Thursday, May 31, 2012

Whoseywhatsit Thursday: The Critiques

At the beginning of the month, the lovely Nicole Zoltack volunteered and won a query critique.  Below is her query and a summary of our critiques.

Dear Agent,

Nearing princess spinsterhood at sixteen, Princess Leila has tea with the handsome but slightly boring Prince Henrick. They make an awkward pairing, what with her longing for the love of her people and his unfulfilled desire to be a hero.
When Leila vows to change her people's opinion of her and dresses as a commoner for a walk in the village, the last thing she expects is to be kidnapped by a dragon. Nor is she the only princess in the dragon's clutches. Princess Margiet was snatched from her castle while out to enjoy the sunrise, and soon learns the dragon kidnapped them in the hopes of luring a prince to his cave so he can feed said prince to his sick mother.
Leila might not have any suitors, but she has several prince friends, not that she's content to sit around and wait for them to rescue her. Book smart Margriet hatches a plan to feed plants to the dragon's momma. Meanwhile, Prince Henrick arrives, eager to finally prove himself, wanting to save the princesses and not be eaten.
But Leila's attempt to save herself fails when she injuries herself, Margriet's food makes the momma dragon sicker, and Henrick does end up in the dragon's belly.
As new friendships are formed and rescue seems impossible, falling in love has never been more dangerous…
KIDNAPPED HEARTS is a 78,000-word fantasy YA novel with plenty of action and romance and a dash of humor told from Leila's, Margriet's, and Henrick's POV.
I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, Kingdom of Arnhem - Woman of Honor (2009), Knight of Glory (2010), and Champion of Valor (2011) published with Desert Breeze Publishing. Fifteen of my short works have appeared in various anthologies, including Mertales by Wyvern Publications, and many collections by Pill Hill Press.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Nicole Zoltack

A.E. and Jessie had some in-line comments, but I felt the consensus in our overall comments was worth posting. (Nicole will receive everyone's full comments via email.)

Hi Nicole,  My first thought is that this sounds much more like a MG novel than a YA.  It just feels too adventure-y, and not TEEN enough, which I know is ridiculously vague.  So, I don’t really have any in-line notes, because I think you need to rework and play up whatever YA elements/voice your novel has.  You might be best off focusing on one of the characters (Leila, perhaps) and giving us her emotional journey in the novel, then mention the other POVs where you have them in the third-to-last paragraph.  Best of luck!


I liked reading the query, there was definitely some voice that came through – but for some reason it felt very middle grade to me. I’m not sure what exactly, but lines like “she’s not content to sit around and wait for them to rescue her” felt immature somehow. As for the first paragraph, I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think having tea with Henrick is important. What’s important is getting her to the point of being kidnapped. I’m also not sure why her people have a bad opinion of her – and that’s probably important. So consider starting off with “Nearing spinsterhood at sixteen, Princess Leila vows to change her people’s opinion of her. Dressing as a commoner so she can (? Find out why they hate her? ) she finds herself kidnapped …

Hope that helps!


Overall thoughts: the premise of the story is sound. I find tension, conflict, and wants – goals to work toward.  The opening phrase felt lively and interesting. But the rest of the opening felt like it was lacking something. I’d try combining the two thoughts and use a few descriptives that add more of a punch. The other issue I had was the specific use of Margriet’s name. I’d concentrate more on the two lead characters, drawing the reader more into their plight. I know Margriet has to do with the plot, but I think for this query you can get around using her so specifically. I’d also emphasis that there are more princesses missing. I found that intriguing.


I have to say the wording mkes this feel almost MG, and ‘falling in love’ feels out of place.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!   


  1. Thank you all so much! It's great to receive so much feedback and it's even easier when the feedback agrees. I've already reworked a new query, thanks to you all.

  2. So glad you found it helpful, Nicole!

  3. Sounds interesting, but yeah, being kidnapped by a dragon sounds MG to me. And then the use of the word "momma" adds to the impression. I'd read it, though - I'm just a big kid, lol. I'm already rooting for Henrick! Not sure how you fix that when MG doesn't normally have romance...Margriet's name has a typo in the second paragraph and I think the query is a little long and maybe too broken up - four paragraphs I think is more standard.


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