A proud Hufflepuff and hard-core Tolkienite, Rae weaves fantastical tales filled with heart and hope for the YA reader. If you can catch her without her nose in a book or a pen in hand, she would be more than thrilled to share in an adventure or relax with a chai and chat. After growing up in several countries across Asia, she is now happily settled on the banks of the great Mississippi with her family.
Suddenly realizing it’s been ages since I posted a proper book review! And what better time than Virtual Realm Makers to get back to it? So, today, I’m bringing you the award winning, Seventh City! I’m so proud of Emily for taking home not only the Best in Fantasy Realm Award, but also Best Book of the Year!
“Let me tell you a story that happened so long ago that only the hills and rivers can remember the time . . . .”
All her life, thirteen-year-old Maki has heard tales of the legendary city of gold, buried deep in the northern frontier. But when her village is burned and her brother captured by cruel invaders, the legend becomes desperately real.
Armed with a wolf-dog and a heart of courage, Maki sets out on a journey that will demand all her strength and cunning. She is determined to bring her brother home at all costs. Yet as her quest leads her deep into a wilderness of ancient dangers, Maki realizes that even for her, some prices are too high to pay.
What I liked:
Alaskan Fantasy: I’ve always been drawn to Native culture, so the Alaskan setting alone had me falling in love. It’s so vibrant and really makes you feel like you’re there, battling the elements with the characters. Throw in a dash of whimsy and you’ve got a perfect backdrop for a great adventure!
Maki: I absolutely love Maki! A thirteen-year-old-girl capable of sending grown men to the hospital? Really, what more do you want? 😉 She’s brave and loyal, if a bit hotheaded and too stubborn for her own good; but she’s got a will of iron, a heart of gold, and a wolf to back her up.
Sibling Story: I love the familial bonds! The whole story hinges on the lengths Maki will go to save her captured brother. Watching her struggle to balance the desire to be near him with the desire to keep him safe by concealing their relationship really did a number on me. And then there’s the surrogate-sibling relationship she develops with Willow. It’s so heartwarming. And Willow himself is pretty amazing: kind, honorable, protective. Great big-brother material … or, you know, crush material. Not for Maki, she’s far too young, but a girl can dream can’t she 😉
Forgiveness: I love redemption stories! And a key part of any redemptive arc is asking and/or bestowing forgiveness. Maki starts the story with justifiable hate for the invaders of her homeland, but as she spends time with them and sees that not all are monsters, she learns to forgive and begins to heal. It is truly so beautiful and I think a timely lesson for today’s social climate.
My Rating: 5/5
A superb adventure story for those who enjoy character centric fantasy with heartwarming themes!
Welcome back, Adventurers! Have I got a treat for you today! Not only am I interviewing the boy who never grew up, but I’ve also got the inside scoop on a Treasure Hunt hosted by his lovely author, Kara Swanson! Are you ready to join the Lost Boys and fight Hook for some awesome bookish swag? Here’s how!
Treasure Hunt Rules
There are a total of 36 posts throughout the month of June with hidden keywords. Collect them all and arrange them to find the message, which you will then submit on the Post-Tour Stop to win a pirate’s chest of awesome prizes! And if you’re the first to solve and submit your answer, your treasure will contain an extra special gold piece: a signed and annotated Advanced Reader Copy of Dust! What are you waiting for? You can start the adventure here: https://gracebought.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/dust-blog-tour-kickoff/
Sorry, what’d you say? Oh, you want my clue? Well, you’ll just have to wait till the end for that 😉 We’ve got an interview to do! Everyone, please welcome, PETER PAN!
‘Ello there, mates!
Hello, Peter! We’re so glad to have you with us today. Let’s start with some easy questions, shall we? What is your favorite season?
Summer! All play and fun and sunshine!
What about your favorite food?
CHOCOLATE CAKE! With loads of icing.
Great choice! You can never go wrong with chocolate.
Now we’re getting into some of the deep questions. What is your greatest fear?
