#SpotlightTour What They Don’t Know by Nicole Maggi

Today it really is a pleasure to shed a spotlight on What They Don’t Know by Nicole Maggi. It’s an emotional story full of desperation, and unfortunately also a statement about how we treat young girls and women in the 21st century.

Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway below to Win 2 Copies of What They Don’t Know (US & Canada only) 

Read an excerpt of What They Don’t Know at the bottom of this post!

About the Author

Nicole Maggi wrote her first story in third grade about a rainbow and a unicorn. After working as an actress in NYC, she now lives in Los Angeles with her family and two oddball cats.

Follow @nicolemaggi @SourcebooksFire on Twitter, Visit nicolemaggi.com

Buy What They Don’t Know

About the book

Three secrets. One decision. A friendship that will change everything.

Mellie has always been the reliable friend, the good student, the doting daughter. But when an unspeakable act leads her to withdraw from everyone she loves, she is faced with a life-altering choice—a choice she must face alone.

Lise stands up—and speaks out—for what she believes in. And when she notices Mellie acting strangely, she gets caught up in trying to save her…all while trying to protect her own secret. One that might be the key to helping Mellie.

Told through Mellie and Lise’s journal entries, this powerful, emotional novel chronicles Mellie’s struggle to decide what is right for her and the unbreakable bond formed by the two girls on their journey.

Review

It’s an incredibly poignant story, and so relevant to our current political atmosphere when it comes to the patriarchal system trying to take women back into the dark ages and keep us there.

Imagine being a frightened teenager growing up in a house where women have no voice and religion dictates her life. In the middle of a family who will force her to make a choice she would rather not make. A family who will blame her for the violation she experienced.

Mellie finds her opinions and beliefs changing as she finds herself in a situation without an apparent solution. Being on the other side of the fence puts an entirely different spin on things. It’s also the beginning of new friendship when her religious do-gooder friends turn on her when she starts to rebel against the system. The only light at the end of the tunnel is someone who is the exact opposite of Mellie, but in fact they find they have more in common than they think.

Listen up pro-lifers it is statistically proven that getting rid of abortion clinics, making abortions illegal and taking the choice away from women, does not reduce the number of abortions. It just raises the number of young girls and women putting their lives in danger by seeking abortions from backstreet abortionists or attempting old wives tale remedies.

The story is a series of diary entries written to a teacher by Mellie and Lise. It begins as a school assignment, which leads to a friendship and a salvation. The entries are slotted into the story in a way that is so smooth the reader can almost forget what they are.

It’s an emotional story full of desperation, and unfortunately also a statement about how we treat young girls and women in the 21st century. It’s a book I would buy for both my sons and daughters. My daughters so they can read and recognise the oppression, and my sons so they will understand how not to treat the women in their lives.

It’s sheds a light on the hypocrisy of pro-lifers, especially the ones hiding under the umbrella of Christianity. The people who think Mellie doesn’t deserve a choice or a say in her own life and her own body. It’s a thought-provoking read.

Buy What They Don’t Know at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win 2 Copies of What They Don’t Know (US & Canada only) Runs October 2nd -31st

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Excerpt from What They Don’t Know:

February 13

Dear Ms. Tilson,

You probably think you know who I am, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t. I used to be a bright star of a girl, but that girl burned out of existence, like a fire swept through my life and left nothing but ash and smoke. That smoke is the memory of what I had, so thick I can smell it and feel it in my eyes and ears and nose. But I can’t touch it. Smoke, like memories, will slip through your fingers and disappear as if it never existed at all.

I keep thinking that if I could write down how my life used to be, maybe I could capture that smoke, keep it from drifting away. That’s what made me finally crack open this journal you gave us at the beginning of the semester. Could these pages be some magical vessel to contain that gone-girl? All those bright memories preserved in this one place?

I would write about how on Sundays, after the long hours spent at church, we’d pile into the truck, exhausted, and my mom would say, “I’m too tired to cook,” which is the greatest sin for a woman on a Sunday in our church, but my dad would smile indulgently and order a pizza. “God rested on Sunday; why shouldn’t you?” he’d joke. Then they would kiss, and I’d be reminded that I’m one of six kids, so they must’ve had sex at some point. Which is gross to think about but also comforting because it means there’s some order to the world.

I’d write about how when my youngest sister, Joanie, was a baby and would wake up crying in the middle of the night, I was usually the one who got there first with a bottle of warmed-up breast milk from the freezer. Some nights I’d rock her for hours even after she’d fallen asleep, watching her tiny eyelids flutter as she dreamed. What is she dreaming about? I’d wonder. Sometimes I’d place her gently in her crib and get my sketchbook, draw her in soft, black pencil. Those nights were magical. They seemed to exist in their own dimension, the spell broken only by the rising sun.

I’d write about the day after my older sister, Hannah, got her license. She picked me up from school, and instead of going straight home, we drove and drove and drove. We rode over the mountain passes, twisting along back roads until we came to this hole-in-the-wall dive in the middle of nowhere called the Wooden Nickel. Hannah had read about it in Sunset Magazine, how it supposedly had the best bison burgers in America. We ate them with their secret special sauce dripping down our chins, washed them down with small-batch root beer, and got home hours after dark. Mom and Dad yelled their heads off, and Hannah lost her license for a week, but after they sent us to bed, Hannah turned to me and said, “Worth it.”

I’d write about how I had everything I wanted and didn’t know it. I had a family who surrounded me with love and acceptance. I had a father and mother who stood on such high pedestals that the sun blinded me when I looked up at them. They loved me unconditionally, or so I thought. I never imagined there could be conditions under which they would not love me.

Every night I thanked God for my parents’ love and for my family’s abundance, and yet every day I took each of those things for granted. Now I’m left with the memory of what I once had.

No. These pages can’t contain that smoke, those memories. They’re gone now, destroyed in one irreversible moment.

Maybe I should stop here. Let you go on believing everything you think you know about me. That would definitely be easiest. I could record what I ate for breakfast, what time I went to bed, which TV shows I like to watch. All those myths you have about me can stay intact. You can go on thinking I’m the perfect daughter of Mayor Rivers, the shining example of the family values he talks about in speech after speech after speech. Believe that I never cause any trouble and I’m always a good girl. I’ll probably get a C, but you’ll never know my innermost thoughts. I’ll stay safe.

Except I can’t stay safe anymore.

As of December 21, nowhere is safe.

I would give anything to redo that day.

But I can’t.

And the only place I can talk about it is in these pages.

So let’s start with a pop quiz. True or False: Mellie Rivers is a virgin.

False. As of December 21, at 3:30 in the afternoon, on the floor in the basement of my house, I am not a virgin.

True or False: Mellie Rivers would never have sex before marriage.

True. I made a promise to God and my family, and I wear the ring on my left hand, where, presumably, one day, my husband will place a different, more permanent ring. I would have kept that promise. But the choice was taken from me.

True or False: Mellie Rivers would never, ever get pregnant out of wedlock.

False.

Signed,

Mellie Rivers

#SpotlightTour After the Fire by Will Hill

Today it is my turn to turn the Spotlight on After the Fire by Will Hill. It is a really good read, despite the topic, which is indicative of an author being able to captivate without turning the reader away from disturbing home-truths. a traumatic, psychologically captivating and well-written story.

About the Author

Will Hill grew up in the northeast of England and worked as a bartender, bookseller, and in publishing before quitting to write full-time. He lives is East London.

Follow @WillHillauthor @SourcebooksFire on Twitter

willhillauthor1 on Instagram

Visit willhillauthor.com

About the book

The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything—and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.

