Query Critique Numero Dos

Bienvenidos to the second installment of the query critique giveaway! 

Let's take a look and see what we're working with! As always, feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below or send questions via twitter! :)

ORIGINAL QUERY 

When sixteen-year-old Aadira Zaman – jewel of Kharazak and future bride to the Sultan – is kidnapped by thieves and taken to the middle of the desert, she expects them to demand a pricey ransom. What she finds instead is a group of bandits led by the King of Thieves, who is willing to give her a chance at freedom in exchange for a way into the Sultan’s vault and the magical treasure hidden inside.   

Aadira has been groomed since birth to be the Sultan’s wife, and she’s not willing to betray him. While she waits for the rescue she’s sure will come for her, she finds herself more and more drawn to Shahar, the King of Thieves’ son. 

Shahar is everything Aadira should despise – he is her kidnapper, a thief and a liar. And yet, he shows her kindness in a way she never knew. He teaches her how to read and tells her stories of the ancient kingdom before theirs, of the cruelty of the Vizier and the freedom that awaits her beyond the borders and outside the Sultan’s reach. Soon, Aadira begins to realize there’s more to the people who kidnapped her are more than just thieves. Years ago, the Vizier murdered Shahar’s uncle and took possession of a legendary treasure that holds the key to saving the kingdom. Finding the treasure means Aadira could escape a marriage she never wanted while helping the King of Thieves avenge his brother.

When Shahar almost dies in a mercenary attack and saves her life, Aadira must choose – fulfill her duty of marrying the Sultan and risk never knowing freedom, or betray everything she has ever known for the chance of finding love.

THE GIRL OF A HUNDRED VEILS is a YA fantasy retelling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves finished at 83,000 words. Though the novel has been written as the first in a trilogy, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Renée Ahdieh’s THE WRATH AND THE DAWN and Jessica Khoury’s THE FORBIDDEN WISH. I live in Brazil where I’m finishing my BA in Literature and Linguistics. I’m also the creator of #PitchAmérica, a pitch contest that focuses on bringing Latinx voices to light in publishing. You can find out more about me on my website: www.onlybylaura.com

BREAKING IT DOWN

When sixteen-year-old Aadira Zaman – jewel of Kharazak and future bride to the Sultan – is kidnapped by thieves and taken to the middle of the desert, she expects them to demand a pricey ransom. What she finds instead is a group of bandits led by the King of Thieves, who is willing to give her a chance at freedom in exchange for a way into the Sultan’s vault and the magical treasure hidden inside.     

This is a fantastic start! Here's what is working:

  • Introduction to the main character and age.
  • Some insight into her world. Jewel of Kharazak and the Sultan is her fiancee. From that you can infer that she's a well bred young woman from a good family. 
  • Intro to another character—the King of Thieves. 
  • We have a very interesting plot point: Instead of being ransomed, she can betray her fiancé for a chance at freedom. This might be a sentence best served in the second paragraph, but were going to keep reading to see what else we have. 

Sometimes, your query might have all the right stuff. Punchy and evocative lines, stakes and deft characterization. It might even have too much, or be in the wrong place. 

Aadira has been groomed since birth to be the Sultan’s wife, and she’s not willing to betray him. While she waits for the rescue she’s sure will come for her, she finds herself more and more drawn to Shahar, the King of Thieves’ son. 

  • Lots of intrigue! Aadira is setting herself off for a difficult choice the closer she gets to the band of thieves—especially the King's son. I want to keep reading and the query is pulling me into the story, bit by bit. 

Shahar is everything Aadira should despise – he is her kidnapper, a thief and a liar. And yet, he shows her kindness in a way she never knew. He teaches her how to read and tells her stories of the ancient kingdom before theirs, of the cruelty of the Vizier and the freedom that awaits her beyond the borders and outside the Sultan’s reach. Soon, Aadira begins to realize there’s more to the people who kidnapped her are more than just thieves. Years ago, the Vizier murdered Shahar’s uncle and took possession of a legendary treasure that holds the key to saving the kingdom. Finding the treasure means Aadira could escape a marriage she never wanted while helping the King of Thieves avenge his brother.     

