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Public Critique: DREGO'S SWORD Query


Are you guys up for a query critique? It's been awhile! This one is for a YA high fantasy (fun!) and it's nice and short. Let's see what kind of feedback you have for Ashley who'd really love some outside input. If you're interested in having a query or excerpt posted for critique, please e-mail me for details.

Dear (Agent)

War is tearing apart the countries of Cyrah. Power-hungry Gordar has killed the previous king and has ascended to the throne. Using a kidnapped seer and a ruthless assassin, Gordar is bent on finding the three gems hidden throughout the land. A single gem holds an infinite amount of magic. Whoever possesses all three will have power unlimited.

But the first of the gems has already fallen into the hands of seventeen-year-old Drego, a talented young warrior from a small coastal village. He sets out to find the last two gems and defeat Gordar, a journey that will take him throughout Cyrah, into the arms of a headstrong young woman, and to a darker, more violent part of himself he hadn’t known existed.

Drego's Sword is an epic medieval fantasy that is 95, 000 words in length. It is the first book in a young adult series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Laura Pauling said...

Nice premise! I'm wondering if you should not start your first paragraph with world building but start with your character. and I"m wondering what his motivation is find the last 2 gems? Are their personal stakes in it?

Good luck!

Jamie Manning said...

I agree with Laura - excellent premise, but maybe try starting with the character and his dilemma. Overall, though, I find it enticing!

Lydia Sharp said...

This is actually pretty solid, in my opinion. It has a nice flow.

The only thing that made me pause was the phrase "fallen into the hands of..." It just seems a little too vague, like, he just happened to find this gem alongside the road while traveling and thought it was a nice-looking rock for his collection. Of course, I know that isn't what happened, but that's the impression I got because we're missing something concrete there. If these gems are so valuable then it seems unlikely for someone to have possession of one without clear intent.

It's up to you whether you think it's important enough to add to the query, though. As is, I would definitely want to see sample pages.

Good luck with this! :)

Huntress said...

In addition to the above comments, note you are 'telling' us Drego is a talented warrior. Show us why he is, give the reader a reason to care about him.

BTW, the last sentence in the second paragraph absolutely sparks my interest. Super job. More of that please :)

Francesca said...

I agree that its not a bad idea to start with your protagonist, his goals, motivation and so on.

So here is a very (very) rough alternative opening: Drego, only seventeen but already one of the most talented warriors in all of Cyrah, has discovered (stumbled across, won in single-combat with a dragon, accidentally swallowed - not sure of yr story!) one of the Three Gems, mystical artifacts of immense power thought lost forever after (the last War of the Mages, they were stolen by an enemy, the king accidentally flushed them down the toilet). Now he's running for his life from Gordar who will stop at nothing to possess all three.

Then you do the war, the fact that Gordor has murdered the king and usurped the throne - and then you have Drego decide to stop running away and start questing FOR, realizing warriors don't run, they FIGHT. Yee ha!

Anyway - I love the concept, think you've got a good thing going but give this query a lot more kapow! and you stand a better chance of catching an agent's eye.

Good luck and all the best.

Unknown said...

Right, I agree that you definitely want to start by introducing Drego's character. I'm on my first cup of coffee, and you almost lost me in the first paragraph. I was like, "Wuh? Who? Is Gordar the main character?"

Also, I'm just curious, but if ONE gem holds infinite amount of magic then....what's the point in nabbing all three? Infinite is infinite. It's an absolute. I have issues with infinitum x3 - then it's not so infinite, is it? (I think I just gave myself a headache there)

And who is the war between? It just makes it sound like you have this one bloke taking over everything. Obviously your main character would have to have a side willing to help HIM, yes? You don't have to answer all of these, but there are a lot of very stark statements in this query.

Also, you don't have to tell us Gordar is power-hungry. He's all over the place with his shenanigans. I have issue with the first paragraph not being about about your MC or being woven with his story, but it does a decent job of showing your villain is, well, power hungry.

I also agree with Huntress - nix the "talented young warrior" bit. Not only is it telling, it's your opinion. I always get a bit iffy when authors compliment their MCs.

