Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#PitchWars Critique: FIREBIRD

My PitchWars mentor-partner Kate Karyus Quinn and I agree that we didn't read a single query that was bad - nor did we read any first pages that were unsalvageable. And honestly with as many submissions as we had, we were surprised at the quality of them. Which is why we decided to offer query and first page critiques on our blogs to everyone who submitted to us.

Quite a few people have taken us up on the offer. Through November, Kate and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Any writer can learn from these - not just the author of the material being critiqued. You'll see my comments in green.


Cursed by the prophecies that foretold her future as a killer, 16 year-old Tatiana – daughter of Koschei the Deathless – will do anything to avoid her destiny. With a kingdom that quakes at the mention of her name and her notoriety as a harbinger of death, Tatiana only wants a place to belong.

When she meets Ivan Tsarevich – a handsome and charming prince, who offers Tatiana the companionship she desperately wants – she jumps at the chance to let go of her curse and falls in love with him. Tatiana plans her escape escape from what and how? Is the prophecy something that's going to follow her as a person or does she just need to leave the kingdom where she's known as that girl? with Ivan – but on that night, she has a prophetic dream and turns back home to find her kingdom burned to ashes by the very prince to whom she swore her his pronouns?? love.

Alone, Tatiana begins on a new path to rescue her father from the clutches of Ivan Tsarevich – whose power is dangerous at the hand of any mortal. Wait - is this an implied supernatural power? Or just princely power? The only way to accomplish this is by finding the legendary Firebird, which holds the key to unlocking Ivan’s grasp on Koschei confused on how the prince would have power over a supernatural being, but time is running out. With Kochei’s powers on the hands of a mortal OK you're phrasing above didn't imply that Ivan had found a way to wield K's powers, which is what I think you're saying now, the boundaries between life and death have already begun to shatter.

Fearful of more betrayals and tempted by thoughts of revenge, Tatiana must decide if saving her father and kingdom are worth the cost of sacrificing herself – and fulfilling the destiny she has feared all her life. Overall the query is pretty good. Clear up the questions above.

FIREBIRD is a stand-alone young-adult fantasy set in alternative Imperial Russia. Retelling the classic Russian fairytales of “Ivan and the Firebird” and “The Death of Koschei the Deathless”, I believe FIREBIRD will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE  and Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING.

First page:

The body lay sprawled on the floor.

The woman had been stabbed multiple times, the blood pooling beneath her. I tiptoed my way around the room, avoiding where it what? the blood? had touched I don't know that blood "touches" - splatters, spills, pooled. After all these years, I had learned not to stain my clothes. I held my breath as I faced her, the pale reflection of a dying human. The knife plunged in her chest did not make her breathing any easier.

I did not know this woman’s name.

But she knew mine.

“Tatiana Koscheiovna” she said, with her last will. Her final words. Daughter of bones, daughter of blood, daughter of death. These were her last moments. I had seen too many like it to care anymore. “Have you come for me?”

There was no relief on her voice, like there wasn’t in any of the others when they saw me. She already knew she was dying, and my appearance only confirmed it.

“Yes” I answered. “I have come for you.”


I stood outside with the knife in hand, my braid slashing in the wind like a coiling whip. The smell of the blood didn’t seem to vanish from my nostrils, grounding me to the world that wasn’t accustomed to my presence.

The Mortal Realm. Something I thought I’d never see in person, and yet, here I was.

The wind sent shivers down my spine, but the sensation was relishing word choice?. New. Like my body was telling me that I belonged here, and not the drab and cold castles in the Other Realm. Telling the daughter of Mariya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless that she had stood in the wrong place. Like always.

At the same time, the scene of death had never felt more real. At least, in the dreams, the blood hadn’t smelled so strongly. The woman didn’t matter — like none of the others had. Ever since the day I was born and my role was made clear to the world as the daughter of the Tsar of Death. Three daughters of death, with three different roles as spirits of death. My sisters appeared for those who had died honorably in battle or reached old age. I was the one who had to appear to all of those who had been murdered.

Overall, pretty good. You've got some echoes that need addressed. Yes "death" is going to occur naturally a lot in these pages but you'll need to find other phrasing to help with flow.

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