Thursday, October 29, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1279 would like your feedback on the revision below.

To Arek Pa’Gorin, the phrase ‘like night and day’ holds extra meaning - by day he is prince of the kingdom and at night he is an assassin.

When eight-year-old Prince Arek witnesses his parents’ murders and is safeguarded by a magical spell, his mind is fragmented. From that day on, when Prince Arek falls asleep, the assassin Rykter wakes. And neither is aware of the other. [So Rykter's mind occupies Arek's body? Because it would be hard for someone in an eight-year-old body to be a successful assassin for very long. Wouldn't anyone notice the prince leaving his bedroom and slinking around with a dagger? I assume he assassinates people in their sleep, but sooner or later someone'll wake up when he enters their room, and overpowering a little kid would be easy.]

Nine years later, [If we're gonna jump ahead nine years anyway, why not have the parents get killed when Arek is fifteen? It's easier to buy a fifteen-year-old assassin. If he simply must be eight, I recommend not revealing his age in the query. Does anything crucial happen while Arek is eight or nine years old besides his parents' deaths?] Lord Regent Zander sees his rule coming to an end as Prince Arek nears his eighteenth birthday. He devises a plan to lengthen his reign indefinitely, which includes hiring an assassin to kill the Prince. The assassin Rykter, carrying his vampiric Blood Blade, goes to the royal chambers to kill the Prince, but the room is empty but oddly familiar. When Rykter removes his mask in front of a mirror, he and Prince Arek come face to face for the first time. [Does this mask just appear on Arek's face when he falls asleep? And for nine years he's never removed it to look at his face? How does he know the face in the mirror is Arek's? I assume Rykter doesn't assassinate someone every night; does he have friends, hobbies, a life? Is there an all-night bowling alley in the village?]

Unable to accuse the Lord Regent without outing himself as an assassin, Prince Arek flees. Pursued by mercenaries and mutated creatures, he must reach sanctuary. But he cannot run from Rykter. Prince Arek must face his dark side, because along the way he uncovers a secret - he carries the key to humanity’s salvation, or its destruction.

THE BLOOD BLADE is an 81,000 word YA Fantasy with crossover potential that will appeal to fans of Melina Marchetta’s The Lumatere Series as well as Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy. The story can stand on its own, but is intended as a series.


It's better. You don't have to address my issues, which are plot-related rather than query-related, if you feel it's unlikely they'll be issues with the agent. 


Anonymous said...

I'm okay with Rykter being something of a sleepwalker (or sleepkiller) who near-somnolently dons a superassassin outfit that stays in a secret drawer in Arek's bedroom and then goes about his business without ever thinking to look in a mirror. But this does raise other questions. Why does he remove the mask on the night he goes looking for Arek? It's a moment of wonderful impact in your query, so keep it by all means. Maybe add something like "On an impulse, Rykter removes his mask" or whatever his motive is.

I also wonder that Zander knows how to contact Rykter for the job. You'd have to know where he lives, wouldn't you? Or -- aha -- is Zander in on the secret and somehow hoping Rykter will sink a knife in his own chest?

"he carries the key to humanity’s salvation, or its destruction" is a wild raising of the stakes at the last second. I was following Arek through primeval forests and looking over my shoulder at Orcs and stegosauruses when suddenly all of humanity was going to be wiped out. If those really are the stakes in your book and you build to them at a reasonable pace, okay -- but I might soften it in the query. "He carries the key to far more than his own or even his country's salvation" or something suggestive like that.

Last thing, I might use "different as night and day" instead of "like night and day" in your first line. By the way, I think that sentence is one of two really great twists in this query and a strong incentive to read on. I'm fond of twists.

Anonymous said...

I'm still having trouble with them being totally unaware of each other. I mean, sure, Arek goes to sleep and then presumably wakes up with no awareness anything has happened... but doesn't Rykter, like, wake up in the prince's chamber, in the prince's bed... and that doesn't raise any questions for him? And then, wouldn't he be going back to the bed so Arek could wake up unaware?

