K. Arsenault Rivera - Tor/Forge Blog



Chonky Fantasy Series to Get You Through the Rest of Whatever Year It Is

Back in 2020, we put together an article to highlight some fantasy series of REALLY BIG BOOKS that we could all get lost in until upon reaching the end, finally, we would emerge into a brighter post-2020 future.

For literally absolutely no reason at all, we’ve decided to bring this list back with some additional entries!

Image Place holder  of - 5A Chorus of Dragons series by Jenn Lyons

The Discord of Gods marks the epic conclusion to Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series, closing out the saga that began with The Ruin of Kings, for fans of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss.

Rampant demons, political intrigue, ancient rituals, living avatars of stars, long-lost royals, and the unstable future of an empire combine to create an epic fantasy series you’ll never forget.

Place holder  of - 58Wake the Dragons series by Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson is a master of the epic. In addition to co-authoring Dune’s Caladan Trilogy, he also wrote a saga of expansive and critically-lauded chonky fantasy: Wake the Dragons.

Two continents at war: the Three Kingdoms and Ishara have been in conflict for a thousand years. But when an outside threat arises—the reawakening of a powerful ancient race that wants to remake the world—the two warring nations must somehow set aside generations of hatred to form an alliance against a far more deadly enemy.

Placeholder of  -3The Caladan Trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson and Frank Herbert

Hey remember in that last entry when I mentioned that Kevin J. Anderson co-authored the Caladan Trilogy, a series of novels that flesh out Frank Herbert’s massively popular Dune universe? Yeah. That’s the next series you should check out!

Any Dune fan will devour this tale of a legend coming into his own.

Dune: The Heir of Caladan is on sale 10.18.22!

Poster Placeholder of - 34Mistborn: Wax and Wayne series by Brandon Sanderson

#1 New York Times bestseller Brandon Sanderson returns to Scadrial, world of the Mistborn, as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to a world-breaking conclusion in this fall’s forthcoming The Lost Metal.

Wanna know what happens to the fantasy world when the hero of prophecy has failed? Ever wonder if eating cool rocks could give you special powers? At the intersection of these two time-honored philosophical quandaries lays the Wax and Wayne Series.

The Lost Metal is on sale 11.15.22!

Image Placeholder of - 13The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson

The Stormlight Archive is the latest epic fantasy from the imaginative mind of Brandon Sanderson: welcome to the remarkable world of Roshar, a world both alien and magical, where gigantic hurricane-like storms scour the surface every few days and life has adapted accordingly. Roshar is shared by humans and the enigmatic, humanoid Parshendi, with whom they are at war.

book-wheeloftimeThe Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is a story that takes place both in our past and our future. In his fantasy world, the Dark One, the embodiment of pure evil, is breaking free from his prison. The overall plot is about a man who learns that he is the reincarnation of the world’s messiah and is once again destined to save the world from the Dark One — but possibly destroy it in the process. This saga is not only his story, but the story of an entire world’s struggle to deal with war and change, destruction and hope.

book-kushielKushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

In this epic fantasy series, step into the land of Terre d’Ange, a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. The inhabiting race rose from the seed of angels and men, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt. Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman, the first to recognize that she is one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. He trained Phèdre in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber–and, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze.

The Ascendent series by K Arsenault Rivera

K Arsenault Rivera’s epic fantasy Ascendant trilogy is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil. “Rich, expansive, and grounded in human truth…simply exquisite.”—New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab (on The Tiger’s Daughter)


$2.99 Ebook Deal: The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

Place holder  of - 26The ebook edition of The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today and get ready for the release of The Warrior Moon, the final book in the Ascendant trilogy.

About The Tiger’s Daughter:

Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach—but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

A crack in the wall heralds the end…two goddesses arm themselves…K Arsenault Rivera’s The Tiger’s Daughter is an adventure for the ages.

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This sale ends September 1.


Excerpt: The Warrior Moon by K Arsenault Rivera

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Placeholder of  -56Barsalayaa Shefali, famed Qorin adventurer, and the spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, have survived fights with demon armies, garnered infamy, and ruled an empire. Raised together since birth, then forced into exile after their wedding, and reunited amidst a poisonous invasionthese bold warrior women have faced monumental adventures and catastrophic battles.

As they come closest to fulfilling the prophecy of generationsShefali and Shizuka will face their greatest test yet.

The Warrior Moon, the sequel to The Phoenix Empress and striking conclusion to K Arsenault Rivera’s wildly buzzed about epic fantasy, which began with The Tiger’s Daughter, will be available on September 24. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

Barsalai Shefali


Within the Bronze Palace there is a war room, and within that room is a massive table. On that massive table is a painstaking replica of the Hokkaran Empire—the mountains rendered in gleaming porcelain, the forests represented by gathered twigs and grass. All the major roads are marked, with well-armed soldiers representing patrols; all the rivers flow in miniature down to the drains around the edges. That is the trouble with the map—while it leaves the Empire itself looking splendid beyond imagining, it does not include the Father’s Sea.

O-Shizuka, seasoned Empress and nascent god, remedied this problem with a simple wooden board she placed along the western side of the table, just over the drains. With her impossible calligraphy, she has labeled all the major port cities of the coast. Her wife, Barsalyya Shefali, says that it won’t be as accurate that way, since Shizuka hasn’t measured the distances with exactitude, but Shizuka continues all the same. She’s in no mood to summon a cartographer.

For boats she’s chosen to use the replica siege engines, which will be confusing down the line. Shefali’s told her that, as well, but Shizuka will insist that there aren’t enough model ships, and if she paints the siege engines gold, no one will make any mistakes. Thus there are two dozen catapults now gathered off the shore of Nishikomi, south of shards of broken clay. The Father’s Teeth, pulled from Grandfather Earth.

At least the horses are all right, Shefali tells herself, shaking her head. There are near a hundred of them over the Wall. She spends more time staring at their little manes than she does preparing for the meeting. There’s no need, as far as she is concerned; Shizuka will do most of the talking, and it isn’t as if Burqila Alshara would deny Naisuran’s daughter aid. Oh, she’ll be gruff, and blunt, and likely insult the whole table—but she will say yes.

It’s the meeting with Baozhai that Shefali’s worried about.

Baozha the Thorned Blossom Queen, who has overseen Xian-Lai through its recent growth; the woman who, before that, lent her army to Shizuka for the purposes of overthrowing the old Emperor; Kenshiro’s wife, Baoyi’s mother, Shefali’s sister-in-law. To trifle with her was to trifle with a hurricane.

