First Impact: THE ANKULEN by Kendra E. Ardnek

It's been a while, but we have 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 the back cover copy for a fantasy by Kendra Ardnek (I see what you did there) called THE ANKULEN. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

Back Cover
When she was seven, Jen had an amazing imagination - one she could make real. Then her parents adopted Chris. He disappeared a few weeks later - and with him went her imagination. But when her adopted brother Chris disappeared, her imagination went with him.

Eight years later, he reappears and makes a startling revelation. He was her imaginary friend. Indeed, she has an entire imaginary world - and it still exists!

That's a mouthful :-)

The world-building is confusing me
here a little. See my thoughts below.
But it's dying - eaten by a horrid creature called the Polystoikhedron. She must find her Ankulen - the special bracelet that brought her imagination to life in the first place, and fight for her world. She's willing to fight.

But is she willing to die?

I'm assuming these are two versions
you want me to critique.
Or ...

Not a fan of this opening sentence.

Why is she wishing it now? Also it
seems odd that what she's worried
about is her imagination, not her
probably-kidnapped brother.
Stuck outside until her notebook shows signs of a story, Jen makes a wish that the adopted brother who disappeared when she was seven, shows back up and tell her what happened to her imagination. Which disappeared the same day. Of course, she never expected him to actually do so.

How did she not know she had this
bracelet? Wouldn't she have noticed
it ALSO disappeared the same day
Chris did?

I don't understand her 2nd task.
Turns out, he was actually her imaginary friend, and she had an Ankulen, a special bracelet that brings imagination to life. With her imagination in reach, there are only three things she needs to do to get it back: find the Ankulen, find her missing memories of building her imagination, and fight off the Polystoikhedron, a hydra-like monster that has been making a feast of her imagination in her absence.

All in a day's work, you know?

Adam's Thoughts
I like the concept, but I don't know if I'd read the book based on this back-cover copy. It raises a lot of questions for me in a not-good way, which makes me wonder if the author has thought the implications of everything through.

Here's the thing. As soon as I read that her imagination became real, I immediately begin thinking what *I* would do with that kind of power. I'm willing to grant a lot of leeway because she's seven at the time, but still, I'd expect unicorns and dragons and princesses in castles. Or SOMETHING totally fantastic that doesn't belong in this world. (And that's not even counting things like infinite candy/pizza/video games ;-).

But then what does it mean that it became real? Could her parents and other people see this stuff? If so, wouldn't that have freaked everybody out? And if not, what does "real" mean? Was it a world she went to? Did anybody believe her? Because the opening makes it sound like it was really, definitely real -- especially since her parents could presumably see Chris. But then why is she the only one who notices when it goes away?

Two other overall comments: (1) this feels like Middle Grade, though the submission labeled it as simply "fantasy." That probably doesn't matter for the back cover, but it's something you might want to know as you seek out your target audience. (2) This feels a LOT like The Never-Ending Story. That's not necessarily a bad thing (as I said, I like the concept), but I do think your back-cover copy could add something to distinguish it from that classic.

What do the rest of you guys think?

Dead Boys, Invisible Girls, and Teens That Can't Read Minds

I apologize for the blog silence. I'm deep in the drafting tunnels of a certain science fantasy novella and/or role-playing game. I'll resurface once I get this novella worked out. Until then, please see the last part of the official blog schedule.

But I'm sending this missive via miner's canary* because there are three very important books I need to tell you about. All of them are cool, written by exceedingly cool people, and I think I'm in the acknowledgements of two of them (which ones? You'll just have to read them to find out!).

* Please send the canary back, by the way. The air in these tunnels is starting to smell funny.

Jack of Hearts by Ricardo Bare
Jack lost someone, causing a deep pain he could no longer endure. Most boys would take their own life. Jack gave his heart to the Lady of Twilight and has become her heartless assassin. Now he feels nothing, even as he does the Lady's bidding in hunting a thieving wizard.

But when he meets a beautiful girl trapped in a mirror, something stirs inside of him. A shadow of what he used to be. He wonders if he made the right decision after all, but getting his heart back from the witch will prove more difficult than any mission he's been on.

Jack of Hearts, is Ricardo's debut novel that came out just a couple weeks ago. He is one of my most awesome critique partners, and also happens to be the lead designer of the critically acclaimed stealth action/adventure game Dishonored, released last year. Check this book out, folks.

Transparent by Natalie Whipple
Touted as X-Men meets Godfather. Fiona McClean was born invisible, which makes her the perfect daughter for Vegas's biggest crime lord. But when her father pushes her too far, she goes on the run and tries to live a normal life in a small town far from her father's reach. Far, but not far enough. When her father tracks her down, she has to decide how far she'll go to protect the people she loves.

Transparent is Natalie's debut (that doesn't actually come out until next week, but you can pre-order it now). She's a good friend of mine, and it's been both heartbreaking and exhilarating to watch her journey to publication these last few years. She is (as I've said) hugely imaginative, and it shows in her ideas. She is also part of our writing team for Torment, which makes her and Torment extra awesome. 

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
Kiera is a zero, a non-reader in a world where everybody can read minds. Until the day she accidentally control's her best friend's mind and discovers she's an entirely different kind of freak: a mindjacker. It turns out she's not the only one, and she's soon drawn into an underworld that she never suspected existed.

As it happens, this was Susan's debut as well. Yes, okay, this book came out two years ago, AND I've already talked about it. But I'm bringing it to your attention now because Open Minds is, now and forever, free to download.

So what are you waiting for?