But there are lies behind Father John’s words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

Review

This is the story of a young girl caught in the middle of an abusive cult. It follows her as she finds her own truth and begins to rebel against the system, despite the fact part of her still believes what she is being told. It’s a traumatic, psychologically captivating and well-written story.

Both Moonbean and the author are right about one thing, that there are some children and adults who are broken by their traumatic experiences. Some things aren’t fixable, can’t be therapeutically resolved and can’t be healed by the power of faith. No matter what the experts say, and they can see the difference in the blank hollow eyes. Moon can see the difference, she can hear the brainwashed devotion and the survivors who may never deviate from the path they were taught to walk.

Perhaps the younger generations are unaware of Waco and similar cult-related tragedies, and this is reminder we all need of the danger cults bring with them. They are always run by megalomaniacs, power and money hungry ruthless con-men and sometimes women.

At this very moment there are men and women on trial for creating yet another so-called self-help environment, which is in fact a cesspool of women coercing other women into being branded (yes branded with the initials of the man at the top) and becoming sex slaves to the head of said wonderful group (Nxivm). Like another successful money leeching cult, who brainwash their members into thinking the mother-ship will be picking them up when the end is nye, Nxivm uses celebrities to bring in the vulnerable.

Unfortunately there are still too many religious cults that cultivate sexual abuse and incest, all in the name of the Lord. Fringe groups living just within the borderlines of legality, thereby the authorities are either powerless to help or ignore the children born and brought into these groups by their parents. The ones who become victims to people turning a blind eye.

This isn’t just a YA read, it can be read by both younger and older readers. In fact I would recommend this book to give someone an idea of what the mindset is within these cults. How the upper echelon manage to control everyone within the group.

It’s a fascinating look at what coercion, fear and religious zealots can do to a young mind. How systemic abuse and sexual abuse has become a normal part of the patriarchal society. Hill gives his reader a look on the inside, a close look at the way the mind of this child works. Torn between suppressed anger, feelings of abandonment and guilt, which will either help her save herself or slowly destroy her.

It is a really good read, despite the topic, which is indicative of an author being able to captivate without turning the reader away from disturbing home-truths.

Buy After the Fire on Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire, Release Date: October 2nd

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#SpotlightTour Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller

Today it’s my turn on the Spotlight Tour for Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller, the second part of Mask of Shadows. Enter the Giveaway below to win 2 Copies of Ruin of Stars (Open to US & Canada only)

About the Author

A wayward biologist from Arkansas, Linsey previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there’s coffee.

Follow @LinseyMiller @SourcebooksFire on Twitter

Connect with Linsey On Instagram, Visit Linsey Miller at linseymiller.com

Buy Ruin the Stars

About the book

The thrilling conclusion to the Mask of Shadows duology that weaves a tale of magic, shadows, and most importantly, revenge.

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family. But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.

Review

This is the second book in the Mask of Shadows series, and although it can be read as a standalone I personally would suggest reading the first book, to do the second justice and understand the complex world-building better.

The topic of gender-fluidity is paramount to understanding both the characters and the premise, because it is woven into the culture, moral fibre and laws of the Erlend nobility. A country and people who only recognise the sexual concept, partnership and marriage of man and woman. The rulers and supporters of Erland become the bible-thumpers of the 21st century. The acknowledgement of gender fluidity or lack of it becomes the cornerstone of their oppression, which also includes destroying those they consider to be Untermenschen in an attempt to gain more power and property.

The main character Sal is a survivor of the massacres put in place by said nobility, and has taken their place as part of an esteemed set of assassins. One of a set of killers who protect their leader and kill without impunity. As Opal, Sal becomes the masked version of revenge, complete with a set of names on a kill list, which is whispered in times of anger or stress.

What’s interesting to me is the suggestion that the lack of conformity when it comes to gender is presented as a personal failure and downfall for that person. If you are not one of the two, you are socially unacceptable, which sort of mirrors the reaction today in our own society.

The story could be written and told without that aspect of fear and hate-mongering, but I think it was important to Miller to show the similarity between the fictional scenario and the hate non-heterosexuals, and gender fluid persons have to deal with. It isn’t a fictional fantasy problem. It’s a real life problem with real repercussions when oppression is part of our daily existence and own identity.

Miller is a creative writer with fascinating ideas, although I could have done with a map of the countries and reading the first book would have spared me a little confusion at the beginning. The end of the book may leave the door open for further ventures into this world of magic, shadows, oppression and murder. Either way Miller has made her mark in the world of fantasy fiction, and writes captivating stories.

Buy Ruin of Stars at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Release Date: August 28, 2018

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Runs August 28th – September 30th

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#SpotlightTour The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Today it’s my pleasure to host the Spotlight Tour for The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé. Enjoy this subtle psychological venture into the pyche of a teenager, all under the guise of a ghostly story. Enter the Giveaway below to win 2 Copies of Dark Beneath the Ice (US & CANADA ONLY).

About the Author

Amelinda Bérubé has been a writer and editor with a small department in the Canadian public service. She holds a bachelor of humanities from Carleton University and a master of arts from McGill. Amelinda is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Follow @metuiteme @SourcebooksFire on Twitter or on Instagram

Visit metuiteme.com

About the book

Black Swan meets Paranormal Activity in this compelling ghost story about a former dancer whose grip on reality slips when she begins to think a dark entity is stalking her.

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Review

Although this is a YA with a flair of the paranormal, I do think how a reader experiences the read depends on the perspective you have on the story. If you completely eliminate the paranormal and ghostly element of the story ask yourself what you’re left with. You are left with the internal emotional turmoil of a teenager, which manifests itself in physical reactions, blackouts and auditory hallucinations.

The stress of feeling inadequate and not being able to live up to expectations in regards to her dancing. The fear of being rejected for her sexuality and not feeling as if she can be true to her inner desires, and the distress of being a pawn in the middle of a battle between her mother and father. All of those things throw Marianne into a tailspin and threaten to completely destroy her sanity.

Bérubé takes all of those elements and covers them with thin dark veil of a dangerous paranormal presence. Something waiting to consume Marianne when she lets her guard down. To drag her under the icy water and take the life she knows away from her.

Marianne and her new friend Ron set out to discover who or what is threatening both of them, and unfortunately they underestimate the power behind the mysterious presence. The truth is something neither of them can really comprehend.

It’s a tale of teenage distress, pain and fear. When you take the simple paranormal structure away – what remains is a heartbreaking story of a breakdown and a cry for help, albeit a subconscious one. The author writes it in a very lyrical and haunting way. The dark presence haunts, taunts and scares the girl, and ultimately tries to destroy her. It’s a fascinating combination of a psychological premise combined with a paranormal flair. It’s understated and yet extremely powerful at the same time.

Buy Dark Beneath the Ice at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire Release Date: August 7, 2018

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#SpotlightTour Copycat by Hannah Jayne

Today it’s my stop on the Spotlight Tour for Copycat by Hannah Jayne. I would genuinely love to know how many bookworms would fall into the same trap, a murderous game fuelled by the fears and hopes of a young girl. Enter the Giveaway at the bottom of the post to win two signed copies of Copycat! (US & Canada Entries Only!)

About the Author

Hannah Jayne decided to be an author in the second grade. She couldn’t spell and had terrible ideas, but she kept at it. Many (many) years—and nearly twenty books—later, she gets to live her dream and mainly does it in her pajamas. She lives with her rock-star husband, baby daughter, and their three overweight cats in the San Francisco Bay area. She is always on the lookout for a juicy mystery, an exciting story, or a great adventure.

Follow @Hannah_Jayne1 @SourcebooksFire on Twitter

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Visit hannah-jayne.com

Buy Copycat

About the book

From the author of The Escape, Twisted, and Truly, Madly, Deadly comes a chilling new thriller that asks: what happens if your real life became stranger and deadlier than fiction?