There was, of course, also the fact that Shefali was dying—but in the face of Baozhai’s arrival that is hardly a concern at all.

“Perhaps my mother was right,” Shizuka says. “I should have been an artist.”

Shefali does not have the heart to tell her wife that her contribution to the war map is, at best, unsightly. Shizuka’s proud of it, and so it’s beautiful. That is how Shefali’s world has always worked.

“You can be,” says Shefali. “No rules against it.”

Shizuka blows air between her lips. “No rules, but no time, either,” she says. “I suppose my decrees will have to suffice. What a bore. Have you arranged the Qorin?”

Shefali did not realize she’d been given an assignment. She picks up the horses with ginger hands and moves them over to Fujino. Even that feels too rough. Whoever crafted these little creatures really did do a wonderful job; that one has such a healthy coat—

Shizuka covers her mouth with her sleeve, stifling a laugh. “I should have known you’d get distracted,” she says.

It is the happiest she has sounded in days. Happy enough, almost, to erase the memory of why they’ve come to the war room at all. A smile blossoms on Shefali’s face only to die away. They are here to plot an attack on the Traitor. The beginning of Shefali’s final journey, one way or another.

No rules, but no time.

There were now only weeks left, at best.

Well. If Shefali died a warrior’s death and made her wife laugh, three weeks would be plenty.

Shefali’s reverie ends as four servants arrive in lockstep. Two women in elaborate hairstyles, their bodices tightly fitted beneath gauzy silk jackets, launch into playing their flutes the moment they cross the threshold. The two men following them wear something closer to a deel and riding pants, and bow at perfect right angles on either side of the door. Xianese, then.

Baozhai has come.

“Announcing the arrival of Her Eternal Majesty, she who shields the nation, the Thorned-Blossom Queen!”

Ah. Not Baozhai at all. Shefali repeats the title under her breath. Names are important things, not to be misused. The Qorin have always known this, and it seems the Xianese do, too. It is only the Hokkarans who fell behind. Even if it is difficult to think of her sweet sister-in-law as such an imposing figure.

That notion is dispelled the moment the Queen walks into the war room. Gone were the soft greens and violets that their sister-in-law so often wears, replaced with verdant emerald and deepest black. Gone her Hokkaran-styled robes: now she wears a gown beneath an over-sized coat, her sleeves so long they nearly touch the ground. The embroidery alone must’ve taken a small village’s worth of people years to finish. Sable lines her sleeves and collar, the lush black fur drawing attention to her exposed collarbones.

And that is only the dress! Her hair is piled higher than any Hokkaran woman would dare, tightly bound so that it juts out over the front of her head. In lieu of the hanging ornaments Shizuka often favored, Baozhai wore emerald pins in the shapes of various flowers. Where Shizuka has painted her skin white and her teeth black, Baozhai wears a face full of color. A green-violet flower is painted between her brows, her eyelids shimmering with the same. Even her lips bear a dot of green and violet at the center.

Baozhai always had a regal bearing—but that is comparing a pleasant stream to the raging rapids of the Rokhon. It is that river that stands before them now.

A woman who does not bow when she enters, only inclines her head; a woman who dares to meet the Empress’s eyes; a woman as imposing as she is beautiful.

Were it not for the smell of her, Shefali would swear that it wasn’t her sister-in-law at all.

But there she is—and to Shefali’s surprise, Shizuka is the one who bows first.

“Thorned-Blossom Queen,” she says. “We of the Empire thank you for hosting us.”

“And we of the South thank you for your invitation,” says Baozhai. She dismisses her servants with a wave of her hand; two golden talons gleam on her lowest fingers. “What will be the language of the discussion?”

At first Shefali thinks of it as a strange question—but it occurs to her after a beat that Baozhai speaks all three languages with varying degrees of fluency.

Shizuka and the others speak only two.

Shefali expects such barbs from courtiers; not from Baozhai.

“We suggest Hokkaran,” Shizuka says, “the common language for all who will be present today. We’ve prepared a seat for you, if you will?”

“We doubt there will be need,” says Baozhai. How it vexes Shefali to hear them both speak to each other in such a way—all this plural talk. The Kharsa speaks for all Qorin, and you do not hear her saying “we” this or “we” that.

But something in the air changes, just then: a note of salt and metal meets Shefali’s sensitive nose. Not from Shizuka—who for all her outward calm smells like a storm—but from Baozhai.


“Empress, we will keep this brief out of respect. Xian-Lai will not be lending you any foot soldiers for your campaign,” the Thorned- Blossom Queen says. Though she speaks a touch more quickly than usual, her eyes never leave Shizuka’s. “We gave you our daughters and sons twice-two years ago; we granted you the Bronze Army to seize your throne. We cannot continue to die for you. We welcome you to use our ships, provided you man them—but we will not provide you people.”

Shefali winces. It was the right decision for Xian-Lai. The right decision as a Queen. Yet Baozhai is more to them than this. Hadn’t she sworn earlier this week that she would help in whatever way she could?

Shizuka has fought to keep her mask in the face of the Thorned-Blossom Queen—but these words are a hammer against porcelain. Already she is shattering; already she grows sharper.

Shefali cannot say anything to mend this—but she can abandon setting down the miniature horses; she can stand at Shizuka’s side as she says whatever foolhardy thing she is going to say.

“The Traitor himself is marching on Nishikomi,” says Shizuka, “and you will not send your army?”

“The Traitor is a problem of the North and East,” Baozhai answers. She anticipated this. How talented she is—so little emotion shows in her face, but Shefali can smell how this is paining her. “The South has no cause to join this war.”

“How can you say that?” Shizuka snaps. Shefali touches her hand. Shizuka squeezes hers in answer, her temper cooling not at all. “How can you stand here and say that to me, knowing what I’ve done?”

“Empress,” says Baozhai. Level and calm. “This is not a decision we’ve made lightly. We speak for our nation, as you speak for yours; we guard our people as you guard yours.”

For a long while there is silence. Shizuka trembles as she endeavors to contain her wrath. Baozhai is the first to falter, the first to break eye contact.

“We can provide only ships,” she says, but it is quieter now, almost an apology.

Shizuka’s gaze is a pyre. “Is this the decision of the Queen of Xian-Lai?” she asks.

“It is,” says Baozhai. “We regret the pain this causes you—but we must think of our own people.”

