Meet a Space Princess on the Run in Polaris Rising

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Polaris Rising is the debut novel of Jessie Mahilik, a rip-roaring, romantic sci-fi adventure starring a rebellious princess with attitude to spare.

Today, we’re pleased to share a brief excerpt with you, courtesy of Harper Voyager. Check it out below the back cover summary, and pick up a copy today!

A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

We wound through shabbier and shabbier neighborhoods until the plastech buildings were more boards and mud than plastech.

We circled the same block twice before Loch stopped behind the middle house on the block. He checked his com. “This is it,” he said. The house was dark, as were the two beside it. Either luck was with us or the occupants knew better than to let light escape.

I peered into the twilight while Loch opened the door. Nothing moved, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.

“I think we should abort,” I whispered as soon as we were inside. Loch was a dark shape against the deeper darkness of the room.

“Why?” he asked.

“Just a feeling.”

To his credit, Loch didn’t scoff. “Five minutes?” he asked.

I nodded reluctantly. If someone was watching us, I doubted five minutes would make a ton of difference. But for us it could mean the difference between finding guns or going home empty-handed.

We moved quickly through the house. I set my com flashlight to the lowest setting and turned it on. It was hard to tell if the house had already been ransacked or if the people living here were just slobs.

Once we checked the house for occupants, Loch and I split up. I searched one bedroom while he searched the other. I found two well-used blaster pistols in the top of the closet, as well as a small cache of energy cells. No holsters, though, so I shoved one gun in my pocket and left the other out for Loch.

I was shoving energy cells into my other pockets when Loch entered the room. “Trouble,” he said. “You were right.”

I handed him the gun and ammo. “How bad?”

“Rockhurst’s men, at least a squad of six. We’ll have to split their attention. You should take your hood down.”

“They’ll never leave me alone if they know who I am.” I pulled out the pistol and loaded it. I had a feeling I was going to need it before the night was over. I tucked it back in my pocket. It wasn’t the safest way to carry it, but a better option didn’t present itself, so I went with what I had.

“But they also won’t shoot you in the back,” Loch said. It was hard to argue with that logic. “We’ll make it seem like you escaped from me. If they capture you, I’ll come for you,” he said. “You still owe me. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“You should’ve taken the money and run,” I said. “I tried to warn you.”

“Why? This is the most fun I’ve had in years,” Loch said. His eyes gleamed in the dark and I almost believed him. “We both go left then split at the next corner. You go right. You’re not going to be able to lose them in the crowd. Run hard and fast.”

“Be careful,” I said. “Your bounty doesn’t specify that they need to keep you alive.”

“But they will,” Loch said arrogantly. “Rockhurst won’t be able to resist parading me in front of the Consortium before he kills me. Ready?”

I wasn’t, not even close, but giving Richard time to move more men over here was not going to improve matters, so I nodded.

“Look like you’re fighting me without actually slowing us down,” Loch said. “Remember: left then right. Run like hell.”

“I got it. I’ll meet you back at the house or nearby.” I left my hood down and followed Loch when he grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the door.

Two men were in the alley across the street. One on the roof. Probably more I couldn’t spot. Two pistol blasts slammed into the side of our building close enough to heat the air before I heard my name shouted. The blasts stopped.

The men across the street moved to intercept, but Loch was already sprinting. I tugged on my arm and did my best to appear terrified. It wasn’t too difficult.

At the corner I realized that if I split from him, Loch would lose his human shield. I tried to follow him, but he hissed “Right!” at me and then darted left before the soldiers knew we were separating.

I swiped my left hand across the cuff around my right wrist, first inside to outside, then the opposite. I held my hand over the cuff for two seconds. It buzzed once.

My lungs burned and the cold air stabbed at my throat. The cuff pulsed and a wall to my left danced with a shower of electric sparks. These men hadn’t forgotten their stun pistols. And the cuff could only repel two more shots.

At the next corner, I pulled the gun from my pocket and spun. The man behind me was nearly a block away. I aimed and fired in one motion. The energy bolt went clean through his thigh. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to hit, but he went down, so good enough.

I ducked behind the corner just before the second man could hit me with a stun pulse. I had to put distance between us then go to ground. I didn’t know how many men Richard had on-planet, but it couldn’t be enough to sweep an entire section of city or even the oblivious mercs living here would know something was up.

