Tag Archives: Fantasy

Book Review: ‘Aaru’ by David Meredith

Title: Aaru (The Aaru Cycle Book 1)

Published: 10th July 2017

Author: David Meredith

Facebook: www.facebook.com/DavidMeredithWriting

 

Synopsis:

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.

She is sixteen years old.

Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure.

A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model. Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.

What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2019 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book by a male author. A book about death, childhood loss and finding new ways of coping with changes happening around you. What if you didn’t need to say goodbye? Would you like your mind to live forever in nothing more than a computer world you can create things in if it meant you could stay – in a way – with the ones you loved?

Rose is sixteen and has almost come to terms with the fact that her time is almost up. She has leukemia and with time running out she needs a miracle of some sort. Her younger sister Koren, just a child herself at thirteen, isn’t ready to let her go, let alone their parents. The miracle they have been looking for comes in the form of Mr. Adams. He wants to help Rose in a way others haven’t managed before. She is reluctant at first but agrees to try one last thing. If it fails then she’s ready to let go, as she is just so tired of fighting and wants some peace. He starts with scanning her brain and then having sensors put on her head while she’s asked to think of happy thoughts. Her emotional output is key for this to work. She’s not sure what this will do but gives it a try hoping he will explain later. It’s not long before she feels herself left in the dark, quite literally, her fight with her body might be lost but what comes next?

When Rose’s mind wakes up she is in a virtual world and is greeted by Lady Hana of Tenkoku, who calls Rose her Veda. Within this world she soon sees that if they think of something it happens – like clothes to change into, buildings or plants to grow. The kingdom is a blank canvas for them to create a world to live in. There are ten kingdoms within Aaru, each with a Lord and Lady. Lord Mikoto of Tenkoku deals with security in their kingdom. His new Veda Franco seems to have been forgotten a little by him so he gets Hana to train him alongside Rose. It’s not long before other Vedas start to appear, all creating more within their kingdoms waiting for residents to arrive when the system goes live. Is all really happy in this make believe world though?

The Aaru world seems unbelievable to most outsiders and none more so than Rose’s family, especially her sister Koren who hasn’t been handling her sisters death very well. They are brought to the facility to be shown that they did “save” Rose. Her mind was essentially downloaded – memories, thoughts, emotions etc – into Aaru as a way to cheat death. Will it really be her though? Koren is asked to go towards a computer and call out her sister’s name. When Rose comes to the screen it’s enough to knock them all over, this is the proof that Elysian Industries needed them to see. Now that they have they want to use Koren to help sell the idea of Aaru to the US market. A young pretty face that they can doll up to their own means to get the job done. But how far are they willing to go to sexualize this child for their product? What will be the consequences for when they do?

Aaru seems like the perfect place to live in but there are those that are troubled by what it means to be there. They are told to be happy and most seem to be but when they have thoughts or memories that turn darker they seem to be stopped. You can think of them like a story but not really feel the emotions that go with them. Almost like the system won’t allow you. With this being a programme you have to wonder what fail safes are in place, not only to protect its residents mental wellbeing but also their safety. Computer programmes can always be hacked, dangers are out there that can’t always be seen.

These dangers come in the form of Magic Man, a character used to create a darker side to the story. He is an online predator who takes an unhealthy obsession with Koren. Hacking into systems to get videos and images of her to feed his needs. That’s just the start with his plans. If he can hack a live feed how long before he tries to get into Aaru? The system might have many fail safes in place but is anyone really safe when predators are at bay?

There was an interesting twist with a character at the end that you won’t see coming. Setting it up for what’s to come and how both worlds will collide are an interesting concept. The story was well written with interesting ideas but I felt that some of the content turned me off the story. Had I been more aware of the darker theme content to begin with then I might have been better prepared. I do feel because of this that there should really be a content warning due to sensitive subjects within like stalking, paedophilia, child pornography and exploitation.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Realm of Mindweavers’ by Marianne Ratcliffe

Title: Realm of Mindweavers (Book One – Tales of Golmeira)

Published: 16th January 2017

Author: Marianne Ratcliffe

 

Synopsis:

A ruler is betrayed and his young daughter is forced to flee or die. 

