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New Releases: 6/12/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Broken Ice by Matt Goldman

Image Place holder  of - 20 Nils Shapiro has been hired to find missing Linnea Engstrom, a teenager from the small northern hockey town of Warroad, MN. Most of Warroad is in Minneapolis for the state high school hockey tournament, and Linnea never returned from last night’s game. Linnea’s friend Haley Housch is also missing—and soon found dead.

As bodies start piling up, the clues lead Nils and Ellegaard north to Warroad, a small, quiet town with many secrets to hide.

Guardian by A. J. Hartley

Placeholder of  -30 This is what Ang knows: a dear friend is accused of murdering the Prime Minister of Bar-Selehm. A mysterious but fatal illness is infecting the poor. A fanatical politician seizes power, unleashing a wave of violent repression over the city.

This is what Ang must do: protect her family. Solve a murder. RESIST, no matter what, before it’s too late.

Low Chicago by George R.R. Martin

Image Placeholder of - 36 The stakes were already high enough at Giovanni Galante’s poker table that night in Chicago. Poker. Dealer’s choice. Seven players. A million-dollar cash buy-in.

But after a superpowered mishap, the most high-profile criminals in the city are scattered throughout the past and their schemes across time threaten the stability of the world.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Place holder  of - 67 Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him.

In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction.

NEW IN PAPERBACK:

Firebrand by A. J. Hartley

Poster Placeholder of - 24 Anglet Sutonga is moving up in the world, helping politician Josiah Willinghouse track down a thief who stole plans for a covert government weapon.

Finding him won’t be easy, not when the thief has connections to Elitus, the city’s most powerful and super-exclusive social club.

When someone gets murdered there, things definitely do not get any easier.

Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape and assignment for intrepid PI-turned-hitman—and last robot left in working order—Raymond Electromatic. But his skills may be rustier than he remembered in Killing Is My Business, the latest in Christopher’s robot noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

Spymaster by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

Captain Kate Fitzmaurice was born to sail. She has made a life of her own as a privateer and smuggler. Hired by the notorious Henry Wallace, spymaster for the queen of Freya, to find a young man who claims to be the true heir to the Freyan, she begins to believe that her ship has finally come in.

But no fair wind lasts forever. Soon Kate’s checkered past will catch up to her. It will take more than just quick wits and her considerable luck if she hopes to bring herself—and her crew—through intact.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

NEW IN MANGA:

Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (Light Novel) Vol. 1 Story by FUNA; Art by Itsuki Akata

DNA Doesn’t Tell Us Vol. 2 Story and art by Mintarou

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale Vol. 2 Story and art by Kikori Morino

Mononoke Sharing Vol. 2 Story and art by coolkyousinnjya

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Tor Teen Back to School Sweepstakes

It’s August, and that means we’re in the final days of summer. It’s nearly time to head back to school, but hopefully there’s still a bit of time—time to get that last beach trip in, that last dip in the pool, or that last lazy afternoon with a book and a frosty lemonade. Whatever your ideal last days of summer consist of, we want to give you a pile of books to keep you company and to last you well into the new school year. Take a look at the titles we’re offering:

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Sign up for to receive our monthly Tor Teen newsletter to enter for your chance to win:

Birth Month:

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  1. To Enter: Submit your entry by fully completing the sign-up form found at https://www.torforgeblog.com/2017/08/21/tor-teen-back-to-school-sweepstakes (the “Site”). Sweepstakes begins online at 12:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on Monday, August 21, 2017 and ends at 11:59 PM ET on Friday, August 25, 2017. Your entry will sign you up to receive emailed news related to Tor Teen as well as enter you into the sweepstakes.

Limit one entry per person or household. The entry must be fully completed; mechanically reproduced; incomplete and/or illegible entries will not be accepted. In case of dispute with respect to online entries, entries will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet Access Provider, on-line service provider, or other organization (e.g., business, educational institution, etc.) that is responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address. Entries become property of Sponsor and will not be returned. Automated entries are prohibited, and any use of such automated devices will cause disqualification. Sponsor and its advertising and promotions agencies are not responsible for lost, late, illegible, misdirected or stolen entries or transmissions, or problems of any kind whether mechanical, human or electronic.

