Saturday 27 February 2021



Title: Prepped
Author: Bethany Mangle
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Genre: Teens & YA
Release Date: 23 February 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Always be ready for the worst day of your life.

This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.

Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.

When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

The cover of this book is what initially caught my eye. It looks like the cover of an old instruction training manual. The bright orange colour will certainly make it stand out on a book store shelf.

This book is about preppers, but not in an actual catastrophic situation. This is a group of people who believe the end is coming and they are preparing for any and every eventuality. Their motto is "Always be ready for the worst day of your life". The leader of the prepping community that all live in the same small neighbourhood is George Aldaine. The group is a mixture of families and adults. The adults concoct all different disaster scenarios, they then set them up and practice dealing and overcoming these situations. It is during one of these set up problems that we are introduced to the main character Becca, who is the eldest daughter of George Aldaine. Katie or Katie Cat as Becca calls her younger sister is just ten years old. Karen Aldaine is their mother and works as a nurse, so she brings her knowledge for the first aid parts of the prepping activities.

The book is centred around Becca Aldaine and Roy Kang, the boy her parents have chosen to be her future husband. They have chosen Roy as the choice is rather limited within their community, or “cult” as outsiders see it. Becca is viewed as odd because she doesn’t have the freedoms or thing the other kids at school have. In her own community she is considered odd for going to normal school, as some of the prepping community insist on home schooling their children. A match between Roy and Becca will also keep a good, diverse genetic pool. Becca and Roy have very little to do with decision, though Roy seems keen on Becca. Becca just accepts this marriage will happen, though wonders which Bunker they will live in once married. These preppers are so prepared they have a set of bunkers for their communities.
Some of the preppers are more hardcore than others. Becca and Roy are the youngest children to be allowed to take part in the act out disaster scenarios. Some of the other families want the age to be lowered to allow their younger children to take part.

Becca is a good, hard working student at school and one of her teachers helps her fill in a form to apply for a scholarship. The only thing worrying Becca is who will protect her sister Katie from the harsher prepper practices. Becca thinks she alone in her need to leave this life behind, but Roy confesses he is tired of all the trials and drills they have to take part in. Becca and Roy work out a plan and though she doesn’t want to leave Katie behind, she knows she cannot legally take her with them, so she sets about making a plan to bring the unusual practices and lifestyle of the preppers to the attention of social service. Becca even lines someone up who will step in to care for her sister Katie until she is old enough to make up her own mind about what to do in life.

My favourite character was Becca, she goes along with the scenarios her parents set up for her to be part of despite many of them being very dangerous and making her feel pain as well as embarrassment. Becca has been forced to be grown up so soon, she takes care of her sister and basically does the majority of the chores and house running whilst her mum goes to work, then comes home and slumps into bed. I adored how caring Becca was, so protective of her younger sister, sheltering her from the harsh realities of the prepping community. Even when she has an escape plan in place for herself, she still holds back until she has something in place for her sister.

The characters that irritated me a lot were George and Karen Aldaine, they seem oblivious to their eldest daughters, discomfort and at times even her existence. They had no qualms at piling more household duties on her, not allowing her to do her homework. There is one incident where Becca has to spend the night in her family bunker. It’s not a one off, occurrence either as she has a system in place for her sister to drop her school work and supplies out of her bedroom window so she can at least do her homework. To do her homework in the bunker, Becca has to use a cycle to build up enough energy to power the light in the bunker so she can do her homework! When the family is struck by a tragic accident, Karen Aldaine sinks deeper and deeper into the prepping way of life whilst working her job at the hospital and piling even more work on the shoulders of her elder daughter. Karen keeps important information from Becca and deprives her of a last goodbye.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that the insight into the world of fanatical doomsday preppers and their children. Interesting, pulls on the heart strings, so believable.

Summing up I really enjoyed reading this book, it felt different, a refreshing idea and view point on a prepping community, as well as being a coming-of-age story too. The book was really interesting and had great attention to detail about the prepping lifestyle and the bunkers featured in the story too. I know this book is aimed at the teen age group but I have to say as an adult I really did appreciate and enjoy this well written story.

Friday 19 February 2021


 Here are the titles that have caught my attention for the month of February...this list also includes a few books I have already managed to read in advance.

Have any of these books made it to your to read list?
Have you read any February Releases you would recommend?

Friday 12 February 2021



Title: Spares
Series: The Body Institute
Author: Carol Riggs
Genre: Sci-Fi, YA, Dystopian, Futuristic
Release Date: 3rd January 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Moore is obsessed with going to illegal junk food parties. This doesn’t exactly mesh well with her mother being a National Health Care councilwoman and staunch supporter of The Body Institute.

The Institute’s method of losing weight—downloading the minds of workers into client bodies—has always been controversial. A widespread petition nearly shut it down. Lexi has also heard ugly claims about its supply of reusable, mind-stripped bodies called Spares. Her family’s longtime friend, Leo Behr, has lost his job at the Institute during the whistleblowing fallout, and the questionable Spares project is no longer in existence.

Or… is it?

When her mother hijacks Lexi’s body one night to replace her mind with a Reducer’s, Lexi awakens six weeks later to find herself thirteen pounds lighter. Not only that, her best friend has disappeared. Feeling betrayed and suspecting the Spares project has been revived, Lexi launches her own investigation into her friend’s whereabouts. With the help of a hot guy named Ajeet whom her BFF has targeted for romance, Lexi must expose the body-swapping corruption and rescue her friend—without being turned into a mindless shell herself.


As soon as I finished reading The Body Institute, I knew I wanted there to be a second book. As soon as I read that Spares was coming out, I knew it was a must read for me! In fact, I pre-ordered it to make 100% sure I received it as soon as it was available!! There was only one thing that worried me and that was would I still remember any necessary facts from book one, in order for book 2 to make sense. I needn’t have worried I easily slid back into this world. As a matter of fact, when I looked up how long it had been since I read book 1 I found it hard to believe it had been 6 years!!!

This book is centred around different characters than those at the centre of book 1, though the book 1 characters are mentioned within book 2. The main family featured heavily in othis book are the Moore family, which consist of 16 year old, Lexi Jo, her mother, Camille who works for the Body Institute and was rather instrumental in its policies. There’s also Chad Moore who is Lexi’s brother though only a few trusted people know this as it is his own brain map inside a “Spares” body his mother and Uncle bought. “Uncle” Leo is a close family friend who has been like a father to Chad & Lexi Jo since their father died. Uncle Leo has managed to slide out of the whole debacle of the “Spare bodies” and the attack on one of the Body Institutes buildings killing many bodies and leaving clients of the Body Institute with no body. Under the circumstance “Spares” from other branches of the Institute were given to those clients so they could continue their lives in a different body.