I kept my turns erratic so they couldn’t radio ahead for men to intercept me. These soldiers weren’t encumbered with heavy armor and they were in excellent physical shape. Outrunning them proved difficult.

Picking them off one at a time worked, but every time I stopped to aim at one, the others surged closer and I risked getting stunned. Since I’d surprised the first, I’d had a much more difficult time with the other three. I wounded one enough that he dropped back, but the final two were persistent as hell.

I hoped Loch was having better results.

Polaris Rising is available now. The sequel, Aurora Blazing, arrives in October.

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A Grave Robber Is in Grave Danger in The Resurrectionist of Caligo

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Resurrectionist of Caligo is one of those books that sells itself on a single sentence: a grave robber finds himself on the run after being accused of murdering one of the corpses he’s dug up. Genius—especially once you add in a hint of macabre magic in the form of a princess schooled in blood magic.

It’s a combination that landed Wendy Trimboli and Alicia Zaloga’s co-written novel on our list of 25 debuts we can’t wait to read in 2019—and now that we’ve seen the gorgeous cover (from artist John Coulthart) and read an excerpt the first chapter, we’re even more confident this is going to be as fun as it sounds.

What’s that? You’d like to see the cover and read an excerpt too? Well, then keep scrolling! Below the official summary you’ll find both! The Resurrectionist of Caligo arrives September 10, and you can preorder the book now.

With a murderer on the loose, it’s up to an enlightened bodysnatcher and a rebellious princess to save the city, in this wonderfully inventive Victorian-tinged fantasy noir.

“Man of Science” Roger Weathersby scrapes out a risky living digging up corpses for medical schools. When he’s framed for the murder of one of his cadavers, he’s forced to trust in the superstitions he’s always rejected: his former friend, princess Sibylla, offers to commute Roger’s execution in a blood magic ritual which will bind him to her forever. With little choice, he finds himself indentured to Sibylla and propelled into an investigation. There’s a murderer loose in the city of Caligo, and the duo must navigate science and sorcery, palace intrigue and dank boneyards to catch the butcher before the killings tear their whole country apart.

Chapter One

Dolorous Avenue, where Caligo’s most venerable families were interred, descended trench-like into the ground, a sliver of sky visible through the encroaching flora. The ivy-sheathed family crypts stood in rows like townhouses. Flagstone paths lead to wrought-iron porticoes that shielded crypt doors from the weather. Tiny glowing ghostcandle mushrooms sprouted from chinks between the stones, and the statue of some long-dead queen clawed the air with marble fingers. Decades of rain had streaked sooty tears down her face.

Roger drew the garlic from his pocket. He tore off a clove, peeled it, and popped it in his mouth. Chewing slowly, he knelt before the metal door of the Smith crypt, then tossed another garlic clove at the statue for good measure. A decorative iron curlicue blocked the keyhole, meant to deter amateurs. Roger gave the obstruction a practiced twist and slid it aside.

“May the foul Caligo mists blacken my lungs long afore the were-beasts get me.” The sound of his voice banished fear – a little.

He glanced over his shoulder at the marble queen. Had she moved? Roger stood and approached her, watching her stone fingers as if they might conjure sparks, or fountains of ink, or whatever illusory faerie-rubbish the royals waved about as proof of their superiority.

“Poor jammy tartlet.” Roger passed a hand over her marble cheek. “Having to witness my transgressions. You won’t sell me out, will you, your highness?”

He gave a mock bow and retreated to the crypt door. Lifting a surgeon’s charm from beneath his shirt, he kissed the shard of skull embedded in pewter for luck. He selected a tension wrench and, working by feel, torqued the lock’s internal cylinder, then manipulated the tumbler pins with a diamond pick.

“May Reason drive out the hags and warlocks who sell their unicorn paste on Mouthstreet to the unschooled masses,” he whispered. The internal mechanism clicked. Close. So close. And then…

Pang. Pang. Pang.

Roger froze. Metal struck metal – three times, then silence.

“I refuse,” he whispered as cold sweat dribbled down his forehead, “as a man of science to acknowledge witchcraft, spirits, vampyres, polterghosts, goblins, fae, volcanic subdragons, saint-sprites, mermaids, miracles–”

Pang. Pang. Pang.

