Indie Book Spotlight: The Ruptured Sky, by Jessica A. McMinn
Princess Amikharlia likes a fight.
Abandoning her homeland, she travels across the ruins of Whyt’hallen to take up the hunt against the mutated remnants of a magical war that killed the gods and tore the sky asunder. But these vicious beasts are not the darkest shadow hanging over Amika's life—it's the forbidden magic she’s hidden since childhood … and what would happen if it were discovered.
On the trail of a dangerous mark, Amika uncovers a madman who is more than what he seems. He claims her unnatural gifts are prophesied to restore the goddess to her throne, protecting Whyt’hallen from those who seek to rule in her stead. In return for her help, he offers her training—training that will allow her to control her powers before they control her. But following the prophecy means Amika must relinquish her hard-won liberty … and destroy the world in the process.
With a dark power rising in the east, threatening to enslave her people, Amika’s options grow ever slimmer. She must confront her unwillingness to walk the path of destiny’s design—or risk the rise of a malevolent new god.
But can she devastate Whyt’hallen in order to save it?
‘We’re going to get caught.’
Amika turned back to her brother. Kio had stopped, arms folded and a disapproving scowl on his face. Amika glanced around the deserted markets. The streets of Adria were so quiet at this late hour that not even the guards bothered to patrol here. She raised an eyebrow at her strangely cautious brother.
‘Since when are you the responsible one, Kio?’ Rei-Hai Shaw scoffed at the prince from his perch atop the wall.
‘I think it’s because I’m here,’ Moyna Berne offered, pushing past the royal siblings. Her braided hair swung like twin golden tails as she strode towards Rei. ‘But honestly, Kiokharen, stop being so boring.’
Rei took Moyna’s outstretched hand and helped her over the parapet, a wicked grin cutting his lips. ‘Well, then. How’s that saying go?’
‘“Happy wife, happy life”?’ Amika finished. The two of them burst out laughing and made kissing noises towards the prince and his betrothed.
‘We’re not married yet,’ Kio grunted, rolling his eyes. He followed after his sister, scrambling up the crates filled with old merchant wares. Rei helped them both down to the other side, where Moyna was already waiting in the long grass of the plains.
They were in their nightclothes with nothing but woollen cloaks to protect against the chill; there was never time to change when Rei clambered through their windows with the promise of mischief.
‘What are we doing?’ Kio asked as he was dragged along by the two girls. His breath plumed in the cold air.
‘Myrahn’s Flare,’ Rei said, powering across the plains with unwavering focus. ‘I read about it in Grandma Tah-Lin’s letters.’
The prince frowned. ‘I thought your father hid all your mother’s things.’
‘Not well enough,’ Rei shrugged. He turned towards the group and continued walking backward through the grass. ‘Every twenty years, on the last night of the Fifth Myrahn Moon, a comet passes over the southern skies. You can only see it here and in Kheshtarl.’
Amika looked up to the cloudless sky, at the waning crescent among the stars. Rei’s night-time adventures had never taken them outside the city walls before. Heartbeat thundering in her ears, the princess closed her eyes and drew the fresh air of the plains into her lungs. Its earthly scent stoked the flutter of excitement in her belly.
‘I bet we’d have a great view in Honnah,’ Moyna said. ‘Down on the delta flats. The sky is so clear there.’
‘It’s pretty clear here,’ Kio grumbled, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his night robe. ‘And cold.’
‘It’s beautiful,’ Amika said, twirling slowly as she watched the stars. Dizzy, she flopped back on the ground, arms and legs spread wide. Nestled in her cocoon of long grass, she could barely hear the mutter of her brother’s complaints, or Moyna’s gentle encouragement. It was just her and the stars, and it was perfect.
An hour passed. Kio grew restless, muttering to no one in particular while everyone else watched the heavens.
‘There it is!’ Rei shouted, pointing skyward. Amika bolted upright.
A blazing green orb tore across the sky, its luminous tail a dusty smear in its wake. Rei was beaming as he turned back towards the others.
‘We saw it!’ he said, smile tearing ear to ear. ‘That means we’re blessed.’
Kio scoffed and folded his arms. ‘That’s it? You brought us out here to receive the graces of some old god? Deities dead, Rei!’
‘Well, I feel privileged to have seen it,’ Moyna said. ‘Thank you, Rei-Hai.’
Rei dipped his head towards the Lady Berne and extended a less sincere bow to Kio. ‘Apologies, my prince. Next time I will plan something more—argh.’
He doubled over in pain, clutching the side of his head. Kio’s irritation morphed into concern and he rushed towards the little redhead’s side. Amika jumped to her feet. Her skin prickled as her hair stood to attention. The grass behind her rustled.
‘Amikharlia!’ Moyna shrieked.
Amika dove—just as a grunting beast lunged, jumping clear over her cowering form.
It quickly circled back. Half-obscured by the grasses, Amika could only make out the long, vicious tusks protruding from a wrinkled porcine snout. Mist billowed from the creature’s nostrils with every guttural snort. Its hooves gouged trenches in the soil as it sized her up. Amika swallowed.
‘Amika, get over here!’ Kio shouted, ushering Moyna and Rei safely behind him. But the beast was between Amika and her brother.
‘I—I …’ she whimpered, words failing as her mind froze in terror. Her whole body shook.
The beast began to charge.
The princess stretched out her hand in a feeble attempt to keep the advancing monster at bay. There was a flash and a burst, and they all hit the ground. Amika covered her head with her arms as hot black muck sprayed across the field.
Kio was the first to respond, cutting through the long grass with his arms as he raced towards his sister. Black ink splattered his face, his clothes. His blue eyes were wide, his skin pale. He pulled Amika up by her elbow and inspected her for injuries.
‘Are you alright?’ he asked, cupping her face.
Amika gave a staccato nod.
Kio pulled her close. ‘What in Miatha’s heavenly name just happened?’
From his tight embrace, Amika glanced at the flattened grass, at the globs of blood and entrails scattered around them. Her fingers twitched with a strange warmth. Ants danced under her skin.
‘I have no idea.’
About the Author
Jessica A. McMinn is a grimdark fantasy author based in regional Australia with a passion for dark fantasy, dark coffee and cats (which, let’s face it, are all dark inside).
Since graduating from the University of Wollongong with Distinction in BCA (Creative Writing) and BA (Japanese), Jessica spent five years in Japan teaching English while refining her writing craft.
She now works as a freelance writer and offers editing and coaching services to authors. When she is not writing (which is more often than you’d think), Jessica can be found raising her two beautiful children or immersed in an audiobook while drawing, crafting or playing video games.
Her debut novel, The Ruptured Sky, is the first installment in the gritty dark fantasy quartet, Gardens of War & Wasteland, and is perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Anna Stephens and R F
Two prequel novellas are currently available for free on her website, jessicaamcminn.com
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