BEASTS OF THE WALKING CITY
By Del Law
Average 4.3 STARS
Worlds collide in this roller-coaster ride of a novel that will appeal to fans of Naomi Novak, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R.R. Martin!
Blackwell is a haunted, bourbon-loving Beast on a one-way trip to steal from one of his world's biggest gangster families--a family you just don't want to cross. But the theft is just the beginning, and Blackwell isn't prepared for everything that comes next. First, he's hunted by a cult who wants to wipe his race out for good. Then, he's a pawn stuck between powerful gangster families at each other's throats. Who can he trust--the guy he works for?
That'd be Al Capone--not the nicest of employers. The beautiful and seductive double-agent named Mircada who will steal his heart? A huge fire-belching family kingpin named Nadrune who wants him for her pet? The mysterious woman Kjat, who loves him--and who's filling up with crazy demons from another world? The crazed general who's after him for revenge? (Not him; that's pretty clear.)
Then there's the mystery of a legendary flower that once belonged to his race, a flower that might change the world--if only he can find it. Welcome to Beasts of the Walking City, a fast-paced, funny, sexy epic fantasy with steampunk cities that float and walk and fly, wild magic, exploding gangsters at each other's throats, pyrotechnic wizard battles, time travel, crazy new alien races, and the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.
It’s a memory. She knows it’s a memory, and then she forgets and she’s a girl again, living it in realtime, holding her mother’s sweaty hand tight as the big door swings open before them. It’s in a back alley somewhere, who knows where, but she remembers that door for the small red bird painted on it, low down, almost at her eye level.
Inside, the hall is filled with fragrant smoke. A man dressed in red leads them into a courtyard where there are more people in red—red cloaks, red hoods. She sees a fire in the center of the courtyard that’s making all the strange blue smoke, and that the people are in a loose circle around it, talking, but what she really notices is how nervous her mother is. She can feel her hand shaking, and that makes Kjat nervous, too. Her mother was the one who comforted her after the dreams—what could she possibly be scared of?
The man from the door has them wait. The people in the red circle are talking in a rhythmic kind of way, one of them chanting and the rest repeating. It goes on for awhile, and Kjat is tired and she has to pee. The smoke is making her nose itch. It’s very late, past the time when she’d normally be in bed, lying awake and staring at the ceiling and not wanting to sleep.
She starts to whine, but her mother jerks hard on her arm and hisses for her to be quiet, and Kjat is so shocked at this—her mother is usually so indulgent—that she quiets down and tries to watch.
The chanting goes on. They pass around glasses of wine and sip from them. Finally, the man from the door gestures them forward into the circle of people. (Twelve of them, she’ll learn later. Always twelve.) Her mother draws her forward. The circle opens, and they walk up to the man in the red hood who was chanting. Kjat thinks he looks weird with that red, pointed hood over his head. She tries to see him through the holes cut for the eyes, but all she can see are his dark eyes. They don’t look like nice eyes to her.
“The girl will show her gifts,” says the man loudly. He looks at her mother, who looks down at Kjat nervously. The man looks at her too, then. Kjat’s not sure what they want.
“Show them the bubbles, Kjati,” her mother hisses.
Kjat looks at the man, and then back at her mother. She shakes her head.
The man sighs from underneath his hood, and motions to someone else in the circle. One of the red robed figures comes over and takes off its hood, and there’s a woman inside, a pretty woman with long golden hair and violet eyes like Kjat's. She kneels down next to her.
“Hello, Kjatyrhna,” she says in that happy-happy voice some people without children use with them. “What a beautiful girl you are, just like your name. Did you know your name means Beauty? Clearly your name suits you!”
The woman holds out her hand, then. “Kjatyrhna, I can do something special. Can I show it to you?” Kjat nods. The woman closes her eyes, lets out her breath, and in her hand appears a tiny bubble. It’s small, no more than an inch across, and it rests there on her hand. Inside of it is some black stuff that’s all swirly, like smoke.
“I can make bubbles, Kjatyrhna. Your mohma says that you can make bubbles too. Can you?"
Kjat nods, nervously.
“Can you show me?”
Kjat nods, let’s go of her mother and holds both of her hands out, palms up. She closes her eyes and reaches.
Suddenly there’s a bubble there, floating above her hands, but it’s a much larger one than the woman made, larger than Kjat’s head even.
It floats there for a minute. It’s filled with black things, too.
Kjat looks up at the woman’s face for approval, and the woman’s still smiling, but the smile looks kind of stretched, and her eyes have gone not-nice, like the man in the hood. There’s a gasp from somewhere in the circle behind her, and Kjat pulls her hands back, shy again. The bubble drops to the ground and bursts into a pile of sharp black feathers.
There are gasps from the circle. “Blackfeathers,” someone exclaims. “They’re blackfeathers!” Someone else steps up and takes the feathers, and passes them around the circle one to a person.
They’re sharp, Kjat wants to tell them. She cut herself on one once. But she keeps quiet, not sure if she should say anything.
The woman looks at the hooded man, and then back to Kjat. “That is wonderful, beautiful Kjatyrhna!” says the woman after a minute, but Kjat can tell that she doesn’t mean it. She sounds like Marta saying she likes Kjat’s dress when Marta’s dress isn’t as pretty and her mohma doesn’t have the money to buy her a nicer one.
But the woman leans closer to Kjat, and says more quietly, “I have dreams sometime, too, Kjatyrhna. Do you have dreams?”
Kjat nods silently, and bites her lower lip.
“I dream about swimming at the ocean, and playing in the sand. Is that what you dream about, Kjatyrhna?”
Kjat shakes her head.
“What are your dreams, sweetie?” says the woman from between clenched teeth.
Kjat can tell the woman is getting angry, and she’s not sure what she said wrong. She looks up at her mother, who has tears on her face.
Her mother gestures with her chin. “Tell them, Kjati.”
“Birds,” Kjat whispers. “Birds at the door.”
Another murmur runs through the mages. The woman jerks to her feet, spins and looks at the man in the hood. “She’s been coached,” she hisses, looking accusingly at Kjat’s mother like she’d love to slap her.
But her mother says nothing. More tears roll down her face.
Her mother looks beautiful in the firelight, Kjat realizes. Beautiful and sad and immortal.
“Not necessarily, Meghna.” The figure to the right of the man steps forward and takes off his hood. Underneath it he’s a Stona, a bird-man. He kneels down next to Kjat. He has a brown beak and light brown feathers that are speckled with white and gold. His eyes are big and soft. “Are they nice birds, Kjati? Nice birds like me?”
A tear streaks down Kjat’s face, too. She wants to hide herself in her mother’s sparkly skirts, but doesn’t want the man to think she’s a baby anymore. She shakes her head. “Not nice,” she says. Her voice echoes a little in the courtyard, since all the people in the circle have gone quiet.
“What are they like, Kjati?”
She looks at all of the hooded figures around her. They’re all bent forward, waiting for her to answer.
“Hungry,” she whispers. “Very, very hungry.”
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