Monday, February 24, 2020

LARK'S LABYRINTH by Cathy Cash Spellman Official Nerd Blast and giveaway



Print Length: 674 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1461177367
Publisher: The Wild Harp & Company, Inc. (November 28, 2017)
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
Language: English


Praise for LARK'S LABYRINTH

"Politics and religion collide as Spellman delivers another fast-paced, suspenseful, and totally enjoyable thriller... The author constructs a blistering story--replete with political and religious intrigue--that never slows down and will keep readers turning the pages of this spectacular thrill ride." Publisher's Weekly


Praise for CATHY CASH SPELLMAN

“...Almost impossible to put down. The Author has the ability to produce one powerful scene after another and the action draws you helplessly on...” ―Publisher’s Weekly on So Many Partings

“...A cross between The Thorn Birds and Ragtime...” ―ALA Booklist on So Many Partings

“Flows along with an inexorable narrative current that propels the readers from one involving episode to the next.” ―Booklist on So Many Partings

“An energetic plot that never takes a breather.” ―Kirkus Reviews on Paint the Wind

“A western extravaganza.. a plot teeming with outsize characters.” ―Publishers Weekly on Paint the Wind

“I have never read a book or connected with an author who has touched me so deeply – as a mother, a grandmother, and another psychic kindred soul!” ―Elizabeth Taylor on Bless the Child

“This book has really touched my heartstrings as both a mother and grandmother. And Cathy Cash Spellman is one hell of a writer!” ―Maureen Stapleton on Bless the Child

“With a seductive, at times spellbinding style, author Spellman (An Excess of Love) incorporates ancient myths into an entrancing romantic thriller.. Spellman succeeds in capturing the reader’s close attention as an unrelenting sense of foreboding drives the narrative forward with power.” ―Publisher’s Weekly on Bless the Child


The Spear that pierced Christ’s side on the Cross has played a secret, but major role in history. Charlemagne, Constantine, Otto the Barbarian, The Knights Templar and Adolf Hitler all owned it... and believed it gave them the power to rule the world.

What if they were right?

The first time Dr. Cait Monahan ever heard of the Spear of Longinus was the night her husband was murdered because of it. That was when the terror began.

…right before the U.S. Government, the CIA, Neo Nazis, the Vatican and a secret cabal of 13 powerful global manipulators sent their assassins after her and her 9 year old.

...just before a lethal secret propelled her across Europe following a riddle that hadn’t been solved since the Holocaust.

…just before Cait Monahan became entrapped in an interdimensional labyrinth that her own husband may have helped design.

Now she’s a player in a game that has led to mystery, magic, mayhem and murder for over 2000 years, and only the help of a tribunal of long dead men may be able to save her.

Vibrant and cerebral, filled with intrigue, Conspiracy Theory and more ancient secrets than the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lark’s Labyrinth pits characters you’ll care about against a mystery you’ll want to solve.

Inside Lark’s Labyrinth is a secret men have killed for …now a woman, her sister, her child and their small band of friends are all that stand between us and the dark, insidious power that’s a hairsbreadth away from ruling the world.


You can purchase Lark's Labyrinth at the following Retailers:

 

Photo Credit: Dakota Cash

Multiple New York Times and International Bestsellers, a Paramount Movie, book sales in 22 countries, Cathy Cash Spellman writes stories about love, friendship, adventure, and history. Known for her big sprawling sagas and memorable characters, Cathy writes the kind of stories women like to lose themselves in, and then remember long after the book is done.

Her books range through several genres: contemporary, historical, mystery, mystic and romance. Several take place in two time-frames, both current and historical.

Bless the Child was a Paramount movie in 2000, starring Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits, and Paint The Wind has been optioned for film and TV.

Cathy is an Astrologer, Martial Artist (Black Belt Goju Ryu Karate) and has expertise in Chinese Medicine, several alternative healing modalities and many metaphysical disciplines.

