Thanks to Entangled Publishing, and author Melanie Card, I'm happy to have Read My Mind be a part of the blog tour for Card's newest release, WARD AGAINST DEATH.
Thank you Lillie for inviting me to be your guest today. I'm thrilled to be here. I'd love to introduce you to the world of WARD AGAINST DEATH. The book is a fantasy set in another world (although it isn't just a fantasy, it's a mystery/adventure and a romance, too.)
One of the things I love about writing fantasy is the freedom to take little tidbits of historical fact and add fantastical details to it. So I've taken the flavor of the Renaissance (corsets, doublets, a few wigs, carriages, and rapiers), added a strong religious power with the ability to greatly influence the kings and queens of many kingdoms (reminiscent of the Catholic Church during the 1600s), and added an elite FBI style investigation force (with swords instead of guns.) I've taken great liberties with the root information, so only the historic flavor remains—once I started writing in the world it kind of took on a life of its own, and I have no doubt, magical items and abilities aside, that there are more than a few anachronistic details.
The world is called the Union of Principalities. It's a kingdom of sixteen principalities united under one religious power, The Grewdian Council. Each principality has its own ruling Prince (or Princess), guided, of course by that principality's Seer. There are few military disagreements between the principalities because of the Grewdian Council, and they trade freely with each other, although prejudice still remains among some principalities.
The Grewdian Council is a council of thirteen seers who have the magical gift of seeing possible futures. They, along with other men with the seer’s gift, rule the predominant religion and lead worship in temples throughout the principality. They believe in an all powerful Goddess, Her Light Son, and Her Dark Son who’s divine presence oversees all aspects of the world. Also within the Grwdian Council's control is an elite force of soldiers: the Quayestri, those who uphold spiritual law.
The Quayestri have absolute authority over the law (their word can hold more weight than the general of a principality's army, although for diplomatic reasons they usually proceed carefully when accusing a nobleman of a crime.) On the command of the Grewdian Council the Quayestri hunt the worst criminals in the Union of Principalities, regardless of whether these criminals cross principality boarders. The Quayestri are divided into two groups: Trackers and Inquisitors. All Quayestri are seen with reserve among the people of the principalities since their word is law and final, particularly if you're not of noble blood. And there are members of the Quayestri who abuse their power.
The Trackers are the detectives of the Quayestri. They follow clues, track criminals, interview witnesses, and apprehend criminals. They are highly skilled in various combat styles, horsemanship, military strategy, as well as court etiquette and principality politics. They are the more welcome (and slightly less feared) of the Quayestri because they don't possess any magical abilities.
The Inquisitors are the most feared of the Quayestri, and, while not publicly shunned, are avoided if possible. They have the magical ability to read memories and—depending on the strength of the Inquisitor's ability—to sense emotions. The process of reading a person's memories is painful and potentially dangerous. The Inquisitor's ability rips into the person's mind (which can permanently damage the mind), finds the memory of the crime, and projects it in the air for everyone to see. This confirms the criminal’s guilt and the Inquisitor then deals out the sentence. If the sentence isn't death but court service or something else, the criminal has a goddess-eye branded onto the back of his/her neck as a reminder that the Goddess is always watching.
Thank you for joining me today. WARD AGAINST DEATH is a combination of different historical details. What historical details do you like to see included in a fantasy book?
Check out the following excerpt from WARD AGAINST DEATH to whet your interest.
Another crossbow bolt embedded in the wood by Ward’s head. He dropped to his knees
and scrambled into the records room, pressing his back to the wall, his sharp gasps forced past the lump in his throat.
Celia closed the book, slipped it on the shelf beside a row of other, identical books, and shut the false front, revealing a plain paneled wall. She eased to the door and knelt beside him. “Did you see how many there are?”
He shook his head, not trusting his voice. He’d been in trouble before, but the held-at-sword-point-and-arrested kind. Never the kind where people shot arrows at him. She poked her head around the edge of the doorframe. Two more bolts hit the wall. All the muscles in Ward’s body contracted.
“They seem serious,” he said, hoping bravado would counterbalance his shaking.
She sat back on her heels. “If they are, they’re not very good shots.”
He swallowed. They seemed fine to him, but he supposed now wasn’t the time to start a debate . It would be better if he asked Celia about her escape plan, although he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear that, either.
She glanced out the door again. This time there was no answering crossbow fire. “They’ve taken cover. Which means they’re waiting for us to make a run for it.” She flashed him a huge grin. “I think we should oblige them.”
“Excuse me?” Had he heard wrong? Had she just said they should make a run for it?
“Just outside this door, to the left, is a pile of sacks.”
He didn’t recall any sacks. Of course, if asked at that moment what he wore, he wasn’t sure he could say.
“I’ll bet they’ve placed a man there. I’m sure they’ll count on me betting on that, so they’re hoping I’ll risk the open area to the right. The barrels over there are bigger, but farther away.”
“Bigger is good.”
“Sure, and the run to them will make us bigger targets.”
“But there’s a man over the other way.”
“Yes.” She lunged out the door and to the left.
Two more bolts slammed into the wall behind her.
How did he get into this again?
Another bolt hit the wall. Someone screamed. Was it Celia? Ward jumped to his feet and followed, bent over, arms covering his head. He could feel the archers sizing him up along the length of their crossbows.
