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Excerpt Reveal: The Salt-Black Tree by Lilith Saintcrow

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The Salt-Black Tree by Lilith Saintcrow

What happens when you find a way to save your loved one… but the price might not be worth it—the stunning conclusion to New York Times bestseller Lilith Saintcrow’s The Dead God’s Heart

Nat Drozdova has crossed half the continent in search of the stolen Dead God’s Heart, the only thing powerful enough to trade for her beautiful, voracious, dying mother’s life. Yet now she knows the secret of her own birth—and that she’s been lied to all her young life.

The road to the Heart ends at the Salt-Black Tree, but to find it Nat must pay a deadly price. Pursued by mouthless shadows hungry for the blood of new divinity as well as the razor-wielding god of thieves, Nat is on her own. Her journey leads through a wilderness of gods old and new, across a country as restless as its mortal inhabitants, and it’s too late to back out now.

Blood may not always prevail. Magic might not always work. And the young Drozdova is faced with an impossible choice: Save her mother’s very existence…

…or accept the consequences of her own

Please enjoy this free excerpt of The Salt-Black Tree by Lilith Saintcrow, on sale 8/8/23


Chapter 1

Entirely Different

The ride back to Ranger’s was a bone-jarring gallop, the black horse slipping and sliding, melting into a motorcycle at odd moments, throwing itself across small streams once the desert faded and they were back in rolling winter prairie again. The sun was a low bloody coin disappearing behind distant bruise-shadows of western mountains, and Nat Drozdova was fully occupied clinging to reins or clutching handlebars, her shoulders aching every time the big beast veered. Sparks struck from its iron-clawed shoes sent up tiny acrid puffs—very possibly brimstone, though she’d never smelled it before—and she was sure it was doubling back once or twice, running alongside a deep, swift, cold stream chuckling with sharp menace.

Just waiting for her grip to loosen. Just waiting for her to fall. Sheets of icy water thrown up on either side, her tailbone bruised as the beast landed stiff-legged, bolts of pain zipping up her back, her teeth clicking painfully together over and over again—even the worst bus ride was a cakewalk compared to this. No fluid union, no sense of connected togetherness, just an endless rattling, jarring, thumping as her head bobbled and she clamped her knees to elastic, heaving sides.

Finally, the song of hooves rang on concrete instead of dirt and rock; Nat was almost tossed from the saddle as the horse shook himself angrily, shrinking into a motorcycle again. His whinny became a scream of defiance, but Nat’s fingers had cramp-tangled in the reins and her knees, while numb, still stuck like glue to his sides. He rattled over washboard road at a punishing pace, pavement breaking away on either side in great frost-heaved chunks; nobody had driven here for a very long time.

Icy wind roared, stinging her face, and instead of too hot and sweaty in a magical desert, she was now miserably cold. The motorcycle-horse screamed, shaking his head again as his mane whipped, stinging her hands, but Nat held on. There was no other choice.

Finally there was a long rubber-smoking howl as he swelled into horse-shape once more, a jolting as if the entire motorcycle would shake itself to pieces as it shifted back, and a billow of nasty black smoke. The world shuddered to a stop and Nat let out a surprised cry, saved only from a girlish scream by the fact that there was no air left in her lungs to fuel it. Westering orange sunlight escaping under a long low band of snow-bearing clouds filled her eyes, and there was a shout.

Hi there, you bastard!” It was Ranger in his fringed dun rancher’s jacket; the Black man darted close and grabbed at the horse’s bridle. “Ain’t no way to treat a lady, you just mind yourself now.”

Oh, thank goodness. I’m back. Nat couldn’t make her fingers unclench. The reins swelled and stiffened into handlebars once more; the engine’s choppy growl smoothed out and died with a resentful rumble. Fitful warmth returned, her entire body ached, and she couldn’t wait to have her boots on solid ground again.

But she was no thief, and had forced this thing—whatever it was—to bring her back. As bad as the ride had been, she suspected accepting its offer to show her “shortcuts” would be even worse.

“Get her off,” Ranger snapped. “Oh, you sumbitch, thought you’d take the long way home, did you? None of that now.”

