Book Editorial, Book Reviews, Books, Editorials, Reviews

The best YA science fiction and fantasy books of 2013

2013 was an incredible year in YA. There were so many amazing books that came out this past year that this list could be insanely long. But we took into account popularity of series, authors, and of course our own personal tastes after reading, and the list we’ve compiled won’t steer you wrong. If you haven’t read the series that some of these books are in, now’s a great time to start. And  the series beginners and stand-alones are also well worth your time. I’m sure we’re going to get some stunning YA in 2014, but to hold you over be sure to exhaust this list! So without further ado, to honor 2013, here are our 13 favorite YA books of this past year:

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

siege and stormDarkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer

scarletCinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

An NPR Best Book of 2013

Teardrop, by Lauren Kate

teardropAn epic saga of heart-stopping romance, devastating secrets, and dark magic . . . a world where everything you love can be washed away. The first book in the new series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen series

Never, ever cry. . . . Eureka Boudreaux’s mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn’t, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before.

But Ander doesn’t know Eureka’s darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth . . . and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, coauthor of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and creator of the internationally bestselling Mistborn Trilogy, presents Steelheart, the first book in the Reckoners series, an action-packed thrill ride that will leave readers breathless.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner

the eye of mindsFrom James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, comes an all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure. The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.
Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

the coldest girlTana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Allegiant, by Veronica Roth

allegiantWhat if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

 

 

 

Requiem, by Lauren Oliver

requiemNew York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller, this exciting finale to Lauren Oliver’s acclaimed Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States. With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead. Named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, this sophisticated and wide-ranging novel brings the New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy to a thrilling conclusion.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed. The nascent rebellion that was underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight. After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven. Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.

As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor. Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view. They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson

the bitter kingdomThe third book in Rae Carson’s award-winning The Girl of Fire and Thorns fantasy trilogy. Elisa, the seventeen-year-old sorcerer-queen, will travel into an unknown enemy’s realm to win back her true love, save her kingdom, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny. Veronica Roth called The Girl of Fire and Thorns “intense, unique . . . definitely recommended.”

Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin’s style of sweeping and deeply satisfying epic fantasy, the third and final book in the trilogy takes the young queen on a journey more dangerous than any she has faced before. Elisa will stand before the gate of the enemy. And she must rise up as champion—even to those who have hated her—or her kingdom will fall. Full of sorcery, adventure, sizzling romance, and secrets that challenge everything she believes, this is a bold and powerful conclusion to an extraordinary trilogy. As USAToday.com proclaimed, “Rae Carson has proved she’s a master and has shaken up the YA genre.”

The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

9780399162411B.JPGThe Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare

clockwork princessDanger intensifies for the Shadowhunters as the New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy comes to a close.

If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it?

The clock is ticking. Everyone must choose.

Passion. Power. Secrets. Enchantment.

Danger closes in around the Shadowhunters in the final installment of the bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy.

 

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

the dream thievesThe second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after….

 

 

Champion, by Marie Lu

championThe explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Be sure to check out our list of favorite adult SF/F from 2013. 

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Exclusive video interview: Brandon Sanderson dives into the world of ‘Steelheart’

brandon-sanderson-steelheartAs part of Brandon Sanderson’s Featured Author Week here on Lytherus, the author was gracious enough to sit down and answer some questions for Lytherus about his newest book Steelheart

What’s Steelheart? In short, it’s a twist on your idea of superheroes: what if all of them were evil? Here’s the book’s synopsis:

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

In the interview, Sanderson explains the series in his own words, talks about why finding the names of the characters was a challenge, covers why all of the beings with powers are evil, and more. He also talks about his writing routine and books he’s read recently. This is a great interview for fans of Brandon’s old and new, so be sure to check it out!

Don’t forget that our contest to win one of two ARCs of Steelheart is still running. Be sure to enter, the contest goes until Tuesday!

Book Events, Books, Events

Giveaway: Win one of two ARCs of ‘Steelheart’ by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartAs part of the Brandon Sanderson featured author week, we’re giving away two ARCs of his new book Steelheart. 

Our giveaway is simple. Unfortunately, it’s open to residents of North America only (sorry, international fans!). If you’re under 18, please make sure to get your parents’ permission to enter the giveaway. You can earn a total of six entries in the giveaway:

  • ONE entry for simply entering the giveaway
  • TWO entries for following us on Twitter
  • TWO entries for “liking” us on Facebook
  • ONE entry for talking about the giveaway on Twitter

The giveaway will stay open until Tuesday, October 1st, at 12:01 am. Winners will automatically be chosen at random via Rafflecopter. The first name of each winner will be announced on this post and winners will be contacted by a member of our staff to begin the process of shipping out your prize.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Review: Brandon Sanderson captivates in new superhero action-adventure YA ‘Steelheart’

Brandon Sanderson, best known for his epic fantasies Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and finisher of The Wheel of Timebrings a whole new YA epic adventure to the world with Steelheart. First in a new series, Steelheart follows the life of David, a normal human, secretly planning to kill Steelheart, a powerful Epic who rules over Chicago and ruined his life ten years prior.

