Today I’m on the blog tour for The Stars Now Unclaimed. I’ve not reviewed this book yet, though I have a copy, but my boyfriend has started reading it and is loving it. Full of space battles and funny moments from what he’s said. He’s also very excited about the next book in the series which is perfect as the extract I have for you today is from that book, A Chain Across The Dawn, which is out in August. Everyone else on the tour has talked about The Stars Now Unclaimed so it seemed fitting that I introduce you to the next book, and show you the fabulous cover for it, as I’m concluding the tour. Many thanks to Harriett Collins at Simon and Schuster for having me on the blog tour and sending a copy of the first book, which will be reviewed in due course.
Blurb for A Chain Across The Dawn:
Bigger spaceships. Bigger explosions. Bigger planets. Bigger problems.
It’s been three years since Esa joined the ranks of the Justified after her rescue from the fanatical murderers the Pax. Together, Esa and her mentor Kamali travel from planet to planet, searching for children with supernatural abilities. It’s hard work, but Esa has never felt more assured of her place in the universe.
On a visit to a planet so remote that its inhabitants never learned that the Sect Wars ended over a hundred years ago, they learn that the Justified are not the only people searching for gifted children. There is a creature with unexpected powers who will stop at nothing to get its hands on the children that Esa and Kamali are trying to rescue.
With their latest recruit in tow — a young Wulf child named Sho — Esa and Kamali will travel halfway across the galaxy in pursuit of answers. But the answers only lead to more questions, and the danger will only increase as their terrifying nemesis turns his eyes on them.
The air-raid sirens were still screaming, echoing out across the golden sky of Kandriad like some sort of terrifying lament, hollow and vast and loud as all hell. The sound bounced off the concrete and the steel of the long abandoned factory city around us, rolling out over the plains of metal toward the distant horizon still tinged with the faintest blue hints of the dawn.
There shouldn’t have been air-raid sirens on Kandriad. Not because the pulse had repressed the technology for sirens, but because it had repressed the ability for anyone to conduct air raids at all: flight was supposed to be impossible in an atmosphere this choked with pulse radiation.
Except it wasn’t. Jane and I had seen the shadows of the warplanes hurtling over the factory city as we approached by the bridge, dropping bombs and executing amateurish evasive manoeuvers to wheel away from the strafing gunfire of the defenders’ anti-aircraft weaponry. The planes hadn’t exactly been modern spec—prop-driven, combustion-engine relics cobbled together from spare parts—but that didn’t change the fact that they shouldn’t have been able to get into the air at all. Something weird was happening on Kandriad.
Something weird always seemed to happen to Jane and me, but this was
weirder than most.
“So we . . . knock?” I asked, shifting my weight from side to side, staring
up at the massive barred door that was the one and only entrance to the factory city from the south. We hadn’t seen a single native as we made our way down the abandoned railway line toward the factory—they were all hunkered down inside their converted city, being dive-bombed by impossible airplanes. The sect wars might have been forgotten by most of the galaxy post-pulse, but on Kandriad they’d never stopped, the locals locked in the same stupid conflicts that had led to the pulse in the first place. “Or . . . like . . .” I winced as the sirens came around again; I winced every time. I always thought they were finally going to stop as they dopplered away across the distance,
and then . . . nope. Still going.
“We should probably wait until they’re not having the shit bombed out of them,” Jane said mildly, leaning against the railing of the dilapidated bridge and smoking one of her awful cigarettes. Jane wasn’t fidgety. Jane never got fidgety. Taller, leaner, and in significantly better shape than I was, I’d seen her be more collected under sustained gunfire than I usually was making breakfast.
“Do you think that’s likely to happen soon, or . . .” I winced as one of the bombers overshot its target, its payload coming down instead on the empty urban district beside the bridge—otherwise known as beside us. I was holding a telekinetic shield in place over both Jane and myself, and the feeling of the shrapnel from the blast smashing itself to pieces against what was basically a psychic manifestation of my own will was . . . not overly pleasant. Still, the shield held, and even if it hadn’t, our intention shields—hardwired into our nervous systems—would have protected us. Hopefully.
I didn’t particularly want to die on a bombed-out hellhole like Kandriad.
Jane waved her hand—and her cigarette—in front of her face, not so much dispelling the cloud of dust that had risen in the wake of the blast as adding to it with her cigarette smoke. “Doesn’t seem that way,” she said.
“So can we talk about how there are warplanes flying and dropping bombs in a pulse-choked atmosphere?” I asked instead. Since we appeared to be stuck out here, underneath the falling bombs, that seemed a topic of particularly hefty import.
Jane frowned at that. “I don’t know,” she said shortly. I almost grinned—despite the nearly-being-blown-apart thing—just because Jane hated to admit when she didn’t know something, and a part of me was always a little bit thrilled when circumstances forced her to do so anyway.
Still would have traded it for “not huddled just outside a factory door,
hoping not to get bombed,” though.
“Still don’t know, Esa,” she sighed, dropping her cigarette butt to the bridge and grinding it out with her boot heel—though it wasn’t like there find answers standing out here. Go ahead and knock—we’ve got a gifted kid to find.”
“I thought you said we should wait until they weren’t getting bombed.” As if cued by my statement, the air-raid sirens finally cut off, the last hollow howl echoing out over the horizon until it faded into the golden light of the day.