Shizuka sniffs. “Very well,” she says. “We of the Empire accept your ships. Your gracious offer.”

“Empress, our offer is as gracious as it can be,” Baozhai returns. At last her level tone begins to break; at last she is starting to sound angry. “We will send further word—but our sailors at Chenyi will depart as soon as they can. The nearest port in your territory is—”

“Sejan,” finishes Shizuka. “They will be ready.” The line across her face seems harsher given the glare in her eyes. “Is that all, Thorned-Blossom Queen?”

“Should we not be asking you that question?” returns Baozhai. “For it was you who summoned us, and not the other way around. We’ve nothing further to discuss in such a state as this. If you should wish to visit us by the violets, that is another thing entirely.”

Shefali is grateful, just then, that she loves both woman and Empress. To love one and not the other would be an agony—and it is agony gnawing at the edges of Shizuka’s soul now. Perhaps Baozhai’s mention of violets has soothed her somewhat, for when she finally answers, the air around her has cooled.

“We would enjoy that,” she says. “In two days, perhaps, after prep- arations are complete.”

Then, for the first time, Baozhai looks right to Shefali. The sudden attention makes Shefali conscious of her size, of how little experience she has with tactics. What could the Queen of Xian-Lai possibly have to say to her?

“And you, Empress Wolf?” she says. “Will you be traveling to Nishikomi with your honored wife?”

So calm, the question, and yet—she knows. Shefali’s mouth goes dry.

“Yes,” she says.

And there—for the first time, the Thorned-Blossom Queen cracks.

A shadow passes over her like the clouds over the steppes.

“We wish you well,” she says.

What misery—to hear such words and know them to be sincere!

“Thank you,” Shefali mumbles.

All three of them exchange bows. Baozhai leaves with the same pomp and circumstance as she arrived—the servant women reenter to recite a poem prepared specially for the occasion. Shefali wonders if all that opulence is meant to make Shizuka seem modest by comparison. She wonders what the fashions will look like in ten years, when Xian-Lai has further asserted its independence, and when Shefali will not be around to see them.

“I can’t believe she’d say that,” Shizuka mutters. Shefali throws an arm around her. “I . . . I’ve told her about you and me, and him. Every single Hokkaran ruler has had his corrupt blood flowing through their veins. How can she say it isn’t her problem?”

“Not the South’s problem,” Shefali says. A gentle correction, born of love. “She’s worried about you. Her people aren’t.”

Shizuka leans on her shoulder and lets out a long sigh. Shefali knows well enough by now the way crowns change the women who bear them, but that does not mean it does not hurt. Shefali thinks of changing the subject—bringing up Ren, or Sakura perhaps—but Shizuka acts first as always.

“You moved all the horses,” she says. “I was worried you’d start naming them.”

Shefali did, but this isn’t the time to admit that. “They’re warhorses,” she says. “They have important jobs.”

And cute, accurately reproduced saddles.

Shizuka chuckles. For a moment Shefali thinks that perhaps things will be all right, or as all right as war can be. Baozhai has refused them, but Burqila won’t. The road to Nishikomi will be a long one— the last one—but Shefali will travel alongside her family, nearly all her loved ones. When they strike down the Traitor, she will be happy to join the stars.

If the Traitor does show himself. The woman, Sayaka, was probably right; it is probably a trap.

But it is one they’d face together.

“Your mother’s almost here,” Shizuka says.

Shefali can only nod. After all the anxiety of the past few days, the arrival of her family should be a blessing. Instead it has created a particular kind of knot in her stomach. Alshara wrote not long ago—she is proud of her daughter. And the rest of the Qorin must be eager to sniff her cheeks and tell her she smells as if she is dying. Her lips turn up at the corners at the thought. Qorin humor is one of her few remaining comforts.

There is no one better at Qorin humor—and no one Shefali dreads seeing again more—than her cousin Otgar. Otgar, who had been at her side through six years of wandering; Otgar, who knew her better than almost anyone. Otgar, who told her when she left for Hokkaro that she was a disappointment to her clan and her ancestors.

Barsatoq has not seen you in eight years. Burqila has not seen you in twelve—and you’re telling me you’re picking your wife over her?

Shefali squeezes her eyes shut.

“It won’t be as bad as you think,” says Shizuka. Gone, her earlier fury; gone, her amusement. When the two of them are alone, Shizuka wears her most private expressions—her amber eyes go honey sweet. “She’ll be happy to see you.”

“I’m dying,” Shefali says, for it is the abject truth of the matter.

Shizuka flinches. She takes Shefali’s hand in her own and holds it against her cheek. “All the more reason,” she says. “Petty squabbles are meaningless now, aren’t they? You’re her favorite cousin.”

“Am I?”

“I’m certain you are,” Shizuka says. Shefali squints. She and Otgar share well over a dozen cousins. Many of them are funnier than Shefali, many of them are better wrestlers, almost all of them have spent more time with the clan.

Shefali sighs.

Shizuka—the Empress of Hokkaro, the final scion of the storied Minami line, descendant of a Traitor god—grabs one of the stools and drags it behind her wife. Before Shefali can ask her what she’s doing, Shizuka is atop it, her delicate hands on either side of Shefali’s shoulders.


“Relax,” is the answer, accompanied by a tap on Shefali’s head. “You do so much for me, and I know you’re in pain.”

She is. Pain has become something of a sense to her, at this point— an ever-present sensation she must try to tune out if she is to get anything done at all. Some days she is more successful than others.

Today it is only a little pain. Shizuka’s massage, truth be told, doesn’t do anything at all to alleviate it.

But they have only a few weeks left, and Shefali will treasure every moment they have together.

Copyright © 2019 by K Arsenault Rivera

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Meet the #FearlessWomen: Barsalai Shefali from The Phoenix Empress

Image Placeholder of - 16Written by Lisa Ickowicz

I am Barsalai Shefali, and I have earned that name twice over.

Barsalayaa Shefali is a woman of few words, but she is fierce, loyal and compassionate. Born to a Qorin family—a tribe of nomadic peoples within the Hokkaran Empire—her early years are filled with riding horses and learning to shoot a bow and arrow. Her life is not easy or privileged. The Hokkarans hate her dark horse-like looks and her own Qorin people dislike her because they think she is too pampered. Growing up Shefali only has one real friend: O Shizuka.

