The first in a new fantasy series from the New York Times bestselling author.
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.
Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.
Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
Author: Jay Kristoff
Pub. Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
She snapped to her feet, stiletto drawn, her shadow writhing across the tiles toward him. The Dweymeri boy had drawn his scimitar, two more throwing knives poised in his other hand. Dark saltlocks of matted hair swayed over his eyes. The tattoos on his face were the ugliest Mia had ever seen, looking like they’d been scrawled by a blind man in the midst of a seizure. Yet the face beneath . . .
The pair stood watching each other, still as statues, moments ticking by like hours as the gale howled about them.
“You have very good ears, sir,” she finally said.
“You have better feet, Pale Daughter. I heard nothing.”
The boy offered a dimpled smile. “You stink of cigarillo smoke. Cloves, I think.”
“That’s impossible. I’m upwind from you.”
The boy glanced at the shadows moving like snakes around his feet.
“Seems to be raining impossible in these parts.”
She stared at him. Hard and sharp and lean and quick. A rapier in a world of broadswords. Mercurio was better at reading folk than any person she’d known, and he’d taught her to sum others up in a blinking. Whoever this boy was, whatever his reasons for seeking the Church, he was no psychopath. Not one who killed for killing’s sake.
“You seek the Red Church,” she said.
“The fat man wouldn’t take my tithe.”
“Nor mine. We’re being tested, I think.”
“I thought the same.”
“It’s possible they’re no longer here. I was heading into the wastes to look.”
“If it’s death you seek, there are easier ways to find it.” The boy gestured beyond Last Hope’s walls. “Where would you even start?”
“I was planning on following my nose,” Mia smiled. “But something tells me I’d do better following yours.”
The boy stared long and hard. Hazel eyes roaming her body, cool and narrowed. The blade in her hand. The shadows at his feet. The whispering wastes behind him.
“My name is Tric,” he said, sheathing the scimitar at his back.
“. . . Tric? Are you certain?”
“Certain about my own name? Aye, that I am.”
“I mean no disrespect, sir,” Mia said. “But if we’re to travel the Whisperwastes together, we should at least be honest enough to use our own names. And your name can’t be Tric.”
“. . . Do you call me liar, girl?”
“I called you nothing, sir. And I’ll thank you not to call me ‘girl’ again, as if the word were kin to something you found on the bottom of your boot.”
“You have a strange way of making friends, Pale Daughter.”
Mia sighed. Took her temper by the earlobe and pulled it to heel.
“I’ve read the Dweymeri cleave to ritualized naming rites. Your names follow a set pattern. Noun then verb. Dweymeri have names like ‘Spinesmasher.’ ‘Wolfeater.’ ‘Pigfiddler.’ ”
“. . . Pigfiddler?”
Mia blinked. “Pigfiddler was one of the most infamous Dweymeri pirates who ever lived. Surely you’ve heard of him?”
“I was never one for history. What was he infamous for?”
“Fiddling with pigs.1 He terrorized farmers from Stormwatch to Dawnspear for almost ten years. Had a three- hundred- iron bounty on him in the end. No hog was safe.”
“. . . What happened to him?”
“The Luminatii. Their swords did to his face what he did to the pigs.”
“So. Your name cannot be Tric.”
The boy stared her up and down, expression clouded. But when he spoke, there was iron in his voice. Indignity. A well- nursed and lifelong anger.
“My name,” he said, “is Tric.”
The girl looked him over, dark eyes narrowed. A puzzle, this one. And sure and certain, our girl had ever the weakness for puzzles.
“Mia,” she finally said.
The boy walked slow and steady across the tiles, paying no attention to the black beneath him. Extending one hand. Calloused fingers, one silver ring—the long, serpentine forms of three seadrakes, intertwined—on his index finger.
Mia looked the boy over, the scars and ugly facial tattoos, olive skin, lean and broad shouldered. She licked her lips, tasted sweat.
The shadows rippled at her feet.
“A pleasure to meet you, Dona Mia,” he said.
“And you, Don Tric.”
And with a smile, she shook his hand.
1 O, stop giggling and grow up.
About Jay Kristoff
Jay Kristoff is a New York Times and international bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. He grew up in the second most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.
His LOTUS WAR trilogy was critically acclaimed in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, nominated for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards and won the 2014 Aurealis Award. Jay’s new series, the SciFi thriller THE ILLUMINAE FILES, was co-authored with Amie Kaufman. Book 1, ILLUMINAE, became a New York Times and international bestseller, was named among the Kirkus, Amazon and YALSA Best Books of 2015 and won the 2016 Aurealis Award and an ABIA Book of the Year award. ILLUMINAE is currently slated to be published in twenty five countries, and film rights have been acquired by Brad Pitt and Plan B Entertainment.
Jay’s new fantasy series, THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, commences with book 1, NEVERNIGHT, from St Martins Press/Thomas Dunne Books and Harper Voyager in 2016. A new YA series, LIFEL1K3 has also been acquired by Knopf/Random House Kids, and commences publication in 2018. Jay is as surprised about all this as you are. He is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.
Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13,030 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.
He does not believe in happy endings.
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