Sneak Peek Week with S.J. Lem
All eighteen-year-old Ri wants is to cure her adoptive father Samuel from his hallucination-inducing illness. Everyone in her village tells her it's impossible. But when she meets two newcomers in the forest—a gruff rogue with a vendetta against the gods and a charming fugitive with the power to travel through water—she'll be torn away from Samuel and swept across the sea to an oppressive city governed by a ruthless tyrant. Once there, she'll not only have to confront Samuel's unlawful past, but a vicious evil that threatens all mankind.
In this tale of bravery, friendship, and unexpected love, Ri must discover her own strength to save the men she cares for.
Author S.J. Lem has done a wonderful job in creating characters that readers will relate to, connect with and truly come to care about. If that isn’t a hallmark of a great author, I’m not sure what is. The prose is crisply written and excellently paced. The story line itself is very exciting and readable. Any young adult reader who enjoys an exciting and adventurous tale with a wonderful message should absolutely grab this book.”
Five Stars, Reader’s Favorite
“I’m sorry, but I have to go. Now.” I threw the blanket off me.
“Did I say something wrong? Was it the rats?” He pushed Miss Meow off his lap. She flopped on the floor and rolled onto her back. “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”
“Doubtful.” I staggered to my feet, searching for an exit.
A white canvas sheet, each corner hooked to a peg, gleamed against the rock wall. Wind pressed against its backside, rippling the fabric. Another sheet hung on the opposite wall, bucking. Both covered tunnels.
“Which tunnel leads outside?” I asked.
He stood and braced my shoulders. “Ri, I think you should sit down.”
“No, no, I’m fine. Really.” I alternated glances between the two canvas sheets. “I need to get back to my village right away.”
“You’re worried about the older gentleman.” He maneuvered into my line of sight, blocking my view of the potential exit. “I saw you leading him out of the forest the day we met.”
I nodded. “Yes, he’s rather intrigued by you. He thinks you appear out of nowhere. Like magic.”
“Uh …” His eyes widened. “He does?”
“Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous. Wait. Did you say, the day we met? We met today.”
“No, Ri. You’ve been here for three days.”
“Three days? I’ve been lying there for three days?” I pointed at the blanket as if it stole this precious time from me. Samuel could not care for himself one day, let alone three. What if he wandered into the forest again? “I’m sorry, you’ve been very kind, and I don’t mean to run out of here after you helped me, but I really have to go.”
I hurried toward the canvas sheet to my right, and he trailed me close on my heels. Could I act anymore ungrateful? I paused and faced him. “Why don’t you come to my village? A cave is no place to live. Besides, it’s dangerous to stay here with whatever is out there in the forest.”
“Yes, about that … we don’t need to worry about the things in the forest finding us here. Please Ri, have a seat.” He guided me toward the chair. A black dart-sized object rested atop the table on a piece of cloth.
I grabbed the thing and rotated it between my fingers, examining it. “This is what struck me in the clearing.”
The object’s weight, texture, and size reminded me of a chicken leg bone. One end of the cylinder-shaped object was blunt, while the other tapered to a point. A shiver scurried up my spine like a centipede.
“Please be careful.” Bryce eased the thing out of my hand using the cloth. “It’s poisonous.”
“Who would want to poison us?”
“I don’t know. I was hoping that you could answer that.” He set the strange thing back on the table. His forehead wrinkled with worry. “Ri, you’re not going to like this, but … I can’t take you back to your village.”
A hard weight formed in my stomach. Perhaps he was afraid to enter the forest again after being attacked.
“We can make it together if we move fast.” I hurried toward the canvas sheet on my right. The corner of the covering flopped over as I unfastened the tie from the first peg.
“No.” Bryce wedged himself between the tunnel and me. “You must never go down this tunnel. Never.”
“Fine,” I said, raising my voice to get the urgency across. “I’ll take the other tunnel.”
I spun around and rushed toward the tunnel to my left. The fire had diminished to a faint wisp, barely lighting the cavern, and I accidentally knocked over a pile of books sitting on the ground. I gasped, counting at least a dozen. I had only seen one book in my lifetime—a leather-bound collection of wilted pages that Samuel owned. He had called the book an evil thing and tossed it into the valley shortly after taking me as his ward. I always wondered if someone else had found it.
I kicked Bryce’s books out of my way and headed toward the tunnel. He had quite an assortment of the wicked things. Perhaps he wasn’t as noble as I first thought. I quickened my pace toward the tunnel, but he grabbed my arm.
“Let go,” I said. “I want to go home.”
“Ri, please calm down and listen to me. This is going to sound crazy, but … we’re no longer on your island, and we can’t return until the next dark moon.”
I stopped struggling. The effects of panic paired with my fever. Dizzy, I braced the rock wall. “We’re no longer on my island?”
He nodded. “I know it’s not ideal. But I will take you home.”
“But not until the dark moon?” I plunged my hand into my pocket and rubbed my thumb against the glass face of my compass. I struggled to calm my breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Calm. Ouch. The broken glass pricked me.
“It’s not so bad,” Bryce said through a nervous laugh. “The dark moon comes every month. It’s rather predictable that way.”
“But the dark moon just passed. You want me here for a month?”
“Well, no. Of course, I don’t want you here for a month.” His jaw dropped, and he chopped his hands back and forth. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sure you’d make pleasant enough company. There’s plenty we could do together. I mean …”
I glanced at the books. What if the evil things had affected Bryce’s mind? After all, his story made no sense.
“Come with me.” I cupped his shoulder. “There’s a very good healer in my village who can help … um … manage your condition.”
He jerked his head. “Great, you think I’ve lost my mind.” He raised his arms and then let them flop to his side in defeat. “Well, prepare yourself, because there’s more. I walk through an underground waterfall in this cave and emerge from the one near your village. It’s exactly as the older gentleman explained it to you. Magic.”
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