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The Blasphemer's Cypher—YA Fantasy (Will Critique in Return)

Fiction Fantasy Offbeat/Quirky Young Adult

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#1 London C

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 04:45 PM

Another update, streamlining the plot. 

 

Query version 9:

 

In a flamenco-filled town, fourteen-year-old Jinxx’s family is on the verge of homelessness, until she’s offered a paid apprenticeship by a wealthy recluse. The job involves math and perplexing letters that aren’t part of any language she’s seen. Shortly after starting, she learns she’s learning something more powerful—magic.

 

Then Lady Margaté Sesedo struts into Jinxx’s life. Margaté is convinced Jinxx’s family is responsible her father’s death and insists that Jinxx will pay the blood debt. After Jinxx discovers a coded note in the Sesedo castle, she’s convinced Margaté is plotting to kill one of Jinxx’s dearest friends and sets out to prove it.

 

However, accusing a noble without sufficient evidence is a crime, and getting caught spying on the Sesedos could lead to hanging. Finding proof will require sneaking around and constant deceptions. Disabled and reliant on crutches as well as habitually honest, Jinxx is terrible at both. Her mentor only teaches her theory and forbids her from trying to cast spells. Even attempting magic risks the job her family depends on, but If she can’t find something to verify her claim against Margaté, her friend will die.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 85,000 word YA fantasy novel with series potential set in a world reminiscent of late-eighteenth-century Andalusia. The plot has elements of Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with subdued magic of Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES, spiced with a sprinkle of GLEE.

 

 

Old Versions—Query version 8:

 

In a flamenco-filled town surrounded by olive plantations, fourteen-year-old Jinxx’s family is on the verge of homelessness until she’s offered a strange job. A local recluse trains her to be his successor as…well, Jinxx isn’t sure. It involves math and perplexing letters that aren’t part of any language she’s seen.

 

Then Lady Margaté Sesedo struts into Jinxx’s life, fresh from a military academy. Margaté is convinced Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death and insistent that Jinxx will pay the blood debt. Margaté starts with a rumor that could cost Jinxx her job.

 

After Jinxx discovers a coded note in the Sesedo castle she is certain Margaté is behind a plot to kill one of Jinxx’s dearest friends. The recluse is teaching her something truly secret and powerful—magic—but she betrays his trust in order to prove that Margaté is guilty. 

 

Accusing a noble without sufficient evidence is a crime. Getting proof will require sneaking into the castle and constant deceptions. Jinxx is an incompetent liar and a worse sneak, but if she can’t find something to verify her claim, her family will starve and her friend will die.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 85,000 word YA fantasy novel with series potential set in a world reminiscent of late-eighteenth-century Andalusia. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with subdued magic of Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES, spiced with a sprinkle of  GLEE.

 

Query revision 5:

 

Born with a deformity and dependent on crutches, Jinxx expected to be a seamstress until her math skills lead to an apprenticeship studying magic—something only few people know exists. The apprenticeship not only gives JInxx a future to hope for, but keeps her family out of desperate poverty. 

 

Then Lady Margaté, heiress to the local barony, struts into choir practice and starts to ruin Jinxx’s life.

 

Margaté wants revenge for her father’s death and thinks Jinxx’s family is responsible. At first, Margaté restricts her bullying to choir practice, but it isn’t long before rumors begin to circulate that Jinxx’s close friendship with the local priest is inappropriate and scandalous.

 

Jinxx fears the rumors will reach her magical mentor and he’ll terminate her apprenticeship. When Jinxx deciphers a note she finds in the castle, she’s certain it’s proof Margaté is spreading the rumors. However, accusing a noble requires much more than a note. When a Jinxx finds a second coded note, she learns Margaté’s plans only start with rumors: violence is next.

 

Jinxx’s magic studies are all theory, not practice, but as a terrible sneak and even worse liar, she needs more than her sewing and math skills. To stop Margaté, Jinxx needs magic she can’t use.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 85,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late-eighteenth-century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed  with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES, spiced with a sprinkle of  GLEE.


