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Caragh M. O'Brien

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Caragh M. O'brien Promised
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Series:

The Birthmarked Trilogy

Biographical note:

Since earning an MA in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, Caragh M. O’Brien has been a high school teacher, an author of romance novels, and now a novelist for teens. Her novels Birthmarked and Prized were named YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults.  Birthmarked was also a Junior Library Guild Selection and chosen for the ALA 2011 Amelia Bloomer List.  She lives with her family and writes from her home in Connecticut.

Excerpt from book:

CHAPTER 1
 
 
exodus
GAIA NOTCHED HER ARROW and drew back the taut string of her bow.
“Don’t move,” she said. “At this range, I can’t miss, and I’m aiming for your right kidney.”
The spying nomad lay belly-down, with goggles pushed up and binoculars pointed down the cliff toward Gaia’s clans. An old rifle was propped within easy reach. At Gaia’s voice, the spy lowered the binoculars a centimeter.
“That’s right. Now slowly move away from the rifle,” Gaia said.
Instead, the nomad rolled over, threw the binoculars at her, and grabbed for the rifle. Gaia released her arrow and dodged sideways. She reached to notch a second arrow even as the first one pierced the nomad’s hand, knocking the rifle wide to bounce over the cliff into silence. Before the spy could recover, Gaia stepped down hard on the arrow to pin the skewered hand to the ground.
“I said don’t move,” Gaia said.
She aimed her arrow point-blank at the nomad’s face, and saw for the first time that below the goggles, the features belonged to a young girl.
Startled, Gaia eased up and lifted her foot off the girl’s hand. She wrenched a dagger from the girl’s belt and shoved back away from her. A quick look over her shoulder showed Gaia they were alone on the ridge, which annoyed her to no end. Where were her scouts? Overhead, the sky was an effulgent canopy of pinks and oranges, but the wasteland was washed in the ashy shadows of dusk, making visibility sketchy at best. Gaia notched her arrow again, ready.
“You can’t be out here alone,” Gaia said. “Where’s your tribe?”
The nomad girl curled over her wounded hand. Blood dripped red onto the rocks, and the feathers of the arrow blossomed like a pernicious flower out of the back of her hand.
“Speak up, girl,” Gaia said.
The nomad girl hunched up her shoulders instead, and cradled her pierced hand to her chest. Ringed with dirt from the circles of her goggles, her dark eyes glistened with pain. If Gaia didn’t know the girl had just been armed, she’d have thought she was the most vulnerable, helpless-looking thing she’d ever seen.
“Are you understanding me?” Gaia asked.
The girl still didn’t reply, but from her alertness and the way she’d initially responded, Gaia was convinced she did understand.
Gaia had a bad feeling about this. She scanned the ridge top again, peering around boulders through the brush and shadows. Sending a girl this young to spy implied that the girl’s tribe was a bare-bones operation, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. Down below, within easy range of a rifle shot, the nineteen clans of the caravan were setting up fires and cook pots, digging out their carefully rationed supplies of food. They had nothing extra to spare to raiders.
The girl couldn’t be alone. Gaia noted critically that she was wrapped in layers of dusty cloth rather than sewn garments. Her worn boots looked like they’d crossed long kilometers, and a red fringe around the ankles, evidence of loving craftsmanship, was now dark with dust. The gi
16-year-old midwife Gaia Stone once risked everything to leave the Enclave. But the time has come for her to go back.


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