HH Com 149

Fire Wakes Water is a 94,000 word historical fantasy novel set in a world based on 7th Century Japan and is not about samurai.

your hook starts here:
Ayame, the daughter of a simple farmer, is shocked when one of the Emperor's wizards arrives to take her to the magical school by force because she possesses the Gift.

Known as the "magical prison," the school is on a remote island where all children born with the Gift are taken. They lose their names, their past, and their pride as they are trained to be ruthless wizards loyal only to the Emperor.

Her Gift turns out to be more of a curse in a school where failure means death. An older male student named Kentaro falls in love with Ayame and they try to escape the island but are thwarted by a magical barrier.

When Master Otakayama, the school's tyrannical headmaster, becomes interested in Ayame's elemental magic, she has no idea that he intends to use her magic to awaken an ancient dragon. She grows more powerful under his tutelage, but fears for her life when she learns that none of the female students live long enough to graduate.

So, what's her dilemma? Kill the Otakayam dude and run off to Tokyo to become a harajuka girl? You're giving us back story and world building. Focus on what happens to Ayame when she realizes all is not well, and what she has to do to survive.


shannon said...

I think there's an interesting premise under this but you're not presenting it very well. Yes it's written clearly, but it is really hard to write hooks for fantasy novels, it's so hard to separate the main thrust of the book from the world supporting it.

I also wouldn't call it a historical fantasy, when it's not actually set in Japan, but in a world like it. That's just fantasy with an Asian influence.

The best thing to do is to focus on the main character, Ayame, and, as Miss Snark says, her dilemma. Why don't the female students survive? Also, when you liken the school to a prison, I kinda expected it to be pretty grim inside.

Remember, an agent has to try to sell it to a publisher - picture them doing it and what they'd say to achieve it. The world-building, as necessary as it is to the story, isn't going to sell it.

Beth said...

The hook unravels toward the end; it's too ambiguous as to what the central conflict is, other than survival.


This is intriguing. It sounds like it could be a fascinating story. I find myself wishing Miss Snark would ask for pages, just so we could read more.

Virginia Miss said...

I think this setting and situation sound promising, but the hook is weak.

I agree with Shannon. Call it a fantasy set in a world similar to seventh century Japan.

The first sentence in your last paragraph is the best part of your hook. Condense what came before, although you should keep "Her Gift turns out to be more of a curse in a school where failure means death." Also include something like "unable to leave because of the island's magical barrier"

Then elaborate on what she's up against.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This is one of the more original ideas, and one of the handful I would be tempted to read. I have a feeling the book is better than the hook. Maybe finishing with an idea of what it is that kills the girls before they graduate and the sense that she's next might give ot some oomph at the end. But I like it.

LJCohen said...

"Paper Mage" by Leah R Cutter travels similar ground. It's a wonderful novel--a review is here.

With a clearer hook, this would probably be something I would read. It's refreshing to see a fantasy book set in a non-european medival setting.

Sonarbabe said...

Shannon offers some very good advice. I usually don't like fantasy books, but this piqued my interest. Focus a bit more on Ayame's dilemma and what she needs to do about it. Otherwise, it sounds promising.

Writerious said...

I should hope it's not about samurai, since it's set in classical rather than feudal Japan. Do make sure you have a strong understanding of the Heian period.

Without seeing the manuscript, I can't be sure, but have a vague suspicion that this is a typical western fantasy plot (magically gifted child, wizard's school, these were common plot elements long before Harry Potter), that happens to be set in a pseudo-Japanese world. Maybe it's just that I've seen lots of bad anime fanfic that makes that error. If you want Japan or a pseudo Japan as your world, make sure that the plot, the people, the worldviews, and the motivations are culturally appropriate, even if it is an alternate world.

eleora said...

Thanks for your comments on my novel hook :) they will really help me revise this. This novel is told from 4 povs and has a lot of plot--it's been really hard to spark interest without making it too complex.

BernardL said...

It sounds like an Asian female Harry Potter, so the hook would have to be very sharp.

eleora said...

To ljcohen: Papermage is a great book :)

To writerious: Most people are not as familiar with Japanese history as you are and my hope was to help my novel stand out from other samurai books. Most of my research was on Nara period.

Kiki said...

Harry Potter does Japan?
I don't, in general, like books that are set in Japan for no other reason than to add 'exotic' appeal. of course I can't judge what the author was trying to do here, but it sounds from the hook that the story could have been set anywhere.

I'm with writerious on this one. Make sure you know your background *very* well before setting your novel in pseudo-Japan.

And the opening line '...and is not about samurai' just slays me.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a fantasy world based in Japanese mythology and folklore. A suggestion: you might want to sharpen the conflict for Ayame by making acceptance into this highly unpleasant school more critical for her. Perhaps children with the Gift are considered to be social outcasts and becoming one of the Emperor's wizards is their only hope of "fitting in" to normal society. If not, I think you need to address what happens when Ayame escapes the school. Can kids with the Gift ever really go home again? You've got a good idea here and I look forward to seeing you develop it.

A Paperback Writer said...

I agree with the Samari Hogwarts comments. Be careful there.
And, if the students lose their names, then how does the protagonist know the name of the older male student who falls in love with her?
Still, it has potential.

katiesandwich said...

Actually, according to Wikipedia, a book that's strongly inspired by a historic era still technically qualifies as historical fantasy. I blogged about the many subgenres of fantasy once before and learned this. Whether or not it's better to just say "inspired by" or not is another matter, of course!

tomdg said...

I liked the "not about Samurai" line. It says to me that you know what's boring and done to death and want to avoid it.

And personally I'd say "historical fantasy" sounds just right to me - what else could it mean other than fantasy set in a quasi-historical setting? You can't set a fantasy in real Japan because there is no magic in the real world.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't sound like Harry Potter so much as it does Raymond Feist's first Riftwar novel, "Magician". Pug, while on the Japanese-influenced fantasy world of Kelewan, is discovered by a wizard to have "power". He is stolen away from his friends and lover to a magical prison-like school. He has no recollection of his past or of his own identity, and is in fact given a new one.

Failure at this school means death.

These students are trained to be ruthlessly loyal to the Empire (this loyalty is an important element in both the plot and the character's development.)

While not related to the school, the book also features an ancient dragon who teaches one of Pug's friends powerful, ancient magic.

Feist's novels are some of the more well-known fantasy novels, and he is one of the more prolific fantasy authors.