August 24, 2018

The Black Witch Blog Tour: Excerpt

Follow along our excerpt tour for

THE BLACK WITCH

leading up to the release of the next book in the series,

The Iron Flower!


The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1)

Praise:

“Potter-worthy.” —Justine magazine

“A whole new, thrilling approach to fantasy!”–#1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce

“Powerful” —New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb

“Exquisite.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Description:

A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Fallon Bane

“Have you kissed him?”

“Excuse me?”

“Gareth Keeler. Have you kissed him?”

I’m facing an audience of three young women—the University scholars Aunt Vyvian has chosen to be my companions for the day. They sit staring at me with rapt attention, waiting for my answer.

To the most embarrassing question I’ve ever been asked.

Inappropriate, personal questions like this were not acceptable in Halfix, and I inwardly draw back from them in discomfort.

It’s early on my first morning in Valgard, and we are in Aunt Vyvian’s carriage, headed toward the shop of the premier dressmaker in Gardneria. The ride is smooth, the carriage surrounded by twelve armed, high-level Mage soldiers.

Twelve.

Charged with protecting Fallon Bane—our next Black Witch. Aunt Vyvian might not want to believe that she’s the one, but it’s clear from our armed escort that most other Gardnerians don’t agree with this view.

Fallon is, by far, the most intimidating young woman I’ve ever met. She’s beautiful, with full lips, curly black hair down to her waist and large eyes that shine with the whole spectrum of green. But everything else about her flies in the face of convention. For one thing, she’s dressed in a military apprentice uniform modified for a female—the traditional slate-gray silk tunic over a long, gray skirt instead of pants, and marked with a silver Erthia sphere embroidered over her heart. And the arms of her uniform are marked with a Level Five Mage’s five silver bands. Fallon watches me, her legs splayed open, aggressively taking up as much room in the carriage as possible.

She’s the one asking the questions, a slightly contemptuous smirk on her face. My obvious discomfort, given away by the blush I feel forming on my face, seems to greatly amuse her.

“Why are you asking me about Gareth Keeler?” I ask Fallon defensively.

“Your aunt says you know him.”

“I do,” I tell her. “He’s my friend.”

Fallon shoots sly, sidelong glances at both Echo and Paige before setting bright eyes back on me. “Have you looked closely at his hair?”

I bristle, my view of Fallon quickly coalescing into a hard ball of dislike. “His hair is black.”

Fallon smirks wider. “So…if you haven’t kissed Gareth, have you ever kissed anyone?”

I struggle to keep my expression neutral, greatly put off by her intrusive behavior. “Of course not. I’m unfasted.” And not in the habit of throwing myself at young men, unlike you.

Fallon flashes a devious look at Echo, which sends my dislike of Fallon flaring higher. Then she turns her mischievous gaze back on me, her tone thick with condescension. “You’re not in the backwoods anymore, Elloren. It’s okay to kiss a boy.”

Echo purses her lips at Fallon. “Some of us have morals,” she chastises. “Even in Valgard.”

Fallon spits out a disdainful laugh and rolls her eyes at me, like I’m an old chum.

Echo’s regarding me now, with serious, owl-like eyes, as if measuring my worth. She’s garbed in the manner of the most religious Gardnerians, her black tunic double-layered and very high in the collar, a small Erthia sphere hanging from a silver chain around her neck, her hair unadorned and parted straight as a pin.

Noticing Fallon’s and Echo’s unfriendly expressions, Paige smiles at me encouragingly. She’s the only truly pleasant person in the group, her curly black hair escaping from jeweled barrettes, spilling out over round, rosy cheeks.

Fallon takes note of Paige’s happy expression. “Paige has been kissed,” Fallon teases, her tone unkind.

That wipes the smile clear off Paige’s face. “Well…umm…” Paige stammers as she looks down at the marked hands that fidget in her lap. “I’m fasted.”

“She’s been fasted since she was thirteen,” Fallon leans in and whispers to me, as if this is a delicious secret.