She has written for Self, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Mademoiselle, Cosmo, Penthouse, Mode, Kung Fu and many other magazines about women, health, empowerment, sexuality, spiritual philosophy and Astrology. She blogs for The Huffington Post and The New York Times.


        

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Friday, February 21, 2020

BRIDGE 108 by Award-Winning Author, Anne Charnock - Official Blog Tour



Print Length: 195 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1542006082
Publisher: 47North (February 18, 2020)
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B07PLHGMQN


Praise for BRIDGE 108

“Readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with hopeful messages will be gratified by this topical tale of human resourcefulness in the face of climate disaster.” —Publishers Weekly

A dystopian novel set in the climate-ravaged Europe of A Calculated Life. Told through multiple voices against the backdrop of a haunting and frighteningly believable future, Bridge 108 charts the passage of a young boy into adulthood amid oppressive circumstances that are increasingly relevant to our present day.


From the Arthur C. Clarke Award–winning author, a dystopian novel of oppression set in the climate-ravaged Europe of A Calculated Life, a finalist for the Kitschies award and Philip K. Dick Award.

Late in the twenty-first century, drought and wildfires prompt an exodus from southern Europe. When twelve-year-old Caleb is separated from his mother during their trek north, he soon falls prey to traffickers. Enslaved in an enclave outside Manchester, the resourceful and determined Caleb never loses hope of bettering himself.

After Caleb is befriended by a fellow victim of trafficking, another road opens. Hiding in the woodlands by day, guided by the stars at night, he begins a new journey—to escape to a better life, to meet someone he can trust, and to find his family. For Caleb, only one thing is certain: making his way in the world will be far more difficult than his mother imagined.

Told through multiple voices and set against the backdrop of a haunting and frighteningly believable future, Bridge 108 charts the passage of a young boy into adulthood amid oppressive circumstances that are increasingly relevant to our present day.

You can purchase Bridge 108 at the following Retailers:

        


My Review

This is a sad story about a young boy trying to survive on his own. He started out with his mother, on a journey to England to try and find his father when they lost communication with him.  Their journey is tough, running into bad people.  When Caleb's mother just wonders off and never comes back, Caleb finds himself trying to survive on this own.

This is a sad and tough story to read. Caleb is trafficked, but doesn't realize it.  He puts his trust in the wrong people, and discovers how hard life is when he goes on the run.

This is a story of endurance, learning, surviving in a harsh world that has been turned upside down.  In a world where people look out for themselves instead of having compassion.  Caleb learns quickly, has a smart mind for survival.  The end is bitter sweet.

Give this book a try if you like dystopian stories of survival and endurance. It was a good read that quickly flows and pulls at your heart.



Photo Content from Anne Charnock

Anne Charnock's latest novel, DREAMS BEFORE THE START OF TIME, is the winner of the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was shortlisted for the BSFA 2017 Best Novel Award. Her novella THE ENCLAVE has won the BSFA 2017 Best Short Fiction Award. This novella is written in the same world as her debut novel, A CALCULATED LIFE, which was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick and The Kitschies Golden Tentacle Awards.

SLEEPING EMBERS OF AN ORDINARY MIND, her second novel, was named by The Guardian as one of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015

Anne Charnock's journalism has appeared in New Scientist, The Guardian, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune and Geographical. She was educated at the University of East Anglia, where she studied Environmental Sciences, and at The Manchester School of Art, England where she gained a Masters in Fine Art.

As a foreign correspondent, she travelled widely in Africa, the Middle East and India and spent a year overlanding through Egypt, Sudan and Kenya.