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#2 Ethaaang

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 04:55 PM

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. I feel like this was pretty hard to follow.  So it’s a fourteen year old’s brother who may have killed a woman’s father?  Why is it written like that? Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords.  So Jinxx is a female who needs to make a dress that’ll satisfy one out of two people with two possible outcomes? Why is she driven by a dress?

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Seems like a fragment.  Relying on crutches to walk (seems kind of thrown in), Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive.

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories.

 

I don’t think you’re supposed to compare your book to other novels/films.  You are supposed to set the type/genre of the story.  It seems kinda gothic and I’m definitely intrigued, but I think it needs to be simplified a bit. 

 

please check mine out  http://agentquerycon...124-dramaturgy/



#3 Bibliophyl

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 07:17 PM

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. [Too many possessives in the first sentence! It's a bit unwieldy. Also, it might ground the reader better to start with your actual main character, e.g. "Jinxx is/does...." rather than something about their brother] Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. The dress thing feels very suddenly introduced; is Jinxx a dressmaker? If so, I'd introduce that in the first sentence. Also, we don't know Jinxx's gender until the very last sentence of this paragraph. I was assuming they were male just off the top of my head. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords. You might need to spell out more clearly what exactly is going on with this dress--I don't understand how a dress can have such significance. 

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. What does "ruining" the priest mean? The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. I'm not quite getting the significance of the letters/numbers thing. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Relying on crutches to walk, [is she disabled? that might be another thing to mention when you're establishing her character in the first paragraph. That could be a selling point in itself] Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive. Is Margate her friend? Based on the rest of the query she seemed to be more of an antagonistic force. Otherwise it's not clear where the friend comes from. 

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories. I might tone down the "voice" in your comps; I like what you're going for, but I've heard it's better to err on the side of being more professional and save the voice for the story pitch part. Also I'm not sure if it's relevant to mention taking a class (surely anyone can take a class?), and I'd add where the stories were published.

 

I hope that was helpful. I think once you iron out some of the clarity issues I mentioned you'll be in good shape. Good luck! 



#4 Joseph Isaacs

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Posted 14 March 2019 - 09:28 PM

I don't think this is quite working, but not sure how to get on track:

 

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth.i am afraid for me this start isn't strong enough yet Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords.what makes these dresses special? remember you want us to read your story, there has to be something that makes me say, damn I really want to read this, it sounds so cool. so far that's not clear to me what that is. It maybe your story itself isn't strong enough yet. with soul hosts I had to reboot it a few times combine idea cut some tweak some. It takes a while. if your book is strong enough already than make that clearer in the query. right now at least for me, its not clear to me why I should read this

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution.again without knowing more about the code it isn't clear to me why this is something special i should read. maybe you need to get a bit more specific about the cool parts so we get more why we need to read it. you don't need to include every sub plot but the plots you outline should hook us The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Relying on crutches to walk, Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive.

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. while i get your trying to be funny here, i have to admit this didn't work for me, and almost belittled your work for me, like your story is something you would throw into a blender. i get what you are going for, just being honest I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein i think you are supposed to leave out stuff like this, check out query shark and published several short stories. maybe be a bit more specific here as where you published them or leave it out, queries are so hard. keep at it.



#5 Robin LeeAnn

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 02:25 AM

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother (His brother? What's his brother's name? Makes it sound like he's the MC too.) didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. (Why not? Wouldn't she want to know who did it?) Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress (This sounds strange?)—one that’s irreconcilable (That word sounds weird here.) with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. (How so?) If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords. (That last part confused me a sec. Why would it matter between the mother and daughter? What does the mother think of it all?)

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. (Why would Margate do that? ) The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes since it is in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. (Why would Margate be writing these notes down though?) Relying on crutches to walk, Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. (Also, how does she know it's Margate? Were they close enough before?) But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive. (You mean her brother? Or the priest? Also, what kind of magic?)

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher (Title is all capital letters.) is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher(Huh? That's just too much packed into one.) I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories (Name them and where).

 

Overall, your query is alright. It has a good formation. The beginning didn't like hook me though because it was a weird jump between her brother (who you never mention again) and Jinxx. I'd try to start it from Jinxx's POV and have more stakes. Also, I just wanted more detail throughout to understand what is going on more.