Everyone is dying to read the latest book in the popular Gap Lake mystery series, and Addison is no exception. As the novels biggest fan, she’s thrilled when the infamously reclusive author, R.J. Rosen, contacts her, giving her inside information others would kill for.

Addison’s always dreamed of what it would be like if the books were real…. But then she finds the most popular girl in school dead. Murdered. And realizes that life imitating fiction is more dangerous that she could have imagined. As other terrifying events from the books start happening around her, Addison has to figure out how to write her own ending—and survive the story.

Excerpt of Copycat

There was something inordinately creepy about being at school after dark. The place was deserted—­the benches and picnic tables in the quad looked ominous and foreboding under the flickering yellow lights. Crystal Lanier shivered and pulled her jacket tighter against an imaginary chill. The weather was mild at Gap Lake in September; the days still sunbaked, the nights, like this one, a gentle mix of fading summer and impending fall. But the bare bones of the deserted campus had put a chill in the air, and shot a blast of cold right through Crystal.

“I’m creeping myself out,” she muttered shifting her books from one arm to the other.

A wisp of wind cut through the quad. Crystal was almost sure she heard someone laughing—­a weak, choked giggle, like someone was trying to swallow it down.

“Hello?”

She spun, her long black hair fanning over her shoulders. “Is someone there?” She knew she sounded like every horror movie victim ever, and her heart hammered in her throat as her skin prickled with beads of sweat.

This was Gap Lake, she reminded herself. It was a tiny town where everyone knew everyone else, and nothing bad ever happened. She was thinking that when the shadow approached. When he reached out for her long black hair. She was thinking what a nice, safe place Gap Lake was when he clamped a hand over her mouth. When he strangled her scream and drove the needle straight into her throat.

Review

Addison is obsessed with the murder mysteries written by R.J. Rosen, to the point of reading each book over and over again. When he gets in touch one day to ask her to be part of the team creating exposure for his new novel, she is absolutely ecstatic.

I can understand her excitement and bookworm joy at being picked to work with the author of the books she absolutely adores. Being able to share her own ideas in the form of fan-fiction. Gaining recognition and attention via her blog, it all gives Addie a sense of security and achievement.

Her joy quickly turns to fear when life begins to imitate the fictional stories on her blog. Addison is torn between her love for the books and the cruel reality of life. In a way her reading is a form of escapism. With a nose in a book she doesn’t have to think about the relationship she has with her father or the insecurities she has about herself.

It’s an intriguing premise, and in our day and age of anonymity behind social media accounts, perhaps not such an unrealistic idea. Although this is a YA and features very young characters, I think it would also work well with older characters. Jayne makes a point, albeit subtly about online popularity, and how fast the flighty opinions of social media users can change. One day you’re a star and the next you’re the scum of the earth. The winds of change on the world wide web are unpredictable.

It’s perhaps best not to take yourself too seriously or any kind of supposed status you think you have on the internet. That’s the kind of advice someone should have given to Addison then maybe she wouldn’t have walked right into the trap of a killer.

Copycat has the charm of Pretty Little Liars, but with less conniving and more genuine emotions and a loyal friendship. I would genuinely love to know how many bookworms would fall into the same trap, a murderous game fuelled by the fears and hopes of a young girl.

Buy Copycat at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (Kindle pub date 3 July, Paperback pub date August 13 2018)

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#SpotlightTour Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Today it is my turn to turn the spotlight on Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova. It is the second book in the Bruja Born series which started off with the fast-paced and volatile Labyrinth Lost. It’s a powerful premise with plenty of potential.

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel.

Follow or tweet @Zlikeinzorro

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Buy Bruja Born

About the book

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review

This is the second in the Brooklyn Brujas series, which deals with the fallout of the dark volatile and life-changing events of Labyrinth Lost (the first book in the series). Lula spends the majority of the time trying to control a bellyful of anger and taking her lack of control out on her loved ones. She resents her sister for putting her in danger and for destroying her physical appearance.

When you’re equipped with more power than you can handle the danger is not being able to control it or possibly using it for the wrong reasons. As a witch one of the golden rules is what you put out into the universe you get back tenfold, especially when it is something negative. I think trying to intervene in life or death scenarios fits into this category. Lula doesn’t hesitate to use her power to take back what Death has already claimed, which sets a series of dangerous events in motion.

Córdova likes to explore the emotional and physical limitations and boundaries of magic. What happens when you break the written and unwritten rules? Does Lula really feel as if she is above the rules and immune from the possible consequences of breaking them. There is also a focus on the tight relationship between the sisters, and why they are willing to risk their lives to satisfy the selfish needs of their sister.

The Brooklyn Brujas has a lot of potential, especially when it comes to the sisters developing their skills and powers, so it will be interesting to see where the author takes the series. Brujas aren’t a common feature in urban fantasy, there tends to be an overall focus on bog-standard witches. This allows for a more in-depth look at the cultural meaning and myths surrounding them.

What I really want to know is whether something else other than fate or the auto-schedule of Death happened on that bus. Was it just a coincidence that Lula was in the middle of an emotional upheaval? Just putting that out there into the universe.

Buy Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub date 5th June 2018, Hardcover pub date 1st July 2018

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Excerpt of Bruja Born

They say El Corazón has two hearts:the black thing in his chestand the one he wears on his sleeve.

—­Tales of the Deos, Felipe Thomás San Justinio

This is a love story.

At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell. Though technically, Los Lagos isn’t hell or the underworld. It’s another realm inhabited by creatures, spirits, and wonders I’d only read about in my family’s Book of Cantos. The place where I was kept—­where my whole family was imprisoned by a power-­hungry witch—­that was as close to hell as I hope I’ll ever get.

But that’s another story.

“Lula, you ready?” my sister Alex asks.

I stare at my open closet and can’t find the socks that go with my step team uniform. I riffle through bins of underwear and mismatched socks and costume jewelry.

“Lula?” Alex repeats, softly this time.

For the past seven or so months, Alex has been extra everything—­extra patient, extra loving, extra willing to do my chores. She means well, but she doesn’t understand how suffocating her attention is, how the quiet in her eyes drives a sick feeling in my gut because I’m trying to be okay for her, for our family and friends. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it. But sometimes, like now, I snap.

“Give me a minute!”

I don’t mean to snap. Honestly. But everything that’s come out of my mouth lately has been hard and angry, and I don’t know how to make it stop. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I was before—­

Rose, our younger sister, walks into my room wearing long sleeves and jeans even though there’s a heat wave and it’s mid-­June. Rose has the Gift of the Veil. She can see and speak to the dead. Spirt magic runs on a different wavelength than the rest of our powers, and being so tuned-­in to that realm means she’s always cold. Rose takes a seat on my bed and picks at a tear in the blanket.

“Can I go to the pregame with you and Maks?” she asks me. “I’ve never been to one before.”

“No,” I say.

“Why not?” When she frowns, her round face gets flushed. Sometimes I forget that underneath all her power, she’s just a fourteen-­year-­old kid trying to fit in.

“Because,” I say, digging through my dirty laundry. “It’s just for the team. You can drive to the game with Ma and Alex.”

“And Dad.” Rose’s voice is a quiet addendum.

Right. Dad. After seven years of being missing and presumed dead, he’s in our lives again. It’s an odd feeling having him back, one we all share but haven’t talked about. He has no memory of where he’s been, and even if we can’t say it out loud, maybe we’ve moved on without him. Alex was always the one who said he was gone for good, and perhaps deep down inside, I thought that too. But I always corrected her. I was the one who believed he’d return, because sometimes false hope is better than being completely hopeless. I believed in lots of things once.

