Here's an extract from Rachel Dunne's In the Shadow of the Gods for you to check out, compliments of the folks at HarperCollins. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
A breathtaking talent makes her debut with this first book in a dark epic fantasy trilogy, in which a mismatched band of mortals led by a violent, secretive man must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world. Eons ago, a pair of gods known as the Twins grew powerful in the world of Fiatera, until the Divine Mother and Almighty Father exiled them, binding them deep in the earth. But the price of keeping the fire lands safe is steep. To prevent these young gods from rising again, all twins in the land must be killed at birth, a safeguard that has worked until now. Trapped for centuries, the Twins are gathering their latent powers to break free and destroy the Parents for their tyranny—to set off a fight between two generations of gods for control of the world and the mortals who dwell in it. When the gods make war, only one side can be victorious. Joros, a mysterious and cunning priest, has devised a dangerous plan to win. Over eight years, he gathers a team of disparate fighters—Scal, a lost and damaged swordsman from the North; Vatri, a scarred priestess who claims to see the future in her fires; Anddyr, a drug-addled mage wandering between sanity and madness; and Rora and Aro, a pair of twins who have secretly survived beyond the reach of the law. These warriors must learn to stand together against the unfathomable power of vengeful gods, to stop them from tearing down the sun . . . and plunging their world into darkness.
Aro was crying again. Rora put her arms round him, trying to hush him before any of the biggers heard. Showing any weakness in the Canals was like asking for a shiv to the stom- ach. She hugged him close, but it only made Aro cry harder. “I miss Kala,” he whimpered. It was dark, but Rora didn’t need to see: she could hear the biggers rustling, grumbling. She clapped her hand over Aro’s mouth, making him quiet. She could feel his scared breath wheezing over the back of her hand, but she didn’t let him go until she heard Twist snoring. Twist was the mother for the Blackhands pack, and he hated most of the pups he watched over, but it seemed like he hated Rora and her brother extra just ’cause they were new to the pack and Aro cried too much. Rora didn’t want to give Twist any more reason to hate them.
Aro hiccuped and nuzzled into her shoulder, finally quiet, maybe even sleeping already. It was good, if he could get some sleep. Rora couldn’t, not with the water lapping, splashing up through the warped boards. She missed Kala, too, mostly for her house’s solid floor. If she’d had anything to give, she would’ve handed it over for a packed-dirt floor to sleep on, far away from the Canals.
When the sky started to get light, she shook Aro awake and they crept to the edge of the raft, trying not to rock it too much. Aro jumped first, falling on his hands and knees on the canal’s muddy bank. Rora landed next to him and hauled him up, sneaking off before any of the pack woke up and saw them. They stopped a ways away, where there weren’t any rafts nearby, and crouched down in the mud. “I don’t want to,” Aro complained, but Rora ignored him, shoving her hands into the mud and running handfuls of the goop through Aro’s hair. Kala had cut it short, so the mud dried fast, leaving his hair sticking up in near-black spikes. It made him smell awful, but it was the only way to stay safe. She smudged more mud on his face, then pulled him to the canal, both of them peering into the murky water.
It was still like seeing two of herself. Even with her hair long, and Aro’s short and different-colored, their faces were the same. The mud wasn’t that great of a disguise. It just made him look like a dirtier version of Rora. But it was the best she could do. She dunked her head into the water, scrubbing the dirt from her own face and hair with fingertips that weren’t much cleaner. Not that the water was any cleaner’n she was either, but this was as clean as she was going to get with Kala gone.
They walked along the edges of the canal, Aro holding to the back of Rora’s shirt. With sunlight poking down, there were more Scum out and about now, and they all avoided each other like snarling cats. Rora stayed pressed up hard against the wall, staring at anyone who went by, her eyes daring them to attack two pups, while inside she prayed they wouldn’t. You had to be tough, in the Canals, or at least look tough. It was the only way.
“Where’re we going today, Rora?” Aro asked, rubbing the back of one filthy hand at his running nose.
“Sparrow,” she corrected automatically; he always forgot to use the new name. “To the market. It’s fiveday, so there should be plenty of people round. You wanna beg today?”
“You always get to do the stealing, it’s not fair!” “You’re no good at it.”
“Only ’cause you don’t let me try.” “You’re begging,” Rora said firmly.
The Canals had been built a long time ago to bring in water from Lake Baridi, but they hadn’t been built right. Over the years, the water’d worn down the bottom of the canal, eating away the dirt where the canal makers hadn’t put down stone, and even sneaking under stone in time, the water digging down deeper than it should’ve. The water was down too low for any of the topsiders to know what to do with it, so they’d just decided to ignore all the waterways winding through Mercetta. They’d left the canals to the Scum, who scraped out a living on and around the water. The Scum made paths alongside the new canal bottom with wood planks and pried-up brick and anything sturdier than mud; they’d made the place as livable as they could.
The canal walls were mostly mud now, with brick starting where the canal bottom had originally been, higher up than Rora was tall. She boosted Aro up, and the boy hauled himself onto the ridge of bricks that the water’d left untouched. She had to jump to do it, but she got her fingers hooked over the edge and planted her feet against the soft mud wall, shimmying up to join her brother.
There were fewer Scum up on the high paths, since they were closer to topside, but every once in a while they had to sidestep around one of the other Scum, Rora growling curses and shoving Aro ahead of her. They finally got to the West Bridge and found the ladder—little more than holes where bricks had been pried out of the wall. Rora went up first, tell- ing Aro to hang back in case there was any trouble.
