Blood of Gods and Royals
Excerpt from book:
Katerina races across the meadow, scanning for any roots or rocks in her way. Her heart thumps wildly in her chest. Her legs ache. The gazelle leaps slightly ahead of her, its hooves barely touching the grass. It is a blur of tan and white, with long, black-ringed horns; a creature not fully of the earth, but also of the sky.
Ahead of them, the forest looms, and far beyond it, she knows, lie all the villages and woods between Erissa and the capital. A sudden breeze rushes through her tangled brown hair. Her lungs burn. Instinctively she knows the gazelle does not fear her; it is challenging her. She can feel its heartbeat, its heat, its aliveness radiating in her own chest. It wants her to catch up with it.
When Kat was a child, her mother always told her to keep her special understanding of animals' thoughts and feelings a secretsuch knowledge was dangerous. But that was before
Into her mind flows the image of her mother's shining blue eyes, her cream-colored veil slipping from her golden-brown hair. She hears her voice: low, throaty, with just the trace of a Carian accent. Kat is flooded, momentarily, by a sweet, familiar comfort. But then she feels the harsh pang in her throat that always follows, as her memories dissolve into echoing screams.
Kat stumbles and the gazelle leaps ahead, kicking out front and hind legs at the same time. Raw, visceral rage consumes her, forces her to run faster, through a copse of razor-edged grass that rips and shreds her bare legs.
The sun is sliding down toward the horizon. The gazelle casts a brief glance back at her with enormous, moist brown eyes. It's time. It's time, it's time, it's time.
The gazelle dashes into the tree line at the edge of the meadow. Kat surges forward, just inches behind the creature now, focused on the horns, perfectly straight like unlit torches beckoning her, even as the animal darts through the trees. As deftly as possible, Kat follows, dodging branches and ducking beneath low-hanging limbs.
In the next few strides she will be able to touch
She slams into something hard.
Reeling backward toward the ground, she sees blue sky and green branches overhead, grass and mud and blue sky again, and then
blackness. Kat realizes that her left cheek is on the ground. She opens her eyes, and they focus slowly.
"Kat!" It's Jacob's voice. "Are you all right? I'm so sorry. I thought you saw me."
Slowly she sits up, rubbing her head, her breath coming in jagged gasps. A pair of strong, tanned legs stands before her, leading up to the broad, commanding form of her oldest friend. The boy Kat has known longer and better, it sometimes seems, than she has known herself. A boy who, until recently, was equal parts playmate and pest. Now, he has grown taller and handsomer and somehow resists falling into either category the way he used to.
Kat cranes to look around him and can no longer see the gazelle's graceful form. She's lost it.
"Here," Jacob says, offering her a hand.
Kat can't get her breath enough to speak, and her head is still spinning, but she grabs his hand and allows him to pull her to her feet.
Jacob raises an eyebrow, making his broad, tan face look a little goofy. "You're a mess," he points out unhelpfully. "And you've cut your legs, Kat." He shakes his head at her like she's a wayward pony who keeps breaking out of its pen.
She brushes herself off, scoffing. "I'm fine, Jacob. At least, I was fine until you got in my way."
"I can't believe you were after that gazelle on foot. You're crazy." He shakes his head.
"You're clumsy,""Thoroughly researched and absolutely modern." -Kirkus