Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for THE AMBER THIEF, a young adult fantasy complete at 98,000 words. It is comparable to the world building and betrayal of C. J. Redwine’s THE SHADOW QUEEN and Mary E. Pearson’s THE KISS OF DECEPTION.

Princess Jezzabelle’s father rules over the cursed kingdom of Nisentha. Every child born there must have a piece of their soul encased in gemstone in order to survive. This gemstone, a token, must be fiercely protected--for if it breaks, the owner dies.

After Jezzabelle’s sister is assassinated, her father is paralysed by grief and retreats from the world. It is left to Jezzabelle to take control of the kingdom, and root out her sister’s killer. To find the assassin, and the people he was working for, Jezzabelle will do anything--from burning down entire villages to smashing tokens without a second thought.

Rumours reach her about a rebel leader, known only as “The Shadow”, who has claimed responsibility for her sister’s death. Not only is he amassing forces against her, but he has a mysterious power over tokens that allows him to use people like puppets. After she is attacked by her own captain of the guard, under the Shadow’s control, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

Not knowing who she can trust, she leaves the council in charge and takes off in the middle of the night to find the Shadow herself. Disguised as a peasant, she enlists the help of a token-thief, Talin, who has been working for the resistance. She soon realises the Shadow’s power is much greater than she had expected, and that he might be able to control her too. She must find a way to stop him, or risk losing herself--and her kingdom, forever.

I am currently an undergraduate history student at UCLA, with a minor in English focusing on creative writing. I have had two poems published in the Young Poets Anthology in the UK. I was also one of the winners of the 2016 Pitch to Publication competition with this manuscript, meaning that I spent six weeks working on it with a freelance editor.

I appreciate your time and hope to hear back from you soon.

A.O.


THE AMBER THIEF

The cold, white peaks glared down at Jezzabelle, a constant reminder of how much further they had to go. Riding had long since lost its interest, and after nearly a day in the saddle she wanted nothing more than a warm bed and sleep. The dull scenery reflected her boredom, bare moors and pale mountains as far as the eye could see. She was itching for some kind of change. 

Anything to distract her from the nagging question that scurried around her head like a restless dog. It obscured all other thoughts, nipping at her insides with each step.

She just wanted to get there. She needed to know if, this time, they had found him. 

Her token bounced against her chest in time with the horse’s steady pace. The small emerald star gleamed in the pale sunlight like a third eye. The faint mist inside it swirled faster and faster with every passing minute, matching her growing anticipation.

She would turn to one of the other riders for distraction, but the company made the already dull journey insufferable. Riam, who had insisted that as Royal Vizier he should accompany her, kept stopping to point out the peculiar shape of the clouds, or wandering off to marvel at the unique nature of the weeds that grew in mountain country. Jezzabelle suspected he just wanted an excuse to stop and rest.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The concept of your book is pretty neat. I like the dynamics of her avenging her sister, but having to be a kind of anti-hero in order to do it. I like books with a deeply complex (and not always nice) main character. I do think you need to trim down the length of your query though, as it ran on a little.

The other thing I think is that you might want to start your first scene in a different place. Immediately, we're in the scene of her being bored, nothing happening, etc. This can make the reader wonder why they should follow her. I can see from the hints you give about her necklace that the writing's going to have some pop in it later, but I can't really see it here. However, this has loads of potential, IMO, and I'd be really interested to see how the story developed.

Jean said...

I liked the idea of this book. I don't read much fantasy but I liked the concept here. I would like to maybe know WHY they have to have parts of their souls in these tokens? I also think the query is a bit long. It could be sharpened, for not all of that information is needed. Pack a punch, really get to the big points of the story. Cleaned - tightened- up, this query could be really good! Some rewording here and there, too.

I agree with the boredom. What if you started the scene with this:

She just wanted to get there. She needed to know if, this time, they had found him.

Raise the stakes. Hook us. We want the urgency and the hook right away.
I am definitely intrigued by the story though!

Carolyne T said...

Wow! I love the revenge/adventure storyline here and unlikely alliance between Jezzabelle and Talin.
Based off this submission, I would want to see more (and didn't stop reading at any point). Having said that, for your query letter, is there anyway to merge paragraphs 2&3 and 4&5 while trimming a few lines so that it tightens the overall pitch in the middle?

For the opening lines of the story, I loved how you sprinkled in the setting. I didn't find Jezzabelle's state of ennui off putting. In fact, I felt it subtly hinted at the change of pace/adventure that she's itching for, and that will soon come in the following pages/chapters.

Overall, strong voice and fluid writing. Best of luck :)

Perrin said...

Query: I agree with others that this could be tightened, but overall, enjoyed the premise and the promise of a good story.

Prose: Beautiful writing and descriptions, giving a strong sense of place. Unfortunately, if the MC is bored right at the beginning, I'm bored and not sure I'll continue the journey with her. I'd love to see her on the brink of arriving wherever she's going and breaking out of the tedium. I think you could work in a brief bit about the boredom, then immediately jump into her anticipation and the mist swirling in the amber as the group approaches their destination. You give the reader a hint of what's to come, then slide back into the boredom. I want more action upfront to pull me in.

justinemanzano.com said...

I am so impressed by your query. I really love the fact that your heroine isn't an innocent, but rather willing to be an anti-hero. I also love the unique nature of your world-building here. The amulets could cause so much trouble. If I had to change something, I would consider that you may be giving away too much of the story. I have some ideas of where the story is going. Now, I could be totally wrong, but it's definitely something to look into.

As for your first page, Jean is totally right. The sentence she is saying you should start at is great. You can go back and give us some setting, but I love starting with that hook. Either way, your imagery is great, and your voice is strong.

Thanks for sharing! :)

Unrepentant Escapist said...

Why do they need to do the gem-soul thing? The plot sounds intriguing.

I like the style of your prose. I'm surprised her anticipation is growing, since earlier it seemed like her boredom was the one growing. What makes the emerald like an eye?

These are nit picks mostly. I like the voice. My only hesitation would be that I feel like I've seen this story before. The gems make it different, but I wonder if that's enough.

alexandraovery said...

Thank you all so much! I think I'll definitely switch up the beginning the way you guys suggested and try to shorten the query.
I appreciate all the feedback! :)

The Agent said...

This is a great first paragraph - it tells me everything I need to know and I definitely want to keep reading. 98,000 words is a bit high for YA, but not so much so that I wouldn't keep reading.

I liked the next paragraph - but I was a bit confused in the third paragraph that you don't mention what happens to Jezzebelle's sister's gemstone.

Does "the Shadow" have her sister's gemstone? Why else would she be so concerned with him? I felt like I was missing a bit of a logical leap here, but in general this is a very well written query and I would definitely keep reading.

The text:

I wasn't sure what you meant by "cold white peaks" - I'm assuming a mountain range? Make this clearer. I'm also not sure here how old Jezzebelle is and why she's riding - and the second paragraph doesn't answer that question either...so far I'm confused.

Is the token on a necklace around her neck? This is unclear.

Unfortunately the voice and the text here just doesn't grab me - which is a shame because the concept had a lot of potential and your query letter is so good! I might read on just to see if it picks up, but I'm not sure that this story is starting in the right place because it's not gripping me like it should. See if you have another place that you can start it instead...