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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

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.

 

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. 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.

 

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.


——————

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 Yesterday, 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! 







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