Lexi is seriously sick of her mother nagging her about her weight despite her only being 10 pounds over her ideal weight. Indeed, she half expects that if she doesn’t lose the weight soon, her mum may employ a reducer to go inside her body to lose the weight for her! However, this doesn’t stop her eagerly attending the “Craves”. Craves are illegal parties where you can eat whatever your host has managed to buy or bake even if that food is on the banned list. Some of the teenagers that hold these Craves have what is called a Virtcoin account which is an untraceable virtual account, that multiple users can add funds to, but only super trusted individuals can purchase items from 100% dependable sources. If you are caught it is a really serious offence. For Lexi to be caught or even associated with a crave would mean serious consequences for her and possibly her mother too. Lexi’s mum, Camille helped set up the laws and guidelines about weight and what is and isn’t suitable to eat. It is called the National Health Directive and their rules, and they banned certain 'unhealthy' foods/drinks. You are only allowed 2 of 'certain drinks' such as chocolate mocha's. If you are carrying over 20 extra pounds than deemed your perfect weight you are enrolled in a 'loaner-reducer' program at The Body Institute. Knowing all this Lexi is still coerced, though admittedly it doesn’t take much to get her best friend Terese’s latest organised Crave. Terese wants Lexi to meet her latest crush, and all her other friends will be there too. The Crave goes well and Terese contacts Lexi later to tell her she is going on a date with Ajeet, and invites Lexi to go round to help choose her outfit. Unfortunately, its whilst at Terese’s home that Camille Moore walks in and catches her daughter eating contraband chocolate muffins! Lexi of course is expecting a punishment, yet even she doesn’t expect what her mother does to her with the help of her Uncle Leo!! When Lexi wakes up in her own bedroom feeling strange and see’s the calendar it is revealed that her mother has done the unthinkable….she has arranged for a reducer to be placed in Lexi’s body to ensure her daughter is in line with the National Health Directive Rules on weight and BMI index. When Lexi manages to finally contact one of her school friends the normally flirty, funny guy Finn that she realises there is something worse than what she has just been through. Finn tells her that Terese and her family have disappeared. Soon Lexi finds herself, Finn and Ajeet on an increasingly dangerous mission of finding Terese and her family. In order to find and hopefully rescue Terese, Ajeet and Lexi need to join a mission to gain access to a Body Institute storage facility to record evidence to take to those in power who can shut down the Body Institute. The only other people interested and crazy enough to try are Russell Alleger, who is the leader of the WHA, and Uncle Leo despises the man.

I loved Lexi as a character, and could identify with her as a teen (though I am well past being a teen now). I think my teenage heart fell for Finn a little in this book. I began liking Terese but by the end of the book I wasn’t so sure by the end. Maybe that’s just me, Id be interested to read what other readers think to her. The character I enjoyed “hating” was Uncle Leo. I wanted to hate Russell Alleger but I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about him, sure his methods weren’t all black or white, he spends a lot of time in the murky grey area. I had a similar feeling towards Camille Moore, on one hand she loves her daughter and feels she is protecting her but on the other hand she organises for her own daughter’s body to be taken over by a reducer simply for her to adhere to the National Health Care Directive guidelines.

I loved the writing style the different abbreviations such as POI, Person Of Interest, in other words latest crush! The romantic flirtiness between the mixed group of friends. The usual boy likes girl as potential girlfriend but girl only sees him as a friend and Eeeew not a boyfriend! It is done so well. I adored Lexi as a character, she has a lot to come to terms with, such as all the things she learns about Uncle Leo. Then there’s the fact if she brings down the Body Institute where does it leave her mother? Even the worry of this doesn’t stop her from rushing headlong into danger to rescue her best friend Terese. Lexi also finds herself becoming more and more attracted to Ajeet, much too her consternation, how can she be searching for her friend and crushing on her friend’s boyfriend at the same time. She needs to stick to the “girl code”. Another thing that’s troubling her is that if there were no Spares she would have lost her older brother Chad when he, or rather his body died of cancer.
Things don’t always go to plan, with the more violent Herrites group almost ruining a mission the WHA group have planned.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing Spares were that though I had waited what felt like a really long time for this sequel but after reading it, I have to say it was worth waiting for!
Summing up, if there were any other books set in this world, I would certainly be putting them on my “must read list” I really enjoyed this book and could go on and on about it. I have tried to prevent revealing anything that is not already revealed in the blurb. If you read bk1 you will love this book, and if you haven’t read bk1 yet add it to your list. This book has a fantastic mix of teen angst, romance, lies, betrayal, and torn loyalties as well as the sci-fi, dystopian and futuristic elements to it too.

Monday 8 February 2021



Wicked faeries and fantastic danger... Welcome to book one of the new trilogy in New York Times bestselling author Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey fantasy series, as infamous prankster Puck finally has a chance to tell his story and stand with allies new and old to save Faery and the world


Title: The Iron Raven
Series: The Iron Fey: Evenfall
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: YA, Teen, Contemporary, Fairytale, Folklore, 
               Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 9th February 2021

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Books


Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool... King Oberon's right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night's Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck's longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten. Filled with myths and faery lore, romance and unfathomable dangers, The Iron Raven is book one of a new epic fantasy trilogy set in the world of The Iron Fey.

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 The human world

A long, long time ago 

It was almost time

I peeked out of the bushes and grinned. The stage was nearly set. In the tiny, sun-dappled clearing beyond the trees, the crystal-clear pool glimmered, attracting all manner of life to its sparkling waters. A herd of spotted deer bent graceful necks to the surface under the watchful eye of a great stag, standing tall at the edge of the pond. A few rabbits hopped through the bracken scattered through the clearing, and a family of squirrels scolded each other in the branches of a large gnarled oak. Birds sang, wildlife meandered, and the wind gently rustled the leaves overhead. It was a blissful, picturesque woodland scene, a perfectly peaceful day in the human realm.

Boring, boring, boring.

I smiled, reached into my shirt, and pulled the pan flute into the light. It was my own design; I’d spent several days gathering hollow reeds, cutting them, binding them together and making sure the tone was perfect. Now, I was going to see what it could do.

Drawing glamour from the forest around me, I raised the flute to my lips and blew out a single note.

