ceiser wrote:Any and all feedback, as always, is most welcome and appreciated! Quill and rainbowsheeps, I'm not ignoring your suggestions for the first paragraph, but am really trying to focus on the second one for the time being. (I'll focus on the second paragraph then, as well.)
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Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years.
With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav trains in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws on Planet 1287. (First, the easy one. You probably don't need the planet number. Unless you're adding it just to make this clear it's sci-fi. Now... the first clause is a little passive. "Jav seals the Ritual Mask away to conserve its power" might be the way to go. It might help to give the Eighteen Heavenly Claws a lowly improper noun to help clarify what it really is. School, technique, whatever.) He practices long past dark every day, taking time only to carve stone flowers for Lili Farina, the girl he accidentally put into a coma on his first day there. (The flow of this bothers me a little. I don't have an example to give, exactly, but "the girl he accidentally put into a coma on his first day there" seems like a bit much. It's odd, because it was more vague before, but I thought it was better in your last revision than this one. Basically, when I read this now, I'm wondering exactly what went wrong and how he put her into a coma. Before, it felt like a simple character statement, that he was taking responsibility for a mistake, or it was you showing us a sensitive side to the guy. Now, since you're getting into a more specific description, it feels like it isn't specific enough. If you get what I'm saying.) Amid punishing training conditions and with the competition still ahead, ("Punishing conditions" isn't descriptive enough here. If your novel is going to focus on this training, that needs to be a lot more specific and seem much more perilous. Otherwise, it reads like we might be reading about a very very long Rocky montage.) Jav struggles for control, balancing his raw ability against the latent power of the Mask, which is always there, just outside the reach of his senses. ("struggles for control" and "balancing his ability" seem bland. I'd prefer if you said something like, "Jav is always struggling against the latent power of the mask...") If the seal is broken, he runs the risk of exhausting the Mask completely, but also of and losing himself to its insatiable thirst for blood. and t That, he just can't have. Especially not when fellow student Mai Pardine, another student, has started to reminds him of a lover he's never met. (This hook is good. Much better ending than the previous versions! I'm making a comment below, though, about setting up the specific danger to him needing the mask. I think that's missing here. You have a few sentences now talking about his training, but no real villain (except Jav's inner demon, the thirst for blood from the mask). If you set up a villain, or a situation that might need Jav to wear the mask and risk losing control, you'll have a stronger climax and a bigger sense of stakes. And, probably, a stunner query.)
THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a work of science fiction, complete at 76,000 words. I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Is the seal to the mask ever broken? You set up the consequences of what happens, but not the inciting event that could trigger it. Does he have to take the mask out again *in this book* at any point? There's no villain for him to defeat, and no situation where he might need it that's introduced. So the stakes right now aren't as strong as they should be. If Jav has to use the mask in an end fight with Mei (who isn't mentioned anymore, I know), for instance, that should be your end hook. It would have a lot of tension: he needs to defeat her (or whoever), but wearing it risks killing him (because the mask is losing power), and him killing others (from its bloodthirst). You're missing a key ingredient to this hook: an inciting incident... a life-threatening situation (which only the mask can prevent), a villain, or something to "make" those stakes.
If you have a situation in your story where the seal breaks, or he needs the mask, that should be your end hook for this query. If you don't
have a situation like that in this book, I honestly, humbly suggest you seriously considering altering the climax of your story in some way to do this. It would feel more like a payoff.
Of course, that's just my take.