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seql: Simplified EDN Query Language

seql intends to provide a simplified EQL inspired query language to access entities stored in traditional SQL databases. cljdoc badge Clojars Project


Accessing SQL entities is often done based on a pre-existing schema. In most designs, applications strive to limit the number of ways mutations should happen on SQL. However, queries often need to be very flexible in the type of data they return as well in the number of joins performed.

With this rationale in mind, seql was built to provide:

  • A data-based schema syntax to describe entities stored in SQL, as well as their relations to each other, making no assumptions on the database layout
  • A mapping between maps described with clojure.spec and records stored in databases with implicit coercion support.
  • A subset of the schema dedicated to expressing mutations and their input to allow for validation at the edge
  • A query builder allowing ad-hoc relations to be expressed
  • A mutation handler
  • A listener facility to support CQRS approaches

seql relies on three key libraries:

Where applicable, these dependencies are made obvious.



  • Deeper spec integration
  • Idents and conditions are now infered


  • Upgrade to recent next.jdbc and honeysql


Minor fixes for errors spotted by eastwood.


Inital release.


This project was greatly inspired by @wilkerlucio's work on pathom and subsequently EQL. As a first consumer of this library @davidjacot also helped iron out a few kinks and made some significant improvements. The 0.2.x release benefited from the sound advice and reviews of @arnaudgeiser and @mpenet.


Let us assume the following - admittedly flawed - schema, for which we will add gradual support:


All the following examples can be reproduced in the test/seql/readme_test.clj integration test. To perform queries, an environment must be supplied, which consists of a schema, and a JDBC config. In test/seql/fixtures.clj, code is provided to experiment with an H2 database.

For all schemas displayed below, we assume an env set up in the following manner:

(def env {:schema ... :jdbc your-database-config})

(require '[seql.query :as q])
(require '[seql.lister :as l])
(require '[seql.mutation :as m])
(require '[clojure.spec.alpha :as s])
(require '[seql.helpers :refer [make-schema ident idents field mutation
                                has-many condition entity-from-spec]])

Specs for the schema

Seql assumes you are familiar with clojure.spec if that is not the case, please refer to:

We can start by providing specs for the individual fields in each table:

(create-ns 'my.entities)
(create-ns 'my.entities.account)
(create-ns 'my.entities.user)
(create-ns 'my.entities.invoice)
(create-ns 'my.entities.invoice-line)
(create-ns 'my.entities.product)

(alias 'account 'my.entities.account)
(alias 'user 'my.entities.user)
(alias 'invoice 'my.entities.invoice)
(alias 'invoice-line 'my.entities.invoice-line)
(alias 'product 'my.entities.product)

(s/def ::account/name string?)
(s/def ::account/state #{:active :suspended :terminated})
(s/def ::account/account (s/keys :req [::account/name ::account/state]))

(s/def ::user/name string?)
(s/def ::user/email string?)
(s/def ::user/user (s/keys :req [::user/name ::user/email]))

(s/def ::invoice/state keyword?)
(s/def ::invoice/total nat-int?)
(s/def ::invoice/invoice (s/keys :req [::invoice/state ::invoice/total]))

(s/def ::invoice-line/quantity nat-int?)
(s/def ::invoice-line/invoice-line (s/keys :req [::invoice-line/quantity]))

(s/def ::product/name string?)
(s/def ::product/product (s/keys :req [::product/name]))

Queries on accounts

At first, accounts need to be looked up. We can build a minimal schema:

  (entity ::account/account
		  (field :name)
		  (field :state)))

Let's unpack things here:

  • We give a name our entity, by default it will be assumed that the SQL table it resides in is eponymous, when it is not the case, a tuple of [entity-name table-name] can be provided
  • We declare a list of fields known to exist in that table.

With this, simple queries can be performed:

(query env ::account/account [::account/name ::account/state])
;; or to fetch all default fields:
(query env ::account/account)

;; =>

[#::account{:name "a0" :state :active}
 #::account{:name "a1" :state :active}
 #::account{:name "a2" :state :suspended}]

Idents can also be looked up:

(query env [::account/id 0] [::account/name ::account/state])

;; =>

#::account{:name "a0" :state :active}

Notice how the last query yielded a single value instead of a collection. It is expected that idents will yield at most a single value (as a corollary, idents should only be used for database fields which enforce this guarantee).

Also notice how there was no prior mention of ::account/id

Infering schemas from specs

A first concrete improvement we can bring to the schema build step when an s/keys spec is available for our entity is to infer most of the schema from it:

  (entity-from-spec ::account/account))

We can now perform the following query:

(query env ::account/account [::account/name] [[::account/state :active]])

;; =>

[#::account{:name "a0"}
 #::account{:name "a1"}]

(query env ::account/account [::account/name] [[::account/state :suspended]])

;; =>

[#::account{:name "a2"}]

Adding a relation

For queries, seql's strength lies in its ability to understand the way entities are tied together. Seql offers support for one-to-many (has many), one-to-one (has one), and many-to-many (has many through) relations.