        

FEBRUARY 17th MONDAY JeanBookNerd INTERVIEW
FEBRUARY 18th TUESDAY Movies, Shows, & Books REVIEW
FEBRUARY 19th WEDNESDAY Ya It's Lit REVIEW 
FEBRUARY 20th THURSDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
FEBRUARY 20th THURSDAY A Dream Within A Dream EXCERPT
FEBRUARY 21st FRIDAY Insane About Books REVIEW 
FEBRUARY 22nd SATURDAY Casia's Corner REVIEW
FEBRUARY 22nd SATURDAY Two Points of Interest REVIEW
FEBRUARY 23rd SUNDAY BookHounds EXCERPT

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME by Erin Yun Official Nerd Blast




Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Fabled Films Press (February 4, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1944020268
ISBN-13: 978-1944020262


Praise for PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME

"An empowering celebration of identity, friendship, and embracing one’s roots, Yun’s loose reimagining of Great Expectations follows a first-generation Korean-American girl learning to navigate her new life at an elite private school.... author Yun writes of Korean-American family life with heart- warming, authentic detail..." —Publishers Weekly December 1st issue

“Pippa is a magnetic heroine, funny and good-hearted, and young readers will relate as she makes one honest mistake after another in an effort to fit in. A nice balancing act between sports action, middle-school drama, and the struggles of an underprivileged immigrant family that will appeal to a wide audience.” —Booklist November 1st issue

“In this reimagining of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, familiar themes and predictability are offset by the depiction of Korean culture and language, which add texture and depth to the narrative. Readers will sympathize with this likable heroine as she struggles to succeed. VERDICT An enjoyable read with a buoyant contemporary twist on an old classic.” —School Library Journal November 1st issue

“This is a highly engaging and relevant title for schools that takes up issues of social class, ethnic identity, and the venture of staying true to oneself which will lend itself well to educators and parents looking to support growth in today's tweens. Highly Recommended.” —School Library Connection March 2020 issue

“In Erin Yun’s enchanting Pippa Park Raises Her Game, a girl starts a new school and tries to reinvent her image... an exciting middle grade novel about middle school struggles and feeling out of place.” —Foreword Reviews March 2020 issue


A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders

Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

BONUS CONTENT
Author Q&A and Discussion Questions included in book

A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders
Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a surprising basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself.

At Lakeview, Pippa struggles with popularity and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. Juggling jealous Queen Bees, old and new friends, her own place at Lakeview, and an unrequited crush on the school's most handsome— and most haughty— 8th grader is hard enough. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media that threaten to unmask her carefully built persona, things begin to spiral out of control. 
With pressure mounting, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview Private, and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

You can purchase Pippa Park Raises Her Game at the following Retailers:

 

Photo Content from Erin Yun

Debut author Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy for her job as the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway—What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She currently lives in New York City, and yes—she used to play basketball as a middle grader!

        

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Monday, February 10, 2020

ANGEL BRED by Heather Burch Nerd Blast



Series: Halflings (Book 2)
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: HezLand Publishing (January 13, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1734449829
ISBN-13: 978-1734449822


Praise for HALFLINGS

'Packed with action, Halflings is stocked with a feisty, likable cast and a fantastically impossible love-triangle that made my heart flutter, race and sigh. This hard-to-put-down novel kept me up late into the night and burrowed itself into my imagination.' 
Serena Chase, USA Today 


To stop evil, would you resort to murder?

Her home has been destroyed. Her parents are dead. And Nikki may be next.
Forced to flee with a group of Halflings, Nikki struggles to find her place among the tight family of angelic beings.
Living in close proximity with Mace and Raven forces her to confront her growing feelings for each of them.

But there's no time for love when piece by piece, the plot to destroy Nikki—and in doing so set about the end of the world—is unveiled.

Tensions mount and everyone's loyalties are tested. Nikki may be important to the Halflings mission, but she refuses to be anyone's babysitting assignment. She's tired of standing on the sidelines and letting others fight her battles. Nikki will take matters into her own hands.

But when confronted with abject evil, does she have what it takes to commit murder?

Grab your copy now, and spread your wings. It's time to fly. This is the second installment in the award-winning Halflings series. It was originally published as Guardian.