“And Dad,” I say.

The three of us exchange a look of unease. There are too many things that are unsaid between us. I wish we could go back to being loud and rowdy and something like happy. But it’s taking longer than I thought.

So here are the things we leave unsaid:

One, we’re brujas. Witches. Magical BAMFs with powers gifted by the Deos, our gods. A house full of magic is bound to cause some friction, and after what Alex did, there is plenty of friction.

Two, my sister Alex cast a canto that banished our entire family to a realm called Los Lagos. She got to traipse across its magical hills and meadows with Nova, the hot brujo we never talk about, and her now-­girlfriend, Rishi.

Meanwhile, I was trapped in a freaking tree. A big, evil tree. I was surrounded by all-­consuming darkness, and even though we’re home and safe, I still feel that pull, like something is sucking at my soul and my light, and this house is too small and crowded, and I don’t know how to make this fear stop. I don’t know how to get over it.

Three, I can’t stand looking at my own reflection anymore.

I took all the mirrors in my bedroom down, even the one that was on my altar to keep away malicious spirits. They don’t need it. One look at my face, and they’ll be scared off.

“Ready when you are,” Alex says again, her guilt radioactive.

Technically, technically, the attack that left my face hideously disfigured with scars was Alex’s fault. I’m a terrible sister for thinking it. Forgive and forget and all that. But the maloscuros that came looking for her attacked me. Their vicious claws raked across my face. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I can smell the rot of their skin, see the glow of their yellow eyes, feel their presence even though they’re long gone and banished.

To be fair, Alex has scars from the maloscuros too. Right across her heart. But she can cover them up. I can’t.

Not naturally, anyway.

Having a sister who is an all-­powerful encantrix has its benefits. There are a million problems going on in the world, and here I am, worrying about scars. But deep down, I know it’s more than the scars. I’ve been called beautiful my whole life. I’ve been aware of the way men’s eyes trailed my legs since I was far too young. The way boys in school stuttered when they spoke to me. The way they offered me gifts—­bodega-­bought candies and stolen flowers and handwritten notes with yes/no scribbled in pencil. My aunt Maria Azul told me beauty was power. My mother told me beauty was a gift. If they’re right, then what am I now? All I know is I left fragments of myself in Los Lagos and I don’t know how to get them back.

So I turn to my sister, because she owes me one. But before we can get started, my mother knocks on my open door, Dad trailing behind her like a wraith.

“Good, you’re all together. Can I borrow you guys for a minute?” Ma asks. She rests a white laundry basket against one hip and waves a sage bundle like a white flag. “I want to try the memory canto on your father before we leave. The sun’s in the right—­”

“We’re busy,” I say, too angry again. I don’t like talking to my mother like this. Hell, any other time I’d catch hands for speaking to her like that. But we’re all a mess—­guilt, anger, love, plus a lot of magic is a potent mix. Something’s got to give, and I don’t know if I want to be here when it does.

Mom throws the sage stick on top of the clean laundry, scratches her head with a long, red nail. Her black-lined eyes look skyward, as if begging the Deos for patience. She makes to speak, but Dad places his hand on her arm. She tenses at his touch, and he withdraws the hand.

“We all have to pull our weight around here,” Ma tells me, a challenge in her deep, coffee-­brown eyes that I don’t dare look away from.

“Dad doesn’t,” I say, and feel Rose and Alex retreat two paces away from me. Traitors.

“He’s trying. You haven’t healed so much as a paper cut since—­”

I widen my eyes, waiting for the her to say it. Since Los Lagos. Since the attack. But she can’t.

“You have Alex,” I say, turning my thumb toward my sister. “She’s an encantrix. Healing comes with the package.”

“Lula…” Ma pinches the bridge of her nose, then trails off as my father tries to be the voice of reason.

“Carmen,” he whispers, “let them be. It’s okay.”

But my mother doesn’t fully let up. “How much longer will you keep having your sister glamour you?”

Alex looks at her toes. All that power in her veins and she can’t escape being shamed by our mother. I might be just a healer, but I match my mom’s gaze. We share more than our light-­brown skin and wild, black curls. We share the same fire in our hearts.

“Until it stops hurting,” I say, and I don’t let my voice waver.

We share a sadness too. I see it in her, woven into the wrinkles around her eyes. So she just hands me a black bundle—­my uniform socks—­and says, “We’ll see you at the game.”

#SpotlightTour Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Today it is my pleasure to host the Spotlight Tour for this compelling and complex YA Fantasy read. Furyborn is the first in The Empirium Trilogy by Claire Legrand.

About the Author

Claire Legrand is the author of several novels for children and young adults, most notably The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Some Kind of Happiness, and Winterspell. Claire lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Buy Furyborn

About the book

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

Watch Furyborn Video Trailers: Blood Queen and Sun Queen

Review

Furyborn takes the reader in between two timelines and two girls, both of them connected through the power they try to keep hidden from others.

Rielle struggles not to let her power consume her own self, her willpower and every emotional instinct she has in her life. When her real nature is discovered, her king and the church decide she has to be tested to determine whether she is someone who needs to be destroyed, contained or embraced.

When it comes to Rielle the real question is which powerful queen she really represents. The prophecies are open to a lot of different interpretations.The Blood Queen represents destruction and the Sun Queen represents light and life. At times I don’t think she knows or doesn’t want to know which part of the prophecy applies to her. The truth could destroy everything and everyone she truly cares for.

Rielle’s story takes us through the events that lead to the story of Eliana. The story of Eliana is pulled in two directions, as her true identity is revealed, and takes place simultaneously as she is forced to evaluate her loyalties and her choices up to that point.

Being a killer comes naturally to Eliana, something she has never thought about before until someone who knows her true identity makes her wonder about where this instinct comes from. Does she kill because she has to or because she enjoys the kill? Her own hypocrisy is shoved in her face, as her family is threatened by a mysterious invisible evil force in their own home.

Legrand is a very creative writer, and if this first part of the trilogy is any indication of what is to come then readers are in for a treat. It encompasses elements of both epic and urban fantasy. The world-building is incredibly intricate, the characters are riveting and full of depth. It is a premise with a lot of potential and room for development. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Buy Furyborn at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub. date 22 May 2018, Hardcover pub. date 13 June 2018

Publisher Sourcebooks Fire

Buy Furyborn at Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo Indiebound

Excerpt from Furyborn Chapter 1:

– RIELLE –

“Lord Commander Dardenne came to me in the middle of the night, his daughter in his arms. They smelled of fire; their clothes were singed. He could hardly speak. I had never seen the man afraid before. He thrust Rielle into my arms and said, ‘Help us. Help her. Don’t let them take her from me.’”

—Testimony of Grand Magister Taliesin Belounnon, on Lady Rielle Dardenne’s involvement in the Boon Chase massacreApril 29, Year 998 of the Second Age

TWO YEARS EARLIER

Rielle Dardenne hurried into Tal’s office and dropped the sparrow’s message onto his desk. “Princess Runa is dead,” she announced.

She wouldn’t describe her mood as excited exactly, but her own kingdom, Celdaria, and their northeastern neighbor, Borsvall, had lived in a state of tension for so many decades that it was hardly noteworthy when, say, a Celdarian merchant ship sank off Borsvall’s coast or patrols came to blows near the border. But a murdered Borsvall princess? That was news. And Rielle wanted to dissect every piece of it.

Tal let out a sigh, set down his pen, and dragged his ink-smudged hands through his messy blond hair. The polished golden flame pinned to his lapel winked in the sunlight. “Perhaps,” Tal suggested, turning a look on Rielle that was not quite disapproval and not quite amusement, “you should consider looking less thrilled about a princess’s murder?”

