The Tearsmith

A Novel



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February 6, 2024 | ISBN 9780593943434

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About the Book

NOW A HIT NETFLIX MOVIE • The bestselling international sensation and viral TikTok phenomenon—a dark, sexy, haunting novel of two aching young adults who are taken in by the same family and forced to reckon with a destructive love that could be the undoing of them both
“Ready for the next Twilight?”—People

Growing up in a ghastly orphanage run by an abusive matron, Nica coped in the only way she could—by retreating to her imagination, where she lived out fantastical stories, especially about the Tearsmith, the man who makes tears, a terrifying figure who forges all the fears that dwell in people’s hearts.

When she’s finally taken in by an adoptive family at seventeen, Nica thinks she’s leaving the group home, its torments, and her prison of otherworldly tales behind her. That is, until Rigela young man raised from birth in the same dreadful orphanagejoins her new family.

Rigel is as mesmerizingly handsome as he is troubled, and he and Nica have a long history of distrust and hostility. But as they come to live together again under one roof, the deep shared trauma of surviving such vicious circumstances sparks something magical, and Nica begins to fall for Rigel’s forbidden love.

Before any relationship can become reality, though, they’ll have to face the darkness of their past  . . . and the dangerous stakes of pursuing a future together.
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The Tearsmith

1. A New Home

‘They want to adopt you.’

These were words I never thought I would hear.

I wanted it so much, had wanted it ever since I was a little girl, so for a moment I thought I must have fallen asleep and be dreaming. Again.

But this wasn’t the voice from my dreams.

It was the gruff bark of Mrs Fridge, her voice infused with the usual contempt.

‘Me?’ I gasped incredulously.

She sneered at me with a curled upper lip.


‘You’re sure?’

She gripped her pen with her pudgy fingers, and I flinched under her glare.

‘Have you gone deaf?’ she snapped. ‘Did all that fresh air block your ears?’

I hurried to shake my head, my eyes wide in disbelief.

It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be.

No one wanted teenagers. No one wanted older children, never, not under any circumstances . . . It was a proven fact. It was like in the dog shelter—everyone wanted a puppy, because they were cute, innocent, and easy to train. No one wanted a dog that had been there its whole life.

This had been a difficult truth for me to accept, having grown up under that roof.

When you were little, they would at least look at you. But gradually, as you grew up, those looks would become fleeting glances, and their pity would carve you into those four walls forever. But now . . . now . . .

‘Mrs Milligan wants to have a little chat. She’s downstairs waiting for you. Show her round the institute and try not to ruin everything. Keep your head out of the clouds and with a bit of luck you’ll be out of here.’

My head was spinning.

The skirt of my good dress fluttered against my knees as I climbed down the stairs, and again, I wondered if this was just another of my daydreams.

Surely, it was a dream. At the bottom of the stairs, I was greeted by the kind face of a mature woman, clutching an overcoat in her arms.

‘Hi,’ she smiled, and I noticed that she was looking me directly in the eyes. That hadn’t happened in a very long time.

‘Hello . . .’ I exhaled.

She told me that she’d noticed me in the garden earlier, as she was coming in through the institute’s wrought-iron gates. She had seen me in the long grass, lit by the shafts of sunlight filtering through the tree leaves.

‘I’m Anna,’ she introduced herself as we started to walk.

Her voice was velvety, mellowed by age. I gazed at her, enraptured, wondering if it was possible to be electrocuted by sound, or to be so enamoured by something you’d only just heard.

‘What about you? What’s your name?’

‘Nica,’ I answered, trying to contain my emotion. ‘My name is Nica.’

She looked at me curiously, and I was so keen to hold her gaze that I didn’t even look where I was stepping.

‘That’s a very unusual name. I’ve never heard it before.’

‘Yes . . .’ My gaze became evasive and shy. ‘My parents named me. They . . . well, they were both biologists. Nica is a type of butterfly.’ I remembered very little of my mom and dad, and what I could remember was hazy, as if I was looking at them through a dirty window. If I closed my eyes and sat silently, I could just about make out their faces looking down at me.

I was five years old when they died.

Their tenderness was one of the few things that I could remember—and what I most sorely missed.

‘It’s a really lovely name, “Nica” . . .’ Her lips rolled around my name as if she wanted to taste how it sounded. ‘Nica,’ she repeated decisively, with a graceful nod.

She looked into my face, and it felt like a warm light was beaming down on me. It seemed as if my skin was glowing under her gaze, as if a single glance from her could make me shine. This was a big deal for me.