What’s it about? Here’s the summary from Amazon:

steelheartFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in a new, action-packed thrill ride of a series—Steelheart.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

This book is straight action and adventure from start to finish. Brandon manages to completely captivate the reader from the first page. His writing is like magic, teasing and tempting, making you not want, but need to continue. The pacing is great, ebbing and flowing between wonderful action scenes and slower, more informative sections which delve into the backstory.

The premise is what captivated me to read this book in the first place: superheroes exist, but they’re all evil. I wanted to know what that world would be like. I wanted to see how regular humans would fight that, stand up for their freedoms. Following David, the protagonist, was a great and interesting journey as readers experience the technology humans are developing to slowly counter the Epics. And the greater mystery, why this all happened in the first place, always looms over, waiting to be discovered.

This was a fantastic book. Different than the usual YA I typically read, less romance, more action, violence, and adventure, and it was a nice change of pace. Brandon is a fantastic writer and the story was an easy read. I’m excited to see where the author is going to take the story next.

Books, Featured Author Week

Featured Author Week: Brandon Sanderson (‘Steelheart’) visits Lytherus!

brandon sanderson featured week

Brandon Sanderson, author of Steelheartwill be joining us this week for giveaways, an interview, and more!

Steelheart is out this week, beginning a new series What’s it about? Check out below:

steelheartFrom the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in a new, action-packed thrill ride of a series—Steelheart.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Here’s a breakdown of this week’s featured author articles:

  •  Introduction to the Brandon Sanderson Featured Author Week
  •  Review of Steelheart
  •  Giveaway of Steelheart!
  •  Exclusive interview with Brandon Sanderson

Looking for more to read? View our past archive of featured authors, with a stellar lineup including Lev Grossman, Stefan Bachmann, Colleen Houck, and more!

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Lytherus’ top ten new release young adult books you CAN’T miss this fall!

top ten young adult book releasesFall is the time for reading. The weather’s turning colder, days are getting shorter, and it’s perfect for snuggling up with a book. Lucky for us, there is a ton of great young adult books coming out this fall. Our team sat down to compile our top ten list of most anticipated fall young adult novels you can’t miss out on! Here’s a list of our top ten choices to look forward to:

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake (September 10th)

antigoddess-kendare-blakeKendare Blake made a mark for herself with Anna Dressed in Blood, and now she’s beginning a new series with Antigoddess  the premise of which begs the question, ‘What if the immortal gods started dying?’ Stay tuned next week, we’re going to be featuring Kendare and this book Monday through Friday! Here’s the summary:

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

 

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (September 17th)

dream-thievesFor those of who haven’t read book one in this series (The Raven Boys) yet, you’re seriously missing out. But now’s a good time, because book two, The Dream Thieves, is just around the corner. The world has been established, but many questions go unanswered, and Maggie left readers hanging with the final sentence of the first book, leading right into book two (which is hinted at in the title!)  Here’s the summary:

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after….

 

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston (September 17th)

frozen-melissa-de-la-cruz-michael-johnstonMelissa was made popular by her vampire series Blue Bloods. In this endeavor she pairs up with her husband to co-write Frozen, the first book in a new series about a futuristic frozen Los Vegas, a forbidden magic, and a journey that could change lives. We’re going to be featuring this book on Lytherus, so stay tuned! Here’s the summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes
find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

 

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (September 24th)

steelheart-brandon-sandersonWhat if there were really superheroes in the world? What if every single one of them, without exception, was evil? What chance would regular people stand against such forces? And how can someone defeat the invincible? These are some of the questions raised in master storyteller Brandon Sanderson’s upcoming book Steelheart. It’s every bit as epic as it sounds, and we’re going to be featuring it during it’s release week, so definitely stop back! Bonus: there’s a chapter excerpt if you want to get started now. Here’s the summary.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, comes the first book in a new, action-packed thrill ride of a series—Steelheart.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. Nobody fights the Epics . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

 

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia (October 10th)

