about the stakes, you should make the stakes somehow seem higher. Your last line ended with “getting out that’s going to be a problem.” The way you have the query setup, it seems like the problem is going to lead to them having to kill each other? I might be mistaken though, but if I am right, definitely add that into the query.

    Good luck 🙂

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