Slowly, we wandered around the grounds of the institute. She asked me if I’d been there long, and I replied that I’d basically grown up there. The sun was bright as we strolled past the climbing ivy.

‘What were you doing before . . . when I saw you over there?’ she asked during a lull in the conversation, pointing towards the shoots of wild heather in a distant corner of the grounds.

I quickly turned to look where she was pointing, and without knowing why, I felt the urge to hide my hands.

Keep your head out of the clouds. Mrs Fridge’s warning flashed through my mind.

‘I like being outside,’ I said slowly. ‘I like . . . the creatures living here.’

‘Are there animals here?’ she asked, a little naïvely, but I knew I hadn’t explained myself very clearly.

‘Little ones, yes . . .’ I replied vaguely, taking care not to step on a cricket. ‘Often, we don’t even see them . . .’

I blushed a little as we caught each other’s eyes, but she didn’t ask me any more questions. Instead, we shared a gentle silence, listening to the jays chirping and children whispering as they spied on us through the windows. She told me that her husband would arrive at any moment. To get to know me, she implied, and my heart felt so light I felt like I could fly. As we went back inside, I wondered if I could pour those feelings into a bottle and keep them forever. Hide them under my pillow and bring them out to watch them shine like a pearl in the darkness of the night.

I hadn’t felt so happy in a long time. ‘Jin, Ross, no running,’ I said good-naturedly as two children rushed past, jostling my dress. They snickered and ran up the creaky stairs. I turned to look at Mrs Milligan and realised that she had been watching me. She was gazing deep into my eyes with a touch of something that seemed almost like . . . admiration.

‘You’ve got really beautiful eyes, Nica,’ she said unexpectedly. ‘Do you know that?’

Embarrassment gnawed at me. I didn’t know what to say.

‘Everyone must tell you that all the time,’ she prompted tactfully. But the truth was that no, no one at The Grave had ever told me anything of the sort.

The younger children would sometimes innocently ask me if I saw colours like everyone else did. They said my eyes were ‘the colour of a crying sky’ because they were a strikingly light, speckled grey. I knew that many people thought they were unusual, but no one had ever told me they were beautiful.

At the compliment, my hands began to tremble.

‘I . . . no . . . but thank you,’ I stammered awkwardly, making her smile. I discreetly pinched the back of my hand and felt the slight pain with an infinite joy.

It was real. It was all real.

That woman was really there.

A family, for me . . . A new life, away from all of this, away from The Grave . . .

I had thought that I would be trapped inside those walls for much longer. For another two years, until I turned nineteen – that’s when you legally become an adult in Alabama.

But now, perhaps I wouldn’t have to wait to come of age. I had given up praying that somebody would come and take me away, but now . . . perhaps . . .

‘What’s that?’ Mrs Milligan asked suddenly. She was looking around, captivated.

Then I heard it too. A beautiful melody. Deep, harmonious music was reverberating through the cracks and flaking plaster of the institute’s walls.

An angelic sound floated through The Grave, as bewitching as a siren’s call. I felt my skin crawl.

Mrs Milligan wandered towards the sound, entranced. There was nothing for me to do but follow her. She reached the arched doorway into the living room and came to a stop.

She stood, bewitched, staring at the source of this invisible wonder. 

The upright piano was old, clunky and a bit out of tune, but despite all of that, it still sang sweetly. And, of course, those hands . . . those pale hands and those sculpted wrists, flying fluidly over the keys.

‘Who is he . . . ?’ Mrs Milligan breathed after a moment. ‘Who is that boy?’

I clenched the skirt of my dress in my fists. I hesitated, and at the other end of the room, the boy paused.

His hands came to a gradual stop. His squared shoulders were a stark silhouette against the wall.

Then, gradually, as if he had been expecting it, as if he already knew, he turned around.

His hair was a dark halo, as black as a crow’s wings. His face was pale, with a sharp jawline and two narrow eyes that were darker than coal.

There it was, that fatal charm. The seductive beauty of his pale lips and finely chiselled features made Mrs Milligan fall silent at my side.

He looked over his shoulder at us and his hair flopped over his lowered, shining eyes and high cheekbones. Trembling, I was certain I saw him smile.

‘That’s Rigel.’

About the Author

Erin Doom
Erin Doom is an pseudonymous author whose debut novel Fabbricante di lacrime (The Tearsmith) was a #1 Italian bestseller, selling over over half a million copies. It has been translated into twenty-six languages. Her second and third novels, Nel modo in cui cade la neve (The Way the Snow Falls) and Stigma, are also bestsellers. Doom studied law and currently resides in Italy. More by Erin Doom
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