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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NEWS: Kelly Gay's The Cold Light Of Day, Grimm Mistresses, and The Labyrinth Of Flame Kickstarter

Official Author Website
Read my review of The Better Part of Darkness 
Read my review of The Darkest Edge of Dawn 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Hour Of Dust and Ashes 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Shadows Before The Sun 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Kelly Gay 

I’m a big fan of Kelly Gay and her dark Charlie Madigan urban fantasy series. The series combined the gritty underbelly of Atlanta with inter-dimensional fantasy, and viola the readers were given an urban fantasy series that bucked most of the urban fantasy tropes and explored new avenues.

The series was published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster and after four books being published, the series was dropped by the publisher for reasons that weren’t quite sure but were most likely financial ones. The fourth book Shadows Before The Sun was published nearly three years ago and since then we have been waiting to hear about the next book in the series.

The author recently revealed via her newsletter that the next book is titled “The Cold Light Of Day” and will be released in the summer. The book will be self-published by the author and will be released in e-book and trade paperback format. The author revealed a bit about the story in an email and here’s what it’s going to be about:

The tale begins where SHADOWS BEFORE THE SUN left off, with Pen, the Druid King, pressuring Charlie to find out who killed certain characters in the preceding title, and the mysterious Leander returning to make Charlie and Hank an offer they can’t refuse. And, of course, along the way Charlie and Hank’s relationship intensifies, Emma’s powers grow, and Rex gets into deep, deep trouble.

Obviously there will be a bit more to the story and I can’t wait for the official blurb reveal. Here’s looking to more of Charlie, Rex, Hank, Pen & the others…

Order Grim Mistresses HERE
Read Beauty In Ruins' review of Grim Mistresses

Yesterday was also the release day of Grimm Mistresses by Ragnarok Publications. Check out the amazing cover by Brittany Smith and also here’s the blurb:

 "Remember the Grimm Brothers? Those dark fairy tales that made you leave the light on long before Disney went and sanitized them? Well, we do! Now the MISTRESSES GRIMM take back the night, five female authors who will leave you shuddering deliciously. Get ready to leave the lights on again with four pieces of short fiction bringing the Grimm Brother’s tales into the present. Be advised: these aren’t your children’s fairy tales!"

Here are the five amazing ladies who are lending their talents to this amazing collection and given below is the table of contents:

"The Night Air" by Stacey Turner
"Little Dead Red" by Mercedes M. Yardley 
"Nectar" by Allison M. Dickson
"Hazing Cinderella" by C.W. LaSart
"The Leopard's Pelt" by S.R. Cambridge 

 So get yourself a copy of this dark, enticing collection, I'll be reviewing it in the upcoming weeks as well.

Official Author Website 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Whitefire Crossing 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Tainted City 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's multi-author interview with Courtney Schafer 

We are mightily indebted to Courtney for giving us the golden opportunity to host the cover & blurb reveal of The Labyrinth Of Flame last year. The cover art (seen above) was provided by series regular David Palumbo & the cover design is done by Martha Wade.

Here’s what The Labyrinth Of Flame is going to be about:

"Dev's never been a man afraid of a challenge. Not only has he kept his vow to his dead mentor, rescuing a child in the face of impossible odds, but he's freed his mage friend Kiran from both the sadistic master who seeks to enslave him and the foreign Council that wants to kill him."

"But Kiran's master Ruslan is planning a brutal revenge, one that will raze an entire country to blood and ashes. Kiran is the key to stopping Ruslan; yet Kiran is dying by inches, victim of the Alathian Council's attempt to chain him. Worse yet, Dev and Kiran have drawn the attention of demons from the darkest of ancient legends. Demons whose power Dev knows is all too real, and that he has every reason to fear." 

"A fear that grows, as he and Kiran struggle to outmaneuver Ruslan and uncover the secrets locked in Kiran's forgotten childhood. For the demons are playing their own deadly game - and the price of survival may be too terrible to bear."

The kickstarter for the book has been live for the past six days and already has been fully funded at four thousand dollars and is currently very close to reaching its first stretch goal. I’m a backer and I’m hoping many of you consider joining in the kickstarter for this tremendous trilogy ending.
Monday, February 16, 2015

Cover Reveal: Shower Of Stones: A Novel of Jeroun by Zachary Jernigan

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of No Return
Read The Debut Novel: A Series Of Intentions by Zachary Jernigan (guest post)

Zachary Jernigan's No Return was a debut that won me over completely nearly two years ago and now Zachary is releasing the sequel to his complex debut via Nightshade books. Zack was kind enough to allow us to exclusively reveal the cover for Shower Of Stones which has superb art work by Claudia Noble. Also check out the enticing blurb below thanks to the publisher. The book has a tentative release date of July 7th and I can't wait to immerse myself back into the complex world that is Jeroun.

