Review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

“Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .”

I’m not to sure how to start with this review.  I found The Hazel Wood a real book of 2 halves, one half was very contemporary and not what I would have traditionally expected from a fantasy whereas the other was dark, twisted and incredibly chilling to read at times.  I found that not only did I feel this way with the story but also with the characters too.  I struggled immensely with the  main protagonist Alice, I really couldn’t warm to her at all and given her character arc perhaps there is good reason for her being written that way.  Whilst she has clearly had to build up walls from the nomadic existence she has had with her mother, I just found her very frustrating in her manner.  Juxtaposed with Ellery Finch, her partner in crime of sorts, it really brings out her brattish qualities. Ellery is fabulous though and despite his privilege and flaws I just really enjoyed his character.  His fanboy status in relation to the book written by Alice’s grandmother also gives us an insight into a few of the dark stories themselves, as he re-tells them to Alice in his own words.

For me the contemporary element was a bit too overwhelming, the breadcrumbs had to be laid and followed in true Hansel and Gretel style but I felt that it took a bit too long to get to where it needed to go.  However, when it reached that point I really started to enjoy it more, the pace picked up and I got a sense of both excitement and dread as I was reading.  The story telling becomes darker and you know you are very much in the Grimm fairy tale camp rather than Disney. Tricks and twists are plenty as Alice tries to fulfil an almost prophetic course to an ending which isn’t quite what you may be expecting.

Whilst I enjoyed it immensely in places, at times I found it a bit of a slog – I need more fantasy in my fantasy.  I think it would have been lovely as well to actually have more of the “Tales from the Hinterland” stories within the book as I feel that could have really added an extra dimension to the latter part of the story.  For me The Hazel Wood gets 3*



Fairyloot Unboxing – February Twisted Tales Box

I am so late with getting this up, I’ve had my box now for a week but what with everything going on with the new site I haven’t had the chance to post my unboxing of yet another fabulous Fairyloot box!  All the items featured this month are again exclusive to Fairyloot including the book which had a cover just for them.

The February theme is Twisted Tales and had a real Grimm’s fairytales feel to it.  It was packed with tons of awesome stuff nearly all of which was fantastically practical.  The first item was a wonderful ceramic mug from Anjuli Art, this was the second time I have an item from them within the box (the first was the Lady’s that Slay booksleeve which I use all the time!) and it’s really lovely.  There are lots of little scenes from different Grimm’s tales incorporated on there, it’s one of those items that you spot something new about each time you look at it.   This box was also the first time that I had an exclusive “by Fairyloot” item, cute little witch and gingerbread house socks, I’ve not worn them yet, but there’s a #socksunday coming up on Instagram so I’ll break them out for that!  Alongside of some (cruelty free) poisoned apple bath salts from Little Heart, there was also an item from my favourite bookish merch seller.  I LOVE Ink and Wonder designs especially their gorgeous sustainable woodmarks, in this months box there was a Little Red Riding hood themed woodmark which I have been using whilst reading this months featured book.

The book this month was The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert and there was also a linked in themed candle from Wick and Fable.  The candle is very unusual which I like (it makes me think I may not be too far off with an idea I have for this blog) It’s named “The Hinterland” based on a place within the story and the smell is Oak Moss and Tea Leaves, it really gives off an autumn forest aroma and I do strangely like it.  I finished reading the Hazel Wood tonight, in keeping with the box theme it’s all about dark fairy tales and I will try and get my review up tomorrow.

If you think you would love to have any of the exclusive items mentioned in my Fairyloot unboxing posts, then all is not lost.  There is a facebook group for buying, selling and trading Fairyloot items which you may like to join and maybe you can find that special item you were after, you can join the group here

Thats it for this months Fairyloot, next month will be Memorable Moments and it’s their anniversary box, so I’m hopeful for lots of good things!

