Wow… what a ride! It’s been a little while since I read a fantasy that I enjoyed this much. (Eagerly awaiting the final book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, AND the next book in Songs of Radiance).

Fair warning, this story is dark–really dark–so if you’re easily disturbed, it might be best to stay away. But, if getting a bit of a glimpse at the darkside doesn’t worry you, then I highly recommend you check this series out.

There are three books (all published!!), that follow the life of a young man as he goes after his dreams (nightmares?). The main character–Jorg–is memorable, if not entirely likeable. He knows what he wants and he goes after it, full-throttle, so you can’t help but respect him.

I also really enjoyed the setting. At first, it seems like a normal medieval fantasy, but there are hints that not everything is as it seems (don’t want to spoil anything for you).

New takes on magic, a new kind of hero and characters that had me glued to the page, I’m giving this whole series 5 out of 5.

My only gripe (and you have to try to come up with something, don’t you?) was the ending. It was strong, it was different, but perhaps not what I was hoping for. That might just be me though. What about you? Have you read it? Did you like it? Favorite part?

If you haven’t read it, and would like to check it out, it’s available from most good retailers:

Amazon (Affiliate Link)



And of course, if you like this sort of fantasy, then you might want to check out my very own Blood Mage Chronicles:

Are you looking for free books?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

For quite a while now you’ve been able to get The UnConnected for free from this site (if you haven’t taken advantage of that offer yet, go here).

But now, to celebrate the release of my new fantasy series, I’m also giving away a fantasy novella: The Waters.

Don’t Cry. Don’t Spill a Drop

Valda Farkost risks her life every day to cross the Waters and bring supplies to her people.

The Drubs are slaves, forced to live and work in the middle of the Waters by the Aeonis, but they have hope. If they save enough, they can buy freedom, or at least that’s what they’ve been told.

The Waters Come For Everyone.

When Valda is refused freedom she must fight back and free the Drubs, but the Waters are hungry, and they don’t take sides.

Get your copy now:

“What new fantasy series?” I hear some of you cry.

This is The Blood Mage Chronicles. I am very excited about this release, and I hope you are too. It starts with Book 1: Shadow of a Slave, but you can get all three in a box-set and save yourself a lot of money.

Check it out here.

This is what one early reader had to say:

This is one of the best books I have read in some time. The end had me hook line and sinker. Cant wait to read the next one.Amazon Reviewer (Gary)

The Blood Mage Chronicles

In the Known Kingdoms, Twins are killed at birth. Blood Mage Chronicles

Twins harness energy in an unpredictable and dangerous way.

Twins almost destroyed the world.

Ash and Rae have always claimed that he is a year older to hide themselves from the ruthless Faceless Monks. An order who’s apparent benevolent mission to keep the world safe, is a mask for nefarious intentions.

Energy can’t be created or destroyed… but it can be harnessed…

When Ash and Rae’s secret is discovered, Rae is taken by the monks. Ash must learn to harness his natural ability to manipulate the energy of his world to save her.

Two rules must always be observed. Two rules everyone knows.

Do not use energy from the living.

Do not reanimate the dead.

Ash will do anything to get Rae back…even breaking their sacred laws.

Get the Blood Mage Chronicles here.

What were they thinking?

*Spoilers ahead*


Anyone who has heard my interviews or seen me talk about Doctor Who before probably already knows that I’ve been less than impressed with Capaldi’s episodes. It’s not Capaldi’s fault so much as the terrible writing.

Now to be fair, this season and the one before were better than his first season, so I had high hopes for this finale – my mistake.

Part 1 was brilliant, incorporating the concept of time distortion caused by a black-hole on a huge ship is just fantastic (I wish I’d thought of it), and knowing that so much time was going by for Bill while the Doctor was talking was nail biting. I loved it! At the end of part 1 when the Master is revealed I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t wait for part 2.

What a let down.

I’ll start with the positives. The interplay between Missy and the Master was great. Bill’s inability to accept her Cyberman form was brilliant. Capaldi’s speech and Nardol were all fantastic.


The plot.

What plot?

As I said, part 1 had great promise. You’ve got two versions of the Master, you’ve got Cybermen attacking AND with the time difference, they’ve got years to evolve and plan before they attack the primitive solar farm filled with children, plus Bill is trapped as a Cyberman-how’s the doctor going to fix this one?

In my opinion, none of it was handled well.