A bolt whizzed past him, and he dove for the space between the wall and the sacks,
sliding to the edge of a pool of blood. A man, his neck a gaping wound, stared at him. Ward scrambled back, hands sticky.
Somehow, she’d stolen the man’s dagger and slit his throat in a matter of seconds. This was the art passed down from mother to daughter in her family? If it had been something like needlepoint, they wouldn’t be in this situation at all.
Celia grabbed the back of his shirt and hauled him into a crouch. “There’s a side door that way.” She pointed along the path between the wall and a long row of barrels. “It’ll be guarded. Do you still have that dagger?”
Ward held it up, his hand trembling. He didn’t know who was more surprised, Celia or himself.
“Are you having fun yet, necromancer?”
“Fun?” His voice cracked. “You’re mad.”
“Yes. I’m told it runs in the family.” She squeezed his shoulder, her eyes bright with either excitement or insanity—Ward couldn’t decide which. She crawled toward the door beneath the cover of the barrels. Forearm over forearm and legs spread, lying low to the floor, she skimmed the tiles with her belly. She reached the edge of the barrels in four quick pounds of Ward’s heart, and peeked around the corner. Then she dashed the last two feet to the door, threw it open, and flew out, her bloody dagger held tight up the length of her forearm.
Ward gulped, trying to make himself stand and run.
What awaited him beyond that door? His death? Celia’s death—again? It was so much
easier when he didn’t see how a person died, when the individual was a lifeless body on a table, his soul across the veil within the bosom of the Goddess.
He ground his teeth, and glanced over his shoulder at the body behind him. Some
necromancer he was. He wasn’t even able to control his own zombie, or whatever she was. Maybe he should have paid closer attention to the necromancer’s obligation to maintain the balance between life and death. The false life he’d given her was claiming real lives in an attempt to correct the imbalance.
But her death was false, too. Someone had murdered her, and she had a right to find
justice before she crossed over. It was more than most murder victims received.
It also didn’t matter if she was crazy or not. She was still defending herself—and him, for that matter. He had it within his power to help her and prevent more people from dying. He was Edward de’Ath the Fourth, eighth-generation necromancer. His family could raise the Prophets of Aawabaen—or at least Grandfather could. What untapped powers did he possess? He’d successfully performed the Jam de’U with improvised components, a fraction of the time in meditation, and thugs banging on the door. If he called on the spirits of the Ancients, would that
be enough to scare off whoever was on the other side of that door? Another shout made him jump. This one sounded more like a guttural command.
No, calling the Ancients would be too difficult. He didn’t even know if they were on the other side of the veil. Better to stick with something easier, like a reverse wake. Well, he wasn’t entirely sure how easy it was, but he’d performed so many regular wakes before, how much harder could it be to push out someone’s soul instead of calling it back?
He looked at his bloody hands. He didn’t even have to go out of his way to find blood— Celia had seen to that.
He swallowed hard and ran for the door, skidding to a halt before he reached it and
ducking behind the barrels. It would be better if he could support his plan with a means of escape as well. He turned his gaze to the stalls across from him. The horses snorted and pranced, their eyes wide at the fighting and scent of blood.
It wasn’t the first time he’d shoved a bridle on a nervous horse―just the first time he’d done it to save a noblewoman who happened to be the daughter of the Dominus, and who also happened to be an assassin. There wasn’t a person alive—or dead—who’d believe it if Ward told them this story.
Another shout and a scream made Ward jump. Sucking in a calming breath, he ran to
the nearest stall, grabbed the bridle from the hook by the door, and opened the gate.
The horse whinnied and shook its head, the whites of its eyes bright in the dim light.
“Yeah, I know,” Ward said. “Let’s get out of here.”
He stepped closer, trying not to add to the horse’s fear, but still move as fast a possible. He eased his left thumb into the corner of the horse’s mouth, slipped the bit in, and fastened the bridle at the top and nose. With one fluid motion, he swung onto the horse’s back.
A crossbow bolt glanced Ward’s hip, ripping his shirt. The horse bucked and leapt from the stall. Celia was right. They either were bad shots or they didn’t want him dead. He tried to form a coherent thought, figure out why he was still alive, but he couldn’t settle on anything. His mind was a whirl of ideas, images, and memories, all racing with his wild pulse, screaming for him to flee.
He spurred the horse through the side door into the courtyard beyond. Men held Celia, one at each arm, while a third, a massive man with swarthy skin and wild braided hair, faced her. To their right, three men lay in a pool of blood. Ward closed his eyes and raised a bloody hand, drawing on his family’s ancient power.
He imagined it shooting through the men before him, forcing their souls from their bodies.
For a heartbeat there was silence.
He did it! He couldn’t believe it. He’d actually cast a reverse wake.
But then he opened his eyes. Nothing had changed. Everyone remained standing, and
everyone stared at him. Soulless bodies didn’t litter the ground. No one looked affected in any way. Not even sleepy.
Sounds good, right? Luckily, I have the opportunity to offer one commenter an e-book copy of WARD AGAINST DEATH, today and today only. That's right, until 10pm today (August 10th), just leave a comment to be entered, which either poses a question to Melanie Card, or answers her question to you that is in bold just above the Entangled Publishing banner in this post. Want an extra chance at winning? Just let me know in your comment!
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Good Luck to all!
But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.
However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…