You can purchase Angel Bred at the following Retailers:


Photo Content from Heather Burch


Heather Burch is a #1 bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She lives in Southern Florida with her husband, John. Her title, One Lavender Ribbon was in the top 100 bestselling books for the year on Amazon. In 2014, she became one of the most quoted authors by Kindle readers. Her deeply emotional stories explore family, love, hope and the challenges of life. Her books have garnered praise from USA Today, Booklist Magazine, Romantic Times and Publisher’s Weekly. Heather lives to tell unforgettable stories of love and loss—stories that make your heart sigh.

        

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review: The Queen's Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz


SYNOPSIS

Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia's deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he's the Guild's most dangerous member and the Queen's one and only assassin. He's also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow--to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts--to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she'll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they're forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they'll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they'll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen's Secret series.

MY REVIEW

MY FAVORITE READ THIS YEAR!!

This is a powerful read full of secrets, conspiracy, and Hope.  Magic once was used everyday for all.  However centuries before, a king decided to keep it all for himself. He forbid others to use even the simplest of magics. But as the ages passed, most citizens forgot, when others are fighting to release the knowledge of magic for all.

Shadow and Cal find themselves traveling on an adventure for the Queen. The Queen and her kingdom are in danger. 

As the story moves on, and Shadow and Cal start to trust each other a little more, you see their feelings for each other form an unbreakable bond, however each keep their feelings to themselves. Cal knows he shouldn't fall in love, and Shadow feels she isn't worthy.  It is a beautiful romance that will make your heart swoon.

This story is full of adventure, lies, secrets, conspiracy that runs deeper than anyone can expect. It is a fast read, one that pull on your imagination and make you fall spiraling into the story.  The words skillfully written and executed dissolve before your eyes and makes the story real for all of those wishing for an amazing escape from reality.

I loved this story and can't wait for the next one!!




ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Melissa de la Cruz is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series and the semi-autobiographical novel Fresh off the Boat.

Her books for adults include the novel Cat’s Meow, the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys and the tongue-in-chic handbooks How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less and The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-inch heels and Faux-Pas.

She has worked as a fashion and beauty editor and has written for many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! and Seventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews.

Melissa grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).

She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.

Releases Feb 11th: The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet


The Unwilling : A Novel 
Kelly Braffet
On Sale Date: February 11, 2020
9780778309406, 0778309401
Hardcover
$27.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Fantasy / Epic
576 pages