Teenage Zastra is a big disappointment to her father, Leodra, ruler of Golmeira, because she hasn’t got what it takes to become a mindweaver, one of the highly valued few who can manipulate the thoughts of others. Things get much worse for Zastra when she is roused from her bed to find that Leodra has been betrayed and her beloved Golmer Castle overrun with enemy soldiers. She escapes via the castle’s ancient underground tunnels, only to be faced with a terrible choice. Hunted across the turbulent landscape of Golmeira, Zastra must rely on her wits and the help of strangers as she tries to outrun the powerful forces set upon her trail.

 

Realm of Mindweavers is the first book in the Tales of Golmeira series. If you enjoy page-turning adventure stories with strong female protagonists such as Trudy Canavan’s Black Magician series or Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, you’ll love these books.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2019 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book by an author new to you.

Zastra is the daughter of the Leodra, Grand Marl of Golmeria, and he hopes that she has the mindweaver power, one needed to protect their realm. She was young to be tested at 13 and first thought is that she doesn’t have any powers. She might not have mindweaver power but she does have the ability to resist the power being used on her. A new power that could be of some use in times of need but not so good from her fathers point of view as he needs more mindweavers to be able to protect them against their enemies. He may look down on her a little after this but its not like he has any powers, her mother Anara on the other hand can sense the fears and emotions of others. His hopes might have to be saved for his baby twin’s Kastara and Findar.

Zastra has people on her side to help her. Dobery a mindweaver was the first to sense something different with her mind. Could help her develop her abilities to be able to detect and block other mindweavers. Could she help others too? Martek the master at arms fighting skills teacher and mindweaver could come in handy with what he might teach her. There is also Teona, a high master, teacher and mindweaver. She seems intrigued that Zastra’s skill is different, wanting her to train it. Zastra might be wary of her as a teacher to begin with but she is a great help in a time of need.

Enemies are what her father is worried of but maybe he should look closer to home. All the Marls are coming to Golmeria for a summit, her father wants to pass new laws but others seem apposed to them. Could this be the start to a coup from dangers unseen? He thinks that by having his brother Thorlberd Marl of Bractaris, along with his young son Rastran, stay for months that they can figure out what his enemies, the Kyrg who fight for coin, plans are. Will he figure things out too late?

Figuring out the dangers the Kyrg cause brings together one of Leodra laws he wants to change. It seems that old wars between two sets of land have caused nothing but trouble for years. To try to find a way of peace he invites Mendoraz, Lord of Sendor, and his children Kylen and Zadorax to talks about how to move forward. With troubles brewing it looks like blame is being focused on them rather than who is really at the helm. Especially after a Caralyx creature gets within the castle grounds heading for an attack on the children. Good job that Zastra is handy with a bow. Slow on the uptake on seeing things clearly and it might be too late with what comes next.

Zastra is going to need to be strong for her siblings when dangers come calling. Can she keep both of them and herself safe? She just needs to be careful whom she puts her trust in. Sometimes strangers might actually be best to help get somewhere safe. She needs to find people who are still loyal to her father to create a resistance. To do that she first has to outrun her enemies chasing her. To do this she has to make a difficult decision to keep them all safe. Hiding in plain sight might work for a while but she vows to return to put things right. Trouble and danger follow her on her journey, she must always stay on the move to keep everyone safe.

Interesting start to the series, sets things up nicely for how the world might evolve around them. War and battles are coming so she needs to look further afield to find those that will help. She always has those true to her father that will step in when needed. Can they be pulled together to overthrow the evil powers that have taken control? Continue the story to find out.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author via Instafreebie for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Blood Moon – Part 1’ by S. Yurvati

Title: Blood Moon – Part 1 (Chroma Crossing Chronicles Book 1)

Published: 15th February 2016

Author: S. Yurvati

 

Synopsis:

Hunky pheromone-laden-man meets pretty accident-prone female—it should have been a love story with a happy ever after ending.

However, when the bored deities choose Candy and Thorne for an amusing game, the gods/goddesses put forth sets of circumstances that can tear the couple apart and wound them deep within their human souls.

City girl, Candy wanted to become a successful artist and maybe someday find a man who would make her feel loved and valued, a feeling she’d never known while growing up. However, with a name like ‘Candy Cane’, males never failed to remind her with a wink and snicker, how it sounded like she was a ‘professional’. And ‘professional’ held so many connotations, none of which she had in mind regarding relationships with men.