Fear? Me? *Peter smirks* Ha! Nothing.
…except maybe growing up. And snakes in my bed. Both are rather beastly.
That would be terrible! And along that train of though, what is your biggest regret?
*Peter shuffles uncomfortably* Probably Claire’s brother, Connor. I said some…things to that lad I wish I hadn’t. *crosses arms stubbornly* But I’m not saying a word more on that!
Ok, let’s change track and talk about something happy! What’s your best childhood memory?
All of it? So many grand adventures and getting out of scrapes with the Lost Boys. We also played a lot of jolly pranks on the pirates and that codfish!
Who do you admire the most and why? I’m guessing it’s not the codfish 😉
Myself! Because I’m pretty bloody awesome!
*Kara smacks a hand over Peter’s mouth and mutters apologies for his swearing. He’s spent way too much time with pirates.*
Well, all right then, mister ‘pretty awesome’, if you could only keep three things you currently possess, what would they be?
Tink…my blade…and maybe a bit of gold I stole from Hook? Could always come in handy.
Smart boy! As for how it might come in handy, what is one secret dream that you have?
*Peter rubs a hand over his face, groaning dramatically* Do I REALLY have to answer this?
*Kara pokes at him.* Yes, you do.
*Peter groans again*
*Kara tells him to stop being a baby.*
*Peter rolls his eyes* Alright. Whatever. I’d secretly like to…see a play someday. Like the stories Wendy would tell–but with real blokes acting it out. Might be kind of fantastic.
*Kara grins* That’s actually sweet!
*Peter snorts* Better not tell anyone I said that!
Then you’re really going to hate this next question. What is one thing that makes you cry?
*Peter groans loudly, starting to walk away.* What am I? A bloomin’ flower? I’m not answering that.
*Kara grabs him and drags him back* C’mon. I know you can do it. I’ll give you a slice of cake if you just finish the interview…
*Peter raises an eyebrow at her* …the whole cake?
*Kara snorts* Fine, just do it, please.
*Peter grins and gives a dramatic bow* For cake, I’d do most anything. Alright, last thing that made me cry… losing Tink. That hurt a bloody lot.
I’m sure it did. Now, hang in there. I promise this is the last question. What is one hope that you have for the future?
To eat some chocolate cake! And maybe take some of you readers to Neverland with me. We’d have a jolly old time.
And I’m sure they would love to come! Thank you, so much, Peter. You’ve done a splendid job. Now go have some cake!
The rest of you jolly adventurers, join in! Grab yourself a slice of your favorite dessert and read on to take Peter up on his offer!
The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale.
Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real–since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London… and a boy who shouldn’t exist.
Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins.
The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan–and herself.
And you can also follow Kara on Amazon to stay tuned for all her new releases! Don’t know Kara yet? It’s high time you met her!
As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the Fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself. She is the author of the 2018 INSPY Award Finalist, The Girl Who Could See and the upcoming Enclave release, Dust.
Follow Kara on Facebook or join her Starchasers group where we have loads of fun getting to know one another and nerding out on all things bookish! And, lastly, you can find all things Kara on her website and even sign up on her newsletter to receive a free short story!
And at long last, we come to what you’ve all been waiting for. My clue! Please note it is capitalized with no punctuation.
I’m thrilled to welcome Emily Hayse back to the blog today with her tour for The Last Atlantean! Emily is a lover of log cabins, strong coffee, and the smell of old books. Her writing is fueled by good characters and a lifelong passion for storytelling. When she is not busy turning words into worlds, she can often be found baking, singing, or caring for one of the many dogs and horses in her life. She lives with her family in Michigan.
Welcome Back, Emily!
What have you got for us today?
Thanks Rae, it’s good to be back! Today I’m interviewing Taurus Lamnidae, a cousin of Isurus Lamnidae and second in line to the throne. His hobbies include swimming, dangerous sports involving sharks, and eating.
