Hello everyone and welcome to my blog tour stop for THE SHADOW WATCH SERIES by S.A. Klopfenstein hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Today, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from book 1 and book 2. Hope you enjoy reading this post!
Published: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Guardian Grey Publishing
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy
Formats: Paperback, eBook
For centuries, the Oshan Empire has ruled the New World with terror and blood. The Watchers have been eradicated, and their sorcery is but a whispered myth. But the heart of magic beats on, and as it surges back to life, three young people will determine the fate of the world…
Tori Burodai, a strong-willed slave girl. Her magic could ignite a revolution, but only if she resists the ruler who wants to use her powers to restore the empire to its former glory.
Darien Redvar, the idealistic soldier she loves. His rage leads him down a dark path to power that could turn him against the one person he cares for.
Kale Andovier, a lordling rebel with a torturous past. His quest for a weapon of dark sorcery will thrust him into a twisted game of power that could change the world forever.
Will the return of magic transform the New World, or bring it to ruin?
The mother could feel the creatures in her mind, searching, probing, scouring, desperate to unveil what remained hidden to them in the city of tents. She gripped her daughter’s hand tight, so tight she could feel the throbbing of her daughter’s heartbeat in her palm. Little Astoria did not know why her mother had snuck her out of their tent in the middle of the night. She did not know what creatures might lurk behind the skin of any one of their tribesmen, waiting to crawl out and devour her.
Together, mother and daughter crept through the city, weaving from shadow to shadow. The mother prayed the creatures would not find her until her daughter was safe, but the sun goddess of the Yan Avii had turned her face from the world.
Astoria yawned, then covered her mouth with her tiny hand.
She’s seen only seven summers, thought the mother. It pained her to think of what she had to do, but she could not keep her daughter a secret any longer. It was not safe.
Astoria did not know what hunted her because she did not yet understand the New World. She did not know of the ancient vows that had been sworn by ancient rulers, nor of the vile creatures that had been molded by them, molded for only one purpose—to eradicate Astoria’s kind from the world.
Fear wrapped its fingers around the mother’s throat, and she held still. She could sense the creatures again. They were searching all across the makeshift City Upon the Steppe. They had sensed magic, and they would not leave until their hunger was sated.
It did not matter that the Yan Avii were no longer part of the empire. The creatures did not abide by treaties or boundary lines. They knew only the purpose for which they had been bred. Astoria had used magic, and they had come for her.
A tenuous cloud slithered across the sky, shrouding the twin moons of the New World. A blessing from the gods. The mother imagined the Sisters were whispering to her as they cast the world in shadow. She could almost hear their voices on the wind. Be brave, good mother, be swift.
The mother seized the moment and hurried down the dark lanes through the labyrinth of tents, tugging her daughter along behind her.
Astoria shivered. Her tiny hand trembled in her mother’s palm. Astoria wore only a cotton shift, which barely reached her knees and left too much of her bony shoulders bare. The mother wished she had thought to grab her daughter’s cloak, but there had been no time.
Such a lovely thing, her daughter’s magic, an innocent thing. Astoria had used her gift for good. She had saved the boy. But the creatures came for her, all the same.
The cloud passed, and the Sisters rejoined their thousand daughters in their nightlong dance across the sky, bathing the tent city in iridescent light. But the momentary darkness had been enough.
At the edge of the Yan Avii tent city, the mother reached the tent she sought. The flap fell behind them, shielding them from watching eyes, though the creatures relied upon another sense. The mother felt their minds again, but she would not have to ward them off much longer. Her daughter was nearly safe.
The merchant was so burly he seemed to fill the tent. His smile was crooked like his heart, the mother had no doubt. Her own heart shuddered at what she had to do.
Sweat beaded from the merchant’s bald, fat head. Piercings lined the left side of his face from jaw to earlobe, threaded by a golden chain. His robes were blue like the glaciers of the mother’s homeland, woven of fine silk, and she knew he had not attained that wealth from dealing in spices.
“Who’s he?” Astoria muttered sleepily.
The merchant grinned, but he let the mother explain.
“He’s… an old friend, my dear. He is going to look after you. You must go with him.”
Realization dawned on Astoria’s face. Her eyes widened. Her lips trembled. “Go with him where?”
“Y-you’re coming too?”
The mother shook her head. The merchant’s chest heaved with silent laughter. How many times has he witnessed such treachery, to find the betrayal of a mother so amusing?
“W-where are you going?” said Astoria.
The mother choked back a sob. She knelt and pulled her daughter close, and Astoria’s tears soaked through her tunic. “Far away, my love,” said the mother.
“I w-want to go with you.”
“You can’t. My friend will keep you safe. You must be strong, my love. You must trust me.”