Firstly, the doctor just explodes a level of the ship, kills some of the Cyberman (at the cost of his own life), but really he hasn’t solved the problem. They’re still on the ship and they still have the time differential, he’s only delayed the problem. So point one, the big bad Cybermen are still a threat.

Secondly, Bill is miraculously saved by Heather, the water girl from episode 1. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one who saw that section and just said WTF. I’m sorry, but I did not get the impression from that first episode that she was some kind of magical cosmic being who can control the existence of atoms. But suddenly she can recreate Bill in her human form, teleport them all to the TARDIS, and then go with Bill on some kind of star-travelling romp? Not to mention this hasn’t been foreshadowed AT ALL. Okay, fine, Bill had some tears in her eyes at the end of the first episode, but that does not warrant some kind of deus ex machina in the final episode. Do you know why season one’s deus ex was okay? Because throughout the entirety of Eccleston’s season there was mention of Bad Wolf, it was everywhere. Or, what about Saxon in Tennant’s episodes? Or Rose reappearing? Those things were all foreshadowed throughout the entire season and so when they came up in the finales it made absolute sense. Please correct me if I missed it, but Heather’s sudden appearance here felt like the biggest cop-out in screen-writing history.

Then Bill just leaves with her? Leaves the Doctor lying dead on the floor of his TARDIS and wanders off into the universe? They don’t even go to check on Nardol and the children from the solar farm. Considering how much I’ve enjoyed Bill’s character this was an extremely disappointing exit.

Then we have the Missy/Master issue. Doctor Who, as with most shows of this type, usually have an overarching plot line that goes for the whole season, then smaller arcs for each episode. For this season the overarching plot was the vault. Then it’s revealed that Missy is inside (twist!) and the season then becomes about her redemption. Brilliant, wonderful. Then in this final episode… Missy has pretty much no role at all. Go on, imagine the episode if Missy wasn’t there. NOTHING WOULD CHANGE. Her character evolution didn’t make a spec of difference to the plot. Sure, her final scene with the Master, and the juxtaposition of their two characters was fine and really, stabbing/shooting each other in the back is a perfect end for this character but it should have MEANT something. Missy was the main plot arc of this series and she meant nothing to its finale. How disappointing.

After being so excited after part 1, I am thoroughly and completely let down by part 2 and I can’t even bring myself to get excited for the Christmas episode-I can only hope that it’s not as bad.

I don’t think I’m alone in looking forward to a new era next year, with hopefully a new show-runner and writing that can actually adhere to the basics of plot, like foreshadowing and character development. Fingers crossed, I’m a big Doctor Who fan, and I’d hate to have to let it go.

I’d love to hear what everyone else thought – hit me up in the comments below.

[Writing Update – I am nearly finished Book 2 in Aart’s series, so make sure you’re signed up to the newsletter for the release note!]

About Saffron Bryant: Saffron is a scientist and a science fiction and fantasy author. Find her books here.


This last week I discovered a genre that I didn’t even know existed: LitRPG and I’ve pretty much had my nose buried in books ever since.

It’s a hard premise to explain, and I think people would either be super into it, or they’d be like ‘why on Earth would someone read that?’ … bare with me: LitRPG is about characters in RPG-like games. They’re fiction stories (usually fantasy, but the possibilities are endless) where instead of just describing what happens, there’s mention of leveling, skills and health points.

At this point you probably have one of two thoughts A) oh yeah! Like an MMORPG, only written down. (keep reading). or B) What is an RPG? (This genre probably isn’t for you… but feel free to keep reading anyway).

I’ve read quite a few books in this genre over the past week, some good, some less good. Most of them have some kind of framing story e.g. why the character is playing the game in the first place (usually related to super-intelligent AI technology), whilst the bulk of the story is in-game, following the character as they complete quests and gain levels and defeat the ultimate bosses.

To help you discover this genre for yourself, here’s my thoughts on the ones I’ve read so far:

Viridian Gate Online     4/5 Stars

This one has a fantastic premise and framing story and was extremely well edited. I would recommend you DON’T read the summary at the start, it spoils a lot of the surprises and twists.

The game mechanics etc were pretty good. Perhaps a little contrived and convenient but well laid out and fun to read.

Realm of the Nine Circles    4/5 Stars

This was the first LitRPG book I read and I’m glad it was because it was good fun.

The framing story was fun and original and made the stakes in-game much more real and meaningful.

It could do with a proof-read though, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t read it.

