Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Blog Tour: Excerpt of The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

We are excited to be a part of the excerpt tour for THE BLACK WITCH leading up to the release of the next book in the series,  The Iron Flower!   Follow along by visiting the links below.

Author: Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date of publication:  May 2017
Age Range: 14+ years
Grade Level: 7 and up

A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.
A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

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Excerpt #2:

Excerpted from The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, copyright 2017 by Laurie Forest. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.

* * *
As I round the corner of our cottage, I hear the sound of my name through the kitchen window and skid to a stop.
“Elloren is not a child anymore, Edwin.” My aunt’s voice drifts out.
I set my basket of vegetables and herbs on the ground and crouch low.
“She is too young for wandfasting,” comes my uncle’s attempt at a firm reply, a tremor of nervousness in his voice.
Wandfasting? My heart speeds up. I know that most Gardnerian girls my age are already wandfasted—magically bound to young men for life. But we’re so isolated here, surrounded by the mountains. The only girl I know who’s been fasted is Sage, and she’s up and disappeared.
“Seventeen is the traditional age.” My aunt sounds slightly exasperated.
“I don’t care if it’s the traditional age,” my uncle persists, his tone gaining confidence. “It’s still too young. She can’t possibly know what she wants at this age. She’s seen nothing of the world…”
“Because you let her see nothing of it.”
My uncle makes a sound of protest but my aunt cuts him off. “No, Edwin. What happened to Sage Gaffney should be a wake-up call for all of us. Let me take Elloren under my wing. I’ll introduce her to all the best young men. And after she is safely fasted to one of them, I’ll apprentice her with the Mage Council. You must start to take her future seriously.”
“I do take her future seriously, Vyvian, but she is still much too young to have it decided for her.”
“Edwin.” There’s a note of challenge in my aunt’s smooth voice. “You will force me to take matters into my own hands.”
“You forget, Vyvian,” my uncle counters, “that I am the eldest male of the family, and as such, I have the final say on all matters concerning Elloren, and when I am gone, it will be Rafe, not you, who will have the final say.”
My eyebrows fly up at this. I can tell my uncle is treading on thin ice if he has decided to resort to this argument—an argument I know he doesn’t actually agree with. He’s always grousing about how unfair the Gardnerian power structure is toward women, and he’s right. Few Gardnerian women have wand magic, my powerful grandmother being a rare exception. Almost all of our powerful Mages are men, our magic passing more easily along male lines. This makes our men the rulers in the home and over the land.
But Uncle Edwin thinks our people take this all too far: no wands for women, save with Council approval; ultimate control of a family always given to the eldest male; and our highest position in government, the office of High Mage, can only be held by a man. And then there’s my uncle’s biggest issue by far—the wandfast-binding of our women at increasingly younger ages.
“You will not be able to shelter her forever,” my aunt insists. “What will happen when you are gone someday, and all the suitable men have already been wandfasted?”
“What will happen is that she will have the means to make her own way in the world.”
My aunt laughs at this. Even her laugh is graceful. It makes me think of a pretty waterfall. I wish I could laugh like that. “And how, exactly, would she ‘make her own way in the world’?”
“I’ve decided to send her to University.”
I involuntarily suck in as much air as I can and hold it there, not able to breathe, too shocked to move. The pause in their conversation tells me that my aunt is probably having the same reaction.
Verpax University. With my brothers. In another country altogether. A dream I never imagined could actually come true.
“Send her there for what?” my aunt asks, horrified.
“To learn the apothecary trade.”
A giddy, stunned joy wells up inside me. I’ve been begging Uncle Edwin for years to send me. Hungry for something more than our small library and homegrown herbs. Passionately envious of Trystan and Rafe, who get to study there.
Verpax University. In Verpacia’s bustling capital city. With its apothecary laboratories and greenhouses. The fabled Gardnerian Athenaeum overflowing with books. Apothecary materials streaming into Verpacia’s markets from East and West, the country a central trade route.
My mind spins with the exciting possibilities.
“Oh, come now, Vyvian,” my uncle reasons. “Don’t look so put out. The apothecary sciences are a respectable trade for women, and it suits Elloren’s quiet, bookish nature more than the Mage Council ever could. Elloren loves her gardens, making medicines and so forth. She’s quite good at it.”
An uncomfortable silence ensues.
“You have left me with no alternative but to take a firm stand on this,” my aunt says, her voice gone low and hard. “You realize that I cannot put one guilder toward Elloren’s University tithe while she is unfasted.”
“I expected as much,” my uncle states coolly. “Which is why I have arranged for Elloren to pay her tithe through kitchen labor.”
“This is unheard of!” my aunt exclaims. Her voice turns tight and angry. “You’ve raised these children like they’re Keltic peasants,” she snipes, “and frankly, Edwin, it’s disgraceful. You’ve forgotten who we are. I have never heard of a Gardnerian girl, especially one of Elloren’s standing, from such a distinguished family, laboring in a kitchen. That’s work for Urisk, for Kelts, not for a girl such as Elloren. Her peers at University will be shocked.”
I jump in fright as something large bumps into me. I turn as my older brother, Rafe, plops down by my side, grinning widely.
“Surprise you, sis?”
It’s beyond me how someone so tall and strapping can move as quietly as a cat. I imagine his extraordinary stealth comes from all the time he spends wandering the wilds and hunting. He’s clearly just back from a hunt, his bow and quiver slung over one shoulder, a dead goose hanging upside down over the other.
I shoot my brother a stern look and hold up a finger to shush him. Aunt Vyvian and Uncle Edwin have resumed their wandfasting argument.
