To Be Titled Excerpt

This is an excerpt from the second draft of a story I am currently working on. I finished the first draft year before last for NaNoWriMo. I’m still working on a title.

This is where the story begins.

“This changes everything!”

“This changes nothing. I am sorry Monica, but we cannot devote resources we don’t have to a lead that we aren’t sure it will pan out. I appreciate your dedication and we understand your desire to make things better. We just don’t see the point. The magi are gone. It is time that we move on and make the best of the life we have now.”

I was trembling, shaking less from nervousness and more from frustration and exhaustion. “This proves that the corruption can be reversed. Someone was able to trace the corruption to where it began years ago. If it can be traced, if the source can be found, then we can find a way to reverse what was done and bring the magi back. We can save everyone.”

“We understand that you are still upset over the loss of your husband, but you must understand. We feel your pain. We have all lost someone…”

“Don’t you dare try that line with me,” I snapped. “I lost everything, you hear me? Everything. And now I am telling you that we can get it all back and you would rather sit here and let those we have lost rot outside these walls.”

“You will remember your place and to whom you are speaking. It is by our generosity that you were permitted to remain within the city. There are those who would have seen you cast out in fear of your magic returning and bringing with it the corruption. You also provide us a valuable service when it comes to your knowledge, but even that value can run out.”

My breaths were growing harsher with each word, fists clenched tight enough to have shattered my pen had I not already thrown it in a vain attempt to stop them from shaking. I could feel their eyes on me. Assessing me. Scrutinizing me. Waiting for any sign, for any excuse to cast me out.

“Now, Monica, we all know you have suffered worst than most of us,” someone else said in what was likely meant to be a soothing tone. “I cannot begin to fathom what you have been through since the evacuation. The amount of work you have done since regaining consciousness is surely commendable. Some of it has even proven invaluable to helping us settle down here. Maybe it is time you took a break and spent some time focusing on yourself. Take some time to heal, to really think about your life and how you want to spend it.”

Even with my outrage, I noticed the attempted olive branch shadowed by his threat. They wanted me to stop questioning, to stop fighting. They wanted me to fade silently into the background so they could continue to rule as they saw fit.

“I apologize, council members, for my outburst,” I said, bowing. “You are right. I have not been well. I will not burden you with my grief any longer.”

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic, from #1 New York Times bestselling author V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’ve been following V.E. Schwab on Twitter for some time now. Her life revolves around writing and being an author, and I enjoy the peeks she gives us into that world. I also, if you haven’t guessed by now, really enjoy fantasy. 

Picking this book up, I was first intrigued by the idea of multiple Londons. I have seen multiple worlds done before (this isn’t quite a multiverse) but something about this particular iteration caught my attention. There is a finite number of worlds, each with its own level of magic. 

One world has none. One world is teaming with it. One world is tearing itself apart to find more of it. And a fourth that fell to a fate that no one wants to talk about, but you know it had to do with magic. 

I also don’t think I have ever had a book start off talking about the main character’s interesting jacket. Yet the whole thing is the perfect introduction for the main character, Kell. You quickly realize how and why he is different as he takes the reader on a literal journey through the three Londons. A great example of showing versus telling. It also does a great job of establishing the main cast of characters.

I found everything about these worlds intriguing and enthralling. When we finally got the story of the fall of Black London, I was in awe. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to read that story as well. A lot of time in fantasy worlds, authors don’t take the time to explain how their magic system works. This means in a lot of fantasy worlds, the magic system doesn’t really make sense. I am looking at you, J.K. Rowling.

Before you start yelling at me I would like to state, for the record, that I basically grew up on Harry Potter. I will always love the series. That said, my point is still valid. 

I will save my magic system rant for another day. Because it is going to be a doozy. 

I really like this one though. It feels natural and makes sense in all of the worlds. It is what is called ‘soft magic’, where magic has an organic feel to it. There are some spells and some rules to the magic, but most of it flows naturally. 

Everything about these worlds and these characters has me hungry for more. I want to see more of Lila and Kell, to learn more about their mysterious past and see their friendship grow. They are so engaging and dynamic. They are complex. They evolve. 

I had a coworker refer to this series as a poor man’s Mistborn. Honestly, I don’t see it. This story is great in its own right. I mean, there is a reason that V.E. Schwab is a best selling author. She knows how to weave a fantastic tale in a world unlike any I have encountered before. 

I am curious to see what happens in the future between the three Londons. I want to see more of Kell and Delilah as they find themselves and their place in this wonderfully strange world. I’m also curious to learn more about Black London. I feel like there is much more to the story than meets the eye. 

I guess we will have to wait and see in A Gathering of Shadows.

