Heya KJ, I'm always happy to help out a fellow writer! I have a soft spot for YA fantasy, since that's what I started with (and then I started doing adult fantasy, because I seem to like extremely complicated stuff). I will read the previous versions of the query after I make my critique.
As an elemist , seventeen-year-old Emery can sculpt flames and weave wind , and if she ever leaves the safety of her home island, she’ll be killed because of it This becomes too much info dump to be an effective hook. Remove the crossed off portions and it's a lot better of an attention grabber. . But her leaving might be the only thing that can save her home – and everyone she's ever loved.
After the Elemental War, the human king sentenced anyone with the ability to manipulate the elements to death, forcing Emery’s ancestors to flee. After raising an island from the ocean’s depths, they’ve lived in hiding ever since. Emery has known nothing else. This is all just backstory, which should be entirely absent in the query. We don't care what got the characters where they are, we want to know the adventure and the stakes.
But now an illness seeps through the island, and it rarely leaves survivors. If it does, it strips the victim of their elemental gifts. And without their gifts, the island will fall. Here we go, we're starting to get into the interesting bits. But the phrasing here is still too passive, and could easily be condensed. Something like "A fatal illness ravages Emry's island, leaving the few that survive it stripped of their powers."
When a human lands on their shores
, the first to do so in over a century, it could mean hope at last or the doom they always waited for This needs rewording. "The doom they've always waited for" makes it sound like her people have a death wish.. But the outsider seeks to bring peace between humans and elemists We can already imply this., and when Emery is chosen to act as a peace-ambassador That seems random. She's a teenager, usually big, important, island-saving stuff would be reserved for the adults. Is she exceptionally gifted? Is she the only one who's still healthy?, she has a chance to not only find a cure, Too vague and not mentioned anywhere else, best to cut this bit but to give her people the one thing they’ve never had: freedom. Uhm... why aren't her people free? Sure they're on an island, but that's not a cage, they can still live lives and such. Her people don't sound oppressed from the query, so this doesn't resonate.
Now Emery must sail far from the safety of her home, to where monsters wait in the waters Now the world has monsters? This probably shouldn't just be thrown out, storms shatter ships, and rogue elemists wreak havoc across the seas Why do they wreak havoc? Are they pirates? Do they have their own government? Something like, "where a band of elemist-pirates plunder passing ships" sounds a lot better than just random people getting in the MC's way. And it means exposing the only safe haven her people have ever had But if a human found them, isn't it already exposed? And if it's not exposed, then why are the people not free? . If she fails, either the king’s men will destroy everyone and everything she’s ever loved – this shouldn't have any punctuation or the illness will. How are the king's men going to find them? Are the king's men a threat even though her people have lots of power? Are they just horribly outnumbered, or is it a technology thing?
So I end up coming away from this query with more questions than solid answers. I don't understand a lot of the premise, I do get a certain sense of motivation, but a lot of the events just don't make any sense in context. There's way too much history here, which doesn't belong in a query.
My advice would be to narrow your focus a lot. I think your issue is that you're trying to give the reader too much information about your book. The best thing you can do in a query is really establish the main character who, aside from being mentioned, we know literally nothing about in this current iteration. We don't get her voice, or her motivation, or anything at all, really.
I would also establish the events leading up to her leaving. I don't know your book, but maybe she's the last person who's well enough to go. Maybe she's super talented. Maybe the culture of the people is that children are more capable than adults, or that people are adults when they're like 16. Whatever the logical reason, establishing it makes the story feel real and adds spice to the query.
I would also give more on why she's leaving. You present an illness, and then say that humans are somehow the answer. That doesn't make any sense. If I get sick, my logical conclusion isn't that I need to go make peace with a race of people who almost wiped me off the face of the earth in a brutal war. There's got to be more behind why she goes, and distilling that in the query will also add realism.
My honest feedback is that this needs to be re-written with a more careful hand and less attempts at distilling so much info. Queries are not about compressing the whole book into 250 words. They're about briefly presenting the premise of your book, so agents want to learn more.
-110k is really long for a YA fiction. With that word count, it is doubly important that your query is brief and concise, so that you prove to the agent that the book isn't long because you don't know how to write effectively (Which is what they'll assume, because in most cases it's true).
-If the book can work as a standalone, it is far more appealing to say "Standalone with series potential" Rather than "first in a series". Agents (and publishers) don't want to commit to publishing a whole series, and are turned off when people say it's a series without specifying that it can work on its own.
I critique because I care. Good luck and happy writing!