“A storm is rising.”
➽ About The Storm Crow:
In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying all the crows.
That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.
But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.
➽ Quote from the illustrator, Tran Nguyen:
“For the book cover, I wanted to capture Thia and her crows as interdependent entities and how they both rely on each other for strength and survival. Thia’s face is enveloped by dark-winged crows who help give her the sight to take back her kingdom. I gave her the fierce expression of a person who’s lost everything but balanced it with a bit of vulnerability to convey that there’s still humanity in her fight for Rhodaire.”
➽ Quote from Nicole Hower, Sourcebooks:
“We wanted to display the strong connection Thia has with the crows are her strong will to save them. She is shown with a determined look as the crows envelop her. One crow in particular overlaps her face, completing her connection with it. While the crows are the size of horses in the novel, we wanted to take a creative interpretation by showing them at a smaller, younger age.”
➽ The Storm Crow is out with Sourcebooks Fire July 9th, 2019
➽ Excerpt of the Prologue:
I was a storm.
Adrenaline ripped through my veins like lightning as I leaned close to the body of my Crow, preparing to execute a dive. Iyla’s warm, steady heat kept me grounded, even hundreds of feet in the air. Cold wind whipped tendrils of hair free from my braid, nipping at the skin around my goggles and stealing my breath.
The thin, well-worn saddle beneath me was nothing more than a strip of leather to bind stirrups to, the reins trailing from my hands to Iyla’s beak, an illusion of control—this ride depended on trust and mutual respect. Anything less, and no amount of leather would keep me seated on Iyla’s back.
Years of Estrel’s instructions raced through my mind: Keep your body low and tight in a dive. Give the reins slack. Keep your knees back so you don’t put pressure on the Crow’s wing joints. I knew it all like my own heartbeat.
I tucked close to Iyla’s body, and we dove.
Water misted my skin as Iyla’s Storm Crow magic split apart a cloud a second before we shot through it and plummeted toward the earth. My heart screamed into my throat, pure, unadulterated joy erupting through me with every passing moment. I held my breath as we fell, counting the seconds—we could only gain so much speed before Iyla’s wings wouldn’t be able to handle the strain of opening.
Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen…
We burst through the clouds, Aris spread out below us. The city was a blur as we dove, a sea of light and color fast approaching.
Twenty. I squeezed my knees, and Iyla’s wings snapped open like the slice of a blade, catching an updraft to send us sailing in a gentle arc. Lightning buzzed at the tips of Iyla’s wings as she let out a piercing call.
I sucked in a lungful of cold air and let it out in a laugh, the thrill of the dive resounding through me like a thunderclap. I craved that feeling like starved lungs craved air, letting it fill me until I felt impossibly alive.
We circled wide and low, descending the rest of the way until Iyla’s shadow blanketed the city streets.
Aris unfurled beneath us like a colorful map, dense with thick green foliage and spotted with wildflowers. People called up to us, waving from crowded streets as revelers prepared for the festival leading up to Negnoch, the city’s yearly hatch night. In a few hours, every single Crow from across the kingdom of Rhodaire would put on a masterful display of riding and magic, and the year’s Crows would be hatched.
One of them would be mine. Tonight, I would choose my own Crow and become a rider.
We dipped lower, children chasing Iyla’s shadow in the hopes of catching a stray feather to wish upon. This was my favorite part of flying. Even more than the thrill of diving or the magic of soaring through endless skies, I loved gliding peacefully above Aris, the wind brushing along my skin as the city passed below.
Even on the back of a stolen Crow. Well, not quite stolen. Iyla belonged to Estrel, my teacher and mother’s best friend, and while Estrel had let me ride Iyla alone before, she technically hadn’t given me permission to tonight.
Probably because I didn’t ask.
A gentle tug on the reins sent Iyla a little higher, and we fell in line over the crystal waters of the canal in the Rynthene Wing. To my left, Earth Crows helped work the fields, tilling land in huge swaths with the pulse of their magic. To my right, the fading sunlight glinted off an armored Battle Crow.
