Just to avoid critiques for things I’ve already changed, here’s the latest:
In the underwater kingdom of Syren, Princess Ondine is the only girl who can’t swim. After losing both her legs, her metal prosthetics keep her from being carried away by the currents, but they also weigh her down, making her an object of ridicule to other Seafolk. [nice intro. I like the departure from the typical 'hook' and how you focus on characterizing the MC and setting. Of course, it implies that the story is about how she's ridiculed - but I didn't even realize that until after reading the whole thing a couple times]
Still, nobody makes Ondine feel inferior without her permission. She fights at the drop of a fin, and
fearlessly[redundant] rides her manta ray in the deadliest races. Her reckless lifestyle is an embarrassment to the royal family, but she’s never cared about politics. Not until a border lord is murdered by agents of the Nereid Kingdom, and whispers circulate of a traitor in the palace. [agree that you could expand the first word, but you don't really need to. At this point though, I'm still wondering what the story's about]
When Ondine catches the king’s spymaster meeting secretly with the Nereids, she immediately tells her father, but he doesn’t believe her. [this is good. even better would be to give a reason that works in some of the above backstory. For example: but he thinks she's angry at the spymaster for his unrelenting scorn] There are only two who do:[this phrase will need a look if you expand on why her father doesn't believe her] Antipater, the royal adviser who knows her better than anyone,[you could use a semi-colon here to drive home the separation, but would probably get criticized for that as well] and a handsome manta racer who would rather whisk her away than get involved. But after the spymaster turns up dead, she learns that the real traitor is Antipater himself. [There's a lot in this paragraph, but I like it. Show's depth and intrigue.]
Ondine knows she has to find a way to stop him, even though he’s like a second father to her. Because if she doesn’t, there will be another death in the palace. And this time, the victim will be her real father, the King of Syren.
OCEANS DEEP is an 80,000-word YA fantasy that should appeal to fans of a strong female lead and political intrigue, as found in Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING. [I think the reason people prefer two comps is that they don't want to give the appearance of a remake. Saying it's similar to a couple things shows respect for what's worked before while giving a sense of what's new. As is, I've not read Graceling so no idea what it's about. Your story makes me think "The Little Mermaid" more than anything else - and including a well-known mermaid tale might be a good way to imply that Seafolk are mermaids without actually saying it.]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Overall, very good! I mostly gave reaction and nit-picked. It might be good advice to simplify and focus the third paragraph - it reads like a condensed synopsis. But I didn't really question it until after I read some of the other critiques. So you could probably get by either way.
Personally, I like the third paragraph so suggested options for making it stronger. To trim and focus suggest: cut mention of the border lord and focus on the whispers; trim the third paragraph down to two sentences that introduce and emphasize the conflict/stakes between her father and father-figure.
Also, while it sucks having your family in danger - those are external stakes. What personal choice/journey is she facing here? It could be as simple as: she has to overcome the stigma of a crippled troublemaker to save her father. Or maybe not. I am, of course, assuming that there's an internal motivation beyond a desire to protect family.
Final thought: What makes Ondine the only person who can stop Antipater? That isn't clear - though a complication is implied because of the societal ridicule and family embarrassment. Expanding on that current might help focus the query.
Hope that helps!
I appreciate all feedback: http://agentquerycon...e-high-fantasy/