When he is diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition at the age of seventeen, Asa is certain that his adventures have come to an end. He is alone, having been abandoned by parents who never wanted him and a village that couldn’t raise him. However, as the bells start to ring, those are the least of his problems. The evil sorcerer Erebus has the land of Eodem under his control. Thrust into a world of distrust and aggression, Asa can rely on just one person: his friend Averett. The wall that divides Eodem seems to be an unobtainable goal, and danger is always one step ahead.
Targeted Age Group:: 12-18
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My inspiration to write this book came from my experiences as a fifteen-year-old reading YA books. I was not happy with the lack of LGBT+ representation in the YA Fantasy genre so I decided that I could be the person to help create that diversity. I think that as a teenager writing for a YA audience, I can help to create the changes that my generation want in our reading materials, and I think that that is what drives me to write.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I name my characters based on people and places that I know in real life, though their personalities are very different. The basic personalities tend to either be caricatures of people whom I’ve met or are completely made up. Some people say that Asa reminds them of me, but I’ve tried very hard to be objective when creating characters because that means that I can demonstrate how they have grown and changed over the course of the novel.
He was not neglected.
Nor was he a child.
Seventeen, in Asa Hounslow’s opinion, was old enough to do whatever he pleased.
Therefore, he could not be a child.
And neglected? When had his parents ever shown him neglect? He hadn’t seen them for five years.
Asa’s hands were wrapped around a mug of hot water, steam curling over the rim. He rested his elbows on the table and sipped at his drink.
“I don’t see how this is my problem.”
The healer caught Asa’s eyes and let her gaze drop back to the table. Papers covered it, diagrams and sketches of magical shapes that seemed to shift imperceptibly in the flickering candlelight. Her hands ran over a pot filled with spiked crystals: red, blue, and golden green. They hummed softly as she stroked the sharp tips.
“I was just saying that you should have brought your guardian with you,” the healer murmured. “You are not old enough to receive this diagnosis without them here.”
“They’re working.” Asa shrugged. “I was told to come here without them.”
“Asa.” The healer’s tone was at once sharp and gentle.
“What?” he interjected.
“Where are they really?”
“I don’t know,” Asa enunciated, stumbling. “Working, as I said.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Then prove me wrong,” he huffed.
The healer shook her head and wrote on a slip of paper. The weak light in the room sent shadows skittering across the ceiling in response to her careful movement. Her handwriting was cramped and slanted across the note as she signed it, sealed it, and went to hand it to Asa. He reached out for it and felt the rough sheet between his fingers before it was tugged out of his grasp.
“Forgive me. I almost forgot.”
The healer grasped a green crystal from the pot on her desk. Asa tried to maintain a straight face but couldn’t restrain a groan as she folded the note and placed the stone on the wax seal. She murmured some words and the room flashed blinding white for a moment before Asa blinked and the crystal was back in its pot.
“What did you do that for?” he complained.
“I bound it so that only your guardian could read it.” The healer dusted her hands off. “I don’t trust you, Asa Hounslow.”
Asa snatched the paper, stormed from the healer’s desk, and slammed the door. Night had fallen, illuminated only by the huge silver moon that hung in the sky over Brandenbury. Asa breathed a column of steam into the ice-cold sky and watched it diffuse into the dark air. The visit to the healer weighed on his mind as he strolled down deserted lanes back into the suburbs. A fox ran ahead of him, diving from the road into the bushes that lined it. He smelled the musk of badgers as they wandered unseen through the countryside. Cows settled in the fields on either side of him, their moist breath audible even from behind the vegetation. The road was like a tangled ribbon, only a winding expanse of dusty gravel stretching ahead of him as far as his eyes could see.
Asa was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice the person lying by the side of the road until he had stumbled over him, crushing the person’s hand with his boot and flying head first into the hedgerow. He heard a yelp, then groan, and the unmistakable sound of someone fumbling along the ground for something. Spectacles, Asa assumed, pulling himself upright. The thorns caught on his loose tunic and scratched at his skin, making him swear through gritted teeth.
“What are you playing at?” he snarled at the prone figure. “Lying in the road! What did you expect?”
He groaned again and rustling indicated their movement.
“Go on,” Asa instructed. “Say something.”
“I was sleeping,” the boy offered.
“In the road.”
“Nowhere else to sleep,” he intoned drily. “The pony got away.”
“But the road—” Asa paused. He recognised that voice. Creeping forwards, he placed careful hands on the boy’s body, feeling him tense at the uninvited touch. His fingers sensed solid muscle under the skin, warm, vital, strong. He moved towards his head when he abruptly stood up, shaking Asa off with an incredulous laugh.
“Sorry,” Asa exhaled. “Sorry. You sounded familiar, and I didn’t quite know how to ask you—”
“Ask me what?”
He could feel the boy’s breath in the cold air.
“Your name,” Asa mumbled, embarrassed. “Why don’t you just ask then?” the stranger proposed.
“Well, what is your name?”
“Averett,” he said. “But my friends call me Avery.”
Asa felt a grin pull across his face. “Knew it.”
“Asa?” Avery asked. “Is that you?”
“Yes,” his voice cracked as he stared into the dim figure’s face. “How did you know?”
“That pleased to see me?”
“What are you doing out here?” Asa repeated, crossing his arms. “You’re miles from Salatesh.”
His friend sounded concerned. “Well, it’s the twelfth, remember?”
“Yes.” Asa tried to find the familiar face in the gloom. “I am well aware of the date.”
“Check your calendar.” Avery shrugged. “This is the week that I’m spending with you.”
“What?” Asa spluttered. “No, no, that’s next month.”
“Nope,” he was reminded. “This month. Don’t you keep a record of stuff like this?”
“I find it to be rather a hassle,” Asa muttered.
“Really? I never would’ve guessed.” He could hear Avery smirk. “Well? Come on, then. Show me to your house!”
They meandered down the quiet road, chatting about everything and nothing at the same time. Asa kept stealing glances of the tall figure next to him, an unconscious smile playing around the edge of his mouth. He could not believe that Avery was here, in Brandenbury. Though they had exchanged letters, they had been brief; to his chagrin he had indeed forgotten that Avery was to come and stay with him this week.
The light grew brighter and highlighted the top of Avery’s broad shoulders, his nose, even reflecting off his wiry blond hair. They passed house after house of the same uniform design, before entering the more unique side of the town. The streetlights illuminated the road with a flickering glow, tinted by the orange glass placed around the flame. They wandered out into the town square, passing a large fountain and some abandoned market stalls. Asa was just fumbling for his key when he heard it, dimly at first but growing louder. He strained his ears to listen, key held up to the lock.
The bell was ringing from the spire of the old Town Hall.
Other places began to pick up the pealing chime, repeating it and sending the message on. The fire service and the schoolhouse amplified it with their additions. Asa looked at Avery, who had frozen where he stood, panic written over his features. It was superstitiously bad luck to be in a public space when the bells began to ring.
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