Song of Dragon Series Double Cover Reveal with Megan Linski

Title: Song of Dragonfire Series
Author: Megan Linski
Genre: YA Fantasy, Reverse Harem
Cover Designer: Catnip Designs
Publisher: Gryfyn Publishing
Publication Date: Mar. 6th, 2018
“Smoke. Fire. Air.
All three are required to make me whole.
I need the love that burns within them all.
I need my dragons.”
Fliss thought war ended when she saved Krakow, yet war has yet to begin. Her dragon Smok has vowed to protect her, but not even he can stop the threat that looms over Poland.
Then Fliss discovers a shocking secret— Smok’s brothers are still alive, and she’s loved all of them before in her past lives.
A journey across fae kingdoms and siren realms reveals the truth of her dark heritage. With three dragons at her side, Fliss must reassemble the events of history and solve the mystery of who has been hunting her across centuries.
Yet Fliss has roused the wrath of gods… and there will be no mercy.
Will her dragons be able to save Fliss from death once again? Or do the gods have other plans?
“Please… don’t let me lose my dragons.”
Wounded. Crippled. Unable to harness her magic. After suffering a painful defeat and barely escaping with her life, Fliss and her three dragons are on the run from Natska, the dark fae queen who is also Chernobog, the goddess of death… and Fliss’ sister.
They can no longer fight Natska on their own. Fliss must seek out the city of sirens and search for a master who can teach her the strength of her song, but few are willing to aid her on their quest. A war of gods and men has broken out across the realm, and the magical community is in shambles.
If Fliss doesn’t gain control of her powers, she’ll plunge the world into an eternal darkness from which it will never recover.
The goddess of song will rise to battle the goddess of chaos– and the victor will change Poland forever.
Megan Linski is the owner of Gryfyn Publishing. She is best known for her popular series The Shifter Prophecy, The Kingdom Saga, and The Rhodi Saga, as well as recognized for her work on the Creatures of the Lands series. In 2014, Linski published the Creatures of the Lands series in Lison’s honor.
Linski is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, and is an active fighter against common variable immune deficiency disorder.
Author Links:
Buy Link:
Song of Smoke & Fire:
Change of Wind & Storms:
World of Gods & Men:

Bookish Ramblings: Book buying level critical!

Well I promised I would be back with some ramblings today and I think I have a major problem.  I need to be put on a book buying ban!  In fairness to me, most of my purchases were entirely justified and necessary…..mostly.

How do I justify this, well for a start 2 of them were pre-orders for 2 of my most anticipated reads of 2018.  Legendary by Stephanie Garber, is being released by Waterstones with a signed copy option!  There was no difference in price to the usual hardback so I was in there like a shot, I can’t wait to receive this, not only because of the signed edition but i’m also intrigued to see if there are different images under the dust cover like there were with Caraval.   My second pre-order was for A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas.  I had toyed for long time with purchasing the Illumicrate Starfall edition but I also have to adult and £60 for a book box could not be justified.  All is not lost though, the good people at Bloomsbury are offering a special edition pin with pre-order proof of puchase, if you have pre-ordered (or were going to) then you can find the sign up form here  The ACOTAR series pretty much broke me last year, but I can’t help but go back in for more!

Talking of the good people at Bloomsbury, they have just had the most wicked sale, with a huge 40% off some titles.  All of Sarah J Maas titles were included (and if I had the money I would have picked them all up in hardback) and I managed to snag the rest of the Throne of Glass series, which at 5 books remaining was quite the box that arrived today!  Mr Playground pretended not to notice.  I hope that Bloomsbury holds these types of sales regularly and I will let you all know next time so you can hopefully take advantage of this amazing offer – they were even cheaper than the great and powerful Zon!

My only let down was my copy of Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, in no way a problem with the story but more with Book Depository who I will never buy from again.  Those who know me know I am incensed by publishers adding promotion stickers directly in the cover, so not a peel off, but a never to be shifted blemish on the beautiful cover art.  I was delighted therefore to find that book depository were offering 2 versions of the book, one with and one without the hideous sticker – sadly despite the advertised product, I received the stickered version.  What followed was probably one of the worst customer service exchanges I have ever experienced, I felt openly mocked by them by the end of it and I just don’t have the time in my life to argue with them any more – they have lost me as a customer.  The thing is, this wasn’t a “must buy” for me this month but I felt I couldn’t pass over the opportunity to get the cover I wanted and I could have got the version I received cheaper elsewhere. c’est la vie I have heard a couple of rave reviews about it this week so i’m sure I’ll get the chance to get stuck in….eventually……

How about you? Please let me know I’m not the only one who can’t stop buying books!

