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Callie Bates’s debut novel, The Waking Land, announced the arrival of a brilliant new talent in epic fantasy. Now, with The Memory of Fire, Bates expertly deepens her tale, spinning glittering threads of magic and intrigue into a vibrant tapestry of adventure, betrayal, mystery, and romance.
Thanks to the magic of Elanna Valtai and the Paladisan noble Jahan Korakides, the lands once controlled by the empire of Paladis have won their independence. But as Elanna exhausts her powers restoring the ravaged land, news that the emperor is readying an invasion spurs Jahan on a desperate mission to establish peace.
Going back to Paladis proves to be anything but peaceful, however. As magic is a crime in the empire, punishable by death, Jahan must hide his abilities. Nonetheless, the grand inquisitor’s hunters suspect him of sorcery, and mysterious, urgent messages from the witch who secretly trained Jahan only increase his danger of exposure. Worst of all, the crown prince has turned his back on Jahan, robbing him of the royal protection he once enjoyed.
As word of Jahan’s return spreads, long-sheathed knives, sharp and deadly, are drawn again. And when Elanna, stripped of her magic, is brought to the capital in chains, Jahan must face down the traumas of his past to defeat the shadowy enemies threatening his true love’s life, and the future of the revolution itself.
Praise for The Memory of Fire
“Gripping . . . [this] vivid first-person, present-tense narrative [creates] a remarkably mature, balanced addition to the story that avoids the most common flaws of middle books and will leave readers hungry for the conclusion.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review) “[Callie] Bates does an excellent job of delving into Jahan’s past and showing his growth. . . . The relatable characters and riveting adventure make this fantasy world very accessible for all.”—Booklist
“The Memory of Fire is a beautiful expansion of a promising story that delivers something rich and captivating. . . . Putting it down is likely to be the biggest challenge readers will encounter.”—Books, Vertigo & Tea
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Memory of Fire
I still hear her voice. Even in Eren, an entire sea away, Madiya’s whisper flickers into my mind. Jahan. My own name, digging like a hook into my head, insisting that I follow its lead. Demanding an answer. Demanding that I return to her.
Doesn’t the woman have anything better to do? I ran away from home when I was fifteen. It’s been six years since my mother died. Since I fled. Yet even as I try to brush her away, even as I tell myself I’m hundreds of miles from her, that I’m safe, her whisper comes again, more demanding. Jahan! Maybe I should answer. She’s still got Lathiel—something might have happened to him. If it has, I’ll never forgive myself.
Not Madiya’s voice. Elanna’s.
El’s hand on my wrist, her fingers warm and slightly damp. I see her, now—bundled in a coat, her chestnut-brown hair curling loose from its knot beneath her black felt hat—as I didn’t see her before. Cold terror pulses through me. How long was I oblivious to anything but Madiya’s voice? I shouldn’t succumb so completely. I’ve grown practiced at pushing Madiya away—or so I thought. After she finally let Rayka come to me, two years ago, her whispers quieted. I thought perhaps she was loosening her grip. That maybe, if I bided my time, I could pressure her into freeing Lathiel, too. I thought . . .
“Jahan.” El’s eyes widen meaningfully. “Are you all right?”
Oh, damn the gods. We’re standing outside a coach on the edge of a winter field. A group of townspeople and farmers have tramped out to meet us, a cluster of brown coats and worried looks. They’re warmly dressed, even though it’s late in the month of Noumion and that ought to translate to spring in southern Eren. But the winter has been cruel—crueler, the people claim, than in other years. El says the land is trying to regain its rhythm after being woken, but some Ereni claim that the Caveadear, rather than bringing the land to life, has irrevocably distorted its natural rhythm. They’ve been taught to distrust magic for centuries, after all.
So El and I came out here at the crack of dawn, all the way to the border with Tinan, to prove that the Caveadear’s magic can and will help them. We’re supposed to be reassuring them that they won’t starve; that the Tinani won’t cross the river behind us and destroy them.
Instead we’ve stopped dead, and I’ve been staring into space like a lunatic. Reassuring, indeed.
El shakes my wrist, eyebrows lifted, her eyes widening further. She’s getting nervous, though surely her heart isn’t ricocheting quite as madly as mine. She doesn’t hear Madiya. She casts a pointed look at the coachman, who’s coming around to see what’s the matter.
“Isn’t this marvelous!” I say brightly, ignoring the fact that my shirt is soaked with rapidly cooling sweat. I’ll finally catch my death in this abysmal Ereni winter, even though I’m already bundled in twice as many clothes as the locals. “Look at the view!”