#6 London C

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 01:44 PM

Thanks everyone. I revised the query with your suggestions. The updated version is in Post #1.


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#7 Stephen G. Bria

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Posted 17 March 2019 - 11:17 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind.

 

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen-year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins to the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death. I really like the first two sentences. That's a strong lead in. But then you lose me. You focus on someone who isn't your MC and you don't really provide much backstory outside of a vague motive. Neither sentence adds what I would consider necessary.

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it. Now I'm full on confused. Why isn't she out on the street if that's what Margate wants? It seems that you are attempting to set up a conflict of needing to please Margate and the mother, but that isn't coming through clearly or effectively between the first two paragraphs. 

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. What does this have to do with anything? I thought she hated Jinxx for being involved with murdering her father. The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent.  Just kind of weak. A bit meandering. Just establish that the priest is in danger from Margate and Jinxx has a hurdle to face getting  him to beleive. Cut it down and make it stronger.

 

Reliant on crutches, Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty. This just feels like a nonsequiter at this point. Each paragraph has very little to do with the other. You are using your closing to finally describe your MC. 

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE.

 

I'm not sure if I have any closing comments outside of what's stated. It feels like you are relying on people having read the previous query(ies) you've written. As a new comer, I would start by making sure each paragraph meshes together and that there is a cohesive, bigger picture to read into. 

 



#8 epercak

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Posted 18 March 2019 - 11:51 AM

Thanks for the feedback on my query!

 

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind.

 

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen-(hyphen)year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death. (This sentence is a bit awkward. The two halves seem somewhat unrelated.)

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. (These details are unnecessary and clunky. Words are at a premium in a query, so don't waste them.) Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, (Again, not a necessary detail.) but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. (This could be stronger.)

 

Reliant on crutches, Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty. (I think all the information in this paragraph needs to be introduced earlier. It is jarring when it comes so late, especially since it seems so vital to the plot.)

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late-eighteenth-century (hyphenate when used as adjective) Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE.

 

I don't think this is quite working, but not sure how to get on track:

 

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Relying on crutches to walk, Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive.

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories.

This could use some more revision. The key details are lost in the less relevant plot points. Establish the characters' motivations and conflict with clarity. I'd recommend building out the final paragraph and focus more on how the plot hinges on learning to cast a spell.



#9 G A Johnson

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Posted 19 March 2019 - 02:34 PM

:smile: This is really shaping up. Some stylistic changes I would make:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death.

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Too passive, maybe "Margaté's mother hires Jinxx to make a..." instead. Margaté The fickle Baroness-in-Waiting wants a comfortable dress but, her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. 

 

Reliant on crutches, Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. (I feel that we need to know of Jinxx's physical challenge sooner, and perhaps the reason behind it. Also, I know you mean to say that Jinxx is not good at lying, but the word 'dreadful'--to me--connotes that she lies often and diabolically.) She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE.

 

Typically this not my genre of choice, but your story appeals to me for a variety of person reasons. I hope I get to see it in print! 



#10 Joseph Isaacs

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Posted 20 March 2019 - 08:56 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind.

Hi, mine is Soul Hosts if you get the chance. I am trying a new approach with it.

 

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. wonderful opening Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. great writing!  As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death.

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. say what? what would a quinceanera dress have to do with any of this? feels like it comes out of nowhere and I am suddenly in a different query. can you transition this somehow or maybe leave out the quincenearra part?.  Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it. there are two women, one is the mom and the other margate, i assume you mean- one of hte powerful women will punish her for it? as why would margate be punishing her for doing what she wants her to do? or if does, then its no tough choice, as either way Margate punishes her, it doesn't matter what she does, she can do what she likes=no choice

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. good writing! After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. touchy topic as many people have emerged who really were molested by a priest and people didn't believe them. i know there are probably the odd case where a person really did lie about it, but most of them have no reason to really lie about it and are being brave coming forward despite the consequences of coming forward with something like that. can you change the name priest to something else since yours is fantasy anyway?  The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. so if the priest doesnt care, why does she, can you show us why she is attached to him and why we should care about the fate of this priest? also seems a bit odd what is margate getting revenge for? why would she carea bout framing this guy and why using molestation? couldn't she use something easier to frame him like that he has been stealing?

