I write fantasy, and my book has a prologue. It's a very needed prologue as it sets up the entire system of magic and politics for the world my story takes place in.
But I've heard a lot of agents hate prologues and that it is a bad idea to include one as pages with a query. So now I'm wondering if having a prologue is going to spoil my chances of ever getting published.
Can you help?
Prologues are tricky wee things. Personally, I'm not a fan and often skip them when reading because I'm interested in reading the story, not whatever backstory the writer has chosen to tell me in the prologue.
I certainly would suggest not including a prologue with your query package unless your protagonist is a part of the prologue and it is an essential part of your story. It sounds like in your case, the prologue is there to create context for the story and do some of the heavy lifting for your world-building, so I would not include that with your query package.
In terms of the bigger picture, think about whether or not you can weave those world-building elements into the actual story. Do they need to be in a prologue people may or may not read before the story starts? If people skip the prologue, will they still understand the story?
It's always better to show how the magic systems and politics work in practice than to tell a reader all about them in advance, so if you can weave the detail in with the action, I think you'll find the prologue becomes redundant. Plus the way these systems affect your characters becomes clear within the context of the story.
So my advice is to think hard about what your prologue is actually doing and whether or not that work can be done within the main body of your story.
Hope that helps!