She slid into the chair across from him. “I’m not happy about it or anything. I’m simply intrigued.” Rielle pulled the slip of paper back across the desk and read over the inked words once more. “So you do think it was assassination? Audric thinks so.” “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid today, Rielle.”

She smiled sweetly at him. “When have I ever done anything stupid?” He quirked an eyebrow. “The city guard is on high alert. I want you here, safe in the temple, in case anything happens.” He took the message from her, scanning its contents. “How did you get this, anyway? No, wait. I know. Audric gave it to you.” Rielle stiffened. “Audric keeps me informed. He’s a good friend. Where’s the harm in that?” Tal didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to. “If you have something to say to me,” she snapped, color climbing up her cheeks, “then just say it. Or else let’s begin our lesson.”

Tal watched her a moment longer, then turned to pick up four enormous books sitting on the shelf behind him. “Here,” he said, ignoring the mutinous expression on her face. “I’ve marked some passages for you to read. Today will be devoted to quiet study. And I’ll test you later, so don’t even think about skimming.” Rielle narrowed her eyes at the book on the top of the stack. “A Concise History of the Second Age, Volume I: The Aftermath of the Angelic Wars.” She made a face. “This hardly looks concise.” “It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said, returning to the papers on his desk.

Rielle’s favorite place in Tal’s office was the window seat overlooking the main temple courtyard. It was piled high with scarlet cushions lined in gold piping, and when she sat there, dangling her legs out into the sun, she could almost forget that there was an enormous world beyond the temple and her city—a world she would never see.

She settled by the window, kicked off her boots, hiked up her heavy lace-trimmed skirts, and rested her bare feet on the sill. The spring sunlight washed her legs in warmth, and soon she was thinking of how Audric blossomed on bright, sun-filled days like this one. How his skin seemed to glow and crackle, begging to be touched.

Tal cleared his throat, breaking her focus. Tal knew her far too well.

She cracked open A Concise History, took one look at the tiny, faded text, and imagined tossing the book out the window and into the temple courtyard, where citizens were filing in for morning prayers—to pray that the riders they had wagered upon in today’s race would win, no doubt. Every temple in the capital would be full of such eager souls, not just there in the Pyre—Tal’s temple, where citizens worshipped Saint Marzana the firebrand—but in the House of Light and the House of Night as well and the Baths and the Firmament, the Forge and the Holdfast. Whispered prayers in all seven temples, to all seven saints and their elements.

Wasted prayers, thought Rielle with a slight, sharp thrill. The other racers will look like children on ponies compared to me. She flipped through a few pages, biting the inside of her lip until she felt calm enough to speak. “I’ve heard many in the Borsvall court are blaming Celdaria for Runa’s death. We wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?” Tal’s pen scratched across his paper. “Certainly not.” “But it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, does it? If King Hallvard’s councils convince him that we killed his daughter, he will declare war at last.” Tal dropped his pen with a huff of annoyance. “I’m not going to get any work done today, am I?” Rielle swallowed her grin. If only you knew how true that is, dearest Tal. “I’m sorry if I have questions about the political climate of our country,” she said. “Does that fall under the category of things we’re not allowed to discuss, lest my poor vulnerable brain shatter from the stress?” A smile twitched at the corner of Tal’s mouth. “Borsvall might declare war, yes.” “You don’t seem concerned about this possibility.” “I find it unlikely. We’ve been on the edge of war with Borsvall for decades, and yet it has never happened. And it will never happen, because the Borsvall people may be warmongers, but King Hallvard is neither healthy nor stupid. We would flatten his army. He can’t afford a war with anyone, much less with Celdaria.” “Audric said…” Rielle hesitated. A twist of unease slipped down her throat. “Audric said he thinks Princess Runa’s death, and the slave rebellion in Kirvaya, means it’s time. That the Queens are coming.” Silence fell over the room like a shroud.

“Audric has always been fascinated with the prophecy,” Tal said, his voice deceptively calm. “He’s been looking for signs of the Queens’ coming for years.” “He sounds rather convinced this time.” “A slave rebellion and a dead princess are hardly enough to—” “But I heard Grand Magister Duval talking about how there have been storms across the ocean in Meridian,” she pressed on, searching his face. “Even as far as Ventera and Astavar. Strange storms, out of season.” Tal blinked. Ah, thought Rielle. You didn’t know that, did you? “Storms do occur out of season from time to time,” Tal said. “The empirium works in mysterious ways.”

Rielle curled her fingers in her skirts, taking comfort in the fact that soon she would be in her riding trousers and boots, her collar open to the breeze. She would be on the starting line. “The report I read,” she continued, “said that a dust storm in southern Meridian had shut down the entire port of Morsia for days.”  “Audric needs to stop showing you every report that comes across his desk.”“Audric didn’t show me anything. I found this one myself.” Tal raised an eyebrow. “You mean you snuck into his office when he wasn’t there and went through his papers.” Rielle’s cheeks grew hot. “I was looking for a book I’d left behind.” “Indeed. And what would Audric say if he knew you’d been in his office without his permission?” “He wouldn’t care. I’m free to come and go as I please.”

Tal closed his eyes. “Lady Rielle, you can’t just visit the crown prince’s private rooms day and night as though it’s nothing. You’re not children anymore. And you are not his fiancée.” Rielle lost her breath for an instant. “I’m well aware of that.” Tal waved a hand and rose from his chair, effectively ending all talk of the prophecy and its Queens. “The city is crowded today—and unpredictable,” he said, walking across the room to pour himself another cup of tea. “Word is spreading about Princess Runa’s death. In such a climate, the empirium can behave in similarly unpredictable ways. Perhaps we should begin a round of prayers to steady our minds. Amid the chaos of the world, the burning flame serves as an anchor, binding us in peace to the empirium and to God.”

Rielle glared at him. “Don’t use your magister voice, Tal. It makes you sound old. He sighed, took a sip of his tea. “I am old. And grumpy, thanks to you.” “Thirty-two is hardly old, especially to already be Grand Magister of the Pyre.” She paused. She would need to proceed carefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were appointed as the next Archon. Surely, with someone as talented as you beside me, I could safely watch the Chase from your box—” “Don’t try to flatter me, Lady Rielle.” His eyes sparked at her. There was the Tal she liked—the ferocious firebrand, not the pious teacher. “It isn’t safe for you out there right now, not to mention dangerous for everyone else if something set you off and you lost control.”

Rielle slammed shut A Concise History and rose from the window seat. “Damn you, Tal.”

“Not in the temple, please,” Tal admonished over the rim of his cup.

“I’m not a child. Do you really think I don’t know better by now?” Her voice turned mocking. “‘Rielle, let’s say a prayer together to calm you.’ ‘Rielle, let’s sing a song about Saint Katell the Magnificent to take your mind off things.’ ‘No, Rielle, you can’t go to the masque. You might forget yourself. You might have fun, God forbid.’ If Father had his way, I’d stay locked up for the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book or on my knees in prayer, whipping myself every time I had a stray angry thought. Is that the kind of life you would like for me too?” Tal watched her, unmoved. “If it meant you were safe and that others were safe as well? Yes, I would.” “Kept under lock and key like some criminal.” A familiar, frustrated feeling rose within her; she pushed it back down with a vengeance. She would not lose control, not today of all days. “Do you know,” she said, her voice falsely bright, “that when it storms, Father takes me down to the servants’ quarters and gives me dumbwort? It puts me to sleep, and he locks me up and leaves me there.” After a pause, Tal answered, “Yes.”

