Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday #Review- Glitter and Gold: A Canary Club Anthology by Sherry D. Ficklin

Series: Canary Club Prequel
Format: Kindle, 178 pages
Release Date: March 23, 2017
Publisher: Crimson Tree Publishing
Source: Amazon Freebie
Genre: Fiction / Romance / Historical 

Set during the flamboyant anything-goes era of 1920's America, these three tales are filled with intriguing characters and rich imagery from the time period—with flappers, jazz music, gangsters, and lavish wealth. Escape to a different decade today with the compelling stories of the Canary Club Anthology.

Glitter and Gold, by author Sherry Ficklin, is the prequel to the author's Canary Club series. This is an anthology with three separate stories. This series is set during the 1920's Prohibition where alcohol was supposedly banned from 1920 thru 1933 thanks to the Volstead Act, aka the 18th Amendment. Let's also not forget that it is set in NYC where things really were wild during the early 19th century.

Novelette 1- Gilded Cage - Overage rating 3.5

Masie Schultz, the flaxen-haired daughter of notorious bootlegger Dutch Schultz, returns home from boarding school to find her family in crisis. Her mother is dangerously unstable, her father's empire is on the brink of ruin, and the boy she once loved, Vincent Coll, has become a ruthless killer for hire. To keep her family's dangerous secrets, Masie is forced into a lie that will change the course of her future—and leave her trapped in a gilded cage of her own making. ++ Pay attention to the secondary characters in this story like JD, who is Masie's brother, and June West, who is JD's girl. Both will appear again in this anthology. Masie will also appear in the full length story called "The Canary Club."

Novelette 2- All That Glitters - Overall rating 3.5

A dame with brains, moxie, and killer curves, June West isn't your average flapper. She's managed to endear herself to the son of one of the most powerful gangsters in New York, JD Schultz, earning herself a spot in the limelight that she's always longed for. With the infamous playboy at her side, June has become accustomed to living the high life. Lavish parties, expensive clothes, sparkling jewels—nothing is beyond her reach. But when her carefully woven web of lies finally catches up with her, she must make an impossible choice… come clean about her past and risk losing everything, or find a way to bury her demons—once and for all. **Pretty good story, especially since June is a Jersey girl who hid her real ancestry from everyone. 

Novelette 3 - Nothing Gold 3.0

Dickey Lewis has been down on his luck since the day he was born. Flat broke and sick of being looked down on, he meets young socialite named Lillian Rose at a wild party. The connection is like a strike of lightning. From a wealthy New York family, this debutante is everything he's been told he can never have—and the only thing he wants. Determined to win her, he knows the only way to get her parents approval is with cold hard cash. So when a shot at the biggest score of his life comes around, he just can't refuse…**This is the most heartbreaking story of the three. Dickie is put through so much. Here is also where we meet the male protagonist of the Canary Club along with Maisie Schultz. 

**Currently FREE for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo**

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday #Review - Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Numair Chronicles, The (#1)
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Random House BYR
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

Discover the origin story of one of the realm’s most powerful mages in the first book in the Numair Chronicles.

Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness—and for attracting trouble. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day—soon—he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
Story Locale: Carthak, medieval fantasy country near Tortall

Tempests and Slaughter is the first installment in author Tamora Pierce's The Numair ChroniclesIn the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never before
told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Readers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies. This story takes place between 435 & 439 HE. 

Most, if not all of the story, takes place in the Carthaki Empire, The Imperial University of Carthak which is the home to the School for Mages. As the story opens, 10 year old Arram Draper is on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness and for attracting trouble. After making a stunning feat with water, Arram finds that he is suddenly being pushed forward ahead of his much older classmates.

At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Prince Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions and a hatred for people from a certain ethnicity. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. In the meanwhile, he gets to experience a one on one instruction with Masters which is unheard of. 

The story takes Arram on a magical journey where he will be pushed to become the best he can be while also exploring his own feelings about romance, slavery, and politics. He begins as a nobody, but by the end, he has already advanced to the most important level a mage can reach. As Arram becomes more comfortable in his abilities, he has the opportunity to help heal gladiators of their injuries and to assist the poor when there’s a major outbreak of the plague. I must say that the final third of this story is bloody brilliant, especially when Arram is spending time at a Gladiator contest.