 

Reliant on crutches, Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty. since we have magi, why not make the priest a wizard or a sage, or something less touchy

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende I have no idea what any of that mean. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE. this last bit really cheapens it for me. Glee? so is Sue can send some mean cheerleaders in? I get you are trying to be funny but for me that really wrecks what is for the most part a well written and serious sounding query. might work for others though?

 

I don't think this is quite working, but not sure how to get on track:

 

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Relying on crutches to walk, Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive.

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories.



#11 Faltho

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Posted 23 March 2019 - 06:58 PM


Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old (*Note below) seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death (This is important information, but I feel like it gets lost in this sentence. As strictly a matter of style I'd consider rewording).

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it. (The next paragraph seems to pick up the plot. This just feels a bit like filler)

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl (Super heavy subject for a YA novel, but could be done well). The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. 

 

Reliant on crutches (You may want to mention this in the first paragraph), Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies(Do other people in this world have magic? If so why is this a secret study?). If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell (Will any spell really help her?), she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE.

 

 

 

I'll start by saying this is a solid start to a query. Your first paragraph is fairly well put together and with a slight adjustment, I feel like it could really stand out to an agent. However, the rest could use a little more work. I think my main concern as a reader of this query is due to the middle paragraphs I'm sort of lost to what the plot revolves around. Is this a book about Jinxx's life being ruined, a dress being made, or is this a book about a priest being framed? Perhaps picking a single topic and building out some world and plot might be helpful to making this a great query without falling into subplot territory (save it for the the dreaded synopsis).

 

The other note I want to make is just advice someone had passed onto me on my first query. I'd written a book with a 14-year-old character, and was told this age is the worst possible choice for a protagonist. The reasoning I was given is 13 is still considered middle grade (upper middle-grade), and 15 is firmly in the young adult age line. However, 14 is a gray area, and agents very much dislike gray areas. So, I would pass on this other person's advice and say if you want to be solidly in the YA realm, possibly consider bumping the age to 15 if this isn't a deal breaker to your plot.



#12 AstrMikeDexter

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Posted 25 March 2019 - 11:32 AM

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death. (From whose perspective is the story told? If it is Jinxx, you might want to lead with her perspective rather than Lady Margate's.)

 

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants a grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it. (Now we're talking about neither Margate nor Jinxx but instead Margate's mother. It's getting confusing as to who the main character is and whose perspective the book is told through.)

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. (I'm confused - is this what the note says?) The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accusation (How come?), even after Jinxx shows him the note, nor does a second one convince him. , but Jinxx knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. (How does Jinxx know this? I feel like we're being told a lot of things but we're not being shown these things. Does that make sense?)

 

Reliant on crutches (How come?), Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty. (This seems like it should be the bulk of the query.)

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel (If this is a fantasy novel, I think you need to include more of that in the query and not just a quick line at the end.) set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE.

This sounds like a really interesting story! I've added a few comments/questions to the query above. Best of luck!


Any help with my query would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


#13 HBDiaz

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Posted 27 March 2019 - 12:14 PM

Hi there!

 

Just a disclaimer that I don’t write YA or fantasy, but this looks like a really fun and interesting story! Just a few clarifications and I think you’ll be set. If you have a moment, I’d love to have your opinion on mine as well. Thanks! (http://agentqueryconnect.com/index.php?/topic/39128-ravenswood-gothic-mystery/)

 



Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind.

 

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death.

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it. [I think this could be blended in, not sure it's necessary in such detail]

 

While working for Margate’s mother in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. After breaking the code, [is this a challenge? How does she break it?] she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accusation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one [a second note? Also sent by Margaté? ] convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. 

