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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: I Walk Alone by Wren Handman





As the Phantasmer, Sylvia brought order to the Fairy courts. Now if only she could do the same to her own life...


It’s been three months since Sylvia used her powers to rewrite the ruling structure of Fairy, dismantling the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Recovered from her injuries, she’s back at school and struggling to balance her “real” life against the much more immediate (and exciting) world that magic has to offer. Not to mention the distraction of her utterly hot and completely fish-out-of-water boyfriend.


But in Fairy, there are rumblings that an ancient prophecy is about to come to pass. “Beware the coming of the one who should not have been, for he shall bring with him the end of days. Take back the mantle, or all will be lost.” Will Sylvia be able to uncover the truth behind the prophecy, learn how to use her ever-growing powers without risking her relationship, and convince her best friend Fiona that it’s not weird that her boyfriend is a thousand years old? It won’t be easy.


Follow Sylvia as we are led through Wren Handman's world of Fairy in I WALK ALONE—out Tuesday, June twenty-ninth. Pre-order your copy NOW!


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PROLOGUE


In the Abstract Land, there is a mountain that has remained untouched for over a thousand years. This mountain has a path, covered in a vine so richly green, it cannot be described, and the vine carries on it thorns so sharp, they cut the wind. Up the path there’s a cottage, built in a clearing where the guarding thorns have loosed their hold, and slim green saplings grow. The cottage is covered with spider webs which obscure the roof’s once-warm yellow trim. Flower boxes beneath the windows carry nothing but weeds.


Inside the cottage, an old woman hums a tune as she sweeps the floor’s crooked wooden planks. Her voice sounds like sandpaper and old cigarettes, and it catches at the back of her throat with a dry scrape. There are no words to the song, just a music that itches under the skin; or would, if there were anyone to hear.


The room is full of debris; strange odds and ends, forgotten marvels. A Norse helmet hangs on a hook from the door; a woolen cloak flutters despite the lack of a breeze; and in the corner of the room there sits a wooden chest. The chest is quite ordinary: square and simple, rather more like a box, with no decoration save an ornate keyhole in the front. And from the keyhole, golden sunlight spills.


“It will be so nice to have company,” the old grandmother murmurs, interrupting her own song. “It would be a shame to be all alone for the end of the world.”



 

CHAPTER ONE


The afternoon sun slants across the tips of the forest, and I lie in a pool of its warmth. There are a few perfect cotton clouds floating across a clear navy sky, but the sun is doing a fine job of illuminating the little river we’re lying beside and the weeping willow at our backs. My head is pillowed comfortably on Stranger’s lap, and he’s idly playing his flute, a little running melody that echoes the sound of the water. Closer to us, in the trees, tiny fireflies dart from pocket of shadow to pocket of shadow. I concentrate, reaching out a hand, and think blue thoughts. Shimmering blue, ocean blue, sky blue. I stare into the sky above us, sinking my thoughts into its dark, comfortable depths, and then I turn my eyes on the fireflies again and whisper, “Blue.”


Nothing happens.


I swear and lob the apple I was munching on at the little bugs. I think I hit a couple of them, but it’s hard to tell if I do any damage. Under my head, there’s a shiver as Stranger tries and fails to hold back a chuckle.


“Shut up,” I say.


He leans over me with a grin, slipping the flute back into his pocket. “Shut me up,” he suggests, and I oblige him with a long, searing kiss. But as soon as our lips part, my mind is back on the task at hand. “It shouldn’t be this hard!”


He just chuckles again, leaning back. Seeing a creature of darkness and shadow lounging in the sunlight will never stop being odd. He seems made for night, for a clandestine rendezvous or the soft glow of firelight. Here in this patch of warm, early autumn, his darkness makes him stand out instead of blend in.


“Your powers come from—” he starts, and I groan and tug my hair with both hands, interrupting him.


“Please don’t. I know how they work.” As a Phantasmer, I have the ability to mess with the natural order of the fairy world, but I have to already believe in the thing I’m changing. Or so everyone keeps telling me. But how do they really know? It’s been eons since a Phantasmer survived long enough to use their powers; which is a pretty dark thought. Not so long ago, a lot of people wanted me dead too. It’s hard not to let that linger.


“You know how they work,” Stranger echoes. “And yet here you are, trying to turn the fireflies blue.”


“There’s more to these powers than we understand,” I insist. “Besides—if I believe my powers work a certain way, and my powers work on belief, doesn’t that mean that I can literally do anything with my powers if I believe I can?”


“I, uh—” Stranger considers that, sliding a pair of sunglasses off his head and over his eyes as he tilts his head back to let the sun fall more squarely on his face. “I want to say no, but I don’t know why. It just feels like wishing for the genie to give you more wishes.”


“Should just wish to be a free genie,” I say.


“Do free genies still have powers?”


“The one in Aladdin does.”


“The one in the children’s movie version of Aladdin does,” Stranger corrects. “Excuse me if I haven’t been alive for five thousand years and so have had time to read every single book in the world,” I tease, and he responds by tickling me. I try to fight him off and we roll around, laughing, as the stubbornly yellow fireflies dance around our heads. Winded, he finally lets me pin him, and we kiss again.


I retrieve his sunglasses, which have fallen off, and put them on. “We should probably get g