Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: The Black Witch by Laurie Forest + Giveaway (US only)

The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1)
Laurie Forest
from HarlequinTEEN // Harlequin

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.


CHAPTER TWO
Aunt Vyvian

The Gaffney twins buzz past as I make my way into the kitchen, which is now full of friendly, boisterous noise.

My aunt stands with her back to me as she kisses Rafe on both cheeks in greeting. My uncle shakes hands with Gareth, and the twins are practically hanging from Trystan while holding up their toys for his inspection.

My aunt releases Rafe, stops admiring how tall he’s become, and turns toward me in one fluid, graceful movement.

Her gaze lights on me and she freezes, her eyes gone wide as if she’s come face-to-face with a ghost.

The room grows silent as everyone else turns their attention toward us, curious as to what’s amiss. Only my uncle does not look confused—his expression grown oddly dark and worried.

“Elloren,” Aunt Vyvian breathes, “you have grown into the absolute image of your grandmother.”

It’s a huge compliment, and I want to believe it. My grandmother was not only one of my people’s most powerful Mages, she was also considered to be very beautiful.

“Thank you,” I say shyly.

Her eyes wander down toward my plain, homespun clothing.

If ever there was anyone who looks out of place in our tiny kitchen, it’s my aunt. She stands there, studying me, amidst the battered wooden furniture, soup and stew pots simmering on our cookstove and bunches of drying herbs hanging from the ceiling.

She’s like a fine painting hanging in a farmer’s market stall.

I take in her stunning, black, formfitting tunic that hangs over a long, dark skirt, the silk embroidered with delicate, curling vines. My aunt is the absolute epitome of what a Gardnerian woman is supposed to look like—waist-length black hair, deep green eyes and swirling black wandfasting lines marking her hands.

I’m suddenly acutely aware of the sad state of my own appearance. At seventeen, I’m tall and slender with the same black hair and forest green eyes of my aunt, but any resemblance ends there. I’m dressed in a shapeless brown woolen tunic and skirt, no makeup (I don’t own any), my hair is tied into its usual messy bun and my face is all sharp, severe angles, not smooth, pretty lines like my aunt’s.

My aunt sweeps forward and embraces me, obviously not as dismayed by my appearance as I am. She kisses both my cheeks and steps back, her hands still grasping my upper arms. “I just cannot believe how much you look like her,” she says with awed admiration. Her eyes grow wistful. “I wish you could have gotten to know her, Elloren.”

“I do, too,” I tell her, warmed by my aunt’s approval.

Aunt Vyvian’s eyes glisten with emotion. “She was a great Mage. The finest ever. It’s a heritage to be proud of.”

My uncle begins scurrying around the kitchen, setting out teacups and plates, clunking them down on the table a little too loudly. He doesn’t look at me as he fusses, and I’m confused by his odd behavior. Gareth stands rooted by the woodstove, his muscular arms crossed, watching my aunt and me intently.

“You must be tired after your trip,” I say to my aunt, feeling nervous and thrilled to be in her lofty presence. “Why don’t you sit down and rest? I’ll get some biscuits to go with the tea.”

Aunt Vyvian joins Rafe and Trystan at the table while I fetch the food, and Uncle Edwin pours tea for everyone.

“Elloren.” My aunt pauses to sip at her tea. “I know you overheard my conversation with your uncle, and I’m glad you did. What do you think about being fasted before you go to University?”

“Now, Vyvian,” my uncle cuts in, almost dropping the teapot, “there’s no point in bringing this up. I told you my decision was final.”

“Yes, yes, Edwin, but there’s no harm in getting the girl’s opinion, is there? What do you say, Elloren? You know that most of the young girls your age are already wandfasted, or about to be.”

My cheeks grow warm. “I, um... we’ve never talked much about it.” I envy Trystan and Rafe as they sit playing with the twins and their toys. Why isn’t this conversation about Rafe? He’s nineteen!

“Well—” my aunt shoots a disapproving look at my uncle “—it’s high time you did discuss it. As you overheard, I’m taking you with me when I leave tomorrow. We’ll spend the next few weeks together, and I’ll tell you all about wandfasting and what I know about the University. We’ll also get you a new wardrobe while we’re in Valgard, and your brothers can meet up with us for a day or two. What do you say to that?”

Leaving tomorrow. For Valgard and the University! The thought of venturing out of isolated Halfix sends ripples of excitement through me. I glance at my uncle, who wears an uneasy look on his face, his lips tightly pursed.