A Song of Summer Lost Release Blitz & Giveaway with Sarah Negovetich

Title: A Song of Summer Lost
Author: Sarah Negovetich
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Jasmine at Glamma X Graphics
Editor: Tia Bach at Indie Books Gone Wild
Proofreader: Krystal Wade at Indie Books Gone Wild
Publication Date: Feb. 26, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Princess Caolainn of the Summer Court has her entire future planned out for her: assume the throne, marry the man her father selects, and produce an heir. A life that promises more isolation inside the stone walls of her castle and none of the passion she yearns for.
When the King does an about-face and approves her request to travel to the human realm, Caolainn is granted a few short months to taste freedom and live the life she’s only ever dreamed about. But when an ancient enemy threatens both realms, will Caolainn choose the life planned for her or the one written in her heart?
Sarah Negovetich knows you don’t know how to pronounce her name and she’s okay with that.
Her first love is Young Adult novels, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty; it’s accurate if not exactly motivational. We should come up with a better cliché.
Sarah divides her time between writing books that her husband won’t read and performing on stage at BE Theatre. Her goal in life is to never grow up.
Author Links:
“I’m going to hurt you,” I choked out. “Hurt both of us.” The words pumped out of me in between great gulps of breath and choking cries.
“I know,” he said softly, holding me even tighter.
“Then why aren’t you running for the door?” I asked into his chest, his damp shirt sticking to my face.
“Because that’s not how life works. I didn’t fall in love with you because it would guarantee me a future of sunshine and rainbows. I don’t even think I made a conscious decision to do it. It just happened. And if that means I get hurt in the end, then that will just happen too.” He rubbed at my back and planted a soft kiss on top of my head. “Our lives don’t get perfectly composed endings with a fancy coda like a classical piece of music. They are messy and complicated and sometimes they don’t make any sense.”
I used a dry inch of his shirt to wipe at my eyes and looked up at him. “Then why do we bother?”
            David let out a sad huff of laughter. “Because the alternative isn’t really living at all.”