The sound came from Roger’s right. Shadows enveloped the portico. Behind him, he could make out the gray, rain-washed cobbles of Dolorous Avenue and the silhouette of the stone queen.

A faint blue light floated in the dark before his eyes. His stomach twisted.

Wary of watchmen, Roger hadn’t bothered with a light. Now, arrest by a flesh-and-blood man seemed almost… welcoming. Roger fumbled in his pocket for a candle. He struck frantically with his flint and iron, struggling to light the damp tinder, then the wick. At last the flame flared up.

With a shaking hand, Roger raised the candle toward the shadows. He nearly fainted at the sight. A child swayed in the far corner, a pale girl-like thing in a puff of white nightdress. Her hands clasped a bouquet of glowing mushrooms – the hovering light. Her white sliver of neck ended in a blob of darkness. No head, no face.

The candle rolled from Roger’s fingers. “By the Lady’s nethers!” He couldn’t rise from his knees, nor unclasp his hands.

Whaaaaaatddddiiiiidyouuuuuubringmeeeeeeee???

Roger pressed his palms to his face. Garlic oil coated his fingertips. He pulled the second bulb from his pocket, lobbed it at where the girl-thing’s head should have been, then grabbed the candle. It hadn’t gone out.

The being crouched and caught the garlic bulb when it bounced off the wall. A face like a half moon appeared above her neck, as if she’d swung back a mop of dark hair. Her mouth made a thin line. No eyes, just black holes.

Hottttttttcroossssssssbuuuuuunssssss

She tore at the garlic, defying all that superstitious nonsense of its protective qualities. A clove hit his shoulder. His chin. His eye. He heard a shriek. Her? Or himself?

Roger lurched to his feet. His head smacked a curl of wrought-iron lattice. The holes in the being’s face filled his vision. All went dark.

 

Garlic – strong and fresh – tickled his nose. He felt ill.

“You ain’t dead.” A voice. A girl’s voice, lit with annoyance but otherwise normal. “If your legs work now, then run. Afore I fetch someone bigger.”

Roger lay on his back. He struggled to sit up. A girl crouched over him holding the candle. He wiped crushed garlic from his upper lip, blinking. She was a normal-looking girl with a soaked, otherwise normal-looking face.

“See?” she said. “I washed off the flour an’ the coal. You ain’t being hauled off to hell just yet.”

“That were… you?”

“I like scaring scoundrels, not killing ’em. But breaking locks, grave robbing and such, you near deserve it. Besides, I saw the prison brand on your neck. Get nabbed again, and you’ll hang.”

Roger Weathersby, man of science, faced with this more-or-less logical explanation for his paranormal experience, laughed. It hurt. His head throbbed. Self-consciously he retied his neckcloth to cover the black, crenellated wall tattoo that marked him as an ex-convict. Warm blood plastered his hair to his forehead. “So what,” he said at last. “You the caretaker’s lass or some such?”

The girl thrust the candle flame at Roger’s nose. “A minute ago you was begging for mercy. I won’t let you forget it. Who am I? My mother is a night-walking pixie and Queen of Crumpets. I work in a laundry during the day while she sleeps, and at night she turns into a faerie. She brings me hot cross buns.”

She paused. “What’s that look for? You think I’m mad?”

“You mean your mother is a street-walking doxy and Queen of Strumpets, right? She lets the dead watch you while her room is busy, eh? Got a cozy nest in a hollowed-out crypt somewhere? Smart lady, your mother.” Roger had apprenticed for an undertaker and seen what could befall a nine year-old girl fending for herself on the streets.

Preorder The Resurrectionist of Caligo, available September 10, 2019.

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Next Summer, Terror Blooms in Paul Tremblay’s Growing Things

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

What kinds of horrors keep Stephen King up nights? If you’ve got the guts to find out, read the work of Paul Tremblay.

Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts “scared the living hell out of me, and I’m pretty hard to scare,” King said. That goes a long way toward explaining why Tremblay has been anointed one of the new masters of horror, and why his work has picked up Bram Stoker and British Fantasy awards, among others. His stories and novels deal in subtle terrors that grow less so as the world cracks at their point of intrusion. They eat at you for weeks and months after reading, stuck into your memory like a barbed needle.

