It's time for the last Pass Or Pages reveal of 2017! We're so grateful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. We hope you can find something to help you in your quest for an agent, even if you don't write middle grade!
Entry #2: THE FALLEN ORDER
Query:One day, twelve-year-old orphan Nick finds a golden stone with a mysterious symbol in the woods near their foster home. [MLS1] After his twin sister Hazel vanishes later that night, the stone becomes the main culprit. [MLS2] Determined to find his sister, Nick treks to the local university in search of answers. It turns out their father had been a prominent archeologist [MLS3] who also vanished mysteriously while investigating ancient ruins in the Appalachian Mountains when the twins were infants.
Nick discovers his father had left behind a cryptic journal, which details a fantastic world of ancient gods and mythical creatures from millenniums past. With the help of a runaway thief named Scurvy, Nick deciphers the codes in the journal and embarks on a journey to Orbis, a magic realm accessible in ancient locations, including the Pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, and Atlantis. [MLS4] But a secret society of dark magic [MLS5] haunts the realm, kidnapping folks from Nick’s world—and the twins appear to be their next target. [MLS6] Nick and Hazel must find their father and escape before they, too, become trapped in the realm forever.
BEACON OF LIGHT: THE FALLEN ORDER is a 60,000-word MG fantasy told in multiple POV. The novel, in which the show Gravity Falls meets Rick Riordan's THE RED PYRAMID, will appeal to kids who enjoy fantasy with cryptology and mystery elements at every turn.
Ben's Notes:I’m intrigued by this, but I’m not a big fan of portal stories. If done right, they can be great. Mostly, though, they’re not well done, and I end up passing on them. This alone gives me hesitation on asking for pages, but the idea is intriguing enough to take a look at the beginning. However, more about the MC is needed in the query. What does he want?
[MLS1]: Good opening line! My only (slight) red flag here is that tons of stories use an object as a launching point for the story (magical stone, necklace, etc.).
[MLS2]: How so? I’d like this cleared up a bit more.
[MLS3]: Do they not know/have a relationship with their father? If so, I think that needs to be clearer.
[MLS4]: Do you mean the lost Atlantis?
[MLS5]: You say magic/magical a lot in this paragraph. Consider varying word choice here.
[MLS6]: Do we know why? Or could we hint at why?
First 250:On cloudy days, children were discouraged from playing on the hills near the foster home. Rising well above their surroundings, the tall, steep slopes were magnets for lightning in thunderstorms.
That never stopped Nick Beacon. On one particularly cloudy and windy evening in early March, he lay on the grass at the top of the tallest hill, feeling the cool breeze through his t-shirt. From there, he could see over the woods, which separated the foster home and the town of Hillsboro. He closed his eyes and imagined himself flying above the hilltops to someplace far, far away—away from the small town, over the forests and mountains, until he reached the rock-covered coast of Maine.
Nick had only been to the ocean once for a school field trip, but it remained his favorite place. There was something extraordinary about being at the edge of the world, and the distant lands that lay on the other side of the vast waters. He longed to travel to new places, like the adventurous explorers in movies.
The dinner bell sounded in the distance. With a jolt, Nick snapped out of his daydream and hurried back down the hill. He couldn’t be late to dinner again. The last time he was late, Mrs. Agatha had made him clean the entire attic as punishment. He swore he could still feel the cobwebs in his hair after two showers.
Emily's Notes:This is a bit similar to other things I’ve read. The writing felt a bit stiff.
Ben's Notes:This is pretty good writing. It’s not something I’d immediately reject, but after sitting here thinking about it, it’s not something I would request either. I’d write the author a more personal note than a simple form rejection, tell him or her to keep at it and query me again in the future.
Great opening! I enjoyed it. While the writing is great, I probably would not have asked for more pages because the story does hit a number of typical MG scenarios/tropes.