Query Critique/Workshop: CATALYST (Fantasy)



Critiquer: Rebecca Weston


Sachi is destined to die: (Nice, strong opening line.) she is the catalyst for the Undoing, and her final task is to seal her people’s power away in the Eye of Kash. But the Eye is located in the heart of the Kashtophim Empire, and it’s not a matter of if she’s caught, but when. (And then everything gets confusing. You throw a lot of world-building terms out there all at once, and none of them mean anything to me, so it’s hard to get wrapped up in the stakes. What’s the Undoing? What’s the Eye of Kash? What happens if she doesn’t seal the power away? And if the Eye is so important, why is it in this other empire?)

When she reaches the Eye, she is captured by the head judge, Taphim. He earned his authority by annihilating her lesser race,” but now he is haunted by the blood on his hands. In a desperate gamble to save Sachi, (and to redeem his own soul, I assume? It doesn’t seem to be about Sachi so much as making up for his sins. But if Sachi dying is so important to her people, does preventing her somehow endanger her people again?) he hides her away as his mistress. They weren’t supposed to actually fall in love.

Then Taphim’s power-hungry son, Zanis, discovers their affair and captures Sachi so he can blackmail his father. Zanis gives his father an ultimatum: he must appoint his son as his successor and execute Sachi with his own hands, or Zanis will expose the affair. (I feel like Zanis makes bad ultimatums. I mean, what happens if Zanis exposes the affair that would be WORSE than having to kill a woman he loves? I’d be tempted to take my chances with the scandal if I were him.)

Trapped in this living nightmare, Taphim finds an unexpected ally already at his side – his wife, Zareja. (I really like this element. A lot.) But it may be too late to save Sachi.

My 80,000-word novel, Catalyst, is a complete, adult fantasy, Complete at 80,000 words, CATALYST is a fantasy novel that explores the intricacies of genocide, cultural revolution, and destiny. It is the first in a planned series. CATALYST also won first place in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror novel category in the 2013 Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. contest. I am a member of the same organization. (Very solid closing.)

So the trickiest part of queries is trying to highlight the unique elements of your book without getting TOO detailed, and I really appreciate that you’re trying to keep this simple and not-too-wordy. That being said, we need a few more details. We definitely need to know why it’s so important that Sachi performs the Undoing and what happens to her people if she doesn’t because that part is kind of forgotten in the second half of the query. Personally, as a reader, I’m less concerned with Taphim’s situation and more concerned about how Sachi’s current state of not-dying is affecting all of the others. 

We need a few more details about what’s going on with this world and what some of these terms you’re using mean so that we can be grounded enough to really feeling the rising stakes.


If you have any thoughts or questions, the comments are open, but please keep it constructive. No douchebaggery allowed.

One thought on “Query Critique/Workshop: CATALYST (Fantasy)

  1. Okay, so clarify the opening, the world, and the stakes better – I can do that!

    THANK YOU for saying it appears Zanis makes bad ultimatums there. Because there was actually more to that part in my original query draft that makes the ultimatum better, but some other feedback said it wasn’t necessary. Next time, I shall stay with my gut.

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