Tuesday, June 22, 2021

June 2021 Pass or Pages Entry #2

 

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Michaela Whatnall, Rebecca Podos, and Elle Thompson for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!

Entry 2: The Keepers of the Crown


Query:

 
Every High King selects Keepers to protect him… however this King chose ones that each secretly want him dead[MW1].

Dagny Silversight, the lost exiled princess of the former murdered King[MW2], wants to kill the new King more than anyone. Dagny— armed with a grudge, dark powers, and the knowledge and uncanny abilities of Moratheen’s most mysterious and all-seeing cult — wants revenge for her slain family. She is going to help the Keepers to do just that.

Once a timid child, Dagny now finds herself leading the three bickering Keepers: a doctor from a colonized race who wants justice for her people, a veteran knight seeking to end a witch’s curse, and an immortal pirate who wants…. well, the King’s supply of wine. One problem: they believe only one of them can get what they want[MW3].

After a comedy of errors where the Keepers thwart each other’s assassination attempts, the fearful King goes into hiding. Now their biggest enemy is each other. The three plunge every province into civil war in a race to find the King. Now their only hope in finding him rests in the hands of Dagny and her dark affiliations. After losing one family, Dagny refuses to lose another, and won't help them unless they unite[MW4].

But sometimes the only worthy price is blood. The four motley heroes stumble over one another to end the King’s reign, life, and belief that all heroes are good.

THE KEEPERS OF THE CROWN is complete at 95k words, told in a dark but humorous tone akin to that of Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld. While the story does have series potential, it works as a standalone as well[RP1][ET1].
~~
Michaela's comments: 
[MW1] The way this is set up, I’d assume that either the king is the central character, or that the Keepers each share the spotlight. If Dagny is the protagonist, pull her into your opening line.
[MW2] There’s a lot going on in this phrase. I would suggest deleting “lost,” switching out “princess” for “daughter,” and clarifying who killed the previous king.
[MW3] Why?
[MW4] I didn’t get the sense before now that the Keepers cared about each other at all, so the idea of them being a family is surprising.
Rebecca's comments:
[RP1] I’m intrigued by court intrigue, always, and I like that we get to know a little about Dagny, what she wants, and how she plans to get it (though I’m not sure where her dark powers and uncanny abilities overlap?) I also LOVE the description of her fellow keepers, and the set-up of four dueling assassins who are all meant to protect the king, and would keep reading for that alone. I love that tagline in the second-to-last paragraph as well. I’m not sure whether this is adult or YA, though?
Elle's comments: 
[ET1] Why would the High King select only Keepers who have compelling motive to kill him? This seems like a high-stakes political choice that the High King would have spent great thought, political power play, and general speculation in choosing, probably selecting people who had been close and consistent allies, likely family, for a long time prior to his ascension. Why is Dagny lost/how is she found? It sounds like she’s active in the kingdom’s central power—the castle, I presume—so how has nobody noticed and executed her? It makes sense that the doctor and the knight might not reveal her presence, but if the pirate only wants the High King’s wine cellar, and he’s a pirate and therefore likely to have poor moral authority, then why would they not immediately trade Dagny for the wine? And under what authority do these Keepers plunge the country into civil war? It’s unclear what provincial political powers they would wield, and it seems highly unlikely that a colonized (and therefore presumably minority) doctor, or a pirate, would be given land titles to influence this sort of military intrigue.
  Overall, the query leaves me with a lot of plot logic questions, and ones that are likely to stump other agents as well to varying degrees. At 95k, I assume this novel is adult, so you certainly have the word count real estate to modify and expand your world building. In thinking about your comp to Eames, he premises a fairly recognizable high fantasy set-up against a character line-up with a lot of personality, and that’s where the comedy steps in. Here, I think perhaps too much comedy/absurdity has been injected into the plot set-up fundamentally, and it instigates questionability of the story, rather than highlighting the entertaining merit of the peculiar character cast. In Eames’s novel, the mercenaries are a bit funny now because they’re well past their prime, but we still believe that they have their abilities, skills, and knowledge because we know that they used to be quite legitimate. In KEEPERS, I’m not sure the same skeleton has been afforded to your Keepers or, by extension, Dagna.


First 250 Words:

 
High Kings and High Queens come and go.

Some die peacefully in their beds with their heirs cozy at their side… and by “some” I refer to only four of the 233 High Rulers the vast land of Moratheen has seen.

Others have been poisoned, stabbed, bludgeoned, ransomed, flayed, drowned, burned by sorcerers, frozen by witches, beheaded; they have swallowed a stone instead of a berry, swallowed something else and choked, or have been swallowed; pushed from towers, succumbed to “natural causes” (meaning those yet to have seen a coroner), and all other sorts of imaginative, colourful devices.

Every king has four carefully selected Keepers to protect them from harm, and they— as you have probably come to realize— have a tremendously busy job.

The announcement ceremony when a High King elects his Keepers is always joyous. Men and women come from all edges of Moratheen; some only ever heard of in legends or bedside tales, and swear themselves to the new king upon his invitation. Centuries of Keepers had been chosen in the High Keep of the High King, and all of them had been showered in wealth and applause, adored and celebrated throughout the realm, and most importantly, given the unsoiled seat at the bar. Even the Keepers themselves, honored, would gleam on at the crowd as they were knighted, sworn in to forever protect the High King so long as they stood.

Today, the ceremony was happy for only three men[MW5][RP2][ET2].
~~
Michaela's comments: 
[MW5] Pass
Rebecca's comments:
[RP2] I’m in, pages! I love these opening paragraphs. Though I would like a clue as to who’s voice or POV we’re in, whether it’s Dagny or a really intrusive narrative voice (I’d prefer the former, but would like a signal either way).
Elle's comments: 

[ET2] I think it’s interesting that you’ve chosen a first person POV storyteller to witness the story. Who is the storyteller? You don’t need to tell us in the query or first 250, necessarily, but there ought to be an answer somewhere in the book. Otherwise, I actually quite like this set-up; I think the voice sounds fun, and the pacing seems promising.

  Given the plot structure concerns, this is currently a PASS for me, but I do hope you find my notes helpful in thinking about how you’re setting up that relationship between world-building and character motivations!

 

Results:

Michaela Whatnall: Pass
Rebecca Podos: Pages!
Elle Thompson: Pass




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