Official Book Blurb  At the moment of his greatest victory, before a crowd of thousands, the warrior Vedas Tezul renounced his faith, calling for revolt against the god Adrash, imploring mankind to unite in this struggle. 

Good intentions count for nothing. In the three months since his sacrilegious pronouncement, the world has not changed for the better. In fact, it is now on the verge of dying. The Needle hangs broken in orbit above Jeroun, each of its massive iron spheres poised to fall and blanket the planet’s surface in dust. Long-held truces between Adrashi and Anadrashi break apart as panic spreads. 

With no allegiance to either side, the disgraced soldier Churls walks into the divided city of Danoor with a simple plan: murder the monster named Fesuy Amendja, and retrieve from captivity the only two individuals that still matter to her — Vedas Tezul, and the constructed man Berun. The simple plan goes awry, as simple plans do, and in the process Churls and her companions are introduced to one of the world’s deepest secrets: a madman, insisting he is the link to an ancient world, offering the most tempting lie of all . . . hope. 

Concluding the visceral, inventive narrative begun in No Return, Shower of Stones pits men against gods and swords against civilization-destroying magic in the fascinatingly harsh world of Jeroun.
Thursday, February 12, 2015

"The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place" by Julie Berry (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Julie Berry's Website Here

 OVERVIEW: There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

FORMAT: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a middle grade Victorian murder mystery. It has some heavy topics (a girl's intense fascination with death, an overly flirtatious character) that make it one that should be cautious with some of the younger middle grade readers.

It stands at 368 pages and was published by Roaring Brook Press on September 23, 2014.

ANALYSIS: Writing a good middle grade murder mystery is a bit of a challenge. Writers don't want to make the plot too simplistic or they will lose the interest of their readers – both within the target age group and outside of it. Complicate the story/plot and you run the risk of losing the target audience, but creating a book that older readers will enjoy.

It truly is a fine line and Julie Berry knows how to toe that line in her latest novel – The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.  

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a delightful murder mystery set in 19th century England. One evening at St. Etheldreda's – a boarding/finishing school for young girls – the headmistress and her brother suddenly drop dead while enjoying an evening meal. Faced with the possibility of their school closing down and being forced to move – the 7 girls who attend the school leap into action and create a plan that hopes to fool the small town into thinking nothing is wrong.

This novel follows the girls as they try to keep the charade up. While trying to fool the community, the girls work to uncover who may have committed the murder of their headmistress and her not-so-likeable brother.

Overall, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a delightful, fun read. The characters are quirky and there is just enough humor sprinkled throughout the novel that things don't get too serious.

Considering there are seven main characters, there is essentially something for everyone in this book. There are enough characters introduced and well-developed that there is someone almost every reader will relate to in some way. There is the flirtatious, fun character, the studious girl who wishes to be a doctor, and the good-hearted, yet not overly beautiful character.

While the multiple characters help make the story more relatable to some people it may cause problems for others. The entire story jumps back and forth between all of these characters. There isn't one main character, there are seven. Throughout the novel we – the readers – will learn more about the characters' personalities, pasts, and future hopes and dreams.  This can be quite confusing.

Readers may struggle with the jumping around between characters, especially younger readers. There are so many characters, plot twists, and different avenues the characters are pursuing that it could be difficult for some people to keep up.

I admit there were some times, especially at the beginning, where I got confused about who was who and what they were doing. It worked out as the book continued, but it was a bit overwhelming at first.

I do want to point out one of the characters is extremely obsessed with death. There is even mention of the fact that she enjoyed spending time with corpses and researching dead people. Multiple times throughout the book she makes references to death, dead bodies and other gruesome things. The average reader might not be bothered by this, but those sensitive to the subject or easily bothered may find this off-putting.

While the book is fun and fast-paced, there was one quirk about the book that I found extremely annoying. Each of the girls in the novel has an adjective before their name. For example, Smooth Kitty, Stout Alice, and Dour Elinor.

I am not sure if this was done to be quirky and fun, to help readers with the characters, or what, but it got old/annoying after a while. About 90% of the time the girls were referred to in the novel, they had their adjectives with them. It also hindered the reading experience, as it made it feel clunky or clumsy. I am sure some people will gloss over this aspect, but it caught my eye every time it happened.

Another aspect of this novel that has to be pointed out is the historical aspect of it. The novel takes place in 19th century England and is fairly accurate. Everything from the timely references to events/authors to the descriptions and the way the characters acted was very true to the time period. I found the time period not only interesting to read about, but fitting. I think it enhanced the novel.