The Stone Queen Release Blitz with L.E. Bross

Title: The Stone Queen
Author: L.E. Bross
Genre: YA Fantasy
Cover Designer:
Publication Date: Feb. 26th, 2018
An empty throne.
A fairy realm on the verge of ruin.
THE STONE QUEEN is the tale of a girl who has spent her life trying to forget who she is—and the kingdom that will die if she succeeds.
A thousand years ago the only surviving heir to Alcaria disappeared and the throne stood empty. Over time, the entire kingdom succumbed to The Sleep of Stone, the silent death of a leaderless faery realm. On the verge of Midsummer’s Eve, time is up and Alcaria can be claimed by any with royal blood, Light or Dark.
Eighteen-year-old Merci lives a meaningless existence in the Bronx. Expelled from school, she spends her days dodging her prostitute mother and chasing her next high. As long as it dulls the pain and makes the shadows that follow her disappear, she doesn’t care how or where she gets it.
But her risky behavior is about to catapult her into a world unlike any she’s ever seen in her alcohol-fueled dreams. A tumble off a rooftop should end her life, but instead of falling to her death, she lands in the arms of a stone gargoyle come to life.
And that’s only the beginning.
When she’s attacked in the middle of Central Park, the same gargoyle comes to her rescue, but this time, he has a story to tell—one that changes everything she thought she knew about her life and who she really is.
That is, if she chooses to believe him and embrace the truth; That she was born to be a Queen.
L.E. Bross is the NA/adult contemporary pen name of YA writer Lee Bross. Her sexy New Adult SECOND CHANCE series debuted In 2015 and her adult contemporary debut, THE DO OVER came out in 2016.
Most recently she has stepped into self publishing with THE STONE QUEEN, a YA fantasy novel that is the first book in a planned trilogy. L.E. Bross lives in Maine with her husband, sons and many four legged fur babies.
Author Links:
Buy Link:
Chapter One
The car lights below crawled along like ants on their way to a midnight picnic.
I was the giant in my own surreal fairytale, ready to stomp down and squash them with my huge boot. I stretched my arms out and shouted into the night. “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.” My foot slipped off the ledge and giddy laughter bubbled from my throat. I barely managed to keep from tumbling over the side. A tiny blip of fear cut through the fog of alcohol in my head.,
I looked over my shoulder and winked at Torin to dispel the thick nothingness that was always present in my gut. Being this close to the edge always made my thoughts heavier.
Sometimes it took all my will to step back and not forward.
“Get away from the edge, Mer.”
Torin’s gravel-filled voice washed over my bare arms and I shivered in pleasure. He was the only good thing in my life. Without him…
“Would you even miss me if I was gone?” I hated the neediness that crept into my voice. I stopped relying on other people a long time ago, but Torin had found a way under the armor I wore. Now I cared, and some days I hated him for it.
He lit a joint and leaned back against an old rusted roof vent. His black leather jacket pulled tight across his arms as he squinted at me through the smoke. I could feel his gaze moving up and down my body and I loved the thrill it gave me.
“Hell yeah, I’d miss you.”
Satisfied for the moment, I jumped. My boots thudded when they hit the roof and I sauntered over to the makeshift table we set up. A board across a couple of milk crates was all we needed. Torin watched me, his eyes half closed. I already knew what he wanted. That look on his face said it all.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to give it to him or not. I’d been in a weird headspace all day and even though we were celebrating, a part of me just wanted to be alone. I leaned down and grabbed the almost empty bottle of bottom shelf whiskey and straightened.
“To forgetting,” I shouted and tipped the bottle back, guzzling until it was empty. I threw my arms wide and laughter poured from my throat. The bottle clunked at my feet. It didn’t matter how I’d gotten to this point anymore. The alcohol kept the shadows away, and that’s all I cared about.
The roof spun in crazy circles around me, whizzing by like some twisted carousel ride, making me lose my balance and stagger sideways. The laugh that burst free was anything but joyful.
Torin’s fingers slid over my shoulder and cupped my breast. Hot lips pressed against my neck and I couldn’t help the involuntary shudder of pleasure that rippled through me. He always knew all the right spots. I let my head fall back onto his shoulder and looked up. The stars danced above us, brighter than ever before. An orgy of gyrating fireflies that I wanted to reach up and pluck from the air. To put in a glass jar and remember how beautiful they were tonight.
To tuck away and take out when I needed the reminder that life wasn’t all dark shadows and despair.
With a loud sigh, I stepped out of his embrace and dropped into a rickety old lawn chair.
“Not now, I just want to enjoy this.” I waved my hand upwards.
“Babe seriously? I thought we were celebrating?” He stepped behind me and brushed his fingers over the back of my hair. God, it felt good to be touched. I closed my eyes and lost myself in the sensation. He was the only person I let do this. The only person I let close enough to.
“Maybe later, ‘kay?” I reached behind me to run the back of my fingers along his rock-hard stomach. He sucked in a breath and pressed my hand lower, to an even harder part of him. My stomach clenched and my pulse sped up. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to strip him down and let him make me forget about the noise in my head for a while.
But the respite was always temporary.
Even with the bottle of whiskey sitting in my guts I knew I couldn’t escape it. I hated the darkness that was always around the edges. It felt like the shadows watched, waited for me to give up.
All of a sudden, the weight of the city air settled over me so thick that breathing felt more like drowning.
“I just want to be alone for a little while. Later?”
Torin sighed and brushed his lips over the top of my head. “This was supposed to be your birthday celebration, Mer. You sure?”
I was eighteen today. It seemed like it should be an important milestone, but all it did was remind me that nothing had changed. Another year gone. Time moved faster, speeding toward a giant black void. That scared the hell out of me. Now what danced through my head in a constant chant.

