Publication date: February 10th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .
For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.
For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.
Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.
An arm reached out of the dark and wrapped around her neck.
She saw it coming from the corner of her eye, but only had time to twitch uselessly sideways. Another arm immediately followed the first one, muffling her startled cry and stealing her breath.
Too shocked to be afraid, she bit down. The hand over her face jerked away. Her elbow drove backwards and her heel went up into a knee. The awful crack of bone that followed drew a pained groan from behind her, and brought her panic in a thundering flood. Her attacker staggered, pulling her with him. The dropped candle sputtered on the floor beside them, throwing huge shadows everywhere. Spurred on by the thought that she might have to finish this struggle in the dark, she shouted. It was a much softer sound than she'd intended, but the floorboards above them creaked ominously, the arms around her fell away, and he screamed, as though she had burned him.
Leaving this mystery for later consideration, Kyali flung herself at the steps and scrambled up, leaving the back panel of her skirts in his fist. Her sword clattered on the floor as she snatched at it. He came hard on her heels and, as she turned, drove himself obligingly onto it for her. Stunned, she froze again.
Her blood sang in her ears. By the look on his face—a fair face, some much colder part of her noted, with the Western short-beard—he was at least as surprised as she was. He drew a bubbling breath. A dagger dropped from his hand and hit the floor between them.
They stared at one another.
He made an odd face then, and coughed a gout of blood all over her. She blinked through the drops. She knew she had to move—not dead till they stop bleeding, Father would say—but she couldn't. For all her years of study, all the secrecy and swordplay, she had never killed a man. She supposed, watching his face in a perversely distant way, that she still hadn't quite managed it. But he fell forward onto her then, going limp, and after the instinctive terror of having him land on her subsided the sight of his glassy gaze, of her old practice sword sticking out of his ribs, made it clear that she had done it now.
She watched his face closely while his blood dripped down her cheek. He didn't move. He seemed not to be bleeding anymore, though with all the blood on him already how could one tell? She didn’t intend to get closer to check. She couldn't hear anyone else in the house. Through the haze of shock, she was grateful the soldiers weren't here to witness this bizarrely personal moment.
Amy Bai has been, by order of neither chronology nor preference, a barista, a numbers-cruncher, a paper-pusher, and a farmhand. She likes thunderstorms, the enthusiasm of dogs, tall boots and long jackets, cinnamon basil, margaritas, and being surprised by the weirdness of her fellow humans. She lives in New England with her guitar-playing Russian husband and two very goofy sheepdogs.