Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Ms Piraino,

A half-dragon girl, a king who will stop at nothing to stamp out magic--and a war that could change everything.

Aseireld Night is just thirteen when she is forced to attend her first execution. As the blood of an innocent sorcerer flows before her, she swears vengeance against the magic-loathing king who ordered him killed. But her half-dragon blood puts her in more danger than any human sorcerer, and her adoptive family of fae are hiding from an even greater threat than the king.

Three years later, the king makes a mistake that sparks a war, and the Night family are forced to choose a side: stand with their king to save themselves, or fight for their freedom and risk death. But in the midst of war, Aseireld finds that falling for the wrong guy could just be the most dangerous thing of all...

NIGHT OF FIRE is a young adult fantasy novel and is complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Sarah J Maas’s “Throne of Glass” and Victoria Aveyard’s “Red Queen”. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy. I am in my early twenties, live in the Oxfordshire countryside with my boyfriend and pets, and work in human resources for a charity.

I would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Yours faithfully,
B.W.


NIGHT OF FIRE

Rotheguard, three years ago

I am thirteen years old when I watch my first execution. The drum beats, the sweat of the crowd, the knowledge that it could be me next... it crawls under my skin.

“Aseireld? Are you okay?”

I can feel the eyes of Loden and his brother, Temlin, on me, overprotective as ever. They’ve stationed themselves on either side of me like sentries, while their youngest brother and his wife are on Temlin’s left, equally as watchful.

I stare straight ahead. “No.”

We’re sat on long wooden benches, shaded from the glare of the setting sun by the huge form of the castle behind us. As the king’s newest favourites, we have some of what are supposedly the best seats in the house: front-row, blood-splatter seats. We’re close enough to the castle that I can hear the screaming coming from inside it; a sound drowned out to the crowd’s human ears by the din of their own chatter.

I risk a glance at the royal stand. King Eylris Rotheguard, cold-eyed, his blonde hair greying, surveys the crowd with a self-satisfied look. Trystan, the younger of his two sons, glances at me and gives me a single nod. If I hadn’t just been partnered with him in history lessons, I’d ignore him, whatever his title. As it is, I force myself to give him a curt nod.

The prince and I--along with all the other young, scared faces in the crowd--are here by order of the king. According to him, thirteen is old enough to start witnessing his version of justice. Even so, a few mothers and fathers cling to their children as if ready to shield their eyes when the axe falls. Loden Night--my father’s friend, and the only person who can protect me from what my half-dragon powers are already starting to bring--won’t need to bother covering my eyes. I already know what magic-haters do to people with the least hint of magic in this world.

The gates clang shut, the sound slamming against my heart.

“Bring out the prisoner!” the captain of the Royal Guard booms.

The king stands. A long purple robe trimmed with silver fur drags behind him as he takes two steps forward, his eyes on the castle behind us. Everyone follows his gaze as two guards pull a man from around the side of the building. His hands are manacled, and attached to the centre of the manacles is a chain that one of the guards is using to pull him along like a wild dog. The man struggles, digging his heels into the ground, pulling his hands back so hard that blood has pooled around the handcuffs.

“No!” he screams, his voice hoarse with dehydration. He looks at the gathered crowd as if seeing other human beings for the first time. “Please! No!”

Eylris ignores his screams. Behind him, Queen Tessa ignores everything, her eyes blank as she stares into the middle distance. Crown Prince Calix wears an expression of disgust that deepens as the prisoner draws closer, the man’s matted hair and thick coating of filth more obvious with every step.

The guards haul him up the steps and onto the flat of the platform, seemingly oblivious to his screams and violent tugging on the chain.

An elderly man, his back so hunched he is almost bent double, shuffles forward from his seat on the royal stand. He hands a scroll to Eylris, a look of reverence on his wrinkled face, and then returns to his cushioned chair.

Eylris clutches the scroll so tightly that his knuckles turn white, but he does not yet unravel it. “Since the reign of my great-great-great grandmother, Queen Exilas--” he stops as the crowd chants as one: may she rest in peace--“all forms of magic and sorcery have been outlawed in this kingdom, punishable by lifelong imprisonment. When I took my place on the throne of Rotheguard, I knew that more could be done to secure the safety of my people. Therefore, since the first day of my reign, the sentence for all those convicted of acts of sorcery has become the death penalty.”

