Irish author Sarah Reese Brennan, author of the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, is back with a new YA novel, Tell the Wind and Fire, this spring. The title comes from a passage in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “Tell Wind and Fire where to stop … but don’t tell me.” Here’s the book’s official description: “In a world of opulent magic and merciless violence, two boys share a dangerous connection. One girl guards their secret. But when a deadly revolution erupts, will she be able to save either of them— or even herself?”
If that description wasn’t enough for you, fear not! EW has an exclusive excerpt and cover reveal of the book below. Tell the Wind and Fire hits shelves April 5, 2016.
Tell the Wind and Fire, Chapter One
It was the best of times until it was the worst of times.
We had never been allowed to go away for the weekend alone together before. So our holiday at Martha’s Vineyard was a rare and special treat, sweet as only things that come seldom and do not last can be.
Those two days were long and sunshiny and warm. When I think about them now, I remember the pale amber of the sky at sunset, like light shining through honey. I remember the last time I was purely and uncomplicatedly happy, as I used to be when I was a child and my mother was alive.
Happiness is self-sabotage, a mean trick that your own mind plays on you. It makes you careless, makes you lose your grip, and once you lose your grip, you lose everything. You certainly aren’t happy anymore.
I was very stupid. It was because I was happy that I made my first mistake.
In the weeks that followed, I made more.
Ethan and I lingered in the sun-drenched orchards too long and missed the train we were supposed to catch, a direct train back home with plush seats and clear walls that Light magic pulsed through until the walls themselves looked made of diamond. Staying an extra night was out of the question: Dad would have panicked, and it would have been all my fault. I was responsible for him. Taking care of him was my job and my penance.
We had to catch the last train home to Light New York. It was one of the commuter trains that wound through the sky on rails that shone like glittering threads, stopping at tiny stations on the way. This kind of train even stopped in the Dark cities. Ethan and I bought the tickets and stood on the platform, reassuring each other in voices that did not sound terribly assured.
“It might be fun,” said Ethan.
I told myself he didn’t know any better. Rich people think like that about slumming it, putting on other people’s lives like a disguise at a party. It is fun only because they can cast off the mask at any time.
“Why would it be fun?” I asked.
Nevertheless, I felt my shoulders relax as the train came into view. The train was an older model, but magic made it a shining rope of Light in the night sky, like a crystal necklace suspended between the stars.
It was just a train like any other train. The buried had their own compartment and would not be allowed into ours. We had reserved a private train car. Nobody, from the Dark or Light city, would have the chance to recognize me.
I made my next mistake. I promised myself everything was going to be all right.
Once you lose something, it tends to stay gone. This is especially true with chances.
The train streamed, sparkling, into the platform. I saw a glimpse of the car carrying the buried ones with its black-screened windows, and then Ethan and I boarded the train. Moments later, we were in our own tiny room, tangled together on a bunk. The moonlight flooded into and ebbed away from our small window, tide-like, with the movement of the train.
We would be traveling all night.
I don’t always sleep through the night. I tear myself out of sleep, heart pounding, sure something terrible is happening. I have trouble feeling secure. Except with Ethan.
I only sleep well when I sleep beside Ethan. I fell asleep in the flickering light, warm in his arms, warm as kissing and skin had made the tiny space between us. The train was rocking, gentle as a boat on a calm sea, and he was stroking my hair.
“I love you,” he murmured to me, and I knew he would keep saying it even after I was asleep.
In the two years since my father and I had escaped Dark New York, I’d woken a hundred times to night terrors that vanished as soon as I opened my eyes. It was bitter irony that I didn’t wake when the real danger was coming.
I didn’t wake until they ripped Ethan out of my arms, and then I sat up in the bunk with my heart pounding and my eyes full of moonbeams to find the nightmare was real. Once the dazzle cleared from my vision, I saw six armed guards dragging my boyfriend out of our compartment and onto a platform. He was fighting, but they had already bound his hands with Light, a shimmering coil of magic around his wrists that he could not escape. They pressed him, struggling, onto his knees on the shadowed-dark stone, and in the cool moonlight I saw the flash of a blade.