It was a long way up. The people of Mercetta didn’t like having to look at their trash, and the Scum were definitely trash. “Out of sight,” Kala used to say, “out of mind.” A lot of the bricks were crumbling, too, making Rora’s bare feet slip, almost making her scared she was about to fall a few times. As she got closer to the top of the ladder, in the shadow of the West Bridge, she started to hear talking, whispers. There were people, at least a handful of ’em judging by the voices, waiting for her at the top.
“—waiting a hell of a long time . . .”
“Gotta be close.”
“Mace’ll shit if we don’ bring ’im more copper.” “We’ll get more, I’m tellin’ ya.”
There were biggers in the packs, too old to be pups but they hadn’t been given any jobs yet, so they had nothing to do but bully pups. They were big, sure, but usually pretty slow and stupid—otherwise they would’ve got a job to do already. All you had to do was be a little faster and a little smarter, and biggers weren’t any kind of problem. Rora tipped her head back and leaned as far away from the wall as she dared, fingers and toes curled tight around the bricks. “Your ambush needs practice,” she called up.
There was rustling and hushing; one of them murmured, “Feck’s an ambush?” and then a head poked out over the top of the wall. A bigger, sure enough, and he was scraggly-looking but with a thick enough face that he probably ate pretty well. Dirty, but no dirtier’n anyone living in the Canals; he might even have seen a real bath in the last year. Still Scum, though, and you could never trust a bigger.
“Hullo, girl,” he called down, trying to sound friendly. “Need some help getting up?”
“That’s so nice of you,” she said, smiling sweetly. “But I think I’m okay.”
The bigger grinned down at her. He was probably trying to look nice, but it only made him look like an animal about to attack. “No, no, let me help.” He stretched an arm down toward her, fingers wriggling. She was just out of reach. “Gimme your hand, I’ll pull you up.”
Rora let go of the bricks with one hand and reached up toward him. When their hands were just about a finger apart, she curled her hand into a fist and slammed it into his palm, crushing it against the wall. Not enough force behind it to do any real damage, but enough to make him yelp and pull his hand back up real quick. He disappeared from view and she heard swearing from above, the others trying to figure out what’d happened. She took their moment of distraction to scramble up the last stretch of the ladder and jump onto solid ground. There were seven of ’em, all biggers, all gathered round the one who’d been talking to her. He saw her around the shoulder of one of his friends, and there was murder in his eyes.
Rora took off running. All she had to do was lead ’em off long enough for Aro to get up topside, then she’d lose the biggers and meet him at their normal spot. She’d done it more times than she could count, and it would’ve worked again if she hadn’t got her foot tangled in something. She went sprawling, scraping her hands, forehead banging against stone, and they caught up to her before she could scramble away.
One of them stomped on her arm, pinning her in place, and another kicked her in the stomach. Groaning in pain, she curled herself into a ball as the blows rained down, one arm still stretched out with the bigger grinding his foot down. She could feel the bones in her arm shifting, twisting, please, gods, don’t break, don’t break . . . A foot, a boot—what Scum could afford boots?—slammed into the side of her head, rattling her teeth, making spots of light dance behind her squeezed-shut eyes. She tasted blood, cried out as a sharp snap echoed through her skull, hot fire shooting down her arm as the bigger twisted his foot, splinters of bone dancing under her skin.
The beating faltered, stopped. One of the biggers laughed. “Run back t’ your momma’s tit, brat.”
“Leave her alone!”
Rora groaned. There was no mistaking that voice, even high-pitched and full of fear. “Don’t,” she tried to tell him, but the word came out as a cough, blood splattering from her lips, ribs aching with every movement.
There was more laughter, and the boot tramped down on her arm again. She screamed, and then it was like the worldwas screaming around her, more voices and terror and pain, and a sound like the world ripping in half. Something heavy fell across her, crushing her against the ground. She whim- pered, felt tears sneaking through her eyelids. There was some- thing else running down her cheek, too, running warm and fast and filling her mouth with the taste of iron.
She could hear sobbing, close by. Her? No, not Rora, but her voice doubled, projected back at her. “I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry . . .” The weight lifted off her, and she drew in a shak- ing breath, not caring that all her ribs bent and twisted and stabbed. She forced her eyes open, though they tried to stick together, red bubbles dancing at the edges of her vision. Aro’s face loomed before her, face streaked with mud and blood, two clean trails carved down his cheeks as he sobbed. She tried to reach out, to comfort him, tell him everything would be okay, but nothing worked. All she could do was make a sharp wheezing noise, and that only made him cry all the harder. “Rora, Rora, I’m so sorry.” He reached for her, and the world tilted and dropped away in a burning crash.
It was night, and she was in Kala,s house again. Too quiet; why wasn’t Kala in the kitchen, singing as she made food? A whimper, a sob, and she followed it to Aro, sitting in a puddle of blood, crying, “She knew, she knew, she knew.” And Kala lay on the floor, twisted and broken, but it wasn’t quite Kala; she had the face of the mother Rora’d never known, and she frowned. “Take better care of your brother.”
“I don’t know how!” Rora tried to tell her, but Kala turned her back and the floor vanished and Rora fell through the sky, Aro falling with her, crying, crying.