It did not suck.
Amazed, I went back and looked through the 33,000 words I had either edited or [mostly] rewritten from scratch. To my great surprise and happiness, she was right. Somehow, in the days between when I turned it over to her and when she judged it as worthy, the manuscript had transformed into something that even I was excited to read again.
How the heck does that happen? Lesson learned: Perspective is everything.
I ended up adding another chapter to complete Carowyn's character arc (do you guys know who Carowyn is?) and redid the final chapter to give it more of a bang, and we'll see if Kat can work her magical transformation from bad to good writing again merely by deeming it acceptable :-)
Then, as I explained to a lovely young woman who emailed me to express her impatience in receiving the published work, I will send it to three additional CPs for their feedback (two of whom have never read any drafts of the story ever, which you will come to learn is one of the most valuable characteristics of a trusted CP), then to my agent.
If she approves we can begin to construct the submissions list. :D
As for all this time I have between making edits, true to my word I've been reading, reading, reading. Unfortunately, I haven't yet gotten to any of your awesome recommendations. For a very good reason.
Her name is Patricia A. McKillip, and I was introduced to her by my friend sjmaas. More specifically, Sarah recommended ALPHABET OF THORN and then I read IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE (and am now finishing up OD MAGIC).
So here's my recommendation back to you: Go now, now, NOW and read ALPHABET OF THORN (though I think I preferred IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE, though it won't be for everyone).
Patricia's way of fantasy writing is itself magical. I haven't felt so transfixed by a book in years. Just get a load of this sentence:
"...the woman who had, for an instant, reached into the prince to hold his own heart in her hand like a sweet, ripe pear."
Her writing is all like that. I'm a sucker for metaphor and simile, but how could you not appreciate the beauty of that imagery?
Thank you again to everyone for your recommendations! I'll be referencing back to your comments for months to come.