I threw myself out of bed and hurled myself out onto the platform. In two bounds, I was in front of Ethan, grabbing the sword, my feet on cold stone and my hands full of cold steel.
All guards carry Light swords, blades tempered with Light magic, to prevent Dark magicians from messing with their minds, and the swords are precise and deadly, unstoppable, whether you are a Dark magician or someone born with no magic at all.
Most Light magicians are not taught to defend against guards’ swords. They are meant to be used for our protection, used against our enemies. No normal Light magician would be trained to fight their own guards.
But I was.
Pain burned a line into each palm, but I hung on. My rings pressed against the Light-gleaming blade and blazed. My blood stained the blade, blotting out some of the light, but the guard gasped and found he could not move his weapon.
“Don’t you dare touch him,” I said. “I’m Lucie Manette, do you hear me? He’s Ethan Stryker and I’m Lucie Manette. If you hurt him, you will pay for it in blood.”
I knew it was a mistake as soon as I spoke. The guard’s face showed not submission but angry confusion: he obviously recognized the names, but it was as if I’d said that we were the hero and the cute talking animal from a fairy tale. It didn’t match up with any of his ideas, so it didn’t convince him, and it wouldn’t stop him.
It had been two years since anyone had doubted my word, had not recognized me. It had been two years since I had dealt with anybody who wanted to hurt someone I loved, and I had forgotten how to bear it.
“He’s a traitor,” the guard said. “We have a warrant and a witness who swears he saw him passing vital security information to a fugitive member of the sans-merci. The fugitive was apprehended and killed, and the plans were found on her. The witness described this man with absolute accuracy. There is no possibility of error.”
One of the guards wearing Light rings gestured, and Ethan’s face was reproduced in light against the night sky, as if an artistic comet had traced his profile onto the darkness. His face shone for a moment, and then the magic faded and the lights went out.
“You know the penalty for treason. Move aside.”
I understood now how the guard had felt, hearing words but not being able to make sense of them. I knew what happened to anyone accused of associating with the sans-merci, and I could not connect any of this to Ethan.
The sans-merci was the name the band of revolutionaries in the Dark city had given themselves. They had killed Light guards, risen up in fury, and even saved condemned criminals from the sword. The Light Guard had been given free rein by the Light Council when it came to the revolutionaries, and nobody could stand against the council.
Anyone suspected of being in league with the sans-merci, the Light Guard would not spare.
I did not know how to get through to them. There were not many Light guards in the actual Light cities. Guards were posted mainly in the Dark city, to control the Dark magicians, and the rest patrolled the country to search for Dark magicians and take them to the Dark cities, where they belonged. Out here, these backwater guards did not even know a Stryker when they saw one. The guards were not used to answering to the Strykers or anyone else on the Light Council. “The council” was just a phrase that gave them power. These guards were used to being the ultimate authority.
I knew the penalty for treason. It was death: instant death, death by the blade, death without a chance for mercy or escape.
I did not know how death could suddenly be so close to Ethan. I could not even associate him with the word. He had always been secure and protected, his whole charmed life. I had envied him and resented him and taken comfort in the fact that there was one person I loved who would be safe forever.
I didn’t even dare look back at Ethan, at his shoulders bowed under cruel pressure or his hanging, vulnerable head. I kept my eyes locked with the guard’s: the only thing stopping him from carrying out his orders was the complication of a barely dressed girl crazy enough to catch a sword in her hands.
The only thing standing between Ethan and death was me.
“I said, he’s a Stryker,” I insisted, making sure my voice rang out so everybody could hear. “He’s Mark Stryker’s nephew, Charles Stryker’s son. You can’t just execute him. The Strykers will bring a world of trouble down onto your head.”
“If he’s a Stryker”—I could hear that the guard didn’t believe me; I didn’t know how to make him believe me—“then he knows the law.”
We all knew the law. I remembered how noble Ethan’s Uncle Mark had sounded when he made the proclamation broadcast across the city, announcing new laws had been passed to stop the sans-merci, to give the Light guards the power to crush them.
The guards would use that power to kill Ethan, unless I stopped them.
“This is all a misunderstanding,” I said forcefully. “Why take this unnecessary risk? Why not transport us both to the city? You can watch us every minute, keep us in restraints. Send word to Charles Stryker, and he will meet us at the station. He will explain everything. He will reward you.”