“I used to fight him. He would hold me down and slap me, pinch my nose shut until I couldn’t breathe and had to open my mouth. Then he would shove the vial between my lips and make me drink, and I would spit it up, but he would keep forcing me to drink, whispering to me everything I’d ever done wrong, and right in the middle of yelling how much I hated him, I would fall asleep. And when I would wake up, the storm would be over.” A longer pause. “Yes,” Tal answered softly. “I know.” “He thinks storms are too provocative for me. They give me ideas, he says.” Tal cleared his throat. “That was my fault.” “I know.” “But the medicine, that was his suggestion.” She gave him a withering look. “And did you try to talk him out of it?” He did not answer, and the patience on his face left her seething.

“I don’t fight him anymore,” she said. “I hear a crack of thunder and go below without him even asking me to. How pathetic I’ve become.” “Rielle…” Tal sighed, shook his head. “Everything I could say to you, I’ve said before.” She approached him, letting the loneliness she typically hid from him—from everyone—soften her face. Come, good Magister Belounnon. Pity your sweet Rielle. He broke first, looking away from her. Something like sorrow shifted across his face, and his jaw tightened. Good. “He’d let me sleep through life if he could,” she said. “He loves you, Rielle. He worries for you.”

Heat snapped at Rielle’s fingertips, growing along with her anger. With a stubborn stab of fury, she let it come. She knew she shouldn’t, that an outburst would only make it more difficult to sneak away, but suddenly she could not bring herself to care. He loves you, Rielle. A father who loved his daughter would not make her his prisoner. She seized one of the candles from Tal’s desk and watched with grim satisfaction as the wick burst into a spitting, unruly flame. As she stared at it, she imagined her fury as a flooding river, steadily spilling over its banks and feeding the flame in her hands. The flame grew—the size of a pen, a dagger, a sword. Then every candle followed suit, a forest of fiery blades.

Tal rose from his desk and picked up the handsome polished shield from its stand in the corner of the room. Every elemental who had ever lived—every waterworker and windsinger, every shadowcaster and every firebrand like Tal—had to use a casting, a physical object uniquely forged by their own hands, to access their power. Their singular power, the one element they could control. But not Rielle. She needed no casting, and fire was not the only element that obeyed her. All of them did. Tal stood behind her, one hand holding his shield, the other hand resting gently on her own. As a child, back when she had still thought she loved Tal, such touches had thrilled her. Now she seriously considered punching him.

“In the name of Saint Marzana the Brilliant,” Tal murmured, “we offer this prayer to the flames, that the empirium might hear our plea and grant us strength: Fleet-footed fire, blaze not with fury or abandon. Burn steady and true, burn clean and burn bright.” Rielle bit down on harsh words. How she hated praying. Every familiar word felt like a new bar being added to the cage her father and Tal had crafted for her. The room began to shake—the inkwell on Tal’s desk, the panes of glass in the open window, Tal’s half-finished cup of tea.

“Rielle?” Tal prompted, shifting his shield. In his body behind her, she felt a rising hot tension as he prepared to douse her fire with his own power. Despite her best efforts, the concern in his voice caused her a twinge of remorse. He meant well, she knew. He wanted, desperately, for her to be happy. Unlike her father. So Rielle bowed her head and swallowed her anger. After all, what she was about to do might turn Tal against her forever. She could allow him this small victory.

“Blaze not with fury or abandon,” she repeated, closing her eyes. She imagined setting aside every scrap of emotion, every sound, every thought, until her mind was a vast field of darkness—except for the tiny spot of light that was the flame in her hands.

Then she allowed the darkness to seep across the flame as well and was left alone in the cool, still void of her mind. The room calmed. Tal’s hand fell away.  Rielle listened as he returned his shield to its stand. The prayer had scraped her clean, and in the wake of her anger she felt…nothing. A hollow heart and an empty head.

When she opened her eyes, they were dry and tired. She wondered bitterly what it would be like to live without a constant refrain of prayers in her thoughts, warning her against her own feelings. The temple bells chimed eleven times; Rielle’s pulse jumped. Any moment now, she would hear Ludivine’s signal. She turned toward the window. No more prayers, no more reading. Every muscle in her body surged with energy. She wanted to ride. “I’d rather be dead than live as my father’s prisoner,” she said at last, unable to resist that last petulant stab. “Dead like your mother?”

Rielle froze. When she faced Tal, he did not look away. She had not expected that cruelty. From her father, yes, but never from Tal. The memory of long-ago flames blazed across her vision. “Did Father instruct you to bring that up if I got out of hand?” she asked, keeping her voice flat and cool. “What with the Chase and all.” “Yes,” Tal answered, unflinching. “Well, I’m happy to tell you I’ve only killed the one time. You needn’t worry yourself.”

After a moment, Tal turned to straighten the books on his desk. “This is as much for your safety as it is for everyone else’s. If the king discovered we’d been hiding the truth of your power all these years…You know what could happen. Especially to your father. And yet he does it because he loves you more than you’ll ever understand.”

Rielle laughed sharply. “That isn’t reason enough to treat me like this. I’ll never forgive him for it. Someday, I’ll stop forgiving you too.” “I know,” Tal said, and at the sadness in his voice, Rielle nearly took pity on him. Nearly. But then a great crash sounded from downstairs, and an unmistakable cry of alarm. Ludivine.

Tal gave Rielle that familiar look he so often had—when she had, at seven, overflowed their pool at the Baths; when he had found her, at fifteen, the first time she snuck out to Odo’s tavern. That look of What did I do to deserve such trials? Rielle gazed innocently back at him. “Stay here,” he ordered. “I mean it, Rielle. I appreciate your frustration—truly, I do—but this is about more than the injustice of you feeling bored.”

Rielle returned to the window seat, hoping her expression appeared suitably abashed. “I love you, Tal,” she said, and the truth of that was enough to make her hate herself a little. “I know,” he replied. Then he threw on his magisterial robe and swept out the door. “Magister, it’s Lady Ludivine,” came a panicked voice from the hallway—one of Tal’s young acolytes. “She’d only just arrived in the chapel, my lord, when she turned pale and collapsed. I don’t know what happened!”

“Summon my healer,” Tal instructed, “and send a message to the queen. She’ll be in her box at the starting line. Tell her that her niece has taken ill and will not be joining her there.” Once they had gone, Rielle smiled and yanked on her boots. Stay here? Not a chance.

She hurried through the sitting room outside Tal’s office and into the temple’s red-veined marble hallways, where embroidered flourishes of shimmering flames lined the plush carpets. The temple entryway, its parquet floor polished to a sheen of gold, was a flurry of activity as worshippers, acolytes, and servants hurried across to the peaked chapel doors.

“It’s Lady Ludivine,” a young acolyte whispered to her companion as Rielle passed. “Apparently she’s taken ill.”

Rielle grinned, imagining everyone fussing over poor Ludivine, tragically lovely and faint on the temple floor. Ludivine would enjoy the attention—and the reminder that she had the entire capital held like a puppet on its master’s strings.

Even so, Rielle would owe her a tremendous favor after this.

Whatever it was, it would be more than worth it.

Ludivine’s horse stood next to her own just outside the temple, held by a young stable hand who seemed on the verge of panic. He recognized Rielle and sagged with relief.

“Pardon me, Lady Rielle, but is Lady Ludivine all right?” he asked.

“Haven’t the faintest,” Rielle replied, swinging up into the saddle. Then she snapped the reins, and her mare bolted down the main road that led from the Pyre into the heart of the city, hooves clattering against the cobblestones. A tumbled array of apartments and temple buildings rose around them—gray stone walls engraved with scenes of the capital city’s creation, rounded roofs of burnished copper, slender columns wrapped in flowering ivy, white fountains crowned with likenesses of the seven saints in prayer. So many visitors had come from all over the world to Âme de la Terre for the Chase that the cool spring air now pressed thick and close. The city smelled of sweat and spices, hot horse and hot coin.