“I trust you,” Astoria told her mother, straightening up bravely.
She’s strong, thought the mother. Too strong. This is the only way.
Astoria did not realize that her mother did not even know the merchant’s name. She did not understand when the man gave her mother a handful of coins in the exchange. The merchant took hold of Astoria’s hand, and the mother let go, biting her lip until it bled to keep from crying.
“We move out at first light,” the merchant said.
The mother handed him back the coins. “Leave tonight. Leave now.”
The merchant raised a dark brow, but he did not question her. His golden tooth shone when he smiled. His fingers closed around the coins. “As you say. Come, little girl. We’ll wake my friends, and then, we will go.”
“Her name is Tori,” said the mother. It was what the village children called her when they played. It sounded unassuming and common. Her true name betrayed its Old World origins. The mother feared anything, even a name, might draw attention to her daughter.
“Come then, Tori.”
Astoria held on to the merchant’s thick hand, and they left to wake his friends. The chain on the side of his face jingled lightly. His friends would be wearing chains too, the mother knew, though not on their faces. Soon, her daughter would wear chains as well. Astoria looked back one last time, her tawny face streaked with tears.
The mother managed a feeble smile. “Be brave, my love.”
The tent flap fell, separating them forever. Mother and daughter, blood of the same magical blood, no more.
“I’m sorry,” the mother murmured to the vacant tent. Her heart collapsed inside the hollow cave of her chest.
Her daughter was gone. But there was no time to mourn. Her daughter was not safe yet.
The creatures had sensed magic. They hungered for blood, and the mother would give them what they had come for. Her magic was of the realm of minds, and it was important Astoria forget the things she could do. As she hurried from the merchant’s tent, the mother reached out with her sense, found her daughter’s mind, and reached inside. One by one, she removed the memories that made Astoria who she was, what she was. Each one brought tears. She was robbing her own daughter, but it was the only way.
She hurried to finish, hoping it was enough. Already, the mother felt the creatures coming. They had sensed her magic, as they had sensed her daughter’s before.
But this time, the mother opened herself to their sense, and their minds washed over her, pulsing with hunger and anticipation. They had crossed the world for this. The creatures changed their skins and flew to find her, soaring on black wings. The mother rose from the ground and flew to meet them, soaring with no wings at all. Only magic. Tears ran down her cheeks in cold, meteoric streaks as she flew across the city, as she flew to die.
Her blood rained down upon the city of tents. Her body fell like a star. The creatures fell like crows, and they sated their hunger.
But the mother greeted the gods with grateful tears.
Her daughter was safe. That was all she had asked of them.
Astoria was safe.
The thrilling second installment in the Shadow Watch series!
Published: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Guardian Grey Publishing
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy
Formats: Paperback, eBook
The Shadow Watch has been undone. Their captain lies in the dungeons of the White Citadel, and the Gallows Girl has disappeared. Most of the surviving Watchers have joined the chancellor’s new magical army, the Sky Guard, led by Darien Redvar, but the Gallows Boy is shaken from the return of the monsters of the Old World, and he must soon choose, once and for all, where his loyalties lie.
Tori and Mischa trek to the Great White North with an Alyut shaman, who believes Tori is the one who will bring Restoration to his people. A resistance is growing in the North, but Tori may not be the god the people are looking for, and the price of revolution may cost Tori her heart as well as her life.
Meanwhile, another threat grows in strength. Old World monsters are rising up across the New World, and no one knows how they’ve returned. As nations ready themselves for a magical war, their return threatens to change everything.
New alliances are set in place, new friendships are forged, new loves kindled. But no one is safe, for there can be no war without betrayal.
Don’t miss this the latest installment in the epic fantasy series readers are comparing to Mistborn and Throne of Glass!
The Mouth of the Gods gaped wide in the soft dawn light and swallowed them up as they passed from the Grey Waste into the jagged valley of glacial ice that spanned between the mountain ranges of the Crooked Teeth and the Spine of the North. The Mouth stretched north for miles before tapering off into the Icelands beyond.
The groans of shifting ice had lasted less than a minute before quickly waning in the too-still northern night, but still Mischa Sufai had slept lightly. In truth, she had not slept well since the fall of the Watchtower. Since Zaya’s death and Vashti’s betrayal. Stings that buried themselves into her mind, and even her dreams. Every day, she became more accustomed to the foggy existence of sleep deprivation and night terrors. But Alyk dul Baruk and the Northmen—along with the girl, Tesla—had rekindled vanished hope in her.
Tes bounded through the snow like a hare with endless energy, pausing often to marvel at the towering pillars of ice looming around them. The girl distracted Mischa from the memories of nightmares, living and imaginary. Still, Mischa longed for a cup of the bold coffees of Melanesia to rouse her in the bitter morning. Her family’s kitchen master had once brewed some of the finest in all the islands. But she did not want to think of home either. Those memories haunted her as well.
