Query Hack: Critique #23 – Adult Fantasy

Dear Query Hack,

FRACTURED MAGIC is an adult epic fantasy with a Victorian Gothic aesthetic like Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak and a style similar to Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s complete at 110,000 words.

When Leandros Nochdvor, one of the book’s two main characters, witnesses a strange, unsettling creature use magic to kidnap his uncle the king, he goes to Unity—a governmental organization similar to the UN—for help. Unity puts together a team of diplomats to facilitate the king’s return, also slipping some of its most ruthless spies onto the team with a secondary mission: find the source of the magic and take it, even if it means sacrificing the king.

  • In general, it’s recommended to tell your query from a single POV. Therefore, rather than saying “one of the book’s two main characters,” tell the entire query from your “main” protagonist’s point of view.
  • In addition, your query is lacking in voice and feels like a listing of events. To remedy that, consider writing the query from a character-driven perspective. What does Leandros want? What motivates him?
  • Here’s an example of how I recommend reworking your first paragraph:

When Leandros Nochdvor witnesses a [TYPE OF CREATURE] using [TYPE OF MAGIC] to kidnap the king, he has two options. He can either keep his mouth on the better side of shut and hope succession goes in his favor, or he can be a good nephew and try to rescue the passive king of a country eager for change. But when more creatures keep appearing and more people go missing, Leandros goes in search of Unity…

(You get the idea! Infuse this paragraph with voice and character motivation.)

  • I’d like to get a better sense of who Leandros is, what he wants, and what’s in the way of getting what he wants (at the start of the story).
  • Are the magical creatures who kidnap the king new? Why is it important? Is there no magic in this kingdom? 
  • Instead of describing Unity as a governmental organization similar to the UN, describe its function in your world. For example, it could be an alliance of kingdoms in [COUNRTY] with the purpose of preventing war.
  • The secondary mission sounds like a plot twist. Is it something Leandros would know? Be careful to write the book blurb from the protagonist’s perspective and what they know. Therefore, I recommend having that reveal come in later when you’re showing the reader Leandros having to take action and impact the plot. For example, he can realize Unity isn’t trustworthy and that if we wants [GOAL] to happen, he needs to go after the king, himself. 

Leandros is determined to get his uncle back, but things are further complicated when Roman Hallisey, an ex-spy who has a tempestuous history with Unity, secures a place on the team with his own mission: get the magic away from Unity so they can’t abuse its power. Roman doesn’t know that some of that same volatile magic is locked away inside of him, but when it awakens during the mission, he has to find a cure before the magic corrupts him from the inside out and turns him into a monster—just like the creature that took Leandros’ uncle. He tells Leandros—an old friend, almost lover, and something else entirely, now—that if he fails, Leandros will have to kill him.

  • Why does Leandros want his uncle back? Are they close? Is he a good king? What are Leandros’ motivations? What does he hope to accomplish? Also, why isn’t he suspicious of the magical creatures? Did someone send them?
  • Be careful of vague (vs. specific) conflict. Examples of when you skirted to too vague conflict are: “things are further complicated,” “an ex-spy who has a tempestuous history with Unity,” etc. 
  • In this paragraph, you swap to Roman’s perspective. Again, I recommend writing the book blurb from a single POV (either Roman’s or Leandros’). 
  • Your book blurb needs to do a few things: introduce us to your protagonist and his desires, show us the inciting incident and the big question or problem at the beginning of the book (what drives the plot?), show us the rising stakes, show us what gets in the way of the protagonist achieving his goal, and then show the character being forced to make a decision at the end of the book (ultimate stakes). 

While my focus during the last few years was on completing law school and drafting FRACTURED MAGIC, I have a few pieces published in my undergraduate literary magazine as well as a creative nonfiction piece in the first issue of Honey and Lime Literary Magazine. FRACTURED MAGIC is an #ownvoices work.

Thank you for your consideration.