Shefali has her destiny intertwined with Shizuka’s from birth. Shefali’s mother is a dedicated servant and loyal friend to Shizuka’s mother. The girls grow up together and though they live across the empire’s borders they keep in contact through letters. Shefali can’t read or write Hokkaran, but she painstakingly learns—perfecting her calligraphy to impress Shizuka. The friendship between the two girls grows into a love between two women.

In The Phoenix Empress, Shefali is returning to Fujino to see O Shizuka after eight years in exile. But she soon finds that she is not returning to her beloved wife, but rather the Hokkaran Empress—a woman whose habits she does not know. Adorned in empress robes, with a painted white face, and glassy eyes, Shizuka is not the same woman Shefali left behind. Shizuka’s love of her ink bowl and calligraphy has been replaced by an obsession with getting drunk on wine. And it’s in that drunken state that Shefali finds her when they reunite. Instead of showing anger or resentment towards Shizuka, Shefali scoops her into her arms. She lays with her and calms her night terrors with a song. She is and always has been Shizuka’s rock. Shefali has endured trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to Shizuka. Yet she still willingly wants to carry the weight of her wife’s troubles.

“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Shizuka says. “You carry so much already. My suffering is a grain of rice, and yours is a boulder.”

 Shefali kisses her on the forehead.

 “You didn’t ask,” she says. “And suffering is not a contest. Losing a limb, losing a horse, losing a friend—the pain’s different, but the crying’s the same.”

 Shefali constantly balances her role as a loyal, caring wife and a fierce, fearless warrior. But when a familiar demonic force grows closer, and tragedy befalls her, Shefali must do all she can to save herself, Shizuka, and the entire empire.

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New Releases: 10/9

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

Face OffImage Placeholder of - 43  by David HagbergFace

Kirk McGarvey is lunching in the Eiffel Tower when terrorists attempt to bring the Paris icon down. He springs into action to stop the attack, only to find there’s a much larger plot at stake. One that aims to force the incompetent US President out by pitting him against Russia.

But Putin himself is eager to avoid World War III. When a Russian nuclear weapon goes missing and is found heading to the US, Putin enlists McGarvey’s help in stopping it.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the outcome couldn’t be more in doubt. Only McGarvey stands a chance of intervening before it’s too late, in a race against time across Paris, Istanbul, Moscow, and Washington, D.C.

Place holder  of - 96Power Failure by Ben BovaImage Place holder  of - 23

Dr. Jake Ross came to Washington to try to make a difference, but he’s learned the only way to get something done in Washington, assuming your ideals survive the corrosive atmosphere, is to gather power. Ross has gathered a great deal, riding in the wake of Frank Tomlinson. But now Tomlinson has decided to shoot for the moon. If they win, they get it all. If they lose, the game is over for Jake Ross.

In the Power trilogy, Bova’s vision of a future powered by solar satellite transmission is tantalizingly within reach.


Poster Placeholder of - 29The Phoenix Empress by K Arsenault RiveraPlaceholder of  -46

Once they were the heirs to a prophecy that predicted two women would save an empire.

Now Shefali is dying—and her wife is unaware of the coming tragedy. Shizuka is too busy trying to reunite a fractured empire and right the wrongs of her ancestors.

As the Imperial Army gathers against a demonic invasion, Shizuka must do all she can with an empire on the brink of civil war.


Himouto! Umaru-Chan Vol. 3 Story and art by Sankakuhead

How to Treat Magical Beasts: Mine and Master’s Medical Journal Vol. 2 Story and art by Kaziya

Satoko and Nada Vol. 1 Story and art by Vupechika

Spirit Circle Vol. 5 Story and art by Satoshi Mizukami


#FearlessWomen Authors Tell Us How They Fell In Love with Sci-Fi and Fantasy

We’ve been celebrating Fearless Women all year, and we asked some of the authors who are crafting elaborate worlds and nuanced female characters to chat with us about how they first fell in love with genre storytelling.


How and when did you first fall in love with science fiction and fantasy?


Jacqueline Carey:

Through the wardrobe with Lucy Pevensie!  Narnia was my gateway. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe seven. After that, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain was probably my second great love in the genre. That’s a series that I don’t see discussed often in popular culture, at least in the U.S., but when I reference it, other writers often nod in agreement and understanding.

To this day, I credit Taran Wanderer with teaching me to wrestle with challenging and scary adult concepts like the fact that you don’t always get your heart’s desire. It also gave me a life-long romanticized view of throwing pottery on the wheel (which, I will add, owes nothing to the movie Ghost, although it didn’t hurt.)


V. E. Schwab:

I was eleven when Harry Potter came out, so I am indebted to it for making me a reader, while Neil Gaiman’s work in poetry and prose made me a writer, and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell swept me away.


Sherrilyn Kenyon:

Honestly? Before I was born. My mother was a huge fan and I’m sure I heard it in the womb and knew I was in love prior to my arrival. One of my earliest childhood memories is turning the kitchen chairs on their sides and pretending I was an astronaut blasting into space. The first novel I wrote at eight years old was sci-fantasy mixed with horror. Maybe it’s because I was born the same year Star Trek debuted, but I was hooked and can’t imagine a life without it.


Mary Robinette Kowal:

I honestly don’t remember a time that I wasn’t reading science fiction. Children’s literature doesn’t draw the hard lines that adult works do. But I’ll tell you the first book that I was conscious of as science fiction: Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl. It’s YA, but I read it in elementary school, and it’s the first one that I remember finishing and thinking “I want more books like this.”


S. L. Huang:

I was long gone as a SFF fan before I even knew it was a genre. Thanks to my mom, the public library was a regular destination growing up, and I remember coming home every week with another boatload of books. I also spent all my allowance on books—well, books and Legos! I read everything I could get my hands on, and it was only much later that I looked at my shelves and realized somewhere along the way all my favorites had ended up being the ones with spaceships and sword fights.

If I had to take a guess, I’d say I love SFF so much because of the way it allows us to examine real, hard truths about the world through a metaphorical lens—sometimes when it’s too difficult to look at those truths straight on. But also, you know, spaceships and sword fights are just cool.


Robyn Bennis:

Like most nerds of my generation, my initiation came via Star Trek reruns. I might have been seven when I started watching the original series obsessively. It started as a childish interest in aliens and spaceships, but as I matured, I began to appreciate the deeper levels of the show.