About the Book:
For fans of S.A. Chakraborty's City of Brass, Patrick Rothfuss' The Kingkiller Chronicles, and George RR Martin’s The Game of Thrones, this high concept medieval/high fantasy by Kelly Braffet is a deeply immersive and penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride.
The Unwilling is the story of a young woman, born an orphan with a secret gift, who grows up trapped, thinking of herself as an afterthought, but who discovers that she does not have to be given power: she can take it. An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, the novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.
For reasons that nobody knows or seems willing to discuss, Judah the Foundling was raised as siblings along with Gavin, the heir of Highfall, in the great house beyond the wall, the seat of power at the center of Lord Elban’s great empire. There is a mysterious--one might say unnatural connection--between the two, and it is both the key to Judah’s survival until this point, and now her possible undoing.
As Gavin prepares for his long-arranged marriage to Eleanor of Tiernan, and his brilliant but sickly younger brother Theron tries to avoid becoming commander of the army, Judah is left to realize that she has no actual power or position within the castle, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond the wall. Lord Elban--a man as powerful as he is cruel- has other plans for her, for all of them. She is a pawn to him and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Meanwhile, outside the wall, in the starving, desperate city, a Magus, a healer with a secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah. The girl who started off with no name and no history will be forced to discover there’s more to her story than she ever imagined.
Prologue
On the third day of the convocation, two of the Slonimi scouts killed a calf, and the herbalist’s boy wept because he’d watched the calf being born and grown to love it. His
mother stroked his hair and promised he would forget by the time the feast came, the following night. He told her he would never forget. She said, “Just wait.”
He spent all of the next day playing with the children from the other caravan; three days before, they’d all been strangers, but Slonimi children were used to making friends quickly. The group the boy and his mother traveled with had come across the desert to the south, and they found the cool air of the rocky plain a relief from the heat. The others had come from the grassy plains farther west, and were used to milder weather. While the adults traded news and maps and equipment, the children ran wild. Only one boy, from the other caravan, didn’t run or play: a pale boy, with fine features, who followed by habit a few feet behind one of the older women from the other caravan. “Derie’s apprentice,” the other children told him, and shrugged, as if there was nothing more to say. The older woman was the other group’s best Worker, with dark hair going to grizzle and gimlet eyes. Every time she appeared the herbalist suddenly remembered an herb her son needed to help her prepare, or something in their wagon that needed cleaning. The boy was observant, and clever, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that his mother was trying to keep him away from the older woman: she, who had always demanded he face everything head-on, who had no patience for what she called squeamishness and megrims.
After a hard day of play over the rocks and dry, grayish grass, the boy was starving. A cold wind blew down over the rocky plain from the never-melting snow that topped the high peaks of the Barriers to the east; the bonfire was warm. The meat smelled good. The boy had not forgotten the calf but when his mother brought him meat and roasted potatoes and soft pan bread on a plate, he did not think of him. Gerta—the head driver of the boy’s caravan—had spent the last three days with the other head driver, poring over bloodline records to figure out who between their two groups might be well matched for breeding, and as soon as everybody had a plate of food in front of them they announced the results. The adults and older teenagers seemed to find this all fascinating. The herbalist’s boy was nine years old and he didn’t understand the fuss. He knew how it went: the matched pairs would travel together until a child was on the way, and then most likely never see each other again. Sometimes they liked each other, sometimes they didn’t. That, his mother had told him, was what brandy was for.
The Slonimi caravans kept to well-defined territories, and any time two caravans met there was feasting and trading and music and matching, but this was no ordinary meeting, and both sides knew it. After everyone had eaten their fill, a few bottles were passed. Someone had a set of pipes and someone else had a sitar, but after a song or two, nobody wanted any more music. Gerta—who was older than the other driver—stood up. She was tall and strong, with ropy, muscular limbs. “Well,” she said, “let’s see them.”
In the back, the herbalist slid an arm around her son. He squirmed under the attention but bore it.
From opposite sides of the fire, a young man and a young woman were produced. The young man, Tobin, had been traveling with Gerta’s people for years. He was smart but not unkind, but the herbalist’s son thought him aloof. With good reason, maybe; Tobin’s power was so strong that being near him made the hair on the back of the boy’s neck stand up. Unlike all the other Workers—who were always champing at the bit to get a chance to show off—Tobin was secretive about his skills. He shared a wagon with Tash, Gerta’s best Worker, even though the two men didn’t seem particularly friendly with each other. More than once the boy had glimpsed their lantern burning late into the night, long after the main fire was embers.