Tes came running up, grinning. She’d disappeared for a short while, exploring the maze of ice, and now, she gripped Mischa’s gloved hand and pulled her along. “You’ve got to come see this!” Tes shouted for a few of the other children to follow, and they wended through a narrow cleft in the pillars of ice, which towered over them like giant fangs.
“Tes, you shouldn’t be wandering in here,” said Mischa, regarding the sharp drop of a crevasse on her left. It plummeted for thirty feet at least. “The ice moves. Didn’t you hear it last night?”
Tes laughed. “It’s not far!” She ran ahead with one of the other Crooked girls.
What does it hurt? Mischa thought, hurrying after them. Tori and Alyk were up ahead, anyway, leading the company through the Mouth. The way was narrow, and so the line of Alyuts and Crooked folk stretched long and moved slowly. The children were not likely to stray far enough to get lost from the group, but they needed looking after, and their joy lightened the burdens Mischa carried.
It seemed impossible that, at seventeen, it had only been five years since Mischa had been a similar young girl with endless wonder and energy. So much had changed so quickly with the coming of her first bleeding and all the rites that womanhood brought in the islands of the Silver Sea. Mischa’s first blood had occurred during her thirteenth summer, and by fourteen she had fled for the trade cities of the Trium’vel.
A scream jolted Mischa alert. Tes and a pair of Crooked children had just disappeared around a boulder of ice. Mischa raced to them, praying she would not be too late, but before she turned the corner, she heard Tesla chortling.
The screaming stopped, and there was more laughter. Around the corner, the children gathered around a gap in the ice. Protruding from the glacier was a frozen human arm, jutting out from an invisible body. Emerged nearly to the elbow, its fingers stretched out like icy daggers, grasping for something just out of reach. Tes grinned at the disgusted expressions of the other children.
“Eww!” cried a young boy, no older than seven.
“Is it real?” asked a girl, who proceeded to poke at the fingers.
“Alyk says the Mouth can swallow people whole!” Tes informed them enthusiastically. “I bet this one died a hundred years ago!”
“But it’s still got skin,” protested her brother, Jordie. “Can’t be that old!”
“Don’t matter if it’s in ice,” said Tes. “The skin will stay forever. It could be a thousand years old!”
“Afraid she’s right,” said Mischa, mussing Jordie’s shaggy locks of dark hair. “This far north, I doubt it ever gets warm enough to thaw out, let alone decay.”
Tes shoved her brother playfully. “Told you!”
“What are you kids doing all the way out here?” It was Alyk, their shaman, and the kids all shot to attention at his stern voice. “The group’s moving on. So should you.”
“We found a hand!” said Tes boldly.
Alyk knelt to examine the frozen limb. “An ancient Northman—Northwoman actually, judging by the hand… might be a thousand years old.” Mischa noticed his sly smile as Tes’s eyes lit up.
“See?” cried Tes again, pointing at her brother.
“Ah, you just had a lucky guess,” said Jordie.
“A thousand years!” said Tes.
“And you might join the frozen people down there for another thousand if you keep wandering off. We’re nearing the end of the valley of ice. I want you all marching with your families until we’re clear of the Mouth, you hear?” Alyk’s face grew stern, and he looked right at Tes.
The Crooked girl wilted under his gaze. “Y-yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“Now get moving, all of you, or you’ll have us all wandering out here into the middle of the night!”
The children ran back the way they’d come, and once they’d gone, Alyk laughed.
“It was my fault,” said Mischa. “I let them come. Don’t be too hard on them.”
Alyk smiled. “They could use a bit more fear in a place like this. Though, honestly, I miss the days I could walk through such a place so fearlessly.”
“Thank you for watching after them, Mischa.” The shaman fell in step beside her as they returned to the group. “They look to you as well, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“The children. Tori may be the Gallows Girl, but you give them hope also. Particularly Tesla.”
“You notice much,” said Mischa.
“I try to know my people, old and new. I am their shaman—a shepherd of souls. I must know them the way the All-Mother and the All-Father know them.”
“The old gods,” said Mischa knowingly. “Few people worship them still, you know.”
“We have not forgotten our past. We still pray to them by their old names, what we called them long ago, before the Oshans stole them and distorted them. Shallam is god of the day, and he provides us with food, strength, and peace, when it can be found. Anora is goddess of the night. She followed us to the North and gave her Lights to guide our way, to give us courage and hope, even in bitter darkness. And I must do the same for my people.”
“You really believe in them, don’t you?”
“Don’t they have gods in the islands of the Silver Sea?”