Though perhaps best-known for recent novels like Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and The Cabin at the End of the World (“Tremblay’s personal best,” per King), Tremblay has also won acclaim for his short fiction, republished in numerous “year’s best” anthologies. Next summer, fans and new converts alike can experience the sustained tension of Tremblay in short form in his next book, the collection Growing Things and Other Stories.

Around here, we’re big fans of the bad feelings the author has given us over the years (he’s appeared more than once on our annual lists of the best horror novels of the year), so we’re pleased to share with you today more details on the book, as well as an exclusive excerpt, taken from the story “The Thirteenth Tower.” Find it below the cover image and official summary, and prepare for a chilling summer: the book releases in July 2019 in hardcover from William Morrow.

The critically acclaimed author of The Cabin at the End of the World—which Stephen King heralded as “Tremblay’s personal best”—returns with Growing Things, a collection of short fiction showcasing his signature blend of psychological suspense, literary fiction, and horror.

In “The Teacher,” a Bram Stoker Award nominee for best short story, a student is forced to watch a disturbing video of a terrible event within a day care, only for the video to torment the lives of her and her classmates. Four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint in “The Getaway,” but start to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene. In “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” a meth addict kidnaps her own daughter from her estranged mother as a giant monster may or may not be terrorizing the town.

Growing Things also features stories with ties to Tremblay’s previous novels. In the metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers,” the blogger Karen Brissette (last seen in A Head Full of Ghosts) deconstructs the horror genre while also telling a story that serves as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. “The Thirteenth Tower” follows Merry from A Head Full of Ghosts, who has published a tell-all memoir years after the events of the novel. And the title story, “Growing Things,” loosely related by one character to another in A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full for the first time.

Growing Things is an exciting glimpse into Paul Tremblay’s fantastically fertile imagination–a nerve-rending collection with much to offer Tremblay fans new and old.

An excerpt from “The Thirteenth Tower” follows.

To state the obvious, you look different. It’s no surprise twenty years later you’re no longer the precocious eight-year-old we all watched and rewatched in your six episodes of The Possession, the refurbished, extended twentieth-anniversary edition now streaming. Still, it’s shocking to see what you look like now as an adult. When the tell-all was announced only three weeks before the book could be purchased, we pored over the publicity shots of the adult you: Your super dark hair! No curls! And, gasp, you are not wearing glasses! Some of us have had a difficult time with the no-glasses thing. We read your horror blogs and columns and we discussed and dissected your pseudonym Karen Brissette and what it means and how you’ve changed and who you’ve become.

The new images won’t erase the old, Merry. They never will. You have to know that.

This morning I waited in line for ten hours to be one of the first into Hall C for your Q&A. The stage was huge and too far away from our seats so none of it seemed real. Could you even see any of us? Being on a stage is still a filter between you and your audience, between you and reality. That not-real vibe wasn’t helped by you and the Entertainment Weekly reporter (he of the big white teeth and handsome hair) being projected onto the jumbotron. I tried not to watch but it was distracting and insulting, frankly, like we could only understand or consume your message if you were on another fucking screen. I was so disappointed in the setup and it’s part of the reason why I’m in your hotel room now.

Many people have ascribed scurrilous motives for publishing a book that is ostensibly about the exploitation of your sister (including, obviously, the attempted exorcism) and the particulars of your unwitting role in the gruesome death of your family, and then making these glad-handing promotional appearances, but I’m not one of them. I trust your judgment and I truly care about you, Merry, and simply want to know more about you.

I thought it a savvy move on your part to begin the interview by announcing you’d donated your Comic Con appearance fee to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We were yours pre-announcement and then we were really yours, not solely because of the generous gesture, but because you were so visibly uncomfortable and ill at ease. I don’t know if you’re aware, but when you mumbled through saying that the donation would be in your sister’s name, you literally squirmed in your chair, shifting your sitting position, folding and unfolding your legs. In that moment you were our Merry again.

Is that weird of me to say? Well, I know it’s weird of me to say, but how does hearing it make you feel?

You don’t answer me. We’re not in Hall C now and we’re standing across the hotel room from each other.

Preorder Growing Things and Other Stories, available July 2, 2019.

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