Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch follows a pair of best friends — Safi, a Truthwitch, and Iseult, a Threadwitch — who team up to save their world. In her highly-anticipated sequel, Windwitch, their story continues — and in particular, we learn more about Merik, a prince and a Windwitch.
EW is excited to reveal not only the cover of Windwitch in advance of the book’s early 2017 release, but also an exclusive excerpt to give you a peek inside. Check them both out, below:
Excerpt from Windwitch by Susan Dennard
Merik swiveled his wrists slowly. At night, the temple was too dark to see the blood dripping from his arms, pooling on the granite flagstones. He felt it falling, though. Just as he felt the new, burned flesh on his hands stretching beneath torn gloves.
Yet even as pain shivered through his body, he couldn’t help but think: Only a fool ignores Noden’s gifts. For if Merik looked at this case of mistaken identity from the just the right angle, it could in fact all be seen as boon.
The assassin in the night. The fire on the Jana. The attack of a Waterwitch in Pin’s Keep. Each event had led Merik here, to Noden’s temple. To a fresco of the god’s left hand.
To the Fury.
Twice now, he’d been mistaken for that monstrous demigod, and twice now, it had worked in Merik’s favor. So why not continue using the fear invoked from that name? Was Merik not doing the Fury’s work by bringing justice to the wronged and punishment to the wicked? It was clear that Nubrevnans needed Merik’s help, and his sister Vivia…Well, she was stil out there. Alive. Wretched.
So was it not Merik’s moral duty to keep her off the throne? And he could do that if he could just prove she had indeed tried to kill him—that it was she who’d purchased that prisoner from Vizer Linday, and she who’d sent the prisoner to kill Merik.
Yes. This was right. This was Noden’s will. It throbbed in Merik’s wounds. It shivered across his scalp and down his raw back.
Take the god’s gift. Become the Fury.
Merik rose, stiff but strong, from the temple floor, and with a new purpose in his movements, he tugged his hood, his sleeves, his gloves into place. Then he turned away from the Fury’s gruesome fresco and set out to bring justice to the wronged.
Punishment to the wicked.
A few blocks from White Street, it took Merik mere minutes to reach the Linday family’s greenhouse, and though the structure of glass and iron was unlit, the guards clustered outside indicated the young vizer was within.
It was clear from the guards’ black uniforms and lurking positions that they were supposed to be hidden, yet even without magic to feel their breaths upon the air, Merik would have seen the men—they were that terrible at blending in with the garden’s bushes and trees.
With a single thought, Merik’s witchery sent him leaping over the fence unseen. It had been at least ten years since Merik had roamed the jungles of this greenhouse, kept lush year-round by the Plantwitchery running in all Linday veins. Merik had been a boy then, just eleven years old.
It had also been daylight, and more importantly, he’d been invited.
Yet none of the clumsy guards noticed Merik stalking from one shadow to the next. He spun around a bellflower hedge, its violet blossoms in full bloom, and ducked beneath a hackberry tree.
Power, power, power. It pumped through Merik, so easy to tap into. So easy to command.
Since leaving the temple, his magic had come without protest, his temper stayed calm, and even the ache in his flesh, the throb in his wounds was dull, distant.
So Merik kept moving forward. Toward Linday. Toward the truth about the assassin from Judgement Square. After all, easy was good. Easy let ships sail without fear and crews reach home unharmed.
But easy did not mean trip-wires. Slung across the greenhouse’s back entrance, Merik felt the string the instant it hit his shin—and he felt the vibration race outward like a plucked harp.
His hands swept up; his winds shot out, a charge of power to counteract the moving line.
Merik watched, breath held, as it stilled. As the whole world stilled, shrinking down to that cursed string and his booming heart. It thundered loud enough to give him away.
Yet no alarm went off. No trap released. So carefully, Merik swiveled his head to trace the path of the wire. Into the shadows it went, where iron held glass walls in place. Then up the string shot before ending at a brass bell.
Merik’s breath kicked out. That had been too close. That bell was a tiny, yet more than enough to alert someone of Merik’s arrival since the only other sound was a burbling fountain at the greenhouse’s heart.