“My people believe the gods left this world long ago. The souls of our ancestors remain to protect us, give us wisdom, and intercede with the gods on our behalf.”
“Sounds like the tales of the Watchers of the Old World,” said Alyk.
“Melanesians believe the souls of our ancestors spring forth in the trees in our gardens where we sprinkle the ashes of our dead. But I have not prayed in a Garden of Souls in many years.”
“Your people pray in gardens. In Jurka, they sacrifice doves in temples. The Watchers burned incense and prayed on rugs.”
“I bet we all get it wrong,” said Mischa.
“Perhaps…” said Alyk. He thought for a moment. “Or perhaps we all get it a little right. Like shades of the same sunset. My people believe the gods are all around us, and so we pray wherever we are. Perhaps it does not matter where you pray.”
“That doesn’t sound like a holy man.”
“I suppose I am not like most holy men in the New World. I point others to the great mysteries beyond our world. I don’t care if you call them by the same name. You do not seem to care for the Gardens of Souls, I sense. So… what then?”
Mischa thought a moment. She had given little thought to gods of late. And since the destruction of the Watchtower, she had often wondered how any gods could stand by and watch powers of evil continue to rule over the world.
“In the Trium’vel,” Mischa said at last, “people pray to gods from many lands, and there are temples and shrines throughout the cities where traders may worship any god they desire from any nation in the New World. But there is a temple at the outskirts of the Holy Center dedicated to the Unknown One—the forgotten god. It is said she watches out for strangers and orphans—the people we’ve forgotten, just like we forgot about her. Somehow, she always made the most sense to me.”
Alyk smiled at this. “Then I shall thank the Unknown One for remembering you, and leading you and Tori to us.”
Mischa and Alyk reached the rear of the stream of people winding through the maze of ice.
“Where is Tori?” said Mischa.
“Leading the way,” said Alyk. “I thought it would be good for her to be the one to lead us into the Great White North.”
“You told her where to lead them, didn’t you?”
“Of course. Tori has never traveled through the Mouth, after all, but her followers don’t need to know that.”
Mischa laughed. “Some gods we Watchers make, huh?”
“I imagine even your Unknown One was young once.”
Mischa never had the chance to respond.
The ice trembled violently and sent Mischa to her knees. A jarring pain shot up her thighs. From the depths of the Mouth came a horrendous groan and a boom like thunder, and suddenly the ground disappeared from beneath her feet.
A crevasse split wide like a massive wound in the earth, rent by some giant invisible sword. Instinctively, Mischa caught herself, reaching out with her sense, and flew to the edge of the expanse. Her heart thundered in her chest. The rumblings increased, the crevasse stretching wider, and Alyk went plummeting.
Mischa’s entire body tingled as her senses honed in. She caught his wrist just in time and pulled him to safety. They collapsed in the snow. But there was no saving the Alyuts and Crooked folk ahead. The Mouth of the Gods swallowed up four that Mischa saw, and who knew how many in the maze beyond. Screams echoed from all directions.
The rumblings faded, the ice groaning like a dying beast, but the crevasse did not grow any wider. It fell away at least a hundred feet, narrowing into darkness, where the innards of the earth were laid bare. There was no hope for those who’d fallen.
Mischa rose to her feet and held out her hand to help Alyk up. The shaman stared at it dumbly. His hands quavered as she took hold of them. “We have to help the others,” she said. “Come on!”
But there was no time to help anyone, for no sooner had the thunder faded than it was replaced by a new sound. From the depths of the gash in the earth, there ushered a mighty roar, followed by a horrid scraping sound like nails upon glass.
A great grey hand, which looked to be composed of ice and scree, emerged from the abyss. Another hand followed, and then a great icy head with massive tusks protruding from the sides of its vicious face. The thing heaved itself up from the pit, standing taller than four men. It lifted its mighty head, revealing jagged teeth of ice.
“A frost giant!” cried Alyk, suddenly jarring to life.
The Mouth of the Gods fell into madness as the Alyuts and the Crooked folk tried to flee. Several more fell to their deaths as the chasm yawned wider.
Alyk and Mischa raced along the edge of the drop, but the monster paid them no mind. It had already found its target.
Fifty yards ahead, a girl was pinned beneath a shard of fallen ice. Her mother and brother tugged frantically at her arms as the beast neared, but the girl was held fast.
Mischa realized with horror that the girl was Tesla.
S.A. Klopfenstein grew up on a steady dose of Tolkien and Star Wars. As a child, he wrote his first story about a sleepwalking killer who was executed by lethal injection.
He lives in the American West with his wife and their dog, Iorek Byrnison. He can be found exploring the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or daring the halls of the middle school where he teaches Language Arts.
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