I haven't yet read the Immortal series, but I hope to. I had no idea going into this book who Arram Draper or Numair Salmalin was. He may have slipped my mind in reality. I guess that is a good thing since I can see his origination story and then go from here once this series is finished; if I live that long. From the onset, Arram is one of the youngest characters who attends the School of Mages. But, Arram isn't Harry Potter. While he is talented enough to apparently become a big deal, he doesn't have a magical past with an evil overlord who left an indelible scar on his head for all to see.

Would I recommend this book? When it comes to a point that I don't recommend a Tamora Pierce novel, it will be time to quit reading. 

Chapter 1
August 30–September 1, 435
The Imperial Coliseum, Thak City, The Carthaki Empire
Arram Draper hung on the rail of the great arena, hoisting himself until his belly was bent over the polished stone. It was the only way he could get between the two bulky men who blocked his view. He knew it was risky, but he couldn’t waste his first chance to see the gladiators when they marched into the huge stadium. His father and grandfather were back at their seats, arguing about new business ventures. They weren’t paying attention, waving him off when he asked to visit the privies and never realizing he’d squirmed his way down to the rail instead.
Apart from them, he was alone. There were no friends from school for company. They all said he was too young. He was eleven—well, ten, in truth, but he told them he was eleven. Even that didn’t earn him friends among his older schoolfellows. Still, he wasn’t a baby! If he didn’t see the games with his family today, he might never get the chance, and he’d learned only last night he might not see Papa again for two years, even three. Carthak was a costly voyage for Yusaf Draper, and his new venture would take him away for a long time. But in the morning, Arram would be able to tell the older students that he had watched the games right from the arena wall!
Already he’d heard the trumpets and drums announcing the arrival of the emperor and his heirs. He couldn’t see their faces, but surely all the sparkling gold, silver, and gems meant the wearers were part of the imperial family. He could see the Grand Crier, who stood on a platform halfway between him and the royals. More important, he could plainly hear the man’s booming voice as he announced the emperor’s many titles and those of his heirs.
“Lookit!” The bruiser on Arram’s left bumped him as he pointed north, to the emperor’s dais. Arram wobbled and might have pitched headfirst onto the sands twenty feet below if the man on his other side hadn’t caught him by the belt and hauled him inside the rail. Without appearing to notice Arram’s near fall, the man on the left went on to say, “There’s the widow, and her son! She never comes to games!”
“Who’s the widow?” Arram asked. “Who’s the son?”
The big men grinned at each other over his head. “For all you’re a brown boy, you don’t know your imperials,” said the one who had bumped him. “The widow is Princess Mahira, that was married to Prince Apodan.”
“He was killed fightin’ rebels two year back,” the other man said. “An’ the boy is Prince Ozorne.”
Now Arram remembered. Ozorne was a year or two ahead of him in the Lower Academy.
From the podium, the crier bellowed that the emperor would bless the games. Everyone thundered to their feet and then hushed. His voice amplified, most likely by a mage, the emperor prayed to the gods for an excellent round of games. When he finished, everyone sat.
For a very long moment the arena was still. Then the boy felt a slow, regular thudding rise through the stone and up his legs. His body shuddered against the railing. Nearby, in the wall that took up a third of the southern end of the arena, huge barred gates swung inward.
Here came drummers and trumpeters, clad only in gold-trimmed scarlet loincloths. Their oiled bodies gleamed as brightly as the polished metal of their instruments. The brawny men represented every race of the empire in the colors of their skin and hair and the tattoos on their faces and bodies. One thing they had in common: iron slave rings around their throats.
Arram rubbed his own throat uneasily. His original home, Tyra, was not a slave country. Three years in Carthak had not made him comfortable with the practice, not when there were no slaves at his school. He saw them only when he was outside, and the sight of them made him edgy.
The leader of the musicians raised his staff. The trumpeters let loose a blare that made Arram jump, almost tipping him over the rail. The men caught him again.
“You’re best off at your seat,” the friendly one advised. “Ain’t your mamma callin’ yeh?”
“I’m eleven,” Arram lied. “I don’t need a mother—I’m a student at the School for Mages!”
The men’s laughter was drowned out by a thunder of drumrolls. Arram gave the sands what he called his special, magical squint. Now he saw waves of spells all over the arena floor. They sent ripples through the air, carrying the arena’s noise even to the people in the seats high above.
“Why do they allow spells on the arena sand?” he shouted at the friendlier of the two men. As far as he knew, magic was forbidden here. Perhaps they allowed only their own magic, just as they allowed the emperor’s magic.
“What spells?” the man bellowed. He reached over Arram’s head and tapped his friend as the musicians marched past. “The lad thinks there’s magic on the sands!”
The other roughneck looked down his flattened nose at Arram. A couple of scars on his face told the boy he may have come by that nose in fighting. “What’re you, upstart?” he growled. “Some kind of mage?”
“Of course I am!” Arram retorted. “Didn’t you hear me say I’m in the School for Mages?”
“He’s simple,” the friendlier man said. “Leave ’im be. Who’re you bettin’ on?”
The other man seized Arram by the collar and lifted him into the air. “If you’re a mage, spell me, then,” he growled. “Turn me into somethin’, before I break yer skinny neck for botherin’ us.”
“Don’t be stupid!” Arram cried. His mind, as always, had fixed on the question of magic. “Only a great mage can turn a person into something else! Even—”
His foe choked off Arram’s next comment—that he might never be a great mage—by turning his fist to cut off the boy’s voice entirely. “Stupid, am I?” he shouted, his eyes bulging. “You moneyed little piece of tripe—”
Arram might have corrected him concerning the state of his pocketbook, but he couldn’t breathe and had finally remembered a teacher’s advice: “You don’t make friends when you tell someone you think he is stupid.” He was seeing light bursts against a darkening world. He called up the first bit of magic he’d ever created, after a walk on a silk carpet brought flame to his fingers. He drew that magic from the sands and seized the fist on his collar.
The tough yelped and released Arram instantly. “You! What did you do to me?”
Arram couldn’t answer. He hit the rail and went over backward, arms flailing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday #Review - Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown #YALIT #Historical