All over Aris, the Crows and riders integrated into the city’s inner workings would be finishing up the day’s tasks. Later, they’d join the military pouring in from Rhodaire’s outer reaches in preparation for the Sky Dance.
We followed the canal to the castle at the city’s heart. The giant, gray stone structure stretched into the sky, Delladon vines sprawling across its pale face like laugh lines. From each of the four sides of the central tower, a crescent-shaped landing platform jutted out, and I used the nearest one as a marker to veer Iyla right toward the royal rookery. It was a tall, circular tower with wide windows on the third floor for easy landing.
My nerves jittered. Landing was the hardest part, even with Estrel’s lessons branded into my mind.
Let the Crow do the work; it knows what it’s doing. Keep your weight back. Never dismount while a Crow’s folding its wings, or you risk straining the joints.
We glided easily through one of the rookery’s large, open windows, Iyla as practiced in this maneuver as breathing. Her wings flared back, sending straw swirling across the stone floor as her massive black claws reached out, taking hold of the nearest T-shaped perch. We fell to a standstill, her wings tucking in tight to her muscled form. She was almost reptilian with a lean, muscular body, the proportions a little longer, a little more limber than a normal bird.
I let out a whoop, grinning as I tugged down my goggles and swung off her back, throwing my arms around her. Her long neck straightened as she stiffened, but I’d learned long ago that she’d not only tolerate hugs but secretly liked them.
My excitement went cold at my mother’s sharp voice. A flurry of black wings filled the opposite window as her Battle Crow, Tyros, landed effortlessly on the perch across from Iyla, sending a gust of straw-filled wind into my face.
My mother swung down, stalking toward me with the smooth litheness of a jungle cat. With the setting sun at her back, she looked every inch the queen she was, the light making her brown skin and polished flying leathers gleam with an inner fire.
“What in Saint’s name do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“Um, talking to Iyla?” I offered. Lying had never been my strong suit. To her credit, the Crow let out a low caw, as if she were indeed part of the conversation.
My mother didn’t smile. I didn’t expect her to.
“Relax, Alandra.” Estrel emerged from the nearby staircase at my side, her long, dark curls bound in a thick braid like mine. “I gave her permission.”
The only person who could tell my mother to relax without getting eviscerated was Estrel, my aunt in every way but blood. They even looked like sisters, though my mother was taller and leaner. She and Estrel had grown up together, and I’d even heard a rumor Estrel’s sister and my mother had courted as teenagers.
My mother frowned, and I straightened beneath the sharpness of her steel-colored gaze. Her eyes always reminded me of knives, forever sculpting me in an endless quest for perfection.
“I executed a perfect dive,” I offered, as if my ability to perform riding techniques far more advanced than my seventeen years might soften her gaze.
It only made her eyes narrow. “Taking another rider’s Crow out for a joyride to perform dangerous maneuvers is not only foolish, it’s insulting.” I flinched. “If you want to prove yourself capable of being a leader among the riders, you can start by not disrespecting every rule and custom we live by.”
I refused to wilt beneath the heat of her words. “Well, maybe if you spent more than a waking second in my presence, I’d know the rules better.”
Estrel drew a sharp breath, but my mother went stiller than a Shadow Crow concealed in darkness. For a fraction of a second, I swore something pained flashed through her iron gaze, but it vanished quickly.
The circlet of silver feathers on her brow gleamed like molten starlight. “I expect you back here before the hatching.” She turned to Tyros, who leapt from his perch to the wide window ledge, a perfect tableau of strength against a backdrop of approaching night. With a grace I hadn’t yet mastered, she swung up into the saddle. Wings tucked in tight, Tyros leapt. They plummeted from view, gone for barely a breath before they soared up past the window, climbing into the darkening sky.
“That went well,” I muttered.
Estrel smacked the back of my head, and I winced, rubbing the spot though the blow hadn’t hurt. “Stop stealing my Crow!” Despite the snap in her voice, an easy grin filled her face, and she let out a low laugh when I smiled back.