Awaken Online    4.5/5 Stars

I’m only about 50% of the way through this one so far but I’m pretty confident in giving it a review.

It’s extremely well edited, with pretty much no typos or errors and a reasonably good layout for the character statistics etc.

The framing story is good, although perhaps too much focus is put on it for my liking (saying that, some people would enjoy that aspect of it!)

I’m really enjoying the personalised game mechanics and how the character’s personality influences the in-game play. This is my favourite in terms of skills and game mechanics etc.

Soulstone: Awakening    2.5/5 Stars

Tread cautiously with this one. It has a good premise and the skills etc are pretty good. but it had a lot of problems.

It needs a MAJOR edit. There were so many typos and mistakes that it distracted me (and I usually don’t even notice those kinds of things). Unfortunately the poor editing took away from what could have been a good story and if it had been the first LitRPG book I’d picked up… well I probably would have been turned off the genre.

In addition there was a LOT of unnecessary swearing. I’m not a prude, I don’t care about swearing in books, but at the start it was just too much and took away from the dialogue.

I also found this one had a bit of a sexist overtone. I’ll admit it seems to be a common thread in this genre, like in the games, the female armour isn’t quite as practical as the male versions (as anyone who plays MMORPGs will know), and most of the books seem to have a host of male characters and one female – a classic trope in books and movies trying not to be sexist by having a ‘token’ female character. I can let it skate most of the time but it was worse in this book – the language and jokes and behavior just turned me off.

Finally, I found the motives and behaviours of the characters inconsistent, moods jumping all over the place, unrealistic or disproportionate responses.

It’s a shame, I don’t like giving bad reviews but this one just didn’t make the cut for me. Perhaps if it went through a solid edit the problems would be fixed and the underlying story could shine. As it is, I would NOT recommend this as your first foray into LitRPG.

What’s next?

There are several more LitRPGs I want to try, like The Land Founding by Aleron Kong (how gorgeous is that cover!). But in addition I definitely want to try my hand at writing this genre. Being the super-nerd that I am, I already write RPG adventures for playing DnD as dungeon master, so it’s only a small hop to turn that into a novel.

Do you read LitRPG? Would you give it a go or are you on the side of the fence that says ‘why would you read that!’?

If you want to be notified when I release it, make sure you sign up the Bounty Hunter mailing list to the right.

UPDATE: I have released a GameLit book with fellow author Mikey Campling. You can get it on Amazon now:

Prison Quest

The Man in the High CastleI really should be more consistent with my reviews…
Anyway, today I’m reviewing a book which is very popular at the moment; The Man in the High Castle. It’s set in America in the 1960’s, but in an alternate world where the Nazi’s and Japan won the World War.

Not only is it a fantastic premise but it’s carried off beautifully with characters from all sides of the conflict. It brings up some hugely insightful questions about how things might have gone differently. But more than that, I think given the world’s current political climate it’s a good way of examining how perspectives and beliefs have evolved.

In terms of typos etc. the book was pretty much spotless, so nothing to critique there. I think my only concern was with the ‘reveal’ at the end. I felt it was too… fuzzy? (I’m not sure what word to use for it, if you have a suggestion, please feel free to comment below)… especially given how hard-lined and practical I found the rest of the book.

Other than that, it was beautiful.

I read it close on the heels of 1984 (which I see is rapidly climbing the charts – no big surprise given how the world is right now). While this was a fun story, and I loved the ‘what ifs’ raised, I don’t think it quite has the same depth that 1984 carries. If you haven’t read 1984, please do, even if it’s just so you can laugh (and cry at the same time) over how closely ‘alternative truths’ resemble ‘doublethink’.

But that’s enough politics! Overall, I’d give The Man in the High Castle 4.5/5 stars and strongly recommend it.

Have you read it, what did you think?


NovaChronicles_3DHopefully by this time next week Hero will be here… I’m overjoyed and sad at the same time by that. I’ve been writing Nova for a few years now and I’ve really become attached! But as I’ve said previously, it’s time to move on. So, to celebrate the end of the Nova Chronicles, I thought I’d answer some frequently asked questions about the series (and writing). If you  have any more questions, just let me know in the comments and I’ll reply!


Is this really the end of Nova’s story?

I won’t give any spoilers… but suffice to say there is room for Nova’s adventures to continue. Yes, I’ve left it open so that if I want to come back to Nova in the future, I can. However, ten books is quite a lot for a series and I think at some point Nova has to go on her own way.