I think this is why so many writers cite Star Trek as inspiration. It can be enjoyed on multiple levels, from mindless lightshow to philosophical examination, so it’s always ready to teach you a new lesson in storytelling. Beyond that, there’s such a strong sense of optimism written into the very fiber of the series. Kirk, contrary to his reputation, strives to find a diplomatic solution to every conflict, considering violence not just a last resort, but an outright failure of his core mission. Science and discovery are so highly valued that they’ve become the primary pursuit of Starfleet, with defense second. And need I even mention Uhura, who fearlessly stands up and takes crap from no man, whether they’re friend, enemy, or, in one case, even Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps my favorite moment in the entire series is when Sulu, who’s involuntarily space-drunk, reassures her, “I’ll protect you, fair maiden!” Uhura replies, “Sorry, neither,” and shoots him a look that says, “I can protect myself just fine, dude.”


Sam Hawke:

I can’t remember a time when fantasy and science fiction weren’t part of my life. We grow up surrounded by stories designed to ask ‘what if’ or to transport us to another world, and children seem to be hardwired to enjoy the wonder and curiosity and exploration that those stories invoke in us. It’s no surprise that fairy tales and myths in almost every culture are often based around speculative elements even as they are teaching about people and the real world. Most of the media I consumed as a kid was in the realm of SFF–from Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm Brothers fairy tales, Enid Blyton stories full of magical creatures and different worlds at the top of the Faraway Tree to Star Blazers and Astro Boy on the TV. I guess some people feel like they have to outgrow dragons–I just moved on from picture book dragons to The Hobbit and never looked back.


K Arsenault Rivera:

Honestly, I can’t remember a time I wasn’t interested in genre fiction. As a kid I wrote a letter to the mayor because I thought my elementary school library didn’t have enough books on Greek myth. Between my dad fostering in me a love of ridiculous over the top video games from a young age there was really no other path for me to walk. Or read, as it were. If I couldn’t swing a sword at a couple hundred demons while shouting “showtime!”, then I’d have to make a character who could.


Mirah Bolender:

Fantasy was the baseline of every story I read from childhood—what Disney movie or fairy tale isn’t fantasy?—but what really solidified it for me was discovering the Redwall series in elementary school. I latched onto sword-wielding mice and never looked back.


Fran Wilde:

I was eight, and being raised by a library and a small independent bookstore. The bookstore kept a box of science fiction and fantasy novels set aside for my sister and me. The library had a great collection too. We both started reading SFF and we never really stopped.




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Place holder  of - 56Meet this fall’s #FearlessWomen! These are the authors who are shaping new blockbuster worlds—and re-shaping our own. Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V. E. Schwab, K Arsenault Rivera, Nancy Kress as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as S.L. Huang, Fran Wilde, and Mirah Bolender we think you’ll love the stories these #FearlessWomen have to tell.

This free #FearlessWomen Sampler features the first 20 to 30 pages from each of the following titles:


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Excerpt: The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera

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Place holder  of - 35 Welcome to #FearlessWomen! K. Arsenault Rivera returns to the world of The Tiger’s Daughter in The Phoenix Empress, available on October 9th.

Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.

Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.

As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?

One: Barsalai Shefali

It is an hour into Sixth Bell on the third of Nishen. Playful zephyrs swing through the narrow streets of Fujino. Outside the teahouses, girls in soft greens and pinks call to the passersby. They play their shamisens despite raw red fingers, conjuring songs about tea leaves and marital fortunes. Cooks standing behind stalls wave meat on skewers. Down the alley, two men are arguing over the proper price for coal.

When Barsalai Shefali was younger, she imagined this city was the busiest place in the world. This city’s closer to the steppes than it is to Salom, where the cities are piled atop one another like a Hokkaran lady’s robes. It’s not so imposing as Alaraas, either; the castles in Ikhtar’s capital are like teeth on the horizon. Here only the Jade Palace looms—and it can hardly be said to be looming when its shape is so pleasing to the eye. In the earliest hours of the morning, when the fog settles around the palace, the whole city is a hymn of green.

How she’s missed this. Strange—she never imagined she would.

With any luck, Shizuka’s finished with whatever it is that called her away. Shefali does not have a head for it. Listening to supplicants? Settling tax disputes?

Shefali imagines the Empress of Hokkaro sitting in front of her desk, her dress slipping off her shoulders. Her slender neck and graceful wrists. The way she’d look over her shoulder with that knowing smirk.

No matter how awful the day has been thus far, her wife is less than an hour’s ride away.

The people of Fujino give Shefali a wide berth as she rides through the streets. An army walking six men abreast would have less space to itself. That is fine with Shefali. The more space, the better. This way she can afford to look up at the sky and hum the Bandit King’s song without fear of veering into a crowd.

Come to think of it—aren’t there fewer people here? Yes, there are the singing girls; yes, there are guards; yes, there are merchants and messengers and wives running errands with their babies on their backs—but there are fewer of them. The cacophony she hated as a child has dimmed to a dull roar.

The palace itself is surrounded on all sides by a wall. Just past the wall are the Imperial Hunting Grounds, with tall evergreens like aggressive strokes of paint. Anyone attempting to lobby the Imperial Family for assistance must make their way through the hunting grounds. The rich hire guides.

Shefali has never had need of a guide. The steppes raised her as much as her mother and aunts and uncles. If some starving animal should come across her, they will hunt together for food. That is all. She finds herself almost hoping to see one of the famed beasts of Fujino—it would be a relief to hunt the proper way again. To once more string her bow.

All the hunting she did in the East involved fangs and claws.

But that time is behind her now—she is sure of it. As the stables rise up ahead of her, she feels the tension slide off her back like water.

The hostler knows better than to offer to take Alsha. Shefali respects him for it. Once, when she and Shizuka were children, this man caught them holding hands. Back then, he chided them. His silence now is growth.

She allows herself a moment with Alsha, with her oldest friend aside from Shizuka. Shefali slips her gray mare a sweet. In the slow thunder of her heart, the steady winds of her breathing, Shefali feels the steppes.

Home. She’s finally home.

Or she will be, when she’s back in Shizuka’s arms. Somewhere in the palace is Shefali’s wife, and she means to find her.

Before, Shefali never bothered to learn the layout of the Jade Palace. To this day, she does not know which way leads to the gardens, or the library, or the barracks. Whenever she needed to find one of these places as a child, O-Shizuru and O-Itsuki sent guards with her. O-Shizuru often sent her along with an apology for having to put up with the place.

But now Shefali has her nose. Every few steps, she sniffs the air and searches for a trace of her wife’s scent. The downside? She also picks up the scents of guards and servants and courtiers. Brief flashes of their lives play out in front of her. Some are ordinary—preparing tea, tucking in children. Some are . . .