Kami Garcia/UnbreakableGhosts! Murder! Secret societies! These are some of the awesome things featured in Kami Garcia’s new book Unbreakable. This is her first solo project after the very popular and much -loved Beautiful Creatures series she wrote with Margaret Stohl, and it’s one of the most anticipated books of the fall. And Lytherus managed to snag an exclusive interview with her for release week, so be sure to check it out! Here’s the summary:

I never believed in ghosts.
Until one tried to kill me.
When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, she doesn’t realize that paranormal forces are responsible–not until mysterious identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her room and destroy a deadly spirit sent to kill her.
Kennedy learns that her mother’s death was no accident, and now she has to take her place in the Legion of the Black Dove–a secret society whose five members were all murdered on the same night, leaving the Legion in the hands of the next generation: a misfit group with unique skills.
As the new members race to find the only weapon capable of destroying the demon, they use their individual talents to battle paranormal entities and earn their rightful place in the Legion–except for Kennedy.
If she is truly the missing piece of the puzzle, can she stay alive long enough to find out–without losing her heart in the process?
Protect Yourself.
What you can’t see CAN hurt you

 

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner (October 8th)

the-eye-of-minds-james-dashnerWe’re James Dashner fans here at Lytherus, and this new book, the first in a new series, has promise to be one of our favorites this fall. James uses the awesome imagination we loved in The Maze Runner series and delivers it again in The Eye of Minds, a futuristic cyber world filled with intrigue and adventure. And gaming! And hacking! It should be a good one, especially if you’re a fan of scifi, gaming, or the world of coding. We’ll be featuring Dashner all of his release week, so be sure to stop by. Here’s the summary:

From James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, comes an all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure. The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

 

Allegiant by Veronica Roth (October 22nd)

allegiant-veronica-rothIf I had to pick the top YA book that’s most anticipated this fall, it’s Allegiant, the conclusion to Veronica Roth’s superb Divergent series. With the Divergent movie coming out next year, this series has been everywhere. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see how it ends. Here’s the summary:

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?
The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

 

Teardrop by Lauren Kate (October 22nd)

teardrop-lauren-kateTeardrop is the first book in a new series by Lauren Kate. We’re going to be featuring her all of release week, and having already read and advanced copy of the book, we can say that this book is fantastic. It feels fresh and new, and fans of Lauren’s Fallen series will gobble this one right up. Fans who love fantasy, adventure, and romance should also definitely not miss it. Here’s the summary:

The first in a new series by Lauren Kate, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen series, TEARDROP is an epic saga of heart-stopping romance, devastating secrets, and dark magic . . . a world where everything you love can be washed away.
Never, ever cry. . . . Eureka Boudreaux’s mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn’t, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before.
But Ander doesn’t know Eureka’s darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth . . . and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.

 

The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare (October 29th)

the-shadowhunters-codex-cassandra-clareThis is more of a companion book than an actual novel, but for fans of Cassandra Clare and anything Shadowhunter, this is going to be a must-have. This is the Shadowhunter instruction manual, and not only that, it’s Clary’s actual copy, complete with her personal sketches and notes. This should be a very cool insight to the morals and creation of the demon killing machines fans of the series know and love. Here’s the summary:

Delve into the details of all things Shadowhunter with this illustrated guide to the knowledge and lore of the Shadowhunter world.

Since the thirteenth century, the Shadowhunter’s Codex has been the one and only manual for Shadowhunters looking to brush up on their demon languages, learn proper stele use, and discover just what exactly a pyxis is. Featured in both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, this guide is a necessity for any young Nephilim on their journey to becoming a Shadowhunter. Beautifully illustrated, the Codex contains images of the famous Shadowhunter homeland of Idris, as well as depictions of demons and other Downworlders.
But this isn’t just any copy of The Shadowhunter’s Codex. It’s Clary’s copy, and as an artist herself, she’s sketched pictures of her friends and family in the book, and scrawled helpful advice in the margins. Of course, she couldn’t exactly stop Jace or Simon from adding their thoughts either. Part encyclopedia, part history, part training manual—complete with commentary from Shadowhunters who have seen it all—this beautiful guide is a perfect supplement to the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

 

Curtsies and Consperacies by Gail Carriger (November 5th)

curtsies-and-consperacies-gail-carrigerThis is book two in Gail’s young adult series, set in the same world as her steampunk Parasol Protectorate series. Murder, mayhem, and manners abound in these books. They are a riot to read, and really creative. I’m sure Curtsies and Consperacies will continue that legacy proudly. If you’ve never read any, start with the adult books and then move on to the YA. You won’t be sorry. If you’re up to date, here’s an excerpt of book 2. Here’s the summary:

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?

Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy–won’t Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.

Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail’s distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

BONUS BOOKS: There are several books that didn’t make the list, not because they lack quality but because they just recently released! If you’re looking for a great book to read while waiting for one of the books on this list to come out, check out some of these fantastic readers:

We’d love to hear in the comments which books you would have put on the list, if any of your most anticipated books didn’t make it! Happy reading!

Book Events, Books, Events

SDCC13: Epic Fantasy Book Panel

LMZ_4372 copy

One of the highlights of the San Diego Comic Con book events is the Epic Fantasy panel, and like expected, it didn’t disappoint. There was a stellar line-up of fantasy authors there to talk about what puts the ‘epic’ in epic fantasy. The panel, moderated by  Colleen Lindsey, consisted of Melissa de la Cruz (‘Frozen”, ‘Blue Bloods’), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and the Coin series), Brandon Sanderson (‘Steelheart’, ‘Mistborn’), Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles), Raymond E. Feist (The Chaoswar Saga), and Django Wexler (‘The Thousand Names’).

Right out of the gate the moderator tackled the main question: what makes fantasy epic? Wexler started off by talking about the importance of world building, and how it allows a writer to “mash stuff together”. Feist said that he keeps all his world building in his head, but talked about how many labels are marketing driven, whereas epic is rooted in the old pulp fantasy. Hobb said that regardless of the world, she always needs to know the stories of the people’s lives in the world. Sanderson added onto that, commenting about how it was scary to build in someone else’s world, but that the characters are what it was all about for him too. Plus, epic allows him to ask “why not?”

The question evolved a bit when Abraham was up. The moderator asked him what it was like to finish a series, and he said it was a lot like high school, being happy to leave but sad to say goodbye. But stories end. Next up was Paolini, and the moderator wanted to know how the story evolved with his age. He replied that a lot of it was already established from the start, but that some things had to change as a consequence of things he created in the world. De la Cruz was asked what the difference for her in writing contemporary verses epic fantasy was, and she simply said “Dragons! Dragons are cool.” But she continued, talking about worlds, and how our world is always ending, and yet it still goes on. In her new book this shapes a scary future.

LMZ_4375 copyUp next were some comments about writing these type of stories and the importance of research. Sanderson suggested when writing epic fantasy to give the world quirks and shape the characters, and vice versa. Wexler stressed the importance of having a support structure for the story based on research, and Hobb added to this, saying that you have to know as much as the characters. She actually goes and reads children’s books on certain topics, as they have not only the basic facts, but often interesting and unusual tidbits you can’t find in large books. Feist said to fake it, and Paolini added to this, saying make sure you know enough to get by but also know how to say something with conviction. De la Cruz stated that reading is the best research, especially articles on various topics, which helped her make the future in her story more gross.

At this point the floor was opened up for audience questions. Among the common ones of “Where do you get your ideas,” and “do you listen to music when writing,” there were a few that focused more on some specifics of writing. One guy wanted to know about the physics of magic and how compatible and constrained the magic is. Also, how do authors know how much to communicate to the reader? Paolini answered first, saying that after the initial leap of faith in his books that magic exists through the manipulation of energy with the mind, the rest of it in his world follows the laws of physics. Sanderson added to this, saying that being consistent is the most important thing. If the writer establishes rules and sticks with them, they’ll be fine.

Want more? Stay tuned for more of our coverage of the book panels at San Diego Comic Con 2013, including exclusive interviews with Lauren Kate, James Dashner, and a special video interview conducted by Christopher Paolini.

Book News, Books, News

Brandon Sanderson Set to Release his First YA Trilogy in 2013!

Huge news, Brandon Sanderson fans!

Random House Children’s Books announced today that they have acquired the rights to Brandon Sanderson’s first-ever YA series!

Here’s what the press-release revealed:

Delacorte Press has acquired the first YA series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, it was announced today by Beverly Horowitz, VP & Publisher. Executive Editor Krista Marino acquired for Delacorte from Eddie Schneider of JABberwocky Literary Agency at auction, and will edit the planned trilogy.

Delacorte will publish the first novel, STEELHEART, in North America in Fall 2013 with simultaneous publication as an ebook.

“Sanderson has quickly risen to the top of the fantasy genre.” said Horowitz. “We are thrilled to be the home of this talented author’s first YA project, and know that his millions of dedicated fans will devour STEELHEART.”

Here’s the summary of the book:

Steelheart possesses the strength of 10 men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then taking them out. For the death of his father, David wants in. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying and planning, and has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. STEELHEART takes an action-heavy plot, layers in complexity, and delivers twists and a breathtaking conclusion, as David and the Reckoners try to undo the dystopia the Epics have created.