Instantly I saw that I had made another mistake. At one time, I had not been this clumsy, once, but I had not been this desperate for two years. I was out of practice, and that meant Ethan was out of luck.
The guard’s face—he was an ordinary guy, stubble and tired eyes, a totally normal man just doing his job and burning my life to the ground—closed like a door.
“The guards of the Light don’t take bribes,” he said, and his voice had the definitive sound of a door closing too. He gave a single brief nod, and I felt hands close around my arms.
“No,” I said, desperate. I tried to twist away, out of their hold, even though I knew it was useless: once people begin using force, words will not stop them. “Wait—you have to listen to me! You can’t do this!”
The only thing standing between Ethan and death was me, and I was not enough. Two guards dragged me back, kicking and fighting and saying useless things, a victim’s chant of despair—You can’t do this, when we all knew they could, Stop, when we all knew they wouldn’t, and Please, please, for the Light’s sake, please, when mercy was not an option.
“Lucie!” Ethan’s voice cut through the sounds of my futile struggle. There were guards in my way, and I could not see him. “Lucie, I’m so sorry. I love you.”
“No!” I screamed at him giving up, at the guards, at the whole uncaring world. “No. Stop!”
There was the long, slow scrape of a train-car door opening. I twisted in the guards’ hold at the sound.
It was the car of the buried ones, the citizens of the Dark city, that had opened. Standing framed in the doorway was a doppelganger, his face shrouded by the doppelganger’s dark hood, fastened with the enchanted collar.
He was a boy, I guessed, though it was hard to tell with the hood. He was tall, whipcord lean, and strong looking, but something about him suggested that he was not full grown. He would be no help, I thought with a burst of frustration—he was a doppelganger, a creature made by Dark magic, with a face that wasn’t his own and no soul. Nobody would listen to him.
I choked on my own hopelessness. The doppelganger was standing slouched to one side of the door, like a not-very-interested spectator.
“The lady’s right,” he said, and his voice was a drawl, as if he wasn’t entirely sure why he was bothering to speak. “You’d better stop.”
“Back inside, doppelganger,” the guard with the sword, the leader, snapped. There was none of the hesitation there had been with me.
The leader nodded again, and one of the guards dropped my arm and advanced.
I saw the guard’s walk turn purposeful and predatory as he came toward the doppelganger and uncoiled a whip from his belt.
“Don’t!” The sound burst from me, without my permission.
At the same time, from the guard, came the order “He said inside, beast.”
I heard the crackle and saw the leap of the whip as it woke into light and transcribed a bright circle against the black sky. He struck at the shadow cast by the hood, aiming directly for the hidden face.
The doppelganger wheeled at the last moment, stepped out onto the train platform, and caught the whip on his arm, turning his wrist so the whip wrapped around it. He pulled, changing lightning into a leash, and yanked the stunned guard onto his knees.
Before the guard could scramble up or another guard could intervene, the doppelganger spoke again.
“I heard there was a witness who saw the accused consorting with a member of the sans-merci,” he said. “I just have one question.”
Silence followed, the guards taken aback by his casual air as they had not been by my screaming.
I stopped straining against the remaining guard’s hold and said, forcing my voice to match his, “What is it?”
“This terrible criminal your witness saw .º.º.”
The doppelganger threw his hood back.
The humming magic light of swords, my rings, and the train itself had transformed the platform into a brilliantly lit stage. The light was bright enough that I could see every detail of his face: it chased along his high cheekbones and the slightly crooked shape of his mouth, lending an icy sparkle to his dark eyes. His brown hair was cut very short, but I knew if it was longer it would curl. I knew the lopsided turn his mouth would take if he smiled. I knew the very line of his throat as it disappeared into the dark folds of his hood and the black line of his heavy collar. I knew every detail of his beloved face.
Ethan was still on his knees, surrounded by guards. I could not see Ethan, and yet I could.
This was Ethan’s face. This was Ethan’s doppelganger—his exact physical double.
“How do you know,” continued the doppelganger, “that it wasn’t me?”
Copyright © 2016 by Sarah Rees Brennan