New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue.
Once, only her own life hung in the balance.
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret - or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is - while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous,
"Doing full justice to the plot of this original and entertaining epic fantasy is impossible. Suffice it to say that the action is nonstop. The many characters leap to life, particularly Yelena, whose first-person narrative is riveting."
~ RT Book Reviews on Fire Study
Now on to the special scene!
Scene from Ari’s POV:
Ari watched as Reema explored his and Janco’s apartment in the castle. Weapons, armor, and cast off articles of clothing littered Janco’s side of the living area, but his side wasn’t exactly kid-friendly either. He suppressed a sigh. What was he going to do with a ten-year-old girl? He couldn’t believe Valek left him here to babysit while he and Devlen rushed to help Yelena. Devlen should have remained behind. After all, Reema was his and Opal’s adopted daughter.
She glanced over at him. “You don’t have to babysit me, ya know.” Reema put her hands on her hips, trying to appear tough, but the movement made her long blond corkscrew curls bounce. “I lived on the street with my brother for two years, I think I can handle a few days in the castle by myself.”
“Not happening,” Ari said.
“I’ve my orders.”
She shrugged. “Suit yourself. What’s this?” Reema picked up a long dagger with a curved blade.
Ari gently took it from her so she didn’t get cut. “It’s a very sharp Khanjar and not a toy. Come on, maybe one of the servants has a girl your age you can play with.”
“No way you’re foisting me off on some stupid kid.” She crossed her arms.
Ari marveled at how much she reminded him of Janco at that moment—an immature adult.
“Janco would be more fun that you right now,” she said.
That was the second time she responded to something he did not voice aloud. “Are you reading my mind?” He almost growled the question.
Reema stepped back. “No, no. I’m…”
“I’m reading…” She waved her hand at him. “You.”
“Yeah. You get this certain…expression on your face when you talk about Janco and I guessed you were thinking about him.”
“And the babysitting comment?”
“You weren’t happy to be left behind and when my dad said I needed to stay with you, your shoulders…drooped and you crinkled your nose as if you smelled something bad. So when I saw you over there…looking the same way, I figured you were thinking the same thing.”
“You noticed my body language?” He was impressed.
“I guess that’s what it’s called. I don’t know. I just look at someone and know how they’re feeling. I can spot liars, too. My teacher lies all the time, but I’m not allowed to call her on it anymore. I have to pretend she’s telling the truth. That she will actually cancel recess if we continue to misbehave, which she never does.” Reema frowned with distaste. “That makes me a liar, too.”
Ari considered. Valek was right, she was intelligent. “In a way, it does. But if you look at it differently, it gives you an advantage.”
She perked up. “How so?”
“You don’t have to worry about missing out on recess while they others will.”
When her large blue eyes glowed with delight, Ari wished he’d kept quiet. Valek might think of it as encouraging a future recruit, but Ari didn’t want to upset Opal.
“Do you and Janco deal with liars when you’re on missions for Uncle Valek?”
“Yeah, all the time. In fact, if they think they’ve fooled you, it gives you the upper hand.”
“Cool. Since I’m good at it, I’d bet I’d make a great spy.”
Ah, hell. He walked right into that one. “Only if your mother gives you permission when you’re older. Much older.”
She gave him a dubious look. “You’re afraid of my mother.”
“Yes I am.” And that wasn’t a lie. “What would you like to do today?”
“Can you take me on a tour?”
“I already showed you—”
“The main areas, I wanna see the hidden stuff, like Uncle Valek’s office and the kitchens and the dungeons and the—”
As he showed her the lesser known areas, she asked a million questions. Then she demanded to see the secret passageways.
“There are none,” he said.
Reema studied him. “Huh. You’re telling the truth. But this place is so…weird with all its strange angles and shapes, I’d bet there has to be some.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
But she appeared far from disappointed and Ari recognized an eagerness in her posture. To avoid having her drag him from room to room searching for secret hallways, he led her outside to visit the stables and kennels, and to watch the sparring matches, hoping to distract her.
Big mistake. No, not big. Huge. Gigantic. Colossal. And no, he wasn’t exaggerating like Janco.
That night, a muffled yell woke him. Reema’s bed was empty. He rushed from the room with a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Reema stood in the middle of the living area, sucking her finger. Blood stained the Khanjar.
“Spies have to know how to fight,” she said by way of an explanation. “Like those soldiers today.”
“Yes, but they don’t start with sharp knives. Let me see your finger.”
He inspected the cut. Not too deep. Relaxing, he cleaned the wound with a little alcohol and bandaged it. Being Janco’s partner, Ari always had medical supplies on hand. Inevitably one or both of them would need it.
“What do they start with?” she asked.
“Basic moves. Blocks, punches, kicks, and self-defense.”
“Will you teach me?”
“Or we could search the storerooms for hidden passages.”
“All right. But only the basics so you learn how to defend yourself. Your mother won’t mind that…as much.”
Reema gave him a big beautiful smile before hugging him. Ari wondered if she’d cut her finger on purpose. Smart little scamp, indeed. He pitied the poor suckers who would tangle with her in the future. They had no chance.
Thanks so much Maria for this scene! I love Ari and oooh Reema is going to be trouble when she gets older!
Maria V. Snyder changed from being a meteorologist to a novelist in 1995, when she began writing to keep her sanity while raising two children. Since then, she has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers, and teaches fiction-writing classes at the local college and area libraries. The classes give her the wonderful opportunity to encourage fellow writers, and to keep improving her craft.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria always had a fascination with big storms. Dreaming of chasing tornados, Maria earned a bachelors of science degree in meteorology at Penn State University. But she discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. In order to chase tornados you had to predict where they might form. Creating fantasy worlds where she has complete control of the weather was more agreeable to her.
Maria's research on food-tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study.
Maria has a brown belt in Isshinryu Karate, and enjoys playing volleyball and the cello. Traveling in general and via cruise ship in particular are her biggest distractions from writing. Maria has traveled to Belize, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.
Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She is also pursuing a master's degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University.
Readers are welcome to contact Maria at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where you can find Maria:
10 finished copies of SHADOW STUDY! International
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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