Website Launch – Giveaway!

Hello everyone, I’m so happy that after a week of beavering away I have the new blog website up and running, I hope you like what I have done with it.  Those of you following me from Blogger will have seen that I have still been posting reviews from the team this week but today is my official launch! To those of you joining for the first time, welcome and I hope you find your next great read here!

I will be back with my traditional bookish ramblings tomorrow, I have lots to talk about as it’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted one.  But for today…….

To thank everyone for their patience whilst I got this up and running and as a welcome to new readers I would like to hold a special giveaway!  I was lucky enough to receive a paperback ARC of Furyborn by Claire Legrand and I would like to pass that on to one of you!  This is a highly anticipated YA Fantasy that isn’t due for release until the 22nd May!

You can enter via the rafflecopter link below and all you need to do is follow me on my social media platforms.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review of Lovelock Ones by Tricia Copeland

“A post-apocalyptic/dystopian science-fiction adventure…
Jema and Troy manage semi-normal lives at the Port Orford Naval Base despite global warming and mandatory genetic typing. With the threat of a second worldwide flu epidemic, their parents send them to a remote desert community. Jema’s sister contracts the virus, and Jema and Troy must decide whether to compromise the group to save one. Can Lovelock develop a cure in time to avoid mass casualty? As the political stage shifts, who can be trusted?”
I really liked how this book was straight into things right from the beginning, Jema and Troy live in a world that is segmented and always in fear of the virus returning the change the world from a lush and thriving world to one where there are stretches of barren land and city’s long forgotten. As they weren’t alive they have no idea on what things were like before or during the virus but they do know that your genetics were what allowed you to survive or succumb to the virus and now… it’s back. They are polar opposites but after been thrown together by their Fathers to help take a group of people including their family they start to build a bond that means so much more than they realize. We see them grow up, use the survival skills they learnt growing up and find out who they really are in more than one way, as well as see how ruthless the world and those who control it are. There are times you don’t know who to trust, who will survive and what crazy twist will happen next as well as some tense and happy times. You definitely want to make yourself comfortable for when you start as I didn’t put this down until the end.
Lovelock Ones is currently available through Amazon

Review of Outliers by Kate L Mary

In the dusty ruins of the world, three groups exist: the Sovereign, the Fortis, and the Outliers. Within their walled city, exclusive access to the only remaining technology gives the Sovereign an advantage that seems impossible to beat. In exchange for meager scraps and free reign outside the walls, they use the brawn of the Fortis to their advantage while the Outliers struggle to survive. Living on land that has not healed from the poison of the past, and surrounded by dangers too numerous to count, the Outliers have adapted – but to the Sovereign and the Fortis, they are nothing.

I don’t know what it was about the cover art and the synopsis of Outliers, but something drew me to this book and I knew I had to read it. From the moment I started reading I was hooked. I loved the characters and the story so much that I couldn’t put it down. The story is well written, and I could tell that Kate L. Mary put a lot of thought into each character and the cultures they come from. Most dystopian stories have the “low born” and the “high born” and sometimes you even get the “middle born”. While Outliers has that same societal structure, I think Kate L. Mary has a refreshing approach on how Indra, the main character, views her world. I was glad that I didn’t find myself thinking of similarities between this book and other dystopian novels I have read. Without giving too much away, there was one point that I did wonder if the story could have been inspired by something else I had seen, and I was pleasantly surprised when Kate L. Mary confirmed that thought in her Acknowledgments. As I said though, it was just a moment, so it wasn’t any specific detail or feeling throughout the rest of the book.