With her father’s sudden demise, Candy finds she’s inherited funds and a carriage house in beautiful historic Savannah. Not only can she now afford to go to SCAD, her future as an artist looks promising. Unfortunately her step-mom (and her disturbing son Todd) resides in the main house. When Candy gets her first commission for a life-sized portrait of a beautiful woman from a rather unsettling man, she soon questions what had seemed coincidental.

Candy is a modest female who has always found solace in her artwork, whereas her widowed step-mom, Cherry Ann, considers physical pleasure and money as her measures of worth. And as Candy pursues her art, Cherry Ann pursues a new lover who expands her world of sexual gratifications far beyond past parameters. Cherry Ann finds her new risqué sex life to be addictive and doesn’t recognize the danger of the man she’s invited into her life.

After surviving a couple of ‘accidents’, Candy realizes someone apparently wishes her harm. When she’s chased (by the one thing she fears most) Candy accidentally, or so it seems, crosses into a new dimension, land or whatever. She finds herself in an unknown wilderness without resources, let alone a map, or GPS, plus she left her cell phone at home—again. Looking around she sees a curious terrain that is void of color, thus leaving the landscape looking like an old sepia photograph, hardly the Savannah spring day she’d left behind.

The artist in her wants to understand how primary colors could disappear to leave a land so colorless . . . so entirely beige-ish. How could such a phenomenal occurrence come about? A land without modern conveniences—almost as though she’d stepped into a time past, yet that wasn’t quite accurate either.

As Candy literally stumbles through the wild terrain, an intriguing hunter comes upon her. His presence makes her girlie parts beg to become ill behaved, and before she knows it, her hormones are arguing with her strict moral compass.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2019 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book with a tree on the cover.

So this story starts with a bit of a fantasy vibe with a God and Goddesses coming together seemingly to cause a bit of trouble for some unsuspecting people from different realms. You have the Moon Goddess Luna, Mother Earth Em and Sol the Sun God. They meet every few centuries perhaps to play a game because they are bored and wish to be amused. The game this year is to pit a mundane human from the techno-plane against one from the mystica-plane and then choosing the season and realm they will meet on. Luna knows how the others can be cruel so needs to be the one to pick the season and realm so she can keep measure of the rules. Spring on mystica realm in Ky-Portus, where the techno guy is from. Sol picks a guy from techno and Em picks a girl from mystica, Savannah. Let the games begin, even if it does take a little while to get there that is.

We first meet Candy at her father’s funeral along with her step-mom number two Cherry-Ann and her son Todd – who is a little on the creepy side for with how much he clings to his mother’s side. Always there, always watching. The funeral happens to be a fiasco right from the start. Let’s just say that the man of the hour makes a bit of a talking point. It’s at the wake that Candy meets Mark, someone who makes her feel a little uneasy but she doesn’t know why just yet. When you find out more you will understand why she would get those kinds of vibes from him.

Candy is an artist; she likes the clean, white, blank sheet that has possibilities attached to it with what can be drawn. Look forward, never back. A comfort blanket of sorts as it’s something within her control that she can look after. A coping mechanism as no-one ever really looked after her as a child. This is the skill that Mark wants her for by requesting she does a portrait for a historic home renovation. He has a photo of a woman, Rebecca, from around 1874 and thinks it is the perfect choice for her to paint. The money is good and so is the challenge to paint her, but is there more to the deal than meets the eye. For reasons unknown he feels like she might be a threat to him. Could it because of a secret he holds about who, or maybe what, he really is?

Candy might be a bit of a loner but when she clicks with someone you know that there are good vibes flowing. This goes without saying for her new tenant Liam, who is renting the apartment in the carriage house, which her father left her. Doesn’t take long for a friendship to be formed or for him to get her to go out on ghost tours that he guides. Good to find out fun interesting facts about Savannah but not so good to have strange accidents occur. Stones falling from buildings are one thing but a hit and run might just be the start of what is to come. He might have just met her but feels very protect and close to his friend. One lovely thing he does is getting her a kitten for her birthday. Seems this little kitten has a story to tell all of her own – even gets her own POV. Coco is on her ninth life and this time round has a mission to accomplish. Protect Candy at all costs, though that might be easier after they fall into another realm. What have they got themselves into?