Series: Standalone
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Historical

A thrilling and suspenseful World War I–era spy novel about a bright British girl who is sent into the heart of enemy territory to rescue Britain’s most valuable (and secret) spy—perfect for fans of Code Name Verity and What I Saw and How I Lied.

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

Teri Brown's Velvet Undercover is the thrilling story of one girl’s journey into a deadly world of spycraft and betrayal—with unforgettable consequences. The story is set to the backdrop of the Great War, aka World War I. Samantha Donaldson is a practical, intelligent British girl. She’s studied code breaking, languages, and mathematics, and she isn’t afraid to prove herself to anyone. She's a strong, brilliant, likable heroine. She is also someone who can legitimately speak several languages as though she was native to that country. 

When Sam, who is employed as a messenger at MI5, finishes runner up in the Girls Guides competition, she is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche. This could be the adventure she’s always dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? When Letty Tickford, her handler, reveals shocking news, and the fact that Sam is "clean," having never been in the field before, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity as it may never come her way again.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany. The spy is known to the members of LDB as Velvet. Nobody knows who Velvet really is. Samantha’s journey starts by taking on a new identity and background as Sophia von Schonburg. She trains hard in spy craft and using her ciphering skills. Extracting a spy will not be easy, especially when she has to go deep undercover
within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. 

While serving as governess to the children of the family, Sam must unravel the truth among the suspects and guests in Berlin's royal palace is a dangerous game, and making it all much more complicated is Samantha’s forbidden attraction to a handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both? 

Brown brings danger, intrigue and dark twisty streets of World War I era Berlin to life in this thrilling and mysterious historical novel. Brown has become something of a go to author when it comes to Young Adult Historical Fiction. Her previous series was Born of Illusion set in New York City. I will say this. While I will definitely recommend this novel, I am actually disappointed that there isn't a sequel. There is so much more to explore with Sam, as well as the all women's group known as La Dame Blanche, and the romance between Sam and her intriguing beau. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday #Review - Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman #YALIT #SyFy

Series: Arc of a Scythe # 2
Format: Hardcover, 512 pages
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: S&S Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Recommended By: 
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times bestseller Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.
The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Thunderhead is the second installment in author Neal Shusterman's Arc of a Scythe series. Shusterman's world is a place where an Artificial Intelligence called the Thunderbird provides the people with everything they need to survive. There's no more hunger, everyone has shelter and jobs if they so choose, and the people also have the technology to be revived if they die, as well as the ability to turn back time to live as long as they as they desire. 

There is one group who doesn't not answer to the Thunderbird. That group is Scythe's. Scythes are the ones who glean (kill) those in order to keep the population growth from being overcrowded. Once again, the author alternates between Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova, but there is a third character who gets a fair amount of the story. His name is Greyson Tolliver. More shortly. Rowan and Citra have taken opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. He has seen the corruption of the Scythe's and wants to send a message that their behavior will no longer be tolerated. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Meanwhile, Citra, now called Scythe Anastasia, is continuing her mentorship under Scythe Curie. She sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes that once followed Goddard who wanted to upset the apple cart and create his own version for the world. One could call Citra the compassionate Scythe. She let's those she chooses have ample time in which to prepare and even allows the chosen to chose how they are going to die. 