Overall, I found The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place a fun read. The entire mystery part wasn't too complex, but it wasn't so simple that I lost interest in the story. I would be hesitant to hand this novel over to readers on the younger side of the MG/YA spectrum. The topics of death and even the flirtatious nature of the one character make it a book that isn't for every middle grade reader.

Mystery fans will be certain to enjoy the twists and turns of this book. It isn't too heavy/plot intense, but it isn't light, fluffy and simplistic.
Saturday, February 7, 2015

GUESTPOST: "Steampunk in Seattle And Why The Pacific North-West Beckoned" by Elizabeth Bear

Hi! I’m Elizabeth Bear, and I’m salted caramel gelato. Er, I mean, I’m eating salted caramel gelato, and let me tell you, this stuff is a reason I’m glad I live in the future where ice cream flavors like this exist. But I’m not actually here to sell you Häagen-Dazs, fake umlaut and all. I’m here because I’m the author of Karen Memory, a new book that came out this month, and I’ve been invited to Fantasy Book Critic to talk to you about it. (Maybe you’d rather I was selling you Häagen-Dazs? Well, you’re on a book blog, so you’re pretty much stuck now.)

Karen Memory is a steampunk Weird West adventure set in a fictional city in the Pacific Northwest. (I don’t feel too bad about that—I’m a New Englander, and everybody from H. P. Lovecraft to Stephen King to Jane Langton has felt free to shoehorn an extra town or two into the landscape around here. So I think it’s traditional.) 

The book stars the nearly-eponymous Karen Memery. Karen’s a sixteen-year-old bordello girl with an outsize vocabulary, a shaky sense of grammar, and a complete inability to stay out of trouble for more than fifteen minutes at a time. A number of people have asked me why I might want to go and set a steampunk story in the Pacific Northwest.

Well, I’m not the first, by any means. Off the top of my head, there’s Cherie Priest’s delightful Boneshaker, for example. And an interesting thing that’s happened in the past few years is a real groundswell of the Weird Western, a subgenre that used to be pretty much staked out by Stephen King and Joe Lansdale—and also was a lot more horror focused.

But I started writing Karen Memory in 2009, and the thing I notice is that Emma Bull’s fabulous Western fantasy, Territory, came out a few years before then—and that since, there’s been a steady creep of steampunk elements into Westerns. The TV show and later movie The Wild Wild West is no doubt extremely seminal here, but then we find the blossoming of Cherie’s books, and those of Gemma Files starting with A Book of Tongues, R.S. Belcher’s The Six-Gun Tarot, John Horner Jacob’s The Incorruptibles, Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White, Tim Pratt’s The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, Felix Gilman’s The Half-Made-World… well, if you just want a list, Goodreads has a couple!

And apparently they’re bringing back Westworld now? Robot gunslingers? Well all right.

So, the simple answer is because it’s a fascinating time. Steampunk is often criticized for assuming the trappings of empire without bothering to engage with its colonialism and class issues, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case with most of the Weird West steampunk I’ve read. I know that one of the things that attracted me to the Gold Rush northwest was exactly that—the chance to unfurl a cast of characters that draws some of its interest and conflict from the often whitewashed diversity of the West; the chance to show the perspective of a working-class heroine; the chance to talk about rapacious exploitation. 

And there’s the added attraction of it being a gorgeous landscape with so much scope for adventure! Meanwhile, let’s talk about the Ben & Jerry’s salted caramel blondie stuff. Because it’s totally sick, yo, and I mean that in the best of all possible ways…

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

She was the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2005 and has won two Hugo Awards for her short fiction along with a Sturgeon Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin.
Friday, February 6, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win a Copy of Steelheart and Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy Book Critic is excited to provide you with an Epic Reads prize pack to celebrate the release of Firefight by Brandon Sanderson. Firefight was released January 6, 2015.

The Epic Reads Price Pack includes:

  • A copy of Steelheart
  • A copy of Firefight

A huge thanks to Random House for providing the prizes for the giveaway.

About Firefight:

 Brandon Sanderson is back with a vengeance in FIREFIGHT, the follow up to the #1 New York Times bestselling Steelheart. In the book that Kirkus Reviews is calling a “rare middle volume that keeps the throttle open,” Sanderson takes readers on another a thrill ride and “presents a Marvel Comics-style mix of violently destructive battles, fabulous feats and ongoing inner wrestling over morality and identity.

David Charleston still can’t believe it. Steelheart is dead, and he died by David’s own hand. Even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic, but the invincible has fallen and now Newcago is free. Despite attaining revenge for the murder of his father and living his dream as a team member of the most elite Reckoners cell, David finds he has more questions than ever before, and he won’t find the answers in his home city.

Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as Manhattan, could hold the key. Ruled by the mysterious and ambivalent High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is a place flooded with water and painted in neon, where the inhabitants spend most of their days lounging and nights partying. David can’t seem to understand the complacency of the city and its residents, but what he does understand is that being positioned here, risky as it may be, could lead him to the answers he so desperately seeks. Because there is an emptiness in him, one left behind after killing Steelheart, that was filled unexpectedly by Firefight, who is just plain Megan to him. And David will stop at nothing to find a way to understand Epics and bring her back to him. Hopefully for good this time.

The second book in the Reckoners series and follow up to the highly acclaimed Steelheart, which Publishers Weekly called “an absolute page-turner,” FIREFIGHT is filled with spine-tingling adventure and heart-racing action that promises to satisfy fans both new and old.


photo credit: Isaac Stewart

BRANDON SANDERSON is the author of the internationally bestselling Mistborn trilogy. In 2007, he was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series following the author’s death.  The concluding book in that series, A Memory of Light, was released on January 8, 2013, and debuted at #1 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction List., just as his two previous Wheel of Time books had done.  His work has been published in over 25 languages and his books have sold millions of copies worldwide. He lives and writes in Utah. Visit him at or connect with him on Twitter @BrandSanderson.

How To Enter the Giveaway:

  1. This giveaway is open to US addresses only.
  2. Giveaway ends February 13, 2015 at 12:01 a.m. EST.
  3. To enter send an email with your name and address to
  4. Make sure the email has the subject – FIREFIGHT

Good luck!
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"The Glass Sentence: Mapmakers Trilogy #1" by S.E. Grove (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Overview: She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.

Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods.  Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.

Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.

The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.

FORMAT: The Glass Sentence is the first novel in The Mapmakers Trilogy. It stands at 493 pages and was published on June 12, 2014 by Viking Juvenile.

ANALYSIS: The Glass Sentence is a YA fantasy that has a little bit of everything thrown into it. There is some mention about magic, a huge emphasis on science and scientific facts, a quest, and some alternative history thrown into it.

The novel, which is the first book of a series, is very reminiscent of His Dark Materials. That isn't to say it's a carbon copy of it or the ideas are the same, but there is a distinct similarity in writing style, plotline, and even characters. Fans of this series will be sure to enjoy The Glass Sentence, as well as any following novels.

The entire novel revolves around the concept that at one point the world was as we knew it and then suddenly this huge disruption happened. Think, apocalypse, but not really. This disruption caused the entire globe to slip into different time periods. Some areas went back in time, some went forward, but they all co-exist at once.

The Glass Sentence by no means would be classified as a 'fast read'. It starts off with a very slow, almost sluggish start. This is because there is a lot of background information, scientific facts, and world building that needs to happen in order for readers to understand the series. Unfortunately, this takes time and results in a sluggish, slow-moving feel.

If you can make it through the sluggish/slowness in the beginning of the novel, there is a decent, well-rounded novel. Sadly, most readers will probably give up on the novel, which leads people to miss out on a unique story.

I would estimate that a good one-third, to one-half of the novel is sluggish world building. There is a lot of time spent explaining the rather complex 'new world' that people are living in. There is time spent explaining how maps are made, the different types of maps, and even the extensive history/culture/customs of the different eras.

In addition to the sluggish nature of the book, I (personally) found it difficult to suspend disbelief on the whole concept of different eras/time periods/time co-existing in a world. I am not totally sure if it was too scientific for my brain to process or if I just couldn't let go of the world that I know, but I just couldn't envision it happening.

While I was able to get through The Glass Sentence and found the story/plot alright, I believe my inability to suspend disbelief for the story hindered/hurt my experience with this book. I can see how much potential this series has and I realize that for the right reader this is 'the book' to read, I just found it difficult. It wasn't until the very end that things started to 'click' for me and I really started enjoying the book.

Would I recommend The Glass Sentence to everyone? Probably not. There is a certain audience that will really enjoy/love this book. Fans of His Dark Materials, those looking for a unique novel that is not the normal 'YA' read, and those that like complex world building. If you are going to read this book, make sure to give it time as it really does take a while to build up – and of course – be prepared for a huge cliffhanger!
Thursday, January 22, 2015

EXCERPT: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Promise Of Blood
Pre-order The Autumn Republic HERE

Brian McClellan is an author who along with Django Wexler seems to have brought a whole new sub genre alive. Flintlock fantasy's newest proponents are making their presences felt with their individual series.  The Autumn Republic brings to a successful conclusion the Powder Mage trilogy and thanks to Orbit Books, we get to share the fourth chapter with all our readers. The first three chapters can be found over HERE, HERE & HERE. Also for those readers interested in pre-ordering this title, Orbit Books is offering a signed bookplate. All you need to do is fill out the form on the Orbit website over here.