“I’d like that very much, Aunt Vyvian,” I answer politely, trying to keep my overwhelming excitement at bay.

Gareth shoots me a look of warning, and I cock my head at him questioningly.

My aunt narrows her eyes at Gareth. “Gareth,” she says pleasantly, “I had the privilege of working with your father before he retired from his position as head of the Maritime Guild.”

“He didn’t retire,” Gareth corrects, stiff challenge in his tone. “He was forced to resign.”

The kitchen quiets, even the twins sensing the sudden tension in the air. My uncle catches Gareth’s eye and slightly motions his head from side to side, as if in caution.

“Well,” says my aunt, still smiling, “you certainly speak your mind very frankly. Perhaps talk of politics is best left to those of us who have finished our schooling.”

“I have to be going,” Gareth announces, his tone clipped. He turns to me. “Ren, I’ll come by to see you when you’re in Valgard. Maybe I can take you sailing.”

My aunt is studying me closely. I blush, realizing what conclusion she must be forming in her mind about the nature of my relationship with Gareth. I don’t want to respond too enthusiastically, to give the wrong impression. But I don’t want to hurt Gareth’s feelings, either.

“All right, I’ll see you there,” I tell Gareth, “but I might not have time for sailing.”

Gareth throws a parting, resentful look at my aunt. “That’s okay, Ren. Maybe I can bring you by to say hello to my family at least. I know my father would love to see you.”

I glance over at my aunt. She’s calmly sipping her tea, but the corner of her lip twitches at the mention of Gareth’s father.

“I’d like that,” I say cautiously. “I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

“Well, then,” Gareth says, his face tense, “I’ll be off.”

Rafe gets up to see him out, the legs of his chair squeaking against the wooden floor as he pushes it from the table.

Trystan gets up, too, followed by my uncle and the twins, and all the males make their way out of the kitchen. I sit down, feeling self-conscious. My aunt and I are alone. She’s tranquilly sipping her tea and studying me with sharp, intelligent eyes. “Gareth seems to take quite the interest in you, my dear,” she muses.

My face grows hot again. “Oh, no... it’s not like that,” I stammer. “He’s just a friend.”

My aunt leans forward and places a graceful hand on mine.

“You aren’t a child anymore, Elloren. More and more, your future will be decided by the company you keep.” She looks at me meaningfully, then sits back, her expression lightening. “I am so glad your uncle has finally come to his senses and is letting you spend some time with me. I have a number of young men I am very eager for you to meet.”

* * *

Later, after we have eaten supper, I make my way outside to bring the leftover scraps from dinner to the few pigs we keep. The days are getting shorter, the shadows longer, and a chill is steadily creeping in, the sun less and less able to fight it off.

Before, in the light of day, the idea of attending University seemed like an exciting adventure, but as the tide of night slowly sweeps in, I begin to feel apprehension coming in with it.

As eager as I am to see the wider world, there’s a part of me that likes my quiet life here with my uncle, tending the gardens and the animals, making simple medicines, crafting violins, reading, sewing.

So quiet. So safe.

I peer out into the distance, past the garden where the twins were playing, past the Gaffneys’ farmland and estate, past the sprawling wilderness, to the mountains beyond—mountains that loom in the distance and cast dark shadows over everything as the sun sets behind them. And the forest—the wild forest.

I squint into the distance and make out the curious shapes of several large white birds flying in from the wilds. They’re different from any birds I’ve ever seen before, with huge, fanning wings, so light they seem iridescent.

As I watch them, I’m overcome by a strange sense of foreboding, as if the earth is shifting beneath my feet.

I forget, for a moment, about the basket of pig slop I’m balancing on my hip, and some large vegetable remnants fall to the ground with a dull thud. I glance down and stoop to gather them back into the basket.

When I straighten again and look for the strange white birds, they’re gone.

***

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!

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

About the Author


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 (Book 1.0, The Black Witch Chronicles – OUT NOW) & Wandfasted (Book 0.5, The Black Witch Chronicles Prequel) are her first published novels. Coming in 2018 are Light Mage (Book 1.5) & The Iron Flower (Book 2.0).

She is currently ensconced in the woods, hard at work on The Shadow Dryad (Book 3.0).



Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away a print copy of The Black Witch—yay!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
What is your favorite book, movie, TV show, or series about witches?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Laurie and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Charmed is my favorite, hands-down (although I don't think that show aged very well...). I also adored the Hollows series as a teenager.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin TEEN!
Giveaway ends August 22nd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!