Having said that, the universe of The Nova Chronicles is massive. Those of you who have read The UnConnected know there’s a lot more going on than was covered in Nova’s books. So, it’s possible that in the future you may see “The Tanguin Chronicles” or “The Aart Chronicles”…. or maybe a series about the first outbreak of HAV. (If any of these especially appeal to you, tell me in the comments! – I won’t know if you don’t tell me!)

But for the moment… yes, Nova’s story has come to an end.


What will you work on next?

I mentioned a little while back that I was working on a fantasy series. Well I’m pleased to say that that’s now more than 50,000 words long and still going full steam ahead. Keep an eye on the Bounty Hunter Bulletin for the release of that towards the end of the year.

I also have a couple of sci-fi stand-alones in the works which should be out before too long.


Why don’t Nova and Aart ever get together?

I made a solemn vow when I started this series that I would not contaminate my sci-fi adventure with romance… and I’ve held to that for 10 books. I’m afraid that romance elements never appealed to me, and they always seem to get in the way of the sci-fi/fantasy that I read. So, no… no romance. Besides, Aart and Nova were always more like brother and sister to me (feel free to disagree in the comments section :p ).


How did you first come up with the idea for Nova?

I took three things I enjoy and my brain mushed them together:

Dr Who + Firefly + Tomb Raider = The Nova Chronicles


Are their hidden ‘Easter Eggs’ in The Nova Chronicles?

Yes. Some of them I think only I will get, but they made me laugh at the time, others hopefully the perceptive reader will find. Some are quiet references to other books that I’ve enjoyed, and some of them reference previous events in the series, or my other books.


But what are they!?

Okay, okay, I’ll give you a hint to one of them… Did anyone find the bird skull in Stranger hauntingly familiar? Nova does have a weird connection with time after all…


Why doesn’t Nova use her powers more?

A tough question. But I think it boils down to this;

1) It’s incredibly dangerous. She genuinely could fall through time/space, never to be seen again. So after the events of Survivor she did everything she could to lock that part of herself away. Sure it sneaks out every now and then, but mostly she’s got it under control.

2) Nova’s encounter with the Ancients really scared her (I know it’s hard to tell because she’s so tough, but it did), so she avoids everything to do with it – as evidenced by her never telling any of her friends about her experience on Archalon.

3) How could the bad guys possibly win if Nova was as awesome as she is AND had super powers??!! (just kidding, but still…)


I want to see more of Cal!

I hear from so many people saying that Cal is their favourite character. I didn’t expect it when I first wrote him, but the more I’ve gotten to know him, the more I like him too. He’s so fun to write, it’s like writing a character who says exactly what everyone is thinking, but is too polite to say. And yet, you can’t hate him for it because he’s a robot!

Unfortunately Cal’s history before he met Nova is very dull, so he probably won’t have an origin story. After all… it was the crash landing on Tabryn that shook a few wires loose and gave him his special personality that we all know and love 😉


I have more questions…

Just write them in the comments section and I’ll answer ASAP!

Thank you all for being such wonderful readers, I hope you enjoy the last instalment of The Nova Chronicles!


Hey Readers!

Exciting news – Hero is in the final round of editing so it won’t be long until it’s released. Make sure you’re signed up to The Bounty Hunter Bulletin so you get an email as soon as it comes out! –>

I’m also working on a new fantasy series which I’m really enjoying (and hopefully you will too when it eventually comes out!)

TresspassOther than that, there’s nothing exciting going on in my world right now so I thought I’d share a book review with you. I recently had the opportunity to read a fantastic book from Mikey Campling; Trespass.

This is a thrilling read which, especially at the beginning, very much had the feeling of a Stephen King novel. There are three main time lines, although most of the focus is on a modern day boy who finds himself injured and stuck inside an abandoned quarry. The story focuses on the Darkeningstone; a mysterious slab of black stone that definitely has an air of the supernatural about it. I loved the way the stone was portrayed, it took on a life of its own and I could almost feel it coming through the pages.

I liked how the three timelines wove through each other and interconnected, it had me turning the pages to find out what happened next. Trespass is just the first in the series and I’ll be looking forward to picking up the next book and following the rest of the mystery of the Darkeningstone.

Buy it Now:



As you all know, the Nova series will soon be coming to an end (at least temporarily) – it’ll be sad to say goodbye, but it does mean we can all look forward to some new and exciting things.

