Monday, October 18, 2010

Query Critique #14

Query #14 - Mai

Dear Ms. Agent,

For London Howell, it's hard enough just being sixteen without also worrying about an indifferent uncle and a dad who doesn't recognize his own son some days. London just wants to keep his head down and get by, a simple desire made impossible when a strange girl appears and claims he 'created' her. Whatever that's supposed to mean.
This first sentence doesn't work as a hook. Start with the strange girl and her "claim" (double quotes) that London created her.  If she has a name at this point of the story, use it in the query. BTW, I think the dad should be mentioned before the uncle (as his parent, his shortcomings should hurt more). Also, avoid clichés like "keep his head down." I made an assumption about why the uncle matters here--please correct me if I'm wrong. 
Sixteen-year-old London Howell doesn't know what to do when a strange girl appears and claims he "created" her. It's not like he has anyone he can ask--his dad usually doesn't even recognize him and his uncle's an indifferent guardian.

His plan to dump her off with the police gets derailed when he learns he's drawn the attention of the House of Dering, the family that rules over the city's mages. The measure of a mage's power lies in his soul--power which can be ripped free and exploited--and they think London's got one hell of a repository. They want him to find a Sieve to siphon his magic, but seeing as the family's got enough secrets to fill the Thames, London's pretty sure their intentions are less than benevolent.
This section really works for me.  It sets up the conflict well, gives a nice hint of your narrative voice, and frames the setting in a magical London (although having the setting and the person have the same name might be a problem--unless there's a plot-based reason).

Then his dad goes missing. With demons whispering in his ears, nightwalkers dropping him into shadows and the House of Dering on his back, London has no idea whom to trust. But he will make or break whatever alliances necessary to find his dad, even at the cost of his soul.
I like everything about this set-up except the first sentence and the cliché "on his back." Consider putting the "dad goes missing" at the end of the previous paragraph. 

His plan to dump her off with the police gets derailed when he learns he's drawn the attention of the House of Dering, the family that rules over the city's mages. The measure of a mage's power lies in his soul--power which can be ripped free and exploited--and they think London's got one hell of a repository. They want him to find a Sieve to siphon his magic, but seeing as the family's got enough secrets to fill the Thames, London's pretty sure their intentions are less than benevolent--especially once his dad goes missing. 

With demons whispering in his ears, nightwalkers dropping him into shadows and the House of Dering coveting his untapped magic, London has no idea whom to trust. But he will make or break whatever alliances necessary to find his dad, even at the cost of his soul. 

SOUL SIFTER is a YA urban fantasy at about 86,000 words. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, 
XXX XXXX

Very interesting.  I'd ask for pages.

2 comments:

Mai said...

Wow, thank you so much for the critique. I love all your suggestions, and I'll definitely put them to use when revising.

I didn't even think about the listing order of dad > uncle, so thank you for pointing that out as well.

London's name isn't so much plot-related, as it is simply a source of vague embarrassment for him. His dad named him on the fly for plot-related purposes, but the name itself isn't significant.

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