Favorite season? The summer, for it is hot and it gives me a great reason to swim. I practice a great deal then in the runs. Favorite weapon? What is it with asking a violent question? A knife, to be sure. I wear one when I swim, for safety, and I am well-practiced in its use. What is your greatest fear? Can’t tell you that. If you could have any life, what would it be? I have it. Friends and companions I have grown up with, a rich life and no kingship, sharks and runs and the time and strength to pursue what I love—how could I ask for more than I have? Best childhood memory? I remember my father used to take me out in his boat, along with my cousins and the king. We would go out until we were in the middle of the sea in the beautiful sun and we would swim and dive and race in the water until it was nearly dark. I wish there had been more of those days. If there was one food you could eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? Sea urchin. Biggest accomplishment? Me? I am not accomplished. I want to be, understand, but my fate in life is simply the ability to enjoy it—I can do that, to be sure—not to be good at it. What do you hate the most in your life? A foul question again? Can you not ask nice ones? I don’t think I hate anything…coral scrapes, or shark hide burns, those hurt. I will choose that. Who do you admire the most? Galeio Triakidae. Have you met the man? Best at lai-ilith-re that ever was. There was no man like him in his day, nor is there now. If I could ever be as good at the sport as he was, I’d die happy. If you could only keep three things you currently possess, what would they be? Now you will laugh at me, because I’m going to choose my knife! But it is not wise to swim in the sea without it. So, my knife, my strength (is that an acceptable choice?), and my honor. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? I have never seen snow. I should like to go somewhere where I can see something different—like snow. What is one secret dream that you have? That would be telling, wouldn’t it? I’ll give you this—to be as good at the lai-ilith-re as Galeio was. But it is no more than a dream, for certain. What is one thing that makes you cry? Whenever I think of a hound I once had, the first my father gave me. She was a two-year-old mako, and she had the manners of a queen. But she sickened with a tumor before she was even five. When she was very sick I would go in the water with her some nights and swim beside her to help her when she was tired. Then the Shark Kind took her, to put her out of her pain. You just—don’t forget your first hound. What is one hope that you have for the future? A long life and good health to my cousin, Isurus Lamnidae, and many sons for him. His mantle is not one I wish to take up.
Are you ready to read more about Taurus and his friends? I know I am! Here’s a little more info on The Last Atlantean.
“Watch, ye sons of the sea, your doom is at hand. With soundless storm rises the fate of Atlantis.”
As a lighthouse keeper’s daughter, Hattie has always been able to handle anything the Atlantic throws at her. But when a stranger washes ashore in a storm, she finds herself unraveling a mystery that will change her life.
Caught up in a high-stakes game of intrigue and hidden loyalties, Hattie watches legends take shape before her eyes. But as kings and pawns prepare for a showdown that will determine the fate of an ancient world, she wonders whether she has thrown in her lot with the hero or the villain.
Hi everyone! Wow, can things change fast! In the space of a week people have fallen ill, businesses have closed, schools are out indefinitely, the stores are empty, and everyone is going stir-crazy. And since it’s been a while since my last post, I figured today was an opportune moment to make one. So, here are some tips on surviving the quarantine from this previously home schooled introvert 😉
Set a schedule.
While sleeping and watching Netflix all day may sound awesome at first, I promise you will be miserable if you keep it up too long. It’s ok to give yourself a dead day here and there, but even this bookworm needs more than reading for three weeks straight 😉 Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eat at regular intervals, and give yourself a list of goals for each day. If you don’t accomplish them all, that’s fine. Just give it your best shot.
If you can still get outside, DO IT! Seriously, fresh air and sunshine do wonders. If you can’t leave the house, be creative. Have a dance party. Go old school with an aerobics video. (My mom did these when I was a kid and I seriously thought it was a great game 😛 ) Awaken your inner child and play tag. Or stay low-key and walk laps around the house. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you are getting out of that chair several times a day.
Calm your mind.
With all the stress and panic flying around, you need time to decompress. Having a few productive goals for each day is great, but be sure to give yourself some downtime too. Put on soothing music. Color a picture. Read a book. Take a bath. Set aside some time to take a deep breath and just be.