“You have?” I’m surprised. Thirteen seems awfully young. But then I think of Sage—she was fasted at thirteen.

“I’m… I’m fasted to Fallon’s brother, Sylus,” Paige mumbles, seeming less than overjoyed by this.

Fallon throws an arm around Paige and hugs her tight with mock affection. “We’re going to be actual sisters!”

Paige glances meekly at Fallon and forces a small, quavering smile.

I motion toward Echo’s marked hands. “Have you been fasted a long time?”

Echo’s solemn stare doesn’t waver. “To Basyl Dorne. Five years ago.”

I study her, trying to catch a glimpse of how she feels about this, but Echo’s as private and unreadable as a statue.

My eyes wander to Fallon’s unmarked hands. “So… I see you’re not fasted.”

Fallon’s expression turns cold, and she fixes me with a belligerent stare. “Not yet.” She says it like a challenge.

“Fallon likes Lukas Grey.” Paige giggles nervously. Fallon swivels her head smoothly toward Paige and stares her down. Paige’s smile vanishes. “Well…you do…like Lukas, I mean.”

I remember my aunt’s gushing praise of Lukas Grey, the prospective fasting partner she seems to want most for me. I’m amused that Aunt Vyvian actually thinks I could compete with Fallon Bane for anything—and win.

“He’s really handsome,” gushes Paige, “and his father is the High Commander of the entire Mage Guard. He comes from a very important family, and he’s a Level Five Mage.”

Fallon is watching me closely, a gloating look on her face, like she’s won some prize.

“When are you getting fasted to Lukas?” I ask.

Fallon’s smile freezes, and she narrows her eyes at me. “Soon. Very soon.” There’s warning in her inflection. Stay away from Lukas. He’s mine.

I wonder why she’s so insecure about him, and whether or not she knows Aunt Vyvian ludicrously wants him for me. I find myself even more curious about my aunt’s party, if only for the chance to meet the mysterious Lukas Grey. My eyes are drawn to the wand that sticks out from Fallon’s belt like some great thorn.

“So—” I gesture toward the wand “—you’ve quite a bit of power, I’ve heard.”

She bares her teeth. “A little.”

I can tell by the incredulous looks Echo and Paige throw her that she’s being wildly sarcastic.

“I’ve never seen magic used,” I tell her.

Her feral smile inches wider. “You’ve no magic, then?”

I shake my head, bothered by the gloating look on her face.

In one smooth, deft movement, Fallon pulls out her wand, holds it straight up and murmurs a spell.

A loud crack sends Echo, Paige and me recoiling back against our seats as a flash of blue light bursts from Fallon’s wand. The sound jars me to the bone, and I gasp as the light quickly coalesces into a whirling, glowing sphere that floats just above the wand’s tip, its rhythmic, deep whoosh a jagged scrape to my ears, the carriage rapidly cooling, frost forming on the windows.

“Stop it, Fallon,” Echo snaps as she glares at Fallon with annoyance, all of us cast in sapphire light. “You’ll freeze us to death.”

Fallon lets out a contemptuous laugh but relents. She murmurs more strange words and the iceball instantly morphs into a roiling, white vapor that quickly explodes into a frigid, odorless mist and disappears.

Fallon sits back and grins, a triumphant gleam in her eyes.

“That’s amazing,” I breathe, swallowing hard, fighting back a shiver.
******


Like what you read so far? Buy the book here, and don’t forget to pre-order book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Iron Flower, on sale next month!

Excerpted from The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, copyright 2017 by Laurie Forest. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.
Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. THE BLACK WITCH (Out Now – Harlequin TEEN, Book One of The Black Witch Chronicles) is her first novel, and WANDFASTED (THE BLACK WITCH prequel, Out Now – Harlequin TEEN) is her first e-book novella. Coming in 2018 are THE IRON FLOWER (Sept. 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, Book Two of The Black Witch Chronicles) and LIGHT MAGE (Spring 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, e-book novella).

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