The clear, high sound cut through the stillness of the woods, arcing over the grove, and all the animals clustered around the pond jerked up, eyes wide and nostrils flaring. The rabbits sat up, ears twitching back and forth. The deer raised their heads, dark eyes huge as they gazed around, ready to flee. The squirrels’ tails flicked back and forth as they clung to the branches, their chittering voices silenced.

In the sudden stillness, I took a deep breath, gathering my magic, and began playing.

The melody rose into the air, cheerful and face paced. It swirled around the pond, into the ears of every living creature. For a moment, none of them moved,

Then, one of the rabbits began tapping its foot. The others followed, thumping their hind legs in tune to the rhythm, and the deer began tossing their heads to the music. In the branches, the squirrels bobbed, tails flicking back and forth, keeping time, and the birds added their voices to the song. I bit down a smile and played louder, faster, drawing in more glamour and releasing it into the notes trilling through the forest.

With a bugle, the ancient stag reared up, tossing his huge antlers, and gave a graceful bound to the center of the clearing. His sharp hooves pawed the grass, raking gouges in the earth, as he began stepping and leaping with the music. As one, his herd joined him, bouncing and cavorting to his side, and the rabbits began flinging themselves in wild arcs around the stomping deer. My glee soared; this was working better than I had hoped. It was all I could do to keep playing and not let the song drop because of the enormous grin wanting to stretch my face.

Rising from the bushes, I walked toward the grove, the pan flute moving rapidly under my lips, the song rising and the magic soaring in response. My feet itched, and I started to move them, stepping and dancing to the center of the clearing. Filling my lungs, I played as loudly as I could, my body moving almost on its own, leaping and twirling and spinning through the air. And all around me, the forest creatures danced as well, hooves and horns and furry bodies barely missing me as they bounced and cavorted in a frantic circle, hurling themselves around the grove with wild abandon. I lost myself in the music, in the excitement and ecstasy, as I danced with the forest.

I didn’t know how long the melody went on; half the time my eyes were closed and I was moving on pure instinct. But at last, as the song reached a crescendo, I sensed it was time to bring it to a close. With one final, soaring note, the melody died away, the wild emotions faded, and the whirlwind of magic swirling through the grove fluttered out, returning to the earth.

Panting, I lowered my arms. Around me, my fellow dancers also came to shuddering stops, breathing hard. The great stag stood a few feet away, antlered head bowed, legs and flanks trembling. As I watched, he quivered and collapsed, white foam bubbling from his mouth and nostrils as his head struck the ground. One by one, the rest of the herd crumpled as well, some gasping wide-eyed for breath, some lying motionless in the dirt. Scattered around them, furry lumps of rabbits lay in the churned mud. I looked at the trees and saw the squirrels and birds lying at the bases of the trunks, having fallen from their perches once the music ceased.

I blinked. Well, that was unexpected. How long had I been playing anyway? I looked at the sky through the branches and saw clouds streaked with orange, the sun hovering low on the horizon. I’d come to this grove and played the very first note early this morning. It seemed our wild revel had lasted the entire day.

Huh. I scratched the back of my head. Well, that’s disappointing. I guess I can’t push these mortal beasts too aggressively, or they just collapse. Hmm. Tapping the fingers of one hand against my arm, I gazed at the pan flute in the other. I wonder if humans would do any better?


The deep, lyrical voice came from behind me, and a ripple of magic shivered through the air. I felt a stab of annoyance that someone had been watching my revel; that was why I’d chosen to do this in the human world, after all—so I could worry less about curious eavesdroppers. I turned and saw a procession of horses at the edge of the clearing, watching me from the trees. The mounts were fey creatures, lighter and much more graceful than their mortal counterparts, their hooves barely touching the ground. The riders atop them were sidhe knights, clad in armor of leaves, vines and branches woven together. Part of the Summer Court, I realized. I’d seen them before, as well as the knights of the Winter Court. I’d even played with a few of them in the wyldwood, though they never realized the cause of all their small, annoying mishaps was a forest boy too insignificant to notice.

But the rider at the front of the procession had definitely noticed me, and he was impossible to miss, too. His mount was bright gold, brighter than any mortal steed, but the noble atop it outshone even his mount. He was dressed in armor of green and gold, with a cloak made of blooming vines that left flowers where he passed. Long silver hair flowed from under the huge antlered crown that rested on his brow, and the piercing green eyes beneath it were fixed solely on me.

Why was he here? Had he heard my music and been drawn to the sound? That was unfortunate. I tried to avoid catching the eye of the Summer Court, particularly this faery. I hadn’t been doing anything wrong; the fey cared little to what happened in the mortal world. The deaths of a few forest creatures meant nothing to them. But attracting the attention of one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever was a dangerous game. Depending on his mood, he might demand that I “gift” him the thing I’d worked so hard on, play the pipes for him and his knights by for as long as he was amused, or entertain them all by becoming the next hunt. The fey lords were notoriously unpredictable, and I treated them as I would a sleeping dragon: it was okay to tiptoe around and steal their gold, as long as they didn’t see you.

But now, the dragon had spotted me.

The sidhe gentry nudged his mount, and the horse stepped into the clearing, striding across the grass until beast and rider loomed before me. I stood my ground and gazed up defiantly at the noble, who was watching me with appraising eyes.

“So young,” he mused. “And such an impressive use of glamour. What is your name, boy?”


“And where are your parents, Robin?”

I shrugged. “I live by myself. In the wyldwood.” I couldn’t remember my parents, if I’d even had them. My earliest memory was the tangle of the wyldwood, foraging for food and shelter, learning the skills I needed to survive. But, even though I was alone, I’d never felt like I didn’t belong. The forest, the wyldwood, was my home. That was how it always had been.

“Hm.” The tall noble didn’t press the question. He observed me in silence for another moment, his face giving nothing away. “Do you know who I am, boy?” he asked instead.

This time, I nodded. “You’re King Oberon.” It was obvious; everyone knew who the Summer King was, though I’d never seen him in person. It didn’t matter. I had never seen Queen Mab, ruler of the Winter Court, either, but I was certain I would know her if I did.

“Yes,” the Seelie King agreed. “I am indeed. And I could use someone of your talents in Seelie territory.” He raised a hand, indicating me with long, elegant fingers. “You have power; raw, unfettered Summer magic rivaling some of my strongest allies in the court. Such a gift should not go to waste in the wyldwood. You should not be living in the forest like a beast, singing to birds and squirrels. You should be part of the greatest court in the Nevernever. What say you, Robin?” The king regarded me with eyes like pale green frost. “Would you like to become part of the Seelie Court?”

Part of the Seelie Court?

