In this imaginative debut perfect for fans of character-driven fantasies like Graceling and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, seventeen-year-old Naya Garth becomes one of the undead and an unlikely spy for her country.
Naya, the daughter of a sea merchant captain, nervously undertakes her first solo trading mission in the necromancer-friendly country bordering her homeland of Talmir. Unfortunately, she never even makes it to the meeting. She's struck down in the streets of Ceramor. Murdered.
But death is not the end for Naya. She awakens to realize she's become an abomination--a wraith, a ghostly creature bound by runes to the bones of her former corpse. She's been resurrected in order to become a spy for her country. Reluctantly, she assumes the face and persona of a servant girl named Blue.
She never intended to become embroiled in political plots, kidnapping, and murder. Or to fall in love with the young man and former necromancer she is destined to betray.
"A high fantasy filled with adventure, espionage, and romance that envelops the reader in a world where the undead walk among the living."—Kirkus Reviews
Release date: September 18, 2018
Publisher: Charlesbridge Teen
Print pages: 296
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
“You’re ready.” He stood beside her, arms crossed, scowling at the city beyond the port. He was a tall man with broad shoulders and dark eyes. His beard was trimmed neat and he wore his
black jacket like battle armor.
A warm sea breeze blew across the deck, making the rigging creak above them. Naya touched the silver pendant hanging below her throat. “Yes, sir. I won’t let you down.”
The scowl left her father’s face as he met her eyes. He squeezed her shoulder. “I know. Learn all you can here, and keep your wits about you. This city is full of liars.”
Her father looked like he wanted to say more. Instead he looked back at the city and his scowl returned. “Go. Creator guide you.”
Naya clutched her oilskin document folder as she descended the gangplank to the docks. She stuck out her chin and tried to mimic the calm expression her father usually wore. Find Master Selleno. Ensure that he signs the contract. Return to the ship. Simple. As for the undead, everyone said they looked and acted like ordinary people. If she ignored the walking corpses, they’d do her the
same courtesy. Probably.
The smells of the market—flowers, strange spices, sweat— flooded Naya’s nose as she shouldered her way into the crowd. The press of bodies trapped the afternoon heat, making her
head spin as she searched for a street sign. Normally her father dealt with suppliers here by the docks. But Selleno was special. He owned some of the finest orange groves in all of Ceramor.
The fruit would fetch a good price back home in Talmir. First, though, Naya needed to convince him to sign the contract, and the stubborn old eccentric refused to meet outside his house in the city’s western hills.
Naya tightened her grip on the folder. Though she was already past her seventeenth birthday, this was the first time her father had let her go ashore alone to negotiate with a supplier. From her father’s tone she guessed her task would be more complicated than just collecting a signature. Perhaps he worried Selleno would try to cheat them. Or maybe he expected her to negotiate for a better price. Whatever it was, it was obviously a test. If she passed, she could prove he hadn’t made a mistake by taking on his bastard daughter as an apprentice.
A whistle shrieked. Naya stepped back just in time before a rune-powered tram barreled past. Her heart raced as she tucked a sweat-damp curl back into her braid. She would not fail.
People stared at her as she continued down the main road, past shops in tall buildings with large front windows displaying gowns and gentlemen’s shoes. Naya hunched her shoulders. She
could imagine what those strangers must be thinking: foreigner. Her tan skin and brown hair could have let her pass for local, but her clothing made her stick out like a barnacle on a wellscrubbed
hull. The people here, in the city of Belavine, wore loose, bright-colored cottons. Men and women alike favored brass-buttoned vests that stopped just above the hips. Even the poorest embroidered their hems and cuffs with elaborate geometric designs that looked gaudy in comparison with the simpler fashions of her home.
A drop of sweat trickled down Naya’s back and into the hem of her gray wool skirt. She fought the urge to unbutton the high collar of her blouse. Maybe it would have been smarter to concede a little to the local fashions. She’d likely have been more comfortable, and far less conspicuous. Safer. The people here had no love for Talmirans like her.
Naya pushed the uncomfortable thought away. Her father wouldn’t send her into danger. And he hadn’t offered an escort from among the crew. That meant he thought she could do this alone. Naya focused on the warm sun and the lively sounds of the market. So long as she got back to the Gallant before nightfall, she’d be fine.
Despite her initial unease, a smile rose on Naya’s lips as she followed her father’s directions deeper into the city. There was a thrill to exploring new places, even those that had been tainted by necromancy.
