Just look at this! Look at it! Music, fashion, read-a-longs, calligraphy, make-up looks? What a feast of madness and brilliance! I'll be RTing and sharing all of these as they go live, and then collecting each week's posts in a masterpost at the end of the both weeks so you don't miss anything.
I urge you to share and RT these as you read and enjoy them, not only to spread the word about the book, and the tour itself - but also to thank each of these dedicated book bloggers for supporting our fandom and giving UKYA a boost in general. I'm honestly humbled by this, guys. I don't often use the term 'awesomesauce' anymore, but this? This is awesomesauce.
Next up! For those of you like me who have poor eyesight or vision impairment, injuries or disabilities that make it hard to read chunky books, or limited space to store physical copies, here's some good news: the Kindle and Kobo versions of the book are now life for pre-orders. Hurrah! And at a discount from the physical copy's price, which is always nice.
Further to this, shortly after the Kindle version went live, both it and the physical book shot back up into the Amazon bestselling ranks again:
Not gonna lie, I DID do a little squeal (while on the train - I ducked down and pretended it wasn't me while people gave each other suspicious looks) when I saw this. As the release date gets closer and closer, pre-orders make a huge difference to whether the book will succeed in both the short and long-term, so thank you to everyone who's managed to scrape up the cash to do this. I know, I really do, that it's not always easy. I hope *so much* that you'll love the story, and Zhi, and Yulong, and Yang Jie, and Wu Jiang, and all the rest, and think it's worth it.
Now before I start blubbing on my keyboard, I'd better remind you about the event coming up to celebrate the book's release in London, in April: Queens of Fantasy with amazing authors Samantha Shannon, Tasha Suri and Zen Cho. I've motored my way through a stack of all of these guys books in the past month and St. Paul on a pogo stick! THEY ARE SO AMAZING. I might not let anyone else even get the chance to ask them any questions because there's so much I want to know. Will we meet Mehr again in the sequal, Tasha?? Samantha, what was the deal with the Unceasing Emperor's ex-girlfriend?? Zen, did you get the term magicienne from the term 'graduette' which used to be applied to female university graduates??
I've been told that the tickets are really going fast - I'm not just saying that - so if you're hoping to come you should probably look into booking your place sooner rather than later.
And now, in celebration of all this gloriousness, it's snippet time. Yes, really! New and exclusive and just for you, I've picked out one of my favourite bits from later in the book (with no spoilers) and it's under the cut. I hope you all enjoy it, my lovelies!
Let me know what you think in the comments. Read you later!
That night, as we huddled down in various miserable poses along the damp gulley wall, none of us as close to our campfires as we really wished to be, I was man enough to admit to myself that I was grateful for the reassuring bulk of the Young General, looming between me and the sinister shadows of the Stone Forest. If any cold, desolate spirits were looking for the consolation of human warmth in the dark, he’d be a more tempting target than I.
I expected to stay awake late into that night, worrying and missing Yang Jie and feeling sorry for myself, as usual. But riding on such treacherous terrain all day long seemed to have left me more tired than was usual. I could feel my eyes drooping even as I shifted onto my side, searching for a more comfortable position on the shifting ground.
General Wu’s horse, hobbled nearby, stomped his hoof – once, twice. Yulong, who stood nose to nose with him, whickered softly as if in reassurance. The other horse quieted.
When I woke, I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. With the mist blocking any sight of stars – or the dawn, if it was coming – all I could see was that it was still as dark as ink in the gulley. But I knew instantly what had woken me. The wind had risen. It was whistling – no, singing, singing around the tops of the stone spires. Playing over the unusual formations in the rock. The resulting noise was like nothing I’d ever heard before, seeming both low and high at once, almost like... like a chorus of voices. Human voices.
It was beautiful. It was chilling. The humming notes blended together into a peculiar, haunting music that made the Stone Forest itself vibrate. The more I listened, the more the wind rose, the more cold I felt. All around me, small campfires which had been burning merrily away in the darkness were beginning to dim and sink down. The increasing wind should have whipped them up; instead it seemed to suck the air away from them – and from me – as the darkness grew deeper.
Nonsense, I told myself fiercely. It’s just the wind, just these odd rocks. That’s all. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.
But the men were stirring restlessly in their sleep. One of General Wu’s bodyguards thrashed in his bedroll, and as he turned over I saw his face in the light of our dying fire. It was twisted, still-sleeping, into a rictus of horror or despair. Nearby someone let out a wavering moan, nearly drowned by the eerie moaning of the wind.
The walls of the gulley were shaking now. I could hear... I could hear the voices in the wind. I could hear them. They cried out for help, for release – tormented by the most terrible grief and pain – and their music rumbled through the ground and through my bones, louder and louder. The campfires were nearly out now. I lay frozen, gripped by the most awful fear, the same fear that had held me still on a night long ago when I heard assassins creep into my Father’s house, the same fear which had paralysed me for that vital moment when I saw Lu standing over General Wu with a blood on his hand. Only this time I couldn’t break free. I couldn’t move.
One voice rose above the others. A voice as familiar to me as my own. More familiar. One Ihad listened to before I had even had a voice: my Mother.
She was screaming.
Screaming... for me.
The edges of reality cracked. The cold and the dark were eating through me, damaging me, like a hard frost turns soft fruit black. I could feel it beginning already. This was going to drive me out of my mind, I realised dimly. It would kill me. Every man in the gulley would be dead before morning.
Yang Jie is in this gulley.
With a kind of wrenching, ripping effort that made me cry out in pain – I broke free.
I was crouching in the tangle of my damp bedroll, staring into our substantial campfire, which had died down a little, but was no means near to going out. The other campfires flickered and danced, pockets of light in the darkness around me. The other men laid still and peaceful in their places. There was no singing. No wind. No ghosts.
On the other side of the campfire, someone let out a choked gasp. Furs and blankets flew back as they clawed their way out of their bed and onto their knees, panting harshly. It was General Wu.
His face, even bathed in their rosy glow, was set and white. I opened my mouth – but the look in his eyes, half savage, half lost, stilled my tongue. It didn’t matter. I didn’t need to ask what had woken him. I knew.
Instead, after a moment, he was the one to speak. His voice was almost a growl. “Who? Who did you hear?”
I swallowed. “My Mother.”
He closed his eyes. Nodded wearily. “Me too.”
Swiftly, he turned away and laid down again, pulling one of the heavy, fur-lined blanket up over his shoulder so that his profile was hidden.
Little by little, my marrow aching like that of an old man, I shuffled back into my own bedroll. The mist that had hung above the Stone Forest all day and all night was beginning to break up, and stars were winking gently overhead. I laid stiff and unmoving among my blankets for some time listening to the unrestful quiet of the dark before I remembered something. Something I should have remembered before.
Wu Jiang’s Mother had been murdered when he was a little boy.