Curiosity battled defiance. I was intrigued, of course. Living by myself in the wyldwood meant I could come and go as I pleased, but it was getting a bit lonely. I wanted to talk to people, others of my kind, not just forest creatures and the occasional scatterbrained piskie. And of the two courts, Summer territory sounded much more pleasant than the frozen, hostile land of Winter.

Still, it was never a good idea to take the first offer. Even I, with my limited knowledge of bargains and deals, knew that much.

“I like it in the forest.” I crossed my arms and smiled at the king. “Why should I go live at the Summer Court?”

The Seelie King smiled, as if he’d expected that answer. “Because, Robin, I am king.” He spoke the phrase like it was the most important fact in the world. “And as king of the Seelie, I can give you whatever your heart desires. I can grant you power, wealth, the love of as many hearts as you wish.” He paused, as I wrinkled my nose. “But I can see you are not interested in these things. Perhaps, then, this would be of note. I have many enemies, Robin. Both within the court and without. From time to time, these enemies need to realize that they cannot underestimate the sovereignty of Summer. If you join me…well, let us say you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your magic on things other than common forest beasts.”

Now that sounded interesting. I glanced back at the pond, at the motionless bodies surrounding it. Poor dumb animals. I hadn’t meant to harm them, but it seemed normal creatures were very fragile. I would love to try some of my ideas on sturdier creatures, maybe even a few fey, and Oberon was dangling that big, bright carrot in front of me. He seemed to know exactly what I wanted. The only question was, did I care?

“So, Robin of the Wyldwood,” King Oberon went on, peering down at me from his horse. “What is your decision? Will you join my court? I will name you court jester, and you can play your tricks and practice your magic without boundaries. All I ask is that you do me a small service from time to time. Do we have a deal?”

Something nagged at me, a feeling that this agreement wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I’d made deals before, but they were with piskies and sprites and a couple local dryads. Never with someone as important as the ruler of the Seelie Court. Was I missing something? This did seem a little too good to be true.

I hesitated a moment more, then shrugged. Then again, why not join the Summer Court? What was the worst that could happen? I was aching for something new, and if I was under the protection of King Oberon himself, think of all the pranks and tricks I could play without fear of retribution.

This was going to be fun.

“All right,” I agreed, grinning up at Oberon, who raised a thin silver brow in return. “You have a deal, king. I’ll join the Summer Court, as long as I get to practice my magic and play as many tricks as I want.”

“Excellent.” Oberon nodded and raised both hands. “Then I name you Robin Goodfellow, jester of the Summer Court,” he announced in sudden, booming tones, and the branches of the trees shook, as if acknowledging his declaration. Lowering his arms, the Summer lord gazed down at me with a sudden, almost proud smile. “Welcome to the Seelie Court, Robin Goodfellow. Wear your name proudly. Perhaps someday the world will come to know it, as well.”

Excerpted from THE IRON RAVEN by Julie Kagawa. © 2021 by Julie Kagawa, used with permission by Inkyard Press.

JULIE KAGAWA is the New York Times, USA TODAY and internationally bestselling author of The Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, The Talon Saga and the Shadow of the Fox series. Born in Sacramento, she has been a bookseller and an animal trainer and enjoys reading, painting, playing in her garden and training in martial arts. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and a plethora of pets. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



Friday 5 February 2021


Title: Hiss, Rattle and Bite
Author: Azaaa Davis
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Vampire
Release Date: 15th December 2020

BLURB from Goodreads
Pick a master and serve. 
Serve them well and die. 

Marigold wants to die the right way. 
She wants a transformative bite from her master. 

Vampires have it all: 
the statuesque look, the immortal life, and the power to enchant others. 
All she has is debt, a distracted boyfriend, and a desire to be more than human. 

When unwanted holiday gifts are exchanged between two master vampires, 
Marigold’s wish might come true if she can survive until dawn. 

A perfectly sized introduction into the new paranormal worlds created by urban fantasy and paranormal romance author Azaaa Davis. 

Start reading Hiss, Rattle and Bite today for a satisfying bite!


Every now and then I fancy a short read, and I think it’s a great way of trying out authors new to you without committing to reading a full-length book.
The cover is quite striking, the golden looking face of a woman with blood on one side of it. The book is described as a novelette, which I do agree it is a shorter novella/novelette.

The main character is Marigold Jordan who is what I would describe as a servant to a rather prominent Master Vampire called Rhett. As the blurb says, and Marigold has full intentions of it happening. Marigold has found a strong, powerful master, she already serves him well, running his errands during the daytime whilst he sleeps and then being at his side to arrange his every whim and order as quickly and efficiently as possible. Marigold does all this in the hope that one day she will die. That Rhett will bite her and turn her into a vampire herself! To Marigold being a vampire is the ultimate gift, to her vampires are strong, and can have anything they want.
It will soon be the one night that Masters actually grant their servants, the honour of being bitten, killed and turned into a vampire, but things don’t go according to her original plan. Getting in the midst of two vampire lovers having a tiff, delivering a gift, then being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this novelette were simply that it had been a
good novella, that I would be interested in more books with Mari in them, or set in this universe.
Summing up. . . it’s a short enough book to be read whilst sat with a cuppa, so perfect for a bus, car, train journey. I would be interested in reading more books set in this type of world, and I will be taking a look at other books by this author too.


Tuesday 2 February 2021



Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: Wednesday Books, St Martins Press
Genre: Mystery, Thrillers, Teen & YA
Release Date: 2nd February 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo's sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there's more to the group than meets the eye. She's spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what's real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn't know if she can afford not to.


It was the blurb that had me writing this one at the top of my Want To Read Wishlist. I find different cultures and religions fascinating. I love reading about the Amish, Cults, Polygamists and others that have different ways of life.

The two quotes within the blurb made this one stay firmly at the top of my Wishlist, “The Unity Project saved my life”, The Unity Project murdered my son” really made me want to find out how the same group could have someone saying that it saved their life, yet someone else say they had murdered their son. I felt the need to find out which of these statements was the truth.