As Rielle tore down the road, the crowd parted in alarm on either side of her, shouting angry curses until they realized who she was and fell silent. She guided her mare through the twisting streets and made for the main city gates, her body pulled tight with nerves.

But she would not give in to her power today.

She would compete in the Boon Chase, as any citizen was free to do, and prove to her father that she could control herself, even when her life was in danger and the eyes of the entire city were upon her.

She would prove to him, and to Tal, that she deserved to live a normal life.

#BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Today it is an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for the sequel to The Bone Witch. Rin Chupeco does not disappoint, The Heart-Forger is absolutely a must read for YA Fantasy and Fantasy readers.

About the Author

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.

Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire on Twitter or @rinchupeco on Instagram

Visit rinchupeco.com

About the book

In this dark, engrossing sequel to The Bone Witch, Tea has mastered resurrection—now it’s time for revenge.

Tea, a bone witch who can resurrect the dead, is done with her self-imposed exile. She now possesses all seven bezoars she needs to revive the powerful daeva. With the help of these terrible monsters, she can finally enact her revenge against the royals who wronged her and took the life of her one true love.

Alliances and allegiances are shifting, and danger lurks in and out of the kingdom. But Tea’s heart is set on vengeance, even if it turns her against her now-estranged brother, who supports her enemies. War is brewing, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

rinch (1)

Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.
It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.
The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.
“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”
“Why do I bring you along?”
“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”
Read More here…

Review

In both The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger Tea has a so-called bard, who accompanies her on her path to personal justice. It is important to Tea that there is someone to hear the truth, her truth, and for that person to tell future generations what really happened. To an outsider she appears to be violent, irrational and capable of extreme actions, and that is why she needs the bard to see and experience beyond the lies of her enemies. Then again perhaps she has just been driven insane like all the other dark asha before her.

The bond between Fox and Tea started to unravel slowly but surely in The Bone Witch. The siblings, who once fought side by side are now on opposite sides. As far as Tea is concerned this is unforgivable, how can her brother support the very people who killed her true love. Fox on the other hand has always been concerned about the darkness inside his sister. Now she is on the warpath and is preparing for battle, it seems as if his instincts just might have been right.

The beauty of this series isn’t just the immaculate world-building, strong characters, the fascinating plot and the intricate descriptive writing, it is also the metamorphosis of Tea. The inquisitive young girl, who is filled with immense power and lives by a strong sense of wrong and right, morphs into a dark vengeful being driven by anger and a need to punish those she perceives to be the guilty.

Chupeco is an extremely talented writer. Her creativity knows no bounds, and her characters evoke empathy even when they are bent on destruction and revenge. I would like to see the author expand beyond the restrictions of YA, her thought processes are complex and her plots compelling. A true gem of the genre, and perhaps still a wee bit underrated. The Heart Forger is a fantastic read.

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Read my review of The Bone Witch

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Excerpt from the Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.

It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.

The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.

“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”

“Why do I bring you along?”

“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”

“Shut up.” My brother had no need to tell me my quest was hopeless. Numerous Dark asha, all more experienced than me, had made the attempt. But I had to do something.

“You’re in a worse mood than usual. Did Kalen chew you out at practice again?”

“If you don’t like it here, why not find some women in the city to flirt with instead?”

“Not in Oda—” He caught himself. “None of your business. Can we get this over with?”

I turned back to the corpse. “Where are you keeping Mykaela’s heartsglass?”

No answer. The colossi statues guarding the catacombs were likelier to respond than this infernal sod of a king.

“Answer me! What have you done to her heartsglass? Where did you keep it? Why do you hate her so much?” My headache worsened. Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aware of a shadow thrashing about, sensing my anger. I saw a vision of water, green and murky, before it faded out of view.

I took a deep breath and let it out carefully. The ache lightened and the shadow retreated as I recovered my calm.

“This is a waste of time.” Fox folded his arms across his chest. My brother looked to be in peak physical health, though he was no more alive than the royal noble standing before us.

Their similarities ended there; there was barely enough skin and sinew clinging to Vanor to pass for human. That was my doing. The first few times I resurrected him, I had been respectful, taking great pains to restore his body to how it appeared when he was alive.

Now I allowed him only enough muscle and flesh to move his jaw.

“He’s not going to talk, Tea. You know that, I know that, and he definitely knows that.”

“I will make him talk.” Many years ago, my sister-asha had fallen in love with this wretched excuse of a ruler. In exchange for her unwavering devotion, he had taken her heartsglass and hidden it so well that no one had been able to find it.

And now, more than a decade later, Mykaela was dying. She could no longer return to Kion. Her health had deteriorated to the point where she had to remain near her heartsglass, still hidden somewhere within Odalia, here in the city of Kneave. It was hard enough to be a bone witch; that she’d survived for this long was a miracle in itself.

I grabbed what was left of the king’s shoulders, pulling him toward me. He reeked of death and obstinacy. “Answer me!” My voice echoed off the columns. “Didn’t you love her even a little? Or are you so petty that you’d allow her to suffer for the rest of her years? She’s dying. What grudge do you harbor to hate her this much?”

“Tea.”

I froze. So did Fox.

I had told no one else about my weekly excursions to the royal crypts. Not my friend Polaire, who would have boxed my ears if she’d known, nor Mistress Parmina, who would doom me to a life cleaning outhouses. Only Fox was privy to my secret, which he had agreed to keep despite his own misgivings. And Mykaela was the last person I wanted to find out.

She had aged more rapidly during the last few years since she had taken me under her wing. There was more gray in her golden hair, more lines on her face. Her back stooped slightly, like she struggled under a heavy burden. She had taken to using a cane everywhere she went, unsure of her own feet.

“Mykaela,” I stammered, “you’re not supposed to be here.”

“I could say the same for you,” she answered, but her eyes were fixed on King Vanor, her pain obvious. He watched her gravely, without shame or guilt, and my anger rose again. How many raisings had my sister-asha endured, forced to watch while this king refused to speak?

I raised my finger to sketch out the rune that would send Vanor back to the world of the dead, but Mykaela lifted a hand. “Vanor,” she said quietly, “it’s been a while.”

The decaying figure said nothing. His eyes studied her, savage and hungry and ill suited for such an impassive face.

“I apologize for my wayward apprentice. She has been willful and intractable since her admission to my asha-ka and has shown little improvement since. Please return to your rest. Tea, let him go.”

Mykaela’s words were a steel knife through my heart. Stuttering apologies, I completed the spell and watched as King Vanor’s body crumbled back into dust in his open coffin. Even as his features dissolved, King Vanor never once looked away from Mykaela’s face.

“Close the lid and move the stone back in place,” she said. I could detect the anger behind her calm. “I would tell King Telemaine to seal his coffin, but even that might not stop you. Whatever possessed you to let her do this, Fox?”

Fox shrugged, grinning like an abashed schoolboy. “I’m her familiar. It comes with the territory.”

“Being her familiar is no excuse for being an imbecile! And you! What possessed you to summon dead royalty in the middle of the night?”

“I wanted to help.” The excuse sounded weaker when made to Mykaela than to Fox. “I thought that I could control daeva now! You said no Dark asha’s ever done that before! That’s why…why I…”

Mykaela sighed. “And so by that logic, you think you are different from Dark asha of the past? What you have in ability, Tea, you lack in wisdom. You cannot compel the dead if they are not willing. Wasn’t that the first lesson I taught you after you raised Fox from his grave? Arrogance is not a virtue, sister.”