Well, now she knows which of Shizuka’s servants work for Ren.

The closer she comes to Shizuka’s room, the more ghosts there are. They stand along the hallway as faded images of their former selves. Many bear wounds. A woman stands with her own severed head in her hands; a man on his knees scrambles to shove his ghastly entrails back into his body. One plucks ants from her ears, pinches them between her fingertips, and eats the remains.

Shefali pays them no mind. That is the trick of it. The moment you acknowledge a ghost, it latches on to you.

I am Barsalai Shefali, and I have earned that name twice over, she thinks to herself. Over and over she thinks this; over and over she pictures her hand in her mind. These are her fingers; these are the poems written in their webbing; this is the half-moon scar of her childhood promise. This is her hand. She will not allow it to change.

As she nears the next turn—why are there so many in this castle? As if an army would be waylaid by bad architecture. Shefali kneads her palm with her thumb and forefinger. Yes. This is her hand. A small victory for the day, then, that she did not lose control.

The door is before her now. Two guards in red enamel armor bow to her.

“Empress Wolf,” they say to her.

Is that what they are going to call her here? So many names she’s borne—what’s one more? Yet “Empress” has never been Shefali’s title, and to wear it now would be to wear robes over her deel.

“Barsalai,” she corrects them, and as they slide open the door, Shefali’s heart leaps up, her soul singing the song her wife once wrote for them.

But when the door closes again, there is only silence.

Silence, and the treasures of an Empress who no longer values the material comforts as she did in her youth. Amidst the less-loved representations of wealth, in the corner of the room is a screen where Minami Shizuru—the Queen of Crows, Shizuka’s beloved mother—stares at the viewer. The tattoo on her arm is both plainly visible and reproduced accurately.

Silence, and the altar to the parents Shizuka has lost. There, up on a shelf where the sunlight can find it in the mornings: a misshapen lump of bronze that was once a war mask; a scroll of beautiful writing Shefali cannot read, but knows to be the words of O-Itsuki, the Poet Prince. Shizuka’s father, Shizuru’s husband. Dust has settled on most of Shizuka’s possessions like the first snow of winter—but there is no dust on the altar.

Looking back toward the doors, Shefali yet finds only silence, though her eye falls on the instruments that could break it. A zither inlaid with pearl and gold next to her writing desk; a shamisen with phoenix’s head for a neck. These, too, have been recently used, even as the stack of papers on Shizuka’s writing desk grows taller than Baoyi.

Only silence and these things; only silence, and not Shefali’s wife.

It should not hurt. Of course Shizuka is busy. It is nearly Seventh Bell, but she is the Empress now—there is much that demands her attention, much Shefali cannot fathom about her duties.

But it is that—precisely that—which is the arrow in her throat.

Barsalai Shefali journeyed for eight years through the desert and the mountains to return to her wife. For eight years, the focus of her life has been narrow and sharply rendered; a blade against her suffering. Nothing mattered except the feather. Nothing mattered except returning home to Minami Shizuka, to her wife, to the girl who laughs like a popping fire.

And now that she is here—what are all these things? From whence came this statue of Shizuka cloaked in a phoenix’s wings? Where is the room they’d shared as children, where is the bed Shefali sneaked into over and over? She does not recognize the massive one in front of her, circular and raised up off the ground, the sheets embroidered with peacock feathers. These papers on her desk—Shefali runs her hands over them. Why are there so many? Why is Shizuka’s writing desk so dusty when it was one of her prized possessions? The ink bowl is missing—why is the ink bowl missing?

Eight years she’s spent trying to return to Shizuka—and she returned to the Empress instead. A woman whose habits she does not know.

Eight years she’s spent trying to return to Fujino—and she’s found the streets empty instead. A city she recognizes only in the vaguest sense, like a friend she met once when they were both children.

Of course, nothing is the same. She was a fool to assume otherwise. This journey has never been about her—and still she made it about herself. On their way back from the Womb, Shefali did not even bother to visit her own family. That, too, eats away at her. What has become of the Qorin since the Toad lost his throne? She tries to tell herself that they must be doing better than she remembers. If Shizuka is Empress, then surely she’s granted the Qorin their freedom; surely she’s granted Shefali’s mother her proper title.


But then—

Shefali thought Shizuka would be home by now.

And she expected to see more people in Fujino; she expected to see more happy faces. Shizuka swore she’d look after her people. That is why she stayed. That was the whole point of her staying.

And if she didn’t…

What use are any of that girl’s promises? She does not know the weight of an oath. She is not a proper ruler.

Strange. Shefali is used to the voices that call to her. After eight years of dealing with them, she knows each one as well as her own cousins.

But this voice—this man’s voice—is new.

Shefali pushes aside the thought. A spasm it was, no more. Indulging it will lead nowhere good.

So Barsalai Shefali alone breaks the silence with a sigh. In her deel is a small piece of near-black Surian wood. Before they went into the Womb, she’d started whittling away at it to pass the time. Debelo did not share her sense of urgency, after all, and she could not find the place without him. So she waited, and she whittled.

The piece remained untouched after they emerged.

She takes it from her deel now. A vague snout, two rough-hewn legs, the rest of the body still trapped in the wood. Once, she dreamed that this would be a wolf.

Shefali holds her knife in her hand. She lets herself feel the weight of it and, more important, the stiffness of her fingers around it. Whittling requires fine control—another reason she’s given it up. Some days she can hardly close her fingers together.

It is the third of Nishen. Today, she can close her fingers together. Today, she can whittle.

And so the wolf begins to take shape.

Shefali doesn’t hear her wife coming—it’s Last Bell, and the criers are wandering the halls, reading from the Divine Mandates: “A flower blooms only when nurtured. It is the Hour of the Daughter.”

The lead crier starts the chant. By the third syllable, his junior begins, and then his junior, and so on, so that a simple phrase becomes an echoing cacophony. Shefali doesn’t understand the practice. Labeling hours is an affront to Grandmother Sky to begin with—she will tell you what time it is with the changing of her cloak, with her two great eyes. Labeling your hours with needless racket when everyone who can sleep should be sleeping, all for the sake of some supposed spiritual edification—there is nothing more Hokkaran to Shefali.

Except, perhaps, her wife.

Shizuka is approaching, finally. Shefali can smell her: peonies and chrysanthemums, sharp metal and sweet wine. It is the wine that most concerns her. That smell has clung to Shizuka like her innermost set of robes for as long as Shefali’s been in Fujino. At first she said nothing, for who would begrudge the Empress a drink? Who would say to her: No, you cannot celebrate the return of your wife?

