Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Desperate to escape an arranged marriage and the life her high-ranking government official father planned for her, Cat Hunter does the unthinkable. She runs away from her homeland Tellus, disguises herself as a boy, and stows away on an air ship.
She’s ready for life in a new land where the general population isn’t poverty stricken and at the mercy of the cruel officials. What she isn’t quite ready for is meeting Fox, a crew member aboard the Stormdancer—which turns out to be a smugglers’ ship.
So begins an epic adventure that spans both land and sea. This explosive debut starts a unique six-book series.
Each novel will be set in a different land within the Tellus world, with repeating characters and related, nonlinear storylines that combine to create a one-of-a-kind, addictive reading experience.
Rain fell lazily from charcoal-coloured clouds as Catherine Hunter sprinted through darkening streets, her long hair tied in a tight braid and tucked beneath a black knitted cap. Her thick woollen coat and black work trousers disguised her gender quite nicely. She was practically unrecognisable; only the people who knew her well would have been able to tell who she was.
A faint smile tugged at her lips as she reached the familiar tree beside the high stone wall that surrounded the area in which she lived. It took barely any effort to swing herself up into its branches, the knots worn into footholds by constant use. With practised ease, she scrambled up as high as she could manage, edging on to an outstretched branch that just brushed the wall’s peak. From there it was just a short jump over the wall, her thud upon landing muffled by the grass. Taking no longer than a second to regain her balance, she resumed running, diving into a gap at the base of a bush. The fence panel behind it was open, as she’d left it, and she crawled through without a care for the mud on her clothes. Her father would never see them.
Flitting across the garden to the back door, she pulled a pin from her hair and slid it into the lock, opening it effortlessly. Leaving her boots at the very back of the hall closet, she shut the door soundlessly behind her, hurrying in socked feet towards the stairs. It was her habit to be silent, though she knew she was unlikely to draw her father from his office. Catherine would rather not risk it; the punishment for sneaking out was one she didn’t like to think about.
After a brief detour to her bedroom to change into more appropriate clothing, Catherine wandered down to the living room, pulling her hair loose as she did so. She was unsurprised to see the newscast screen on in the corner; rarely did her father turn it off, even if he was nowhere near it. She sank on to the plush grey carpet, pulling her knees up to her chest and trying to regulate her breathing. Her father probably wouldn’t want her to join him for dinner, but if he did decide to summon her and she gave herself away by looking out of breath, she could expect to be unable to sit down for at least a week.
She sighed to herself as upbeat music began to blare from the newscast screen and another recruitment broadcast played out. She wished that, just once, they might show something other than the war. Yes, she understood that the war with Mericus was important and people wanted to know what was going on – but didn’t people also want to know what was going on in Siberene, or how the storms were in the East?
‘Your child will be one of many, expertly trained to protect their country,’ the cast told her in a proud, tinny voice. She sighed once more, tightly hugging her knees. Had she been a common child she would have been one of those sent to fight so the adults could stay behind and keep the country from crumbling. She wasn’t sure whether to be thankful for her birth, or dismayed by it. Surely even war was better than the life of pseudo-freedom she had now. No amount of sneaking out to roam the streets could change the fact that she was trapped by her father’s demands and expectations.
Gears whirred and she looked up to see the family servant – a mecha she had affectionately named Samuel – walking jerkily into the room, a tray of food in his claw-like hand.
‘Is Father not eating dinner with me, Sam?’ she asked, standing to accept the tray. The purple-white glow in Sam’s eyes dimmed.
‘No, Miss Catherine. Master Nathaniel is working,’ he answered in his gravelly voice. Nathaniel was alwaysworking. Not that Catherine minded, as she liked being able to eat without being interrogated or insulted.
Sam reached out a thick bronze arm to straighten the silk throw over the back of the sofa, puffs of pale purple steam spilling from the thin chimney on his shoulder in time with the mechanical tick of his metal insides. ‘And Mother?’ she asked, setting her plate on the low table and sitting on the floor to eat.
‘Mistress Elizabeth is sleeping.’
Her mother was always sleeping these days. Sleeping, crying or having a shaking fit. Her father kept telling her that the doctors were doing their best, but she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a doctor at the house.
They had probably given up, just like her father, and were waiting for Elizabeth Hunter to die.
‘Thank you, Samuel. You may leave.’
Catherine half-heartedly forked potatoes into her mouth. From the living room, there was a very good view of the shipyard, second only to the view from her bedroom. She spent a lot of time staring at the shipyard, watching skyships lifting gracefully into the air with canvas wings outstretched, the propellers beneath giving enough momentum for the ships to quickly latch on to the fierce updraughts that wound through the docks. How she wished to fly in a skyship: the freedom, the boundless space, with no expectations from anyone but herself and her crew. The ability to travel to countries she only dreamed of seeing, meeting new people and immersing herself in different cultures . . .
But that was all a fantasy.
She was destined – as her father had reminded her many times – to marry a high-born man, and produce many strong, healthy little boys and beautiful, gentle little girls to continue the family line. Though her father educated her like he would a son, that didn’t extend to learning about the family business as a proper heir should. She was to serve her husband in every way, obey his orders, and swear fealty to the Anglyan government – just as her mother had. No one asked her whether she wanted to swear fealty, or raise lots of children, or even marry a respectable man, she thought resentfully. What if she wanted to marry a scoundrel? Gods, how she wished she could be a commoner! She would give up some luxuries for freedom of choice –
‘Are you watching those silly ships again, Catherine?’
She jumped at the familiar sharp voice, almost spilling gravy down her blouse. Turning, Catherine tried not to grimace upon seeing her father’s tall, imposing form in the doorway, his jaw set and his dark blue eyes stern.
‘Yes, Father. And they’re not silly! They’re beautiful,’ she insisted petulantly, for once, sounding much younger than her fourteen years.
Her father laughed coldly.
‘Rusting piles of gears and timber, that’s all they are. You’d best remove all that fanciful dreaming from your head now. It won’t get you very far.’
Catherine didn’t say anything; she knew better than to argue by now.
‘I need to tell you something,’ Nathaniel declared, and she refrained from rolling her eyes. Storms forbid her father talk to her just because he wanted to.
‘You will be accompanying me to the dockside office tomorrow morning. I have a meeting with Thomas to discuss cutting rations, and he wishes you to be present.’
‘Of course, Father,’ she agreed, trying to hide her distaste. The only reason Thomas Gale wanted her there was to discuss her betrothal to his loathsome son Marcus. He was an arrogant, bull-headed boy whom she despised with every fibre of her being, but her opinion mattered little. It
was a good match from a political perspective and her own feelings were irrelevant.
‘Good. Wear your best dress, I want you presentable,’ her father instructed, eyeing with distaste her plain white blouse and tatty leather breeches. ‘I intend to formally offer the betrothal contract, though I can’t submit it as you’re not yet a woman.’
Catherine nodded dutifully, thanking her lucky stars for her late development, and Nathaniel left the room, no doubt to go back to his office and continue working. Sometimes she wondered if he ever actually slept.
And be sure to check out the rest of the tour!
Monday, June 2: Lili’s Reflections
Tuesday, June 3: Finding Bliss in Books
Wednesday, June 4: Head Stuck in a Book
Thursday, June 5: On Starships and Dragonwings
Monday, June 9: The Bookish Daydreamer
Tuesday, June 10: Jessabella Reads
Wednesday, June 11: Hello Chelly
Thursday, June 12: That Artsy Reader Girl
Friday, June 13: The Windy Pages