  1. Random Drawing: A random drawing will be held from all eligible, correctly completed entries received on a timely basis, on or about Monday, August 28, 2017, by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, whose decisions concerning all matters related to this sweepstakes are final.
  2. Notice to Winners: Winner will be notified by e-mail. Winner may be required to sign and return an affidavit of eligibility and publicity/liability release within fifteen (15) days of notification attempt or prize may be awarded to alternate winner. Return of any prize notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification and alternate winner will be selected. If a winner is a minor in his/her jurisdiction of residence, prize will be awarded to minor’s parent or legal guardian, who must follow all prize claim procedures specified herein and sign and return all required documents.
  3. Prize: One (1) Grand Prize winner(s) will receive Flying by Carrie Jones, Enhanced by Carrie Jones, The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz, Last Chance by Gregg Hurwitz, Ferocious by Paula Stokes, Vicarious by Paula Stokes, Firebrand by A.J. Hartley, Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley, Roar by Cora Carmack, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter, Seeker by Veronica Rossi, Riders by Veronica Rossi, The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of the Prize: $231.86.

    Approximate retail value of all prizes: $231.86.

  1. Odds of winning depend upon the number of eligible entries received. If any prize is won by a minor, it will be awarded in the name of minor’s parent or legal guardian. Each entrant selected as a potential winner must comply with all terms and conditions set forth in these Official Rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all such requirements. Sponsor makes no warranties with regard to the prize. Prize is not transferable. No substitutions of prize allowed by winner, but Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value. Prize is not redeemable by winner for cash value. All taxes, fees and surcharges on prize are the sole responsibility of winner.
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  2. Winner List: For winner information, available after Friday, August 25, 2017, send by Monday, August 28, 2017 a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Winner Information, Tor Teen Back to School Sweepstakes, c/o Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in July

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in July! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Cora Carmack, Roar

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Tuesday, July 11
Turn of the Corkscrew
Rockville Centre, NY
7:00 PM
Also with A.J. Hartley, in conversation with editor Diana Pho and author Sarah Beth Durst.

Ruthanna Emrys, Winter Tide

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Monday, July 17
Pandemonium Books
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Chris Sharp and Fran Wilde.

A.J. Hartley, Firebrand

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Tuesday, July 11
Turn of the Corkscrew
Rockville Centre, NY
7:00 PM
Also with Cora Carmack, in conversation with editor Diana Pho and author Sarah Beth Durst.

Michael F. Haspil, Graveyard Shift

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Thursday, July 20
Tattered Cover
Littleton, CO
7:00 PM

Nancy Kress, Tomorrow’s Kin

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Wednesday, July 12
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM
Also with Kay Kenyon.

Wednesday, July 19
Powell’s Books
Beaverton, OR
7:00 PM
Also with Brenda Cooper.

Thursday, July 20
Pacific Planetarium
Bremerton, WA
6:30 PM
Books provided by Liberty Bay Books.

David D. Levine, Arabella and the Battle of Venus

Tuesday, July 18
Powell’s Books
Beaverton, OR
7:00 PM

Thursday, July 20
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA

Saturday, July 22
San Francisco, CA

Chris Sharp, Cold Counsel

Monday, July 17
Pandemonium Books
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Ruthanna Emrys and Fran Wilde.

Fran Wilde, The Jewel and Her Lapidary / Updraft

Friday, July 14
Parkway Central Library
Philadelphia, PA
7:30 PM
Also with Kevin Hearne and Chuck Wendig.

Monday, July 17
Pandemonium Books
Cambridge, MA
7:00 PM
Also with Ruthanna Emrys and Chris Sharp.

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Books to Read If You Need More Heroes Like Wonder Woman in Your Life

by Lauren Jackson, Senior Publicist

If you’re like me and you saw Wonder Woman opening weekend (and are possibly planning on seeing it again this weekend), I know you’re craving more warriors, pirates, explorers, and revolutionaries of the “badass woman” variety. Tor is here to help with nine books that’ll inspire you to become an Amazonian warrior of Themyscira.