All of this was new since Merik’s boyhood stints, and while he wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that young Linday was a paranoid bastard, there’d been no guards or trip-wires at the nobleman’s mansion.
Which suggested that Linday was meeting someone—someone he didn’t trust or someone he intended to betray.
Merik’s brows drew tight, gaze sweeping over every space in sight. Had he the time, would’ve crawl into the nearby cherry tree’s limbs and watched who hit this backdoor trap. After all, learning who Linday feared (or who ought to fear Linday) could be valuable information.
But Merik hadn’t the time. Not tonight.
So after checking his hood—still firmly in place—he resumed his approach. Twice more, he came to hidden trip-wires, and twice more, he bypassed them. It was slow going, slipping through the leaves and roots, and all the while, his winds keeping the jungle still. Kept the trip-wires—whatever they were attached to—from activating.
At last Merik reached the center of his greenhouse, where Vizer Linday came into view. Water bubbled behind the man, soft, serene, and completely at odds with the man’s frenetic energy.
Everything, actually, clashed with the young vizer. The pristine grass that his finely-slippered toe tapped into mush. The brilliant white lilies at the fountain’s edge that he swatted and swatted and swatted again with the tattooed hand of a Plantwitch. Even the moonlight trickling through the glass ceiling seemed too bright, too pure for Linday’s antiquated black robe.
This was not the vizer Merik had watched earlier. The one who’d challenged Gwendolyn and oozed with possessive passion. Nor was it man one who ran the city’s prison or controlled every room he stepped into.
But a scared vizer was an easy vizer. And easy was, of course, good.
Merik slipped to the edge of the clearing, to where grass gave way to flagstones. Behind Linday, and still out of sight. Then he towed back his hood and offered a rough, “Hello, Vizer.”
The man’s breath punched out. He deflated completely—spine wilting, shoulders dropping over his knees. For half a moment, Merik thought he’d fainted…
Until a weak, “I don’t have it,” whispered out.
Merik stepped out of the shadows. “You mistake me for someone else.”
At that, Linday tensed. Then his head snapped around. His eyes met Merik’s, raking up. Down. Clearly taking in Merik’s scarred face, his shredded clothes.
Merik almost smiled as warring expressions settled across the man’s face. Relief mingled with horror and confusion…before shuttering back to relief.
Which wasn’t quite the emotion was hoping for.
He stalked to the fountain. All the way up to the vizer, Merik strode, and although Linday shrank back, the man didn’t run. Not even when Merik gripped his collar and yanked him close.
“Do you know who I am?” Merik murmured. This close, the man’s face was a mask of fine lines. He looked twice the age Merik knew him to be.
“No,” Linday rasped. He was trembling now. “I don’t know you.”
“They call me the left hand of Noden, Vizer. They call me the Fury.” At those words—at that title—heat frizzed down Merik’s back.
Power, power, power.
Linday shook all the harder in Merik’s hands, and that was more like the reaction Merik wanted.
“I’m going to ask you a few questions now, Vizer, and I want you to answer quickly. If you do not…” He twisted his fist, tightening Linday’s collar. Choking off the man’s air.
Linday instantly rasped: “I’ll answer, I’ll answer.”
“Good.” Merik dipped his head back, eyes thinning and burnt skin stretching. “You sold a prisoner in Judgment Square. Lutsa was his name. I need to know who bought him.”
“I don’t know.”
Yank. Twist. Linday’s breath slashed out.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I must, I must.” Linday’s eyes began to cross. “I…must or he’ll kill me.”
Fresh rage slashed through Merik. He wrung Linday’s collar all the tighter. “Then it would seem you have a choice to make, Vizer: by whose hand would you rather die? His or mine?”
“Neither,” the man choked. “Please—the shadow man comes for me. Help me. Please help me and I’ll tell you everything you want—”
A bell rang.
A soft twinkle to fill the greenhouse.
Vizer Linday went limp, as if his knees could no longer hold him. Merik released the man, stepping back as Linday crumpled before him..
A second bell tolled. Chills raced down the back of Merik’s neck. His spine. He whirled around…
To find a wall of night slithering through the greenhouse. Approaching this way, it slipped and slid and coiled and gripped. Shadow hands that tendriled forward, over the ground, across the foliage, along the ceiling.