Now at times I did feel like there were just too many POV’s going on, with some not really being that relevant to the story at all. I was fine with the God and Goddesses at the beginning as they set the scene for what’s to come. The pirate ghosts made for interesting reading as you are left wondering where they might fit in and how they knew what game might be being played on Candy. I also liked the introduction of Rebecca through her diary, which shows just what certain characters are really like. The thing is you then had POV’s from Candy, Liam, Mark, Joe, Cherry-Ann, Todd, the cat Coco, and then finally Thorne. Joe the good Samaritan wasn’t really needed at all and even Cherry-Ann and Todd could have just been left as characters within either Candy, Liam, Mark, or even Coco’s, POV’s. Cutting it down might have got the story flowing quicker to get to the part where Candy finally meets Thorne – which isn’t until the end of the book. Lot’s of crazy, creepy, disturbing things happen before getting to that point so hold on for the ride.

Candy getting to Thorne though is where the story picks up a bit and gets a little more interesting. She just happens to meet him after being chased by dogs and then falling into another realm, one that happens to be devoid of any colour at all. Leaves on a bit of a cliff hanger with the hint of what might be to come. With cutting everything down though the blurb would make a bit more sense as it talks about Candy and Thorne being together but it takes a while before they meet. Everything might make a bit more sense in part two as it might show how all the characters are needed or not. Questions are left unanswered but it does leave you wanting more to see how the game plays out.

Note: I do think the book should have a trigger warning on it due to abuse, gang rape, incest story line and anxiety featuring high throughout.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Blog Tour: ‘The Princess and the Peacock’ by C.S. Johnson

The Princess and The Peacock

Who doesn’t love a great fairy tale retelling? That’s why I’m so pleased to share this lovely novella with you. I have an excerpt for you to read, and a chance to win your very own print copy of the book! Enjoy!

Book Cover

The Princess and the Peacock (Birds of Fae #1)

Publication Date: January 25th, 2019

Genre: Fantasy/ Fairy Tale Retelling

The first time I fell in love with Princess Mele was when I saw her smile, and I fell in love with her the second time the moment I heard her sing.

Two memories burn within Kaipo’s heart — the death of his mother, which left him alone to die, and the arrival of Princess Mele, which gave him a new reason to live. Together with his adopted brother, Kaipo seeks out Jaya, the Fae Queen who lives on the Forbidden Mountain, in order to gain the beauty he requires to win Mele’s heart. But Jaya has other plans for the scarred outcast who climbs up her mountain …

The Princess and the Peacock is the first in Birds of Fae, a fantasy fairy tale novella series from C. S. Johnson.

 

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Excerpt

THE PRINCESS AND THE PEACOCK: Kaipo desperately requests a wish from the Fae Queen, Jaya, after climbing up the Forbidden Mountain on Maluhia.

Desperate, I hold out my hands, palms upward, in a gesture of pleading. “Queen Jaya, I ask that you grant me my wish, as I stated, and as you promised. It is only fair, after all.”

“Dare you bother me in my own musings?” Jaya slams the end of her staff into the ground. The air around her whips out ferociously, as if her emotions stretch out far beyond her heart. “Very well then, Kaipo. I will grant your wish.”

She comes up in front of me, and I nearly stagger back at the overbearing fullness of her being. Her finger reaches out and touches my forehead.

Instantly, I am frozen; the essence of my soul shines as her power leeches into me. Just before my eyes go sightless, the last thing I see is her triumphant smirk.

“Yes,” she whispers, so softly I almost think I am imagining it. “I do believe this is just the magic needed to give you beauty Princess Mele will be unable to resist.”

Her words brush over me, leaving me weak with joy as my world is drowned with light, and I eagerly fall into its brightness.

For a moment, as I bathe in that transcendent sensation, I wonder if I had actually fallen off the mountain earlier, and this is just a final coming home into the arms of death.

“There.” Jaya’s voice echoes from far away, and behind her, I hear Rahj gasp in surprise. I try to smile, but I feel my face resist the movement.

Taking one last deep breath, I open my eyes.