I mentioned Greyson before. Greyson has an interesting storyline. Greyson is a kid that had absentee parents. He was pretty much raised by the Thunderhead who became his only friend and confidant. All emotions that he should feel towards his family, he feels for the Thunderhead. He goes from being a chosen one to having his entire life turned upside down. Unable to interfere with the Scythe's, the Thunderbird actually uses Greyson in ways that may or may not make sense to a majority of readers. I was so disheartened by the things that Greyson encounters. I wanted the author to stop torturing him and get to the point of why Greyson was so important.

There are other characters that are involved in this story as well, including the return of Faraday, and a woman named Munira. The pair are searching for something I shalt not spoil. It defeats the purpose of giving out too much information. I will say that I am still trying to connect the point of this search, with what happens to Citra, Rowan, and even Scythe Curie who have have come to love. 

In between chapters, we also get a deeper understanding of what the Thunderbird is, and what its reasoning for being really means for humanity. There are some really good twists and the world building was excellent opening up more information about the Scythes and the politics within the Scythedom. The ending of this book is particularly intense and action packed, and left an indelible reminder that life is fleeting, and so is author's abilities to stay away from heart breaking cliffhanger endings. 

Would I recommend this story? Yes. While it is still technically a young adult themed novel, there are plenty of adult situations to make any reader stay until the ending. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

ARC #Review/Excerpt - Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves #YALIT #Historical

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion # 2
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Historical

Get ready for more magic in the dark, dazzling, action-packed sequel to Blood Rose Rebellion.

Sixteen-year old Anna Arden was once just the magically barren girl from an elite Luminate family. Now she has broken the Binding—and Praetheria, the creatures held captive by the spell, wreak havoc across Europe. Lower-class citizens have access to magic for the first time, while other Luminates lose theirs forever. Austria and Hungary are at odds once more.

Anna thought the Praetheria were on her side, grateful to be free from the Binding. She thought her cousin Matyas’s blood sacrifice would bring peace, equality, justice. She thought her future looked like a society that would let her love a Romani boy, Gabor.

But with the Monarchy breathing down her neck and the Praetheria intimidating her at every turn, it seems the conspiracies have only just begun.

As threat of war sweeps the region, Anna quickly discovers she can’t solve everything on her own. Now there’s only one other person who might be able to save the country before war breaks out. The one person Anna was sure she’d never see again. A bandit. A fellow outlaw. A man known as the King of Crows. Matyas.

Series Overview: Sixteen-year-old Anna, never capable in magic, finds she holds the key to reshape the nature of magic and the ways of society—but it will be a dangerous journey.

Lost Crow Conspiracy is the second installment in author Rosalyn Eves Blood Rose Rebellion series. The story alternates POV between Anna Arden and a second character who I will talk about later. As the story picks up, it is May 1848, and Anna is living in Vienna, Austria with her sister Catherine and her British diplomat husband. Anna's life hasn't been the same since she released the so called Praetheria from their thousand year old prison by breaking the binding. 

Even though some call her the Heroine of Hungary, Austrians have not forgiven or forgotten her role in releasing Hungarian rebels in Buda-Pest and saving her friends lives. If they knew about her role in breaking the binding, she would be in even more trouble. Especially with the Luminates, who lost control over who can actually use magic or not, demanding answers to who was responsible. Now that Anna has broken the binding, people from any class have the ability to be a conduit for magic. 

People are also not aware that Anna is a chimera, or a two souled person who can shatter spells. Not even her sister who notices almost everything. Thankfully, only 4 people are aware of that secret. Anna finds herself in the presence of Habsburg royalty in this story. Archduke Franz Joseph and Archduchess Sophie are pivotal to the stories political machinations as well as a whole slew of trouble for Anna. 

But, Anna hasn't forgotten about her deal with Hunger for his help in Hungary, and on that issue, she enters the fray of a political world that has no love for the newly freed
Praetertheria. That brings Anna to the Congress of Praetheria which is convening to address the unwanted visitor to this new world of reality. The world is split on what to do with the Praetheria from Russia granting them all sanctuary, to England wanting to prevent this from happening. She's being courted by a royal, while her heart lies with a Romani who continues to believe they have no future together.