Instinct told Merik to run. Told his muscles to flee. Yet something else warred inside him—something hot and waking. Something not to be trifled with.
Merik let his fury come. It roared to a fiery life right as the darkness scuttled across him.
The shadow man had arrived.
There was no other way to describe what prowled into the clearing. Linday had gotten that right, and not because the man was made of shadows as he was cloaked by them. Eaten alive by darkness.
The man, the monster towered before Merik, his features impossible to distinguish. What little of his skin was exposed—hands, neck, face—moved like a thousand hagfishes skippering upstream.
Against all Merik knew to be wise or safe, his eye closed and his arms shot up to block his face. He rocked back two steps, almost tripping over Linday.
The shadow man laughed at that. A sound so deep that Merik almost couldn’t hear it. He felt the thunder rumble in his lungs—felt the man say, “I respect your attempt at stopping me, Vizer, but alarms and guards are useless against me.”
The voice—if it could even be called that—was accented. Arithuanian, and almost…feminine in its seductive drawl. “Give me what I’ve come for, Vizer, or everyone here dies. Your guards. This friend of yours. And you.”
A whimper split the darkness, forcing Merik to lower his arm. To open his eyes and look at the shadow man, snaking closer. A creature with all the power in the room.
All the power in the world.
Merik made himself watch. Made his mind think, his muscles move, and his own power wake up. It was strangely weak. Strangely cold—a tendril of frost laced with darkness, as if the shadow man stole all heat in the room.
And all heat in Merik’s fury.
But at least Merik’s grappling for magic went unnoticed by the shadow man, who now skated closer to Linday.
“Where is it, Vizer?” The monster’s voice rippled and scraped. Scales rubbing against the sand. “We had a deal.”
“I c-couldn’t find it.” Linday’s teeth chattered, louder than his words. “I-I looked.”
The shadow man laughed again before kneeling beside the vizer—and leaving Merik all but forgotten.
So Merik drew more magic to him, backing away as he did so. The magic was still frozen and off, yet it rose all the same. A subtle breeze to curl around him. To build. To expand while the shadow man reached for Linday’s throat. It was an almost loving gesture, were it not for the death hissing beneath the monster’s skin.
“This was your last chance, Vizer. You knew that when last we spoke. Give me the book or—”
A root punched up from the earth. Linday’s magic driving the massive root straight into the shadow man’s chest.
A scream—human and beastly, living and dead —tore through the greenhouse. Unlike the spoken words, this sound was real. A physical thing that smashed apart Merik’s skull and flayed the burnt flesh from his cheeks.
He had just enough time to lock eyes with Linday before the shadow man’s fist squeezed in.
He crushed the vizer’s neck as easily as a grape. Darkness splattered from Linday’s throat. Sprayed from his mouth. Burst from his eyes, and Merik knew—in that primal part of his spine that he should have listened to at the start—he stood no chance here.
With the little power he’d managed to grasp, Merik sprang backwards. Ice carried him. Cold guided him. Winter rushed through him, both soothing and terrifying, for only with the shadow man’s heat receding could Merik taste how much there’d actually been.
Branches cracked; leaves slapped; bell after bell after bell rang out. The shadow man pursued, but he was hurt. Merik had a head start.
Merik reached a door—not the one he’d come in, but an exit all the same that spit him out into another part of the outer garden. Night air coursed over him, freeing. Empowering. And finally his witchery could truly ignite.
He flew. Fast and high, winds bellowing beneath him.
Yet right as Merik reached the peak of his flight, right as he relaxed his guard and risked looking back, the wall shadows reached him.
Black erupted over him—just as it had before but tenfold stronger. A thousand fold stronger, and instantly his magic winked out.
Merik fell. Spinning and blinded by darkness. Heavy and choked by death. Until at last he hit something with such force, it snapped his bones. Snapped his mind.
Yet he even then, didn’t stop falling. He simply moved more slowly, sinking.
Water, he thought as lungs bubbled full of it. Then he was too deep to know anything else beyond drowning and darkness and Noden’s watery court.