Query Hack: Critique #18 – YA Fantasy

Dear Query Hack,

Sixteen-year-old high school track star Ember Meadows gives up on normal after her dad disappears into the river from their car wreck. Ember hopes to hide in the basement of her dad’s coffee shop. Instead, she uncovers a hidden door that opens to Espereva, a realm familiar to her from a childhood story. Ember learns her family had escaped to the human world thirteen years ago to protect their abilities of telekinesis, intelligence, element manipulation, and super strength from her bitter grandfather, the king. She feels an instant attachment to her birthplace, but senses something is out of balance.

  • I love the spunk of the first line, but I think it could be even more impactful. For example, when you say she gives up on normal, are you referring to her home life? School life? First lines are so important to portray not simply the uniqueness of the story but your character’s voice. 
  • I might change the second two lines to: “While hiding in the basement of her dad’s coffee shop, a hidden door springs open. Rather than leading to the cellar or crawl space, there are endless grassy fields in all directions, quite unlike the paved streets of [TOWN].” As you can see, it’s important to show the reader of your query what is happening, rather than telling them there’s a hidden door to another world. Later in your query, you can reveal that it’s a hidden world and why it’s important/relevant to her or her family. 
  • How does Ember learn of what Espereva is and her family’s history there? 
  • Rather than saying something is “out of balance,” I recommend showing it. Are the creatures of this world acting out and attacking people? Are the nights growing longer? Etc. 

Determined to understand her roots, Ember stumbles upon a camp of rebels intent on salvaging the ruined realm. While she struggles to control her abilities, she befriends Wren, who is training to master her ability of water manipulation. When the king’s henchmen kidnap Wren, Ember is determined to get her back.

  • I’d love to see the transition of Ember leaving Earth to go to this other realm. Did she pack a bag? Bring a friend? What made her decide to go to Espereva? How did she learn what this world was? 
  • How is the realm ruined? More details!
  • Who are these rebels? Who or what are they rebelling against?
  • Why is Ember struggling to control her abilities? Why is it more difficult now than it had been?
  • Her friend has water manipulation as an ability. What is the magic of this world like? What abilities do/can people have? 
  • Why do the king’s henchmen kidnap Wren? Would love more details here. Did Wren provoke them somehow or steal something they want? 

A rare visit from Damien, her dad’s twin brother, exposes her grandfather’s desire to drain select inhabitants of their powers for his own gain. Damien offers Ember a trade. Wren for the Actuator, a stolen device that extracts abilities. If Ember can find this device, she gets her friend back but puts the others at risk of losing their abilities. If she refuses, Wren will become the king’s next fatal science experiment—and Ember can’t lose another loved one.

  • Damien visits Ember. But where is Ember? Is she back at home or in Espereva? 
  • When you say Ember’s grandfather wants to drain people of their powers for his own gain, can you be more specific? What will he gain? Their powers?
  • Why does Damien want Ember to get the Actuator? (Cool name, by the way!) Why doesn’t he get it for himself? 
  • When you say “puts the others at risk of losing their abilities,” do you mean Damien is working on behalf of her grandfather and will extract abilities for him?
  • I think it needs to be made clearer that Wren was kidnapped for a science experiment. Does the science experiment have to do with extracting powers? More details!
  • I’d also love to see more of how Ember and Wren became close (and therefore why Ember would risk so much to rescue someone she just met). 

Complete at 81,000 words, A FEATHER’S FORCE is a YA fantasy that would appeal to fans who enjoyed the journey of self-discovery and drive for survival in THE DARKEST MINDS and the adventure of the PERCY JACKSON series.

I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a background in published journalism.

Thank you so much for your interest and consideration.

  • I’d love more details about you in your bio!