One of the books main characters is Lo Denham, who works as a personal assistant for Paul Tindale, the owner of SVO magazine who is known for his no-nonsense reporting that gets to the truth no matter what. He isn’t afraid to go after a difficult story, and has a reputation of not being dissuaded or being paid off. Lo’s dream is to be a journalist and it always has been. Sure, she is getting Paul’s morning coffee, and handling his diary but she feels she is only that one small step from being a journalist. Lo’s older sister by 6 year is Bea and the other main character. Bea had to grow up quickly when their parents were killed in a car accident. Lo is in hospital attached to so many machines by different tubes etc, that the hospital is preparing Bea for the strong possibility that her sister will die. Bea is distraught and finds herself praying & begging for her sister’s life in the hospital chapel. Bea is willing to bargain anything and everything for her sister. That is where she meets a young man called Lev Warren. Lev goes to Lo’s bedside with Bea and they pray and miraculously Lo regains consciousness and it isn’t long before she is discharged from hospital. It seems like Bea’s bargaining with God and the man who she see’s as representing him Lev Warren has worked. Now she must keep up her end of the bargain and devote her life to The Unity Project. When Lo is released from hospital Bea takes her to their Aunt Patty’s and goes off to make a life of her own and repay her debt or keep good on her deal with God and Lev Warren. Lev preaches Gods word and runs the Unity Project. As Lev claims to be and acts as a vessel for God’s word and work.

The book then slips to the “present day” and Lo witnessing a young man called Jeremy commit suicide. Jeremy’s father is a friend of Paul Tindale’s and is quite vocal about saying it is the Unity Project that drove his son to taking his own life. This happening just re-ignites Lo’s wish to see her sister Bea. Lo has tried numerous times to talk to her sister over the years but has always been pushed away by a woman named Casey who is the spokesperson of The Unity Project. Many stories have been done about the Unity Project but no one has ever seemed to truly get to the bottom of exactly what is going on. The Unity project has properties and seems to have no shortage of money or supporters. The leader Lev Warren repeatedly says he is doing Gods work, that there is nothing going on, his people are free to come and go as they please.

After years of trying to meet up with her sister Lo is shocked when she receives an offer of doing a tell all type of interview with Lev Warren. Whenever Lo comes into contact with any of Lev’s followers they all seem to have heard about her and recognise her, Lo presumes it is the scar she carries on her face from the car accident all those years ago, so it appears that Bea has talked about her. It’s not long before it is revealed that they all know about Lo as she is Lev’s miracle, that they are being led to believe that Lev brought her back to life by being a channel for God.
Lo keeps her access to The Unity Project quiet as she wants to write an article and kind of surprise Paul with the exclusive story.

This book has so many layers and so much going on. I know this may sound a little corny and cliché but as a reader you really do go on the journey to the truth alongside the main character Lo. Initially she is more interested in gaining access to her sister Bea, however she ends up being pulled further and further into the whole ethos of the Unity Project and falls heavily into the doctrine being preached by Lev Warren. In fact, she ends up falling in love with him as well as his cult.

As I said there are so many peoples own stories running along as well as their relationships with The Unity Project. I guess the easiest way of categorising those in the book are those pro the Unity Project and those anti the Unity Project.
We have Bea, Casey, Foster and Jeremy who all totally believe in Lev Warren. Then there’s those that are anti the Unity Project, Paul, Lauren from SVO magazine, Arthur, Jeremys father and Rob who seems to be the only person to have successfully left the Project. So where does that leave Lo? Lo begins extremely anti Unity Project, blaming them for taking away her sister, but then she is told that Bea has left the Project meaning if it had been them that had been standing in the way of the sisters reuniting then Bea would have contacted her. The Unity Project further besmirch Bea’s name and character by revealing she has a daughter that she left behind. Naturally Lo wishes to meet her niece, and becomes close to Emmy whilst she is interviewing Lev. It’s not long before Lo begins to see the goodness her sister saw in The Unity Project but then she feels like there is something just “off” the Bea that Lo knew would have never left her daughter behind, would she? I don’t want to give away any more of the actual plot so I will stop there.

My favourite character was Lo, she just wouldn’t give in, and when she thought there was something “not quite right” she continued digging and digging until she found the truth. Lo really goes through a lot in this book. I was desperate for her to have a happy ending, to be reunited with her sister, to have a life with her niece Emmy in it.
Another character I liked was Foster, though I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers. Then there are always the characters that you adored disliking or even hating. So, I suppose Lev should be top of that list but honestly for me it was the character of Casey the way she could change her opinion to suit the situation. Casey had a lot of influence and control with the Unity Project. With Lev I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for him thinking he was just disillusioned and some sort of religious zealot, or was he a conniving man who used others insecurities to coerce them into joining his cult.

I think this book really hooks you in, holds onto you and drags you though all of Lo’s ups and downs. You really see things through her eyes and go on her rollercoaster journey with her. It is the first book I have read by this author, but after reading this one I will be checking out her other books soon!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading The Project was an intense, mystery, thriller with suspense that keeps you guessing to the very end. Full of twists and turns.

Summing up I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it really had me thinking and trying to work out who’s opinion was the “right one”, the most accurate when it came to the Unity Project. I really wanted a “happy ever after” for Lo, Bea, Emmy and Foster, and yes the ending is well, wow, not what I expected but what can I say….you’ll get what I mean when you read it yourself!

Monday 1 February 2021



An Ember in the Ashes meets Mask of Shadows 

Title: This Golden Flame
Author: Emily Victoria
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Release Date: 2nd February 2021

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade
Emily Victoria's #ownvoices debut YA fantasy, This Golden Flame, in which asexual Karis, a servant to the mysterious Scriptorium, accidentally awakens long-dormant automaton Alix, initiating an epic adventure full of magic, rebellion, and finding where you truly belong.

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible?she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father?their nation’s greatest traitor?once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

Goodreads Link

Barnes & Noble




 The hallways of the Tallis Scriptorium are always so black at night. Statues and busts loom out of the dark and ribbed columns stretch down from the roof like pale fingers. I’ve taken my sandals off, twined their laces together, and hung them off my shoulder where they can’t make any noise, and the cold of the floor leeches through the soles of my feet. I pull my himation tighter around me, the rustling of the cloak a bare whisper. If this were day, I would hear the quiet scratch of reed pens against parchment in the study rooms to the east, the droning buzz of a master’s lecture from the hall. But in the night, it’s so stiflingly quiet. Like a tomb.

               Even after seven years I’m still not used to it. To the quiet. The dark. Back on Heretis, the island I grew up on, there was always noise, always light, even in the run‑down streets my brother and I haunted, where not many could afford oil for their lamps. Here on Tallis, the black is deep and somber, every door locked and every shutter latched firmly shut, as if the masters fear thieves who might lurk out there in the wilderness and the night.

               If only they knew the thieves were already inside.

               I slink down the shadowy hall, my eyes straining to navigate the black, even though it isn’t really the dark that’s a risk. Being out of bed this late would earn me a lashing, but at least that’s all I’d get. The true risk is in anyone dis‑ covering what I stole: the ledger currently clasped to my chest, its leather cover warm beneath my fingers. I can’t even say what the punishment for this would be, because as far as I know no one’s ever been impudent enough to try it.