Aside from a couple of Sci-Fi stand-alones, I’m also in the process of outlining an epic fantasy series. I want this to be big. I want this to be, Game of Thrones, Name of the Wind, get people hooked – epic. But I have to admit, that’s a pretty daunting goal and it’s slowed me down a lot by thinking in those sort of terms. It’s hard (even after so many Nova books) to get the pressure out of my head and just write. So I’ll admit to suffering a bit of World-Builder’s disease on this one. I’ve drawn a map, I’ve answered hundreds of world-building questions, I’ve done monologues for my characters… and finally I’ve done an outline. But I think I’ll edit the outline before I actually write the book. It’s a pretty long process, and I know I should just write, but sometimes I think it pays to take your time, and I want this one to be memorable.

Some of you may not know that the first books I released were actually fantasy. Three epic fantasies about a race of people who were paired at birth with a dragon companion. Lots of people liked those books but I decided this year to unpublish them. The reason being that I’ve grown a lot as an author since I first wrote those and I know I can do better. Maybe I’ll go back and edit and re-release those at some point, but for now I’m happy to move on to bigger and better things, which brings us to this current project. It doesn’t even have a title yet, so I’ll just be referring to it as ‘Fantasy Project’, but I’ll be keeping you guys updated on how it’s progressing, and I promise to actually start writing it soon, like in the next week or so. I’ll also reveal sneak peak details about the project so make sure you keep checking back for new posts!

In the meantime, what are some amazing, epic, unforgettable books that you’ve read recently?

New this Week – Not much I’m afraid! Hero is still in the process of being edited so I’m afraid we all still have to wait for that. You all should have recieved a copy of The UnConnected by now, I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment. Other than that I’ve been working on my PhD and doing a bit of reading, which leads to the main topic of this post, a book review! I figured I spend all this time reading, I may as well tell you guys about it.

So today I will be reviewing The Riftwar Saga (actually 3 books).

Magician_CoverI read this series when I was much younger and I absolutely loved it. Whilst my experience reading them this time was a little different I still very much enjoyed it. They’re classic adventure/quest fantasy with some fantastic characters that you can’t help loving. I was sad that Pug grew up so fast over the series, but that may just be an internal reflection on myself!

There is magic and wyverns and dwarves and elves. There are pirates and adventure and spirit-infused armour. Basically everything you could hope to find in a fantasy series. One of the best things is that there are many more series after this one, all based in the same world and staring some of the same characters. I’m realling looking forward to re-reading all of them, although it may take a while. The first book, Magician, is an absolute door-stopper, so be prepared for that (ebooks can be deceptive, because you can’t see just how big that books is!).

There’s great continuity between the books and yet each of them individually is a complete package. If you enjoy classic fantasy then this is a must read. For me it’s right up there with Tolkein as a founding piece in the fantasy genre.

My only complaint comes from a vague feeling of immaturity. Maybe it’s just because I first read the books when I was so young and so going back now they can’t hold the same wonder, or maybe it’s because they’re classics in the genre and therefore lack some of the modern twists I’ve come to enjoy. It was only a very vague impression that it was more like a fairy tale, and that nothing bad was really going to happen. It certainly didn’t have the constant fear of Game of Thrones that your favourite character was going to die at any moment, although let’s be honest – sometimes that’s a good thing!

However, that was only the mildest of vague feelings and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the series. I will be diving into the next books with full force 🙂

If you’d like to check out what all the fuss is about, you can pick up the first book, Magician, here:


Have you read The Riftwar Saga? What did you think?


Happy Wednesday everyone 🙂

SkinDeepAs you all probably know, Stranger came out on Saturday. People seem to be snapping it up – thank you, I hope you all enjoy it!

I’ve mostly been focusing on that, so with nothing else to report, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peak of my other science fiction book (apart from The Nova Chronicles- I know! Sacrilege!)

Skin Deep is reminiscent of the Nova books, but with a bit more humour thrown in. Enjoy!

You can get Skin Deep from Amazon:


Skin Deep

Ravyn glanced over both shoulders before snatching the poster and tearing it down, leaving behind two tattered corners. She shoved the ripped paper into the closest bin and whirled away.

“If someone sees you doing that you’ll get thirty lashes at least,” a man said, stepping out of the shadows. His bent nose made a nice contrast to his otherwise sharp face.

Ravyn snorted. “I don’t think anyone down here will dob on me, Gerry.”