Place holder  of - 29 Red Right Hand by Levi Black
Charlie isn’t a hero; she’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, a diabolical stranger reveals that she wields a dark magick, and he wants her to use it. But ultimately what she does with her power is in her hands.
Poster Placeholder of - 32 Firebrand by A. J. Hartley
Once a steeplejack who scaled the highest buildings in the city of Bar-Selehm, Ang Sutonga is now an investigator, working to expose political corruption and quash the xenophobia and racism taking over her city. Instead of climbing to great heights, she must go undercover and expose the darkest secrets of the rich and powerful before they destroy Bar-Selehm.
Placeholder of  -82Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Pyrre Lakatur made an appearance in Staveley’s beloved Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, but her backstory tells how she became the badass priestess serving the god of death. Hint: it involves a lot of mind-blowing swordplay and bloodshed.
Image Place holder  of - 65 Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Throughout this five-book series, readers follow the always daring and often dangerous adventures of Lady Isabella Trent, dragon naturalist, as she goes to the far corners of the world in the name of scientific discovery.
Image Placeholder of - 73 The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
Josette Dupre is the Corps’ first female airship captain, patrolling the front lines of battle all while contending with a crew who doubts her expertise and an aristocrat hellbent on cataloguing and exposing every moment of weakness. But, when her enemies make a move no one was prepared for, Josette comes into her own and shows everyone what a “weak woman” airship captain can really do.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Known for her contemporary new adult novels, Carmack’s heroine in Roar, Aurora, turns fantasy tropes on their head. In the course of the novel, Aurora transforms from a powerless, sheltered princess, used by power-hungry men, into a true force of nature… literally (and we’ll leave it there).
Updraft by Fran Wilde
When Kirit Densira, a trader, breaks an obscure law, she’s forced to atone by learning the rules and becoming a part of her world’s governing body, the Singers. But as she gains more knowledge of her new craft, so does her doubt that the laws are right. So… what does she do? The only thing she can do: start a revolution.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
This alternative history novel doesn’t lack for diverse voices, especially ones that have been historically silenced. One of them belongs to Lisette Toutournier, a queer spy who founded the book’s titular country… one that serves as a safe haven for native populations of the Congo during the disastrous colonization by Belgium.
The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher
What happens when a descendant of pirates and assassin has her daughter kidnapped? RS Belcher answers the question with Maude Stapleton, who hunts for her daughter, Constance (who comes with her own impressive powers), while also staving off cults that want to use her for their own, nefarious ends.

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New Releases: 6/6/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

And Into the Fire by Robert Gleason

And Into the Fire by Robert Gleason After allying itself with Pakistan’s intelligence services and notorious terrorist group, the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), ISIS is ready to achieve its ultimate dream: Forcing the US into a clash of civilizations in the Mideast. The best way to accomplish this mission is to acquire three Pakistani nukes—then set them off in three US cities.

The head of the CIA’s Pakistan desk, Elena Moreno, and an intrepid journalist, Jules Meredith, are on their trail. Unfortunately, a powerful Saudi ambassador is blackmailing a corrupt American president, and now both men will do anything to stop these two women—to the point of having them killed.

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

Firebrand by A.J. Hartley Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Not So Good a Gay Man by Frank M. Robinson

Not So Good a Gay Man by Frank M. Robinson Not So Good a Gay Man is the compelling memoir of author, screenwriter, and activist Frank M. Robinson. This deeply personal autobiography, addressed to a friend in the gay community, explains the life of one gay man over eight decades in America. By turns witty, charming, and poignant, this memoir grants insights into Robinson’s work not just as a journalist and writer, but as a gay man navigating the often perilous social landscape of 20th century life in the United States.

NEW IN PAPERBACK

Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells

Nothing Left to Lose by Dan Wells

Hi. My name is John Cleaver, and I hunt monsters. I used to do it alone, and then for a while I did it with a team of government specialists, and then the monsters found us and killed almost everyone, and now I hunt them alone again.