As if this wasn’t enough, there’s even more good news for Sanderson:

According to Sanderson’s agent Eddie Schneider, STEELHEART has entered preliminary negotiations for a major Hollywood deal.

What do you think, fans? Do you think Sanderson can make the jump to YA successfully? Either way, this series will be one we’ll be keeping a close eye on!

 

Book News, Books, News

Cover for the Final “Wheel of Time” Book Revealed!

It’s here! The final cover in the Wheel of Time series has finally been revealed. Artist Michael Whelan (who stepped in to make the last cover after WoT cover artist Darrell K. Sweet passed away) talked about his process of making this beautiful cover, which I’ve posted below. I had no idea so much went into the creation of a cover. Artists will particularly enjoy this, as it includes his scetches:

As you know, there was a specific scene already chosen as the source idea for the cover image, so I was spared going through my usual process of reading the book, then trying to distill it into one image. I often lose a lot of time trying to pick which scene or cover idea to go with from the narrative. On the other hand, there was a lot of research required to familiarize myself with the particular attributes of the three characters I knew were going to be in the image. Not having read the Wheel of Time series yet, I had a lot of catching up to do! I knew a cave was going to be in the image, so the question then became “should we see the characters from the outside going in or from the inside as they are entering?” While I mulled the possibilities over in my mind I began to sketch out some poses and costuming ideas, trying to feel my way into the image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I did several preliminary layouts in monochrome acrylics or digital media, sometimes going back and forth between the two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After it was decided which concept to go with, I first played around with my acrylics experimenting with making stalactite shapes using paint and a squeegee. After that, I felt ready to start the background work. Usually I work from background to foreground, but this time I decided to work the middle area first, then do the figure of Rand and the background/sky area at the same time.

Here’s a few shots of the painting as it progressed. The background color of the panel was a light grey tone. The acetate in the center was left in place to mask out the sky area and keep it clean until I was ready to work on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was fortunately well supplied with cave photos to use as reference because I had recently gone to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, where I took some pictures of some pretty strange stuff.

Strange things lurk in Carlsbad Caverns!

But I wasn’t happy with my visualizations of the figures, especially Rand. I tried using myself as a model, without much success.

I was also feeling frustrated about the coat I wanted to have Rand wearing in the picture. Sure, I could have faked it if the figure was small in the picture, but with Rand being so “up close and personal” as it were, I thought I should take the time to get it right.

I mentioned all this in a conversation with Dan Dos Santos, and he graciously took the time to help me find a model and find the kind of coat I was looking for. He introduced me to famed illustrator Edward Vebell, which was a humbling experience, I can tell you. Ed’s had a stellar career and is a real pro’s pro — and there were stacks of his paintings all over the place, amazing stuff from the 1940’s onward.

But the thing is, Ed also happens to own an amazing costume collection which he rents out to other artists, photographers, theatre productions, etc. Dan and I almost got lost in his attic looking through the hundreds of coats and military uniforms. We found a couple of likely candidates, and the next day the model came to my studio and Dan shared his photo and lighting setup with me so I could try out his equipment setup.

It was great; almost too good, actually. I felt a little like a guy wearing several watches and never knowing what the real time is. There were so many good reference photos to work with it was hard to cull out one or two to work from and leave the rest. The main thing I look for in posing a model is to check the reality against my visualization of a pose, and correct any errors. Once I had the information I was looking for, things proceeded at a steady pace until the painting was complete.

The full cover of A Memory of Light:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

via [Tor.com]

Book News, Books, News

New Prologue Excerpt for the Final ‘Wheel of Time’ Book!

At this year’s JordanCon and excerpt from the prologue of A Memory of Light, the final book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (though Brandon Sanderson finished the series after Jordan passed away). Now, thanks to our friends at Tor, we have the full excerpt for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

****

Bayrd pressed the coin between his thumb and forefinger. It was thoroughly unnerving to feel the metal squish.

He removed his thumb. The hard copper now clearly bore its print, reflecting the uncertain torchlight. He felt chilled, as if he’d spent an entire night in a cold cellar.

His stomach growled. Again.

The north wind picked up, making torches sputter. Bayrd sat with his back to a large rock near the center of the warcamp. Hungry men muttered as they warmed their hands around fire pits; the rations had spoiled long ago. Other soldiers nearby began laying out all of their metal—swords, armor clasps, mail—on the ground, like linen to be dried. Perhaps they hoped that when the sun rose, it would change the material back to normal.