The man chuckled and fell into step beside her. “You never know who’s watching.”

Smooth cement paved the thin road beneath their feet, boarded on either side by crooked buildings. Cracked bricks and cement reached up into the air, dotted with dark windows. Roller doors at street level lifted to reveal colourful stores.

To their left, a big man gestured to his counter where a line of skewers threaded with chunks of rat roasted over open coals, letting off a meaty aroma. Opposite him a woman with narrow eyes held up a tray of dull rings and bracelets.

A circular tattoo marked each of their left temples, branding them Undesirable.

They glanced at Ravyn’s unmarked temple and looked away, eyes locked on their feet. Even so, she could feel their attention on her, like a prickle at the back of her neck.

Gerry nodded to them and they seemed to relax at seeing his tattoo. “You should be careful coming down here, you do stand out.”

Ravyn’s jaw clenched. “Enough people know me that I’m not in any danger.”

“Maybe not, but I’m sure you make people uncomfortable.”

Ravyn hoisted her satchel-bag higher on her shoulder. “I’ve lived in the Undesirable District for as long as I can remember. It’s my home as much as theirs.”

Gerry’s gaze dropped to the road and he stayed silent for a moment. “Where are you headed today?”

Ravyn let her shoulders relax. “I’ve got to go up to the Desirable District to drop off a job. Trust me; I’m not looking forward to it.”

“I’m surprised you managed to get a job from there at all.”

Ravyn shrugged. “What can I say? I’m the best mechanic in the area and they’re willing to overlook my choice of suburb when they need something fixed.”

“Lucky you.”

“Lucky for them that I need the money.”

The narrow street led up a slight incline. In the distance, over the tops of the buildings, gleamed the sweeping towers and smooth metal of the castle. Ravyn glanced at it, sneered, and returned her eyes to the street.

Further on, the buildings became less cracked and the road widened. A painted red line cut across the street halfway up the hill, it glimmered in the sun like fresh blood.

“This is me, I don’t have my mask today,” said Gerry, stopping on the lower side of the line.

Ravyn glared down at the line before turning a softer gaze to Gerry. “I’ll see you later.”

“Stay out of trouble.” Gerry grinned and turned away, sauntering back down the street.

Ravyn sighed and kept climbing. On this side of the line people scurried between the buildings with dark face masks. Their eyes glimmered behind the plastic even as they turned away from Ravyn to stare at the road.

Those without masks, the Desirables, strode through the streets with their heads held high, ignoring the masked figures. It was as if they strolled through a garden filled with statues, rather than a busy street filled with people. The masked Undesirables scampered out of their way, darting into the shadows.

Two men wearing dark suits rounded the far corner, laughing up at the sky. The bigger man jabbed his companion in the ribs and the smaller man jumped out of the way, chuckling, before dashing in for his own attack.

A thin man in a mask pressed himself flat against the nearest building to get out of the way.

Ravyn held her breath as the Undesirable’s shirt fluttered in the breeze, almost touching the suited man. The shirt hung suspended for what felt like hours before finally fluttering down out of the way.

The Undesirable breathed a visible sigh of relief as the two men moved away, jostling each other.

The two Desirables created havoc as they sauntered down the street. Undesirables dived out of their way, ducking under tables or pressing themselves against the walls. The only people who seemed not to notice were the other Desirables, who stood smiling at the two men’s antics.

Unlike the rest, Ravyn’s face simmered with grim rage. Her blood boiled in her veins and her chest heaved with fiery hatred. She imagined what she would do with the two men if she could get her hands on them. Idiots. What were they hoping to achieve by causing mayhem in the Lower Kingdom?

She stood in the middle of the road with her feet firmly planted, shoulder-width apart. Her bag slung over her shoulder, forgotten, as rage surged through her body.

The two men were within two meters of her when the bigger one pushed the smaller, harder than before. The smaller man stumbled back, arms swinging, and collided with a parked hover-bike. The bike toppled, falling into the one next to it, and creating a domino effect that cascaded down the street.

Clattering and the sound of scraping metal filled the alley. The metal plates screeched against the hard cement road and left streaks of paint behind.

Ten bikes toppled before silence settled over the street, like the calm before a storm.

The man who’d fallen lay tangled amongst the first bike, arm draped over the handlebars and elbow bleeding. His face glowed red as the rest of the crowd stood frozen, watching him. Meanwhile, the bigger man stood bent in half, laughing like a madman. He pointed at the smaller man and roared louder.