Nila waited beside the carriage for Bo and Adamat to return from their meeting with General Hilanska.

Downhill from her a small stream wound its way through the camp, its banks muddied from the tramp of a thousand boots. Nila watched as a laundress filled a bucket with the dirty water and hauled it back to her fire, where the uniforms of half a dozen soldiers sat piled on her bench. The woman filled her washing pot with the water and sat back to wait for it to boil, drawing a soiled hand across her brow.

A different choice sometime in the last few months and Nila knew that might have been her. She glanced down at her hands. For years they had been cracked and worn by the soap, water, and lye she’d used to do laundry. Now they seemed remarkably smooth to the touch and, Bo told her, they would be put to better use.

A Privileged. She still couldn’t believe it, not even after seeing the fire spring from her own fingertips the first time and during all their practice since. Privileged were creatures of great cunning and strength. They commanded the elements and made armies quake. It seemed so crass that a laundress without family or connections could suddenly hold such power.

She couldn’t help but feel cheated as well. Had she known it lay dormant within her, she might have used that power to escape from Vetas or to protect the royalists. Nila clenched her fist and felt a slight warmth on the back of her hand—fire, blue and white, dancing across her knuckles as if they were at the center of a hearth. Glancing around to see if anyone had noticed, she shook her hand to put out the fire and then hid it behind her back.

She thought about her time with the royalists and remembered Rozalia, the Privileged who had fought for them. Had Rozalia sensed the latent power within Nila and simply chosen not to mention it? Or had she been kind to her for some other reason? Would Nila become like her someday—old, wise, and powerful? Would people be nervous around her as she had been nervous around Rozalia?


Nila emerged from deep within her own thoughts, and it took her a moment to remember that was the name she was using as she pretended to be a secretary to Bo—who himself was masquerading as a lawyer. She turned her head to see him hurrying toward her from across the camp. There was an urgency to his step that concerned her.

“Did you find Taniel?”

“No.” Bo took her by the arm and stepped around to the far side of the carriage, where they were less likely to be overheard. “General Hilanska says that Taniel’s dead.”

The dispassionate way Bo spoke the words made her step back. Taniel had been his obsession ever since he had taken her and Jakob under his wing. His only friend, he claimed. He had been searching for Taniel for months now with a passion that Nila had found inspiring. And now this? Bo could be distant at times, even cold, but this…

“There’s something else?” she asked.

“We’re going to find out for sure. Adamat thinks there’s a chance he’s still alive, and Hilanska is only one man.”

Nila realized he wasn’t dispassionate—he was dazed.

“Where do we stand?”

“Hilanska has dismissed us, but I’m not leaving until I can confirm that Taniel is dead. I want a body or a grave or something more than just Hilanska’s word. I’ll even go to the Kez camp if I have to. Adamat is corroborating Hilanska’s story with the soldiers. I’m going to do the same.” He paused and looked her up and down. “This will be dangerous. If Hilanska finds out who I am, I may be killed outright—along with you, Adamat, Oldrich, and his men.”

“Just for impersonating a lawyer?”

A smile tugged at the corner of Bo’s face, but he stifled it quickly. “I’m serious. Hilanska doesn’t like or trust Privileged. He’s a man with something to hide, and the mere fact that we’re snooping around is going to gain his suspicion. He’s like Tamas—he’ll do what’s expedient. Even if it means killing a whole lot of people.”

“That seems like something you would respect.”

“And I can respect it by not letting him know what I really am. Or what you are, for that matter.” He glanced down at her hands and fell into a long silence. He had told her that no Privileged but the gods could touch the Else without runed gloves to keep them from being burned from the inside out by pure sorcery.

Except for her, apparently. And she was far from a god.

She had no doubt that if she said the word, Bo would send her back to Adopest today. This was her opportunity to run. She could fetch Jakob and go into hiding, using the funds that Bo had left for her. She would be able to get out of danger. If she left now, she would never learn how to control her new powers. She would never find a Privileged as patient or thoughtful or just downright human as Bo. And she would never get the chance to repay him for the kindness he’d shown her and Jakob.

“What can I do?” Nila asked.

Nila waited inside the small wood-and-stone building that had, according to one of the soldiers, at one point been a stable.

The building barely had a roof, and the door was nothing more than a scrap of cowhide, but it seemed that the quartermaster of the Twelfth Brigade was making do. The floors were covered in straw and every available space was stacked with wooden crates and powder kegs. Bo had told her to ask around about Taniel Two-shot, stifling her protests that his instructions were rather vague, and left her to her own devices. He wasn’t exactly the image of rousing leadership.

