Thursday, December 12, 2013
Bloodring by Faith Hunter
From the author:
In a novel filled with exhilarating action and lush imagery, Faith Hunter portrays a near-future world, caught in the throes of an ambiguous apocalypse, where a woman with everything to hide finds her destiny revealed….
No one thought the apocalypse would be like this. The world didn’t end. And the appearance of seraphs heralded three plagues and a devastating war between the forces of good and evil. Over a hundred years later, the earth has plunged into an ice age, and seraphs and demons fight a never-ending battle while religious strife rages among the surviving humans.
Thorn St. Croix is no ordinary neomage. All the others of her kind, mages who can twist leftover creation energy to their will, were gathered together into Enclaves long ago; and there they live in luxurious confinement, isolated from other humans and exploited for their magic. When her powers nearly drive her insane, she escapes—and now she lives as a fugitive, disguised as a human, channeling her gifts for war into stone-magery and the pacific tasks of jewelry making. But when Thaddeus Bartholomew, a dangerously attractive policeman, shows up on her doorstep and accuses her of kidnapping her ex-husband, she retrieves her weapons and risks revealing her identity to find him. And for Thorn, the punishment for revelation is death….
I stared into the hills as my mount clomped below me, his massive hooves digging into snow and ice. Above us a fighter jet streaked across the sky, leaving a trail that glowed bright against the fiery sunset. I gathered up the reins, tightening my knees against Homer’s sides, pressing my walking-stick against the huge horse.
A sonic boom exploded across the peaks, shaking through snow-laden trees. Ice and snow pitched down in heavy sheets and lumps. A dog yelped. The Friesian set his hooves, dropped his head and kicked. “Stones and Blood,” I hissed as I rammed into the saddle horn. The boom echoed like rifle-shot. Homer’s back arched. If he bucked, I was a gonner.
I concentrated on the bloodstone handle of my walking-stick and pulled the horse to me, reins firm as I whispered soothing, seeming nonsense words no one would interpret as a chant. The bloodstone pulsed as it projected a sense of calm into him, a use of stored power that didn’t affect my own drained resources. The sonic boom came back from the nearby mountains, a ricochet of manmade thunder.
The mule in front of us hee-hawed and kicked out, white rimming his eyes, lips wide and teeth showing as the boom reverberated through the farther peaks. Down the length of the mule train, other animals reacted as the fear spread, some bucking in a frenzy, throwing packs into drifts, squealing as lead-ropes tangled, trumpeting fear.
Homer relaxed his back, side-stepped and danced like a young colt before planting his hooves again. He blew out a rib-wracking sigh and shook himself, ears twitching as he settled. Deftly, I repositioned the supplies and packs he’d dislodged, rubbing a bruised thigh that had taken a wallop from a twenty-pound pack of stone.
Hoop Marks and his assistant guides swung down from their own mounts and steadied the more fractious stock. All along the short train, the startled horses and mules calmed as riders worked to control them. Homer looked on, ears twitching.
Behind me, a big Clydsdale calmed, shuddering with a ripple of muscle and thick winter coat, his rider following the wave of motion with practiced ease. Audric was a salvage-miner, and he knew his horses. I nodded to my old friend, and he tipped his hat to me before repositioning his stock on Clyde’s back.
A final echo rumbled from the mountains. Almost as one, we turned to the peaks above us, listening fearfully for the tale-tell roar of avalanche.
Sonic booms were rare in the Appalachians these days, and I wondered what had caused the military over-flight. I slid the walking-stick into its leather loop. It was useful for balance while taking a stroll in snow, but its real purpose was as a weapon. Its concealed blade was deadly, as was its talisman hilt, hiding in plain sight. However, the bloodstone handle/hilt was now almost drained of power, and when we stopped for the night, I’d have to find a safe,secluded place to draw power for it and for the amulets I carried or my neomage attributes would begin to display themselves.
I’m a neomage, a witchy-woman. Though contrary rumors persist, claiming mages still roam the world free, I’m the only one of my kind not a prisoner, the only one who is unregulated, unlicensed, in the entire world of humans. The only one uncontrolled.
All the others of my race are restricted to Enclaves, protected in enforced captivity. Enclaves are gilded cages, prisons of privilege and power, but cages nonetheless. Neomages are allowed out only with seraph permission, and then we have to wear a sigel of office and bracelets with satellite GPS locator chips in them. We’re followed by the humans, watched, and sent back fast when our services are no longer needed or when our visas expire. As if we’re contagious. Or dangerous.
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