I looked down, blinking back tears. Was I arrogant to want to save her? Unlike Fox, Dark asha and all those with a silver heartsglass cannot be raised from the dead, and that permanence frightened me. “I’m sorry. I want to help. But I feel so powerless.”

I heard her move closer, felt her hand on my head, stroking my hair.

“It’s not such a bad thing, to feel powerless sometimes. It teaches us that some situations are inevitable and that we should spend what little time we have in the company of the people that matter most. Do you understand me, Tea?”

“Yes.” I wept.

“Tea, I’m not dead yet.” A finger nudged at my chin. “I would appreciate it if you stopped acting like I was. I do not give up so easily, but we must adopt other means.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It is only an apology if you mean it. This is the last time you will be summoning anyone in the royal crypts, no matter how noble you think your actions are. Promise me.”

“I promise,” I mumbled.

“The same is true for you too, Fox.”

“I promise, milady.”

“Good. Now help me up the stairs. My legs aren’t what they used to be.”

Fox reached down and scooped Mykaela into his arms. “It’s the fastest way,” he explained. “You’ve expended enough energy yelling at us.”

The older asha chuckled. “Yes, that’s always been rather tiresome now that I think about it. Perhaps you should direct your energies toward more productive tasks so I can tire less.”

“How did you know we were here?” I asked.

“I’ve taken to wandering at night. I looked in on Tea, but her room was empty. I detected a shifting of runes nearby and merely followed it to its source.”

“I didn’t mean to make you worry.” The staircase led back to the Odalian palace gardens. For the past two months, Fox and I had been King Telemaine’s guests, traveling the kingdom and tending to the sickly. Most of the people here fear and dislike bone witches, though with lesser fervor than before. It is not easy to hold a grudge against someone who has nursed you back to health.

At the king’s invitation, Mykaela had taken up residence in the castle indefinitely. But every day finds her weaker, and I feared the palace would serve as her hospice.

“There are many other concerns, Tea. Likh has a new case pending, hasn’t he?”

The asha association had rejected Likh’s appeal to join, but Polaire had dredged up an obscure law that permitted Deathseekers to train in the Willows until they turned fifteen, which was Likh’s current age.

Mykaela glanced over Fox’s shoulder, back at the catacombs, then turned away.

She still loves him, I thought, and fury burned through me like a fever. “I’m really sorry, Mykkie.”

She smiled. “As I said, only if you mean it, Tea. Get some rest. We’ve got a busy day ahead.”

* * *

I listened until my brother’s footsteps faded before sneaking out of my room a second time. I opened the doors of my mind to welcome the hidden shadows; they wrapped around my core, creating a barrier that had for many months prevented Fox from discovering the other sentience I hoarded away, like a sweet vintage I had no intentions of sharing. I couldn’t. Not yet.

Chief waited for me at the stables. A lone woman on a horse caused no outcry, and we rode undisturbed out of the city, into a copse of trees that hid us further from view. I climbed off my stallion, told him to await my return, and moved deeper into the forest, into a small clearing that served as a rendezvous point.

I reached out once more to the moving darkness. The scar on my right thigh was hot to the touch. It burned in the cold air, but I felt no pain.

Despite its size, the beast was made of stealth and shadows. Where there was once nothing, it now stood beside me, as if summoned from the air. Three pairs of hooded eyes gazed down at me, forked tongues dancing. Its wings extended, and twilight rolled over me, soothing and pleasant.

Master? It was a voice but not in the manner we think of voices. Our bond gave us an understanding that went beyond language.

I reached out. Its scaly hide was a combination of coarse bark and rough sandpaper.

Play? It sat, unmoving, as I climbed up its back.

Yes.

In the blink of an eye, we were soaring across the sky, rolling meadows and fields of green passing below us. Turn, I thought, testing the limits of my control, as I have over the last several months. The azi complied, wings curving toward the horizon. I laughed, the sound joyous and free against the wind, and one head dipped briefly to nuzzle at my cheek, purring.

This is not selfishness, I told myself, but a responsibility. Mykaela was partly right; I was arrogant and overconfident, but I was not like other Dark asha. No other Dark asha had been able to tame the azi. And riding with it on quiet nights meant it was not rampaging through cities.

But I also knew I had to keep my companion a secret. Raising a dead king was a far lesser sin than taking a daeva as a familiar. I shall conquer this, I thought and, in doing so, sealed my fate.

Why are we at Daanoris?” I asked again when she paused. “Why won’t you tell me?”

“Because I need you as a witness as well as a storyteller, Bard. You will not remain unbiased for long if I supply you with foresight.”

“You summoned me. I travel with you. My opinions will make little difference.”

“You have a reputation for impartiality, Bard. I trust your judgment and my prudence. And here in Santiang, there is someone I would like you to meet.”

“Who?”

“They call him the Heartforger.” She flashed me a quick mischievous grin. “I find it difficult to believe you will be so eager to rule in my favor after the endless stretch of corpses I summoned in my wake. Or after informing you of my intentions to take Daanoris. It is not easy to mask your repugnance. Why have I come to Daanoris? Perhaps simply because I can. Has that not crossed your mind?”

“Tea,” Kalen admonished, his voice low and amused.

She laughed. “Let me continue my story while we still have the luxury.”

The shadows grew across the trees. The daeva melted slowly into the forest, moving silently despite their sizes. No other sound passed through the woods—no chirping of birds nor chatter of squirrels. There was only the wind whispering through the leaves, the crackling of fire, and the sound of the asha’s voice.

Return to the #BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco to read my review…

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon UK

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Later today it is my turn on the BlogTour for The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco, the second part in The Bone Witch series. I absolutely adored the first part, The Bone Witch, which is why I decided to feature a pre-taste of Chupeco’s talent.

About the book

When Tea accidentally resurrects her dead brother, she learns she is a different from the other witches in her family.  Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in her community.  But she finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. There Tea learns to wield her magic in the face of dark forces and the deceit of those who would plot against her, including the ruling royals, who are waging their own war for control of the land.

Told from Tea’s perspective while she waits in exile, collecting the strength and force to combat those who killed her one true love, and a visiting Bard’s perspective, this is another magical tale woven by The Girl from the Well author.

Review

I loved the writing and the descriptive style, it fits well with the flow of the story. Chupeco takes the reader to the past, the present and also Tea in the future. The future speaks of darkness and vengeance, the past of pain and death, and the present of uncertainty and discovery.

The parallels between the asha and Geisha’s are an interesting element of the story. Women are considered entertainment for the men, and yet the asha are also revered at the same time. Tea finds it difficult to reconcile her inner turbulence with the dainty and effeminate skills her peers excel at.

She finds a home thanks to Lady Mykaela, who intends to train her as a dark asha, but first she is asked to follow all orders blindly and instead of exciting learning opportunities she becomes nothing more than a skivvy.

The ability to read a person via their heartglass is such an interesting concept. It leaves doors open for discrimination, judgements and exclusions. Mykaela can see the potential in Tea, but has no idea just how much power she has, and neither does Tea. Unfortunately the power also escapes on occasion, which is code for loss of control.

One of Tea’s lighter dark moments is raising her beloved brother from the dead, which binds them in a way they both find it hard to cope with, especially when he starts to defy the strange connection they have.

Throughout the story the reader is given a glimpse of what Tea becomes and is heading towards, and it isn’t pretty. Which event or betrayal turns her into the powerful bone witch with an axe to grind? The dark being intent on destroying those who have wronged her.

This was hands down one of my favourite reads of 2017. Chupeco is incredibly talented, has masses of potential, and deserves to be right up there with the big names in the Fantasy genre. This is YA, so I would really like to see the author let loose beyond the borders and restrictions of young adult.

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Come back a little later for the BlogTour for The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2), the sequel to The Bone Witch!