Bayrd rolled the once-coin into a ball between his fingers. Light preserve us, he thought. Light… He dropped the ball to the grass, then reached over and picked up the stones he’d been working with.

“I want to know what happened here, Karam,” Lord Jarid snapped at his advisor. Jarid stood nearby, in front of a table draped with maps. “I want to know where they are and how they drew so close, and I want that bloody, Darkfriend Aes Sedai queen’s head!” Jarid slammed his fist down on the table. Once, his eyes hadn’t displayed such a crazed fervor. The pressure of it all—the lost rations, the strange things in the nights—was changing him.

Behind Jarid, the command tent lay in a heap. Jarid’s dark hair—grown long during their exile—blew free, face bathed in ragged torchlight. Bits of dead grass still clung to his coat from when he’d crawled out of the tent.

Baffled servants picked at the iron tent spikes, which—like all metal in the camp—had become soft to the touch. The mounting rings on the tent had stretched and snapped like warm wax.

The night smelled wrong. Of staleness, of rooms that hadn’t been entered in years. The air of a forest clearing should not smell like ancient dust. Bayrd’s stomach growled again. Light, but he’d have liked to take the edge off of that with something. Instead, he set his attention on his work, slapping one of his stones down against another.

He held the stones as his old pappil had taught him as a boy, though it had been years since he’d done this. The feeling of stone striking stone helped push away the hunger and coldness. At least something was still solid in this world.

Lord Jarid glanced at him, scowling. Bayrd was one of ten men Jarid had insisted guard him this night. “I will have Elayne’s head, Karam,” Jarid said, turning back to his captains. “This unnatural night is the work of her witches.”

“Her head?” Eri’s skeptical voice came from the side. “And how, precisely, is someone going to bring you her head?”

Lord Jarid turned, as did the others around the torchlit table. Eri stared at the sky; on his shoulder, he wore the mark of the golden boar charging before a red spear. It was the mark of Lord Jarid’s personal guard, but Eri’s voice bore little respect. “What’s he going to use to cut that head free, Jarid? His teeth?”

The camp stilled at the horribly insubordinate line. Bayrd stopped his stones, hesitating. Yes, there had been talk about how unhinged Lord Jarid had become. But this?

Jarid’s face grew red with rage. “You dare use such a tone with me? One of my own guards?”

Eri continued inspecting the sky.

“You’re docked two months’ pay,” Jarid snapped, but his voice trembled. “Stripped of rank and put on latrine duty until further notice. If you speak back to me again, I’ll cut out your tongue.”

Bayrd shivered in the cold wind. Eri was the best they had in what was left of their rebel army. The other guards shuffled, looking down.

Eri looked over toward the lord and didn’t say a word, but somehow, he didn’t have to. He just smiled. Cut out his tongue? Every scrap of metal in the camp had gone soft as lard. Jarid’s own knife lay on the table, twisted and warped—it had stretched thin as he pulled it from its sheath. Jarid’s coat flapped, open; it had had silver buttons.

“Jarid…” Karam said. A young lord of a minor house loyal to Sarand, he had a lean face and large lips. “Do you really think… Really think this was the work of Aes Sedai? All of the metal in the camp?”

“Of course,” Jarid barked. “What else would it be? Don’t tell me you believe those campfire tales. The Last Battle? Phaw.” He looked back at the table. Unrolled there, with pebbles weighting the corners, was a map of Andor.

Bayrd turned back to his stones. Snap, snap, snap. Slate and granite. It had taken work to find suitable sections of each, but Pappil had taught Bayrd to recognize all kinds of stone. The old man had felt betrayed when Bayrd’s father had gone off and become a butcher in the city, instead of keeping to the family trade.

Soft, smooth slate. Granite, with bumps and ridges. Yes, some things in the world were still solid. Some few things. These days, you couldn’t rely on much. Once immovable lords were now soft as…well, soft as metal. The sky churned with blackness, and brave men—men Bayrd had long looked up to—trembled and whimpered in the night, whispering of things they’d seen.

“I’m worried, Jarid,” Davies said. An older man, Lord Davies was as close as anyone was to being Jarid’s confidant. “We haven’t seen anyone in days. Not farmer, not queen’s soldier. Something is happening. Something wrong.”

“She cleared the people out,” Jarid snarled. “She’s preparing to pounce.”

“I think she’s ignoring us, Jarid,” Karam said, looking at the sky. Clouds still churned there. It seemed like months since Bayrd had seen a clear sky. “Why would she bother? Our men are starving. The food continues to spoil. The signs—”

“She’s trying to squeeze us,” Jarid said, peering at his map, eyes wide with fervor. “This is the work of the Aes Sedai.”

