Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bouncer Post #79

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 79,000


When eighteen-year-old Gracie Heart gets caught stealing a ride on a circus train, she expects to get in trouble. Instead, she is given a job as the magician's assistant. Jack, the circus’s magician and knife thrower, is charismatic and genteel but his aim isn’t perfect—hence the position opening.

After each performance, Gracie finds threatening notes hidden in her costume. At first she thinks she’s being haunted by the ghost of the last assistant, but Gracie soon realizes she’s the one writing the notes to warn herself: she’s next.

Each time Gracie steps inside the magician’s vanishing closet, she is transported from the late nineteenth century to Laputa, a world of futuristic, steam-powered technology. While there, she discovers the last assistant’s death wasn’t an accident, and that the computer keeping the world in existence is powered by something called a “heartstone.” Everyone living person has one and Gracie’s is highly desired by Laputa’s dubious ruler. The problem is, each time Gracie steps back through the closet, she forgets everything.

Gracie suspects Jack and his identical twin know something about her reoccurring déjà vu and the cryptic notes, but she’s not sure which brother she can confide in. She has several reasons not to trust either, and even more cause to believe one of them holds the answer she needs to save herself from insanity. Unfortunately, there seems no definite way to tell them apart.

A second death on the circus lot makes one thing clear: if Gracie can’t figure out the mystery of the notes, her next venue might be the afterlife.

First 250:

The silver dollar and train ticket Mr. Minchin pushed into her hand at the iron gate of the orphanage meant one thing to Gracie—freedom to search for her family.

She didn’t know why her aunt and uncle had never come to claim her, but she refused to believe Mr. Minchin’s explanation that they simply hadn’t wanted her. If they were still in Chicago, despite the passage of eight years, she intended to find them.

Gracie’s skin pebbled in the cold spring air while she waited for him to unlock the gate. She’d had years to prepare for this moment, yet the shivers still seeped through her skin into her resolve. What if she couldn’t find her way to the train station?

“That money is only to be used as a last resort.” Mr. Minchin wagged a liver-spotted finger at her. “Things are different in the real world. If you’re sassy with your supervisor, he’s going to garnish your wages rather than slap your knuckles with a ruler. And if you lose your job don’t bother returning here. Once I close this gate, you’re on your own.”

She nodded, tucking the coin in her skirt pocket and picking up her steamer trunk by the handle. The money wasn’t a parting gift; it was his insurance to get rid of her for good.

“Don’t worry. You won’t be seeing me again.”

The gate slammed behind her in response. “There’s no need to be rude,” she said to herself.


  1. Love the line in the query 'knife thrower, is charismatic and genteel but his aim isn’t perfect—hence the position opening.'

    Great start, great premise, circus, mystery and murder.

  2. Cool premise and great opening pages! Your query is interesting and well written. Good luck!

  3. I like this- the circus setting seems pretty unique to me, and the idea that the magician's box is a gateway to the future is great. Good luck!

  4. The orphan story is a classic set up but this promises something different. "You're in!"

  5. Great premise and nice beginning.
    Congrats on getting in. :)

  6. Interesting concept! And I really like the last line in your query.

  7. Nice opening paragraph in your query.

  8. I thought the opening paragraph of the query was really strong, capturing the relationships and the humor that I imagine will be throughout the story. The premise as a whole is interesting to me. I like the mystery, the potential for great settings, and the obstacles that are set up.

    As for the writing itself, it's smooth and clean. I feel like I got a solid sense of Gracie's strength while also feeline secure in the narrative voice. This is a book I'd buy!