So here's Jessica's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.
Dear [awesomesauce agent]:
Falling in love is the worst thing sixteen-year-old mage Kadren could do. He is imprisoned by a vile king determined to harness his fire magic. Escape should be the only thing on his mind, but within days of his capture, the voice of Brelina, a water mage and fellow prisoner, fills his head. They’ve Bonded—forever linked by? in? mind and soul, their every thought, every emotion, every experience entwined.
Hmm. Your opening has several good things going for it. For one: mages. For another: elemental magic. These are both cool things, but they've also been done. Furthermore, the bonding is a pretty good hook, but before you get to the hook, you should start with character. We know Kadren is a mage, which is cool, and tells us a bit about him, and we know his element is fire, from which we can infer a few things, but what kind of person is he? What is his character before his story starts?
Brelina is as delicate and innocent as a wisp of smoke, with a stubborn streak that drives him mad. Born a slave, she doesn’t know any different life. She worships the king and believes he has every right to order the mages beaten or killed, but Kadren cannot suppress his fascination for her.
This is a good bit of backstory, that also clues us into the world, but you might not need so many words to say this. The only important points here are that Brelina is a slave, and she worships the king. Try to be more succinct. Maybe you can include those points when you first introduce her.
She refuses to leave the safety of her captivity, and even though Kadren can command fires with whispers, he can do nothing to change her mind. Only an idiot would remain a slave for a girl, so Kadren escapes without her.
His plans slam to a gut-twisting halt when the king rapes Brelina. Whoa. Okay. That's pretty powerful. Tortured with guilt for not being there to protect her, Kadren races back to save her and swears to kill the king for what he has done. But there’s one problem: the king has a secret that makes him impossible to kill.
Maybe end with a sadistic choice. Kadren must decide whether to sacrifice his life needlessly, or allow the king to continue in his abuses. Or, you know, something better.
I don't think you need this last bit at all. You've already hooked us at this point.
BONDED working titles are great in queries, and this is a good one, but just be aware that a book with this title was just published. is a YA Fantasy complete at 74,000 words. It will appeal to fans of character-driven fantasies such as Kristin Cashore’s
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Okay. In summary, this one is tough. You hit all the points: Character, Hook, Conflict, Stakes, and even though your Choice is only implied, it's there. And yet, it feels like something is missing. Or maybe it's just that's too much here.
Try to focus on the three most important elements: Character, Conflict, Choice.
Who is Kadren? Well, he's a fire mage, and he's probably a pretty nice guy, but we need to know more about who he is, what kind of person, before we can sympathize with him, and care whether he overcomes his plight.
What is the conflict he must overcome? Well, the main thing is rescuing his lover, Brelina. Obviously the stakes are raised by the bonding, the rape, and her opinion of slavery, and those are important points, but the main conflict is the rescue, or the lack thereof.
What is his sadistic choice? Well, this one is hard. If the king is immortal, he can't simply kill him and save the girl. But he can't let her continue to be mistreated, either. He could sacrifice himself needlessly by trying to kill the king anyway, but I have a feeling he doesn't do that.
This query is already in pretty decent shape. You've got all the elements you need; I think you just need to re-work it a little, so it packs more punch, and is a bit more focused.
What do you all think?