At least not before me, and I prefer the term reckless.

I reach the west hall. Giving a quick glance up and down the silent corridor, I lift the latch on the closest window, wincing as it squeaks. I push the shutters open and night air brushes my skin.

The chilled marble of the windowsill stings against my legs as I swing over and drop into a crouch in the deep shadows by the edge of the building. From far off I can make out the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs, the sharp tang of seawater hanging in the air. I take a deep breath, trying to trap the taste of it in my lungs.

I look across the dark courtyard to one of the smallest buildings. Despite its size, it’s all marble with a full colonnade around its edges and elaborate moldings of masters and ledgers and automatons in the frieze running along the edge of its roof, darkened now with shadows.

The Hall of Records.

The second watch rings across the complex. I allow my‑ self a smile. Perfect. There shouldn’t be a patrol anywhere near here right now. I take off across the courtyard, bare feet pounding the packed dirt, not slowing until I slip past the colonnade. Bars of moonlight glow against the floor, stretching from the pillars that surround the open atrium I stand in. The back of the space is lost in the gloom, but it’s impossible to miss the glimmer of gold, too vivid and bright to be anything but Scriptwork.

I pad silently over, avoiding the strips of moonlight and sticking to the shadows. As if the night sky will tell on me. Details swim from the dark: olivewood doors stretching high above my head, framed with brass and cut with flourishes and curls; the seal of bronze plastered to their center; and the rune carved deep into the metal, a tangle of thick golden strokes, bent around each other as if in a knot. A lock rune. The most complicated rune on this island.

I run my fingers over the ridges of the lines, warm and tingling beneath my skin despite the night air. The truth is, I’m not even supposed to know Scriptwork, at least no more than what’s needed to climb automatons and make rubbings of the runes. The actual work of study is done by the masters and the aristoi scholars who come to study on Tallis. We orphans are only here for grunt labor. The Scriptmasters barely believe we can think for ourselves, never mind do something like this.

Lock runes are tricky. You have to understand which strokes engraved into the seal are part of the base rune and which have been added by that particular Scriptmaster. Then you have to replicate it perfectly in a ledger, all in the right order. Runes have rules, some of which haven’t even been discovered yet, and we were certainly never al‑ lowed to study them.

But just because a crotchety old master wasn’t going to teach me didn’t mean I wasn’t going to learn.

The light’s just enough to let me see the ledger as I flip it open to the last page, the golden glow spilling over the rough stretch of parchment. I pull out the stub of charcoal from my belt pocket. Once I draw a line, there’s no changing my mind. I’ll have to sneak the ledger back eventually, and lines will only mean evidence, since trying to tear a page out will just be more obvious. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have taken all this risk for nothing.

Only then I think of Matthias. It’s been seven years since they shipped my older brother away, all because he tried to defend me against them. Because they decided he would be too troublesome to keep. Behind these doors is the only record on the whole of this island that can tell me where he was sent.

And I am getting through tonight.

I dash off the first of the lines on the page. It comes off black and bold and perfect.

That’s when I hear voices. Low. Serious.

A patrol.

There shouldn’t be a patrol here, not at this time of night. Which means I’m either not as observant as I think or I’m real unlucky.

As soon as they enter the courtyard, I won’t be able to get back to the window, not without them noticing. A hint of panic thrums beneath my skin, telling me to leave now, while I still can. But then I look down at the parchment, the rune already started. They can’t catch me if I’m already inside the Hall.

As soon as I have the idea, I know it’s a terrible one. I suppose that fits me perfectly.

I bend over the ledger and keep going. The lines unfurl across the parchment as the rune takes shape, each line in the proper order and form. Excitement curls around my heart, even as the voices come closer. I’m doing it.

The rune is finished. I look up at the seal on the door, waiting for the golden line to cut it in half, to let me through.

Nothing happens.

The seconds pound through my head. No. I look down at the page, at this rune that looks exactly like the one on the door. I’m sure I did it right. Why isn’t it working?

One of the soldiers speaks again, their voice close. Too close.

I’m out of time.

I bite down my curse and dash away from the glow of the rune, toward the courtyard. Maybe I can still get across. I’ve just reached the colonnade when the soldiers step into view through the main gates. There are two of them, a man and a woman, their red chitons dark enough it’s hard to make them out. Short gladius swords are strapped to their hips. They’re coming closer.

There’s one other way to my quarters, through a door I can possibly sneak to by circling the back of the buildings. A door that always stays unlocked because it’s used by the patrols themselves to get inside.

I jam the ledger into a fold in my himation and run, sticking close to the wall that surrounds the Scriptorium complex. I can see the door I need ahead, nestled at the back of the acolytes’ quarters.

I’m reaching out when it swings open toward me. I stumble back, off balance, and a hand from behind me clamps around my upper arm.

I jam my elbow back at whoever has me, but they’re quick. An arm scoops me around the waist and jerks me behind the closest pillar, right as another two soldiers step out the door. I snap my head up at whoever has me, and catch a glimpse of a trainee’s red sash. Of tousled dark hair and deep green eyes, currently narrowed to order me to shut up.


I go still, both of us hidden in the narrow space between the pillar and the building. It throws me back, to years ago, when I wasn’t the only one sneaking out at nights. When this picture of him and me was as natural as breathing.

The footsteps fade away.

I let out a breath. That was close. I know I shouldn’t, but I look back the way I came. Maybe now that Dane’s here, I could try again. Maybe he’d come with me.

But he doesn’t even give me the chance to ask. Before I can open my mouth, he grabs my hand and pulls me through the door. Our footsteps hush over the floor, two sets this time, and even though I can practically feel the exasperation wicking off of him, see the tension in his neck, I feel strangely relieved. At least he’s here.

He doesn’t stop until we reach the small linen storeroom near my quarters, piled high with coarse chitons. There’s a thin crack in the shutters, letting in just enough moonlight that I can see him. His hand is pressed over his eyes, obscuring most of his face, as if that’s enough to hold back whatever he’s thinking. Under different circumstances, that would have made me laugh.

“Karis.” His voice is that dangerous sort of calm that, as far as I know, is only reserved for me and only when I’ve done something incredibly reckless. “What in all of every‑ thing were you thinking?”

I fold my arms over my chest. “You don’t even know what I was doing.”

He drops his hand and glowers at me. It’s an expression I haven’t seen in a while. Not because I haven’t been doing reckless things. But because he hasn’t been around to no‑ tice. “I got back after the rest of the patrol and I saw you near the Hall of Records. I know what you were doing.”