But it has been three days.

And Shizuka has returned to the room later and later each day, today at Last Bell, today fumbling with even the flimsy paper door between them, today tripping over her eight robes as she crosses the threshold.

Shefali is there to catch her. She has always been there to catch her; tonight is different only in that it is at last physical again. For eight years, she dreamed of this: her wife in her arms, the smell of her, the weight of her, the sound of her laughter. And she is laughing now, as she nuzzles against Shefali.

But her face is painted white, her teeth are painted black; she has shaved off her eyebrows, and she wears the full eight layers of a Hokkaran Empress of years past. Her amber eyes have gone glassy, her laugh is…

Well, she might be laughing at anything.

“Are you all right?” Shefali asks her, though she knows what the real answer is. She scoops Shizuka up into her arms. She hardly weighs anything at all, even in all those layers.

Shizuka reaches up for Shefali’s cheek. She pinches it, as she used to when they were younger, though there is no longer any fat there to pinch. Only skin and muscle. Shefali indulges her—Shizuka’s touch fills her with warm joy, even when her new habits confuse.

“I,” says Shizuka, and she makes the word last several heartbeats, “have never felt better.”

“Never?” says Shefali. She finds herself smiling in spite of the situation, in spite of the drunkenness. So much of her is happy just to be with Shizuka again. She kisses her wife’s forehead. If the white paint smears onto her lips, she hardly cares. “Not once in all our time together?”

“Hmmm,” says Shizuka. She shifts in Shefali’s arms, laying her head against Shefali’s heart. “Well. You’re right. Maybe I have felt a little better than this.”

“Only a little?” Shefali says. She sets her down on the bed she does not recognize. Shizuka holds on to her deel and tries to pull her in.

Shefali wants to join her. Truly, she does. This teasing they’re doing is as natural to her as firing a bow, as natural as steering her horse. She does it without thinking—just as she helps Shizuka out of her outermost robes.

But as she sheds each robe, she comes closer and closer to her unadorned wife. As Shizuka drunkenly wipes her makeup off on a proffered cloth, as her scar is revealed, Shefali comes closer and closer to the woman she left behind.

And it gets harder to reconcile her with the woman who has lost her ink bowl, with the woman who leaves important papers unattended, with the woman who comes home later and later and drunker and drunker.

“Only a little,” says Shizuka, her face now bare, tugging insistently at Shefali’s deel. There is hunger in those glassy eyes. “Perhaps you can come and make your arguments, if you feel differently…”

Gnawing at her heart. The core of her soul wants nothing more than Shizuka—nothing more than the feel of her skin against Shefali’s, her impossible warmth; nothing more than to let herself consume and be consumed by her.

But she wants Shizuka. And this woman before her is not quite her.

Shefali kisses her forehead. She holds Shizuka’s face in her hands, running her thumb over the raised skin of her scar.

“Maybe another night,” she says.

And it is as if she’s struck Shizuka—her warm skin goes as pale as the makeup she’s now shed, and she takes Shefali’s hand with startling urgency.

“Are you all right?” she says. Her voice is clearer now; the worry sops up her drunkenness like a sponge. She tries to sit up and only flops back down.

Shefali catches her and kisses her on the forehead again.

“I am,” she says.

Shizuka wrinkles her nose. Her scar pinches at her skin. Shefali winces; she should have known better than to lie to Shizuka.

“Something’s wrong,” says Shizuka. She’s slurring a little, but the clarity’s returning to her eyes. “Shefali, what’s wrong? Have I done . . . I’ve done something, haven’t I?

Shefali watches her cover her face with her hands, hears her take a deep, sharp breath. She presses her lips together.

“We can talk about it tomorrow,” says Shefali. “When you’ve rested.”

“It’s my fault, isn’t it?”

“Tomorrow,” says Shefali. Again she kisses her cheeks, her forehead, both eyes in turn. Even as her soul aches—it’s her fault, she’s upset Shizuka—she forces herself to hold together. In the morning they can speak of all this at length, in the morning they can—

A small thought, a whisper she does not consciously hear: What use is it to talk to her about any of it? Four months of peace. You wanted four months of peace.

The man’s voice again.

Shame’s wave swallows her. Is it better to let the matter lie? What did she intend to say? I wish you would stop drinking, you’re not yourself anymore? What did she think that would accomplish? Is it worth it to hurt Shizuka if it means…If it means getting her back?

Anything is worth it to return to who they were. She’d promised to slay gods with Shizuka—and how is she meant to do that when the woman can hardly function? How can they be like two pine needles when they spent eight years so far apart?

Shefali opens her mouth once, and then twice. The words live in her heart somewhere, if only she can summon them.

I want to be with you. Really be with you, when you can remember that I’m here.

I want to know who you’ve become.

I want to know what’s happened to this place, to this Empire, to my people.

But the words are stubborn, and not inclined to leave their ger in the middle of the night.

Tomorrow. She said tomorrow.

Perhaps that answer satisfies Shizuka’s worries, or perhaps she resigns herself to it; perhaps the drink has finally caught up with her, or perhaps it is the crown that saps away her strength. The result is the same: in the time it takes Shefali to come to her realization, Shizuka falls asleep in her lap.

Seeing her like this—yes, it is for this she traveled. For the calm on her wife’s face, for the way she curls up against Shefali, for her curtain of black hair and her skin soft as the morning clouds.

Four months of this—yes. That is what she wanted.

Shefali walks her fingertips across the bridge of Shizuka’s nose. Tomorrow. Will Shizuka remember in the morning? And if she does—where will Shefali start?

In the quiet, in the dark, she makes her oath.

“Four months of peace,” she says, “four months with you.”

Shizuka begins to shift in her sleep. At first only a little—she takes her thumb out of her mouth and rolls, burying her face deeper into Shefali’s lap. At first it is only this, and though Shefali can smell the cherry-sweet fear coming off her, she soothes her by smoothing her hair, by caressing her face and whispering to her.

But it is getting worse.

A low moan leaves her, going higher and higher until she is near screaming. Her rolling turns to thrashing. When Shefali tries to hold her—tries to keep her safe from whatever is making her so terrified, she smells so sweet—the thrashing only gets worse. Shizuka shoves her, hard. Shefali backs away—she wants space? She’s asleep, this must be another nightmare; should she stop it? Should she wake her when she doesn’t want to be touched?