The fallen man yanked his limbs free and struggled to his feet, face glowing brighter. His lips curled and he spun in a tight circle, eyes scanning the crowd. His gaze came to rest on a thin man in a black mask who withered under the gaze.

“You!” he bellowed. “You tripped me!”

The Undesirable shook his head and stepped back, his only sound a dull squeak.

“Do you have any idea who I am? You just tripped Lord Pulcher. I’ll see you hung for this.”

Lord Pulcher’s companion stopped laughing. He seemed to consider the situation and then his face turned dark and he stepped up beside Pulcher, glaring at the Undesirable.

“Name?” Lord Pulcher said.


“Well N-Nathaniel, do you know the price for an Undesirable assaulting a lord?”

Nathanial took another step back and shook his head. “I didn’t trip you—”

“Now you dare to contradict me?” Lord Pulcher stepped forward, fists clenched. “When Lord O’Neil here saw everything? I asked if you knew the price!”

Nathanial shuddered and fell to his knees. “No, my Lord, please have mercy.”

“The price is death. You’ll be strung up on the gallows as a warning to the rest of your kind.”

Ice pierced Ravyn’s heart and spread through her veins. It settled like a suit of armour over her skin and seemed to make the world slow so that she could make out every minute detail.

“Why should I have mercy when you so blatantly tried to hurt me? Not only that, but now you’ve damaged all these bikes.” Lord Pulcher whipped his hand towards the toppled line of vehicles.

The nearby Undesirables scurried away, their footsteps fading within seconds. A few stayed, but they stood hidden in doorways, out of sight of the two lords. Most of the Desirables had stopped to watch. They wore matching expressions of wry amusement, with a hint of disgust.

Ravyn wanted to punch them all, knowing that their disgust was not for Lord Pulcher’s behaviour.

Pulcher took another step towards the kneeling Nathanial so that the Undesirable had to crane his neck to look up at the other man’s face. A purple blot, a birthmark, covered most of Nathanial’s neck, stretching up and disappearing behind his mask.

“Disgusting!” A young woman behind Ravyn whispered to her companion.

Lord Pulcher sneered. “With a birthmark like that I’m surprised they let you out of the hospital alive.”

Nathanial whimpered and lowered his gaze, hiding the mark in the folds of his shirt.

“Better. But there’s still the matter of you attacking me.”

Pulcher lifted his thick leather boot and laid the solid sole on top of Nathanial’s fingers where they rested on the ground.

Nathanial’s masked face revealed nothing.

“Perhaps if you lost the use of your fingers you might think twice before attacking your betters?”

Ravyn dropped her bag and it clanked against the hard road, the sound echoing in the silence. She strode forward; coming to a stop at Nathanial’s side and glaring up at Pulcher.

“Hey my pretty, what can I do for you?” Pulcher wiggled his eyebrows and licked his lips, leaving a trail of spittle.

Ravyn folded her arms across her chest. “Leave him alone.” She bent her head towards Nathanial.

Pulcher grimaced and glanced at his companion who frowned back. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry, did I use too many words?” she said, leaning forward. “I said… Leave. Him. Alone.”

Colour flushed across Pulcher’s cheeks as his hand clenched into a fist. “This is none of your business. This Undesirable attacked me and it’s my right to punish him.”

“I know as well as everyone else here that he didn’t attack you. You tripped over your own giant feet.”

Pulcher glanced over his shoulder at the gathered crowd. Most of the Desirables watched with mouths hanging open while the Undesirables ducked further out of view. He bent close to Ravyn so that his sour breath brushed over her face. “Leave now and I won’t have to hurt you.”

She placed her feet wider apart and jutted her chin forward. “Leave him alone and I won’t have to hurt you.”

Pulcher froze for a bare second before lunging forward with both hands outstretched.

Ravyn’s heart clenched and she ducked under his hands, stepping around and snatching Nathanial’s shoulders. She hauled him to his feet and shoved him towards the Undesirable District. “Go!”

Behind the mask she could see the whites of Nathanial’s wide eyes before he turned and sprinted down the street. The Desirables stood to the side as he rushed past, too stunned to stop him.

A flush of relief flooded through Ravyn’s stomach as Nathanial disappeared around the far corner. She let out a long sigh but choked as something snapped around her waist, crushing her.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Pulcher growled. His lips brushed her ear as he lifted her from the ground. His arms pressed against her ribs, squeezing the air out of her.