His voice rises, building with fanaticism. “Today marks the first day of our kingdom’s future! Today marks the first day when sorcerers shall see that I will not tolerate their acts of terror upon my people!” He pauses again, looking around with narrowed eyes until someone, somewhere in the crowd, begins to applaud. People glance at one another, joining in uncertainly. Loden nudges me gently with his elbow until I too clap my hands. For show. It’s all for show--but, still, my arms move unwillingly.

Only when the applause has risen to deafening levels does Eylris look satisfied, raising his hand for silence. The crowd falls still, and he unrolls the parchment. “Kingsley Unverell, you stand convicted of committing an act of sorcery, contravening the law of this land. Having been found guilty at a trial--”

“I’m not!” the man shouts, his voice desperate, pleading. “I didn’t--”

One look from Eylris and a guard delivers a hard blow to the prisoner’s stomach with his beefy fist. The man screams in agony as he drops down onto his knees.

“No! Stop!”

Heads turn to find the source of the voice. It doesn’t take long; pushing her way to the front, moving clumsily as she tries to see through her tears, is a woman in a brown dress almost as ragged as the prisoner’s threadbare clothing. Someone tries to hold her back, but it’s no use: she pushes them aside and makes it onto the platform, her hand reaching out towards the prisoner...

“Arrest her!” Eylris shouts, his face purple with fury. “No one is to touch the prisoner!”

“Please!” she screams. “He didn’t hurt anyone!”

Two guards grip her, their holds so tight that you can see how thin her arms are beneath the fabric of her dress. My stomach knots up inside me: I want to scream that she’s right. He used his magic to fell a tree for firewood, not to hurt anyone.

“Loden,” I plead, turning my eyes on him even though I know it’s useless: acting now would only get us killed too.

He’s looking over my head at Temlin, who has one hand on the bench as if ready to leave his seat. I glance between them as they silently stare at each other, having one of those wordless conversations that are the exclusive privilege of magical creatures. Infuriatingly, it isn’t a trait I’ve inherited from my father.

After what seems like an age, Temlin nods, his mouth set in a thin line. I know what it means: not here, not now. Not when using their magic so publicly would reveal their location to enemies even more dangerous than the king.

“Don’t look, Azi," Loden says to me, though his eyes linger on his brother. On Temlin’s other side, Asmene clutches Candron’s hand so tightly her knuckles are white.

I fix my eyes on my feet, my hands balled into fists. The woman’s screams slowly die away as she is taken to the castle.

The king’s voice is flat with barely-suppressed fury as he speaks: “The law of this land dictates only one punishment. Executioner.”

Keeping my eyes down, I listen to the slow, thudding footsteps as someone else takes to the platform. The drum beats louder, the sound hollow in the deafening silence.

6 comments:

VV said...

QUERY:
Love the premise of your story! The half-dragon thing kid of tripped me up because I imagine a girl with dragon features. Maybe dragon shifter? Also, the query seems solid up until the end when we get to the stakes. I understand what’s at stake for her fae family but how does this “wrong guy” come into the picture? What side is he on or claim to be on if you don’t want to give away any spoilers? Why would falling for him be more dangerous than choosing life and captivity with an evil king than freedom or death with the war? Just things to think about. And in the paragraph after the hook, did the MC know the man that was executed? Having a personal tie would make more sense for her swearing vengeance.
FIRST PAGES:
Consider revising this line to read smoother: “I can feel the eyes of Loden and his brother, Temlin, on me, overprotective as ever.” *I do not need to look at Loden and Temlin to know their eyes press over me, overprotective as always. (You can mention they’re brothers casually later one)* I’m sure you can make it better than that, but just an idea.

When you first mention Trystan, do you mean he’s the younger of the king’s two sons? The Prince?

Anyway, I think you did a great job setting up the tension in this first scene. Perfectly detailed and clean writing. I would have liked to see more of the MC’s personality, more of her thoughts/fears. Best of luck to you!

Bound said...

I think your premise is interesting! The half dragon did trip me up as well - I pictured a "freakish" girl haha so if that was not your intention then maybe use a different word. The first line I think could use some tweaking...it just sounds very generic to me. Magic is banned and a war could start. Can you possibly state the threats/problem a different way? I know it sounds difficult because that's what your book is about but just a suggestion =)

The pages were great too. I like your easy writing style and the dialogue wasn't forced. I'd be careful using too many "!"'s though. For me as a reader it distracts me or when they're used sparsely it really conveys more emotion that way. We can infer the woman is screaming just by the words she says. I think you did a great job setting up the story to come! And I love your fantasy names - hopefully you have a pronunciation guide as well =)

Becki said...