I wince. I hadn’t even considered that the patrol might have been spread out. It was careless.

“What were you even hoping to achieve without a ledger?” He’s facing the moonlight. I’m not. I doubt he can make out my expression, but my silence must speak volumes.

He groans. “You didn’t.”

I reach into my himation, the cloth looped about my shoulders and waist, and pull out the ledger. “I’m going to return it.”

Dane shoves his hands through his hair, growling at the ceiling. “Of all the ill-thought, hardheaded, impulsive…”

Dane’s my best friend. My only friend really. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stand around while he verbally berates me to the roof. “You couldn’t have expected me not to try.”

“Try to do what? What exactly were your plans for this?”

He catches my wrist and holds it up, forcing me to look at the bronze bracelet suckered there like a malignant growth. A copy of the one he wears. That every orphan brought to this island wears.

And he’s right. I hate it, but he is. Even if I’d figured out the rune and written it perfectly, even if I’d gotten in and found exactly where Matthias had been sent, I would still be trapped here. Because of this hunk of metal around my wrist, this perfect circle with no clasp. As long as it’s attached to me, going anywhere near the beach will burn my bracelet’s identifying rune into their scrolls. They’d know exactly where I was and what I was doing. And there’d be no running from them then. There’s only one ledger that can unlock the bracelets, and it’s always with the head Scriptmaster. Not even I can steal that.

I meet Dane’s eyes over my hand, and for a moment I’m so achingly tired. I almost want to apologize, to tell him he’s right. Because maybe he is. Maybe I don’t want to spend my entire life fighting a battle I can’t win, when I couldn’t even open a door. Maybe the masters were right about me and I am exactly what they judge me to be.

Only then I think of Matthias. Of the way he looked the last time I saw him, the day he was dragged away. Me screaming. Him calling out my name as his hand was ripped from mine.

The truth is, it isn’t in me to quit. Not now, not ever. There are things I will not—cannot—concede, and my brother is at the top of that list.

So I don’t say anything, just stare Dane down, and in the end he’s the one who looks away, dropping my hand. A part of me is naive enough to believe it might be because he understands.

“You’re lucky I was on patrol,” he finally says.

“I know,” I whisper. It’s the most I can give him. It must be enough because he lets out a breath, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Did it work?” he asks. “The rune?”

I don’t want to say it and make it more real. But I lie to so many people in my life, and I won’t lie to him. “No.” I swallow, staring down at the floor. “It didn’t.”

I can feel his eyes on me and when he speaks, his voice is gentler. “I’m sorry.”

I raise my head to look back at him and force a smile. As impish and real as I can make it. “I know that, too.”

He rolls his eyes, but that crooked grin, which doesn’t belong to the soldier but to the street brat, to my friend, is already stealing over his face. I’ve missed that smile. “Yes, well, now that I’ve saved your sorry hide, I need to get back. And you should go to bed.”

He must have forgotten the ledger, hidden in the dark. I rub my fingers over it and for a moment I’m tempted not to say anything. To let him leave and to give it another try. Maybe I would have, if I had any idea where I went wrong with the rune. Maybe I would have if Dane wasn’t standing right there.

But he is. I don’t know how he managed to get away from his patrol for this long, but I do know that if anything happens tonight, he’ll be implicated in it. And I wouldn’t do that to him. The risks I take, I take on my own.

I hold the ledger up. “I need to get this back.” When I left, Master Kaius was snoring into his wine, but even he’ll notice a missing ledger when he wakes up. The masters would tear this Scriptorium apart to get it back.

Dane looks at the book between us, and then he takes it. “I’ll slip it into his study. At least if I get caught in the halls, I’ll have an excuse.”

I wasn’t expecting that, not even from him. “Dane…”

He’s already taken a step away, but he looks over his shoulder, and maybe more of the street boy still exists than I thought because trouble darts across his deep eyes. He comes back to me and pecks a kiss on my forehead. “Go to bed, Karis, before someone notices.”

Then he’s gone, disappearing back into the shadows of the hall, and the only evidence he ever stood here is the soft tread of his fading footsteps.


I failed. The knowledge sits like a thorn in my chest, prickling at the tender flesh of my heart. I was right there, I had the ledger in my hands, and I failed.

I drag my feet as I walk through the hallways, silently following the other acolytes in my group. Master Vasilis strides down the hall at our head, his robe billowing around his legs as he leads us to whatever work site he’s chosen today to re-catalog for the umpteenth time. All in the hopes that something will have changed that will unlock the secrets of the automatons.

The Scriptorium, which rules Eratia, flaunts itself as a leader among the nations in knowledge, but for the past two hundred years all the Scriptmasters have been obsessed with is recovering what they lost—reanimating and con‑ trolling the automatons littered over the islands.

It’s mind-numbingly pointless. If it hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t going to happen. The power of the automatons is dead. And right now, with the knowledge of my failure sit‑ ting heavy in my heart, I’m spitefully glad the Scriptorium is never going to get what they want either.

Outside, it’s barely dawn, pale colors stretching across the sky. Despite the early hour, the yard is already busy with the organized chaos of morning drills, men and women scattered about the yard. I look for Dane, even though I know he’s smart enough to take care of himself.

There are so many sparring pairs, it takes me a moment to spot him. Despite the chill in the air, his skin’s flushed and sweaty, and his sword flashes in the sun as dust flies around his sandals. Fatigue sits like a stone behind my eyes, but Dane looks as awake as ever. He lunges out fast and his opponent, a boy named Erys, jerks back and trips over his own feet. He falls in a tangle of flailing limbs. Dane lets out a whoop and jogs a few paces of a victory lap before helping Erys to his feet and slapping the other boy on his back.

I can’t help the grin that cracks across my face. Some‑ one’s having fun.

As if Dane can sense my attention on him—which I’m half convinced he can—he turns and sees me. He flashes me a smile that’s all secrets and all mine, and for a moment I almost forget how much the last few years have changed us. I wave back, ignoring the odd looks some of the nearby soldiers throw my way. As if it’s unnatural that someone like Dane would pay attention to someone like me. I wonder how many of them remember that Dane came here as an orphan, too. Before he picked up sword-fighting like he’d been doing it his whole life. Before he was allowed to join the militia ranks and became a favorite of his master and his squad. Before he grew from a gangly child into some‑ one who fits in perfectly.

Dane is good-looking and the worst thing is, he knows it. Knows exactly the effect he has on other people, especially on girls. At least girls besides me.