In this thrilling installment in the John Wayne Cleaver series, Dan Wells brings his beloved antihero into a final confrontation with the Withered in a conclusion that is both completely compelling and completely unexpected.

Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

Image Place holder  of - 8 Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga lives and works as a steeplejack in Bar-Selehm, a sprawling city known for its great towers, spires, and smokestacks – and even greater social disparities across race and class.

Ang’s world is turned upside-down when her new apprentice Berrit is murdered the same night that the city’s landmark jewel is stolen. Her search for answers behind his death exposes unrest in the streets and powerful enemies.

Takedown: A Small-Town Cop’s Battle Against the Hells Angels and the Nation’s Biggest Drug Gang by Jeff Buck, Jon Land, and Lindsay Preston

Poster Placeholder of - 89 Takedown is the story of heroic undercover cop Jeff Buck’s battle with Hells Angels and drug-smugglers on the American border with help from Jon Land and Lindsay Preston.

Twenty years working undercover in the netherworld of drugs had left Jeff Buck burned out and grateful to assume the quiet job of police chief in the small town of Reminderville, Ohio. That is, until a simple domestic assault case turns out to have links to the murder of a drug runner in upstate New York and a syndicate smuggling billions of dollars in drugs across the U.S.-Canada border.

NEW IN MANGA

Captive Hearts of Oz Vol. 2 Story and art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru; Story development by Ryo Maruya

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness Story and art by Kabi Nagata

Please Tell Me! Galko-chan Vol. 3 Story and art by Kenya Suzuki

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On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in June

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in June! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Cora Carmack, Roar

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Saturday, June 24
Book People
Austin, TX
6:00 PM

Cory Doctorow, Walkaway

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Sunday, June 11
Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest
Jones College Prep
Chicago, IL
11:30 AM
 Cory Doctorow in conversation with Mary Robinette Kowal

A.J. Hartley, Firebrand

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Wednesday, June 7
Park Road Books
Charlotte, NC
7:00 PM

Thursday, June 8
Malaprops
Asheville, NC
7:00 PM

Michael Johnston, Soleri

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Tuesday, June 13
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
6:00

Wednesday, June 14
Barnes & Noble
Los Angeles, CA
7:00

Sunday, June 18
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
2:00 PM
In conversation with Melissa de la Cruz.

Sheryl Scarborough, To Catch a Killer

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Friday, June 16
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM
Also with Kelly Garrett.

Dan Wells, Nothing Left to Lose

Friday, June 9
University Bookstore
Seattle, WA
7:00 PM

Sunday, June 11
Borderlands Café
San Francisco, CA
5:00 PM

Tuesday, June 20
The King’s English Bookshop
Salt Lake City, UT
7:00 PM

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Letting Your Characters Talk

Poster Placeholder of - 94Written by A.J. Hartley

“The surest way for me to hit my desired daily word count is to get 2 characters I know in the same room and let them talk.” Me. On Twitter.

And it’s both true and awesome, because that’s when I know a story is cooking and the characters are coming alive. I don’t have to think about how they would phrase what they want to say. I can hear it in my head before it hits the screen or, somehow, my fingers know what it should sound like and I just wait for the words to appear and nod happily along to the music of the voices.

I know this sounds like a lot of mystificatory nonsense but this really is how it feels to me when the work is going well. When you read Firebrand, you’ll hear it—I hope—as my heroine, Anglet Sutonga—talks to anyone, but especially to the upper class socialite Dahria Willinghouse with whom she cobbled a kind of friendship in book one, Steeplejack. Then she was halting and awkward, easily intimidated by high, white society and always, understandably, on her guard and quick to take refuge in taciturn politeness. Now that she’s been working as a kind of spy/detective for one of the city’s most powerful political families, she’s grown in confidence and self possession. You can hear it in her voice, particularly as she spars playfully with her employer’s sister, Dahria.