Anna faces a huge fallout from not telling certain people about what really happened to her cousin Maytas. It also means that we, as readers, get to see what really happened to Maytas. (Some think this is a huge spoiler. Sorry folks!) We get to meet a whole new cast of characters. Matyas' path to finding out who he really is and what path he will eventually take, and what he is actually capable of, leads him to the company of the Goddess of Hungary Boldogasszony and less righteous thieves and bandits.

Matyas story is the more action packed, while Anna's is the most politically driven. As the story works towards a world at war, it will be interesting to see how Eves resolves Anna's troubles and whether or not she will find happiness in the face of tremendous challenges and difficulties.

Would I recommend this story? Yes, I would. I love the historical figures that are intertwined into the story. I love how Anna takes the world on her shoulders and tries to survive without losing everyone she loves, including her own sister who has never been one of Anna's strongest supporters. Anna and Matyas stories 

Favorite Quote(s):

"You think because I am a girl, I am weak. Because I speak for those who are given no voice here, my voice should matter less. You are wrong, on both counts." —Anna

"Magic comes from life force. Magic is not soul, but soul fuel magic. The stronger your soul, the stronger your magic. Humans are fools to think praetheria have no souls. It is because we have big souls, old souls, that we have such powerful magic. And you, because you are a chimera, you have two souls. You could have great magic, if you were not afraid." Vasilisa, Praetherian 

Chapter 1

Vienna, May 1848

There is a feeling a hunted creature gets: a prickling of fine hairs at the back of the neck, a sense of unseen eyes crawling across one’s spine, a shift in the air. A smell, perhaps.
I could not say what it was that night that struck me, only that between one turn on the ballroom floor and another, a sickness settled in my stomach. Someone—or something—was watching me.

My laugh turned brittle, my fingertips cold. I scanned the ballroom as I danced, searching for the source of my disquiet. Music swelled around me. Men in dark suits and women in jewel-toned gowns swirled past, gliding across the marble floor in time to one of Johann Strauss’s waltzes. Frost and fire flickered up alternating walls, part of the night’s illusions.

It was not so unusual, at a ball, to play at predator and prey: for women to hide behind their fans and fluttering lashes; for men to prowl the rim of the room in search of new game.
This was different.

Catherine would say I was being fanciful—or fretful. Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe the eyes I felt boring into me, the glances that shifted just before I turned, belonged to gentlemen whose interest in me was more flirtatious than feral. But most of those gentlemen owned their interest: their names crowded my dance card. And the thought of their attention did not make my skin crawl.

Perhaps it was one of the many military men, resplendent in their dress uniforms: white and red and green and gold. I had not missed how they turned away when I approached, how their mouths lined with distaste. The Austrians had not forgiven me for releasing Hungarian rebels in Buda-Pest in the middle of a battle their soldiers had lost. Only the Hungarian hussars, with their elaborately frogged and embroidered dolmans, smiled at my approach.

But neither the Austrian soldiers nor the Hungarian hussars knew the whole truth: that before I had freed the prisoners, I had broken the Binding spell, shattering elite control of magic and releasing the creatures held inside the spell. If they knew, they would do more than turn away. They would shun me entirely.

A particularly exquisite being floated past, as much light as solid form, bearing crystal goblets on a silver tray. I watched it pass, my gloved fingers curling. Of all the things I disliked about my new home in Vienna—from the overwhelmingly ornate buildings to the excessive formality—this new fashion of hiring inhuman beings distressed me most. I had not freed the creatures from the Binding for them to serve as ornaments for the nobility. Praetertheria, the scientists called them now. Praetheria for the nonscientists, for those who did not simply call them monsters.

“Do you make a long stay in Vienna?” my partner, a tall man with thinning hair, asked.

I wrenched my focus back. My inattention was rude, and he had done nothing—yet—to deserve it. “I am not certain. I am visiting my sister, Lady Gower, and her husband. He is attached to the British embassy here.” I did not tell him that it had taken a month of wheedling, after Catherine’s yuletide wedding, before Mama allowed me to leave England, and then only because Mama thought gentlemen on the Continent might not be so particular, and the money Grandmama had left me might sweeten the pill of my forward nature.

My chimera nature, the dual souls fighting for dominance inside me. But Mama knew nothing of that.

I shivered, wishing abruptly that I had not come. I did not want to dance with strangers, to make small talk with snobs. I wanted to be in Hungary, among my old friends, walking alongside the Duna River with Gábor. But this was part of the deal I had made with Mama when I left England: I could come to Vienna with Catherine if I made an effort in polite society.

