Thursday, July 19, 2018

Synopsis Critique #25: YA Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of A WITCH AWAKENING, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


[1]Aviana Greenwood spends her days at the family bakery creating sweet breads and savory pastries while using her magic to quicken the process. It’s a pleasant life, but she yearns to do more with her magic and wants to do it without keeping her powers a secret. 

In the Kingdom of Falder, a woman with magic is a witch, and witches have no place in society. Aviana grew up hiding her magic, but when she turns 16 she’s given another option. 

Her great uncle Nero offers to train her [2], and Aviana jumps at the chance, even though it hurts to leave the bakery and her family behind. [3]On the journey, Nero surprises her with a new idea. She could enroll at the University—all she has to do is enroll as a boy. 

If she get’s caught, she’ll become an outcast, forced to leave the life she knows behind. [4]But if she doesn’t, she’ll get to spend the next years learning from the best professors in the realm. She’ll get to follow in her late father’s footsteps. It’s what she’s always wanted, a dream she’d thought was impossible. Aviana agrees to his plan. 

Avi (as she goes by now) begins training for admissions and befriends Nero’s apprentice, Gavin. He’s planning to start at the University this year too, and he’ll be there to help her when Nero cannot. Their friendship is easy—maybe because he knows her secret, or maybe that’s just Gavin. 

They pass admissions. Classes are difficult, and Avi (who’s had little training) is behind from the start. But she works hard, gets help from her friends, and gains confidence when she realizes she’s skilled at potion making. [5]

She befriends other students, and is guilt–ridden over keeping her secret from them. Avi isn’t hiding her magic, but now she’s hiding another part of herself. [6]It’s especially hard lying to Celia, a girl from the local finishing school who has feelings for Avi. Avi feels guilty for potentially leading Celia on, for lying to her, and for hurting her by not reciprocating feelings. 

Adding to her worries, Avi meets Jax, an arrogant student who seems determined to ruin her time at the University. At first Avi isn’t sure why, but she soon discovers he’s jealous of her friendship with Celia. His family is close to Celia’s, and he hopes for an arranged marriage but thinks Avi is in the way. 

Gavin’s always there to cheer up Avi when Jax is being an ass[7], but under Gavin’s happy demeanor hides a sad secret. His sister has magic and is locked up at home because of it. Gavin was sent to Nero’s before he could help, but he has a plan to save her. His father wants an heir, a male heir, so Gavin offers his life in exchange for his sister’s. He’ll return home, run the family estates, marry whomever his father picks, and live a life he never wanted. 

When Gavin confides his plan to Avi, she gives another solution: she could reveal her secret. If people knew witches weren’t dangerous, Gavin’s sister could be freed. The idea distresses him. He’s seen the vicious reactions people have to a girl with magic. [8]

So Avi drops the conversation, but the idea doesn’t go away. Society believes men were given magic because they’re superior; they alone have the cool logic and control needed to properly cast spells. Would women be treated as equals if society knew they could safely wield magic too? 

Celia worries over the future planned for her, lamenting the fact that she’s meant to marry and run a household instead of pursuing her own dreams. Like Avi, she wants to study and learn—to know more about the world around her. Avi brings her to the University library, a chance to read books she can’t access elsewhere. Jax finds them there, and later that week the University bans girls from visiting. If society knew witches weren’t dangerous, would they think of women as more than future wives and mothers? [9]

As the year continues, Avi can’t rid herself of the idea that she should be doing more. She gets to be at the University while other witches live in hiding, suppressing their powers. Women are treated as lesser because it’s thought they can’t properly wield magic. And what will Avi do when she finishes her studies? She doesn’t wish to dress as a man forever. She decides she’ll reveal her secret and waits for an opportune moment. 

On the last day of term, Gavin’s father calls him home. It’s time for Gavin to fulfill his father’s wishes. If Avi wants to help him, she has to act now. She goes to the headmaster and reveals her secret. The headmaster supports her, but not all professors do, and some call for her to be locked up or sent away. 

Instead she’s expelled; her dream of studying at the University is snatched away. But there’s still hope of a happy ending. A council is formed to determine if women can safely use magic. Nero is appointed to lead the council and asks Avi to help. They’ll recruit other witches and show that Avi is not an exception. 

But the night after the council is formed, Avi’s endangered. Nero’s house is defaced with a message calling Avi to leave town, and Avi learns of Jax’s plan to stop her. He’s recruited people to take her magic, something Avi didn’t even know was possible. She’s scared but determined to continue her work for the council. She’s a witch and she’s no longer hiding. [10]


[1]You don’t need to specify her exact age in a synopsis, but I’d like to get a sense of whether she’s a teen (younger or older) or adult. In the next paragraph, it’s mentioned she’s given an option when she turns sixteen, but does that mean she’s newly sixteen at the beginning of the book? It’s worth mentioning, just to prevent confusion.

[2]I assume you mean train her to use her magic, but it’s worth specifying.

[3]Why does she have to leave to get the training? Does Nero live elsewhere?

[4]Leaving the life she knows is a negative, but what else does becoming an outcase entail?

[5]This makes sense, given her skill at baking. If these are related, I’d point out this detail.

[6]I would remind the reader here that Avi is pretending to be a boy.

[7]The tone of “an ass” doesn’t quite match the rest of the synopsis

[8]Is there more to this plan? Seems to me that people are so entrenched in the belief that witches are dangerous that Avi revealing herself wouldn’t be enough to change their minds.

[9]This sentence doesn’t quite seem to lead from the one before it.

[10]This ending feels really abrupt. Is this the actual ending of the book? If not, add a few more details explaining what happens at the end.


This is a really strong synopsis for what sounds like a great book. My notes are mostly nit-picks. Great job!

1 comment:

  1. I liked this synopsis too! Not sure if we're allowed to offer our own critique, but one thing I noticed was a lot of questions, often rhetorical-sounding.

    It looks like a fun read! Good luck!


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