Care to Crit? My Query for Magic by Starlight

I am sprinting to the finish line for my Austenpunk fantasy, Magic by Starlight. As I tie up plot threads, I am also working on my query. In addition to sending this out to agents, I want to put it on this site in a “Forthcoming” section, so I need to be sure it is as good as possible.

This is just over 200 words.

Tory joins the Intelligence Ministry intending to put to legitimate use the starcasting powers that make her an excellent burglar. When she is expected to work as a femme instead, she thinks someone in authority is in need of spectacles. However, Cecil, bastard son of a lord and the Ministry’s most disreputable spy, thinks that one of the Ministry directors has it in for the lovely Miss Lawrence. And after eavesdropping on speaking tubes and listening at air vents, he knows he is right.

Tory does not realize that an old family indiscretion has made her vulnerable to mischief. When enemies spies try to steal a package that she is entrusted to deliver, she is grateful when Cecil materializes out of the darkness to help. They manage to retain the package, but when they trace the spies back to the Ministry itself, they learn that Tory has been framed for its theft. And the family secret only makes her look guiltier.

The parcel contains a component for a suncasting device that can increase the power of any starcaster a thousandfold. Now, spies both foreign and domestic want the component and Tory is dodging villains like ladies evade louts at a ball. Equipped with a black powder pistol, lockpicks, and a few quick disguises, Tory must decide whom she can trust–and the wrong decision could end with her and Cecil dangling from matching gibbets.

Thoughts?

11 thoughts on “Care to Crit? My Query for Magic by Starlight”

  1. I love having a clearer idea of the book. đŸ™‚ You asked for someone to take a critical eye to the piece. (Hope I’m not too brutal. I’ve been having trouble sleeping -the weather’s been muggy- and that tends to make me harder to please.) So here goes:

    I think the first sentence is a little clunky. Maybe if you could find a way to divide it into two sentences somehow? As is, there are two ideas: Tory joins the Intelligence Ministry, and Tory has a special ability that makes her a great burglar, but she’d rather do honest work. My problem is it took me several moments to untangle the two ideas so I could really grasp what you were saying.

    The next sentence, I’d personally prefer `needs spectacles’ to `in need of spectacles’ just because it seems more to the point, but since you’re trying to evoke a specific time period, feel free to ignore my opinion on that one.

    Love Cecil’s introduction. I’m all curious about him and want to know more. I would take out the `that’ in `thinks THAT one of the ministry directors’. I think it makes the sentence a little long. But again, just my opinion here.

    Love the bit about Cecil’s eavesdropping through the speaking tubes. It evokes the sense of time and place, and hints at all sorts of lovely dangers.

    This whole next paragraph is pretty good. You may want to get rid of one of the two `that’s. You also might want to divide the second sentence. I was trying to think why it seems a little weak even though I can mentally picture it. I think it’s the two `whens’. They make it feel a little like two beginnings of sentences instead of one thought being completed by another. As I said, the paragraph overall is strong. So is the next one.

    I really like the list of Tory’s equipment. Again, it gives a really strong sense of place, as well as character. Um… not finding much wrong here. Maybe take out the comma between `Now and spies’? Not sure. (But I spend half my life removing commas and then putting them back in.
    I am so looking forward to this book. I hope my over analyzing is helpful instead of discouraging. (I may have picked up bad habits in my collage creative writing class when part of the reason I over analyzed was to prove that I read the other student’s work.)

  2. I’m not familiar with that use of the word “femme.” I’d probably expect to see “femme fatale” instead.

    I agree this makes me very curious about Cecil–and about the story in general. If I read this blurb on the back of a book in a bookstore, I would definitely proceed to my next step, which is sampling the book.

    1. Yes, femme is a shortened version of that very word phrase. The male counterpart is raque. Both are given a fairly good explanation in the opening pages of the book, but I don’t have room to explain here. Does it work to just leave it unexplained? You came to exactly the conclusion I hoped for.

      And thanks!

      1. I’d suggest including the “fatale” in the blurb. I stumbled over “femme” and had to pause and think about what it might mean. After you explain in the opening pages, you wouldn’t need it in the rest of the book, but as you say, there isn’t time to explain in the blurb. For the sake of clarity I’d suggest going with the entire phrase.

  3. Thanks everyone. Here is my rewrite.

    Tory’s starcasting powers make her an excellent burglar, but it would be unladylike to practice such skills on her neighbors. Therefore, she joins the Intelligence Ministry intending to put her power to legitimate use. When she is expected to work as a femme fatale instead, she thinks someone in authority is in need of spectacles. However, Cecil, bastard son of a lord and the Ministry’s most disreputable spy, thinks one of the Ministry directors has it in for the lovely Miss Lawrence. And after eavesdropping on speaking tubes and listening at air vents, he knows he is right.

    Tory does not realize that an old family indiscretion has made her vulnerable to mischief. When enemies spies try to steal a package she is entrusted to deliver, she is grateful when Cecil materializes out of the darkness to help. They manage to retain the package, but after tracing the spies back to the Ministry itself, they learn that Tory has been framed for its theft. And the family secret only makes her look guiltier.

    The parcel contains a component for a suncasting device that can increase the power of any starcaster a thousandfold. Now spies both foreign and domestic want the component and Tory is dodging villains like ladies evade louts at a ball. Equipped with a black powder pistol, lockpicks, and a few quick disguises, Tory must decide whom she can trust–and the wrong decision could end with her and Cecil dangling from matching gibbets.

    1. Sorry I didn’t get to this earlier. I noticed it last night, but things got in the way until now. {apologetic Smile}

      Basically, this reads pretty well. It is enough to get me interested in the story, so it serves a blurb’s main purpose. {Smile}

      The main problem I see is several sentences in passive voice. Active voice usually holds attention better. So I’d change things like “is expected” and “had made” to active verbs. {Smile}

      I also notice a few more “and”s than I think you need, but that’s partly a matter of taste. I’m particularly easily distracted by “And” beginning a sentence. {Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    2. Oh this is lovely! I get a much better sense of Tory, and I had to chuckle at `would be unladylike to practice on her neighbors.’ Sorry for the long silence, incidentally. I just got back from the beach. đŸ™‚

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