Let's start with a single relation before building larger nested trees. Since no assumption is made on schemas, the relations must specify foreign keys explictly:

  (entity-from-spec ::account/account
    (has-many ::users [:id ::user/account-id]))

  (entity-from-spec ::user/user))

This will allow doing tree lookups, fetching arbitrary fields from the nested entity as well:

(query env
        {::account/users [::user/name ::user/email]}])

;; =>

[#::account{:name  "a0"
            :state :active
            :users [#::user{:name "u0a0" :email "[email protected]"}
                    #::user{:name "u1a0" :email "[email protected]"}]}
 #::account{:name  "a1"
            :state :active
            :users [#::user{:name "u2a1" :email "[email protected]"}
                    #::user{:name "u3a1" :email "[email protected]"}]}
 #::account{:name "a2" :state :suspended}]

Summary of query description

We've now covered full capabilities of the query part of the schema, were we saw that:

  • Each entity should have a table.
  • To provide more idiomatic output, spec based coercions are performed in and out of the database.
  • Conditions allow for building advanced filters on entities.
  • To build arbitrarily nested entities, relations need to be used.

With this in mind, here's a complete schema for the above database schema:

 (entity-from-spec ::account/account
            (has-many :users    [:id ::user/account-id])
            (has-many :invoices [:id ::invoice/account-id]))
 (entity-from-spec ::user/user)
 (entity-from-spec ::invoice/invoice
            (has-many :lines    [:id ::invoice-line/invoice-id]))
 (entity-from-spec ::product/product)
 (entity-from-spec [::invoice-line/invoice-line :invoiceline]
            (has-one :product [:product-id ::product/id])))

Controlling the mapping betwen row and column names in the database

Specific table names can be provided by using a vector as the argument for entity or entity-from-spec:

  (entity-from-spec [::invoice-line/invoice-line :invoiceline]

Specific column names can be provided by using the column-name helper:

  (entity-from-spec ::network/network
    (column-name :ip6address :ip6)


With querying sorted, mutations need to be expressed. Here, seql takes the approach of making mutations separate, explictit, and validated. As with most other seql features, mutations are implemented with a key inside the entity description.

At its core, mutations expect two things:

  • A spec of their input
  • A function of this input which must yield a proper honeysql query map, or collection of honeysql query map to be performed in a transaction.

For the common case of inserting, updating, or deleting records from the database, a couple of schema helpers are provided.

Inserting records with add-create-mutation

To allow record insertion, use the add-create-mutation helper:

 (entity-from-spec ::account/account
            (has-many :users    [:id ::user/account-id])
            (has-many :invoices [:id ::invoice/account-id])

The implicit mutation created by add-create-mutation will be named: ::account/create, a spec has to exist for it, as for all mutations. Since spec/valid? runs on input parameters before handing out to mutation functions it should always be present (otherwise mutations will throw early).

(s/def ::account/create ::account/account)

Adding new accounts can now be done through mutate!:

(mutate! env ::account/create {::account/name  "a3"
                               ::account/state :active})

(query env [::account/name "a3"] [::account/state])

;; =>

#::account{:state :active}

Updating records with add-update-by-id-mutation

To allow record updates, use the add-update-by-id-mutation helper:

 (entity-from-spec ::account/account
            (has-many :users    [:id ::user/account-id])
            (has-many :invoices [:id ::invoice/account-id])
            (add-update-by-id-mutation ::account/id))

This instructs the helper that the input map to the mutation function will contain a ::account/id field which should be used to determine which row to update in the database. The rest of the map contents will be treated as values to update in the database.

Deleting records with add-delete-by-id-mutation

To allow record deletes, use the add-delete-by-id-mutation helper:

 (entity-from-spec ::account/account
            (has-many :users    [:id ::user/account-id])
            (has-many :invoices [:id ::invoice/account-id])
            (add-update-by-id-mutation ::account/id)
            (add-delete-by-id-mutation ::account/id))

This instructs the helper that the input map to the mutation function will contain a ::account/id field which should be used to determine which row to delete from the database.

Arbitrary mutations with mutation-fn

It is hard to predict all types of mutations, and often times, any such attempt results in worse ergonomics than what SQL provideds. To this end, seql allows providing arbitrary SQL expressions as mutations through the help of honeysql

(entity-from-spec ::account/account
 (has-many :users    [:id ::user/account-id])
 (has-many :invoices [:id ::invoice/account-id])
 (mutation-fn :remove-users (s/keys :req [::account/id])
     (fn [params] {:delete-from [:users] :where [:= :account-id (::account/id params)]})))

Mutation preconditions

Mutations can be provided with preconditions: functions to run before affecting the actual mutation. These run in the same transaction as the effective mutation.

(entity-from-spec ::account/account
 (add-update-by-id-mutation ::account/id)
 (add-precondition :delete ::has-no-users?
   (fn [{::account/keys [id]}]
     ;; Needs to go through HoneySQL
     {:select [:id] :from [:users] :where [:= :account-id id]})
   ;; Ensure the result is empty

Transactions over several mutations

Mutations can be performed in a larger transaction cycle. To this effect, the seql.mutation/with-transaction macro is provided:

(m/with-transaction env
  (m/mutate! env ::account/create account-a)
  (m/mutate! env ::user/create user1-in-account-a)
  (m/mutate! env ::user/create user2-in-account-a)
  (q/execute env [::account/id (::account/id account-a]]))


To provide for clean CQRS type workflows, listeners can be added to mutations. Each listener will subsequently be called on sucessful transactions with a map of:

  • :mutation: the name of the mutation called
  • :result: the result of the transaction
  • :params: input parameters given to the mutation
  • :metadata: metadata supplied to the mutation, if any
(def last-result (atom nil))

(defn store-result
  (reset! last-result (select-keys details [:mutation :result])))

(let [env (l/add-listener env ::account/create store-result)]
   (mutate! env ::account/create {::account/name "a4"
                                  ::account/state :active}))


;; => {:result [1] :mutation :account/create}
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