Another tooth-snapping sound cut cold air; Nat flinched. Every girl loves horses, yes, but this thing was only horse-like. The shape didn’t make it as advertised; whatever was trapped in its galloping, restless body wouldn’t have hesitated to shake her free in the middle of a river, or while it galloped across the shimmering surface of a winter pond.

And then, those teeth—not the blunt herbivore-seeming ones, but the other set—would close around whatever mouthful it could grab. Or so her imagination informed her, and Nat Drozdova was very sure whatever she could imagine was far less awful than the truth.

For once.

Ranger made a swift movement, his brown fist pistoning out, a bright golden flashgleam lingering over knuckles. There was a crunch, and the horse’s growl cut off cleanly. “I said mind,” the cowboy continued, mildly enough, but his dove-gray hat was slightly awry, his hazel eyes blazed, and if he ever looked at her like that, Nat’s heart might well stop. “And get her off there, horsethief!”

“Don’t shout at me, kovboyski.” Dmitri Konets sounded just the same, and Nat’s fingers finally creaked open enough to slide free of solid, chilly metal handlebars. The gangster’s hair was a wild mess instead of slicked back, his black eyes burned with carnivorous glee, and even though he might very well murder her sometime in the very near future he was still familiar, and Nat was almost glad to see him. “Eh, zaika moya, have fun? Should’ve let me drive.”

“Th-th-that w-w-wasn’t . . .” Her teeth chattered, chopping every word into bits. That wasn’t part of the deal.

“I know.” He dragged her free of the motorcycle, his lean tanned hands strangely gentle; Ranger had the handlebars now and pulled the resisting hunk of glossy black metal, silver springs, wheels, and still-grumbling engine towards the barn. The porch light of Ranger’s trim blue ranch-style house was on, a golden beacon, and more incandescent light spilled through the half-open barn doors. The cold was even worse now that they’d stopped, which shouldn’t have been possible; the warmth in Nat’s core fought a frigid blanket.

“Breathe.” Dmitri held her up, coiled strength belied by his leanness; Nat’s legs wouldn’t quite work. “That’s it, nice and easy. Take drink.”

There was a chill metallic tap at her chin; the gangster tipped a mouthful from a dull silver hip flask past her lips. Nat spluttered; the liquid burned like vodka and most of it went straight down her throat without so much as a hello, a nova exploding inside her ribs. The heat was amazing, tropical, and very welcome; she decided she liked temperate zones better than desert or this winter prairie bullshit. Going from winter to summer and back again couldn’t be good for your immune system.

Did divinities get colds? Did they need flu shots? There were so many questions, and nobody she could trust to answer them.

Nat went limp, every bone inside her aching flesh quivering at a slightly different rate. Her forehead rested against Dima’s shoulder; the flask vanished, and he dug for something else in his pockets. His arm was a steel bar holding her upright, and that unhealthy, unsteady heat blazed from his jacket and jeans like a gasoline-greased pile of burning tires sending great gouts of black smoke heavenward.

“There,” he crooned, with lunatic calm. “Hush now, little zaikazaya, krasotka moya.” He was stiff-tense as if ready for a punch or some other violence, but Nat was too tired—and too glad to be stationary—to care much. “Eh, Cowboy? They gathering again.”

“I know.” Ranger sounded grim. “Where the hell did you run to, horse?”

Silly girl,” the horse replied, its voice full of shrapnel and burning oil. He made a low, shuddering, grinding moan, a motorcycle’s various metal joints resisting. “I offered her shortcuts. Stupid, silly girl.

“For the love of  ” Ranger sighed. There was a creak, another sharp thump—sounded like he’d punched metal. “That girl ain’t no horsethief. You and your mischief; I swear I’m half ready to remake you.”

Go ahead.” The beast was completely unrepentant. “You’ ll never have a faster horse.

Ranger muttered a blistering obscenity, and for once didn’t follow it up with a pardon my French. “Curses work both ways.”

Whatever Dima had forced down her throat worked wonders, or maybe Nat was stronger than she thought. In any case, she found her legs would finally work again, pain receded like the tide going out on a pebbled beach, and she pushed ineffectually at the gangster’s disconcertingly broad chest. “I’m all r-r-right.” Even the teeth-chattering was going down.