One of the great things about writing a series is that you get to live with the characters you created in book one, get to know them, and watch them evolve. I like the closure you get with a stand-alone novel, but a series is like meeting old friends and picking right up where you left off. (Oh, and I should add that I’m careful to make sure there’s a lot of closure in each of the books within the series too. As a reader I know what it’s like to finish a book and find that it doesn’t actually finish at all.). This seems right to me. The longer the characters are around, the more they experience, and the more those experiences shape them. They grow and change of necessity, particularly in terms of how they think of themselves and how they deal with others.

When I’m writing a new character they start off as little more than a plot function. Sometimes I won’t even give them a real name and will call them something like YYY whenever they appear. When I figure out who they are and what name suits them, I’ll do a quick search/replace and assign them a proper name. Often that process involves finding out what they sound like. It’s not always possible, but I like to get my characters to a point that I could take all the names out of the dialogue tags (the “said YYY” stuff) and still know who is speaking all the time because I can hear it in their word choice, their dialect, the rhythms of their speech and so on. When I get to that point I find myself working back over dialogue I wrote earlier and muttering “she would never say that” as I do some hasty edits. On the page, in dialogue, voice is character and vice versa.

And part of why I love doing this is that when I do get to that point, there’s nothing easier. I’m barely even thinking as I write. I have a sense of where the scene has to go, what will be revealed, what the moment contributes to the book in terms of tone and plot, but the characters are in control now, and it’s my job to get out of the way and let them talk.

Order Your Copy

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Follow A.J. Hartley on Twitter, Facebook and on his website.

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Sneak Peek: Firebrand by A.J. Hartley

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Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and she soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.

Firebrand will become available June 6th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

Chapter 1

The thief had been out of the window no more than a minute but had already shaken off the police. The only reason I could still see him was because up here we got the full flat glare of the Beacon two blocks over, because I knew where to look, and because he was doing what I would be doing if our positions were reversed. Moments after the theft had been reported and the building locked down, he had emerged from the sash window on the fourth floor of the War Office on Hanover Street—which was probably how he had gotten in in the first place—and had climbed up to the roof. Then he had danced along the steeply pitched ridgeline and across to the Corn Exchange by way of a cable bridge he had rigged earlier. The uniformed officers in the pearly glow of the gas lamps below blocked the doorways leading to the street, milling around like baffled chickens oblivious to the hawk soaring away above them. If he hadn’t shot one of the guards on his way into the strong room, they wouldn’t have even known he had been there.

But he had, and he was getting away with a roll of papers bound with what looked like red ribbon. I didn’t know what they were, but I had seen Willinghouse’s face when the alarm had been raised and knew how badly he needed them back.

Not Willinghouse himself. Bar-Selehm. The city needed them back, and I, Anglet Sutonga, former steeplejack and now . . . something else entirely, worked for the city. In a manner of speaking.

The thief paused to disassemble his cable bridge and, in the act of turning, saw me as I rounded a brick chimney stack. His hand went for the pistol at his belt, the one that had already been fired twice tonight, but he hesitated. There was no clearer way to announce his position to those uniformed chickens below us than by firing his gun. He decided to run, betting that, whoever I was, I wouldn’t be able to stay with him up here on the ornamented roofs and towers of the government district.

He was wrong about that, though he climbed expertly. I gave chase, sure-footed in my familiar steel-toed boots, as he skittered down the sloping tiles on the other side and vaulted across the alley onto a metal fire escape. He moved with ease in spite of his formal wear, and the only time he looked away from what he was doing was to check on my progress. As he did, he smiled, intrigued, a wide hyena grin that made me slow just a little. Because despite the half mask he was wearing over his eyes, I knew who he was.

They called him Darius. He was a thief, but because he was also white, famously elegant, and limited his takings to the jewelry of wealthy society ladies—plucked from their nightstands as they slept inches away—he was known by the more romantic name of “cat burglar.” I had never been impressed by the title. It seemed to me that anyone whose idea of excitement—and it clearly was exciting for the likes of Darius—involved skulking inside houses full of people was someone you needed to keep at a distance. I’ve stolen in the past—usually food but sometimes money as well—and I wouldn’t trust anyone who did it for sport, for the thrill of standing over you while you slept. For all his dashing reputation and the breathless way in which the newspapers recounted his exploits, it did not surprise me in the least that he had killed a man tonight.