Now Shizuka is screaming, now she is curling up into a ball, now she tears at her own hair, and Shefali’s heart drops into her stomach. The sanvaartains say that if you wake someone during a nightmare, part of them will always be trapped within it—you must overcome the dream yourself if you are to be free of it. Shefali cannot count how many times she was awakened in the middle of the night by one of her cousins screaming just like this.

“Leave them to it,” her cousin Otgar always mumbled. “It’ll make them stronger.”

But confronted with this sight, Shefali knows nothing about it will make Shizuka stronger. She doesn’t need to be stronger, anyway, with all that she’s been through.

And so Shefali scoops her up into her arms, in spite of how she thrashes; and so Shefali wraps her arms around her wife and holds her close, so close.

“Shizuka,” she says, smoothing her hair. “You’re safe. You’re only dreaming.”

She is gasping now, she is gulping in breath as if it were water and she has been wandering through the desert for years. But she is not awake.

“Shizuka,” she says. “Please. I’m here. Listen to me, listen to my voice. I’m here, and you’re safe.”

Still—she’s growing more still. Her heart isn’t, of course; Shefali feels it like a hummingbird against her chest. Shizuka herself, though—the tension is falling away. She’s starting to slump against Shefali now, and as Shefali keeps repeating that she is safe, her breathing begins to slow. Each breath—each slow breath—is a victory.

For long moments, Shizuka remains slumped against her. At some point she must have woken, for she’s returning Shefali’s embrace, but it seems she cannot yet bring herself to speak. That is all right. Shefali well knows the value of silence—and she can smell the fear, the guilt, the shame coming off her wife already.

“Take whatever time you need,” Shefali says to her. “I’ll be here.”

The clock tick, tick, ticks the seconds—but it is a liar. That sort of time has no meaning here, not anymore. There are eternities between each tick: lifetimes and generations. As far as Shefali is concerned, the rest of the Empire—the rest of the world—can hold its breath until Shizuka says it can breathe again.

She rocks the two of them back and forth slowly, slowly. Her aunts used to do this when her cousins awoke, frightened conquerors of their own imaginations. There was a song, wasn’t there? A song that they would sing? Shefali never heard it clearly—Burqila Alshara sang for no one—but she’d heard the melody. She wakes the memory of it now, hums it as she rocks Shizuka back and forth, back and forth.

“I missed your singing,” Shizuka whispers. Soft and precious, that sound; Shefali squeezes her tighter.

“I’m here now,” she says. “I’ll sing whatever you want.”

Shizuka half laughs, half smiles, laying her hand flat against Shefali’s chest. “Careful now,” she says. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“Songs are easier to find than phoenix feathers,” Shefali says.

“So they are,” says Shizuka. She sighs, balls her fist, taps it against Shefali’s chest. “I…My love, I’m sorry. I thought—”

“Shh,” says Shefali. She kisses the top of her head. “When you’re ready.”

“I thought I was ready!” Shizuka answers. “I thought…I always thought that when you returned, I’d be better. That I wouldn’t…That I could sleep, that I wouldn’t want to drink, that I’d stop being so afraid. When you left, I felt so—”

“I’m here now,” Shefali says. Being apart from her was a wound she’d stitched together, but hearing all this is tearing it open anew.

“I know,” says Shizuka. She lays her head against Shefali’s shoulder. “And I thought that would help. Shefali, I thought that would help, but I’m . . . I’m not getting better.”

As porcelain under a hammer—Shizuka’s voice, Shefali’s soul.

“What do you mean?” Shefali says. “Shizuka. Whatever it is that’s troubling you—you have my sword to slay it.”

Shizuka pinches her nose. Shame, again—she smells of shame. “I owe you a story,” she says. “The letter you wrote me was so beautiful, and I . . . I should tell you, really, everything that’s happened. There’s…if you knew all of it, you might not…I owe you a letter.”

When did the bold O-Shizuka start stammering like this?

“But I can’t even do that,” Shizuka says. “I can’t even write to you. Because of the…Because of the water. I can’t look at it. Just a bowl of it, Shefali. Just a bowl. Looking at it makes me remember, and—”

Shizuka sucks in a breath, shivers, trembles. As if she is trying to cry but the tears will not come.

Shefali holds her wife tighter. “When you are ready,” she says, “I will carry your weight.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Shizuka says. “You carry so much already. My suffering is a grain of rice, and yours is a boulder.”

Shefali kisses her on the forehead.

“You didn’t ask,” she says. “And suffering is not a contest. Losing a limb, losing a horse, losing a friend—the pain’s different, but the crying’s the same.”


Copyright © 2018 by K. Arsenault Rivera

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#FearlessWomen at Left Bank Books

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Left Bank Books and Archon present an SF STL and Tor #FearlessWomen event on Thursday, May 10th at 7 PM, with authors Tessa Gratton, Sue Burke, and K. Arsenault Rivera, who will sign and discuss their new books The Queens of Innis Lear, Semiosis, and The Tiger’s DaughterFind more information about the event here.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, dynasties battle for the crown in Tessa Gratton’s debut epic adult fantasy, a story of deposed kings and betrayed queens for fans of Red Rising and Queen of the Tearling. The Queens of Innis Lear brings to life a world that hums with ancient magic, and characters as ruthless as the tides.

Sue Burke’s Semiosis is a sweeping SF epic of first contact that spans generations of humans struggling to survive on an alien world. Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they’ll have to survive on the one they found. They don’t realize another life form watches . . . and waits.

K. Arsenault Rivera’s lush new epic historical fantasy series evokes the ambition and widespread appeal of Patrick Rothfuss and the vivid storytelling of Naomi Novik. The Tiger’s Daughter is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.


Presenting a Year of #FearlessWomen

Tor Books is proud to present a year of…

Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Beginning this summer, meet a new generation of #FearlessWomen who are shaping new blockbuster worlds—and re-shaping our own. Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V. E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. We’ll also have exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation—and get reading!

Discover your #Fearless side!


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And don’t miss these additional #FearlessWomen titles coming this Fall!

About Tor Books

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, was founded in 1980 and committed to quality speculative literature. Between an extensive hardcover, trade softcover and mass market paperback line, a growing middle grade and YA list, and robust backlist program, Tor annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy produced by a single English-language publisher. Books from Tor have won every major award in the SF and fantasy fields, including Best Publisher in the Locus Poll for 30 years in a row.

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