Elanna stares from the farm fields, a flat and unrelieved white, to the charcoal smear of trees on the ridge above our coach. The sky lies gray and flat. Nearby, the wide river Ard mutters over rocks. Her eyes narrow. “Indeed.”
She doesn’t believe me—and she’s irritated that I’m lying to her—but she’s not going to berate me in front of these strangers. She releases me and strides away toward the gathered farmers.
I flex my hands and swing my arms. If I freeze to death, or fail to hear Tinani charging over the river, it’ll be Madiya’s damned fault. Jahan, she whispers, and I shiver all over. All the same, I manage a grin at the coach driver. “Sorry you volunteered to leave so early, eh?”
The boy, bright-eyed and eager to impress, visibly stiffens. “No, sir. I’m honored to serve the Caveadear.”
I stifle a sigh. Once again, I’ve said the wrong thing—and these Ereni take themselves too damned seriously. Those who aren’t grumbling about the crown changing hands follow El with a fervor bordering on worship.
No, I reflect as I tramp after Elanna through knee-high snow, it’s me no one particularly cares for. When I first arrived with Finn, the people here seemed to think me a kind of exotic legend come to life. I kept my role in the rebellion largely secret, not wanting to advertise my sorcery and put my brothers in danger. And now, on the brink of war with the empire of Paladis, I’m the resident Paladisan. I’m the face of the enemy. It doesn’t seem to matter that Elanna and the new queen, Sophy, trust me. I can always see the moment these people register my accent, my foreign manners. I can see them wondering what I’m doing here. What I want. Whether, and when, I’m going to betray them.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe I don’t belong here. But I fought for their freedom. My friend Finn gave his life for their cause. If I belong anywhere, it should be in Eren.
And yet . . . What good am I doing here? Thanks to the stone circles, my power comes with astonishing ease here—nothing like the effort it takes in Paladis—but my magics are still small. I advise Sophy on relations with the empire—much good though it’s done. I welcome the small stream of refugees to Eren, translating misunderstandings, trying to put the haunted-eyed Idaean and Baedoni and Tinani sorcerers at ease. But the emperor is still poised to declare war. The Tinani are still attacking our eastern border. The refugees would survive without my help.
And my brothers aren’t here. From here, I can’t get my lawyers to pry Lathiel out of Father’s and Madiya’s clutches. And even though Rayka’s safe at his military academy, every day I’m apart from him I worry that Madiya has found him again. That he’s succumbed to her.
Ahead of me, Elanna’s gesturing enthusiastically at the farmers. Her voice drifts across the snow, bright with the power of the land. “. . . and I will bring you the wheat you need!”
No, Elanna Valtai doesn’t really need my help. She tells me she loves me—and the tenderness that swamps me when I look at her must be love, too. But love isn’t the same as need.
Jahan. Madiya’s voice whispers again into my mind.
I almost want to laugh, even though my palms are sweating again and my heart beats faster. Of course Madiya thinks she needs me—to use the sorcery she gave me to carry out her plan to destroy the witch hunters. Even though she spent my entire childhood telling me how inadequate I was.
But if I don’t respond, does it put Lathiel in danger? Something could have happened. She could have gone too far in an experiment. She could have overdosed him with opium.
I tell myself I’m making things up. But her voice follows me, insidious, as I come up behind Elanna and the farmers. And the ache in my chest doesn’t go away.
El stands apart from the group, her hands outstretched. The locals mutter among themselves. A murmur drifts toward me: “. . . can she?” one of the farmers is saying.
I look at them, gathered together in their somber coats. Except for a few daring glances, they all ignore me. Many faces are gaunt from the long winter’s privations. A girl child leans against her mother’s leg, shivering in a too-thin coat. Guilt stings me. How can I complain about the cold when these people struggle to stay alive? If I need another coat, I merely have to commission it. That’s not a luxury they have.
The little girl sees me watching her. Her gaze flickers from me to Elanna to her mother, who seems oblivious to our interaction. I crouch, gesturing the girl closer. She approaches on hesitant legs. I unwrap one of my three scarves and whisper a little magic into the thick wool. Keep her warm. The power floods through my fingers, buoyant and eager, with an immediacy that still surprises me. It’s as if the magic in Eren is yearning to be used, as if the land has so much to give it’s overflowing.
The girl, casting an uncertain look back at her mother, takes the scarf from me. She frowns a little; it feels like ordinary wool. I gesture for her to wrap it around her neck. She does, and her eyes widen. Its warmth will be heating her now—but no one else, not even her mother, will feel it.