The Origin of Solitude

The Origin of Solitude

A fairytale

Once upon a time, there lived a dragon name Solitude.  Solitude was born to two very old dragons, their only child.  From the start, all of the other dragons knew there was something different about Solitude.  While he very much enjoyed the company of the other dragonlings, Solitude was just as happy being on his own. Since his parents died while he was still very young, he was mostly raised by another dragon family who adopted him, surrounding him with half a dozen siblings he got along with relatively well. He also had a peculiar interest in the small village that laid within a day’s journey of his home, of which he knew very little but loved to daydream of.  It was an unwritten rule among the dragons that they were not to have any interaction with the village’s inhabitants.  Being a good little dragon, Solitude did as he was told.  In fact, it was not until the village had grown so large that the two groups were forced to communicate that he even knew who the inhabitants were.

Once the leaders of the dragons realized there was no avoiding the villagers anymore, they set up an envoy to reach a peace settlement.  The villagers were already aware of the dragons, having seen them many times flying overhead, and so were very curious to speak with the amazing creatures.  The leaders of the dragons thought long and hard about who they would choose to be the intermediary.  After a period of debate, it was decided that Solitude would be the dragon representative.  With his gentle yet pensive nature, they decided that he would be the one most suited to communicate with the strange new beings.  At this point he had grown to be quite the intelligent dragon, studying and observing everything.  His community had come to respect him as a source of great wisdom, despite his relatively young age.  He still preferred to spend time on his own, observing the world around him, but was more than willing to help anyone in need.  When the elders came to him with the offer of allowing him to be their representative, he accepted it immediately yet humbly.  Soon after this, the humans selected their representative and it was time for the two to meet.

The human representative turned out to be a young girl who, like Solitude, was different from the others.  At first, the meeting was rather stiff and formal, as this was the first time either of them had ever spoken to one of the other kind. After a while, though, they settled into a comfortable conversation, each intrigued to learn more about the other.  Hours went by in the same manner, questions being passed back and forth and answers being listened to eagerly.  Each day they would discuss and decide on certain points that their elders put to them, as well as more personal things.  As time went on Solitude and Serenity became the best of friends, despite their differences.  They were among the few, though, once the council came to be.  Half human, half dragon, the council was created to negotiate and enact the peace between the two groups.  It was soon discovered that on the whole, humans and dragons did not get along.  Months of tense negotiation went by with both Solitude and Serenity watching with great concern the proceedings.  They did their best to act as intermediaries so as to keep hostilities to a minimum and decrease the likely hood of conflict.  After about half a year, it was decided that both groups would separate and no longer have direct contact.  The dragons would move up into a nearby mountain range while the humans would remain on the other side of the foothills.  Upon hearing this, Solitude and Serenity pushed for a neutral land to be made in between where humans and dragons could intermingle if they so decided.  It took much convincing, but eventually, it was agreed upon that the small forest between the mountain and the plain would be reserved as a neutral ground.  As both sides retreated to their lands, Solitude and Serenity began to set themselves up a home in the forest.  Serenity had several of her human friends come and help her build a house, with Solitude helping to supply the lumber and anything else they needed. Some of his adopted siblings came to visit as well, interested to see his new home.  The humans and the dragons interacted some, but none became as good of friends as Solitude and Serenity.  As time went on, the dragons’ visits became less and less frequent, to the point that most of their company was human.  This suited them just fine.

They settled quite comfortably into their new homes, happy to still be able to spend time together.  Every so often, some of the people Serenity grew up with would come and visit her, bearing supplies and news from the village.  Solitude was surprised to find that she too, had grown up an orphan, practically raising herself.  They took turns regaling their guests and each other with stories from their childhood.  Sometimes Serenity would return to the town to visit some of her older friends, and Solitude would use this time to look in on his adopted siblings or explore the woods.  Years passed in this manner, and Solitude began to grow distant from his dragon relatives.  Even Serenity’s visits to town became less frequent.  With Solitude’s help, she had become quite self-sufficient, growing her own food and herbs.  She took in and raised several of the orphans from the town with Solitude’s help.  It was as if they had a family of their own, and Solitude was content.  The children would grow up and eventually return to life in the town, sometimes even traveling to far off lands.  Before long, Solitude and Serenity found themselves along once more.  This suited them just fine.

As the years went by, though, Solitude began to notice a problem.  Even though he was still quite young, Serenity was beginning to grow old and was having trouble caring for herself.  He helped her out as best as he could, but one day she grew so ill that he knew what he had to do.  After much urging, he managed to convince her to return to the town to get help.  She wrote to one of the boys she grew up with, asking him to send someone to collect her.  Solitude waited with her patiently, carrying all of her belongings that she might need.  She was rather reluctant to leave her beloved Solitude alone, but he reassured her that he would be fine.  He promised to tend her garden while she was gone and to be there when she returned.  When her ride finally arrived, Solitude recognized him as one of the children Serenity had raised.  He was surprised to see Serenity so ill and expressed his thanks to Solitude for taking such good care of her.  Before he left he told Solitude that he did not know how long it would be before Serenity was able to return.  Solitude assured him that he would be just fine on his own and that he was to content to wait for Serenity, however long it took.  Without any more conversation, the man hopped on his horse and started off, Serenity comfortably seated in a cart behind him.  Solitude watched her and she him until both were out of sight.  He remained there long after, calmly observing the world around him, reveling in the silence.