 

Reliant on crutches, [I’d like to know a little more here – why is Jinxx on crutches?] Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE. [Love the tone of this]

 

 

 

 

I don't think this is quite working, but not sure how to get on track:

 

Fourteen year-old Jinxx’s brother didn’t cause Lady Margaté’s father’s death, but Margaté doesn’t accept the truth. Instead, she wants revenge and the only way Jinxx can keep her at bay is making her the perfect dress—one that’s irreconcilable with the one Margaté’s mother is paying for. If Jinxx makes the dress Margaté demands, she’ll never work again. If the dress meets Margaté’s mother’s wishes, well, Margaté has a passion for swords.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. When she breaks the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s planning on ruining the local priest, too, and isn’t averse to a violent solution. The priest doesn’t believe Jinxx when she shows him the notes—in Jinxx’s handwriting, with her substitution of letters for numbers. Nor does a second deciphered note convince him. Relying on crutches to walk, Jinxx is the worst sneak possible, but she has to find evidence strong enough to convince a noble before Margaté goes too far. But Jinxx has a secret of her own: she’s studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might just save her friend end survive.

 

The Betrayer’s Cypher is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. If you threw Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES into a blender (con leche, por favor) and forced Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES to drink it while watching GLEE, the resulting hallucination might look something like The Betrayer’s Cypher. I’ve taken a master class with Lee & Low Editorial Director Cheryl Klein and published several short stories.


H.B. Diaz

 

Critiques much appreciated and returned.

http://agentquerycon...othic-mystery/ 


#14 booksbybrendan

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 01:48 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind.

 

Revised query:

 

Lady Margaté wants to ruin Jinxx’s life. Not just make it uncomfortable, but send the fourteen year-old seamstress and apprentice mage begging for coins in the street. As Baroness-in-Waiting, Margaté can do whatever she desires, and she believes Jinxx’s family is responsible for her father’s death.The first couple sentences here HOOK me. This is really good- they flow, they're smooth, they illuminate the world. The last sentence feels like it lacks punch. It's good you've told us WHY she's ruining his, but the sentence flows oddly to me. I'm thinking something like "and she intends to get revenge on Jinxx's family for her father's death" would sound more direct and punchy than "she believes Jinxx's family is responsible for her father's death".

 

Jinxx is hired by Margaté’s mother to make Margaté a quinceañera dress. Margaté wants a comfortable dress; her mother wants grand one. Whichever dress Jinxx makes, the dissatisfied, powerful woman will punish her for it.

 

While working in the castle, Jinxx discovers a hidden, enciphered note. This is a stylistic thing, but I would consider just sticking to one adjective per subject. Makes the verb more powerful and the sentence less-comma-heavy and jilted After breaking the code, she realizes Margaté’s appetite for vengeance is worse than she imagined: she’s framing the local priest for molesting a girl. The priest doesn’t believe Margaté is behind the anonymous accustation, even after Jinxx shows him the note. Nor does a second one convince him, but Jinxx  knows Margaté isn’t going to stop at an accusation: her next step will be violent. 

 

Reliant on crutches, Jinxx is the worst sneak in the world and a dreadful liar. She has one advantage: her secret magic studies. If she can learn how to cast a spell, any spell, she might be able to prove Margaté is guilty.

 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES and spiced it with a good shake of  GLEE. Whoa. I would totally  read this, just from the comps XD

 

I hope you found this helpful, good luck!



#15 London C

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 04:53 PM

Thanks everyone—there was a lot of great feedback. I revised the query, back in post #1. 


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#16 Robin LeeAnn

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 09:45 PM

Planter girls (Like farmers?) like fourteen-year-old Jinxx Relinkerys don’t get to choose their dreams. Born with a deformity that makes her dependent on crutches, Jinxx wants to be a natural philosopher, but she accepts her humble fate as a seamstress (Seamstress? I thought she was a planter?) All that changed (something like that) when she is offered an apprenticeship to studying magic—something nobody else knows exists (If no one knows it exists, who is doing her apprenticeship with her? Like who's teaching her?). Her life is like a dream until Lady Margaté, heir to the local barony, pledges to ruin Jinxx’s life. (Why does she do that?)
 