Stillness came suddenly to the camp. Silence, save for Bayrd’s stones. He’d never felt right as a butcher, but he’d found a home in his lord’s guard. Cutting up cows or cutting up men, the two were strikingly similar. It bothered him how easily he’d shifted from one to the other.

Snap, snap, snap.

Eri turned. Jarid eyed the guard suspiciously. He seemed ready to pounce, ready to scream out harsher punishment.

He wasn’t always this bad, was he? Bayrd thought. He wanted the throne for his wife, but what lord wouldn’t want that, given the chance? It was hard to look past the name. Bayrd’s family had followed the Sarand family with reverence for generations.

Eri strode away from the command post. Out into the dark, toward the winds from the north.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Jarid snarled.

Eri reached to his shoulder and ripped free the badge of the Sarand house guard. He tossed it aside and left the torchlight, heading into the night.

Most men in the camp hadn’t gone to sleep. They sat around fire pits, wanting to be near warmth and light. A few tried boiling cuts of grass, leaves, or even strips of leather as something, anything, to eat.

They stood up to watch Eri go.

“Deserter,” Jarid spat. “After all we’ve been through, now he leaves. Just because things are difficult.”

“The men are starving, Jarid,” Davies repeated.

“I’m aware. Thank you so much for telling me about the problems with everybloody breath you have.” Jarid wiped his brow with his trembling palm, then slammed it on his map, staring down. “We’ll have to strike one of the cities; there’s no running from her, not now that she knows where we are. Whitebridge. We’ll take it and resupply. Her Aes Sedai must be weakened after the stunt they pulled tonight, otherwise she’d have attacked.”

Bayrd squinted into the darkness. Other men were standing, lifting quarterstaffs or cudgels. Some went without weapons. They gathered sleeping rolls, hoisted packages to shoulders—the very last of the rations.

They began to trail out of the camp, their passage silent, like the movement of ghosts. No rattling of chainmail or buckles on armor. The metal was all quiet as if the soul had been stripped from it.

“Elayne doesn’t dare move against us in strength,” Jarid said, perhaps convincing himself. “There must be strife in Caemlyn. All of those mercenaries you reported, Shiv. Riots, maybe. Elenia will be working against Elayne, of course, preparing the others to accept her as queen instead. Whitebridge. Yes, Whitebridge will be perfect.

“We hold it, you see, and cut the kingdom in half. We recruit there, press the men in western Andor to our banner. Go to…what’s the place called? The Two Rivers. We should find some able hands there, quick to obey when a firm voice commands.” Jarid sniffed. “I hear they haven’t seen a lord for decades. Give me four months, and I’ll have an army to be reckoned with. Enough that she won’t dare strike at us with her witches…”

Bayrd held his stone up to the torchlight. The trick to creating a good spearhead was to start outward and work your way in. He’d drawn the proper shape with a bit of chalk on the slate, then had worked toward the center to finish the shape. From there, you turned from hitting to tapping, shaving off smaller bits.

He’d finished one side earlier; this second half was almost done. He could almost hear his pappil whispering to him as he worked. We’re of the stone, Bayrd. No matter what your father says. Deep down, we’re of the stone.

More soldiers left the camp. Strange, how few of them spoke. Jarid finally noticed, standing up straight and grabbing one of the torches, holding it high. “What are they doing?” he asked. “Hunting? We’ve seen no game in weeks. Setting snares, perhaps?”

Nobody replied.

“Maybe they’ve seen something,” Jarid muttered. “Or maybe they think they have. I’ll stand no more talk of spirits or other foolery; the witches are creating apparitions to unnerve us. That’s…that’s what it has to be.”

Rustling came from nearby. Karam was digging in his fallen tent. He came up with a small bundle.

“Karam?” Jarid said.

Karam glanced at Lord Jarid, then lowered his eyes and began to tie a coin pouch at his waist. Halfway through, he stopped and laughed, then emptied it. The gold coins inside had melted into a single lump, like pig’s ears in a jar. Karam pocketed this, probably in case it transformed back eventually, though no man would take it as it was. He fished in the pouch and brought out a ring. The blood-red gemstone at the center was still good. “Probably won’t be enough to buy an apple, these days,” he muttered.

“I demand to know what you are doing. Is this your doing?” Jarid waved toward the departing soldiers. “You’re staging a mutiny, is that it?”

“This isn’t my doing,” Karam said, looking ashamed. “And it’s not really yours, either. I’m…I’m sorry.”

Karam walked away from the torchlight. Bayrd found himself surprised. Lord Karam and Lord Jarid had been friends from childhood.