The streets narrowed when she left the main thoroughfare. The big glass windows were replaced by smaller storefronts and pushcarts manned by eager vendors selling everything from
bruised vegetables to lamp oil. The faded wooden street signs were barely legible here. Naya had to double back twice before she finally found the right one.
As she rounded the corner, she noticed a man standing a few paces behind her. He turned away before she could get a clear look at his face, but something about him tugged at her memory. He had shaggy black hair and wore the oft-mended clothing of a common laborer. Naya frowned. She could have sworn she’d glimpsed the same man lingering near the docks. No. Not just at the docks. Hadn’t he been standing outside the bookshop she’d passed a moment ago?
Goose bumps rose on her arms despite the heat. Was he following her? Naya stepped backward, keeping her eyes on the man.
“Watch—!” Something slammed into her. Next thing she knew, she was sitting on the cobblestones and staring up at a heavyset woman in a flowing green skirt and black vest. A shopping basket lay next to Naya, its contents scattered over the paving stones. The woman pursed her lips as she bent to collect her things.
“I’m sorry.” Naya grabbed her folder and scrambled to her feet. Her palms stung. When she lifted them, she wasn’t surprised to see beads of blood rising from the scrapes. Wonderful. She couldn’t even deliver a simple contract without getting into trouble. What would Selleno think when she arrived with stained skirts and bloody hands?
“Are you all right?” the woman asked in the local tongue. She glanced at Naya’s hands, and her brow wrinkled with concern.
“I’m . . .” Naya began in the same language. But the words died in her throat when she noticed the black runic tattoos encircling the woman’s neck and wrists. She’d heard of marks like these. They bound the woman’s soul to her formerly dead body. She’s one of the undead, Naya thought.
Her skin crawled as she stumbled away from the walking corpse. “No. I’m fine.” Before the corpse could do anything else, Naya hurried off. Her heart thudded against her ribs. Fool. It wasn’t as though the corpse had done anything wrong. Naya could have avoided her if she hadn’t been walking backward like a child scared of wraiths in the night. She paused, looking back the way she’d come, but the strange man was nowhere in sight. She followed the road up into the city’s rolling hills, turning right at an inn with a massive smiling fish carved over its door. The road turned again, narrowing to a lane barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Tall, brightly painted houses
rose up on either side, blocking out the sun. Naya glanced back over her shoulder at the empty lane. Her father had said Selleno’s house wasn’t far from The Happy Cod inn. This had to be the right way.
After a few minutes following the winding lane, her certainty wavered. The city below was laid out in a proper grid. But up here the streets looked like they’d been mapped by wandering cows. Blind cows. Naya glanced back down the hill. The shimmer of the bay was just visible above the rooftops. The street was empty, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her.
Naya’s fingers strayed to her pendant, running over the stylized bird embossed on the flat disk. Foolish. Her father would be disappointed if he saw her fear. Fear made you hesitate, and those who hesitated were overtaken by others bolder and smarter. Naya took a steadying breath, then continued on her way.
Her luck turned when she glanced down an alley to her right. It opened onto a wider street, and through the growing afternoon shadows she could just make out a narrow purple house. Pillars flanked the doorway, matching her father’s description. Naya grinned as excitement washed away her unease.
Her shoes splashed through puddles spreading from a clogged gutter as she jogged into the alleyway. Finally. If she hurried, she could be back on the Gallant before dinner. With all her attention focused on the house, her mind barely registered the scrape of footsteps behind her. She felt a sting at the back of her neck. Naya reached up to slap whatever bug had bitten her, but her fingers brushed against something long and narrow protruding from her skin. What in creation? She stifled a gasp as she pulled the thing out and held it up to the light. A dart. It was fletched with tiny red feathers, and something dark and oily was smeared across the needle-sharp tip. Her stomach clenched.
Naya tried to turn, but her neck caught fire with pain. The sensation spread like swarming ants up her scalp and down the curve of her spine. Her jaw snapped shut so tight she thought her teeth might shatter. She tried to run, but her feet got tangled and she stumbled to her knees instead. She tried to call out but only managed a weak moan. The folder slipped from her stiff fingers. When she exhaled, her mouth filled with the copper taste of blood.
Naya tried to take a breath. Nothing. Her chest burned. She tried again, failed again. Numbness crept through her limbs, more terrifying than the pain. No, this can’t be happening. She was dimly aware of her body collapsing to the ground. Dirty water splashed against her cheek and into one paralyzed eye. As the edges of her vision darkened, she saw a pair of scuffed boots with bronze buckles.
Then everything melted away.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...