Hi! I'm coming late to this party, but I'm writing historical fiction as well, and it seems like historical fiction is rare in this forum, so I wanted to chime in on queries for that genre. You are my second critique!
Ophelia Gallaway has inherited her grandmother’s eyes—and her memories. [I don't agree about the "eyes in a jar" thing, but cutting "inherited" would tighten and give more punch, so I'm on board with that idea.]
It’s the summer of 1910. Ophelia, a meek girl who often feels more ghost than human, [maybe cut the previous phrase. It's def more in "telling than showing," and intrudes on the action.] stumbles upon a knife in her family’s wood. [agree with other commentors; I'd change "wood" to "woods" to avoid confusion. Or even "on her family's land."] Troubled, she struggles to push it out of thought, even with visions of her late grandmother’s past haunt her every waking moment. [not explicit that the knife triggers though visions of her late grandmother. does it?]
[there's a LOT going on in this paragraph, especially the first sentence. The mention of the change in her mother is just strange and jarring. I think you need to decide where you want your emphasis. If it's on the unwanted courtship, then put the emphasis there; don't distract with the mention of her mother. I've done a suggested edit. Take or leave it, as you see fit.]
When Ophelia's mother
Mrs. Gallaway, a cruel figment of the kind-hearted mother Ophelia once loved, arranges a courtship between Ophelia and a brash boy named Silas Foster local boy named Silas Foster, Ophelia goes along with it, hoping to please her mother. But Silas is brash and outgoing, and alongside him, Ophelia feels like she shrinks away. In his overwhelming light, she’s nothing but a mere shadow (Note from author: I'm not too keen on this part, but I didn't want to just outright state that Ophelia and Silas don't mix, as that would make the sentence more "telling" instead of "showing"; if anyone has suggestions for this, I'd love to hear them!). [I agree with you that the previous sentence isn't really doing what it needs to do yet. IN part, it's because "his overwhelming light" seems too vague. And also, it's not about how Ophelia feels -- you say she /is/ a mere shadow, which is different. Maybe: "] But Ophelia is determined to prove herself to her mother, even if it means being courted by a stranger. [I'm not sure what "prove herself" means. Prove what about herself? And why does she need to do this?]
["Soon" suggests to me that there isn't a strong plot logic here; more of a "and then this thing happened. I'm guessing that's not how your novel is structured, so you may want to rework to create more of a thread. I'd suggest maybe opening this paragraph with a mention of the courtship with Silas. Something like, "The courtship continues, but Ophelia is troubled by ominous visions of her grandmother triggered by long-lost letters she finds and clandestine conversations she overhears. Ultimately, she discovers a horrifying truth: The knife she found was her grandparents' suicide weapon.]
Soon, a long-buried history comes surging back through unearthed letters, clandestine conversations, and a series of ominous visions. But these mysteries are made all the more baffling by a confessed secret—her grandparents committed suicide. The knife she discovered is no longer simply a knife. It’s a suicide weapon.
Though still haunted by fragments of her grandmother’s life, Ophelia becomes more driven than ever to prove herself to a society that has banished the Gallaway name for decades. [THis info needs to come in much sooner. Is it the source of the mother being cruel? Has it impacted Ophelia before? If so, it should be couched early on as something that needs to be undone.] In a stroke of good fortune, [This phrase suggests the growing closer "just happens" -- that it's not due to events in the plot, which derails the tension. Maybe think about how the plot actually brings them closer.] she and Silas grow closer. And she wants nothing more. That is, until she finds the answers to their linked past: that perhaps Silas Foster is not all he seems to be, that he may have something to do with her grandparents’ suicides. [Yes! This is important. It should all drive to this.]
And her own impending death. (Note from author: Now, I'm not sure if I want this part to be its own paragraph. Should I just reattach it to the last sentence and just delete "that Silas Foster is not all he seems to be"? Or does this part work here?) [My gut says add it to the paragraph above.]
A BURIAL FOR GHOSTS, a young adult historical novel, is complete at approximately 97,000 words.
I’m an alumna of the National English Honor Society and am currently pursuing an English degree. I was born and raised in Florida, where I escaped the doldrums of suburbia through my passion for writing and reading.
Thank you for your time and consideration.