Try a new hobby.
Is there something you’ve been wanting to learn, but never had the time for? Well, now’s the perfect time to start! Thanks to the magic of YouTube tutorials, I’ve taught myself many things over the years. Grab a pen and sketch the first thing that comes to mind. Try your hand at baking. The stores may be empty, but that baking isle hasn’t been touched. (I know, I’ve checked 😉 ) Or maybe martial arts is more your style. You can always beat up on a pillow, right? Whatever that hidden dream is, don’t put it off any longer.
Check in on friends & family.
This is the age of technology! Why let it go to waste? Your extroverts are slowly dying inside and your introverts would like to say hi now and then. And this is a particularly bad time for those suffering from depression or other mental illness. Let them know they’re not forgotten! Video chat with your friends. Offer to do a food run for your grandparents or an elderly neighbor. Play a board game with your family. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t still have community.
Ultimately, remember God is in control.
The one most important thing you can do right now is pray. Pray for the ill and at risk. Pray for those loosing their jobs, those without food or shelter. Pray for those in charge, that they will be given wisdom to make the right decisions. Pray for those working in the medical field, that they will stay safe and a cure will be found quickly. When you don’t know what to say, just pray. God already knows it all.
I know it feels like the world has gone mad and your life will never be the same, but hang in there. This has happened before and it will happen again, but I promise you it’s going to get better. If anyone needs prayer or encouragement, I’m only a comment away.
Today, I get the wonderful privilege to take part in R.M. Archer’s blog tour for her short story collection! R.M. Archer has been an avid reader since the time she could first make out words, and has always been a lover of story. That interest developed into a love of writing when she was seven (though those first attempts have long-since been incinerated), and she’s been pursuing a career as an author ever since. Archer combines her love for writing with a passion for her fellow youth and aims to write YA speculative fiction that shows teens that even their deepest-seated struggles can be overcome.
Caithan/Rahim Character Interview
Hello, Caithan! So nice to meet you.
It’s nice to meet you, too.
Let’s start with an easy, get to know you, question. What’s your favorite season and why?
Teraco doesn’t have much by way of seasons; at least not near Pruyid. Toward the beginning of dry season, though, there’s an international festival hosted in central Teraco that my meuma allows me to attend, so I suppose that would be my favorite time of year.
You visit Tramat quite often. What is your favorite thing to do there?
I love the music. *grins* There’s a group that plays just off the main street, and often I’ll sit and listen to them, or even dance.
Now, I know you’re not big on tradition, but there must be some you enjoy. Which Virilen tradition is your favorite and why?
Hm… Around the seventh full moon of the year, there’s a three-day festival to celebrate the introduction of music into the world. It’s taught that the world was originally lacking in any sound but speech, but the gods could hear the music of the stars, so the god Amak took compassion on man and introduced birdsong, waves crashing, wind through the trees… all the natural music of the world, which man adapted into music. The celebration isn’t as widespread in Pruyid as Meuma tells me it is in Virilia, but those of us who celebrate make music with whatever we can and appreciate the natural music of the world.
Ok, now I’ll give you a chance to rant. 😉 Which is your least favorite tradition?
*rolls eyes* Ugh. The coming-of-age ceremony. There’s no purpose to it, unless you buy into the myth that Virilen adults are granted gifts–gifts I’ve never seen in any of my Virilen neighbors–and I have no interest in all of my relatives coming to see me just because I’m now an adult according to Virilen standards. Those standards are arbitrary, anyway; in Virilia you only have to be seventeen to be considered an adult, but the Virilens brought to Teraco had to be better than everyone else and raise it to twenty-five just to seem wiser. *snorts* Instead, it just makes those of us born in Teraco more miserable.
Your turn, Rahim! You know how this goes.
What is your favorite color and why?
Blue. Everything in Tramat is warm-toned and blends together, but blue stands out, and all you have to do is look up at the sky to see it. *smiles*
I take it you are a bit of a foodie. What is your favorite dish?
