Strength In Your Queries 3: The Spades Quest

Next on Strength In Your Queries (ALL ABOUT QUERYING) is THE SPADES QUEST! Speckled between this month’s querying posts and interviews will be critiques where we point out the strengths in the query letters you amazing readers sent to us, as well as what could be made stronger.

The goal is that at the end of the month, even if your query wasn’t critiqued, as a reader you can create a successful query letter of your own.🙂

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my Middle Grade fantasy novel, The Spades Quest. In 1990 Paris, two siblings discover a mystical world through an abandoned stable, and find themselves on a quest to defeat an evil Queen of Spades. Given your interest in magical Middle Grade books, I thought this would be a good fit, and have attached the first three chapters. The entire manuscript is complete at 40,000 words.

Two adventurous siblings―Kate and William―step through a stable and into the land of Decards, one hot in the eternal anger of the power of the Queen of Spades. The sibling come when all hope is almost lost. Now the people of the land place their longing of leaving the Queen’s endlessly burning days upon their shoulders. First, however, they have to venture on a deadly quest.

The Spades Quest is inspired by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis. It would also sit well alongside books by Katherine Rundell and A.M.Howell.

I was a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until very recently, when I was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University. I also have a lifelong love for animals – something that appears in the form of the many creatures my characters encounter.

Yours sincerely,

Writer’s Comment: I like the structure of the query letter and I think the plot line is passed across rather strongly!

Lucia’s Comment:


  • I loveee this letter. I feel like the voice is so poignant and I’m already so curious about this land burning in the anger of the Queen of Spades.
  • I like the intro paragraph as it delivers all the details of the manuscript very nicely.
  • The comps and bio are written really well!

What could be stronger?

  • I think you can expand a bit more on this deadly quest the siblings have to embark on.
  • While the conflict is shown nicely, the stakes can be brought more to light.

That said, I think you have a beautiful query here and were I an agent I’d be buzzing to read your MS!

Amber’s Comments:


  • I agree with Lucia that your voice comes across strongly in the query, which is fantastic! If this same voice carries through seamlessly in your pages and that would make it even better.
  • Love that you comped to books by Rundell and Howell, which are more recent, given that the Narnia books are more dated. The combination gives a good sense of where your book would sit on the shelves!

What could be stronger?

  • The section about the plot is a little brief, so I think you can afford to expand on it further with one more paragraph. Here are some things that you could consider including in the query:
    • Why did Kate and William end up stepping through the portal in the stable? Was there something that drove them to the stable?
    • What are some specific things that the Queen does to the people of Decards that makes them suffer? E.g. does she burn their homes, or lock people up for tiny mistakes?
    • A little description of the land of Decards beyond the Queen’s fury would be great! The bit about the characters meeting many creatures along the way could be brought up front because it can help readers visualise what the world is like.
    • What are some specifics about the “deadly quest”? The additional paragraph could expand on this. What exactly do they need to do in order to defeat the queen and what are the stakes for Kate and William (e.g. they can’t return home)? Currently the query doesn’t mention the personal stakes for the MCs.
    • To ramp up tension, you could include a line about the Queen trying to thwart their quest.

I do love a good portal fantasy so am excited to see where your book lands! Also, welcome to Cambridge – my favourite place in the whole world 😀

Mariana’s Comments:


  • I think you did a great job with your first paragraph, since you state what you’re looking for from the first sentence, you also say which is the genre of the book and the word count.
  • I also liked that you tell the agent why you’re querying him/her specifically.
  • You also did a good job with your comps and your BIO since I can totally see how your experience relates to this book.

What could be stronger?

  • I agree that you could expand a bit more on the plot paragraph, as Lucia and Amber suggested. For example I’d like to know how come if the main characters are strangers to the land, the people placed such faith and hope upon their shoulders. I’d also like to know what is the quest the MCs are facing. If it’s deadly and it’s not their land, why would the characters risk their lives? Is it the only way to go back home?
  • I think you need to include a bit more information about the plot on your query without revealing too much, so that the agent gets hooked and interested to ask for more.
  • I think it would be good if you could mention one or two books of Katherine Rundell and A.M. Howell. I recommend you include the year of publication as reference.

Good luck with your query! I hope it will help you get ahead in your path to publication. I wish you all the best!

Strength-o-meter: 6.5!

Published by Lucia’s Fiction

Novelist and Blogger

2 thoughts on “Strength In Your Queries 3: The Spades Quest

  1. I agree that this letter has a strong voice, but that it reads as way to short. Once it’s expanded it’ll be great. Thanks to you ladies for supporting the community this way!


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