Mentor Name: Kim Long
Mentee Name: Deborah Graff
Title: RIDDLE OF THE TEN KINGDOMS
Category: Middle Grade
Word Count: 55,000
Twelve-year-old Renn longs to be a soldier. But when the elf queen attacks Renn for her mixed blood, it’ll take more than a sword to fight back. She’ll need her friends, her emerging powers, and all her courage to solve the biggest riddle of all: how to save the Ten Kingdoms from the queen’s evil plan.
Renn circled Leo on the path bordering the grapevines, her sword pointed at his heart. A wooden sword was better than no sword at all, and a practice duel was the best way to warm up.
She lunged. Leo parried with his own wooden sword and knocked hers aside with a dull clack.
“Too bad you don’t have a battle charm,” he said.
“I don’t need elf magic.” Renn tried to think what a soldier would say and boomed, “I’ll win a place in the king’s army with my strength and my sword.”
“Your twig, you mean.” Leo moved fast. She tried to block, but he jabbed her shoulder.
“That almost hurt.” She rubbed the spot. “Go again?”
Instead of answering, Leo shaded his eyes from the rising sun and pointed south. Past the borders of Rowntree Village, where their own little path met the wide Victory Road, a cloud of dust rose between yellow-brown hills. It wouldn’t be long before the soldiers arrived.
Renn’s stomach twisted. “Maybe we’ll both pass their test. We’ll go to the castle together, fight dwarves, and keep the kingdom safe.”
“You know there aren’t girls in the army.”
“Not yet. But my father’s taught me as well as you and the other boys, even if he won’t let me use steel. He always says, ‘Train everyone for battle, try every day for peace.’” Renn slashed her sword in the air. “Today, I’ll show everyone what I can do.”