Hm… There are so many choices. *chuckles* But, if I had to choose… Naan topped with spicy sauce, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, olives… I could go on. You can pile a lot on naan, and it’s delicious.
What did you like best about your visit to Pruyid? Do you think you’ll visit again?
*looks up thoughtfully* Though I wouldn’t have guessed it… the people. I had meaningful conversations with many of the Virilen I met, and they were surprisingly welcoming of me. I learned a lot from my visit. I’d love to go back. *smiles*
And finally, as I asked Caithan this, I find it only fair to ask you. What is your favorite Tramati tradition and why?
Igrew up not keeping a lot of traditions, though my friends did, so my favorite that I was able to participate in is the annual Dujalemin festival in central Teraco. People come from all over the continent to compete in athletic competitions, to show their wares, to simply see Teraco… If you enjoy crowds and excitement, it’s the place to be. My favorite of those I simply heard about was the tradition of children pooling their money to gift their mami a new dress on her birthday. I never had the money to carry on the tradition–and I had no siblings–but every year I wished I could.
That’s all we’ve got time for today. Are there any parting remarks you’d like to make?
Caithan: *shakes her head*
Rahim: Thank you for having us. *smiles*
Thank you so much for coming, it was a great pleasure to host you!
This collection features four stories from a range of select genres. Including Contemporary, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy. Here’s a little info on each:
Fiona Wildman was born with powers she doesn’t understand. Powers a scientific mega-corporation will stop at nothing to exploit.
Ethan is amazed when his withdrawn friend Jasmine invites him to the abandoned amusement park for fun, but instead of the slightly-wacky tour he expects, he finds the opportunity to see a different side of Jas.
Four teens wake in a dark room. Faced with puzzles they must solve to escape, they uncover a sinister secret.
Caithan is tired of her mother’s strict traditionalism, but when she runs away from her own coming-of-age party, she runs into someone who teaches her to appreciate what she’s been given.
Big news, friends! I have opened a street team! What is a street team, you ask? It’s a team of bookish individuals who enjoy an author’s work and are committed to sharing it with the world. In exchange, they get writing updates, exclusive content, and early access to things such as cover reveals and ARCs.
I’m specifically looking for women who enjoy YA Fantasy that’s a little less on the epic world-building (there is some, I promise!) and a little more on the complex character’s personal journey. If this sounds like you, please apply!
Happy 2020, everyone! I’m not too late for a New Year’s post, am I? 😉
As we enter not only a new year but also a new decade, I’m looking back on my accomplishments… and I have to say, there’s a part of me that’s disappointed. There are so many things I had intended to do by now that never happened. I didn’t think I’d still be living at home, for one. But when I think about it, I’ve done several things I never thought I’d get the chance do to, either. So, instead of focusing on the negative, today I’m going to list my top three accomplishments from the past decade.
I graduated both high school and college with honors. And made some amazing friends while I was there 🙂 Hello, Suspects, I miss y’all!
I joined a church that’s truly on fire for God and have attended the Italy mission trip twice!
I not only wrote a book, but have gone to conference and pitched it. This is something I honestly thought I’d never do. I doubted my ability as a writer through most of my teen years and it has taken a lot of encouragement from dear friends for me to reach the place I’m at today. So Sven, Ivy, Amanda, and all my Realmies, if you are reading this, I just want to say a big thank you!
And Bonus: I got my first story published!
Now, that’s a list I can be proud of! And one I’ve kept in mind as I determine my goals moving forward. There are all the usual New Year’s Resolutions, of course: be more active, eat healthier, finish that cross stitch I’ve had since I was ten… But my top three goals for the year are these:
Move out. And I do have a few nebulous possibilities for this!
Indie publish (aka. self-publish) To Slay a Curse. I know it will be a lot of work, but I just feel that’s the right path for me. And I can’t wait to start this adventure and share my work with the world!
Build relationships. This includes staying in touch with old friends, strengthening friendships I’ve made since moving to Cape Girardeau, and stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new friends. It’s daunting, but will be worth it in the end!
