First Impact: HARD TRUTHS by Anonymous

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

This week we have a query for an upper middle-grade fantasy called HARD TRUTHS. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Not sure what a "peacekeeping"
dragon is, but otherwise okay.
Fourteen year old Reyna longs for more in her life. High tea behind higher castle walls isn’t enough. But she gets more than she bargained for at an annual festival where she becomes bonded, by blood and magic, to a peacekeeping dragon.

Last paragraph makes it sounds
like she doesn't want to have a
dragon. Now she's determined to
be the best Dragoneer.
Fiercely proud, Reyna is determined to become a great Dragoneer, even though she lacks any useful skills. Seriously - any useful skills. Etiquette and embroidery don’t exactly prepare you for endurance and espionage.

I'm a bit confused here. Don't know
what his scheme is or why the
dragons are in the way.
Her father, however, has different plans. His nefarious scheme will lead to the death of the peacekeeping dragons that stand in the way of a war to expand his kingdom. He will let nothing, not even the safety of his own daughter, stand in his way.

Not sure about "be a good person,"
but I'm glad to see a choice :-)
Confronted with the truth Reyna must choose to either be a good daughter or be a good person. Maybe if she were any good at being a Dragoneer maybe the choice wouldn’t be so hard.

Hyphenate "50,000-word".
DRAGONEER: HARD TRUTHS is a 50,000-word upper middle-grade fantasy.

I am a member of SCBWI and have written commercial scripts. HARD TRUTHS is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Adam's Thoughts
If Reyna ends up being the queen, her name might be too on the nose ;-)

Overall, this is pretty good. It's clear and easy to read, with just a hint of voice.

I would like a little more voice, if possible, but it's not critical. Part of me also wants to know more about Dragoneers and their peacekeeping dragons, but that might clutter the query.

What I'd really like is to better understand Reyna's father's plan and (therefore) the choice she has to make. What makes her father's scheme nefarious? (The query says, but it's not as clear as it could be). What does it mean for Reyna to be a good daughter? Does she kill her own dragon? What does it mean for her to be a good person?

I think it's close, because I get the feeling from the query that you have answers to these questions; they're just not coming across yet. I'd request pages, but I think this query could be even stronger.

What do the rest of you guys think?


R.S. Bohn said...

I guess I'm searching the query for more about the dragon she's become bonded too -- at the moment, it seems little more than a prop. I *love* dragons, so I want to read more, but I'm hoping that this creature has a personality, something that makes us care about the dragon so that when the terrible choice must be made, we care not only about Reyna's struggle but about what happens to the dragon, too.

Also, a bit of foreshadowing in the first paragraph might be helpful. There are peacekeeping dragons, so there must be a reason for them. Is there already some sort of uprising afoot, some tensions between kingdoms?

Overall, I like the premise, and I'd like to see the query fleshed out just a bit more.

Matthew MacNish said...

I don't have much trouble picturing what a peacekeeping dragon might be, but I think the thing everyone's getting at is why are they needed in this world? You don't have to go into a ton of backstory, but one line about some former uprising or something might help.

As for the nefarious scheme, that I would definitely like to see a more specific explanation of. You touch on it, with "war to expand his kingdom," but I think it would make much more sense if you could tie those plans for war in with the reason the dragons exist as peacekeepers, which I assume is related (previous war of expansions, perhaps).

Patchi said...

I like the premise a lot. I had no trouble with the dragons either, but I would like to know if her dragon has a real role in the story.

As for her father's scheme, all I needed to know is what's in the query: he's trying to expand his kingdom. And Reyna's choice seems fine by me: is she with him or against him.

Good luck!

KayC said...

I love dragons, and the 'bonding' made me wonder if this was going to be similar to Anne McCaffrey's dragons, which was one of my all time favourite series in my teens. So, like R.S. Bohn above, if the dragon plays a central role, I'd like to see a hint of concern about the dragon in the choice.

Like the others, I'd like more than 'nefarious scheme'.

Something else that stood out for me was 'fiercely proud' at the start of the second paragraph - in the first paragraph I got the impression that Reyna was more adventurous, so 'proud' didn't really sit right for me.

Likewise, I wasn't drawn in by 'good daughter or good person'. These seemed very lack-lustre choices for a query.

Overall, this sounds like a great story.