This is another great paragraph. Here's what's working:

  • We have some great descriptive interaction between the main character and the love interest. I would trim some of it, but more on that later! 
  • Increased tension in the story. The reader knows that as Aadira gets closer to her kidnappers, the harder it will be to betray the Sultan. 
  • We get some backstory about Shahar's family 

This is a great paragraph but the writer is also giving a bit too much away. There is a fine line between having too much of the story and not enough. This is a smidge on the too much info. You want your reader to discover these sweet moments between Aadira and Shahar and not be told about them! In the same vein, we don't need to know too much about the love interest's family background. 

There is also a switch happening and it reads abrupt in the query. Of course it would make sense in the story since the change would happen gradually. But in an earlier paragraph, we have Aadira's loyalty to the Sultan and how she's been groomed to be his bride and how she's not willing to betray him. In this paragraph, we learn that she never wanted the marriage in the first place. It's a contradiction best served in the actual story within the proper context. To keep the tension high in the query, I'd omit this sentence. 

There is also a confusing sentence: Soon, Aadira begins to realize there’s more to the people who kidnapped her are more than just thieves.

When Shahar almost dies in a mercenary attack and saves her life, Aadira must choose – fulfill her duty of marrying the Sultan and risk never knowing freedom, or betray everything she has ever known for the chance of finding love.  

I think this is a great last paragraph, but I'd tweak the wording so it's a bit clearer. Does Shahar almost die while saving Aadira's life? Are the two incidents of a mercenary attach and saving Aadira's life related? Right now it reads one event happens right after the other.

THE GIRL OF A HUNDRED VEILS is a YA fantasy retelling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves finished at 83,000 words. Though the novel has been written as the first in a trilogy, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Renée Ahdieh’s THE WRATH AND THE DAWN and Jessica Khoury’s THE FORBIDDEN WISH. I live in Brazil where I’m finishing my BA in Literature and Linguistics. I’m also the creator of #PitchAmérica, a pitch contest that focuses on bringing Latinx voices to light in publishing. You can find out more about me on my website: www.onlybylaura.com    

The bio section is pretty great as is, but there are a couple of nitpicky things we can change to smooth this paragraph. 

The writer doesn't need to write "finished" as the agent assumes the novel is completed, otherwise why are you querying? Same with the phrase "complete at X words". The only other thing I would take out is the last line about the website! Your website should be under your name on the bottom. If they'd like to know more about you, they will click on the link provided, trust me. Agents do their fair share of stalking as well. :)

Overall, this is a well written query and I'm super impressed by how well the writer incorporated different elements into the query! 

EDITED QUERY

First paragraph:  When sixteen-year-old Aadira Zaman – jewel of Kharazak and future bride to the Sultan – is kidnapped by thieves and taken to the middle of the desert, she expects them to demand a pricey ransom. What she finds instead is a group of bandits led by the King of Thieves, who is willing to give her a chance at freedom in exchange for a way into the Sultan’s vault and the magical treasure hidden inside that holds the key to saving the kingdom.

Second Paragraph: Aadira has been groomed since birth to be the Sultan’s wife, and she’s not willing to betray him. While she waits for the rescue she’s sure will come for her, she finds herself more and more drawn to Shahar, the King of Thieves’ son. Shahar is everything Aadira should despise – he is her kidnapper, a thief and a liar. But there's more to the King's son than meets the eye, and Aadira is surprised by Shahar's kind manner with her. From the way he teaches her new things and to how he shares stories about the ancient kingdom before theirs, the son of The King of Thieves isn't what she expected. 

Third Paragraph: When Shahar almost dies in a mercenary attack and saves her life, Aadira must choose – fulfill her duty of marrying the Sultan and risk never knowing freedom, or betray everything she has ever known for the chance of finding love.

Bio section: THE GIRL OF A HUNDRED VEILS is an 83,000 word YA fantasy retelling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. Though the novel has been written as the first in a trilogy, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Renée Ahdieh’s THE WRATH AND THE DAWN and Jessica Khoury’s THE FORBIDDEN WISH. I live in Brazil where I’m finishing my BA in Literature and Linguistics. I’m also the creator of #PitchAmérica, a pitch contest that focuses on bringing Latinx voices to light in publishing. 

I hope this installment was helpful!! Great job to the writer! Do let me know if you have any questions! :) 

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