Kate L. Mary seems to really understand that what makes a person isn’t just one moment in their life, but a series of events that can break them or build them into something new. I really liked that the characters grew or changed into new people gradually instead of them becoming an extreme version of themselves suddenly. I think that is why I felt so protective over the people in the story, not like an over-protective parent, but more like a guardian that wants to encourage them to become stronger by learning from their mistakes. In too many books the main character is almost immediately the one who doesn’t want to conform or knows without a doubt that there’s something wrong with how things are being done and that something should change. I think I used the word refreshing earlier, but I’m going to use it again: I feel like Outliers is a refreshing take on the dystopian future story.

The story and characters are amazing, and I cannot wait to read the next book and more stories by Kate L. Mary. BUT, as much as I would love to give this book 5 stars, I grudgingly must give it only 4 stars. As I said, I loved the story, but the ending just left me so confused, for lack of a better term. The book didn’t seem to end in a place that made sense. After I was done, I waited a day and then read the whole book again, just to make sure that when it ended I would have the same feeling as the first time, and I did. The book is a decent length but ending the way it did made it feel too short. Once I took more time away from the book I could tell that it kind of needed to end how and where it did for the next book in the series to have a good starting place, but I still feel a little cheated.

There are a few other reasons for the grudging 4 stars. There are a few misspelled words that I wasn’t sure if they were a result of reading a digital copy or if they were missed by author and editor. I have seen it happen before and was able to compare the digital version to the physical version to confirm that it was just the digital copy but wasn’t able to do that in this case. Another reason is that at one point, the main character’s attention is caught by something, but that something is never addressed by the character out loud or in thought afterwards. I made a note of the event wondering if maybe it would become relevant later in the story, but it never came up. That could be one of the reasons I felt like it was too short, because in my head I had this idea that the tidbit I had caught onto was going to lead to something that aided the character in some way.

Despite how I felt about the ending, Outliers is an amazing book and I would suggest that anyone who enjoys dystopian novels, add this to your list of “must reads” and I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did.

Outliers is currently available for pre-order at Amazon and is due for release on the 6th March.

Addendum:  Kate L Mary has advised that the copy provided for review had not been through the final stages of edits and was therefore not fully checked for spellings/grammatical errors at the time of submission to us.