The young woman had come across the plains with the others. The boy had seen her a few times; she was small, round, and pleasant-enough looking. She didn’t strike the boy as particularly remarkable. But when she came forward, the other caravan’s best Worker—the woman named Derie—came with her. Tash stood up when Tobin did, and when they all stood in front of Gerta, the caravan driver looked from one of them to the other. “Tash and Derie,” she said, “you’re sure?”
“Already decided, and by smarter heads than yours,” the gimlet-eyed woman snapped.
Tash, who wasn’t much of a talker, merely said, “Sure.”
Gerta looked back at the couple. For couple they were; the boy could see the strings tied round each wrist, to show they’d already been matched. “Hard to believe,” she said. “But I know it’s true. I can feel it down my spine. Quite a legacy you two carry; five generations’ worth, ever since mad old Martin bound up the power in the world. Five generations of working and planning and plotting and hoping; that’s the legacy you two carry.” The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “No pressure.”
A faint ripple of mirth ran through the listeners around the fire. “Nothing to joke about, Gerta,” Derie said, lofty and hard, and Gerta nodded.
“I know it. They just seem so damn young, that’s all.” The driver sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s a momentous occasion. We’ve come here to see the two of you off, and we send with you the hopes of all the Slonimi, all the Workers of all of our lines, back to the great John Slonim himself, whose plan this was. His blood runs in both of you. It’s strong and good and when we put it up against what’s left of Martin’s, we’re bound to prevail, and the world will be free.
“What’ll we do with ourselves then, Gert?” someone called out from the darkness, and this time the laughter was a full burst, loud and relieved.
Gerta smiled. “Teach the rest of humanity how to use the power, that’s what we’ll do. Except you, Fausto. You can clean up after the horses.”
More laughter. Gerta let it run out, and then turned to the girl.
“Maia,” she said, serious once more. “I know Derie’s been drilling this into you since you were knee-high, but once you’re carrying, the clock is ticking. Got to be inside, at the end.”
“I know,” Maia said.
Gerta scanned the crowd. “Caterina? Cat, where are you?”
Next to the boy, the herbalist cleared her throat. “Here, Gerta.”
Gerta found her, nodded, and turned back to Maia. “Our Cat’s the best healer the Slonimi have. Go see her before you set out. If you’ve caught already, she’ll know. If you haven’t, she’ll know how to help.”
“It’s only been three days,” Tobin said, sounding slighted.
“Nothing against you, Tobe,” Gerta said. “Nature does what it will. Sometimes it takes a while.”
“Not this time,” Maia said calmly.
A murmur ran through the crowd. Derie sat up bolt-straight, her lips pressed together. “You think so?” Gerta said, matching Maia’s tone—although nobody was calm, even the boy could feel the sudden excited tension around the bonfire.
“I know so,” Maia said, laying a hand on her stomach. “I can feel her.”
The tension exploded in a mighty cheer. Instantly, Tobin wiped the sulk off his face and replaced it with pride. The boy leaned into his mother and whispered, under the roar, “Isn’t it too soon to tell?”
“For most women, far too soon, by a good ten days. For Maia?” Caterina sounded as if she were talking to herself, as much as to her son. The boy felt her arm tighten around him. “If she says there’s a baby, there’s a baby.”
After that the adults got drunk. Maia and Tobin slipped away early. Caterina knew a scout from the other group, a man named Sadao, and watching the two of them dancing together, the boy decided to make himself scarce. Tash would have an empty bunk, now that Tobin was gone, and he never brought women home. He’d probably share. If not, there would be a bed somewhere. There always was.
In the morning, the boy found Caterina by the fire, only slightly bleary, and brewing a kettle of strong-smelling tea. Her best hangover cure, she told her son. He took out his notebook and asked what was in it. Ginger, she told him, and willowbark, and a few other things; he wrote them all down carefully. Labeled the page. Caterina’s Hangover Cure.
Then he looked up to find the old woman from the bonfire, Derie, listening with shrewd, narrow eyes. Behind her hovered her apprentice, the pale boy, who this morning had a bruised cheek. “Charles, go fetch my satchel,” she said to him, and he scurried away. To Caterina, Derie said, “Your boy’s conscientious.”
“He learns quickly,” Caterina said, and maybe she just hadn’t had enough hangover tea yet, but the boy thought she sounded wary.
“And fair skinned,” Derie said. “Who’s his father?”
“Jasper Arasgain.”
Derie nodded. “Travels with Afia’s caravan, doesn’t he? Solid man.”
Caterina shrugged. The boy had only met his father a few times. He knew Caterina found Jasper boring.
“Healer’s a good trade. Everywhere needs healers.” Derie paused. “A healer could find his way in anywhere, I’d say. And with that skin—”