So what's driving Drego? He's got that gem, but what's keeping him from chucking the damn thing off a cliff somewhere and saying, "You know what guys? I'm out. Off to the pub."? There has to be some internal motivation present for why he would risk his life, against who is now the ruler of the land, to find the other two stones. I'm not getting any internal drive for your main character in this query, nor any sense of who he is. I see his quest, possible future conflict (more violent parts of himself should REALLY be more elaborated upon. Does the journey cause this, or what?), but there's no sense of why I should sympathize with this bloke.

All in all, the problem I am seeing with this query is too much backstory, too much telling, and not enough information about your protagonist. Right now, it sounds like many other epic fantasy novels out there. When you get into telling us who your protagonist is, why we should care about him, and what makes his journey either craptastic or difficult, then you will make this query more wholly unique to your story.

Best of luck!

Munk said...

I agree with many of the comments above, so I'll paraphrase my thoughts/opinions:
1) Good length of query
2) Best to start by describing Drego and showing us why he is so cool
3)Infinite + unlimited = ?
4)In para 1 you refer to the three gems as "the" three gems, but we don't know anything about the gems yet
5)Overall: great premise

Natalie Aguirre said...

I agree with everyone else. The length is great. Just start the query with Drego and then share some of the first paragraph.

Perhaps you should end with what the personal stakes are for Drego. Why is he searching for the last two gems? How does it affect him?

I love high fantasy. Good luck.

kathrynjankowski said...

Great points, all, but I especially agree with Natalie.
We know Drego wants the gem (GOAL), assume Gordor is what's stopping him (CONFLICT), but I don't get a sense of what's at stake. Are Drego's plans for power any different than Gordor's?

yuenmei said...

Overall, a clean, professional query that gets to the point and is rational and well thought out.

I'm guessing the reason you'd want all three is because that way no one else has the power to challenge you, but I agree that you might want to change the word infinite.

The plot is similar to others I have heard. If I were you, I'd look through the manuscript and find what about it makes it unique from other fantasy you've read, and focus on that in your query. If you can't think of anything... revision time!

Christine Tyler said...

Ariane is bolder than I. I wasn't going to say anything, but I agree with her last paragraph. Collecting stones/talismans/weapons for ultimate power before the baddie can is a really familiar concept, along with the young, talented warrior.

I'd look over your manuscript for really unique bits of YOU. Any bit you'd point out to someone to argue the above fact (but this character has a knee-bending weakness for foreign cheeses! the main girl he meets is a marbles champion!), I'd bring those things out. It'll give your query some punch and color.

Ryan Sullivan said...

I must admit, I'm not a fantasy person, so I'm a bit out of genre here. But, I love that you've really pared this down and kept it tight and to the point.

My concern, if I were an agent looking at this, is that it leaves me a bit cold. You have the plot points, but I'm not seeing enough of what makes your world unique, or what drives your writing. I think that could be because it is so tightly written. So, I kind of want to see a little more, a little something that makes this really "you."

Also, I think it's generally a good idea, if you can, to tell what makes this story yours in the technical paragraph. Anything you can add there regarding what you bring, how you approach it, or what makes you the right author can help.


Casey McCormick said...

Hi Ashley!

I agree with a lot of what's been said before me.

More than anything, I'd like to see you start the query with Drego. When I started reading I was afraid the story wasn't really YA. So, start with Drego and then move to the War and conflict.

I also agree you need to highlight the stakes for Drego better. I'm getting the fact that Gordar is bad and Drego has to save the country but it would be much stronger if you could show why it would be Really Bad if Gordar got all three gems. And why Drego has to be the one to defeat him.

I absolutely LOVE the length of the query and the second sentence in the second paragraph. It's a strong query. Just needs a bit of tweaking.

Good luck!!

Ashley said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Robin Egg said...

My two suggestions have already been covered:

1. Bring your protagonist into the first sentence and make us care about him.

2. Give the reader a better sense of the tone of your writing.

You have a great handle on plot, clarity and length already!

Anonymous said...

2 things for me:

1. The opening sentence didn't grip me.

2. Why does Drego have this awesome gem already?!

Anyway, I'm trying to revise my own query letter. I'm a huge epic fantasy fan (my MS is high fantasy as well). Good luck! I really want high fantasy to make a comeback.