Margaté wants revenge for her father’s life and thinks Jinxx’s family is responsible (Why? Perhaps rephrase: "Margate believes Jinxx's family took her father's life and wants revenge.). At first, Margaté’s bullying is restricted to choir practice (Bullying? Are they the same age?), but shortly after Jinxx finds a coded note while sewing a dress in the castle. Rumors begin to circulate that Jinxx’s close friendship with the local priest is inappropriate and scandalous. (Talk more about this more. Like what is the relationship then? Cause that is an age gap.)
 
Jinxx fears the rumors will reach her mentor and end her apprenticeship. When Jinxx deciphers the note, she’s certain it’s proof that Margaté is behind the rumors. (Why does she think it's proof?) However, accusing a noble (How old is she?) requires much more evidence than a page full of number (This phrase sounds weird.) that a low-born person like Jinxx claims means something. When a she finds a second coded note, she learns Margaté’s plans don’t end with rumors:  the next step will be violence. (Does she have any more evidence than this?)
 
Her mentor told her that it takes years - or even decades - to learn how to cast even a simple spell. As a terrible sneak and even worse liar, Jinxx needs something more than her sewing and math (I don't remember you mentioning math before) skills if she’s going to get the proof she needs to stop Lady Margaté. 
 
 
I think the query is getting better! Just some sentences need rewording and explained more.


#17 Cengel

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Posted 28 March 2019 - 11:43 PM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind (for a second time)

 

Query revision 3:

 

Planter girls not sure what "planter girls" means like fourteen-year-old Jinxx Relinkerys don’t get to choose their dreams. Born with a deformity making her dependent on crutches, Jinxx wants to be a natural philosopher, but accepts her humble fate as a seamstress until she’s offered an apprenticeship studying magic—something nobody else knows exists. this strikes me as just as little off, because someone else must know it exists if she's offered an apprenticeship. Who offers it, and why to her? Her life is like a dream until Lady Margaté, heir to the local barony, pledges to ruin Jinxx’s life

 

Margaté wants revenge for her father’s life death and thinks Jinxx’s family is responsible. At first, Margaté's bullying is restricted restricts her bullying to choir practice, but shortly after Jinxx discovers coded note while sewing a dress in the castle, rumors begin to circulate that Jinxx’s close friendship with the local priest is inappropriate and scandalous. I think you should get rid of the mention of the note in this paragraph and save it for the next one. As it is here, it seems like Jinxx discovering the note is somehow causing the rumors to circulate, as if that prompts Margate's behavior or something

 

Jinxx fears the rumors will reach her mentor and end her apprenticeship. When Jinxx deciphers the note, she’s certain it’s proof that Margaté is behind the rumors. However, accusing a noble requires much more evidence than a page full of number that a low-born person like Jinxx claims means something. When a she finds a second coded note, she learns Margaté’s plans don’t end with rumors:  the next step will be violence.

 

Her mentor told her it takes years or decades to learn to cast even a simple spell. I would add a transition here that implies she's going to try to cast a spell anyway. Even just the world "But" could do it, As a terrible sneak and even worse liar, Jinxx needs something more than her sewing and math skills if she’s going to get the proof she needs to stop Lady Margaté. 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed  with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES, spiced with a sprinkle of  GLEE.

 

Overall, I think you have an interesting premise and some good character motivations stated here. Just needs some cleaning up/fine tuning, mostly on the sentence level (I think the content is there). 

 

If you would take a look at my query as well, I would appreciate another pair of eyes.


Please take a look at my query.


#18 Derrick

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Posted 29 March 2019 - 09:36 AM

Thanks everyone for the feedback. I've revised this with your comments in mind (for a second time)

 

Query revision 3:

 

Planter girls like fourteen-year-old Jinxx Relinkerys don’t get to choose their dreams. Born with a deformity making her dependent on crutches, Jinxx wants to be a natural philosopher, but accepts her humble fate as a seamstress until she’s offered an apprenticeship studying magic—something nobody else knows exists. Her life is like a dream until Lady Margaté, heir to the local barony, pledges to ruin Jinxx’s life

 

I'm having a hard time nailing down the hook in the above or the below. I do think the below is more of a body, but there is so much explanation above. Maybe something like:

 

When 14-year-old seamstress Jinxx discovers a coded note while sewing a dress, she has evidence to bring down the heir to the local barony, who is ruining her life. But accusing a noble requires much more than a page full of numbers.