Months passed by and Solitude did exactly as he had promised, caring for Serenity’s garden, guarding her house, and every day waiting for her to return.  Each day he found some way to entertain himself, stretching his wings, exploring the forest, going for a swim in the pond in the middle of the forest.  He rarely hunted, for he needed very little food to survive.  For the longest time, he had no company at all, yet he was content for he knew that one day Serenity would return to him and all would be as it once was.

When the months turned into years, Solitude grew concerned.  Part of him wanted to fly to the town, but he kept his promise to Serenity, waiting for her in the spot where she had left him.  One day, many years later, Solitude discovered a young man waiting for him in the woods.  Curious at this change, he slowly approached him and asked if he was in need of assistance.  The man explained that he was here to deliver a message and asked where he could find the dragon named Solitude.  Knowing that this could only mean one thing, Solitude quickly explained that he was that dragon.  The man sighed in relief, apologizing for not being there sooner.  It had taken them a long time before someone realized that ‘solitude’ was indeed a dragon.  Once they had figured that out, he grabbed the letter and ran out to the forest to find him.  He explained that the letter was from none other than Serenity, and thus began to read it aloud.

My Dearest Solitude,

It has been many a month since I left your care, and yet I fear that I will not be returning to you any time soon.  You see, I have become very old and very ill, and the doctors have been telling me that I am not long for this world.  I do apologize, my dear friend, that I am not able to deliver this message to you in person.  My health is failing me and it takes all of my energy to pen these words.  The boy caring for me has promised to deliver this to you immediately upon my death.

Of all my friends in this world, you are the one I hold most dear.  With your great wisdom and kindness and devotion, you are one of the rarest, most beautiful beings in this world.  You have filled my life with light and I only hope that one day you will meet someone who does the same for you.  I do hope that you have not waited too long for me.  Now that I am gone, it is time for you to go home.  Return to your people.  Start a new life filled with adventure and wonder.  You deserve nothing less.

My only regret in life is that I was not able to see you one last time.  I will forever cherish the memory of our time together, and have already passed down our story to my children.  I hope that you will one day do the same.

All my love,

Serenity

It was a while before Solitude was able to respond.  The man waited patiently.  He asked of her last days, whether or not she was any pain, which the man assured him she was not.  They briefly discussed her life and Solitude asked if the man needed a place to spend the night.  He stated that he did not.  In fact, he needed to return home to his family, for his children were expecting him.  His youngest was in bed with a fever, but upon finding the letter he had felt compelled to ensure that it was delivered promptly.  He remembered very well the stories his grandfather had told of being raised in the woods by Serenity and her dragon.  When he asked what Solitude would do now that Serenity was gone, Solitude replied that he would follow her wishes.  After arranging to have someone come and take care of her garden, he decided to leave for the mountains.  With that they parted ways, Solitude wishing the man and his daughter well, thanking him for his kindness.

Solitude spent his last night in the forest curled up around Serenity’s cottage, mourning her loss.  The next day he left to return to his mountain home, to his people.  When he arrived he was surprised to find the mountains completely empty.  The dragons had left without Solitude.  He wandered around for hours, looking for any sign of where they could have gone, but it was fruitless.  Eventually, he realized the sun had gone down, and so he slipped into one of the empty caves and slept the night.  The next morning he flew back to the forest.  Back at the cottage, he was pleased to see someone was already there.  They were surprised to see him approach but he told them that they had no reason to fear, he was only there for the moment.  He proceeded to instruct them on how to handle some of the more precious of Serenity’s plants and belongings.  The young man looked at him in awe, finally explaining that he had never seen a dragon before.  This puzzled Solitude.  He went on to share of how there were stories of dragons in the sky, but no one had seen them since his great grandfather’s time.  This saddened Solitude, but he did not let it show.  When the boy asked if he would be staying, he thanked him for his service and said that he would not be.  He asked no more questions, and Solitude disappeared into the woods.  Without considering where he was going he wandered, eventually finding himself wading into the pond.  He went for a brief swim, allowing the cool water to soothe his mind, the sounds and feel of nature lulling him into a state of relaxation.

Making up his mind he climbed out of the pond, shaking the water off.  Lifting his head to the sky, he took a deep breath.  Without another second’s thought, he leaped into the sky and took off, heading away from the village, away from the mountains.  Away from Serenity.  With no particular destination in mind, he flew, enjoying the sun on his back as he went off to his new adventure. In his own way, he was honoring his beloved Serenity, whom he would always keep in his heart, until the end of his days.  Solitude was content.