There wasn’t a single other rider or a single other Crow I’d ever dream of doing with what I did with Iyla. Any other Crow would snatch me by the leg with its beak and toss me off, princess or not. That was, until I had my own.
My gaze dropped to the gold and black edges of Estrel’s Corvé tattoo that reached up over her muscular shoulders, denoting her as one of Rhodaire’s nine crow masters. While the heads of each house saw to their people, each wing’s Corvé saw to its crows.
Tonight, I would choose my own Crow. I would become a rider. And one day, I would earn the tattoo and become the royal Corvé after Estrel.
“The Sky Dance starts in an hour,” Estrel said. “Then it’s back here for the hatching. Are you and Kiva going into the city tonight?”
She smirked. “Take a breath, Little Peep. Enjoy the night. You’ll have your Crow soon enough.”
Soon enough felt a lifetime away as I bolted down the winding rookery steps, dodging a rookhand balancing plates of meat, and out into a perfect Rhodairen winter evening. The air was cool but not cold and filled with the possibility of rain. Storm Crows would keep it at bay, though I wished they’d let it fall. I’d always wanted to see a Sky Dance in the rain.
The wind buffeted my escaped curls into my face as I shot along the gardens, through the castle gates, and into streets filled with thick green trees and climbing vines trickling down buildings like rivulets of rainwater.
I veered onto the main road between the Caravel Wing and Thereal Wing, then cut right into the Thereal section of the city, slowing as a wave of music and laughter washed over me. I made for Rua’s, a bright-blue building on the corner where a Crow had been painted in sunset colors across one side, done by a street artist in the night.
Native brown-skinned Rhodairens walked alongside colorfully dressed, dark-skinned travelers from Trendell, a kingdom far east of Rhodaire. Both were dwarfed by the pale, long-limbed Korovi of the northern kingdom. People came to Rhodaire from all over the world for Negnoch. I even spotted a few revelers from Illucia, the border kingdom to our north, though they were probably only here for festival discounts on Rhodairen weapons. Or maybe they were guards for the visiting Illucian dignitaries.
That was probably what had my mother on edge: their presence, and their queen who threatened war. She’d already taken two kingdoms.
Someone seized my arm, spinning me around. Kiva grinned down at me, her moonlight-colored hair free from its characteristic braid and down to her shoulders in waves. She still wore her castle guard uniform, making her look older—sometimes I doubted she owned anything else. She even had her sword at her hip.
“I was starting to think you weren’t coming!” she shouted above the clamor.
“And let you eat all the orange cakes?”
“Typical. Here for the food.”
I nodded at her uniform. “Hoping to impress someone?” She’d been flirting with a girl at Rua’s for weeks now.
Kiva’s cheeks burned, and she nudged me with her shoulder.
I grinned. “Race you.”
We dove into the crowd, dodging flying elbows and swinging hips. Along the sides of the streets, baskets of the last fruits of the season sat waiting to be eaten, from bright-yellow mangos to fresh-picked oranges. Overhead, thunder boomed in a near cloudless sky, a Storm Crow marking the time.
The night passed in patches. I drank talcé after talcé, sweet juice drinks filled with pieces of fruit, and ate as many orange cakes as I could stomach. We danced and sang, following the street past acrobats and fire-eaters, carts of sweet breads and fruit pies. Children ran laughing through the streets, kites in the shape of Crows tied to their wrists by long, thin strings. Tradition said if your kite made it through the night undamaged, you were destined to become a rider.
Thunder boomed again. The Sky Dance was about to begin.
Crows glided in lazy circles above the castle with riders on their backs, looking like shadows set adrift in the sky. The sun set behind them, painting everything deep mauve and carmine, buttermilk and fuchsia.
The drums started, low and steady at first, matching the rhythm of the Crows as they circled. Then the speed increased, and higher drums joined in. The circling Crows broke in all directions, some diving straight down, others surging upward in a powerful burst of speed. They twirled and dove, weaving around each other in exact, graceful movements.