She didn’t know how to go about asking soldiers about the death of their own. It seemed crass. So she thought she’d put what she did know to good use. Despite the horror of being Lord Vetas’s prisoner, she had learned many valuable lessons. One of those was the worth of good record keeping, and how it could be used against the very people who kept those records.

The cowhide was swept aside and a woman of about fifty ambled into the room wearing an Adran-blue army jacket with the quartermaster’s pin on her collar. She was a slim woman, carrying most of her weight around her hips, and her graying hair was tucked into a bun behind her head.

“How can I help you, my dear?” she asked, dropping carelessly onto a powder keg.

“My name is Risara,” Nila said, smoothing the front of her skirt. “I’m the secretary to Counselor Mattias of Adopest and I need access to the brigade records.”

“Well then.” The quartermaster sniffed. “I’ll have to clear that with General Hilanska.”

Nila produced an attaché case from beneath her arm and opened it on her lap, taking great pains to leaf through the official-looking documents within. She withdrew one in particular and handed it to the quartermaster. “This is a warrant granting me access to whatever records I wish to see. Do you think this is something the general wants to deal with during the current turmoil?”

The quartermaster read the warrant over twice. Nila tried not to let her nervousness show. The warrant was perfectly valid, but Bo had warned her that the army operated outside civilian judicial purview—whether legal or not.

“All right,” the quartermaster said, handing the document back to Nila. “What do you want to see?”

Nila tried not to show her surprise at being granted access so easily or to let on that she didn’t actually know what she was looking for. What would help her track down Taniel? His movements before his reported death? “Give me a copy of all requisition reports of the last two months.”

“All of them?” The quartermaster rocked back on her powder keg. “That’s several hundred pages.”

“Get a scribe in here. I’ll wait.”

The quartermaster grumbled under her breath and began sorting through the crates piled in one corner. Nila waited, trying to put on as patient an air as possible. Lord Vetas had forced her to run many of his errands—not all of them strictly legal—and she had quickly learned that if she only acted like she belonged someplace most people would assume she did.

“Is there anything else you need?” the quartermaster said, wrist-deep in sheaves of paper. “I don’t want to have to go through all this again.”

“What records do you have on individual officers?”

The quartermaster lifted a pile of worn yellow paper almost as thick as Nila’s hand was wide. “You’d have to see the general’s adjutant for that.”

“Of course.” Nila took the records from the quartermaster and leafed through them. “Do you need to make copies?”

“They’re all in triplicate. That’s why the column for order signatures is blank. I’ll have another copy made up when someone has time. Anything you’re looking for in particular?”

Nila hesitated a moment. If she mentioned her goal, it might raise suspicion. But the idea of combing through all those reports was incredibly daunting. “Do you know if Captain Taniel Two-shot made any requisition orders?”

“He did.” The quartermaster scratched her head for a minute as if to run through her memory. “There are a few dozen, I think. I can’t tell you the exact days, but any requests made by a powder mage are marked with a ‘pm’ in the order column.”

“You’ve been most helpful. Thank you. Do you mind if I look through the copies here?”

The quartermaster shrugged her bony shoulders. “Fine by me. You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, though. I’ll just be takin’ a piss.”

Nila was left alone with the records. It took her a few minutes to get a feel for how the pages were organized. They were covered in small script and several columns. Names, dates, orders, and whether they were fulfilled. There were notes in half a dozen different handwritings—various quartermasters, she assumed. Once she found the first ‘pm’—a request by Taniel for more powder, which was denied—it wasn’t hard to spot more.

She had just found the fifth powder request when she heard the old quartermaster behind her.

“Right there,” the woman said. Nila glanced up out of politeness, only to see herself trapped in the small building by two big soldiers. The men wore dark-blue Adran uniforms with red trim and tall bearskin hats. Not regular soldiers. Grenadiers.

“Ma’am,” one of them said, “would you come with us, please.”

Nila’s heart was in her throat. “Is something the matter?”

“Please,” he said again. “Come with us.” He glanced behind him, as if nervous. “Try not to make a ruckus, ma’am.”

Nila didn’t see that she had much choice. She could yell and scream, with only a small chance of attracting Bo. But even then, what could Bo do? For the purpose of this mission they were not in a friendly camp. “Of course, just let me gather my things.” Nila scooped up the requisition orders, securing the whole thing with a string, and forced them into her attaché case before following the men out of the building.

“Stay with us, please,” one of the men said in a low voice before moving on ahead. The other, Nila noted, fell back some ten paces. It was almost as if they didn’t want to be seen with her.

She was led past General Hilanska’s headquarters and over a slight rise and into another part of the camp. She examined the various standards, trying to remember the brigades and regiments of the Adran army and failing completely. If not General Hilanska, who were they taking her to see? Or were they taking her straight to the stockade?