Outliers Pre-Order Blitz with Kate L Mary

Title: Outliers
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: Adult Dystopian
Publisher: Twisted Press
Publication Date: Mar. 6th, 2018
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
In the dusty ruins of the world, three groups exist: the Sovereign, the Fortis, and the Outliers. Within their walled city, exclusive access to the only remaining technology gives the Sovereign an advantage that seems impossible to beat. In exchange for meager scraps and free reign outside the walls, they use the brawn of the Fortis to their advantage while the Outliers struggle to survive. Living on land that has not healed from the poison of the past, and surrounded by dangers too numerous to count, the Outliers have adapted – but to the Sovereign and the Fortis, they are nothing.
Indra is an Outlier. Each day she braves the wastelands, making the dangerous journey from the wilds where she lives to the City so she can serve the Sovereign in order to give her family a better life. Inside the walls, she has no rights and no freedom. Not only is she powerless to resist the Sovereign’s harsh rule, but she is also unable to do anything to save her people from the brutality of the Fortis. For centuries they have made their abuse of Outliers a sport, but when Asa comes to Indra’s rescue, she sees something different in him. Something that marks him as so much more than just a Fortis guard.
But as Indra’s world begins to unravel, even the quiet alliance she has formed with Asa cannot save her from the wrath of the Sovereign. In one life-altering moment, everything Indra has ever known is ripped away, forcing her to face a world even more harsh and unforgiving. Broken and scarred, Indra finds herself on a journey that will challenge everything she’s ever been taught, learning along the way that she’s stronger than she ever imagined. Maybe even strong enough to free her people forever.  
Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead, to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Her YA book, When We Were Human, was the 2015 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal Winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner for Young Adult Science Fiction.
Author Links:
Pre-Order Links:
“He is in love with you,” Mira finally said.
The statement warmed my cheeks even though I had already come to this conclusion. “I know.”
“And you?” She glanced my way, not turning her head completely when she did it, as if she thought it would make me more likely to answer her honestly. As if she thought I was hiding something from her. “Do you love him?”
“I know nothing about him, but the answer would be no either way. I love Bodhi. I would not have married him otherwise. Plus, no matter what Asa does to help me, an Outlier cannot be with a Fortis. It is impossible.”
“Why?” Mira asked.
I turned my body to face her, walking sideways so that my back was to the Lygan Cliffs even though I had been taught to never lose my focus in this way. “Because we are not the same.”
“Now you sound like one of the Sovereign.” Mira’s blue eyes rolled in their sockets, but her lips pulled up into a smile that helped to ease some of the sting her words had brought to me. “We are the same, Indra. We are all people. We have just been trained to believe that we are different.”
I opened my mouth to argue with her, but no words came out. She was right. Sovereign, Outlier, Fortis, we were all just people. The only thing that kept us apart were the walls that had been constructed years ago, both the physical ones and the ones that existed only in our minds. Those were built on oppression and prejudices so old that no one alive today had a clue why they even existed.
A click echoed off the rocks at my back, followed closely by a few more. In front of me, my friend’s body went rigid. I spun to face the cliffs, the knife in my hand up and ready as more clicking rang through the air. But there was nothing in sight. Not yet, anyway.
“Where is it?” Mira hissed.
At my side, she too had her knife up. This was a position we had been in before, and as long as there was only one of the creatures, we knew what to do to defend ourselves. The problem would come if they were hunting in a pack. One lygan was dangerous enough, but four or five? We would not be able to beat that many.
We remained still. The clicks grew closer together and louder, but with the way the sounds echoed off the rocks, it was impossible to tell how many there were until the creature—or creatures—decided to show themselves.
“Be ready,” I said for my benefit as much as for hers.
The hiss came first. It was a sound that was low and seemed to come from the deepest part of the animal’s belly, and it was followed only a beat later by the appearance of the lygan itself. The creature was bigger than average, its tail as long as my arm and its body only a little shorter. Its claws clicked across the rocks as it scurried forward, seeming to move at an impossibly fast speed considering its stunted legs. The red and purple scales shone even in the limited light of the evening as the lygan twisted between the sharp rocks that made up the cliffs. Now that it was closer, the click of its claws seemed twice as loud, and when it hissed a second time, the sharp points of its teeth were visible.
Readying myself for a fight, I planted my feet. I knew from experience that the creature would pounce without warning, that was how Mira had been injured before, and I was ready when it finally flew through the air, headed right for me.
I slashed my knife up and the blade hit home on the lygan’s stomach. It screeched just before its body slammed into mine, and when I flew back a cry retched from my body on impact. We went down together, my back slamming into the dry ground and the lygan landing on top of me. It was injured and my knife was still in its belly, but it had not given up yet. The animal wiggled and snapped its jaw, and his teeth came close enough to my nose that I felt its moist breath against my face. His yellow eyes were focused on me, the black pupils dilated to slits. The scales were smooth against my hand when I grabbed its neck in an attempt to hold him back, and his claws scratched at my body as he tried to get the advantage.
Mira’s voice seemed far away, but I knew she was nearby and ready to help. Just as I had been with her the day she was attacked. Her face appeared above me. The setting sun shone down on her blond hair, making it glow, and in the brilliant light her passage markings seemed twice as dark against her pale skin.
The sun reflected off the metal when she raised her knife and I had to turn my head away. My hand was still on the lygan’s neck, holding the thing back as it snapped its teeth, but even before Mira had stabbed it I could feel its strength waning. Then she did, and when the knife entered the lygan’s body, the creature let out a shriek that left a ringing behind in my ears. The lygan jerked and its claws clamped down on my stomach, puncturing my dress and forcing a scream out of me. Mira pulled her knife from the creature and brought it down again, and this time the animal let out a drained wail that was preceded by its entire body going slack.
When that happened, its claws relaxed as well, freeing me from the piercing hold it had on my body. I shoved the animal off and it rolled to the ground at my side. Mira was panting, as was I, and for a beat neither one of us moved. She stayed frozen, standing over me while I remained on my back, staring up at her.