QUERY:

The tagline in the very beginning is a little confusing. It almost sounds like the intro to a movie trailer... I'd recommend deleting; you mention every element later in the query anyway, so it's just kind of repetitive right now.

Otherwise, WOW. Loved this!! The tension is palpable, and omg I love love love dragons, especially half-dragons. What a cool concept!! :D

I would recommend you expand the second paragraph of the pitch; we don't get a lot of information, and vagueness in a query is off-putting. For example, who are the Night family? Aseireld's adopted family? Or the fae in general? Are they considered magic? If so, why would they join the king who hates magic rather than fighting for freedom?

Otherwise, awesome! The comp titles should be italicized, not in quotes, but it's not a huge problem. And if you could tell us WHY they're like those comp titles, I think that'd make your query stronger in the end. :) But the bio is great, and you're very to-the-point, which agents probably love!!

(Also, and this might be a personal preference, but I feel like "yours faithfully" is a little too friendly for a literary agent. I'd recommend something simple like, "Sincerely." Less... in their face.)

Nice work! <3

FIRST PAGES:

Wow, I *love* the "as the king's newest favorites" line. Omg YES. In that one sentence, you so clearly define the way this world works. The king asks, and you GO, no questions. Even if it's a public execution. NICE. :D :D

I feel like maybe I got too many characters introduced in the second paragraph. Loden and Temlin and their brother and their brother's wife... it's a lot to process before we even know who your MC is. Maybe delete the brother and brother's wife and make a more vague, "Other family members stood nearby, equally as watchful." That might be less intimidating?

After that, holy moley did you grab me!! I couldn't tear my eyes away; the visual you painted with the crowd, the royal family, the poor sorcerer... lovely. I mean, not lovely for him, doomed as he is, but still! I also adored the telepathic conversation Temlin and Loden had, and how your MC is upset she doesn't have the ability too. :P

I want to know how old Temlin and Loden are. Middle-aged? Old and wise? Teenagers who are above her in the family hierarchy? Once I know that, I'll have a much better placement in the Night family!

Otherwise, awesome job! This is really polished. Congrats!! :D :D :D

Arkvander said...

I will agree with the previous comments about the half-dragon girl, the images that conjures are quite varied! Perhaps Girl with Dragon Blood running through her veins instead? But this is an interesting premise! I like how she is in hiding and yet seeking vengeance for her kind. Though I'm not sure you need to mention your age but that could just be me.

Pages: I like the present tense, its different from what I normally see which is refreshing. I liked your descriptions and how you set the scene, all of that was done very nicely. Though I would like to have seen a bit more of Aseireld's thoughts/emotions as the events are playing out before her. I kept asking myself as I was reading: What is she thinking about all this? How is it affecting her? But I like how you jump right into the inciting event mentioned in the query. Best of luck!

BW said...

Thanks for such constructive comments guys, it's all really useful! I'm definitely going to make some changes from here. And thank you for all the nice comments too - it means a lot :D

The Agent [GP] said...

B.W., thank you for participating in this contest! You drafted a really intriguing letter but it left me asking a couple of questions about your world-building and the plot that weren’t answered in your initial pages. Historically, what instigates the monarchy’s distaste for magic and spurs the events of the novel? Further, what are the implications of being half-dragon and how do those traits manifest in Aseireld--especially physically? Your foreshadowing notes about “an even greater threat” and how “falling for the wrong guy” may be the most dangerous thing that Aseireld could do was exactly the right tone to get me to keep reading, but if you had integrated more information about both into your letter, this would have been even more successful.

The rules of the contest hamstringed you a little bit here, because it looks like you submitted the prologue of the story as your supplementary material. I wanted to get to know the version of Azi as the audience will see her through the majority of the novel but still, your writing was strong and pacing worked well to introduce your audience to the world and circumstances that you’ve created. It would have been great to see more description about Azi and her fae family’s characteristics if they differ from everyone else in the crowd in any visible (perhaps overlooked or magically glamoured) ways.