The man in front of her suddenly stopped beside a white-walled tent and turned as if taking up the guard. He gestured to the flap. “Go on in.”

The other soldier had disappeared. Nila stared at the tent for a moment, both curious and fearful about what she’d find inside. She clenched her jaw. She was a Privileged now. She was going to have to get used to danger—and taking risks. She ducked inside.

A man sat in the middle of the tent, scribbling furiously in a notebook on his lap. He didn’t look up when Nila entered, only pointed to the chair opposite him and continued to write. Nila looked around carefully. No sign of danger here, though that could all change in a moment in a camp full of soldiers. She took the offered seat.

By the size of the tent, Nila guessed that this man was an officer. He was a big man, well over six feet tall standing, with wide shoulders and thick arms. He had a face that looked like it had been punched one too many times, with a crooked nose and high cheekbones. His chair was wheeled, of the kind used by invalids. She spotted the man’s army jacket hanging in one corner, with two hawks over the Adran Mountains emblazoned on the shoulder. It also held four bars over a chevron—Nila knew enough to recognize he was a colonel. Had she read something in the newspaper recently about a colonel being paralyzed in a heroic action?

He finally stopped writing and pushed himself up straight in his chair. “You’re the girl that came in with the lawyer this afternoon?” he asked.

“I am Counselor Mattias’s secretary.”

“How long have you been with the counselor?” The colonel watched her face intently.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“It’s a direct question,” the colonel said. “How long have you been with him? Are you in his confidence?”

Nila knew she had to make a decision. Throw everything in behind Bo—be there if he was exposed and killed—or pretend that she was nothing more than a hired secretary.

“Some time. I am in his confidence, sir.” The colonel’s eyes narrowed.

“Indeed? Then what’s the Privileged up to?”

Nila forced herself not to bolt for the tent flap. “I don’t know what—”

“Stop,” the man said. “I’ve known Taniel Two-shot since he was a boy. You think I wouldn’t recognize his best friend?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Nila said. “I don’t know your name.”

“Colonel Etan.”

“Colonel Etan. If you think you know someone, shouldn’t you invite them to your tent directly?”

The shadow of a smile touched Etan’s face. “Is Borbador here looking for Taniel?”

Nila couldn’t avoid a direct question like that. This man claimed to know Taniel. This may be the best way to get information out of him. Or it could all be a trap.

“Yes,” she said.

Etan gave a soft sigh, closing his eyes. “Thank Adom.”

“I’m sorry?”

Etan opened his eyes again. “I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to find out what happened to Taniel. Nobody has seen him since he was raised up like a trophy above the Kez camp. Hilanska has refused to ask any questions. He won’t even request Taniel’s body back from the Kez.”

Nila’s throat felt dry. “So Taniel is dead?”

“I don’t know,” Etan said. “He was alive when he was raised up on that beam. He was alive the last time anyone saw him up there, and then when Kresimir killed Adom, he—”

“Wait, what?” Nila couldn’t help herself. She leaned forward in her chair. “Kresimir killed Adom? What are you talking about?” Was this man mad?

Etan waved his hand. “It’s a very long story. One that hasn’t gotten back to Adopest, it seems. Pit, Hilanska is keeping a tight lid around here. To answer your earlier question, I deemed it unwise to bring Borbador here. I’m hoping that you are being watched less closely than the supposed ‘lawyer’ is.”

“You want me to pass him a message?”

“Yes. Don’t trust Hilanska.”

“I don’t think Bo trusts anyone.”

Etan scowled at his legs. He didn’t seem to hear her. “Hilanska is a superior officer and I do him a disservice, but he’s been acting very strangely lately. As I said before, he won’t look into Taniel’s whereabouts. He adamantly refuses to believe that Tamas might still be alive. What’s more, he’s been putting all of Tamas’s most loyal men into their own companies and promoting his own longest-serving soldiers. And he’s been raving about a Kez pincer movement that could come over the southern mountains—he sent two whole companies into the valleys in the southwest, where they won’t be able to do a damned thing when the Kez do attack.”

Nila couldn’t pretend to understand the inner politics of the army, but she imagined it not unlike anywhere else that people were constantly jockeying for rank or status—even like the noble household where she had been employed before the coup. She did know that Bo wouldn’t care one whit for the army politics. But Etan was clearly distraught, and she didn’t think it would help to tell him that.

“Are you able to help us find Taniel?” she asked gently.

Etan glanced at the attaché case in her hands. “I’ve gone through all of Taniel’s requisition forms. I was there when he made some of them. I don’t think they’ll help you, but I suppose another set of eyes wouldn’t hurt. I’ve done everything within my power to discover his fate—I’ve been watching for anyone who might come asking, as well. Bo might have to go to the Kez to get any more information.”

