Here is an exclusive excerpt from Sarah J Maas’ new book ‘House of Sky and Breath’, published courtesy of Bloomsbury India:
For a Tuesday night at Crescent City Ballet, the theater was unusually crowded. The sight of the teeming masses in the lobby, drinking, chatting and mingling, filled Bryce Quinlan with a kind of quiet joy and pride. There was only one reason the theater was so packed tonight. With her Fae hearing, she could have sworn she heard the hundreds of voices all around her whispering, Juniper Andromeda. The star of tonight’s performance.
Yet even with the crowds, an air of quiet reverence and serenity filled the space. As if it were a temple.
Bryce had the chilling sensation that the various ancient statues of the gods flanking the long hall stared at her. Or maybe it was the older, well-dressed couple of shapeshifters standing by a reclining statue of Cthona, the earth goddess, naked and awaiting the embrace of her lover, Solas. The shifters – big cat-like, judging by their scents, and the wealthy, judging by their watches and jewelry – eyed her blatantly.
Bryce gave them a bland, wrinkled smile.
Some variation of this had occurred almost every day since the attack last spring. The first few times had been overwhelming, unnerving – people approached her and sobbed with gratitude. Now they were just watching.
Bryce didn’t blame people who wanted to talk to him, who needed to talk to him. The city had been healed – by her – but its people…
Dozens of people were dead by the time his first light flashed across Lunathion. Hunt had been lucky, had taken his last breath, when the first light saved him. Five thousand other people weren’t so lucky.
Their families had not been so lucky.
So many dark ships had drifted across Istros into the mists of the Bone District that they had looked like a flock of black swans. Hunt had carried it to the skies to see him. The docks along the river had swarmed with people, their cries of mourning rising to the low clouds where she and Hunt had slipped.
Hunt had only hugged her tighter and led them home.
“Take a picture,” Ember Quinlan shouted at the controls from where she stood next to a marble torso of Ogenas rising from the waves, her full ocean goddess breasts pointing and her arms raised. “Only ten marcs d’or.” Fifteen, if you want to be one of them.
“Damn it, mom,” Bryce muttered. Ember stood with her hands on her hips looking stunning in a silky gray dress and pashmina. “Please don’t. »
Ember opened her mouth, as if to say something else to the reprimanded shifters who were now hurrying up the east staircase, but her husband cut her off. “I second Bryce’s request,” Randall said, rushing forward in his navy blue suit.
Ember glared outraged at Bryce’s stepfather – his only father, as far as Bryce was concerned – but Randall nonchalantly gestured at a large frieze behind them. “That one reminds me of Athalar.”
Bryce raised an eyebrow, grateful for the change of subject, and turned to where he had been pointing. Above, a mighty Fae male stood above an anvil, hammer raised skyward in a fist, lightning cracking from the sky, filling the hammer and flowing towards the object of the hammer’s intended blow: a sword.
Its label simply said: Unknown sculptor. Palmira, around 125 VE
Bryce lifted his cell phone and took a photo, pulling his messaging thread with Hunt Athalar Is Better at Sunball Than I Am.
She couldn’t deny it. They had gone to the local sun bowling green on a sunny afternoon last week to play, and Hunt had quickly mopped the floor with her. He had changed his name in his phone on the way home.
With a few swipes, the image flew into the ether, along with its note: Are you a long-lost relative?
She slipped her phone into its pocket to find her mother watching. “What?” Bryce whispered.
But Ember only gestured toward the frieze. “Who does he represent? »
Bryce checked the writing line in the lower right corner. “It just says The Making of the Sword.”
Her mother looked at the half-faded etching. “In what language?”
Bryce tried to keep his posture relaxed. “The ancient language of the fae.”
“Oh.” Ember pursed her lips, and Randall wisely walked away through the crowd to study a towering statue of Luna pointing her bow skyward, two hounds at her feet, and a deer rubbing her hip.
“Did you stay fluid? »
“Yes,” Bryce said. Then added, “It’s convenient.”
“I imagine so.” Ember brushed back a lock of her black hair.
Bryce walked over to the next frieze hanging from the distant ceiling on almost invisible wires. ” It is
of the first wars. She peered at the carved relief in the ten-foot expanse of marble. “It’s about…” She trained her expression to neutral.
“What?” Ember approached the depiction of an army of winged demons descending from the sky upon an earthly army gathered on the plain below.
“This one is about the armies of Hel arriving to conquer Midgard during the First Wars,” Bryce finished, trying to keep his voice bland. To block out the shard of talons and fangs and tough wings – the shot of his rifle echoing through his bones, the rivers of blood in the streets, the screams and screams and – “You’d think this one would be a popular piece these days,” observed Randall, returning to their side to study the frieze.
Bryce did not respond. She didn’t particularly like discussing the events of the past spring with her parents. Especially not in the middle of a crowded theater hall.