A bouquet of dark, iridescent color swims before me, and it takes only two seconds before I realize every miracle I expected was horrifically wrong. Instead of scarless flesh, my arms have been transformed into wings of shimmering blue, with hints of green and black tipping off their feathers. My own body, once lean and hungry, is bulging out with meaty bird muscle, and my neck is three times as long. My legs are sticks with claws, and I can feel the ground part eagerly as I stumble, stabbing the divine earth as I go.

Jaya’s laughter follows me cruelly as I hurry around in a circle, frantically trying to find a way to see my new self.

“Here,” she says, and out of the middle of her meadow, a pond appears. I race toward it, ardently wishing this is all an awful misunderstanding of magic or even perhaps a friendly joke from Jaya.

But no; it’s not.

I glance into the water’s pond and freeze, taking in the sight before me in shaking horror.

My beady eyes, still their mix of green and brown, stare back full of fear. My shabby hair has been perked up into a colored crest on my small head, sticking straight up in the air, as the rest of my body gleams with an artful array of feathers.

I open my mouth to scream, but only a squawk sounds out. As I step back in fear, my tail feathers fan out, and I am vividly aware of the truth.

I am no longer a man; I am a peacock.

 

About the Author

Author-CS-Johnson

C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

CS Johnson | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Giveaway Time!!!

Just click the link below to win a paperback copy of The Princess and the Peacock!

 

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The Princess and The Peacock

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March 4th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://www.readsandreels.com

Port Jerricho (Review) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com

I Smell Sheep (Excerpt) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

Tsarina Press (Excerpt) https://www.tsarinapress.com

March 5th

Didi Oviatt (Review) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Stacy is Reading (Review) https://stacyisreading.blogspot.com/?m=0

Tranquil Dreams (Review) http://klling.wordpress.com

March 6th

Life at 17 (Review) https://lifeat17.wordpress.com

Breakeven Books (Review) https://breakevenbooks.com

Jessica Rachow (Review) http://jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Reading Nook (Excerpt) https://readingnook84.wordpress.com

March 7th

J Bronder Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

The Return Cart (Review) http://thereturncart.com

March 8th

Darque Dreamer Reads (Review) https://darquedreamerreads.wordpress.com

The Genre Minx Reviews (Excerpt) http://www.thegenreminx.com/

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Blog Tour: ‘One Flew Through the Dragon Heart’ by C.S. Johnson

OneFlew

I’m pleased to share this new book with you all today! One Flew Through the Dragon Heart is the first book in a new steampunk series by C.S. Johnson. Today I have an exclusive excerpt for you to read, and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book!

FavanFlowBook1Cover03.jpgOne Flew Through the Dragon Heart

Publication Date:December 21st, 2018

Genre: Steampunk/ Fantasy

A Chinese Legend. A British Secret. Star-Crossed Lovers with Incompatible Magic.

Brixton Flew works as a professor of wielder instruction at Rembrandt Academy, hoping to erase the regrets of his youth along with the resulting debt. But when he comes face to face with his biggest regret—the woman who broke his heart, Adelaide Favan—Brixton soon realizes his troubles have only begun.

Unable to control her magic, Adelaide knew leaving Brixton was the only way to protect him when they were younger. Now she discovers he is the key to recovering the Dragon Eyes, a legendary treasure connected to her magic and her family’s disgraced legacy—and she knows the risk is great, to both his life and her heart.

With others seeking the power of the Dragon Eyes, Brixton and Adelaide must outwit their foes and face down their families to save London from an ancient legend that sleeps beneath the magic portal in their city.

But the renewed passion growing between them may prove to be the greater peril …

One Flew Through the Dragon Heart is the first book in a new steampunk series by C.S. Johnson, blending together history, romance, mecha-dragons and magic against the glittering backdrop of 1880’s Victorian London.

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Excerpt

FavanFlowBook1Cover03

“Brixton.”

His sixteen-year-old self was scurrying past the materials room when he heard his name spoken with a soft, foreign lilt. The sound broke through him like a magic spell, disrupting his intellectual musings and forcing him into an uncomfortable position.

He was in a hurry; his professor would be upset if he was late for class. As a star pupil, Brixton knew he had a certain reputation to live up to, and he had learned well not to call any negative attention to himself.

But at the sound of Adelaide Favan calling for him, he felt helpless—helplessly nervous and helplessly intrigued. It was almost as if some part of him had been waiting for her to call, and he had been more than ready to answer.