“That would be suicide,” Nila said. Not that it would stop Bo.

“It might. I’m sorry that I could not be more help. I’m leaving for Adopest in the morning. If there’s anything I can do to aid your search, contact me through one of the grenadiers of the Twelfth.”

“Thank you,” Nila said.

She left the colonel and headed back across the camp toward where they had left their carriage. What else could she do now but wait for Bo and tell him about Etan? Etan’s advice had been unhelpful, but she hoped it would make Bo more optimistic to know they had a friend in the camp and that Taniel had last been seen alive.

Their carriage had been moved off the road and down into a gully and the horses unharnessed. She sat in the carriage to read through the reports, going through every page one by one, carefully examining each line to be sure she didn’t miss any of Taniel’s requisitions. The column that interested her the most was the one where the quartermasters entered their own notes about the requisition. Up to a certain point in time, each of Taniel’s requests for black powder had been denied “by order of the General Staff.”

Until about a month previous. He was given powder, and the note column said, “Special permission, General Hilanska.” Nila set that page aside to show to Bo.

It grew dark, and Nila finally had to set aside her work. It seemed strange to her that neither Bo nor Adamat had returned yet. In fact, she hadn’t seen Sergeant Oldrich or his men either. She leaned her head against the wall of the carriage, wondering if she should go look for them or just rest here until they returned.

Nila thought she heard a soft click from the opposite door of the carriage. She turned, but the carriage door was still closed.

“Hello?” she asked. When there was no response, she put her hand to her door latch and it occurred to her that in a camp of many tens of thousands, there didn’t seem to be anyone close to her carriage.

The opposite door suddenly swung open. Nila glimpsed a dark coat, a covered face, and the dull glint of steel in the moonlight. The carriage rocked as someone dove inside. A hand darted toward her.

Nila threw herself across the carriage, felt a knife catch in her skirts. She twisted away and heard a low curse in a man’s voice as her attacker tried to drag his blade from the cloth. She rolled onto the flat of the blade and kicked out at the man’s shoulder. He pulled back with a grunt, the knife no longer in his hand, only to leap bodily upon her. She caught him under the shoulders. He batted at her arms, pushing them down, one hand snaking around her neck. She felt his fingers close about her throat and remembered Lord Vetas’s hot breath upon her shoulder when he had done the same.

The man hissed suddenly, jumping away from her, his jacket on fire. Nila felt the pressure leave her throat, saw the flame dancing on her fingertips, and she leapt on top of the man, fueled by the coals of her rage. He tried to grapple with her, his attention taken by his burning coat, but Nila forced herself inside his guard. Her hand still aflame, she grasped the man’s face and pushed.

Skin and bone seemed to give way beneath her fingers. The man’s scream died in his throat and his body stopped moving. The cushion and the man’s clothes were still on fire and she beat at the flames with her skirt until they were gone. The body, most of its head melted into a sickening black goop on the carriage bench, lay still beneath her. Nila slowly backed away. Her head hit the roof of the carriage and she ducked down, unable to pull her eyes away from the corpse lying in the smoldering remains of its own clothing.

She looked down at her hand. It was covered in cooked bits of bone and flesh.

“Nila, are you—” Bo jerked open the door she had been resting against just a few moments before and stared down at the body. His face was unreadable in the darkness.

“Come here,” he said gently, taking her by the wrist and pulling her outside. She only noticed the acrid smell of smoke and burned flesh, hair, and wool as Bo led her away. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gently cleaned her hand, emptying some of his canteen onto her fingers. He went back to the carriage and fetched her attaché case.

“I…” She seemed barely able to take a breath. Her heart thundered and her hands shook.

She’d just killed a man by burning through his entire head. With her hand.

“We’ll leave the luggage. I’d set fire to the carriage, but it would just attract attention all the sooner. They’ve arrested Oldrich and his men. We have to go find Adamat.”

Nila looked at her hand, clean now of the charred gore. The phantom stickiness of the blood clung between her fingers. She forced herself to look up into Bo’s eyes. She had to be strong. “And if he’s captured as well?”

“We’ll save him if we can. If not, he’s on his own.”

“And all of Oldrich’s soldiers?”

Bo looked about them furtively. “Not even I can get fifteen men out of an army encampment. They’ll have to face the firing squad for us. Now, let’s go.” He pulled at her arm.

“No,” Nila said.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“You—we—brought them into this. We’ll get them out.”

“Damn it, Nila,” Bo hissed. “We’d have to have help, and we simply don’t have it.”

Nila tilted her head to one side. “Yes we do,” she said.


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