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?


Matthew MacNish said...

Joining in late, and am a bit apprehensive, as jacket copy (I refuse to say back cover, because it's often on the inner flap) is not my forte.

That said, neither of these worked for me, assuming it was definitely two versions.

They both felt very willy-nilly, providing only a vague sense of character and situation, and no real understanding of the exact rules of the conflict.

Also, critting jacket copy is better served by people who've read the novel, I think.

The one place I'll potentially disagree with Adam is on the -hedron. If memory serves, a -hedron is a mathematical term for a many-sided-thing (i.e. a Dodecahedron) and therefore, I think, while perhaps admittedly being a mouthful, a Polystoikhedron is a great name for a monster. :)

KayC said...

If I were to read either of these on a back cover I would put the book back on the shelf.

I am also getting an MG feel, but Jen is fifteen when her brother returns, which seems too old for the voice in this cover.

For what it's worth - the first version is much better than the second (which is very disjointed) so I would concentrate on it. Give me a better sense of Jen (character) in the opening paragraph. Things like whether or not the brother was adopted really aren't relevant. How Jen feels in her imaginary world is.

Perhaps something like this for the first paragraph "When she was seven, Jen had an amazing imagination, particularly when she was wearing the Ankulen bracelet she found in the attic. She could immerse herself in a world that seemed real, far away from the bullies at school and her mother's nagging to clean her room. But when she loses her bracelet her brother disappears and so does her imagination." This isn't great(and I've made lots of assumptions on character and on how she came upon the bracelet in the first place), but hopefully you get my drift - make us feel something for Jen and understand why her imaginary world is important to her (and hence worth fighting for when we discover it is real).

If you introduce the bracelet in the first paragraph (and insinuate it's instrumental in her imagining) you won't need to explain it's function so bluntly in the third paragraph.

Good luck - queries, jacket covers, synopsis - they are all difficult!

Steve MC said...

I'm with you and the comments above.

Only I do think Polystoikhedron is a distraction. It could be called that, but in the story it should have a shorter version, like Polyst, or Khedron. The same way we shorten reservation to the res, or the internet to the net - people just wouldn't say that whole word.

The Dieselpunkette said...

I agree with Adam - overall, I like the concept, but the phrasing here feels awkward, like there's too much info in some places and not enough in others. I'm not sure how you'd do this, but there may be a way to gloss over the technicalities of how is it that she has had an imaginary friend, and never figured out he wasn't her adopted brother in such a way that it doesn't sound like she's got to be stupid, but as is, I have a hard time getting past that.