Out of guilt, if nothing else.

He nearly lost his grip on the stack of books he carried as he stumbled to a stop and glanced back at the doorway to the materials room. He could see a slim shadow at the back, where her dark skirts whipped around as she moved between stations, pulling out supplies and looking for spare coils, cogs, or anything else she decided she needed.

He did not have the faintest notion why she would be calling him. Adelaide never seemed to talk to anyone unless it was out of necessity.

“Are you coming in or not?” Adelaide straightened, looking up at him from behind a thick pair of black-rimmed goggles, the kind that magnified her eyes behind the protective glass.

Brixton felt a quick twinge of regret. She always wore them when she was working on something. He had a sinking feeling he was going to be late for class—but he stepped into the room regardless.

“I’m surprised,” she said as he tentatively approached her.

“Why? You were the one who called me.”

“Is that what I need to do to get your attention?” Adelaide put her hands on her hips as she stepped back from the table, where a box full of wires and screws and other various building materials winked up at him.

Brixton felt his face turn red. “If you’re talking about earlier, I—”

“I don’t want to talk about earlier,” Adelaide said. “You know who my father is. Do you think your friends are the first people to make fun of me because of my family?”

“They’re not my friends. Not exactly.” Brixton sighed. “They’re just people we go to school with. You don’t have to be friends with them. You just have to get along with them until we graduate.”

“Is that your plan?”

He shifted his feet as the clocks chimed loudly, the pleasant ringing turning sour in his ears. He was officially late for class. Brixton glanced back at the door.

Adelaide did not pay attention to the clock. She saw to her work, fiddling with one of the gearshifts. Brixton noticed she was also still wearing her workshop gloves. Along with her goggles, they were a semi-permanent part of her wardrobe. They were thick and black, going up past her elbows. The school issued them as part of the engineering department; Brixton hated wearing them, since the synthetic material of the gloves interfered with his ability to use magic. Adelaide was the only one who consistently wore them.

“It’s mostly my plan,” he said, finally answering her.

“Seems like a silly plan, especially for the next four years.”

“Earlier, when those girls were picking on you, I didn’t say anything—”

“I said I didn’t want to talk about earlier. People have made comments about me all my life. Getting accepted into Rembrandt two years earlier than everyone else is merely another unearned privilege in their eyes.”

Her voice was calm, but Brixton saw that her fingers, even buried in her large gloves, shook ever so slightly.

“I don’t presume—”

“But you do.” Adelaide pushed up her goggles onto her forehead again, brushing back her long black hair.

Brixton hated how he stared at her. Up close, her eyes were cloudy gray, speckled over with a silver lining. He noticed they were slanted, ever so slightly; along with her flattened nose and full lips, there were plenty of hints at her Chinese heritage. He had heard the whispers of her family, especially her father, the famous Captain Favan who led Her Royal Majesty’s Airship Force.

That was one of the main reasons he had tried to befriend her before. Brixton had approached her when she was first introduced to their class, eager to talk about her father’s legacy and how it was his dream to be in the Airship Force one day, too. Adelaide had ignored him then, brushing off his introduction.

Remembering that, he frowned. She has some nerve, admonishing me for poor manners.

He cleared his throat to give himself a moment to recover. “You should know you’re presuming that I’m presuming something. I don’t know you well enough to presume anything.”

For the first time, Adelaide softened her expression. Brixton briefly wondered if he had hurt her feelings, or if it was possible he had successfully pointed out her double standards.

She tugged the goggles down over her eyes a moment later, returning to the project before her. She said nothing as she picked up a suturing iron and began to burn a twisted bunch of wires together.

For a long moment, Brixton watched her. Despite her gloves, her movements were very precise—so precise that they almost seemed awkward.

Just like the rest of her, he thought with a small smile.

Adelaide was fourteen years old, two years younger than everyone else at Rembrandt. She had transferred into the school during the middle of their second semester, and ever since their failed first meeting, Brixton kept his distance from her, even if he continued to watch her out of the corner of his eye. He knew the others in his class teased her for her youth, her connections, and her ancestry.

He could sympathize with her some in that regard, given he received plenty of his own mockery. He was only at Rembrandt because of his scholarship. Most of the students were from the aristocracy, and the idea of rich merchants or lower-class workers—such as his parents—sending their children to Rembrandt was nothing short of scandalous.