A Fire Crow opened its beak and let loose a stream of blue-tinged flames at a Wind Crow, which buffeted the fire upward toward a Water Crow, which doused it into steam with water from its beak. Sun Crows lit the sky in ethereal gold, their glow fading into wisps like the light of falling stars. Shadow Crows wove ribbons of night around them, creating intricate shimmering patterns.
Each action a Crow took was mimicked by another one across from it, one formation molding seamlessly into the next, creating a symmetrical design of beasts, people, and magic, all interwoven in a dance among the clouds.
The drums grew faster. Lightning struck and thunder rolled, keeping time with the beat. Crows dipped and twirled in perfectly timed maneuvers I longed to try. My heart raced with them, imagining the feel of the wind in my hair and the heat of a Crow beneath me.
As the music peaked, every Crow shot upward, carried by drafts from Wind and Storm Crows. Then they dove.
As the echo of the final drumbeat sounded, the Crows shot out in all directions in perfectly executed dives. Their deep, echoing cries filled the sky as the sun finished setting, and the Crows blanketed the night.
Still ecstatic from the dance, Kiva and I moved off the main road to find another talcé vendor. The skies had cleared, and the Crows had all returned to the rookeries throughout the city’s wings to be unsaddled and fed. The images remained seared into the back of my eyelids. Soon, I would be a part of that dance.
“You’re going to be late,” Kiva warned as we navigated the crowded street.
“It takes at least a half hour for the Crows to be unsaddled and fed.”
“Which means you’ll leave in half an hour.”
“I’m not late that often—”
“Yes, you are.”
A scream ripped through the air. I froze. Kiva’s hand went to her sword, and she stepped toward me, shielding. Silence descended like a curtain, sucking the air from the crowded street. My heart rose and settled in my throat, and for a wingbeat, everything stood still.
Then the Thereal rookery went up in flames.
The screams became a chorus, the screech of Crows rising like a wave. One by one, the rookeries in each Wing erupted with fire.
I stood rooted to the spot, the acrid smoke scorching my lungs, the light of the flames almost too bright to look at. Yet I couldn’t tear my gaze away, my mind refusing to process what I was seeing.
The city was burning.
The words dropped through my mind like jagged stones, too heavy and sharp to hold on to.
The crowd closed in, people slamming into carts and each other, all attempting to flee in different directions. Kiva pressed into my side, her sword half drawn. The familiar screech of metal snapped me from my trance, and I seized her wrist. “Too many people!”
Scowling, she grabbed my arm and barreled through the writhing mass. A head taller than nearly everyone, the crowd parted to avoid her elbows and snarled threats. We pushed until we broke through the edge, gulping down open air drowned in smoke.
“Come on!” Not stopping to rest, I raced along the street and back toward the castle, Kiva at my back.
Fire fell like rain.
It dripped from buildings, clinging to crumbling stone and smoldering wood, spreading from the Thereal rookery like a flood. The bushes lining the road blazed like torches, trees heavy with fruit turning to ash and filling the air with a sickly, burnt-sugar scent. It mixed with the smell of seared flesh.
A burst of fire cut across our path, forcing us to stop. As an earsplitting scream tore past me, I realized it wasn’t a fireball: it was a man, engulfed in flame.
My stomach turned, and I choked on the poisoned air, desperate to get it out of my lungs. Kiva seized my arm, hauling me along. The image of the flaming man cut through my mind over and over, until it felt like I’d never see anything else again.
As we turned up the castle road, I stumbled to a halt. Black smoke billowed from the royal rookery, darker than the night. Fire writhed, reaching out the open windows with hungry claws. A Crow leapt from one of the windows, feathers alight. It barely had time to open its wings before an arrow pierced its heart. Another struck its throat. It dropped four stories to the earth with a sickening crunch.
This didn’t make any sense. The eggs were in there, and the Crows… My thoughts ground to a halt, unable to venture any further. Unable to think, unable to breathe.
I only became aware Kiva was shaking me when she nearly knocked me to the ground. “Move!” she screamed.
Slowly, I looked at her. She’d drawn her sword, and the firelight cast strange shadows across her pale skin. For an impossibly long moment, my smoke-riddled brain could process only her bright, unbound hair. It was white as bone.