I looked at Jane. She was grinning. I glared at her; that just made her grin some more. She opened her mouth to say something, and I simply held out my hand, forestalling whatever smartassery was about to emerge. “Don’t,” I told her flatly. “Just . . .” I sighed, and reached for the heavy knocker welded to the riveted steel of the door. “I got this.”
In relatively short order, we got a response to our banging. That response was, of course, half a dozen rifles pointed at us from murder holes carved out of the sides of the high wall, but it was a response nonetheless. “Travelers,” Jane said, spreading her hands wide to show that she was unarmed—well, to show that she wasn’t holding a weapon, at least. On a world like Kandriad, nobody went anywhere unarmed, and the rifle butt sticking up from behind Jane’s shoulder would have just seemed like an everyday necessity to the
locals, no different than a farmer carrying a hoe would have been on my homeworld. “Seeking shelter.”
“This city is at war, traveler,” a voice said from one of the murder holes—sounded like a Wulf, which made sense, since the vaguely canid species had made up about a third of this world’s population, before the pulse. “There’s very little shelter to be had here.”
“Very little to be had out there, either.” Jane jerked her thumb behind us, indicating the smoking craters the poorly aimed bombs had blown in the urban “countryside” of what had once been a factory planet.
“How do we know you’re not enemy spies?” the Wulf growled. I mean, Wulf almost always growl, the sound was just what their muzzles were built for, but I detected a distinct note of aggression in the low-pitched rumble of this one’s voice.
“Esa,” Jane prompted me, and I reached into my jacket—slowly, as the rifles were still following my every move—to produce a tightly rolled-up scroll. The parchment was as close to what local conditions would have allowed the natives to create as Schaz had been able to make it; hopefully they wouldn’t ask too many questions about its provenance beyond that, questions we wouldn’t be able to answer given that we’d actually printed it on board a spaceship in orbit, a concept that had receded mostly into myth for the people on Kandriad.
I held the scroll up, where they could see. “Reconnaissance,” Jane told them simply. “Aerial photography of the enemy assaulting your walls from the north. Troop positions, fortifications, artillery emplacements—enough intelligence to turn the tide of the fight.” Neither Jane nor I really gave a damn who won this particular battle, or even this particular war—whatever conflict it had spun off from, the fighting on Kandriad had long since ceased to matter to the galaxy at large, let alone to the doings of the Justified. What we did care about was getting access to the city, and to the gifted child hidden somewhere inside.
“You have planes? Like they do?” The guns were still holding . . . pretty tightly on us.
“Kites,” Jane said simply. “And mirrors.” That was a flat-out lie, but “we took images from our spaceship in low orbit, then smudged them up to look like low-tech aerial reconnaissance” wouldn’t have gone over nearly as well.
A low sound from the Wulf, not that dissimilar to his growl from before; thankfully, our boss back on Sanctum was also a Wulf, and I recognized the sound of a Wulven chuckle when I heard one. “Kites,” the unseen sentry said to himself, almost in wonder. Then: “Open the gate!”
The big metal gates rumbled open; Jane and I stepped along the train tracks, into the interior of the city, where the sentries—Wulf to a one, their rifles still held tightly, though at least not aimed directly at us anymore— watched us closely. Jane handed over the map to their leader, the one who’d spoken. He unrolled it, studied its contents for a moment, then without a word handed it off to one of his subordinates, who promptly took off, presumably for the factory city’s command. “It’s valid, and it’s recent,” the lieutenant acknowledged to us, his ice-blue predator’s eyes still watching us closely, not as friendly as his words. “I recognize shelling from just a few days ago. Intelligence like that will buy you more than just entry here, strangers. Name your price.”
“We’re looking for some intelligence of our own,” Jane replied. “Looking for one of your citizens, actually. A child, younger than my associate here.” She nodded her head toward me; I didn’t know how well the local Wulf population would be at gauging a human’s age, but at seventeen, I guess I did still have a slightly “unfinished” look, as compared to Jane, at least.
“And why do you seek this child?” the lieutenant asked—not a no. Progress.
“He or she will have . . . gifts. Abilities. We seek children with such gifts, and we train them.” All true, for its part. It was simply a question of scale that Jane left out.
“Train them to do what?”
“Whatever is necessary.” That part wasn’t exactly an official piece of the Sanctum syllabus.
The Wulf nodded his head, once. “I know the child you’re looking for,” he said.
Finally, something going our way for once.
Blurb for The Stars Now Unclaimed:
A century ago, a mysterious pulse of energy spread across the universe. Meant to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, it instead destroyed technology indiscriminately, leaving some worlds untouched and throwing others into total chaos.
The Justified, a mysterious group of super-soldiers, have spent a hundred years trying to find a way to restore order to the universe. Their greatest asset is the feared mercenary Kamali, who travels from planet to planet searching for gifted young people and bringing them to the secret world she calls home. Kamali hopes that those she rescues will be able to find a way to reverse the damage the pulse wreaked, and ensure that it never returns.
But Kamali isn’t the only person looking for answers to unimaginable questions. And when her mission to rescue a grumpy teenaged girl named Esa goes off the rails, Kamali suddenly finds herself smack in the centre of an intergalactic war… that she started.