I put a finger to my lips and wink at her. She gulps and darts back to the safety of the adults.
The wind shifts through the stalks of dead wheat, mingling with people’s whispers. Elanna still stands there, her legs braced. She looks small, unremarkable, under their eyes, dwarfed by the greatcoat she always wears. Unease shifts through me. This is taking too long. In the first few days and weeks after she woke the land, she hardly had to snap her fingers and a plant would spring to life. But now, two months on, the power that made forests walk and rivers change course is less quick to come. The mountain people tell her she’s simply exhausting herself—and the earth. But the need to provide her people with food, and protect them from the war dogging our borders, has required El to use her power again and again. She’s wearing thin, and if she continues in this way I’m afraid she’ll deplete herself entirely.
And the locals have noticed. I see their glances. This is the steward of the land? they ask each other, unspoken. This girl, hardly twenty, who looks so slight in her too-large coat? This isn’t the magnificent personage the stories promised them. This is a human girl, and she’s tired.
Come on, El, I think. But nothing happens.
Just as I’m wondering whether I’ll have to try some magic of my own, however, the whispering wind grows louder. The dead wheat stalks flush a brilliant green, shocking against the whiteness of the snow. They begin to grow, climbing higher and higher, verdant in the winter field.
I let out a breath. It’s working. The green ripples out through the fields, until the land is a brilliant carpet. The snow begins to melt as the ground warms.
The locals exclaim. One actually laughs in amazement. A man rushes past me, past Elanna, out into the sprouting wheat.
El glances over her shoulder and catches my eye. I can feel her worry even from here. Maybe the magic worked this time, but what about the next town, the next farm field, the next battle with Tinan? If El can’t make an entire field of wheat grow from frozen ground, will the people think she’s failed, when all she really needs is rest? What will come of the whispers against her, those who say the Eyrlais should never have been toppled by the Caerisians with their savage magic?
I shake my head slightly, trying to tell her she can’t let the worry overcome her, not now. These people need to see a confident Caveadear. We can worry about the future later.
I waggle my hands, trying to make her smile. “I can hardly feel my fingertips!”
She rolls her eyes. But when one of the farmers approaches to clasp her hand, she manages to smile at him. I wait while she talks to everyone who demands her attention, the slush growing softer under my feet. At last the farmers scatter, tramping back along the road toward the village. I offer El my arm, though she scrambles through the slush more nimbly than me. “Where to next, milady?”
“Gourdon, I think. I can do the same thing there.”
But there’s a weariness in her voice. I look down at her. She’s frowning into the distance. As gently as I can, I say, “You don’t have to make every wheat field sprout green, you know. Besides, it’s not terribly exciting. Watching wheat grow . . .”
“But if I do one, I have to do them all,” she says, with an edge of panic. “I can’t just leave one village to starve because I’m—I’m tired.”
All of Eren and Caeris will starve if she exhausts herself and the land, I think, and then we’ll be even more vulnerable. “It doesn’t have to be today, though. It must be, what, ten miles to Gourdon? We can make the journey last a bit longer, find somewhere to stay the night . . . I know ways to entertain you.”
She sighs. “The ride there will be time enough.”
I raise an eyebrow. “I’m not sure the coach boy is that obtuse.”
She blinks, and a laugh gurgles out of her as she realizes my meaning. I grin. El grabs the lapel of my coat and pulls herself up to whisper in my ear. “Jahan Korakides, when we have a chance, I’m going to show you a thing or two!”
“Well,” I say, smiling into her eyes, “I shall look forward to that very much ind—”
An explosion of noise interrupts me. Gunfire. It blasts through the trees, down from the cliff above the coach. Sparks flare. I shove Elanna behind me, protecting her with my own body. Who the hell is firing at us? I scrabble for the guns with my mind, reaching for the stocks—
The coach boy runs out, waving an old musket. The shots catch him. His body jerks. The old musket flies up into the air. No, damn it, no! I’m running toward him like an idiot. A shot wings toward me. I let it dissolve through my chest and out the other side, leaving the sour taste of burning on the back of my tongue. I pump my arms, but the poor, brave fool is already lying there, his eyes wide, blood gurgling through his lips. Above us, the shots have ceased. Smoke hangs on the air.
Callie Bates is a writer, harpist and certified harp therapist, sometime artist, and nature nerd. When she’s not creating, she’s hitting the trails or streets and exploring new places. She lives in the Upper Midwest. She is also the author of The Waking Land.