So, tell me, what is your biggest accomplishment of the 2010’s (or just 2019)? What is your biggest goal moving into 2020?
Wow, November has been a crazy month! Even with my social media hiatus I was completely overwhelmed. Part of me wants to take life hiatus and do nothing at all this December 😛 But the rest of me really missed it. So I’ll probably just be on limited usage for a while 😉
Why was I so overwhelmed? I’ll give you a quick run down of my month and a little look ahead at some great things coming up. To start, the main event!
I had a lot of fun with my first attempt at NaNo! I joined the virtual write-in for my area once, but found I really work best alone. LOL! However, I checked in with friends a lot and motivated myself by posting fun updates when I hit milestones. As for finishing, if you just look at word count I didn’t do too well. I went in knowing it was highly unlikely I would make 50k. So, I mentally set a goal of 40 with a minimum of 20…and I hit just over 11.
Really, I’m ok with it. My brain very insistently switched tracks to research half way through the month, making it really hard to concentrate. But I still wrote more in a month than ever before and made solid progress on a new project! And hey, I know a lot more about indie publishing now 😉
I’ve also had a lot going on in my personal life. First off, I had a birthday! I celebrated turning 26 with some of my very favorite things: A bonfire, Turkish food, reading, writing, and awesome people. We also had a great Thanksgiving with my Grandma. And wonderful news: I found out I’m getting published! More on that in at the end.
Unfortunately, not everything has been good news. My health went through a few major swings this month. Nothing too bad. I’ve just been really tired and it’s made productivity much harder.
There has also been some unpleasant stuff going on at work. Can’t say too much here. But essentially, my amazing boss had to resign suddenly due to a very serious health problem. Not only are we worried about her, but it has been very rough managing the workload. If you believe in prayer, I would ask that you pray for everyone involved as we try to figure our way through the rest of the school year.
So, it’s been a lot. But over all, things are truly looking up as we go into December and Christmas!
As mentioned previously, I’m getting published! I found out a couple weeks ago that a story I submitted to Havok was accepted. For those who don’t know, Havok is a publisher of Speculative Flash Fiction (aka Sci-fi and Fantasy stories under 1,000 words). They post a free story to their website every day. And mine will be going up January 3! It will be my first published work and I am so incredibly excited!
In other news, I’m very seriously considering going indie for my books. As I have never had a business course, this really scares me. But I’ve been doing extensive research and my dad is an accountant. That’s got to count for something, right 😉 My current goal is to get this all up and running by the end of 2020.
So, that’s been my whirlwind of a month! Whew, made me tired just writing about it. How was yours? Anything exciting happen? Is there any way I can pray for you as we close out the year? Drop a line in the comments below or send me a message!
I’ve been hearing about NaNo for years, and was always so daunted by the idea of writing 50K in a month that I never tried. But this year, I’m finally joining in, and I’m so excited! However, in order to give this thing my best effort, I’ll be taking a short hiatus from social media. Look for me in December with all the updates!
For those of you who don’t know about NaNo. It’s officially called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and is a great community building program to assist writers in completing a book of 50,000 words in one month. I’ve been exploring the new site and there are tons of cool features! From pep talks by well known authors, to forums where you can ask questions or just geek out, to buddies who encourage each other and share work, writers of every level can find something to love. And don’t forget your personalized page for each WIP! They even have a special Young Writer’s Program. If you’re a student or teacher of writing, definitely check this out!
I’ve been doing a ton of prep work through the month of October as I want to be sure I can give this thing my best shot! Though I won’t be too worried about winning 😉 I’m just looking to have a good time and find some motivation to get started on a new project.
What’s this project, you ask? Well, if you read my Red Warnings story from Sunday, you’ve got a pretty good idea! I’m so proud of that story, I’ve decided to build off it and bring to you a Norse inspired Little Red re-imagining 🙂
Intrigued yet? Let me whet your appetite with a rough blurb!