A dark line showed high on Dmitri’s left cheek. It looked like a knife-cut, but there was no blood, just flesh swiftly sealing itself back together. The sun’s bleary red eye slipped behind distant, serrated mountains, and a crackling-cold wind brushed over Ranger’s house. There was an uneasy mutter from the barn, animals moving; Nat shuddered.

What else did he have in there, next to the big black motorcycle-horse? She found she didn’t want to know; there was a limit to even her curiosity. Go figure, adulthood was 40 percent figuring things out for yourself, with another 40 percent of avoiding knowledge that might drive you crazy.

Not that she had far to go to reach that state. The remaining 20 percent of being grown-up was probably taxes and approaching mortality, though the idea of Uncle Sam pursuing Dmitri Konets for not filing a return was bleakly hilarious.

Was there an Uncle Sam? She’d probably find out, if this kept up.

“You came back.” Dmitri tucked his chin slightly, peering into her face. A flush of effort pinkened his cheeks, and his black suit was a bit rumpled. Had he and Ranger got into a fight?

I don’t care. Nat supposed she looked a little worse for wear, too. I just want to go home.

But that wasn’t quite accurate, Nat discovered. The thought of going back to her mother’s little yellow house, halfway across the continent on South Aurora Avenue in Brooklyn, was even more unappetizing than riding Ranger’s predatory magical horse.

Nat’s backpack, warm and heavy, finally settled against her shoulders like it was relieved to be off the carnival ride as well. It was the closest thing to “home” she had now, smaller and far more bedraggled than a snail’s spiraling domicile.

“I don’t w-want to be a h-h-horsethief,” Nat managed. Her throat was so dry the words were husks of themselves, left propped and forgotten in a field while a faded scarecrow leered from a listing pole.

Dima’s faint flush drained away, and his jaw hardened. “No other way to get what you want, Drozdova. Not when rich bastards sit on it.”

Oh, so you’re a real Robin Hood. Go figure, twenty seconds in his presence again and she was already irritated. The sharp unsteady feeling was a tonic, filling her with fresh strength, and her legs felt more like her own usual bodily possessions now instead of just insensate noodles. “I’m h-happy to s-see you too.”

Ranger reappeared, swinging the barn door closed; Dmitri stepped away from Nat like she was carrying something fatally communicable. She swayed, but the steady fire in her chest poured strength through the rest of her. The sense of deep, inalienable energy filled her again, and she wondered if she looked burningly vital, impossibly real, like the two men.

The two divinities.

“Sorry about that.” Ranger’s iron-toed cowboy boots ground icy gravel as he hurried towards her; he could probably crack a boulder by kicking it. “You did right well, Nat. He just takes some gettin’ used to, that beast.”

So I gathered. And even if she liked the cowboy, even if he said he liked her more than her mother, he still hadn’t warned her that the horse—or whatever it was, trapped in a shapeshifting body—was very strong, not to mention wholly murderous. “It’s all right.” There was nothing else to say.

The Black man’s fringed jacket was torn, too, and Nat was abruptly tired of men and their squabbles. Even if she didn’t agree with Mom on everything, Maria Drozdova’s frequent assertion that males were saved only from being more dangerous by their unending stupidity held a great deal of water.

“No, it ain’t.” Ranger glanced over her shoulder, his sculpted mouth tightening. “Y’all better go. I’ll do what I can, horsethief.” “I could call you something worse,” Dima muttered, and jabbed his left hand at the glossy black muscle car crouched leonine before the ranch house’s stairs. His right, Nat saw with a sinking sensation, was full of that same dull-black gun he’d had before, except with no long silhouette of a silencer. “Come, zaika. Into car we go.”

Wait a second. “I—what happened?” Nat shuddered; the bright white vapor of her breath shivered and plummeted, thin ice breaking on hard ground with a soft musical noise. “What the hell?”