The boy noticed Gerta nearby, listening. Her own skin was black as obsidian. “Say what you’re thinking, Derie,” the driver said.
“Highfall,” the old woman said, and immediately, Caterina said, “No.”
“It’d be a great honor for him, Cat,” Gerta said. The boy thought he detected a hint of reluctance in Gerta’s voice.
“Has he done his first Work yet?” Derie said.
Caterina’s lips pressed together. “Not yet.”
Charles, the bruised boy, reappeared with Derie’s satchel.
“We’ll soon change that,” the old woman said, taking the satchel without a word and rooting through until she found a small leather case. Inside was a small knife, silver-colored but without the sheen of real silver.
The boy noticed his own heartbeat, hard hollow thuds in his chest. He glanced at his mother. She looked unhappy, her brow furrowed. But she said nothing.
“Come here, boy,” Derie said.
He sneaked another look at his mother, who still said nothing, and went to stand next to the woman. “Give me your arm,” she said, and he did. She held his wrist with a hand that was both soft and hard at the same time. Her eyes were the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.
“It’s polite to ask permission before you do this,” she told him. “Not always possible, but polite. I need to see what’s in you, so if you say no, I’ll probably still cut you, but—do I have your permission?”
Behind Derie, Gerta nodded. The bruised boy watched curiously.
“Yes,” the boy said.
“Good,” Derie said. She made a quick, confident cut in the ball of her thumb, made an identical cut in his small hand, quickly drew their two sigils on her skin in the blood, and pressed the cuts together.
The world unfolded. But unfolded was too neat a word, too tidy. This was like when he’d gone wading in the western sea and been knocked off his feet, snatched underwater, tossed in a maelstrom of sand and sun and green water and foam—but this time it wasn’t merely sand and sun and water and foam that swirled around him, it was everything. All of existence, all that had ever been, all that would ever be. His mother was there, bright and hot as the bonfire the night before—not her face or her voice but the Caterina of her, her very essence rendered into flame and warmth.
But most of what he felt was Derie. Derie, immense and powerful and fierce: Derie, reaching into him, unfolding him as surely as she’d unfolded the world. And this was neat and tidy, methodical, almost cold. She unpacked him like a trunk, explored him like a new village. She sought out his secret corners and dark places. When he felt her approval, he thrilled. When he felt her contempt, he trembled. And everywhere she went she left a trace of herself behind like a scent, like the chalk marks the Slonimi sometimes left for each other. Her sigil was hard-edged, multi-cornered. It was everywhere. There was no part of him where it wasn’t.
Then it was over, and he was kneeling by the campfire, throwing up. Caterina was next to him, making soothing noises as she wrapped a cloth around his hand. He leaned against her, weak and grateful.
“It’s all right, my love,” she whispered in his ear, and the nervousness was gone. Now she sounded proud, and sad, and as if she might be crying. “You did well.”
He closed his eyes and saw, on the inside of his eyelids, the woman’s hard, angular sigil, burning like a horse brand.
“Don’t coddle him,” Derie said, and her voice reached through him, back into the places inside him where she’d left her mark. Caterina’s arm dropped away. He forced himself to open his eyes and stand up. His entire body hurt. Derie was watching him, calculating but—yes—pleased. “Well, boy,” she said. “You’ll never be anyone’s best Worker, but you’re malleable, and you’ve got the right look. There’s enough power in you to be of use, once you’re taught to use it. You want to learn?”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.
“Good,” she said. “Then you’re my apprentice now, as much as your mother’s. You’ll still learn herbs from your mother, so we’ll join our wagon to your group. But don’t expect the kisses and cuddles from me you get from her. For me, you’ll work hard and you’ll learn hard and maybe someday you’ll be worthy of the knowledge I’ll pass on to you. Say, Yes, Derie.”
“Yes, Derie,” he said.
“You’ve got a lot to learn,” she said. “Go with Charles. He’ll show you where you sleep.”
He hesitated, looked at his mother, because it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be leaving her. Suddenly, swiftly, Derie kicked hard at his leg. He yelped and jumped out of the way. Behind her he saw Charles—he of the bruised face—wince, unsurprised but not unsympathetic.
“Don’t ever make me ask you anything twice,” she said
“Yes, Derie,” he said, and ran.

Excerpted from The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet. Copyright © 2020 by Kelly Braffet. Published by MIRA Books.

About the Author:


Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.

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Twitter: @KellyBraffet

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