A Shieldmaiden of the Drake Clan sworn to protect her people, Svenja finds herself inadvertently in possession of a dangerous magical cloak. She knows to use the cloak will be to unleash an ancient curse. But when her little sister is taken by the dread Warg Clan, the soul-sucking cloak’s power may be the only thing capable of saving her.
Need more? Lets top it off with a pretty aesthetic!
And that’s all I can say right now 😉 Have a lovely Thanksgiving and I’ll see you in December!
A dire warning. A cursed cloak. A wolf that steals one’s soul. What’s more fitting for Halloween? If you like Little Red and Werewolves, you’ll enjoy this! I’d give it a PG 13 rating for some darker themes and a little blood.
All my life I have been warned. Mother had a list. Don’t
play in the river, you’ll catch a cold. Don’t pet stray dogs, they carry
disease. Don’t scowl so much, your face will stick. The boys will break you. The
woods will kill you. And the wolves will steal your soul. But there is one
warning that stands out from the rest.
“Listen well, Little Rose,” Granny said on my birthday, handing
me a package. Inside was a fur cloak dyed a deep red. I brushed my hand across
the soft pelt and gasped at an odd tingling in my fingers. Granny pulled my
hand back and held my gaze. “This cloak holds a great power, one that can
protect but may just as often destroy. You will learn to use it properly in
time. Till then you must never put it on if I am not there.” This is the only
warning she has ever given, and the only promise she has ever asked of me.
I trudge, grumbling, through the whirlwind of snow. Where
has that girl gotten to? She was right beside me not five minutes ago.
Honestly, how many times must I remind her to stay within shouting distance? I
stop again to peer about me. With hair that dark, my wayward sister should be a
beacon in this pale storm. But I can’t see far through the thick, soft white. I
will have to rely on my ears.
“Lilly!” As soon as the cry leaves my throat, I know she will never hear it. The howling wind yanks fiercely at my braid and claws through my threadbare skirt. I hug the basket to me in an effort to keep both the fresh bread and myself warm. I have the cloak with me, of course. I carry it always, hoping Granny will give me another lesson. But no matter how the cold bites, I will not put it on alone. I made a promise.
I stumble on. Every moment the storm grows more frantic and I with it. How could I have lost her again? If mother were here … but no, don’t even think that far. Mother is gone and never coming back. This bundle of raven haired, bright eyed curiosity is all I’ve got left, and if I don’t find her soon…. But not to worry! Not to worry, we are well overdue at Granny’s by now. Surely, she will have sent someone to fetch us. Perhaps Lilly’s there now. That’s when I hear the scream.
Running blind, I head in the direction of the marrow-freezing
sound. “Lilly! Lilly!” Another scream, much closer now. Then silence. A few
more feet and I stumble over something in my path. Sprawled upon the snow, I
take little notice of my scattered belongings. What draws my attention instead
is the nightmarish form I fell over. My sister, bloodless pale, lies contorted
under me. A dark shadow lurks behind.
Watching her dark blood pool against the blinding snow, something
snaps within me. Warnings and promises alike dissolve in the heat of my fury
and fear. Snatching up my death-red cloak, I throw it on, staggering at the
power coursing through me. I’ve had very little training yet; instinct will
have to do. The shadow leaps forward and a viselike grip encompasses my chest. My
nails elongate just in time, sharpening as I shove back hard. A loud crack. Moans
fill the air. I’m now snarling above a cowering huntsman.
“Please,” he begs, “I didn’t realize! It’s so hard to see.” But there is no feeling left in me. I lunge.
It’s over quickly and I stand panting in the cold; even this
pelt is not enough to block the chill residing within me. I have never before felt
this emptiness from the cloak. I want to take it off, shove it away, but find
that I can’t. No matter how hard I try to stand, how viciously I tug at the red
fur, it will not be moved. And that is when I finally understand. My howl cuts
straight through the sharpest wind and echoes across the woods.
I should have heeded the warnings. I should have kept my
promise. For the Wolf has stolen my soul.