 

Everything in this first paragraph is world building and like pre-premise info. What would you say is your premise in 1-2 sentences?

 

Your hook does not actually have to be in chronological order. Your body should be, but not your hook. Your hook should be the "heart" of your story. I'm just not getting it here.

 

I think you get your hook right and the rest will fall into place.

 

Margaté wants revenge for her father’s life and thinks Jinxx’s family is responsible. At first, Margaté’s bullying is restricted to choir practice, but shortly after Jinxx discovers coded note while sewing a dress in the castle, rumors begin to circulate that Jinxx’s close friendship with the local priest is inappropriate and scandalous.

Jinxx fears the rumors will reach her mentor and end her apprenticeship. When Jinxx deciphers the note, she’s certain it’s proof that Margaté is behind the rumors. However, accusing a noble requires much more evidence than a page full of number that a low-born person like Jinxx claims means something. When a she finds a second coded note, she learns Margaté’s plans don’t end with rumors:  the next step will be violence.

Her mentor told her it takes years or decades to learn to cast even a simple spell. As a terrible sneak and even worse liar, Jinxx needs something more than her sewing and math skills if she’s going to get the proof she needs to stop Lady Margaté. 

THE BETRAYER’S CYPHER is a 90,000 word YA fantasy novel set in a world reminiscent of late eighteenth century Andalusia, full of flamenco duende. The story has elements Valynne Maetani’s INK AND ASHES mixed  with Mary Robinette Kowal’s GLAMOURIST HISTORIES, spiced with a sprinkle of  GLEE.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#19 London C

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 01:31 PM

Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I think I'm getting close. The updated query is in post number one. 


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#20 alibi174

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 05:15 PM

When fourteen-year-old seamstress Jinxx Relinkerys deciphers a hidden note she finds in the castle, she possesses the evidence she needs to stop Lady Margatés' plans to destroy Jinxx’s life.[this sentence feels a little long and breathless to me] However, a note isn’t strong enough proof to convict a noble. Fortunately, Jinxx is secretly studying magic. If she can learn how to use it in time, she might be able to save herself,. [How so? Is she out for revenge, or planning to uncover some mysterious crime the Lady has committed? I think giving a bit more specificity here would heighten the suspense and reader interest]

Born with a deformity and dependent on crutches, Jinxx expected to be a seamstress until her math skills lead to an apprenticeship studying magic—something only few people know exists. Her life is like a dream until Margaté, heiress to the local barony, struts into choir practice and starts to ruin Jinxx’s life[this feels a little like backwards progress to me because you're going back in time. I almost wonder if you should start with the concepts in this paragraph and then move on to the content in the first paragraph.]

Margaté wants revenge for her father’s death and thinks Jinxx’s family is responsible. At first, Margaté  restricts her bullying to choir practice, but it isn’t long before rumors begin to circulate that Jinxx’s close friendship with the local priest is inappropriate and scandalous.[Again, I'm a little lost with the content of this paragraph coming off the previous one. You need some kind of transition between the two]

Jinxx fears the rumors will reach her mentor and end her apprenticeship. When Jinxx deciphers a  note she finds in the castle, she’s certain it’s proof Margaté is spreading the rumors.[this feels redundant with paragraph #1] However, accusing a noble requires much more than a note.[ditto here] When a Jinxx finds a second coded note, she learns Margaté’s plans only start with rumors: violence is next.[more specificity will heighten the stakes]

Jinxx’s magic studies are all theory, not practice, but as a terrible sneak and even worse liar, she needs more than her sewing and math skills. To stop Margaté, Jinxx needs magic she can’t use.[this last sentence kind of comes out of nowhere for me. You mention that she needs magic, but this is the first time you say anything about forbidden (I assume) magic. This should be addressed earlier, especially since I'm assuming it's part of the conflict]


If you have a few moments, I'd appreciate your feedback on my query.






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