“Oh, naw.” Ranger shrugged, a loose easy motion, and stretched his neck, tilting his head from one side to the other. His lean, capable right hand rested on a revolver butt, slung hip-low on his broad leather belt; the matching gun on his other side gleamed secretively from its well-worn holster. “Hell’s entirely different, ma’am, pardon my French. You go on now. Come back and visit anytime.”

Yeah, not so sure I want to, now. Nat summoned a polite, weary shadow of a smile, and tacked unevenly for the black car. Dmitri walked backward, placing each foot with a cat’s finicky delicacy, and Ranger’s boots made soft stealthy sounds as he set off in a different direction.

Towards the road, not his house. Maybe they hadn’t been fighting each other at all. The wind was knifelike, her breath froze as it left her mouth, and though Nat had quickly grown used to not feeling the weather, she shivered.

Potoropis”.” Dmitri peered past her, his black eyes narrowed and his lip lifting slightly. Strong white teeth gleamed, and though his snarl wasn’t directed at her, it still sent a shudder down her back. “Quickly, devotchka. Not many left, but always more come.”

Well, that’s not terrifying or anything. Nat’s boots were almost too heavy to lift; her backpack now weighed a ton. Even the stealthy, hidden glow of the Cup and the black-bladed Knife in its depths wasn’t comforting. “More what?” The starving things, of course. Great. Fantastic.

“You didn’t tell her?” Ranger laughed, every scrap of warmth gone and his voice cold as the gangster’s. “’Course not, why am I surprised? Get gone, I’ll keep your trail clear as I can.”

Dima swore, lifting the gun. Its muzzle pointed past Nat, carefully not at her, but she still hurried, not liking how big and bottomless the hole at the end seemed.

Like the Well, only without the quicksilver glitter in its throat. She skirted the black car; its engine throbbed into life and she flinched, letting out a small hurt sound. Suddenly its interior seemed like an old friend she couldn’t wait to meet again, but she paused at the open passenger door, the dome light sending a distorted golden rectangle onto the pavement, touching the edge of the porch’s wooden stairs.

There was very little twilight on the prairie in winter; day ended like a descending guillotine blade out here. Glimmering stars, peeking through dusk’s veil, were snuffed behind a lowering sky pregnant with fresh snow. Nat tasted the penny-metal of approaching precipitation, and a tiny, cold flake kissed her cheek.

Dark shapes, gleaming slightly, clustered a fair ways from Ranger; behind them, the driveway warped like the glimmer over hot pavement on a blinding summer day. Nat’s breath froze again, thin ice falling down the front of her peacoat; she stared, almost unable to believe her own eyes for the hundredth—or thousandth—time since walking into the Morrer-Pessel Tower to negotiate for her mother’s life.

She will eat you, Drozdova. After you bring her what she wants, so she can bargain with Baba Yaga to allow the theft of a native-born child.

She wanted to call what the metal horse had said a lie. She wanted to call all of this a hallucination, a cruel practical joke, a forgiving insanity.

Anything other than truth.

The shadowy things tumbled over each other, sharp cheesecloth-veils of utter negation swallowing even the faint ambient glow of winter night in the Dakotas. A few more tiny white spatters of snow drifted down, and Nat was suddenly very sure an iron-haired woman was bending over a glossy desk top high in a Manhattan skyscraper’s penthouse, her red-painted mouth pursed as her coal-hot gaze somehow pierced the intervening distance and came to rest upon a girl she called granddaughter.

So Baba was watching. The image was so clear, so crisp, Nat could take no refuge in tattered, comfortable disbelief.

“Get in the car,” Dima snarled. There was a sharp report and a brilliant flash. One of the muffled, razor-edged shapes imploded; Nat could swear she saw the bullet as it streaked free, an improbable gleam.

Silver. Well, that doesn’t surprise me.

Nat clambered into the car; its hood ornament, a beast caught somewhere between snarling wolf and slump-shouldered bear, glittered angrily. She slammed the door, her teeth chattering afresh even though whatever he’d given her to drink still burned behind her breastbone and the vivid bright warmth of divinity poured strength through her, a steady reassuring glow.

Did her mother feel a corresponding weakness each time that flood filled her daughter’s body? Did it hurt?