Rafe raises his eyebrows in curiosity, still smiling, and tilts his head toward the window. “Ah,” he whispers, bumping his shoulder into mine in camaraderie. “They’re talking about your romantic future.”
“You missed the best part,” I whisper back. “Earlier they were talking about how you would be my lord and master when Uncle Edwin is gone.”
Rafe chuckles. “Yeah, and I’m going to start my iron-fisted rule by having you do all my chores for me. Especially dishwashing.”
I roll my eyes at him.
“And I’m going to have you wandfasted to Gareth.” He continues to bait me.
My eyes and mouth fly open. Gareth, our good friend since childhood, is like a brother to me. I have no romantic interest in him whatsoever.
“What?” Rafe laughs. “You could do a lot worse, you know.” Something just over my shoulder catches his eye, and his smile broadens. “Oh, look who’s here. Hello, Gareth, Trystan.”
Trystan and Gareth have rounded the cottage’s corner and are approaching us. I catch Gareth’s eye, and immediately he flushes scarlet and takes on a subdued, self-conscious expression.
I am mortified. He obviously heard Rafe’s teasing.
Gareth is a few years older than me at twenty, broad and sturdy with dark green eyes and black hair like the rest of us. But there’s one notable difference: Gareth’s black hair has a trace of silver highlights in it—very unusual in Gardnerians, and read by many as a sign of his less-than-pure blood. It’s been the source of relentless teasing all throughout his life. “Mongrel,” “Elfling” and “Fae blood” are just a few of the names the other children called him. The son of a ship captain, Gareth stoically endured the teasing and often found solace with his father at sea. Or here, with us.
An uncomfortable flush heats my face. I love Gareth like a brother. But I certainly don’t want to fast to him.
“What are you doing?” my younger brother, Trystan, asks, confused to see Rafe and me crouched down under the window.
“We’re eavesdropping,” Rafe whispers cheerfully.
“Ren here’s about to be fasted off,” Rafe answers.
“I am not,” I counter, grimacing at Rafe, then look back up at Trystan, giddy happiness welling up. I break out into a grin. “But I am going to University.”
Trystan cocks an eyebrow in surprise. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope,” Rafe answers jovially.
Trystan eyes me with approval. I know my quiet, studious younger brother loves the University. Trystan’s the only one of us with magical power, but he’s also a talented bow maker and fletcher. At only sixteen years of age, he’s already been pre-accepted into the Gardnerian Weapons Guild and apprenticed with the military.
“That’s great, Ren,” Trystan says. “We can eat meals together.”
Rafe shushes Trystan with mock severity and motions toward the window.
Humoring us, Trystan bends his wiry frame and crouches down. Looking ill at ease, Gareth does the same.
“You’re wrong, Edwin. You can’t possibly send her to University without wandfasting her to someone first.” My aunt’s domineering tone is beginning to fray at the edges.
“Why?” my uncle challenges her. “Her brothers are unfasted. And Elloren’s not a fool.”
“Sage Gaffney wasn’t a fool, either,” my aunt cautions, her tone dark. “You know as well as I do that they let in all manner of unsuitable types: Kelts, Elfhollen…they even have two Icarals this year. Yes, Edwin, Icarals.”
My eyes fly up at this. Icaral demons! Attending University? How could that even be possible? Keltic peasants and Elfhollen are one thing, but Icarals! Alarmed, I look to Rafe, who simply shrugs.
“It’s not surprising, really,” my aunt comments, her voice disgusted. “The Verpacian Council is full of half-breeds. As is most of the University’s hierarchy. They mandate an absurd level of integration, and, quite frankly, it’s dangerous.” She gives a frustrated sigh. “Marcus Vogel will clean up the situation once he’s named High Mage.”
“If, Vyvian,” my uncle tersely counters. “Vogel may not win.”
“Oh, he’ll win,” my aunt crows. “His support is growing.”
“I really don’t see how any of this pertains to Elloren,” my uncle cuts in, uncharacteristically severe.
“It pertains to Elloren because the potential is there for her to be drawn into a wildly unsuitable romantic alliance, one that could destroy her future and reflect badly on the entire family. Now, if she was wandfasted, like almost all Gardnerian girls her age, she could safely attend University—”
“Vyvian,” my uncle persists, “I’ve made up my mind about this. I’m not going to change it.”
“Very well.” My aunt sighs with deep disapproval. “I can see you are quite decided at present, but at least let her spend the next week or so with me. It makes perfect sense, as Valgard is on the way from here to the University.”
“All right,” he capitulates wearily.
“Well,” she says, her tone brightening, “I’m glad that’s settled. Now, if my niece and nephews would kindly stop crouching under the window and come in and join us, it would be lovely to see everyone.”
Gareth, Trystan and I give a small start.
Rafe turns to me, raises his eyebrows and grins.

Like what you read so far? Buy the book here, and don’t forget to pre-order book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Iron Flower, on sale next month!

About Laurie Forest

Laurie Forest lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. THE BLACK WITCH (Out Now – Harlequin TEEN, Book One of The Black Witch Chronicles) is her first novel, and WANDFASTED (THE BLACK WITCH prequel, Out Now – Harlequin TEEN) is her first e-book novella. Coming in 2018 are THE IRON FLOWER (Sept. 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, Book Two of The Black Witch Chronicles) and LIGHT MAGE (Spring 2018 – Harlequin TEEN, e-book novella).

Connect with Laurie

Excerpt Tour:
Monday, August 13th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, August 14th: From the TBR PIle
Wednesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode
Thursday, August 16th: A Holland Reads
Friday, August 17th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, August 20th: Rockin’ & Reviewing
Tuesday, August 21st: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, August 22nd: Books & Bindings
Thursday, August 23rd: Girls in Books
Friday, August 24th: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, August 27th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 28th: What is That Book About

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for featuring this excerpt for the tour!