“If you attack me you’ll be charged with attacking a fellow Desirable,” she said between gasps.

“I think all of these people will agree that you started it.” His breath whispered across her cheek.

She grimaced and writhed in his arms but his grip held firm.

“She seemed to have a thing for that Undesirable,” said O’Neil.

Lord Pulcher’s grip tightened. “Maybe we should help her become more like him?”

O’Neil grinned and stepped forward. He drew back his fist and slammed it into Ravyn’s face.

Pain exploded out as her nose crunched, spraying blood across the road. Her head snapped back, skull slamming into Pulcher’s shoulder and sending a new burst of pain through her head.

Lights flashed across her vision and darkness crowded around her.  Her legs faltered. She stayed standing only thanks to Pulcher’s grip. More blood poured down her chin, dying her shirt red and filling her mouth with a coppery tang.

Pulcher chuckled. “Nice shot, my turn next.”

“Lord Pulcher, I hate to interrupt.” A tall woman in a long grey skirt stepped out of the crowd. “But the punishment for disfiguring a Desirable is quite harsh. I’d hate for you to get in trouble over this… woman.” She wore a veil that concealed some of the wrinkles of her aged face but Ravyn suspected it wouldn’t be long before the woman would be confined to her home, for fear of offending other Desirables.

“Lady Becket,” Pulcher said, his voice faltering.

“Of course, I’m all for just punishment, but I fear the repercussions if it went too far,” Lady Becket said, her eyes flicking to Ravyn and then back again.

“Very true, My Lady. This woman got under my skin is all.” His grip loosened and Ravyn slid to the ground, stumbling out of his reach as soon as her feet touched the cement.

“Understandable.” Becket inclined her head. “Perhaps you and Lord O’Neil would be more comfortable back near the castle, in a place more suited to your station?”

Pulcher brushed his shirt and took a deep breath. He glared at Ravyn once before smiling at Lady Becket and nodding. “You’re as wise as they say my lady.”

Without another word, Pulcher and O’Neil turned and sauntered back up the street, muttering in low tones.

Ravyn clutched her nose, her hand becoming slippery with blood. She stumbled back to the side of the road and slid down against the nearest wall. Tears stung the corners of her eyes. Her face and skull pounded in time with her heartbeat. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath.

Something flopped to the ground at Ravyn’s side and she opened one eye enough to see her bag.

“You should watch yourself.” Lady Becket towered over her like a monument.

Ravyn grimaced and looked away.

“I know what you were trying to do, I can even admire it, but that doesn’t change the fact it was stupid. You can’t change a system with a fist-fight in the middle of the street. Especially when you can’t even fight.”

Ravyn gritted her teeth and risked another glance up, ignoring the new burst of pain that erupted through her skull. “Unlike you, I couldn’t just stand there and let them hurt that Undesirable. Not that it’s any good trying to explain that to a Lady such as yourself.”

Lady Becket sighed and glanced around. The crowd had dissipated, leaving just a couple of people straining to get a glimpse of Ravyn’s injuries. “Ten years ago I would have laughed in your face and let those boys beat you twice as hard.”

Ravyn loosened the grip on her nose but no new blood flowed out. “And now?”

Becket’s sharp eyes gazed down at Ravyn. “Now I don’t know what to think. I’ve lived a privileged life, and now that I face the prospect of being confined… well, let’s say it’s given me a new perspective.”

Ravyn snorted and immediately regretted it as a clump of blood spattered the pavement by her leg. She pinched her nose, inwardly cursing. “Maybe we should confine Queen Alayna; then she might get some perspective.”

Becket frowned and her gaze darted around the street. “You should be careful about what you say.”

Ravyn shrugged. “It can’t get much worse. Besides, with this damned Fairest of them All contest around the corner, maybe she’ll finally get kicked out.”

Becket’s frown deepened. “I wouldn’t put all my hopes on that. Alayna is very… attached to her throne. Anyway, I should go before people start to ask questions. If I were you I’d stay away from here for a while. I’ve heard Lord Pulcher knows how to hold a grudge.”

Ravyn used the wall to get back to her feet and snatched her bag from the road. She turned back towards the Undesirable District and took a shaky step. She glanced over her shoulder at the tall woman. “Thanks, I guess.”

Becket nodded, her lips pressed into a thin line as she turned away and hurried up the street towards the castle.


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