More flashes, and faraway popping noises. Nat twisted and craned, trying to look out every window at once; the driver’s door opened and Dmitri dropped into his seat. He didn’t bother reaching for his seatbelt, just twisted the wheel-yoke and popped the brake; the black car jolted and shot forward, but not along the driveway.

He steered them for the far side of Ranger’s house, and Nat found her lips moving silently.

Of all the useless things to do, she was praying.

Copyright © 2023 from Lilith Saintcrow

Pre-order The Salt-Black Tree Here:

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Excerpt Reveal: Spring’s Arcana by Lilith Saintcrow

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Springs Arcana by Lilith Saintcrow

American Gods vs. Baba Yaga in this Russian-inspired contemporary fantasy Spring’s Arcana, by New York Times bestseller Lilith Saintcrow.

Nat Drozdova is desperate to save a life. Doctors can do little for her cancer-ridden mother, who insists there is only one cure—and that Nat must visit a skyscraper in Manhattan to get it.

Amid a snow-locked city, inside a sleek glass-walled office, Nat makes her plea and is whisked into a terrifying new world. For the skyscraper holds a hungry winter goddess who has the power to cure her mother…if Nat finds a stolen object of great power.

Now Nat must travel with a razor-wielding assassin across an American continent brimming with terror, wonder, and hungry divinities with every reason to consume a young woman. For her ailing mother is indeed suffering no ordinary illness, and Nat Drozdova is no ordinary girl. Blood calls to blood, magic to magic, and a daughter may indeed save what she loves…

…if it doesn’t consume her first.

This is the way to the Dead God’s Heart.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Spring’s Arcana by Lilith Saintcrow, on sale 5/2/23.


1

OTHER THAN WINTER

The entire city was full of dirty ice-whipped slush after the first hard freeze; it had only reluctantly warmed enough for snow. A whistling, iron-cold wind poured down both the Hudson and East Rivers, slicing between feathery falling flakes. Thanksgiving was over for what it was worth, Christmas lights blooming everywhere, and it was hard to believe anything other than winter had ever existed.

The bus was a blue-and-white metal beast wallowing up the slight incline of Pastis Hill on a cloud of diesel smoke; the subway was warmer but wasn’t worth the stairs involved for this part of the trip. Nat Drozdova’s throat ached, her nose was full, and her eyes watered. She could claim it was the cold or the persistent creeping fingers of car exhaust slithering from street level to irritate tender membranes.

Crying on the 2:00 p.m. downtown special was what Mom would call your silliness, Natchenka, now stop it.

It was standing-room only; the vehicle swayed and she was almost thrown onto a thin, sour-faced businessman who had forgotten to bring his tie back over his shoulder after lunch. He’d also had more than one martini if the simmering alcohol fume was any indication, and his wingtips were going to be slush-soaked by the time he got back to the office.

Well, everyone had problems in this world, as Uncle Leo grimly intoned at the slightest provocation. Nat wiped her cheeks, a sting of woolen glove-fingers against already abraded skin, and set her chin. A baby fretted somewhere along the bus’s flexing, swaying length; a crop of wet croupy coughs bloomed on either side. Nat hung on to the pole, trying not to bump the businessman again, and closed her eyes.

Just a moment, that’s all she wanted. A single breath’s worth of rest.

The darkness behind her lids was terrifying, so her eyes flew open again, filling her head with a regular Wednesday afternoon full of regular people. Except her surroundings lasted only a few seconds before melding into a familiar, pale pink hospice room holding softly beeping machines, the reek of disinfectant, and her mother’s gaunt face, now-graying hair neatly braided and resting against a sanitized pillowcase.

It was the light, Nat decided. An echo of fluorescent hospital tubes ran down the bus’s throat like streptococcal stripes, their pitiless glare showing every pockmark, every pimple, every stray hair, every scrape and scuff and loose thread.

Just like it showed Mom’s veins, blue and branching, or the papery skin under her chin.

I’m too young to look this way, Mom had said mournfully during her last visit, and Nat had to agree. She had to keep blinking; everything blurred because her eyes were full of brimming hot water yet again.