She pushed me again, and I stumbled. “Anthia, move!”
I blinked. Guards were sprinting in every direction, shouting orders. Some had their swords drawn, dueling pale-skinned soldiers in black leather. Still others simply stood and stared at the rising column of fire and smoke. Slowly, I understood. I recognized the golden horsehead emblazoned on their uniforms.
Illucia was attacking Rhodaire.
Illucia was killing the Crows.
Someone moved behind Kiva. My mother appeared, gray eyes wild and face splattered with blood. She held a dagger in each hand. “Get inside the castle!” she ordered, but I didn’t move. She sheathed a blade, her hand falling on my shoulder. “Anthia, you have to go inside. Please.”
I felt warm. Too warm, but oddly calm. Like something had reached inside me and wiped away all the fear, the confusion, and the horrible, horrible understanding. My skin hummed, the sound filling my ears, my chest, my bones.
My mother cursed, said something to Kiva, then hesitated a second longer, her fingers digging tight into my shoulder. Something shone behind her eyes, a forgotten emotion threatening to break free—then she bolted toward the rookery. I lurched after her, but Kiva’s strong arms pulled me back. My mother disappeared into the column of flames. Then Kiva was gone, and I forgot to blink. My vision filled with fire.
Swords clashed, metal screaming against metal so close to my ear that I turned. Kiva dueled an Illucian soldier inches away. Had that attack been meant for me? The thought barely registered. All I could think about was the growing heat and dying air, the screams of Crows and people indecipherable in the night.
A Rhodairen soldier intercepted Kiva’s fight, and I turned back to the rookery in time to see a shape fall in the doorway.
My body reacted. I sprang forward, screaming for my mother. The shape rolled, crawling toward the exit, the flames moving like a serpent preparing to strike. It wasn’t my mother.
“Estrel!” I seized her arm, not processing that her clothes were on fire, that she was on fire, and pulled with all my strength. The flames leapt onto my sleeve, but I pulled harder, her form toppling out after me onto the damp grass. I rolled her over and over again, then Kiva was there, smothering Estrel with her cloak.
Kiva yelled something at me, but I couldn’t hear her through the blood pounding in my ears. Then she seized me and flung me into the grass, slapping my hand, beating at it with the edge of the cloak to extinguish the flames.
I stared at the ravaged skin, now a patchwork of scalded white and red flesh. Red. Red as the fire raining down around me as it consumed the royal rookery, consumed my mother, consumed everything.
I felt Kiva beside me like one felt their shadow at their heel, an intangible presence. She spoke, saying so many things. Things that didn’t make any sense. Things like my mother was dead, the Crows were gone, the Illucian soldiers were coming, many were already here.
It took me a moment to realize I was staring at something in the sky. Bright as a miniature sun, a Crow blazing with fire from beak to tail soared across the night, wings spread as if the flames had become a part of it, a flickering coat of smoldering feathers. Then the fire seared through feather and muscle and bone, and it plummeted to the earth like a falling star.
It struck the ground before me, erupting like a funeral pyre. Only my raw throat told me I’d screamed the entire time it’d fallen.
“We have to move!” Kiva yelled.
I had just enough of myself left to look at her. To see the tears streaming down her ash-stained face and to feel my own sliding hot against my skin, before my burns flared with pain, and the world went white.
➽ About the Author:
Although a new author, I’ve been writing my entire life. I currently work as a Technical Writer in the tech industry, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. Though I grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, I graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Biology and a degree in English (Creative Writing). Currently, I live in the Bay Area with four awesome friends (because it’s the Bay Area and I’d like to be able to retire one day) and two black cats (who are more like a tiny dragon and an ever tinier owl).
➽ Bookstagram Cover Reveals:
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➽ My Thoughts:
Friends, this looks beyond words amazing! I was so honored when my dear friend asked if I wanted to do a cover reveal for this upcoming release! Elemental magic? Giant crows? A Princess living with depression? Sign me up, please. I can’t wait to get my hands on this beautiful book and read and review it for you all! 💛✨