I was, I reminded myself, unarmed. I didn’t like guns, even when I was the one holding them. Especially then, in fact.

I too was masked, though inelegantly, a scarf of sooty fabric wrapped around my head so that there was only a slit for my eyes. It was hot and uncomfortable, but essential. I had a job that paid well, which kept me out of the gangs and the factories that would be my only tolerable options if anyone guessed who I really was. That would be easier if anyone realized I was Lani, so my skin stayed covered.

I crossed the wire bridge, slid down the ridged tile, and launched myself across the alley, seventy feet above the cobbled ground, dropping one full story and hitting the fire escape with a bone-rattling jolt. Grasping the handrails, I swung down four steps at a time, listening to Darius’s fine shoes on the steps below me. I was still three flights above him when he landed lightly on the elegant balcony on the front of the Victory Street Hotel. I dropped in time to see him swinging around the dividing walls between balconies, vanishing from sight at the fourth one.

He might just have hidden in the shadows, waiting for me to follow him, or he might have forced the window and slipped into the hotel room.

I didn’t hesitate, leaping onto the first balcony, hanging for an instant like a vervet monkey in a marulla tree, then reaching for the next and the next with long, sinewy arms. I paused only a half second before scything my legs over the wall and into the balcony where he had disappeared, my left hand straying to the heavy-bladed kukri I wore in a scabbard at my waist.

I didn’t need it. Not yet, at least.

He had jimmied the door latch and slipped into a well-appointed bedroom with wood paneling and heavy curtains of damask with braided accents that matched the counterpane.

Fancy.

But then this was Victory Street, so you’d expect that.

I angled my head and peered into the gloom. The bed was, so far as I could see, unoccupied. I stood quite still on the thick dark carpet, breathing shallowly. Unless he was crouching behind the bed or hiding in the en suite, he wasn’t there. The door into the hotel’s hallway was only thirty feet away, and I was wasting time.

I took four long strides and was halfway to the door when he hit me, surging up from behind the bed like a crocodile bursting from the reeds, jaws agape. He caught me around the waist and dragged me down so that I landed hard on one shoulder and hit my head on a chest of drawers. For a moment the world went white, then black, then a dull throbbing red as I shook off the confusion and grasped at his throat.

He slid free, pausing only long enough to aim a kick squarely into my face before making for the hallway. I saw it coming and turned away from the worst of it, shrinking and twisting so that he connected with my already aching shoulder. He reached for the scarf about my head, but I had the presence of mind to bring the kukri slicing up through the air, its razor edge flashing. He snatched his hand away, swung another kick, which got more of my hip than my belly, and made for the door.

I rolled, groaning and angry, listening to the door snap shut behind him, then flexed the muscles of my neck and shoulder, touching the fabric around my head with fluttering fingers. It was still intact, as was I, but I felt rattled, scared. Darius’s cat burglar suaveness was all gone, exposed for the veneer it was, and beneath it there was ugliness and cruelty and the love of having other people in his power. I wasn’t surprised, but it gave me pause. I’d been kicked many times before, and I always knew what was behind it, how much force and skill, how much real, venomous desire to hurt, cripple, or kill. His effort had largely gone wide because it was dark and I knew how to dodge, but the kick had been deliberate, cruel. If I caught up with him and he thought he was in real danger, he would kill me without a second’s thought. I rolled to a crouch, sucked in a long, steadying breath, and went after him.

The hallway was lit by the amber glow of shaded oil lamps on side tables, so that for all the opulence of the place, it tasted of acrid smoke, and the darkness pooled around me as I ran. Up ahead, the corridor turned into an open area where a single yellowing bulb of luxorite shone on intricate ceiling moldings and ornamental pilasters. There were stairs down, and I was aware of voices, lots of them, a sea of confused chatter spiked erratically with waves of laughter.