The bus crested Pastis; skyscraper valleys swallowed a wheeled aluminum tube-pill. Snow whirled past the windows as she counted the streets: Nieman, the funny curve of Totzer, the park blocks between Crane and Gallus a stone’s throw from Times Square full of wet green tinged with ice-pale lacework. If the contraption jerked again she’d be thrown onto two private-school boys with their shoulders and temples almost touching as they bent over a game, unaware of anything other than pixels on a handheld screen.

The stoplight went on with a soft chime, Nat was thankfully not tossed into the laps of strangers, and she began the laborious process of elbowing towards a door.

They were saying at least three inches of snow, but Nat rolled the air across her tongue the way Leo had taught her many winters ago and decided there was going to be more. Quite a bit more, in fact, and that was part of why she was downtown today, even though her shoes would fill with slushmelt and her calves would freeze almost solid.

It happened so fast, too. One moment she was sitting at her cubicle desk in Brooklyn, the phone jangling, coffee solidifying into syrup at the bottom of its pot, one of the salesmen whistling “Jingle Bells” and another in the depths of the office yelling about quarterly figures. Then she was outside, breathing deeply against the chill, the business card in her wallet weighing down her purse like a scoop of compressed matter dragging everything into the heart of a brand-new black hole.

Maybe they wouldn’t even notice she was gone. Christ knew she felt pleasantly invisible most days, except when Bob—his new toupee was the exact color of brown shoe polish—had a new idea and someone had to wrangle him out of it. Middle managers inevitably rose to the level of their incompetence, and he was a shining example who might even make corporate one of these days.

The bus finished disgorging fellow travelers and heaved away; Nat turned up the collar of her navy wool peacoat and set off too, her office flats crunching scattered deicer pellets. Gallus and Third was the address on the card—heavy ivory stock, deeply pressed letters blacker than ink should be, the corners crisp no matter how long it sat in Nat’s wallet, glaring at her each time she paid for coffee or groceries or anything else.

Did you see her yet? Do you have an appointment? The tremor in Mom’s voice, the impatience disguised as helplessness—Nat tilted her head back while matching the speed of sidewalk traffic, more to get the tears to crawl back into their holes than to gaze at skyscrapers, their tops lost in billowing white as the sky scattered tiny, frozen pellets struggling to turn into snow.

When her chin came back down to save her fool ass from skidding off deicer and into the street, the building was right there. She stopped for a moment, ignoring both the hiss of a man in a dun-colored trench coat who had to do some fancy footwork to get around her and a cacophony of horns from Gallus Street, where the slush was busy snarling end-of-lunch traffic with a side of fender benders and screaming out windows that should have been rolled up to keep the heat trapped.

People would waste even precious resources to yell obscenities out a window. It was a fact of human nature.

Tiny iceflakes swirled on the back of a whipping wind, and maybe it was only the vagaries of air moving between man-made concrete cliffs turning the white curtain into a tornado before neatly flicking it wide-open as a sheet to hit the other side of Gallus Street and the Vogge Mutual Building, a high thrusting needle with a granite-sheathed base. The Vogge had blinking multicolored lights in deference to the season; there was even a tree in its foyer, a multicolored migraine gleam through bright windows.

The Morrer-Pessel Memorial Tower, on the other hand, was an unornamented black-mirrored building, its walls curving like the architect hated even the idea of a straight line. It seemed to squat even though it challenged its neighbors for height, and the concrete forum-park set before it was always curiously free of beggars and buskers.

Maybe it was the statues. Whoever did the art installation had some weird ideas about human anatomy, and the host of copper and stone figures in various attitudes dotted around Pessel Square—as the sign between two forlorn, winter-naked bushes proclaimed it, with more hopefulness than declarative thunder—were tinged with frost, beginning to grow shaggy white winter coats as the snow decided to quit fucking around and get its afternoon work started.

Did you see her yet? Mom kept asking. Not hello, and forget how are you.

“I don’t want to,” Nat muttered. It was one thing to endure Mom’s disappointment each time, but if Nat got the brush-off here and trudged into Mom’s hospice room during visiting hours tomorrow to report not just a lack of appointment but a complete failure to even get in the door, what would happen?