He easily dismissed those who badgered him; he was here for an education, and nothing more.

But as Brixton gazed down at Adelaide, he suddenly wondered if she was able to do the same.

She was such a small thing. She was not only two years his junior, but she was also at least a foot shorter. The Rembrandt Academy uniform nearly swallowed up her body. He could see her vest was pinned in the back, and her long skirt was clearly hemmed. Brixton had a feeling she liked to wear the goggles on her forehead if for no other reason than they lent her another two inches in height.

“Why did you call me?” Brixton asked, daring himself to speak again.

Adelaide bit her lip, and Brixton found himself staring again.

Finally, she sighed. “I need you.”

His breath caught and his body went still. He was only able to move after she added, “I need your help.”

The words came out with a ripe bitterness in each syllable, and Brixton almost laughed at her discomfort. It was clear she never asked for help if she could avoid it.

He cleared this throat again, swallowing the last of his laughter, and nodded. “Tell me what it is.”

“I need help assembling this,” Adelaide said, pointing to the neat array of metal scraps and parts before her.

“What is it?”

“A dragon heart.”

“Beg pardon?” Brixton dropped his books, missing the table and causing them to clatter to the floor. He was certain he had misheard her as he bent to pick them up, but he was even more surprised when she laughed.

Her eyes were pushed back into slits behind her goggles, giving her a wizened, animated look as her smile widened. Brixton stared at her as he picked up his books and stacked them neatly beside hers.

“I’m only kidding,” Adelaide said, before she arched her brow. “Or maybe I’m not. Either way, I need your help with this part.”

She opened the top panel and pointed to a small knot of wires lined with alloy and copper. “This is an energy loop I’ve been working on. It’s a special type of power source. The Board wants to develop more efficient batteries, especially since the Edison Project has shown promise. Now they want to see what the wielders can do to improve it.”

“I talked with Professor Ohm about this,” Brixton said. “He wanted to find a way to generate perpetual energy. He thought electricity could possibly be infused with magic.”

“I know. I overheard your conversation after class a few days ago.”

“You did?” Brixton took the suturing iron out of her hand.

“He was dismissive of the idea as an alternative life source, but he was interested in seeing if you could figure out how to make his own theories work.”

He bit down on his cheek. He knew which conversation Adelaide was referring to, and it was one where Professor Ohm spent several minutes admonishing him for his eclectic reading tastes.

“What?” Adelaide asked.

“It’s rude to eavesdrop.”

She jutted her chin forward. “It’s also rude to ignore people who need help.”

“I don’t know if you’re saying that to make me feel bad about before, or if it’s just to make sure I stay here and help you,” Brixton muttered. “Do you care to tell me which?”

“I have an extra pair of gloves if you need them,” Adelaide offered.

He rolled his eyes as she sidestepped his question. “I don’t use them if I can help it.” He called up the power that resided inside of him. He could feel it flowing from his heart down to his fingertips, filling his palm. “I like working with my hands better. It’s easier to conjure up my talent. That’s my magic, as you might have known already. I can build things. Anything, really.”

“Well, no wonder you’re so good at this.” Adelaide pouted as Brixton undid her work. “You’re using magic.”

“And you don’t? Why are you in school to be an engineering wielder if you’re not using magic?”

“I like working with machinery,” Adelaide said. “I’m here because Rembrandt produces the best engineers in London. The fact that it’s a magical school does nothing for me.”

“Do you even have magic at all? I thought that was a requirement for coming here.”

“It is.” Adelaide went silent, and for the first time, Brixton saw her blush. With the small patch of red on her cheeks, he could just make out a light trail of freckles across her nose.

“Ouch.” He flinched as the suturing iron slipped across his fingers.

“Pay attention to what you’re doing. You don’t have to worry about my talent right now. All you need to know is that it’s not helping me fix this.” She crossed her arms and looked away.

“Right.” Brixton turned back to the item in front of him.

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About the Author

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C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me

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Feb. 25th

Reads & Reels (Excerpt) http://readsandreels.com

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Love Books Group (Interview) https://lovebooksgroup.com/

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The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/

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Where Dragons Reside (Review) https://kernerangelina.live/

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