Lord Davies went next, running after Karam. Was he going to try to hold the younger man back? Instead he fell into step beside him. They vanished into the darkness.

“I’ll have you hunted down for this!” Jarid yelled after them, voice shrill. Frantic. “I will be consort to the queen, you realize! No man will give you, or any member of your houses, shelter or succor for ten generations!”

Bayrd looked back at the stone in his hand. Only one step left, the smoothing. A good spearhead needed some smoothing to be dangerous. He brought out another piece of granite he’d picked up for the purpose and carefully began scraping it along the side of the slate.

Seems I remember this better than I’d expected, he thought to himself as Lord Jarid continued to rant.

There was something powerful about crafting the spearhead. The simple act seemed to push back the gloom. There had been a shadow on Bayrd, and the rest of the camp, lately. As if…as if he couldn’t stand in the light no matter how he tried. The darkness was always there, weighing him down. He woke each morning feeling as if someone he’d loved had died the day before.

It could crush you, that despair. Why would making a spearhead change that?You’re being a fool, Bayrd. It just seemed to him that the mere act of creating something—anything—fought back. That was one way to challenge…him. The one none of them spoke of. The one that they all knew was behind it, no matter what Lord Jarid said.

Bayrd stood up. He’d want to do more smoothing later, but the spearhead actually looked pretty good. He raised his wooden spear haft—the metal blade had fallen free when evil had struck the camp—and lashed the new spearhead in place, just as his pappil had taught him all those years ago.

The other guards were looking at him. “We’ll need more of those,” Morear said. “If you’re willing.”

Bayrd nodded. “On our way out, we can stop by the hillside where I found the slate.”

Jarid finally stopped yelling, his eyes wide in the torchlight. “No. You are my personal guard. You will not defy me!”

Jarid jumped for Bayrd, murder in his eyes, but Morear and Rosse caught the lord from behind. Rosse looked aghast at his own mutinous act, panic on his wide face. He didn’t let go, though.

Bayrd fished a few things out from beside his bedroll. After that, he nodded to the others, and they joined him—eight men of Lord Jarid’s personal guard, dragging the sputtering lord himself through the remnants of camp. They passed smoldering fires and fallen tents, abandoned by men who were trailing out into the darkness in greater numbers now, heading north. Into the wind.

At the edge of camp, Bayrd selected a nice, stout tree. He waved to the others, and they took the rope he’d fetched and tied Lord Jarid to the tree. The man sputtered until Morear gagged him with a handkerchief.

Bayrd stepped in close. He tucked a waterskin into the crook of Jarid’s arm. “Don’t struggle too much or you’ll drop that, my lord. You should be able to push the gag off—it doesn’t look too tight—and angle the waterskin up to drink. Here, I’ll take off the cap.”

Jarid stared thunder at Bayrd.

“It’s not about you, my Lord,” Bayrd said. “You always treated my family well. But, here, we can’t have you following along and making life difficult. There’s just something that we need to do, and you’re stopping everyone from doing it. That isn’t right; I guess this isn’t either. Maybe someone should have said something earlier. Well, that’s done. Sometimes, you let the meat hang too long, and the entire haunch has to go. It’s just the way of things.”

He nodded to the others, who ran off to gather things. He pointed Rosse toward the slate outcropping, which was nearby, and told him what to look for in good spearhead stone.

He turned back to the struggling Lord Jarid. “This isn’t witches, my Lord. This isn’t Elayne…I suppose I should call her the queen. Funny, thinking of a pretty young thing like that as queen. I’d rather have bounced her on my knee at an inn than bow to her, but Andor will need a ruler to follow to the Last Battle, and it isn’t your wife. We can’t fight anymore. I’m sorry.”

Jarid sagged in his bonds, the anger seeming to bleed from him. He was weeping now. Odd thing to see, that.

“I’ll tell people we pass—if we pass any—where you are,” Bayrd promised, “and that you probably have some jewels on you. They might come for you. They might.” He hesitated. “You shouldn’t have stood in the way. Everyone seems to know what is coming but you. The Dragon is reborn, old bonds are broken, old oaths done away with…and I’ll be hanged before I let Andor march to the Last Battle without me.”

Bayrd left, walking into the night, raising his new spear onto his shoulder. I have an oath older than the one to your family, anyway. An oath the Dragon himself couldn’t undo. It was an oath to the land. The stones were in his blood, and his blood in the stones of this Andor.

Bayrd gathered the others and they left for the north. Behind them in the night, their lord whimpered, alone, as the ghosts began to move through camp.

 

A Memory of Light copyright © 2012 by The Bandersnatch Group, Inc.