"Although you have an intriguing premise..." "you have a wonderful story but..."
When you're an author, you get used to these kinds of responses from agents. They are usually the generic query responses sent out when the agent doesn't have time to read and give a personalized critique on your book.
What you don't realize is how true they can be.
I fell head over heels for the premise (not to mention the cover) of The Lady Rogue. A lady adventurer in the 1900s in Romania must save her father when something goes wrong on a mission to find the lost ring of Dracula. Does it have mystical powers? You'll have to read to find out? Can she save him? We'll never know. But one thing we do know is she'll have to step up as her father has never allowed her to do before because now that he's gone, she is his only hope.
The book wasn't in the local library (no surprise there) so I asked for a copy of it for my birthday from good 'ol Thriftbooks. I even took the copy with me to Cincinnati when I took a trip there for two weeks for some medical treatment.
I found a couple of things:
The book was okay. And when I say "okay" I mean solidly average. I was extremely tired multiple times reading the book. Some of the treatments I received made me tired. Sometimes I was tired because I was traveling. If the book had been incredibly enticing, I would have fallen asleep less while reading it. Usually, I can start to feel myself falling asleep when I'm reading a good book because I am desperate to keep my eyes open and read one chapter more but can't. So I set the book aside and close them for five minutes. When I was reading this book, I missed whole sections of text because my eyes were pretty much closed but I was still turning the pages. To really get to know the characters and understand what happened in the book (I think she saved her father. I'm still not sure) I'd have to read it again.
The book was classified as a young adult but definitely could have been classified as middle grade.
I have mentioned my theory about the sliding scale of YA and MG books before. Here are a couple of diagrams I made to explain it.
The Lady Rogue was highly Middle Grade because of the tone and style the author wrote with and the age and actions of the characters. Some of the characters in the other books listed on that spectrum are the same age as Theodora (who I think was fifteen or sixteen) but other books have more violence, drama, and, in the case of those closer to the adult side, sex.
You could pick two novels off this spectrum (one off of each end) and compare them and see so many differences in the way the author writes. In fact, if you are writing a novel, I highly suggest doing this to get an idea of where you want your novel to fall on the spectrum and how to accomplish that. The YA age classification is hugely broad because there are so many novels in it and so many new ones being released daily. If you don't know whether your novel is YA, MG, or adult, take a look at some examples and get a better idea of where you want it to fall. What you do not want is your readers expecting something different from your novel than you deliver.
While The Lady Rogue was not what I was expecting (and I missed half of it due to sleep). It was still a wonderful novel and I would buy it again just for the stunning cover. If you are into historical fiction, great female protagonists, or touches of fantasy in your novels, check it out!