I’ve never felt that way about him. Actually, I’ve never felt that way about anyone. It’s not as if I think Dane is bad-looking. Objectively speaking, he’s quite nice to look at. There are plenty of people on Tallis who are nice to look at. I just wouldn’t ever want to kiss one of them over it. Whatever it is that makes my group mates sigh and go misty-eyed, I’ve never felt for myself.

I know all that about myself and most of the time I’m fine with it. But right now, under all these stares…there’s a part of me that wonders if I’m the strange one.

The drill sergeant, Master Adalis, gives a sharp whistle, raising her eyebrows at Dane. Looking only mildly abashed, he readies himself for another spar. I jog after the tail end of my group, slipping out through the front gate.

The island spreads before me, all pale craggy rocks and waving grasses. Stiff stalks poke at my calves and dust settles into every itchy space in my sandals. Orchids, just now blooming, open their delicate, purple petals to the sky. I lift my face to the thin rays of sun, ignoring the chatter of the other students, none of it directed at me.

I wonder what Matthias would think of this island. Even though he has low vision, he was always an adventurer, certainly more than I was. Maybe that was just because he was older. Or maybe that was just him. Back when we were young, I’m sure he knew every corner of our parents’ weaving shop and our tiny yard, where we used to pluck figs from the tree and eat them crouched in the shade on hot days, or separate lentils into bowls for dinner. When we were on Heretis, every run-down building we took shelter in was a chance for him to poke his fingers into the nooks and cracks. Our childhood was one of small spaces and I’m sure he’d have loved the wide-open possibilities of Tallis.

“Acolyte Karis.”

I snap back to attention just in time to hear the snickers. My cheeks burn as I see Master Vasilis standing in front of me. Behind him I can make out the curving edge of the eastern side of the island, where it turns sharply into white cliffs. We arrived at our work site and I didn’t notice.

Master Vasilis glowers down his aquiline nose at me. “Tell me, Acolyte Karis, what has so riveted your attention that you ignored my instructions?”

I almost want to tell him, just to see his face when he learns I stole a ledger. But if I said that, I might as well go walk off that cliff. So I bite down the impulse and mumble, “Nothing, Master.”

“Nothing? Well then, your wandering thoughts must simply be in need of a task. Attach the pulley system to the automaton.”

My group mates snicker again and I don’t understand why until I turn to the behemoth of a creature standing not five feet from us.

In the seven years since I arrived on Tallis, I’ve gotten plenty used to automatons. Back home on Heretis, there were only two on the outskirts of the city, and since Matthias and I always stayed near the central agora, where thieving was the easiest, I never actually saw them. Only heard the tales from the other street kids.

Here on Tallis, there are close to a dozen, leftover from the days when this island was a guard post. The things are massive. Monstrous. Great hulking bodies made of Scriptstrengthened bronze, most of it tarnished a dull green be‑ cause there aren’t enough of us to keep them all polished, thick arms and legs made from interconnecting plates meant for bashing and breaking, tiny heads placed atop for no reason I can see except to provide a point of normality to creatures that don’t look normal at all. When I came to this island, I screamed the first time I saw one. And though the years have taken that blinding edge of fear away, the things still give me the shivers. Even though they’re the pride of Eratia, the proof for the Scriptorium that once we were more powerful than anyone.

This automaton looks like any of its frozen kind, except for one thing: it’s at a tilt, its upper body leaning out over the cliff’s edge as if stilled in the moment before it was to dive into the water below. The ocean glints from up here, deceptively bright and beautiful. But I know there are rocks just beneath those waves. One wrong misstep on the climb up and I’ll be taking a quick trip to a long sleep.

One of my fellow acolytes, Demetrius, steps forward and shoves the pack with the pulley system into my hands. I meet his smug eyes. The others crowd behind him— Jocasta, Petros, Thetis—whispering as they sneak glances at me. There’s not a scrap of kindness in any of their faces, even though once there was. In Jocasta’s, especially. Of everyone, she was maybe the one I could have made friends within those early days. She was the one willing to reach out, who would smile when she passed me in the halls. Only I didn’t want friends.

And I don’t need their kindness.

I jut out my chin as I swing the pack onto my back. My gaze tracks up the automaton, trying to find the best route. Its tarnished and dented skin is littered with runes: reach, lift, bend. Hard lines carved into the hard metal. They aren’t lit—they haven’t been lit since Master Theodis, the greatest villain of the ages, triggered the Great Lapse that made all the things still. But they’re as close to handholds as I’m going to get.

I grab the lowest rune and haul myself up. I stick to the back of the thing’s thigh, where at least its body is between me and the fall, but the runes down here are far and few between.

Sweat prickles from my palms and slides down my spine. My arms ache from the sheer effort of pulling myself up the steep incline. I grit my teeth and push on. I refuse to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me plummet to my death.

I’m almost to its back. I reach for another rune and my fingers slip. I scramble for a new hold, any hold, but it’s too late. My balance tips and I fall, screeching. The world tumbles over itself, flashing water and sky and cliff side. My body slams into rock, a steep slope turning my free fall into a desperate tumble, until with a bone wrenching thud, I stop.

I choke on air, my chest heaving, as I stare up at the bright blue sky. A hazy din of panic screams in my ears, and agony burns under every bit of my skin, like hundreds of scratching insect legs. I’m…alive. A strangled laugh tears from my throat. I’m alive.

My shaking fingers probe the ledge I’m on, slick with salt spray and barely larger than I am. This little outcropping of rock that saved my life. If it didn’t involve flipping over, I might have kissed it. Gritting my teeth, I heave myself up to my elbows.

There’s a crack in the cliff side, a few feet farther down the ledge. Its edges are lit with a faint glimmer of golden light.

I blink slowly, my aching head still sluggish. Is that… Scriptwork?

“Master, she isn’t dead.”

My group mate, Archus, has stuck his head out over the edge of the cliff side. Master Vasilis appears next to him, and even though I can’t hear his sigh, I see it in the way his shoulders heave. As if my nearly dying is some great inconvenience.

“Well, I suppose someone ought to grab a rope and throw it down,” he says.

There’s some shuffling up above and then the frayed end of a rope is thrown down. Every bit of me feels battered and bruised, and I have no idea how I’m going to climb all the way back up. But I do know that if I don’t do it, no else is going to come down here and get me. So, with a growl, I grab the rope and drag myself to my feet.

Excerpted from This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria, Copyright © 2021 by Emily Victoria. Published by Inkyard Press.


Emily Victoria lives on the Canadian prairies with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, works at her public library, and has just finished her Masters of Library and Information Studies.

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