My partner asked another question and I answered mechanically, my mental image of Gábor’s dark eyes and warm smile dissolving.

I searched out the creature again, now on the far side of the room. I wondered what it was: vila or hundra or álf or something I had no name for.

A girl with hair so pale it looked white stood beside the praetherian, whispering to it. As if she felt my eyes on her, she glanced up. A cold shock flashed through me. Was she the source of that hunted feeling? But her eyes fell away, uninterested.

We finished out our dance with idle chatter: discussions of the weather (chilly still), speculations as to whether Emperor Ferdinand and Archduke Franz Joseph might appear (I doubted it), and gossip (on my partner’s part) about people I did not know. Neither of us spoke about the real issue—the reason why so many outsiders had convened on Vienna in late spring, a season when the nobility should be preparing to leave for their country estates.

In the months since I had released the praetheria from the Binding, the question of what to do with them had grown increasingly vexing as they regained their strength and mingled more with society. What rights—if any—ought praetheria to have? Where should they live? A Congress to settle the issue was to begin in a little over a fortnight, on the seventh of June. Were it not for the Congress, Catherine and Richard might have stayed in England, and I with them.
My partner returned me to the corner where Catherine waited, her cheeks still flushed from her own turn on the floor. For a fraction of a second, some trick of the light and her profile made me see Grandmama, and I stopped, my heart aching anew with her loss.

Catherine turned at my approach. “Anna, can you not persuade Noémi to dance? I hate to see her buried among the dowagers and chaperones like this.”

My cousin Noémi shrugged, her fingers flickering upward to brush the glimmering pelican of her soul sign and then linger on the filigree cross she wore. Mátyás’s cross. “My brother is but eight months dead, ma’am. My uncle bid me come, but I do not wish to dance.” Her hands dropped to smooth the lavender folds of her skirt, and my heart fell with the gesture. Noémi would not have abandoned the black of deep mourning without pressure from her family. “I am no longer certain of my steps.”

Once, Noémi had loved a dance. As had I. The revolution and Mátyás’s death had changed us both. Luminate magicians had smoothed her blistered skin to show no scar, but some of the deeper damage she had sustained when we fought to break the Binding remained. Even Luminate healers could not work miracles. At home Noémi wore spectacles that sharpened some of her dulled vision but could not correct the near blindness in her right eye. But her aunt had forbidden the eyeglasses at the ball.

“You certainly do not lack for partners.” Noémi caught my wrist, where a silver charm dangled from a bracelet. It was cunningly engraved with the fire and ice of the night’s theme, the pages of my dance card folded neatly inside.

“Money compensates for many faults.”

Now it was Catherine’s turn to frown. “You underrate yourself.” Her own rose soul sign glittered, a reminder that she, like Noémi, was among the lucky Luminates who had not lost their magic when the Binding shattered and could still cast a soul sign for public display.

I had promised myself not to unduly aggravate Catherine, so I swallowed a tart answer and said merely, “Thank you.”

Catherine peered over my shoulder, reading the fine print of the names to Noémi. “Zichy, Széchenyi, Peterffy .?.?.”

“You are still the darling of the Hungarians, and not for any of your wealth,” Noémi said. “They remember what you did.”
“What we did.” Noémi had been with me the night I broke the Binding, and in the prison, during the terrible aftermath of fighting. I did not think either of us had forgotten the smell of gun smoke and blood, the keening of creatures in the street, the silence of an assassin moving through a dark prison. Besides Grandmama and Mátyás, who could no longer speak my secret, only four living souls knew what happened that night: Noémi, my uncle Pál, myself—and the praetherian with whom I had made my bargain, an army in exchange for a broken spell.
Catherine shuddered. “Please, Noémi, must you mention that now? Someone might hear you.”
As if talk of a revolution were the worst thing that could happen to one. I sprang up. “I am parched after all that dancing.”
“Richard has already gone to fetch me some lemonade. I’m sure he will bring some for you as well,” Catherine said. “And haven’t you a partner for this dance?”
“Please make my excuses.” I did not wait for Catherine’s answer before plunging into the crowd. Unwanted images from that bloody October day tumbled through my head. Though I pressed my fingers to my temples, I could not shake the pictures. I could not stay beside Catherine and pretend I had any interest in the dance. I could not sit placidly with Mátyás’s sister and lie to her with my smiles and light words.
Noémi did not know all my secrets. She did not know that everything we had won that day—the broken Binding, the praetherian army, the revolution—had been bought with her brother’s blood.
And I had held the knife that killed him.