Query Hack: Critique #14 – MG Urban Fantasy

Dear Query Hack,

Obsessed with his father’s murder, Leonidas discovers he’s a descendant of the legendary monster hunter Abraham van Helsing. And therefore, a target of the monsters responsible for his dad’s death.

  • Neato story premise! I like that we’re quickly acquainted with Leonidas’ abilities/family history, but I found myself wanting a hook about Leonidas or to be introduced to the opening scene or conflict for Leonidas, himself. How does the story open? Are monsters chasing Leonidas? Does he find a magical sword in his dad’s office? Does his father die in chapter one?
  • These two sentences, although they reveal important information, distance the reader somewhat. I think providing immediate stakes for Leonidas would be a great way to remedy that. 
  • I’m curiouswhat led a thirteen-year-old boy to obsess over his father’s murder? Did he witness it? Was he close with his father? Did he go on hunts for monsters with his father? 

When descendants turn thirteen, they exude a scent marking them to the occult. This could explain his attack by werewolves, except, Leo’s only twelve. Which may signify that a darker destiny awaits him.

  • Interesting detail and important world-building information. But (as I mentioned above) I’m wondering if the query should open with a scene/conflict instead of world-building information? 

Leo’s whisked away to a secret school, nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains. There, he’s told about a lost prophecy foretelling of a child with the abilities to win the war of the ‘immortals’. A war, humankind is losing. Mentored by several instructors, including a vampire and werewolf, Leo’s unique talents develop despite his reluctance. He’s forced to accept his connection with the prophecy.

  • Why is he brought to a secret school? Is it to train in his abilities? What other students are sent there? What type of school is this? This information is important to understand why this location and Leo’s being there is important.
  • What are Leo’s talents? Describe that briefly. (Does he have super speed? Quick reflexes?) 

When the sanctuary of the school is infiltrated by the Count of St. Germain’s minions, he must race to dig deeper into human history, mythology and folklore. So he can find St. Germain’s hidden castle, rescue his uncle, and uncover the truth about why humanity is losing. If he can stay alive.

  • This is the first time we’re meeting the Count (who I’m guessing is the antagonist?). Who is this person? What drives them? Why do they want to infiltrate the school/what do they hope to gain?
  • Be careful of your sentence structure here. The second and third sentences are fragments. 
  • I might dig a little deeper/be more specific on what Leo’s mission is, what he’s searching for, and what the ultimate stakes for him/the world are. Whenever possible provide specific (vs. vague) conflict. So, if he must “dig deeper into human history,” you could say he’s racing to beat the monster to a library or museum that contains the only weapon that can defeat a certain type of monster. 
  • This is the first time we hear about his uncle. In order for the stakes to be more impactful/personal, it’s important to learn of Leo’s home life/relationships earlier in the query. 

Because if evidence of the occult’s existence is hidden in plain sight throughout history—someone’s responsible for putting it there.

  • Not sure what you mean here? Usually, the last sentence of the plot summary revolves around the ultimate stakes for the protagonist and book. 

My 78,000 word, stand-alone MG urban fantasy, [Manuscript Title], will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan and Michael Scott. I do envision this being part of a series. I am an active member of the Liberty State Fiction Writer’s group and my background includes a B.A. in Biology and Anthropology from Drew University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

  • Your manuscript title should be in ALL CAPS. 
  • I recommend rewording the first sentence to: MANUSCRIPT TITLE is a standalone 78,000-word MG urban fantasy with series potential that will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan and Michael Scott. 
  • Rick Riordan is a big name in the publishing world. Consider using another author/comp title that’s less well-known.