It just seems like when he goes to Arek's chamber to kill him and the surroundings seem "familiar," he might think, "Oh, right... this is where I wake up every night. Weird."

So if there's some kind of trance thing where no one's really in control or aware of their movement in and out of the castle until Rykter takes hold somewhere out in the city or maybe a transportation spell of some kind that puts Rykter waking up in his hideaway, I'd allude to that.

I agree the humanity's destruction stakes come out of nowhere. I wasn't aware it was in danger.

InkAndPixelClub said...

While I don't want a lengthy explanation of how Arek and Rykter have never become aware of each other before now, I do think an editor or agent will be wondering if you've handled this plausibly. I can buy magic taking care of issues like neither personality getting any sleep. But you'd figure one or both of them are constantly waking up in places they don't remember going to sleep in and Arek may have a few bruises or injuries he can't account for. If you've demonstrated your adept handling of this issue in other material you'll be sending with the query, you might be safe. But a little hint at what's going on that lets the two personalities ignore or explain away each others' existence would be nice. Just enough to let the query reader know you're thinking about it.

I'm not as in love with the first sentence as the Anon above me seems to be. Id rather get straight to the facts than dwell on the extra meaning a common phrase holds for a character I've just met. Use your own best judgement on whether it works or not.

I'd try to keep the backstory to a minimum. Even if you can just avoid the nine year time jump, it'd help the flow of the query. Maybe one sentence like "Nine years ago, magic and the trauma of witnessing his parents' murders turned Arek into split personality Batman." Then continue on with "Now he's about to become king, but...."

I am sure the vampiric blood blade is important in the story, since you've named the book after it, but I don't know that you need it in the query. The title isn't so confusing without it that you absolutely have to fit it in there.

If you shorten the backstory, you'll hopefully have space to explain what sanctuary Arek is running to and what he'll possibly be able to do if her can face his dark side.

I'm not sure if "crossover potential" means it might appeal to fans of other genres or that Arek could meet characters from other books Ina sequel. Either way, I don't think you need it.

Despite my criticism, I like the core idea and I think you have a good story here. The query just needs a little work to go from "this could be interesting" to "I cannot wait to read this and throw money at it!"

Anonymous said...

The first line would be better if it was punchier. As is, it doesn't add anything to the query that you don't cover later.

Starting with witnessing the brutal murder of his parents would work fine. Is the magic spell protecting him involved in fracturing his mind or part of the reason he survives the next nine years? If so, say that. If not, you can leave it off. There are plenty of ways he could witness and survive. I'm with EE on leave off the age here, otherwise we need an explanation as to how he gets assassination training at age eight, or when he takes up the black hood and dagger, so to speak.

I'm still not getting a good sense of why now for the regent. He's known this was coming for nine years. Small children are much more vulnerable and prone to accidents, so either the regent's only recently decided to continue ruling, in which case why? Or something else is going on, in which case what? Also, by 'indefinitely' do you mean he plans on becoming immortal somehow? If so, say that.

There are lots of ways to accuse someone without revealing your identity, especially if he's been indiscreet enough to be hiring the competition. Politics being what they are, I don't see a problem with putting an assassin on the throne. The fractured mind angle might work a little better, but only if it makes him provably incompetent to rule. Personally, as an assassin hired to kill myself, I'd be more worried about any potentially noble impulses lessening my survivability during daylight hours when I couldn't defend myself, not to mention all the others hired to hunt me down. i.e. Rykter knows what's going on and has reason to get Arek out of the way of impending danger before Arek can stop him from doing so.

You might as well spill the secret if you're going to bring it up. Just saying there's a secret with big consequences is vague. Saying something like the Blood Blade can suck the life out of all humanity and make its wielder a god would define the stakes better, or whatever is going on.