Mom had already gone so far downhill over the past couple months. It was silly to think Maria Drozdova’s heart would finally break and the rest of her might not be far behind, wasn’t it?

Your imagination, Natchenka. Tch, tch.

A wet, invisible fingertip touched her nape; her hair was up in its usual office-friendly twist. Letting it down would be fractionally warmer, but only until it was soaked through. She had no hat, her legs were already cold despite black wool tights, and her shoes were never going to be the same.

Digging out the card to check it once more would be a waste of time. Even thinking about it called up the spare, elegant words on the front, and the purple-ink writing on the back.

Y.A.G.A. Fine Arts and Antiques, Import-Export. Morrer-Pessel Memorial Tower. No phone number, no email, just that beautiful, chilling fountain-pen writing on the reverse.

Let her in.

Well, maybe they would. Or maybe she could stand out here and freeze to death, just another statue in a park not even the homeless liked despite its benches lacking the hard, hurtful metal studs designed to keep them from sleeping.

The entire world was unfair, and her own problems less than a speck of comparative dust. Nat Drozdova shook her head, couldn’t hitch her purse strap higher on her shoulder because it was trapped under her coat for safekeeping, and took off across Pessel Square, threading between the statues.

She was very, very glad that despite her lifelong overactive imagination, none of them looked like they were about to move.

Copyright © 2023 from Lilith Saintcrow

Pre-order Spring’s Arcana Here:

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Series That Will Cross the Finish Line in 2023

Writing books isn’t a race! Artists create unique and beautiful works in their own good time. But that doesn’t matter, because with our authors, we’re absolutely winning 😎

Check out these final books in series slated to arrive in stores this year!


The Salt-Black TreePlaceholder of  -99 by Lilith Saintcrow

Nat Drozdova has crossed half the continent in search of the stolen Dead God’s Heart, the only thing powerful enough to trade for her beautiful, voracious, dying mother’s life. Yet now she knows the secret of her own birth—and that she’s been lied to all her young life. The road to the Heart ends at the Salt-Black Tree, but to find it Nat must pay a deadly price. Pursued by mouthless shadows hungry for the blood of new divinity as well as the razor-wielding god of thieves, Nat is on her own. Her journey leads through a wilderness of gods old and new, across a country as restless as its mortal inhabitants, and it’s too late to back out now. Blood may not always prevail. Magic might not always work. And the young Drozdova is faced with an impossible choice: Save her mother’s very existenc…or accept the consequences of her own.

On sale 8/8/23


ContrarianImage Place holder  of - 2 by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of The Saga of Recluce and the Imager Portfolio, and with Contrarian, he concludes his new gaslamp political fantasy series, The Grand Illusion. Recently elected to the Council of Sixty-Six, Steffan Dekkard is the first Councilor who is also an Isolate, a person invulnerable to the emotional manipulations and emotional surveillance of empaths—but not not, as it turns out, invulnerable to explosions. His patron has been assassinated. He has little political experience, less allies, and so many enemies. Perhaps even nested high within his own camp. Insurrectionists are being supplied with illicit ordinance, but more than that: they stole a naval cruiser, and no one can seem to find it. 

On sale 8/15/23


He Who Drowned the WorldPlace holder  of - 97 by Shelley Parker-Chan

How much would you give to win the world? Zhu Yuanzhang, the Radiant King, is riding high after her victory that tore southern China from its Mongol masters. Now she burns with a new desire: to seize the throne and crown herself emperor, but she’s not the only contender. The courtesan Madam Zhang wants the throne for her husband, and Zhu’s only chance at mustering the strength to match is to ally with an old enemy: the talented but unstable eunuch general Ouyang, who has already sacrificed everything for a chance at revenge on his father’s killer, the Great Khan. Speaking of, newcomer and scorned scholar Wang Baoxiang has manipulated his way into the capital, where his maneuvering threatens to topple the empire. His one desire: to become the most degenerate Great Khan in history—and in so doing, make a mockery of every value his Mongol warrior family loved more than him.

On sale 8/22/23

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