A party.

More Bar-Selehm elegance and, for me, more danger. I had no official position, no papers allowing me to break into the hotel rooms of the wealthy, nothing that would make my Lani presence among the cream of the city palatable. And in spite of all I had done for Bar-Selehm—for the very people who were sipping wine in the ballroom below—I felt the pressure of this more keenly than I had Darius’s malevolent kick. Some blows were harder to roll with.

I sprang down the carpeted stairs, turning the corner into the noise. The hallway became a gallery running around the upper story of the ballroom so that guests might promenade around the festivities, waving their fans at their friends below. Darius was on the far side, moving effortlessly through the formally dressed clusters of startled people. He was still masked, and they knew him on sight, falling away, their mouths little O’s of shock. One of the women fainted, or pretended to. Another partygoer, wearing a dragoon’s formal blues, took a step toward the masked man, but the pistol in Darius’s hand swung round like an accusatory finger and the dragoon thought better of his heroism.

I barreled through the crowd, shoving mercilessly, not breaking stride. The party below had staggered to a halt, and the room was a sea of upturned faces watching us as we swept around the gallery toward another flight of stairs. As I neared the corner, I seized a silver platter from an elegant lady in teal and heaved it at him, so that it slid in a long and menacing arc over the heads of the crowd below and stung him on the shoulder. He turned, angry, and found me elbowing my way through the people as they blew away from him like screws of colored tissue, horrified and delighted by their proximity to the infamous cat burglar. And then his gun came up again and they were just horrified, flinging themselves to the ground.

He fired twice, and the gilded plaster cherub curled round the balustrade in front of me exploded, and the screaming started. Somewhere a glass broke, and in all the shrieking, it wasn’t absolutely clear that no one had been seriously hurt, but then someone took a bad step, lost their balance, and went over the balustrade. More screaming, and another shot. I took cover behind a stone pillar, and when I peered round, Darius had already reached the stairs and was gone.

I sprinted after him, knocking a middle-aged woman in layers of black gauzy stuff to the ground as I barged through. My kukri was still in my hand, and the partygoers were at least as spooked by the sweep of its broad, purposeful blade as by Darius’s pistol, though it had the advantage of focusing their attention away from my face and onto my gloved hands. A waiter—the only black person in the room that I could see—stepped back from me, staring at the curved knife like it was red-hot. That gave me the opening I needed, and I dashed through to the stairs.

Darius had gone up. I gave chase, focusing on the sound of his expensive shoes. One flight, two, three, then the snap of a door and suddenly I was in a bare hall of parquet floors, dim, hot, and dusty. A single oil lamp showed supply closets overflowing with bed linens and aprons on hooks. The hall ended in a steel ladder up to the roof, the panel closing with a metallic clang as I moved toward it.

He might be waiting, pistol reloaded and aimed. But he had chosen this building for a reason. Its roof gave onto Long Terrace, which ran all the way to the edge of Mahweni Old Town, from where he could reach any part of the northern riverbank or cross over into the warren of warehouses, sheds, and factories on the south side. He wouldn’t be waiting. He was looking to get away.

So I scaled the ladder and heaved open the metal shutters as quietly as I could manage. I didn’t want to catch him. I wanted to see where he went. It would be best if he thought he’d lost me. I slid out cautiously, dropped into a half crouch and scuttered to the end of the roof like a baboon. Darius was well away, taking leaping strides along the roof of the Long Terrace, and as he slowed to look back, I leaned behind one of the hotel’s ornamental gargoyles out of sight. When next I peered round, he was moving again, but slower, secure in the knowledge that he was in the clear.

I waited another second before dropping to the Long Terrace roof, staying low, and sheathing my kukri. The terrace was one of the city’s architectural jewels: a mile-long continuous row of elegant, three-story houses with servants’ quarters below stairs. They were fashioned from a stone so pale it was almost white and each had the same black door, the same stone urn and bas-relief carving, the same slate roof. Enterprising home owners had lined the front lip of the roof with planters that, at this time of year, trailed fragrant vines of messara flowers. The whole terrace curved fractionally down toward the river like a lock of elegantly braided hair. For Darius it provided a direct route across several blocks of the city away from prying eyes.

The nights were warming as Bar-Selehm abandoned its token spring, and the pursuit had made me sweat. We had left the light of the Beacon behind, and I could barely keep track of Darius in the smoggy gloom, even with my long lens, which I drew from my pocket and unfolded. At the end of the terrace, he paused to look back once more, adjusting the tubular roll of documents he had slung across his back, but I had chosen a spot in the shadow of a great urn sprouting ferns and a dwarf fruit tree, and he saw nothing. Satisfied, he shinned down the angled corner blocks at the end of the terrace and emerged atop the triumphal arch that spanned Broad Street, then descended the steps halfway and sprang onto the landing of the Svengele shrine, whose minaret marked the edge of Old Town. I gave chase and was navigating the slim walkway atop the arch when he happened to look up and see me.

I dropped to the thin ribbon of stone before he could get his pistol sighted, and the shot thrummed overhead like a hummingbird. He clattered up the steps that curled round the minaret and flung himself onto the sand-colored tile of the neighboring house. He was running flat out now, and I had no choice but to do the same. I jumped, snatched a handhold on the minaret, and tore after him, landing clumsily on the roof so that I was almost too late in my roll. Another shot, and one of the tiles shattered in a hail of amber grit that stung my eyes. I sprawled for cover, but Darius was off again, vaulting from roof to roof, scattering tile as he ran, so that they fell, popping and crackling into the street below. Somewhere behind us, an elderly black man emerged shouting, but I had no time for sympathy or apologies.

As the narrow street began to curl in on itself, Darius dropped to the rough cobbles and sprinted off into the labyrinth which was Old Town. The streets were barely wide enough for a cart to squeeze through, and at times I could touch the buildings on either side of the road at the same time. There was a pale gibbous moon glowing like a lamp in Bar-Selehm’s perpetual smoky haze, but its light did not reach into the narrow ginnels running between the city’s most ancient houses. Down here his footfalls echoed in the dark, which was the only reason I could keep up with him as he turned left, then right, then back, past the Ntenga butchers’ row and down to the waterfront, where I lost him.

The river wasn’t as high as it had been a couple of weeks before, but it filled the night with a constant susurration like wind in tall grass. As the carefully maintained cobbles gave way to the weedy gravel around the riverside boatyards and mooring quays, any footfalls were lost in the steady background hiss of the river Kalihm. I clambered down the brick embankment that lined the riverbank and revolved on the spot, biting back curses as I tried, eyes half shut, to catch the sound of movement.

There. It may have been no more than a half brick turned by a stray foot, but I heard it, down near the shingle shore only fifty yards away. It came from the narrow alley between a pair of rickety boathouses that straddled a concrete pier. I made for the sound, opting for stealth rather than speed, one hand on the horn butt of my kukri, picking my way over the rounded stones, my back to the city. Even here, in the heart of Bar-Selehm, when you faced the river, you stepped back three hundred years, and there was only water and reeds and the giant herons that stalked among them.

I heard the noise again, different this time, more distinct, but in this narrow wedge of space between the boathouses, almost no light struggled through. The river itself was paler, reflecting the smudge of moon in the night sky and touched with the eerie phosphorescence of glowing things that lived in its depths, but I could see nothing between me and it.

Or almost nothing.

As I crept down the pebbled slope, I saw—or felt—a shape in front of me as it shifted. Something like a large man crouching no more than a few feet ahead. A very large man. I slid the kukri from its sheath, and in that second, the shape moved, black against the waters of the Kalihm. It turned, lengthening improbably as it presented its flank to me. It was, I realized with a pang of terror, no man. It was as big as a cart, and as it continued its slow rotation to face me, a shaft of light splashed across its massive, glistening head. I felt my heart catch.

The hippo rushed at me then, its face splitting open impossibly, eyes rolling back as it bared its immense tusks and bellowed.

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Copyright © 2017 by A.J. Hartley

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